So, after semi careful reading of your posts - Sony fired you in the end?
No - just do not answer, way too personal :).
No, nothing personal about that. I was just one of the unofficial testers a few times. Wasn't hired by Sony, so I just said what I thought. Felt that was fair compensation for being invited to play. And that if I helped them find bugs, that they'd accept some criticism in return. Got invited to another beta, etc. Ended up being put on a list of 10 people or something like that that one of the Sony devs wanted to help them sort out some of the feedback they'd get.
That's when I got to talk to the community team the dev kept mysteriously referring to when they justified some of the stranger changes to the games. And after talking a bit it comes up that they were more interested in using the focus groups and internet buzz for advertisement, and using their access to make changes to the game to butter up people with youtube channels and so on. Than actually finding ways to make the games play better.
Nothing deceptive about it in one sense - they were simply adjusting the game towards the expectation various different communities had, right? That would make sense on an abstract level.
But, being often critical of things, I pointed out that maybe fabricating consent for these changes based on ten ditto-posts on a forum, pretending it represented everyone who might be interested in the game, was perhaps a bit risky. That it basically amounted to justifying arbitrary changes to a game based on a very superficial impression people might have. That it was a very bad case of "editor's disease", or that it simply made changes to something because that's the editor's job. While actual feedback that was more geared into how the developer wanted the game to play was ignored.
Another serious problem, I thought, was that certain changes were made without understanding the technical implications - for example, if you wanted to have any psn-player be able to join any other psn-player (which was eventually enforced across the psn), this wasn't a question of removing region locks, but removing ping and throughput requirements for the matching. Which in turn would make the flow of the game from an aesthetic and mechanical point of view very bad. Read: people would lag a lot. Which isn't really that great in an online only game. If anyone played Little Big Planet, it was the difference between smooth 60fps and unplayable hash Perhaps some compromise might be acceptable, instead of patching out all limitations from the game's matching, I thought. That answering some short term "concerns" such as "I have to wait 10 seconds in a queue, it kills the game for me, I quit" with essentially breaking the game for everyone, including the ones with the original "issue" - may not have been a good idea to even consider a solution. Etc.
So that my attitude towards community feedback would have to be to go and ask people if they either wanted to wait 10 seconds in a queue, perhaps not be able to gather the entire clan in the same platoon, etc. - to accept some inconveniences in return for a guaranteed smooth gameplay experience. Or if they wanted to drop the ten second wait along with being able to join in a single platoon, and then accept the gameplay breakage that would cause. I.e., structured feedback. That didn't place some "game expert's opinion" over technical concerns. It's like "I want access to my internet bank without using that inconvenient password!".. right? I've heard people say they want that, but in reality they might actually not.
I may have used more swearwords when I said that, though.
And that's when things broke down, basically. Were several other people on that list that were treated much worse than me afterwards. By the "community loyalty project" staff folks. And the end of that entire spat was that the dev who quested for more involved feedback for their game was first restructured to start work on a different title with more traditional design (read: Sony's publishing folks took the negative community feedback to mean the game was bad, rather than badly handled after the beta ended). Then they were dissolved, and the game was dropped after a healf-hearted attempt to sell disc-versions of it to rekindle the community, etc. It was a very badly handled project, where the decision to push the game as a "AAA" high confidence title relied literally on some snotty relative of someone in marketing, or something like that.
Supposedly some of the tech and some of the programmers were pilfered over to do Planetside 2. To coincide with the launch of their new Sony Online Entertainment platform on PC, etc. Which obviously went fantastically. Why they had high confidence in relaunching an old brand in this case is anyone's guess. Or why they dropped a finished project. It literally seemed like someone high up had a brilliant idea, and couldn't be dissuaded. While any of the "experimental" projects launched with the ps3 were now suddenly old hat.
Long story short, they don't know what they're doing. And costing a lot of good developers their jobs by pushing remarkably petty and childish ideas into a process that a seasoned developer team completed on their own.
Zipper, for example, eventually covered themselves by saying they simply delivered a product to Sony, who then would tweak the program as they wanted. And, that they had no say in that process after they delivered the product. That's pretty remarkable coming from an in-house dev, no, even when it's an off the cuff remark?
So while the process during Q&A remained completely obscure, it is demonstrably the case that several developers independent of each other were pressured to make these weird superficial changes that created more problems than they fixed (if they fixed any at all). That then were marked off as "job well done" when implemented. After which the game was considered unsellable if it didn't produce the expected fawning feedback on Gaf and Reddit afterwards.
In other words, their community project is not about having an imaginative PR operation where they use the communtiy as an advertisement venue. But they were actually implementing suggestions from insta-feedback into the game, in the belief that this would make it sell better.
Like a TV show where they'd adjust what the main characters would do every episode based on the first internet comment. "I think Dexter should be more kind to women" - Hold up everyone, make Dexter a feminist firebrand!
Or not even that imaginative. We're talking about pretty remarkably dumb stuff, like adding damage to a weapon certain people associated with the "hero" faction. To the point where that alone unbalanced the game. Actual discussions were had about whether it would make the game unpopular if the "villains" won too much on average, or felt equally strong. Abilities in the game was boosted based on specific tester's preferences so they would get an edge in the game. Things like that really happened. And stayed in the final release.