As both a journalist and someone who reads a lot about games, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished a game developer could just be more open about their hopes and plans for a game. In a highly personal post over the weekend, though, Overwatch Director Jeff Kaplan lays out just how “scary” it is for game developers to be forthcoming about their work in the current media and Internet environment.
“Overall, the community is awesome to us. But there are some pretty mean people out there,” he writes on the Overwatch forums. “All of our developers are free to post on these forums. Very few of us actually do because it’s extremely intimidating and/or time consuming. It’s very easy to post the wrong thing and make a ‘promise’ to the community that no one intended to make. Once we say we’re working on something, we’re not allowed to ‘take it back.’ It’s set in stone.”
It’s not an unreasonable thing to worry about. Just look at how No Man’s Sky became the victim of its own pre-release hype by the time it launched last year. Years of pre-release interviews and footage trying to describe the game layered it with sky-high expectations—some reasonable, some not—among the community at large. The extremely hostile reaction in some corners when some of those expectations ended up unmet is enough to make any developer want to just clam up and go “heads down,” as Kaplan puts it.
Kaplan goes on to note the personal attacks and threats developers often receive when they post under their real names as “downright scary and intimidating. It often feels like there is no winning.” That said, Kaplan adds that the fear hasn’t stopped him or other members of the 70-person Overwatch team from trying to be as open as possible about their work on the game.
“From Day 1, we felt like we wanted to be a development team that communicated more openly with our player base. We tried to make as many posts on these forums as possible,” he writes. “Our…