Ongoing Uru Review: Cyan Communicating

(This is an edited version of a post that I made on Dec 30, 2007, in a long forum thread about the future of Uru Live. The top post of that thread has been updated with some of the suggestions that came out of it. If you're looking for this text in context, it appears here.)

The meta-problem with Uru is Cyan's level of communication. Some people have already posted eloquently about the communication issue. But it affects everything else.

Every problem and suggestion in this thread is familiar. KI improvements, in-game story journals and content repeaters, integration with D'ni history, small changes in Ages, bug fixes, the episode schedule, multi-player vs solo puzzles, player-created content -- all that has been common currency in the player community for six months. (Or going back to Prologue, in some cases.)

But we don't know what Cyan thinks of all those suggestions. We've had almost no reaction from them about any of it. (Except for the big May announcement of the episode system.)

Cyan, as I keep saying, are not idiots. They have been considering the same problems for as long as we have -- and the same solutions. They have some kind of plan. I can say with blithe certainty that their plan involves changing some stuff in Uru Live, and keeping other stuff the same.

But we have no grasp of that plan. It's not even hidden behind a curtain -- a curtain would at least give us a sense of size. We don't know whether they're contemplating ideas that would turn Uru upside down, or ideas that would come across to us as trivial bandaids. We don't know what problems they think need to be fixed. Or what they think are problems. Are the episodes a problem or a solution? What about live events? Etc.

That's what leaves us in this state of blank tension, where some players are intensely hopeful and others are giving up.

Is this new? Of course not; we were here a year ago, when MOUL had just opened up, before the February 2007 "launch date". And some players were saying "this sucks, it's buggy, nothing new is going on"; others were insisting that any minute now the story would take off like fireworks.

The difference between then and now is that now we've seen a year of Uru. The truth was (unsurprisingly) somewhere in between "nothing" and "fireworks". But with the number of undeniable disappointments and problems we've experienced, I don't think Cyan should still be relying on artistic silence. A year ago it evoked more optimism than pessimism; now it's doing the reverse.

Now the flip side:

Much as I'd love news about season 2, I can't blame Cyan for keeping it quiet. Gossiping about a deal before it's solid is suicide. (I once blew a job offer that way. Opened my mouth before all the details were in. Poof.) Further: there is real value in making a big announcement that covers everything, rather than dribbling out hints one at a time. A big announcement creates excitement. Hints create frustration and suspicion.

I recognize that Cyan is in an impossible position when it comes to communication. Any hint they drop is taken as a promise, and then amplified by a factor of six. Then we players look at whatever they didn't hint, and assume it's an admission of blatant failure. We construct elaborate guesses based on the slightest turn of phrase in a bug report response.

I could blame us for this dynamic, and I could blame Cyan -- they created an information vacuum, and we try to fill it up. I'd rather skip the blame and ask what Cyan can do to fix it. Development blogging? Weekly posts by the Cyan community manager? Getting that newsletter out on time? (As I wrote this, the first and only newsletter was dated November 1. A late-December issue had been accidentally posted in incomplete form, and then hastily retracted.)

Not necessarily today, as I said. But if the entire next year plays out in the kind of silence that we've had so far, Cyan will be in trouble. Because it's making the problems worse, and it's not making the good surprises any better.

(Foot note: Axel, the original poster, replied to this and suggested that Cyan post a post-mortem for season one -- an analysis, from their point of view, of what went right and wrong. Lots of players, including me, agreed that that would be awesome.)

Last updated January 5, 2008.

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