Three years from now, I could be a bum dancing for spare pork chops on the side of a windswept road in South Dakota. Hopefully that's unlikely, but 1095 days is a long period of time and anything could happen. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't plan for the future.
That's (roughly) SOE's reasoning for creating a massive three-year plan for Planetside 2's development, which they're going to share with gamers before PS2's launch to give them the big-picture perspective.
Planetside 2 is still in its early stages of development, so the long-term plan isn't anywhere close to finalized just yet, but SOE has a few ideas. And all MMO devs do; drafting this sort of long-term plan is standard practice, but most teams guard its secrecy with their lives. They don't want to get fans' hopes up or stir up any problems by talking about features or design plans that may never see the light of day.
During a community panel at Fan Faire this morning, president John Smedley told the audience a bit about what the three-year plan is, and why they're going to share it with gamers. The plan will cover all the changes planned for the game, including expansions, feature additions, and content updates, in those first 3 years post-launch. It wouldn't be detailed down to the level of specifying the exact day features would launch, but would be in broader terms like the the general time-window for when they want to launch a feature, and then the timing for adding additional elements to it over the next few months.
Smedley and the various dev teams I've seen at panels and talked to in one-on-one interviews all gave the same reason for this sort of transparency: they want to work on the features and content that the most players want in their games. That doesn't mean they're going to add fluffy bunnies to Planetside 2 if some loud-mouth forumers demand it, but it does mean that they want the playerbase to be more involved in the design process. And there's really no easier way to do that than pull up the skirt on the design process, show everyone what you're planning, and let the players give input before the content/features are made.
That's the main goal: let players give feedback on potential design decisions. Not just to help steer the game in a direction that they want, but to also help players see the big-picture vision, which forum whiners love to ignore. Maybe feature X isn't perfect at launch, but if you can see the long-term goal for that feature and see what it'll do in three months, maybe it'll sound much cooler to you.
What do you think? Is this a good way to get players involved, or will it just lead to players whining louder, this time about feature X that was "promised" in the three-year-plan but was later dropped off the plan?