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Can We Meet The Tsw Dev Team? (dtg Pr Suggestion)

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Jacko, Jan 30, 2018.

  1. Jacko

    Jacko New Member

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    Sadly, and a bit annoyingly, I see a lot of negative noise in 'the other place', aimed at DTG and its motives. Mostly, it's angry (sometimes justifiably, sometimes not) people who make assumptions-in-the-dark about what they think DTG is up to, and why, just sounding off to increasing degrees. In the darkness, these voices often get paranoid and conspiracy-theorist, because there is no light shined into their dark places.

    Whilst I don't condone it or agree with it, I do understand why people sometimes leap to those conclusions. Usually, it's done in the absence of knowledge (or the pretense of it), without understanding or empathy, and it's human nature to assume that if you hear nothing positive to counteract your negative proposal, then your negative view must be right. Or if the positive stuff you hear seems to take forever to come true, then you're being snowed or even lied-to. Never mind the reality that good stuff takes time to make, and that tricky, massive projects are in fact quite tricky and pretty massive to make, and it's only 'people' that make them... not gods or magicians.

    The net result is some people have, in my opinion, very much the wrong view of DTG, and DTG seems to struggle to make their intentions and activities understood. Now, I know that there are some things which it's best for a development team to keep secret, or at the very least to avoid pinning down hard release dates for (I was a producer for a very large US games firm beginning with A in the 1980s, so I know this only too well - and we had no internet to worry about back then, so things were easier in some ways! But it didn't stop us getting ripped into by the Games Press, which was far more difficult to dodge or blame on 'noisy individuals', because it was printed on paper and hung around for months!).

    But the thing we learned was that - within certain well-structured limits - being as open and honest as we could be with the Press, inviting them in to 'Meet The Team', and see exactly what we do, and what we were up against, was usually a great way to take the heat out of things. Our audience enjoyed seeing a little more of how we went about the making of games: what research we did, what tools we used, how our artists and musicians and sound-effects teams worked, and what they drew their inspirations from.

    Rarely did we show them too much 'blue-sky' stuff (it was almost always a rod for our own backs), and of course, back then, we didn't have to worry about things like patches and post-release bugfixes (in the 80s, when it was shipped, it was shipped!), but that need not stop 'bugfixing' being a thing that is exposed and explained nowadays. Bugfixing is murder to do, and sometimes people are less likely to cast aspersions and hatred at members of the bugfixing team, if they see them as human beings, rather than as unseen mythical machines whose job it is to see into the unknown and fix everything in ten seconds or be cast as a 'lamer' forever. Keyboard warriors rely on dehumanisation for their sport; and it's much harder for them to seem even slightly 'on point', if everybody knows that it is 'cool Johnny' or 'smart Sally' who is the person struggling daily at fixing XYZ bug or trying to polish out the wrinkles in something that's not working 100% as intended.

    Some studios (notably Peter Molyneux's) have tried and seemingly failed 'the behind-the-scenes PR game'... and it is not a 100% guaranteed solution by any means. IMHO, TwoCans' problem was partly an over-reliance on Peter himself as the focus, rather than his team, so he lost the full effect of 'humanising' his team to the public. Also, the focus of the game got changed from one platform to another, and one payment model to another, and that upset a lot of folks, and these are not the sort of thing that can be 'PRed away' easily.

    However, in contrast, the monthly videos from the 'Introversion Software' team - the guys behind Prison Architect - were a joy to receive each month. Whilst the team-members were only usually characterised as South Park-esque animations, and the videos were mostly voice-over conversations on top of gameplay, it was a fantastic insight into the thought processes, problems, successes, methodology, and approaches to development and ideas. As well as being a very funny, uniquely British, damned-good informative giggle for 40 minutes or an hour each month. Introversion had also suffered a bit of negativity during its long, long period of 'Early Access' on Steam, and the forums did at one point, after about the 2nd year, get a bit whiffy and noisy... but the team faced it down, kept smiling, working, and showing its work, and won through. They emerged the other side with a highly acclaimed game, and a team that will be remembered and supported for a long time (at least until their next development... a week is a long time in the games-biz, someone once said!)

    So, the point that I am making, in my usual roundabout way, is that DTG could, perhaps, benefit from a more in-depth view being shown of its own TSW team, and what they're working on (or even struggling with) from time to time. Humanise yourselves! Show us the real you. Make people empathise more. Inform and entertain your public. Show us what you do when you crawl all over a Shed taking measurements, or what happens when you realise you've got something wrong on an HST. Tell us what source materials you rely on when fact-finding; which ancient, yellowed BR pamphlets or crumpled Ian Allan pocketbooks you read for fun and benefit. What are the in-house in-jokes at DTG? Who makes the coffee? Who doesn't drink it? Who are the gag-artists and who are the nerds? Who was a trainspotter, and who was a systems engineer for BAe, and which uber-cool coder was once a stultifyingly-boring accountant but gave it all up to become a games-guru? All will find their followers, but we need to meet them first!

    I know that Matt P does some of this kind of thing on his Twitch stream, but imho, it's not quite enough. It's not 'DTG-focussed' enough, and it's 'his thing' rather than a company or a team thing. And I know that the production of such things requires time, effort and presumably payment of someone within the team to do the video-editing, polishing and 'running-it-all-past-management-so-we-don't-shoot-ourselves-in-the-foot'. But it's usually worth it, if it's honest and real and human enough. People don't become fans of faceless machines half so easily as they become fans of the people who think them into existence. This is true even in the world of trains, where of course railfans do become fans of machines; but ask any railfan why they love their train, and they'll usually answer that it's something to do with its characteristics, its looks, the way it behaves, the growl it makes; its human or animal qualities. It's the anthropomorphism of trains that makes them feel alive; the fans still need to believe there's a beating heart and a struggling beast there behind the tin and grease. And it's the same here; we - the playing, paying public, need to empathise more with the TSW team in order to trust, respect and believe them more. Time to show us your true colours, as people.

    Consider this. One hundred and sixty-one years ago (yes, that's 1857, peeps; put your shoes back on), a photographer called Robert Howlett embarked on a 'behind-the-scenes' photo documentary for the Illustrated Times newspaper in what was, essentially, a very early PR exposé. His subject? A massive (ultimately-doomed, but we'll ignore that for now) steamship, at the time the largest and greatest the world had ever seen: the SS Great Eastern. All of Howlett's photos were ultimately 're-tweeted' in the medium of the day, and turned into hand-carved wood-engravings for printing the newspaper, because that's how they had to do it back then. But the original photos survive, and one photo in particular stands out today as the most memorable, most famous, most effective 'behind-the-scenes' piece of PR ever, and it shows a glimpse of that big machine's human creator. You will have seen it, I guarantee. He's a short man, cigar clenched in his mouth, hands in his trouser pockets beneath his waistcoat, stove-pipe hat on his head, standing in front of the biggest frickin' set of chain-links you've ever seen in your life.

    And I'll bet, even now, you know his name and his three initials.

    People like to know who makes the stuff they like. Knowing them, makes them more human. Sometimes, it even makes them more than human.

    Can we see the humans behind the three initials TSW, please DTG?
     
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