Who really controls the direction of a mod? I guess this is a rhetorical question with an obvious answer. The development team of course. But do they really have total control or should they pay attention to their community and the product they are developing. I will bring up a few factors, such as interact and communication that are sometimes overlooked when it comes to mod development. The main responsibility of any team is to create a successful product. Hopefully with a bit of information and some re-education, mod teams can really take their development to the next level by involving their community in the development process.
The relationship a development team has with their community should be a give and take relationship. There should be an open line of communication between the two parties, so they can interact. Many mods I have experienced, have a development team who is not really “gamer oriented.” What I mean by this is, they do not like to interact and spend time with those who are supporting the mod team’s creation. Why wouldn’t you? Unless your development reputation precedes you as a “Mod God,” developers really need to pay attention to what goes on in their community.
Unfortunately, some developers come off as being “high and mighty,” acting as if they are above the mod they have created. Rarely these teams interact with their community, or when they do they come off with an attitude that leaves the community with an uncomfortable feeling. Remember these impressions can set the tone the community takes towards the development team and the mod. These gamers are also the ones who support your mod and want it to be successful. So ignoring this group is not highly advisable.
A little interaction with the community can pave the way for a solid relationship on which both the community and developer can build on. Rarely will there be a time when these two parties meet face to face in the real world, the only correspondence comes in the form of online communication, such as e-mail and forums. This is when words become a powerful tool for the developers, but used improperly can ruin any mod. Learn how to communication effectively online when talking to your community.
Being able to create a supportive online community can really provide added incentive for a mod developer. Gamers who are active and participate feel as if they are an extension of mod, by offering feedback, which will help to improve the mod they love. Unfortunately, many times comments are rarely responded to by the development team and the gamer is left wondering if he is getting though to the team. In defense of developers, unless the mod team has an individual dedicated to continually corresponding and interacting with the community, development of the mod is the primary responsibility and rightly so. Forums are a virtual gold mine for developers, as many insightful topics are touched upon, including where to improve the mod and current issues that need to be addressed.
In the end, the development process is left to the mod team, but without gamers to support that mod, it is destined to fail. As a gamer, it is nice to see developers participate in discussions. An excellent example can be seen in the Quake 3 World Forums, as Paul Jaquays and Todd Hollenshead of id Software often post and respond to the community. A small presence can often go a long way. Hopefully development teams will make use of the people skills in order to strengthen the support for the mod they are developing.