Syp over at Bio Break (as well as several other folks) have lighted on this PC Gamer quote from the venerable Gordon Walton, currently studio director of the Star Wars: The Old Republic project:

“We have to ignore the top of the hardcore,” says Walton, talking about those players who will simply ignore the story and min-max their way to the top end of the game. “We need to make a game that is accessible to the Star Wars fan, and the BioWare fan. Because really BioWare is a company that is about making a great RPG experience, not about making games for a hardcore MMO audience.”

So, if you know me, you know I’m all about keeping the hardcore in their place.

I think too many game systems and too many good games have been hurt by developers catering to the hardest of the hardcore, and nowhere is that more evident than in MMOs. Heck, even some of the hardcores suddenly mellow out when they actually have to design a well-balanced game.

That said, it is very, very true that hardcore players are the ones who first notice and test things like class balance, encounter tuning, and incentivization schemes. I can’t count the number of deeply broken game systems that have gotten fixed in MMOs purely because some hardcore player tried to do something on the envelope and proved it could be done.

To bust out a tired metaphor, it’s very much a cathedral-and-bazaar issue. And before you discount the voices of hardcore players, ask whether you’re better at stress testing the remote crevasses and hidden corners of your game’s systems than someone who poopsocks your game 18 hours a day.