Team Name Hillagrm
Category Character Growth (?)
Whenever you see someone doing something that you cannot understand the reason you should assume it’s being smart, people will always go for the best solution on their current capabilities when solving problems and this is the statement that will start this unusual guide. I hope that at the end of it you’ll be able to understand which group is responsible for which role within the game and how to communicate properly with them and forum users.
This guide is also an entry to the 2019 april’s Guide Masters event but will surely be disqualified as it doesn’t fall into the categories of 1) Character Growth, 2) Growing In-game Funds nor 3) Quest Progression, however a (not so) recent episode managed to burst out toxicity in the forum it is interesting to point out that disagreement and offense don’t have to walk together. I myself won’t bother to do logical gymnastics in order to validate this guide as an entry nor care to have it there, the contest will only serve as a springboard to get it noticed (or not, who knows).
1. The inner mechanisms of game studios
-1.1. Developers x GM’s x Sta
-1.2. Breaking the language barrier
-1.3. Bots and gold selling
-1.4. Rules and repentance
-1.5. Cold war and ban hammer
-1.6. Programmers vs Bugs
–1.6.1. Computers are stupid
–1.6.2. Bug catching
-2.1. Humanity behind the screen
-2.2. Dry and moisty words
-2.3. Building arguments
-2.4. Communication channels
1. The inner mechanisms of game studios
As a disclaimer i’ll preemptively say that i don’t have 100% knowledge on how IMC works as game studios have their own mechanisms, however there are some general things that are common standards of the industry. One common example is of a programmer that also acts as game designer, this person job is primarily to code the game but it also can be the one coming up new classes gameplay or older class reworks along the design team. Another thing to consider is that some jobs can be outsourced as it can be the case with ToS’ music, it can be too costly to keep a composer working full time when said professional is required for a couple of tracks.
1.1. Developers x GM’s x Sta
This may sound like a rookie mistake even some veterans don’t know the difference between these three. Starting with the easiest one, developers (speaking on a broad and generic level) are those that work on the game itself, they’re the ones that fix bugs, rework game elements and create new content, for ToS this is IMC staff that is in South Korea composed by illustrators, concept artists, 3D artists, animators, programers, game designers and more.
Staff and GM are trickier as those are two different roles that may or not be performed by the same person, they’re also IMC employees and in ToS case they’re also part of the korean team. GM’s are equivalent to a police force that investigate shady practices, collect bug reports, track down and punish abusers, there are few GM users in forum and they’ll only get into discussions those elements.
On the other corner we have Staffs which role is to connect iToS players with developers, these are the ones responsible for managing the forum, translations (on both sides) and also for collecting relevant data and send to the developers so they can work it out. On that regard Staffs have more power over GMs as they are the ones that get to exchange information with developers, it is possible for a GM to not speak korean and only take care of ingame issues, make a report and send it to a staff as is supported by the fact GMs and Staffs have different naming conventions, thought it is believed that in general a person does both jobs.
The main reason why it is important to know this is to not expect things that are beyond someone’s power, iToS players can only communicate through Staffs and they will filter what is relevant to take on. Anything on forum that is loaded with rage and trash talk will be ignored on their selection as it doesn’t help developers to understand the game issues nor how to improve it, the only result from such interaction is to push the staff team away as they’re the ones who the rage is often directed to. Staffs are related to the public relations department as developers and GMs act on the backstage to make sure things are working properly.
Imagine if when you were at school your Math teacher gave you a time out or a lecture cause you failed your History test, know that directing negativity towards the staff is as dumb as this scenario. For a proper way to be listened and improve the game check the “constructive feedback” section.
1.2. Breaking the language barrier
A common misconception about games from a foreign language is that players can reach developers out if they speak the same language, there are few companies that allow that as it is often counterproductive. Just as iToS players have forum kToS players also use them, and tickets, to reach developers and considering the region playerbase is at least 10x larger than the development team it isn’t a good idea to have them checking things out on forums on their own. Considering the amount of threads in forums, the relevance of threads, amount of responses, subject and discussion it is better to have a couple staffs to compile it into something easy to chew and straight to the point, regardless of languages.
It’s also likely that iToS and kToS “Staffs” discuss matters together to figure out how important some points are to the game, if a subject is being discussed by both regions it is likely to be a problem. That said it is still more likely for korean speaking players to have their voice heard as their community may be smaller in numbers and also due the fact the community managers don’t have to translate, after all no translation can keep 100% of the information.
1.3. Bots, gold sellers and inflation
The idea of starting the game with a huge load of funds is tempting but it hits the game harder than a truck. Tree of Savior is a game that works all around money and as such it also has a lot of money sinks, control mechanisms to reduce inflation (preventing market prices to rise) by literally destroying money. Each server has an unknown total of money on it and the wealthiest players will define how high prices will get, if an item was worth 50.000 silver on game launch where no one had money it can reach 200.000 in few years. No matter what developers do players will always earn more money over time which will increase the inflation, the only known counter measurement that doesn’t feel completely artificial is by money sinks. If the previous example has the new price at 70.000 any newcomer player will have a similar purchase power than a new player on game’s launch, it helps gaps to stay under control and value both newcomers and veterans.
When a player reaches bots (for its own account) or gold sellers this inflation process is speed up, in a couple of seconds a huge amount of money is inserted in the game economy rising the inflation instantly, even if said money is used on game content that is purely composed of money sinks it still provides an artificial advantage to players that shouldn’t have it. For each successful sale they will look for further investment which on itself will devalue the silver purchased, this fund gain will work well for the first time but it will decrease your own ingame buying power over time. There are plenty legitimate ways to earn in game currency without resorting to that, they also come with additional rewards and will level your characters.
For drastic measurements you have the option to purchase TP and sell premium items in the market, some say this is the exact same as gold sellers but your money used will go to IMC instead of some random guy on the internet, and despite being a free to play game ToS also needs money to run.
1.4. Rules and repentance
It doesn’t matter the place nor context rules aren’t absolute, yet what is important about rules isn’t what they go against but the fact they carry a penalty associated to them. Rules sole job (or what ideally should be) is to ensure people won’t do things that harm others and in an ideal world they wouldn’t be needed as everybody should know what not to do, however once in a while someone figures out it is allowed to do something that will harm others but as no rule opposes to it the act itself is legal. For an online game this is a vital element to keep the player experience enjoyable as people will interact regardless of how players decided to engage with the game, even if a player exploits an element that only applies to itself it can change the whole server experience in some shape or form.
A silver exploit for example can grant a player massive funds allowing it to progress in the game faster, beat players that reached their ranks on hard work and fetch their rewards. In addition it contributes to a rising inflation as this same player can buy the most expensive items transferring this money to other players that will be able to charge more for better items in the future.
No rule truly forbids anyone to do anything but breaking a rule is a decision with known risk and this has to be respected, allowing an infractor to live on without any penalty communicates that rules can be broken at will. There are few cases which breaking the rules can be harmless but this is punctual occurrence, it doesn’t matter if you knew or not that such rule existed you gotta face the consequences for doing it.
Rules are always patched on unexpected issues as people usually expect people to not do harm to others yet some cases have a blurry gap, if you find yourself in a situation that your actions are questionable or questioned by others be open to what people think about it. A recent case that is a perfect example for this shady boundary is AFK farm, this achievable through game mechanics alone which can be a justification for its legitimacy, however games are interactive media which by default requires people to engage. Pressing a couple of keys and leave the PC for hours doesn’t have engagement and the fact you’re rewarded by it can is a signifier for skepticism.
1.5. Cold war and ban hammer
Unlike people believe banning players is hard, all due the terms of service. All online games have terms of service which have both sides agreeing with certain conditions, this is the legal tool game companies have to suspend users in case they perform unwanted actions. That said any game company that punishes an innocent user can be sued and be forced to restitute the user losses, which often comes with a considerable amount of real money. In itself this puts the administration on the short end of the stick as punishing people without proper evidence can be a huge risk for its finances, this means that, unfortunately, GMs can only ban those caught red handed or after a lot of investigation.
This may sound like players are on the safe side of this relationship but this is far from truth, we can’t forget that in the end IMC is the one that has control over the game service. If for some reason they ban a player that takes legal action and win the case they have the option to close servers to cover this loss, ignoring the fact they can do it before it goes further which can nullify the action as a whole - there is no winner in this game.
1.6. Programmers vs Bugs
1.6.1. Computers are stupid
We all see computers as these amazing machines that can do complex calculations in seconds and render images on real time but they’re not intelligent on any level, a computer can only do this because it is told how to do it and it will follow those instructions detail by detail. For a moment let’s imagine you’re chatting with a friend and suddenly your friend asks for some water, you as a human being know what to do but a computer will likely screw it up if you don’t go over all the steps.
• Get up
• Walk to the kitchen
• Search for a cup
• Walk towards the cup
• Grab the cup
• Search the sink
• Walk towards the sink
• Place the cup under the water tap
• Open the water tap
• Wait until the cup is filled with water
• Close the water tap
• Walk back to the original position
• Place the cup on the table next to your friend
It is amazing how many steps are required to perform such a simple action and all that can be executed by simply saying “could you get me some water?”, for a computer this question itself would likely to be replied with “yes” or “no” instead of following the previous steps. To picture out how troublesome it can be take away one of those lines from this instruction list and try imagine how it will end, if we remove “Search for a cup” the computer will get stuck trying “Walk towards the cup” as it doesn’t know what a cup is, meanwhile not placing the cup under the water tap while waiting it to be filled will also freeze it forever.
Taking in consideration that programmers have to translate the real world into things the computer can understand and that a single command missing can break the whole system you can understand why bugs are so hard to take down, yet this is just one of the issues.
1.6.2. Bug catching
Any complex system will struggle when a specific element isn’t working as it should, the worst part is that the issue itself may not be as bad as finding out its source. In the previous section we saw that a simple task such as getting water can take 13 steps, now imagine that applied to every single action in game, player executed or not.
Bug may have super specific triggers that may or not be able to be reproduced with ease, it can be a skill, a class, an item, a monster, a map, a gimmick or even a combination of one or more elements, even things such as malfunctioning hardware, outdated drivers and libraries or latency can be responsible for it to happen or not (which may cause the bug to be extremely hard to reproduce in the internal environment). One of the reasons these happen is due the way elements are coded isolated (as writing everything about a subject on a different notepad), they can work well on their own but once they start interacting we may see some unexpected results, the advantage however is that if an element stops working completely it won’t affect the functional pieces in the game.
If the details aren’t as precise and only a small share of players provide information on it developers have less clues on what is the causing factor of such bug, the next step is to isolate elements in order to determine the precise location of the unwanted interaction. At this point it should be expected to have the bug fixed, however changing any line of code comes with a risk of generating new unwanted interactions and until it goes by with all the associated elements working properly the bug can’t be considered fixed. In addition to that the same programmers that fix bugs also work on implementing new content. Despite not feeling like it, the majority of bugs is fixed in internal servers while programing new classes, bosses and instances, as such the priority is assigned based on the bug disruptive power and the release schedule.
Whenever you experience a bug try to recall what happened at the time (even some moments before the bug itself) and try to reproduce it again, even better if you get to have people trying it as well. A well reported bug description combined with a significant sample size can be enough to give developers the information they need to isolate the issue. By default any bug that isn’t threatening, has few to none occurrences and/or cannot be described properly is likely to be filed on the bottom of the fix list or take ages to be fixed as it cannot be tracked.
It isn’t sure if IMC has a dedicated QA (game testers) team to filter bugs before the live but regardless of that the bigger bugs are exterminated before reaching the playerbase. Some bugs that could be fixed at this point may slip to the liver servers by mere sample size, a team of testers and programmers will always be smaller than an active player community and it may not even try out some of things that can happen due the individual player habits.
Being something that is taught to us when young it feels like something that we have full domain early on but this is rather deceiving, communication is a hard skill to master and even on a simple language such as english we can get ourselves loss from time to time. Any language will have a common set of words used that can be used for everything and we will often use words from that group in favor of any other synonym, the issue however is that each single word can have a different trait that can communicate something different, or in some case be broad to a point it is ambiguous. One interesting example for this is the distinction between “fast” and “quick”, they both are used to express high speed but when you apply it to the sentence “this dungeon is _” the first one means “it won’t take much time” as the latter means “it will be over before you realize it”.
As much as it is ideal give such attention to details when writing the iToS community is composed of players all around the globe and this shouldn’t be demanded from them (which at least half of the english speakers may have it as a non native language), however those that have those tools in their disposal could make use of them as it can change the weight of a translated text. Simplifying language can be both beneficial or detrimental to convey an idea and may be smart to consider which approach to use before talking.
2.1. Humanity behind the screen
Being anonymous is a gift internet gave us but it can also be a curse, by not seeing the person behind the screen we can forget it is also a human being with emotions, issues and intelligence. It is common to see people talking on internet as they have all the right to say anything they want regardless of how toxic and offensive it can be, that will always be the worst way to reach out the other. The requirement, in order to have proper communication, is to respect whom you’re talking to as this establishes a friendly ground for discussion, no one would be willing to talk to someone that insults the person at the first chance as this signals that the person in question will be using its emotions to argue over logic and force its ideas as the objective truth (not ignoring the fact that emotions can be explained and be logical to others).
The biggest advantage of written communication over speech is that you can take your time to build, you can write a wall of text being angry from head to toes but the text itself can be neutral or have a completely opposite tone. It doesn’t matter how you feel on the moment and how much you want to unleash all your wrath, if you’re talking to someone you ain’t found of be respectful and neutral at least. This is a must to reach the person behind the screen and it can be the defining factor between an empty discussion and a nice and enjoyable chat. Of course this won’t guarantee the other person will be respectful towards you nor will be willing to understand what you’re saying, if that happens the best thing is to end conversation with it as any further try either end in an endless loop or into free offense exchange.
Lastly it is also important to treat Staff with the same standards, they’re seldom directly related to the game issues and have to deal with a lot of players every single day. If we treat them badly they will stop engaging and, as the only way to reach developers, we won’t have any communication aside the bare minimum. It is depressing to imagine “iToS Staff” the job no one wants to do because you get constantly flamed for things that are beyond your power and when you try to go over you only get punched.
2.2. Dry and moisty words
One thing that speech has over texts is tone, this can be represented in text with by breaking conventions but it is often ignored. This is an issue as the tonality of a sentence can change the meaning completely, a common example being sarcasm since it depends on how words are pronounced, the simple segment “Dude, you’re a genius” can be both taken a compliment or an insult and the context may fail to provide the cue (which i foresee this example haunting me later). Doing sarcasm without stressing the pronunciation can lead to unwanted misunderstandings and for that matter it can be interesting to reconsider the approach, the usual way to keep the sarcastic tone is by adding more vowels and appeal to the spoken sound.
Another thing to consider is personal writing traits that can work against communication, a writing style can make you easy to spot when reading if used properly but if you exaggerate it too much it can make the reading process painful to the point you’ll be ignored (which i can see happening to myself as i can’t use less words).
2.3. Building arguments
It is easy to know when something is wrong, the same doesn’t apply on figuring out what makes it that way. Developers and players have a common goal of having a great game to be played but their concerns are in different directions, players want the results to be delivered while developers want to deliver results without setting everything on fire, yet most of the time players will ask something to be stronger which seldom work out. Comparisons are dangerous on that matter, and Tree of Savior in particular has more elements to compare, as the players will try to measure the best and worst of each element. As the rawest example possible if we have 5 different weapons and weapon A is too weak buffing it to have +2% damage will make all the other weapons, in comparison, to be +2% weaker, this can be enough to promote A into being viable but a different weapon, if not multiple, may take that spot for a small change like that.
The classic bad feedback is composed of few to no groundwork, vague statements or throwing unmeasured comparisons, and a request, since Monk is the official beating horse by now we will use it as our example. Going for something like “Monk is useless, i’ve dealt no damage with full equipment, rerolled to inquisitor and managed to solo CM, just buff or delete it since it’s so boring to hold Z” doesn’t offer any perspective on what is the core issue with the class, this only tells the element has one problem and that the developers have to figure out what is the issue.
To make this same example into a constructive feedback we need to dive into details and investigate what are the possible roots of the problem, the current (yet unchanged) Dragoon Helmet can be a good example for that. Dragoon Helmet is a skill that drains %SP over time for a boost on Dragoon class skills, with that in mind we must ask what isn’t working on it. Since the skill only affects its own class skills but the SP drain is constant one can say “Dragoon Helmet is a bad skill because i lose SP even when i don’t get its benefits, it isn’t fun to equip and remove the helmet every 10s”, this sentence goes straight to the point on what is unsatisfying about it. Taking this same logic to monk’s we can say “Monk skills damage is too low compared to Double Punch basic attack, it isn’t worth to use them as they have SP costs and Double Punch doesn’t. The class also has the smallest hitboxes among all physical cleric classes despite the damage being the same or lower.”.
2.4. Communication channels
Along forums ToS also has social media and a website, these all are communication channels and all the previous points apply to them, each one has a different trait that changes how they are perceived.
Forum is, officially (since reddit isn’t managed by IMC), the deepest place players can discuss the game and it is a public environment. It doesn’t matter what thread you make or who you reply to any other person has the right to engage you the conversation you liking it or not, as stated before it is important to respect them despite you agreeing or not, if you don’t want to go further just let that discussion branch die. From all communication channels this is the only one staff will really check for real feedback as it has a full structure for that, any comment made on the other two will be lost in the pack.
The official website is mostly a one sided communication channel but it has room for comments on each dev blog’s post bottom, for the casual player this can be place that sets if it will stay longer or will kick out. A lot of players complain about game issues with right and how the playerbase doesn’t grow, yet they don’t realize that having unfitting and negative comments on what are supposed to be exciting news will have a bad impact on others.
At last we have facebook as the larger window, it is the only communication channel that can be seen by people that don’t play the game. Tree of Savior has many issues but it also does a lot of good, here is where negative comments have no redeeming value as the won’t be seen by the IMC staff but will act as a thorn wall for potential players to try out the game. A negative comment will always draw more attention than a positive one and here it isn’t limited to the established community, those that don’t know the game will check out the comments and just a couple of bad reviews will be enough to draw people away.
If you have any issue with the game or management please address it properly in the forums, if you really hate the game you have the option to stop playing it, else just avoid any unneeded commentary as it will work against you eventually.
As the chosen way to wrap up this “guide” we’ll go back to the starting statement “Whenever you see someone doing something that you cannot understand the reason you should assume it’s being smart, people will always go for the best solution on their current capabilities when solving problems.”. Even if two people are raised the same, live the same experiences and have a similar personality they will see things differently, even if by the slightest. If you open yourself to different perspectives you’ll be learn things beyond your current limits and perhaps use this new view as an alternative to a problem, the same applies when talking to other people as they’ll see that you also have reasons to stand for what you say.
There’s no point on having 16.777.216 colors in the world if you only use 50~100, at the point you give the chance to something outside to show itself and it proves to be good it can become part of you. Both water and rock are required to make sand and despite those two being useful on their own way neither can replace sand.
Being almost sure to exceeded the word limit and having no clue on how to finish this guide all i have to say is “stay civilized”, if you need to vent out do it outside the forums and ToS facebook. We need those places to be healthy and welcoming to new players, some of us are in this boat for 3 years and, despite all the issues, our beloved game is improving so let us do the same.
If for some miracle this does end up as a contest winner i’ll make an illustration for each single section examples.