SimGuruKate Addresses Community Concerns on Alexa Project

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After last week’s Maxis Monthly stream where The Sims team revealed the Alexa “passion project”, the community took to social media to express their disappointment. Yesterday, SimGuruKate took some time to address these concerns on the official forums.

Ok there are a few things I want to comment on, address, clarify from this thread.

First, the comment that the Alexa Skill was developed in partnership with Amazon and that it was paid/sponsored. This is 110% not true. If something is paid or sponsored we legally must disclose that. Amazon did not reach out to us to develop this, nor did we reach out to Amazon to see if they wanted to partner with us. Instead, a single Dev thought of this idea and worked with a few other Devs who were interested to bring it to life and create it outside of their TS4 development responsibilities.

Second, the idea that if they had not worked on this new Alexa Skill we would have released a patch in January for TS4 PC/Mac or Console. There was never a patch in January scheduled. Had the Alexa Skill not been in development or on the docket for release this month we still would not have released a patch in January. There are many reasons for this, much of it to do with how our development schedule is laid out, other content we are currently working on (paid and free), and the fact that we (EA) actually shut down the entire office (globally) between Christmas and New Years. Patches are scheduled VERY far in advance (we are talking months) and are done so in a manner that align with the overall development schedule for the year.

Third, this sentiment that the Dev Team should remain chained to their desks and only work on in game content, and that passion projects are a waste of time. The Maxis Dev Team is one of the hardest working teams out there, and they are incredibly passionate about TS4, TSM, TSFP, and all past and future projects. One of the coolest things about Maxis is that they actively encourage Devs to work on side projects outside of their time required for primary project development (such as a patch or pack). By providing this opportunity it allows them to remain engaged and excited for what they are working on, thus preventing burnout (which as many know is a very real thing). All of this means that they can continue to create high quality content for the games you are so passionate about. Sometimes a Dev’s passion project is something like First Person Camera. Sometimes it’s something like a new career or NPC in the game. And yes, sometimes it’s creating a fun little Alexa skill for those who have an Alexa and love The Sims. For passion projects Devs are encouraged to work on things they find interesting because when you work on things you enjoy it means you will produce high quality results.

Now, Maxis Monthly. When we first announced Maxis Monthly I stated that not every Maxis Monthly would include revealing new content for TS4 (or TSM or TSFP). I also made it very clear from the first Maxis Monthly that new PAID content (that means EPs/GPs/SPs) would not be announced during these streams. There are multiple reasons for this, but basically it comes down to the way we announce new paid content. Now that being said, the goal of Maxis Monthly was to talk ALL things Maxis. This means that sometimes we would have something new to show for every single current game in our portfolio, and sometimes (like this month) we would have nothing. This is simply the nature of how game development works. It’s pure luck (or coincidence) that prior to yesterday every Maxis Monthly had included new content reveals for TS4. Yes, I know this meant the community had come to expect certain things in the streams. Yes, I knew that the first MM in which we didn’t reveal new content for TS4 would result in dissatisfaction. Though some many not think so, I know this community VERY well. That’s why, compared to previous MM, we did not hype this live stream. That’s why I called what we were showing “nifty” instead of mind blowing. That’s why I sent out gentle reminders to the community that not all streams would show off new in-game content. Short of saying “this is what you will be seeing” I could not have been more clear and forthcoming that the January MM would not be showing off new TS4 content. However all that being said, the level of vitriol seen during yesterday’s announcement was beyond what even I expected, and to be honest, was beyond what was appropriate. Do I think it would have been better to not show off Alexa during the stream? Absolutely not. That stream was the perfect place to show off this cool new product. Yes, we could have immediately said up front at the top of the stream that it was not sponsored/paid, and that was a huge learning lesson.

So knowing some of the community wouldn’t be happy with no new content coming for TS4, why didn’t I wait to share Alexa? Because it’s coming out next week and the Devs who worked on it wanted to show it off and this was the right time and way to do so. But why didn’t I talk about things coming later this year? Because I can’t. My hands are literally tied. Due to some interesting legal reasons (it’s pretty in depth and complicated) revealing content too early would result in us being in some legal and financial hot water. Additionally doing so would not only result in me likely losing my job, but could put our Development and Marketing Teams in very difficult positions. And remember, though at this point I sound like a broken record, just because we don’t explicitly share what the team is working on at the moment (because we can’t), doesn’t mean we aren’t working on multiple packs, free content, and more. We will continue to evaluate how we approach content announcements and whether or not the Maxis Monthly adds value for enough individuals and make changes where/if necessary.

Now the final thing I want to address is that passion and frustration never excuses basic human decency in how you interact with others. While everyone, especially a consumer of a product, has a right to express frustration, or be critical of the product, this does not give them the right to hurl insults at the Developers (or creator of the product). And if a person does choose to engage this way (which free will and freedom of speech allows) the individual which they are directing it at is under no obligation to listen or engage with that individual (because free will and all). It does not matter if that person is a Developer, a Customer Service person, or yes, a Community Manager. Yes, we choose these careers, and yes some of us even put ourselves in the public eye, but that does not mean we have to tolerate individuals spewing hate or vitriol. There are many appropriate ways to provide criticism or share your opinion in a way that does not include excessive ongoing negativity or insults.

Appropriate: I have zero interest in this new Alexa Skill they announced and I wish it had been something different. I feel they could have used their time differently or developed something different.

Unnecessary: This Alexa Skill is so stupid, why are they wasting their time on this? They are so stupid and this is pointless and they never listen to us and the game is doomed.

I have seen a number who have stated their thoughts in the first way, but have seen far more communicating in the second manner. And even with the first way of sharing your thoughts, we often wont reply. And not because we don’t see it or only want positive feedback, but because not every message needs a response. Oftentimes there is almost nothing one could say to either of the above that would add value or make the individual happy or satisfied. So many times in these situations it is better to say nothing at all. We gather the feedback and we pass it onto those who can impact change.

I hope this has helped provide more clarity or insight. Remember, I dont expect every individual to like every single thing that we do, or even like me or the Devs. That’s absolutely ok and to be expected. One of the best things (but sometimes the hardest thing to handle) about The Sims community is how varied it is. This is an incredibly diverse community and there are so many different ways to enjoy The Sims. But what I do expect is for people to be respectful.