Since some people have asked, we're going to provide a quick explanation of why we're doing these in-game polls.
In a nutshell: We are interested in how our playerbase feels about the game, and what their preferences are. We want to know what people think would make their play experience more fun. We also have our broader creative goals, like our four core principles for the game, and are interested in finding better ways to accomplish those goals. Our staff tends to be data-driven in its decision-making, and polling provides crucial data on public opinion and preferences.
First off, to state a couple of things explicitly:
- We don't think anything is fundamentally broken with the game.
- We are not changing our vision.
- We are not planning a drastic retooling.
- We are not pre-judging. We have ideas and theories that we are investigating. Data helps inform our thinking.
- The presence of a choice in a poll does not indicate any judgment of what we think of that choice.
No large-scale game plan ever completely survives its contact with players, and polling is a way for the staff to compare what we have in our heads with the reality of the game as it's being played and as people would like it to be played. We have an interestingly diverse set of players on the game, with very different gaming backgrounds. As we've learned from talking to people during chargen and later, a large number of you have never played an Amber-themed MUSH before, and a surprising number of you have never roleplay MUSHed before. Quite a lot of you aren't particularly familiar with the books. The diverse playerbase means that people bring with them a wide range of expectations and preferences.
Why polling, rather than just free-flowing feedback? Here are a number of reasons:
- Reduction of a question to its essentials.
- Requires people to decide what is most important to them, among a limited set of choices.
- Gives everyone the chance to participate in an anonymous way.
- Obtains opinion from a very broad set of players.
- Elicits opinions that people might not want to give in conversation, where they feel judged.
- Ensures that the results are not skewed by the people who are loud.
- Allows merging the data of the responses received with other data, like RPG system statistics.
Free-form feedback is welcome and we continue to embrace it. But to rely solely upon such feedback as a barometer of player opinion means that the perception is heavily shaped by players who are loud. Players who are loud also tend to be at the extremes of either happiness or unhappiness, which means that their opinions are frequently not representative of average joe. Moreover, players who are vocal often use phrases like, "Lots of people think…" And they might be, from their perspective, correct — players tend to have OOC conversations with other players who are like themselves, and consequently hold similar opinions. (Plus, lots of people do not want to argue with other players, and will just smile and nod supportedly if someone else is ranting.) But that doesn't make the opinion broadly true across the playerbase. Only polling can really give you that data.
We expect the game to continue to evolve over time, as we think about what's working well and what's working poorly, and try to keep improving the play experience and adapting to the changing needs of the game. Therefore, you'll continue to see periodic polls.