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  • Patience vs Communication

    Zen, just some (hopefully) constructive comments and suggestions from a big fan whose interest has waned...


    MARKETING/COMMUNITY/PR/BUZZ

    You need to work on your overall direction. Clearly, you have obligations to licensors and other parties, and thus you're constrained in what you can announce. However, your well-worn mix of "be patient" and "coming soon!" isn't working.

    Your PR is mostly placatory. i.e. soothing the beast with occasional tidbits, attending (spottily) to problems, only belatedly updating the community (and usually only in response to nagging questions).

    This approach is reactive. It's one of "keep the punters happy, rather than informed". It's a controlling approach, rather than an expressive one.

    Zen is a secretive shop that keeps its work close to its chest, then releases with a fanfare, expecting the customers/web/world to create an ongoing buzz. I don't think this approach is working. It produces spikes of interest, but also the inevitable decline, punctuated with long periods of boredom and even frustration. There's no overall flow, just periods of boom and drought.

    Outside of contractual non-disclosure, you could open up and be an interesting developer. Examples:

    - create a YouTube account. Show us the people behind the tables, show them playing the tables (Zen or real-life) they like. Show us the why you making games.

    - show us how you make games. Copy FarSight, and credit your community with some technical and artistic interest in the process.

    - engage the community. Use them for direct feedback, and yes, even gameplay testing. (Certainly doable at least on the mobile devices and PC versions. It's not like your games couldn't do with extra testing by experienced players.)

    - instead of waiting for the community to put out guides and screenshots and videos, how about you do it?

    - produce interviews with the individual teams. What inspired them for a given table, what were they thinking, what were their goals, what problems did they have? Postmortems: what failed, what worked?

    - please stop being cryptic. You're not Bungie or Valve. You make pinball tables in a market where your only direct competition is a re-creator of existing, completely-explored tables. (And frankly, your competition right now is doing a much better job than you of communicating. Which is saying something, TBH.)


    Instead of directing your marketing push through puff-pieces for Kotaku and the like, do it directly. You don't need to put together an interview just for an influential magazine; put it together for everyone.

    Finally, a technical issue: please ditch the Flash and fixed-aspect nature of your web design. It's annoying to read and navigate.


    MARVEL

    The Marvel series showcases both the best and worst of Zen. There's innovation and love shown in tables like Blade and Moon Knight. And then there's SpiderMan or Iron Man.

    These latter tables are mostly bombastic, repetitive affairs. 3D toys vying off at each other, spouting childish catchphrases, all to variations on the same swelling, dramatic music. It's all technically proficient, some of the art is inspired (and some is not; see the rather dreadful-looking Ghostrider), but it's also of a pattern. A boring, over-done pattern.

    Unless the new tables break this pattern (and the trailers do not give me hope) then they will not be added to my collection. (I've barely touched the last pack, apart from the quite good Moon Knight.) Not a threat, or anything silly like that, just a statement about where I want my gaming money to go.


    BUGS, RESPONDING TO

    Your approach to bug-fixing and QA follows your secretive work practices. It seems up to the community to report on bugs, elaborate on them, list them and nag you about them until you respond. Your reaction is typically one of "hmmm".

    Yes, we know bugs are annoying for everyone, including you. But some of that frustration can be mitigated by good communication from you.

    i.e. how about you maintain the active list of known bugs, complete with a status? e.g. fixed, in-progress, unfixable.

    The way not to handle it is the way you've been doing it. i.e. maybe (just maybe) acknowledge a bug, then say nothing about it or (when pressed) mention in passing that the fix will be in the next update, as if we all should have known this already. (But keep us guessing as to the nature and timing of the update.) Then, after being pressed further on the issue, after a long period of no communication, tell us that the update is not coming after all (2.5? That's not going to happen), but we should be patient (PFX3, coming soon!)

    If you have difficulty updating PFX2 for whatever reason (XBLA costs, schedules, technical issues) then say so. But let us know.

    (And if you truly think your fans have no patience, perhaps don't test that patience as often as you do. You are not Valve, and ValveTime does not work in your favour.)


    TIRED NOW

    OK, so that was a long piece. But there's a reason for that; it's probably my last effort until a new, interesting table is released. I'm no longer interested in working to keep myself (or anyone else) interested in Zen's pinball. I'll check back if/whenever these "huge licenses" arrive (but will probably be more interested in any home-grown IPs you come up with), but your marketing will probably have to find me this time around.

  • #2
    Great post. I'm glad you are so clear about your perspective. Spiderman is an awesome table though. Like you, I am really interested in learning more about the design process.
    I hope this post encourages some interesting discussion.

    Comment


    • #3
      We definitely should recieve more frequent updates.
      http://www.pinballmuseum.org/ The City Is My Church

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Womble View Post

        These latter tables are mostly bombastic, repetitive affairs. 3D toys vying off at each other, spouting childish catchphrases, all to variations on the same swelling, dramatic music. It's all technically proficient, some of the art is inspired (and some is not; see the rather dreadful-looking Ghostrider), but it's also of a pattern. A boring, over-done pattern.

        Unless the new tables break this pattern (and the trailers do not give me hope) then they will not be added to my collection. (I've barely touched the last pack, apart from the quite good Moon Knight.) Not a threat, or anything silly like that, just a statement about where I want my gaming money to go.
        Do you include the X-men table in this pattern? I'm not clear on what you are criticizing here. Can you give a comparison with examples of how it is not bombastic and is better because of it?

        Comment


        • #5
          They have a youtube account, just saying

          Comment


          • #6
            We should start a Zen Street Team. I'll be the leader!!
            http://www.pinballmuseum.org/ The City Is My Church

            Comment


            • #7
              MARVEL

              The Marvel series showcases both the best and worst of Zen. There's innovation and love shown in tables like Blade and Moon Knight. And then there's SpiderMan or Iron Man.

              These latter tables are mostly bombastic, repetitive affairs. 3D toys vying off at each other, spouting childish catchphrases, all to variations on the same swelling, dramatic music. It's all technically proficient, some of the art is inspired (and some is not; see the rather dreadful-looking Ghostrider), but it's also of a pattern. A boring, over-done pattern.

              Unless the new tables break this pattern (and the trailers do not give me hope) then they will not be added to my collection. (I've barely touched the last pack, apart from the quite good Moon Knight.) Not a threat, or anything silly like that, just a statement about where I want my gaming money to go.
              Every one has opinion on table designs etc. and quite frankly I can tell you don't like most of the marvel tables. You clearly state that you like Blade and Moon Knight which is ok. I in fact don't like Blade's design and do like Moon Knight. I love Iron Man as a table. It's no that the table is repetitive it's about accuracy to me and I do like tables that give you a challenge. I despise Spider-man and Wolverine. That's my opinion.

              IMO Every table I've played in Marvel has it's own uniqueness to it. I can't really describe it. After playing these for some time now, I have stuck to mostly the newer tables. Why? I don't know but as far as overall design and how the missions game-play play out, the tables are much deeper than they seem.

              I'm not trying to criticize your post and opinion on the Marvel tables I just want to say that there are players that love certain tables. Sure...... Maybe the theme is overdone but you can't deny the allure of the Marvel franchise.

              That's my say in the matter. Excellent post by the way.

              Comment


              • #8
                OP: Very intelligent post. Several of the things needed to be said. The whole "any day now" routine is seriously eyeroll-inducing. First it was "it's out of our hands" then it got changed to "it wasn't ready." "E" and "3" are the two correct reasons IMO...

                back to waiting...

                Comment


                • #9
                  Few of the dev teams actually communicate with the fan bases... its common and expected in this day and age. On the subject of Zen - they are a hungarian team which has its community work done in the states... a tough scenario at the best of times.

                  I personally am more than happy with the commnication and feedback we get here - ive seen community teams for devs which are a million times worse and thats for devs large and small. I think people are giving them too much greif personally, i would even say sometimes people here border on giving off a sense of entitlement too often but thats just my personal opinion.

                  We have to be wary and remember a team should enver announce something unless its ready - if we had been told say Avengers Assemble pack is officially to be released 2nd May 2012 only for it to be a month late then they take needless heat from the same fans wanting clarity on said date. If they have a list of bugs them they need to concentrate on working them onto the next update patch where and when it due (their own time... at £25,000 a patch on Xbox 360 for example it shouldnt be rushed because the forums demands its fixed at more convenience, the more tables released between each patch means the more bugs which can be fixed with upcoming patch - no member of Zen will test a table quite to the high level a Womble or a Blue will). There is an old saying "what you know doesnt hurt you".

                  I sometimes wonder if Zen is TOO open with info... hints create hype and debate. Actually telling you about a Zen Pinball 2 or whatever way ahead of time only leads to frustration and impatience (only natural... were all fans desperate for the next fix after all). We have to remain vigilant and constructive of course but lets not be too harsh on the poor three Zen officials we see on the forums who try and answer every question when they can as far as i can see even when they cant actually answer it properly making for what is now 100% clear a thankless task. For me im just amazed so long after Pinall FX1 was launched i can STILL say im expecting DLC im pumped about for the games and i can STILL play said launch tables with all the next ones. Zen have gone so much more of an extra yard compared to almost everyone i can name behind sequels for games except say Harmonix the team behind Rock Band. Not to mention Zen are a tiny fish in a big pond.

                  Anyway thats my thoughts on the matter - just want to point out ive no beef with anyone here, i like coming here. Take Womble for example - great ideas about showing some insight behind the design inspirations and an awesome asset to the forums but do i agree Zen are wrong for being vague though - far from it but thats as far as it goes. A friendly forum for the best part and where everyone actually seems to have a good head on their shoulders... mature forums like this put many ive visited to shame. Its nice to be able to objective and constructive without it turning into a flame fast - we just have to remember how it would feel to be one of the Zen posters reading this though, is there really all that much more they can personally do?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Although companies want to present their relationship with the customer as a flowery friend/buddy one (i.e. they have community managers) it is not.
                    Zen makes a great product that we all love, but don’t forget that its main goal as a business is to create profit. There is nothing wrong with that. Every company does. It’s a normal thing.

                    If there is something internal that is considered a negative, a company will try to keep it from its fans.
                    For example: Let’s say that PFX2 has irreparable desing flaw that makes it really hard to fix bugs and their intern solution is „leave it as is and redesign the app for PFX3“. Do you think that they will be honest and tell this to everyone outside the company? Of course not! This information would endanger the sales as potential buyers may wait till PFX3 is released and would question their competence.

                    Who really expects that any company is really (I mean really!) honest to its customers about internal stuff? Look at Bioware. With Mass Effect 3 they produced a stellar game, but the ending was atrocious (logic holes, out of character decisions, ABC cockie cutter ending in a series that is all about choice). This created, as most of us know, a colossal uproar from their loyal fanbase that forced them to announce a free dlc that „explains“ the ending.
                    But here is the thing: Did they officially make a statement like „It was our fault“, „We had no time at the end therefore we rushed a crappy ending“. No, they are a business after all! So what did they do? They danced and tiptoed around the obvious fact that the ending was bad and tried to damage control with slimy PR SPEAK, you know that kind of talk that says nothing at all and if it has a message it is hidden behind the words. They justified the ending with bringing up Artistic Integrity - no one bought that bs.

                    Another example: Capcom’s Yoshinori Ono (community manager). He was in every Fighting Tournament and promoted the game in funny ways (he dressed as Chun Li - cool!). He was the face of Street Fighter. Then why does he not promote the new Street Fighter X Tekken the same vocal way? After Capcom received a massive shit storm from their fans b/c of their shoddy dlc business practices (customer has buy for dlc that is already on disc, releasing a new version of the same game few months later) Mr. Ono suddenly disappeared from the PR Happy train. The official Capcom statement is that he broke down because of exhaustion. I wish the man all good and that he recovers soon, but isn’t it a funny coincidence that it happened at the same time as the fan backlash started?

                    So whats the moral of the story here? Simply don’t let the happy buddy kind of talk from PR managers fool you. A company will not be honest to you about mistakes it makes. It will simply deny them, play them down or justify them in an alien language from PLANET PR.

                    Every company has the right to chose how honest it will be to the customer. We have no right to demand honesty - it is their product, they decide. We can only express our opinion, criticize things and hope for the best. Also the thing with vote and wallet.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by haomaru View Post
                      Every company has the right to chose how honest it will be to the customer. We have no right to demand honesty - it is their product, they decide. We can only express our opinion, criticize things and hope for the best. Also the thing with vote and wallet.
                      Quoted for truth - lest we forget however this criticize and hope... its via Community Managers that our rambling and constructive complaints alike get from keyboard fury to the ears of the people that count ie the Dev team. Still your confusing a community manager with a damage control PR drone - and in the case of Ono he is the not the community manager he is actually the head producer of the Streetfighter IV series and yes SxT.

                      He goes to all the events because he is enthusiastic about his products and the fanbase... he collapsed coincidently after getting nothing but grief from the same fans he travels the world to see when he is not obliged to and for what - his bosses at Capcom and their shenanagins. The Capcom Community Manager is actually Seth Killain - a lovely bloke and former fighting game pro who was a big reason at why Evo is what it is now. Is Capcoms suits like Svensson play the cash cow game its their call - blaming CMs and taking it all out on them is shooting the messenger... i dont want to get in SFIV releases back to back other than to say SSFIV was VERY well recieved and Arcade edition only came about because the Western FGC took the sulk at Japan getting exclusive characters and more balance tweaks - how did Capcom in japan hear about this demand for AE released in the west... yeah the community team.

                      As for Bioware one crap ending and all of a sudden fans have been betrayed - were talking about community teams largely here and percieved failure of some. Liara met her "father" in ME3 because fan demand and discussion on who they believed it was... Bioware heard about this and made it so. The fans preached for the return of exploration levels after the Mako vanished in ME2 and more RPG elements after it became more action orientated... Bioware were made aware of this and implimented these efforts because they were made aware of them through the community team. The ending was stated as to have been the decision of two people alone... Hudson and Walters - what did we do... only crusify the whole sodding team. Those two have been a rare sight these days at public events... the heat of hate for their bad call falls on the community team.

                      Want some examples of great community teams - look at the likes of Koei (Chin is really friendly and created Koei Warriors the biggest Koei fansite out there before they approached him for the job), Harmonix (Aaron and co have been awesome with events and making podcasts etc... ive had about two dozen free songs and avatar goods etc from them mailed to me for no reason at all... they just wanted to give stuff back to the community) and Phantasy Star Online (game is about as old as sin yet they are still always there answering fan questions, passing on thier concerns and mixing with the fanbase).

                      Bad ones from an online front are the likes of Stainless Steel - Zen are certainly NOT the latter. How does Zen in hungary know Xbox 360 users wanted Mars and Paranormal for example? Im grateful for the Community team here because weve certainly reeped the benefit of their enthusiasm and care to be that middle bridge between fans and dev team. You would think with some folk were dealing with North Korea . If Zen have something to announce they will announce but before it ready to be announced as i said before... im concerned they are being TOO open at times. The new lass BarbieB here LOVES the community and says so reguarly even when most of the posts being created are purely on a negative front... shame too few are giving that love back.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Damm skode
                        Why writing these large posts?
                        Maybe you should write a book or something.

                        And btw Womble is right.
                        Last edited by chivato; 06-01-2012, 07:44 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Well said and expounded upon wobs.

                          We all have heard the distant whispers of a zen 3, a-ways down the road; n'grown accustomed to the quarter-annual 4-table updates, which are at the very least consistent.
                          There's also minor infestation on some tables that are reportedly being fumigated, as we speak.
                          But the constant promise of "someday," is failing you now. "somewhere in the next... forever" and "we'll see," barely serve to tease us through the wait?

                          We've been sustaining ourselves on it too long.
                          Can't you see the hunger driving this craze?
                          I mean, it's like brains to a zombie at this point...
                          *groans* WE NEED MORE...

                          ~-~
                          This is the farthest thing from a complaint, really.
                          Simply expressing my gratitude by offering some perspective on some untapped prospects.
                          I think everyone is only so fervent over these qualms, because they love the product so much.
                          You're a victim of your own success. Sorry?

                          You guys could've gone from, your now 40 man team, to a 400 man crew -
                          and we'd still be scratchin on your door, all hours of the night.
                          (We all know it, it's not just you lol.)

                          -_-
                          That being said, you are starting to take advantage of your fan base's patience.
                          (We love you, we don't want you to stop doin what your doing,
                          but you aren't 4 guys messin round with some 1 and 0's anymore.)

                          You should be paying the new members to find solutions to problems, not better excuses.
                          Unless that's what you're lookin for, of course.
                          (In which case, are you hiring atm?)
                          ;~ p

                          Ask yourself this:
                          •At what point did, "we're working on (something)" become more of an excuse than an explanation?

                          •With a staff exponentially growing, how much more productivity has really been generated?
                          Does it equate reasonably?

                          •Are we endeavoring to push the limits,
                          or merely rest against them?

                          +°+
                          As a player, I think we deserve a few answers to sate our, obviously, starved appetite.
                          (I believe I even saw Blue, drooling at one point.)

                          So..?
                          ·What's in the works? What can we look forward to -
                          Except getting fantastic 4 back, that one's assumed.

                          ·Think you could be any less obscure with a time frame?
                          Maybe, possibly? Please... (I'm just sayin.)

                          «_»
                          +About a credit/reward system -
                          it's gunna require some real imagination on your part,
                          but we're worth the effort, right?
                          (It was your imaginations that resurrected pb, after all.
                          Was it not?)

                          I get that a spendible reward system isn't gunna be easy,
                          but if you can get game physics like it's second nature...
                          Just treat this like it's your form of rocket science.

                          Some achievements have been as rewarding as a well earned tournament score,
                          but I'm all out on my favorite tables.

                          So what do I do, just rinse n repeat the same ol formula,
                          hoping to get a few million points higher than the last 12 times I tried?
                          (Well, yea I do, but the point is- I'm not satisfied, the way I was before.)

                          Keeping in mind the enormous amount of respect you are due, for what you've done for us -
                          I still gotta say, program some creativity into your thinkin caps.
                          Now is not the time to let us down.

                          Honestly~ help us, help you, help us.
                          It's best for everyone.

                          You may be a wonder to the pb industry,
                          but whether or not you're a one-hit wonder, has yet to be seen.

                          I'm still optimistic, tho.
                          *Grin*

                          {PN: I'm a writer, if you couldn't tell. I have an ever-exposing vocabulary, n I don't like to let it go to waste. If you don't feel like reading a longer post- by all means, there are some coloring books over by the kiddie table- but don't blame us for making an effort to contribute. I was far more interested in the longer posts than your senseless derision of them.}
                          If life's really just a game, it was designed to be played co-op.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            What a well written piece womble.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I'll keep on buying all the tables as they come out because I have the assurance that they are all of high quality. I have not really had a chance yet to play Epic Quest but don't know if I will ever try to play to level 100... the repetition factor seems a bit high. I seems like it will be added to my pile of tables that I just don't want to play any more because I don't want to put the amount of time into it to better my score or whatever... but to be fair, I have not given it a decent shot yet.

                              What I was trying to get at with that little bit is that... well, I don't really know what I was trying to get at except maybe to say that Zen understandably caters for all kinds of players with their tables. They are though arguably beginning to lose some of their loyal followers for the reasons expressed in this thread. I only check in on the forum every now and then and apart from new tables appearing or being announced, not much new has happened in the last couple of months (speaking only about fx2)... bug fixes and a revamp of the scoring system has been in the past and still seems to be the biggest issues and then not far behind is hoping for less Marvel and many more unique tables from Zen in future.

                              Well done with the excellent posts in this thread. I really do hope that Zen will take notice of what has been said and more importantly, actually act on it.
                              Last edited by Cloda; 06-02-2012, 03:57 PM.
                              XBox One Gamertag - PinStratsDan

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                              Cloda's somewhat vain and sort of self-indulgent thread

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