SWTOR’s Lack of Communication Skills, My Thoughts

Hey everyone,

There has been a lot of talk around various places about a particularly nasty exploit in the game and in turn Bioware’s silence and lack of communication skills. Bioware’s communication skills have admittedly been an ongoing topic of discussion for a long time now. But recently with the release of 3.0 just before the holidays and the the number of bugs, exploits and performance issues which have yet to be fixed, Bioware’s lack of a timely response has been troubling to say the least.

To Bioware’s credit Musco did finally come out and commented on the exploits.

musco exploit acknowledgement

But I feel it was a bit too late. This particular issue should’ve been responded to much sooner then it was. It is unusual to see them respond to an exploit in this way. But I feel it was a good response despite questionable timing. Hopefully definitive action will be taken against those guilty which will hopefully discourage future exploitation.

The slowness of Bioware’s communication can partially be blamed on the holidays and subsequently, in my opinion, the poor timing of the release of 3.0. I believe they released it too close to the holidays. Hypothetically if their hadn’t been holidays things would’ve been dealt with faster.

Bioware’s communication policies are also to blame. They have always been quite secretive and tend to address problems like this only after they’ve become a ‘big deal’ so to speak or have received extensive criticism. Like suddenly on the 08/01 Australian time (07/01 US time) there was a flood of responses to various issues almost out of the blue in the Dev Tracker. Did they suddenly go back to work or did they freak out at the growing frustration in the community? Who knows.. But prolonged silence is not a good thing.

Post 3.0.2.. Maybe? Lol jk.
Post 3.0.2.. Maybe? Lol jk.

We went through period’s in 2014 of prolonged silence from Bioware with very little communication and few game updates (content wise). This was frustrating for the community. Hopefully things will improve in 2015.

The Community Team’s communication did improve when Musco took the helm. I remember it being worse prior to that. But there is still a lot more they can do to improve.

Let me break down what I have observed over the years across various channels of communication from Bioware.

Overall Communication

There is little interactivity with the community and when there is interactivity it is quite limited and strict. They post stuff on various social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook) and in the Dev Tracker on the SWTOR Forums. Often they will post something on one social media platform (Instagram) and not post it anywhere else leaving it up to the community to spread the word (usually through Reddit). For the most part posts on various social media platforms tend to be from the Dev Tracker or related to something announced but occasionally it can be something random.

I’ll now go into detail now on what I’ve seen across various platforms. Except for Reddit as it is more or less community run and I’ve only see them comment on posts a couple of times. Either way occasional acknowledgement from the community team (at the minimum) would be nice.

Maybe if we send flares?  Smoke signals? They'll give us even more fireworks!
Maybe if we send flares? Smoke signals? They’ll give us even more fireworks!

SWTOR Forums

I will admit on and off they have their moments where forum communication is alright and there is even some minor interaction with the community. But this is usually only around when they’ve announced something or there’s stuff to fix. It’s almost like they take baby steps in improving the consistency and quality of their communication. Tait does a good job on occasion to responding various bugs/issues to be fair.

The official forums also need to be and should be the primary hub of information as well. Social media should be a secondary platform for communicating stuff. But as I’ve seen before, this isn’t always the case.

Twitter

I’ve been on Twitter for many years now and been using the #swtorfamily hash tag for sometime now and have met and interacted with many awesome SWTOR players because it it (thanks Madmar for starting it up). So we have quite an active community on Twitter.

As for SWTOR themselves, well they tweet sometimes. They more or less just post stuff from the Dev Tracker. I have seen them occasionally reply to queries but usually only in response to a question relating to a tweet they’ve made. I don’t recall them ever re-tweeting or acknowledging the SWTOR community on Twitter. I’ve seen many people tweet at SWTOR but never get a response.

Facebook

Pretty much the same as Twitter. They post stuff from the Dev Tracker, announce things and remind people of upcoming events. But that’s about it. To my knowledge they don’t respond to comments.. But to be fair I’m not on Facebook that much anyway.. also I wouldn’t even want to acknowledge the majority of those comments anyway.

Instagram

They only recently started using Instagram. But they are pretty active their posting pictures and hashtag’s to boot.. As you do. One thing I do find interesting however is that they used Instagram to preview the Life Day Decoration’s and new character customisation options coming to the Cartel Market (at the time). I suspect they will continue to do this in the future. They have even responded to questions on their as well. Whoever does run their Instagram does a pretty good job!

Oh look! A holoterminal...
Oh look! A holoterminal…

How would I like to see them improve on their communication skills?

More interactivity with the community over all social media platforms and on the forums. On the forums I would like to see interaction from not just from the community team (as that’s supposed to be more or less their job already) but from the developers as well. Admittedly, you do see some interaction form the developers on the odd occasion on the forums but their needs to be a lot more. Just something simple like a developer randomly commenting on a topic of their expertise. It doesn’t have to be everyday and wouldn’t be too time consuming but I think it would mean a lot to the players.

When I was playing WildStar, one of the things which impressed me the most was the amount of interactivity and communication from the developers and the community team. That is the level of interaction I would love to see with SWTOR.

I would also like to see them more active on Twitter. Retweeting things from the community and acknowledging those who contribute in the community. It would be great if they took the time to answer questions on Twitter more regularly as well. WildStar I remember was pretty active on Twitter retweeting fan art and answering questions and such.

Another big thing they can improve on is if they post a tid bit of information on one social media platform they should post it on all of them. For example if they post something on Instagram, they should also post it on Facebook, Twitter and of course the forums. Just for consistency sake. Also most people wouldn’t visit every single social media platform everyday or don’t use all of them. So they should try to somehow link up all the social media platforms to ensure information is spread.

Finally a cool thing they could do is use fansites, podcasts etc. to share exclusive information and link back to it. It would be a great way to highlight the great work done by the community. They do stuff with gaming news websites sometimes as well, such as interviews and it would also be good to link back to those on social media at least so the community gets to see it.

Maybe if I press this button?
Maybe if I press this button something will happen?

Conclusion

There is a lot Bioware could do to improve their communication methods. Interacting with the community on a variety of social media channels would be a good start. Less secrecy and being more free with information about upcoming content and the like would be great as well. When it comes to developer interaction I know they have to balance out working on the game with checking the forums. But I believe the right balance of interaction and work could easily be achieved. Highlighting fan work (podcasts, websites, art) done by the community would be great way to acknowledge their dedicated player-base as well.

Finally a more timely response and taking quick action on exploits and planning to have time set aside to deal with issues after an expansion when/if they arise would help to alleviate most issues.

So what do you think of Bioware’s communication efforts? How do you think they could improve? And do you think they handled the most recent ‘exploitgate’ appropriately or should the response have been much sooner?

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