How to respond to skeptics....

  • This has come up here and on other sites, and so I put this together and wanted to make sure I posted it here.  Many Pantheon supporters find themselves frustrated when trying to answer posts made by those who are skeptical of the game, its tenents, its core mechanics, and its target audience.  Some make a very real effort to explain why they find Pantheon attractive and exciting, while others sometimes are simply dismissive.  One poster brought up the question and issue:  how should we respond to skeptics, people who feel entitled that every game should be made for them, or even trolls.  

    The answer isn't simple, but I gave it a shot:

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    I hear you and both sides of this. It's a tough one. Yes, we need to be up-front about what Pantheon is all about. We try to be clear about it -- we talk about it posts, interviews, and even have a page on our website dedicated to the tenets of the game:https://www.pantheonmmo.com/game/game_tenets/

    We've also tried to be as up front as possible describing the game in general:

    https://www.pantheonmmo.com/game/what_is_pantheon/

    And I think we have a pretty solid FAQ too, although it will continue to grow:

    https://www.pantheonmmo.com/game/faqs/

    All that said, and some of you are referring to a post I made awhile back, so let me try to make that same point, hopefully more up-to-date and clear this time:

    We are being clear about what Pantheon is and is not, about who the audience we are targeting is, and that we are not making a game trying to appeal to everyone, all of the time. I think that's fair, and our responsibility -- pretending the game is something else, or something more in order to get more people to try it out wouldn't be right, it wouldn't ethical IMHO. We need to be honest and open.

    That said, I do think we (and the people who are already following Pantheon, our supporters, our fans) should be careful about how we present to others who aren't familiar with the game what it is all about. There's no need to be rude or to make the person who has issues with Pantheon's premise feel belittled or marginalized or to feel unwelcome. I understand that when someone comes in and demands Pantheon be something different than what it is can be frustrating. Especially if they come across as if they are 'entitled' to have their tastes and desires met in every game, as if every developer has some sort of responsibility to make everyone happy. I get that, and I can understand the desire to rant against the 'entitlement' mentality that some people have. I get it.

    But I also strongly believe that there are a lot of players out there who have never experienced a game like Pantheon. Perhaps they were too young when the earlier MMOs were out and so never experienced them. Perhaps they had a bad experience with a game that had some features or mechanics that sound similar to Pantheon's. So when they read about the game, its tenants, its core premise, perhaps some of it seems strange to them, or unnecessary, or unattractive. Perhaps on the surface, because they lack perspective and context, they voice an objection or are skeptical as to whether some aspect or mechanic is going to work or not.

    I truly believe that many of those people, if they give Pantheon a try, will end up liking it. I can't tell you how many... most? some? a few? I can't predict that level of specificity. But I do strongly believe that a significant group of MMO players who haven't experienced what we are trying to create (and in some cases re-create) and who therefore challenge, or question, or even criticize aspects of the game, if they eventually give the game a chance, will find out that they actually love it. I really believe that. Some things in life simply have to be experienced before you really know if you like something or not.

    So that's the conundrum or challenge:

    We need to be honest about what Pantheon is all about and to whom it is being made for, the audiences we are targeting. Trying to hide the more controversial tenets so that some people aren't scared away would be a marketing tactic involving dishonesty, and I'm not ok with that. Creating a PR/Marketing plan or approach that avoided talking about the core of the game, that it's a game focused around cooperative play, about community, about challenge, about being rewarded for playing and not accepting RL money or having cash shops, isn't acceptable or ok. Sometimes products or games or movies or whatever *are* marketed that way, but I think it's shady and even sometimes dishonest. So, as you can see from our tenants, our FAQ, our interviews, etc. we are not shying away from letting people know what Pantheon is all about, even if the issue is controversial.

    But at the same time, we can do this in a way that isn't negative in nature, or that comes across as elitist, or that criticizes people who question or seem to have issue with what Pantheon is. Instead, we should try to explain *why* we've made the design decisions we've made, *why* we think certain mechanics are what a large group of MMOs players are looking for, *why* there's a group of MMO players who feel orphaned. And perhaps even more importantly, what are the benefits of a game like Pantheon vs. perhaps other MMOs, or what experiences you can have in a game like Pantheon that you perhaps cannot in other more recent MMOs.

    Explain politely but firmly how cooperative play can be more fun and more memorable than single player play. Explain your own experiences in MMOs that had vibrant communities. Explain why earning an item in-game can be more rewarding and meaningful than simply buying it in a cash shop. Let people know how you found people to play with in EQ or other earlier MMOs and then they became friends and people you really cared about and in many cases are still in contact with even though you haven't played with them in an MMO for years. Talk about the positives of class interdependence -- someone might on the surface feel like being restricted as to what you can do by the class you've chosen is a negative. But if you take the time to talk about how rewarding it is to go into a battle where you and your groupmates have different roles to play, and by depending on each other in order to prevail can actually be more fun and rewarding then being able to do everything yourself, not really needing another person around in order to progress through the game.

    I could go on and on and don't want to ramble, but I really think some people will re-think whether or not they are interested in a game like Pantheon if we (both the developers and the community) take the time to try to help them understand that what may seem like a negative or a restriction on the surface actually leads to a more rewarding and fun experience. On the other hand, if they're merely told 'well, this game doesn't sound like it's for you, so, well, go away', then what has really been accomplished?

    No, I am not delusional. I know that many people will not be convinced no matter what. Some will have to experience these things themselves before they can determine if the game is for them or not. And, yes, some people even after they experience it will decide, no, this game is not for them. This isn't 1999. The number of people playing MMOs is no longer in the hundreds of thousands, but in the 10s of millions. That means there are a lot more types of online gamers out there now, a much wider and more varied audience. But while that means there is likely a large number of people who won't interested in a game like Pantheon, it also absolutely means there is likely a large number of people who have never experienced a game like Pantheon that *will* like it once they've experienced it or once it's been explained to them.

    That's why, for example, Pantheon will be free to play the first 10 levels or so. No up-front cost, so no real risk in trying it out. That's why we're making sure that while the game will look great and take advantage of newer technologies, that it won't require you to have a super high end machine in order to play (a grave mistake we made with Vanguard, btw). We want people to try it out because while some won't like it, many will find out that they actually do.

    So, in summary, yes let's be honest about the game that is being made, its core tenets and goals, etc. But at the same time, let's not be dismissive of people who criticize or are skeptical or state that some aspect of the game doesn't sound appealing to them. Let them know why you are attracted to Pantheon, why its tenets and core mechanics are appealing to you. Take the time to explain why you feel many more recent MMOs have veered off course and therefore don't appeal to you or don't re-create the experiences you cherished playing some of the earlier MMOs.

    Lastly, I know many of you are already doing this, and doing it well, and we appreciate that very much. I am speaking to those proponents and supporters of Pantheon who are understandably frustrated by some people who criticize what they don't necessarily understand. I get it. I get frustrated too at times. But a kind answer turns away wrath. Let's make an effort to convince the skeptic that he may actually end up liking Pantheon if he gives it a try. Let's take the time to talk about the great experiences we had playing some of the earlier MMOs and why they were so much fun and memorable. Sure, it's easier to just say 'well, this game isn't for you', but sometimes the easy way is not the best way.

10 comments
  • Pyde
    Pyde Thanks for taking the time to post such a detailed explanation. It's been hard thru the years to convince people why I played hardcore MMO MUDs growing up and why I cherished the earlier MMO's but I believe you have given me fuel for the fire in a nice/kind way.
    March 13, 2016
  • Ondark
    Ondark quote "I truly believe that many of those people, if they give Pantheon a try, will end up liking it. I can't tell you how many... most? some? a few? I can't predict that level of specificity."

    Thats exactly what ive been thinking about Pantheon, to me ...  more
    March 25, 2016
  • disposalist
    disposalist The team is doing a fantastic job of being open and honest and of explaining where it's coming from. Good advice on how to deal with sceptics. I have to say some could use some coaching on how to allow diverse opinion where there are still grey areas and ...  more
    April 14, 2016
  • msk12
    msk12 Well said. So.....if you have invested and/or care about this game succeeding, be a good representative and steward of Pantheon. It's like I always say about religion and politics, you can't argue someone into your beliefs, you can only be a good repres...  more
    March 15