Payday 2 director: open communication helps foster "a real connection" with players
Developer Overkill Software has been uncommonly dedicated to communicating with fans of its recently released heist shooter Payday 2, absorbing feedback, and releasing sweeping overhauls of game systems. Payday 2 was solid but had a few problems when Craig reviewed it, but since release, Payday 2 has been updated 13 times, receiving a new heist, new masks, a rebuilt economy and unlocking system, new skill tree descriptions, and numerous balancing tweaks.
Overkill also frequently answers fans on Twitter with screenshots of new characters and plans for future updates. In a lot of ways, this continued support and free updating of a game is the kind of attention we’d see from the team behind an MMO. A Halloween update has already hit, and more free content is on the way. David Goldfarb, game director at Overkill, says that they plan to continue to support the game for the foreseeable future.
PCG: One of the things I've noticed about Payday 2 is the many frequent updates. How long do you plan to keep up this pace for updating the game?
David Goldfarb: We definitely haven’t slowed down much but we’re moving to a slightly different model now where we batch up a bunch of updates together and try to roll them out together as a package to simplify communication. As a result, our pace will slow down slightly as we add more and more content to each update, but we intend to support the product for a long, long time. It’s worth saying that we would love to patch the consoles as much as we have patched the PC on Steam but the process isn’t as easy and takes a lot more time for us as well as the platform owners. Hopefully though, that wait will end very soon and everyone will be up-to-date on all [platforms].
What kinds of things have you chosen to prioritize for updates?
It has varied—the skill system has gotten some tweaks, adding heists, difficulty tweaks, improving the economy and improving stealth, adding better informational displays for items and skills, and of course the bug fixing. In general, we’ve focused on looking at the things that seem like they aren’t quite working the way we anticipated; things that are obviously broken; things that we feel have emerged as issues (like crime.net hosting) which we need to create something new for.
How many people play Payday 2 on a daily basis?
Concurrent users vary. When we launched our peak was around 57,000 on Steam and now we are pretty steady at 9 to 11k or so. The install base has grown a lot from Payday: The Heist, for sure.
Why do you think the online community is as active as it is?
They’re passionate about the game. We’ve been pretty good about being open and available with the game as well and we’ve let people stream it, monetize, talk about it however they want, no real limitations or rules. In general, we always want people to be able to engage the game on their own terms and not ours. We think it’s better for them and ultimately better for us.
I see the team is particularly involved with fans on Twitter, including sending screenshots of upcoming masks and answering questions about future updates. Why is this kind of communication important to the team?
Yeah, we do that frequently. I think it’s great to be no-bullshit about what you’re doing and show you care, especially show what you’re working on. In many cases we’ve had some really incredible feedback from community people, stuff that went directly into the game. That definitely is something we love. We’ve made a point of involving some of the most dedicated people in our private betas as well and it definitely goes a long way toward making people feel like their input matters and can take real form, even if it’s just dialogue between us and them. As I mentioned above, it’s important to us to have that real connection with people, not some marketing drone blowing smoke up your ass in a room full of journalists. This is one way of doing it.
Could you give me an example of something the community suggested that made its way into the game?
I can't actually call people out, however there are a few different folks who have talked to me regarding skills at length and the product of those discussions will definitely be in the game. Also, "carry a secondary saw" came out of a conversation with community members as well. Recently, someone had a pretty clever solution for triggering abilities that we're very likely implementing in the future.
Many developers are wary about this kind of interaction in case they promise something that doesn't end up being released. Why have you decided that this kind of openness is worth that risk?
I think it’s a contract we have with fans that they (or most of them) implicitly understand, where we do the best we can with the admission that we don’t always know what’s going to happen, but we’ll do our best to make the right choices. And I guess we always look at it like, hey our fans are really smart, why not show them some of this stuff, maybe they’ll give us some insight we’re missing. Our experience is that the vast majority of people appreciates the forthrightness and like being part of that whole discussion. It’s not a stance that would go over quite as well at EA, but being an independent and having a history of talking honestly to fans definitely helps.