Overwatch (opens in new tab) director Jeff Kaplan's latest blog post is a revealing read. In it, he details the difficulties his team face when communicating with players on the game's forum pages, which include being "personally attacked and threatened" by fans.
On a thread asking whether the Overwatch team needs to grow in order to properly respond to fans' requests, Kaplan said that posting on the forums was "scary" and "intimidating", and that developers were constantly worried about saying the wrong thing.
"Very few of us actually [post on the forums] because it's extremely intimidating and/or time consuming. It's very easy to post the wrong thing and make a 'promise' to the community that no one intended to make. Once we say we're working on something, we're not allowed to 'take it back'. It's set in stone.
"Also, because we are open with you and do not hide behind an anonymous handle (like all of you have the luxury of doing), we often times get personally attacked and threatened."
It's a pretty sobering thought. As players, it's easy to get frustrated with developers when we feel like they're not reacting to requests, or making changes that seem obvious. But, as Kaplan explains, if a development team feels like they don't have a "safe environment" to communicate openly with players about ideas without being hounded and having their words taken out of context, they'll go into their shell.
"If we post, 'we're talking about Mercy' immediately there is an expectation that she is going to be radically changed in the next patch when the truth is, we might just leave her how she is for a while. We're not allowed to post that here without our bosses (and I am talking literally here) receiving emails from some of you demanding we be fired. It's not exactly what I would call a safe environment for creative people to openly express their thoughts and feelings."
The full 1,300 word post, which ends with a plea for "open, direct and constructive" feedback, can be read here (opens in new tab).