A Case Study in the Inherent Shortcomings of TwitterPosted 21 October 2009 by Flux
Earlier this week, the following post went up on Blizzard’s @Diablo twitter feed.
9:01 AM Oct 19th
This was a fairly odd post, since 1) it made it sound like this was a new feature change, 2) it’s not true, unless they’ve recently decided not to have the WD use mana, and 3) the “communication” medium of Twitter is (by design) entirely unsuited to hosting detailed conversations about complicated issues. Nevertheless, it was a post by Blizzard, and in our coverage of it, MD took it at face value.
A few months ago, a day prior to Blizzcon, all fansites gathered at the hotel for a trip to the Blizzard Entertainment campus for the fansites summit held by the community managers: Bashiok, Nethaera and Karune. In this summit, they revealed their plans to integrate Twitter as a tool to communicate with their fans not only with live dev chats, but much more. One of them just pop on our radar.
Something very exciting! Bashiok and the Diablo III Team want feedback from you and invite you to participate in the development of a key feature in Diablo III.
Some more cynical commenters (such as myself) assumed this was just a way to generate some conversation, rather than an actual request for game design input, and pointed out the absurdity of design debates via Twitter, but most fans were overjoyed at the prospect of their opinions actually being heard by the reclusive D3 dev team, and there was a fair amount of good ideas posted in our news thread and directly over Twitter as well. (To say nothing of the numerous long threads on this very issue our forums have hosted these months.)
What did Blizzard think of fans taking advantage of their request for non-mana resource idea brainstorming? Click through for the rest….
Text messaging is is designed for quick comments, brain farts, mindless chat, etc. It’s manifestly not suited to intelligent communication, and everyone who uses it regularly (via Twitter or just over a cell phone) knows that arguments and confusion are inevitable. Who hasn’t had a completely stupid text message argument over a misunderstanding that could have been resolved in 10 seconds speaking face to face? Twitter has its uses, but they clearly do not include hosting video game design brainstorming sessions. (Not to mention studies showing that Twitter use actually makes you dumber.) In fact, as testified to by the fact that virtually everyone thought Blizzard wanted serious non-mana design suggestions when they just wanted idle conversation, Twitter isn’t even very well suited to ask the conversation-starter questions in the first place! (Not only did most fans make the same “interesting interpretation” of the initial question, but GameSpy took it as the announcement of a radical game design change, one that means the project lacks direction.)
I’m not arguing that Blizzard should abandon their Twitter feeds, but they clearly need to be more careful with their wording in them. (They might want to tip off fans that they don’t actually care about our game design ideas before asking us to submit them.) Furthermore, it’s odd how much time and effort they’re putting into those Tweets, while essentially abandoning their own D3 forum (never a single dev post; just sporadic Bashiok posts). And for what? Thanks to Bashiok’s post on this issue we now know that all the @Diablo questions are pure time killers, just daily noise to give bored fans something to reply to. That’s not all bad, I guess—it’s a lot quicker and easier to log into Twitter than the Battle.net forums, after all.
So what do you guys think? Do you value the Blizzard Twitter feeds? Would that effort be better spent elsewhere? (Or is this just the sort of nonsense that takes on too much importance when we’re all bored waiting for a game that won’t appear for another 18+ months?)