So yesterday, the dev team released a big patch for City of Heroes. To read the message boards, you’d think the world was ending.

“They broke this!” “Blah used to do X, and now it does Y.” “They ruined my favourite class/power/whatever.” “This sucks, I may as well just quit!”

All of the complaints tended to boil down to the same sentiment: “The developers hate the players and only do this to f**k with us.”

While it’s all very tedious, it’s also a bit bemusing. See, I’ve been a member of the admin of a text-adventure mud, Jedimud, for the last 12 years. Every time something changes, whether for positive or negative, there will be a vocal minority of players who scream bloody murder and insist the sky is falling.

At least half of the time, what they’re complaining about is some bug or exploit they were using to their advantage being repaired, or some feature which was seriously out of step with the rest of the game that had been scaled back. (A smaller amount of the time, they’ll complain because something a class they don’t play has got better, and now they’ll be less prestigious.)

I’ve often wondered what people who do this actually get out of gaming? Despite the fact that I’ve been playing games of some sort or another my entire life, and I identify myself as a “gamer” as a part of my overall fannishness, I’ve never been a hardcore gamer. I don’t live, eat, and breathe the games I play. They’re diversions, distractions….it’s entertainment. I’ve never quite managed to wrap my head around the hyper-competitiveness that some people bring to the table.

The other common refrain amongst the complainers is that the developers are “smug and superior” and don’t understand the players. Having been a part of a game development team, I know perfectly well that the dev team doesn’t always know “better” than the players. Quite often, though, they know more than the players, and generally the decisions that they make are not arbitrary. If something got altered, there was probably a pretty good reason for it being done. (JediMUD has over 60,000 lines of code, and it’s several orders of magnitude less complicated that something like CoH. Trust me when I say that the developers aren’t going to touch any piece of code they don’t have some compelling reason to touch. It ain’t worth it.)

Of course, all the whining is isolated to the boards and not in the game itself, which does at least make it marginally better than on Jedi after a big game update. It’s easier to ignore all the noise when it’s not going on inside the game. 🙂