Massively received a tip or two informing us that there was a Thread of Rage on the Star Trek Online forums, one that arose after the Ask Cryptic revealed that characters in the upcoming Romulan faction will be forced to choose to ally with either the Federation or the Klingon Defense Force and share in their fleet capabilities instead of developing fleets of their own.
With the help of my accountant husband, I took on the challenge of dissecting this alleged Thread of Rage to determine how many people really did express feelings of rage, anger, or even disappointment with the news. You might be interested in the results of our analysis. If you are, take the jump!
There are times I tire of people who make grandiose assumptions when measuring the temperature of rage in game forums. They're usually wrong, or worse, they make claims that the playerbase is full of anger because a thread has expanded exponentially in less than a day. Surely, players must hate the company announcements if the thread has "exploded" to 70 pages! 70 pages in less than 24 hours reveals just how much the players hate it, right?
So here's the real scoop
When we began our analysis of the Ask Cryptic forum thread, the thread was 77 pages long and contained 770 posts. That's a lot, you might say, and for an average STO thread, you'd be right. A 770-post thread is actually quite a chunk of text to develop in a span of less than 48 hours. However, the breakdown of the posts might actually be of interest.
The 770 posts were broken down into four distinct categories:
Positive: Posts that clearly stated happiness, joy, or other positive remarks about the new Romulan faction as outlined in the recent Ask Cryptic and/or its ability to ally with the UFP or KDF;
Negative: Posts that clearly stated dissatisfaction, anger, or disappointment specifically with the new Romulan faction as outlined in the Ask Cryptic and/or its ability to ally with the UFP or KDF;
Neutral: Posts that requested more information before proffering an opinion on the new faction as outlined in the most recent Ask Cryptic or made general statements that did not offer an opinion one way or the other, and;
Off-topic: Posts that were entirely general responses to another poster and/or argued about Star Trek canon or potential storylines, flamed or trolled another poster, or had nothing to do with the subject at hand. All posts made by Cryptic employees and/or forum moderators were automatically listed as being Off-topic to nullify any potential company bias.
Let me further clarify our methodology: If a post contained both pros and cons about the new material but did not offer a clear opinion (i.e, "I'm going to take a wait and see attitude"), it was placed in the Neutral bin. If a post contained flaming but an opinion was expressed, the post was placed in the appropriate opinion bin. If a post was entirely off-topic (discussions of the book Dune, for example) or was merely a general response to another player's question (about ships, Star Trek canon, or the Ask Cryptic blog, to name just a few such topics), then it was placed in the Off-topic bin. "General responses" to another player (like this one) were categorized as Off-topic because such posts offer no opinion and do not discuss the expansion at all. It was our opinion that the opinions expressed by everyone in the thread were pretty clearly stated. We could find no post that offered both a positive and a negative opinion, and those that were close were actually very neutral in their opinions and were therefore placed in that bin.
It was truly fascinating to watch the numbers change over the course of the project. Every 100 posts we would stop and complete a breakdown to consider the allegations that the majority of posters are upset about the decision by Cryptic to force Romulan players into allying with a previously made faction. Surprisingly, after the first 200 and subsequently 300 posts, the overall numbers showed that more than 30% of the posts were clearly negative, while 20% of posts were positive. The remaining 50% of posts were either neutral or off-topic.
But the numbers really began to shift after we reached the 500-, 600-, 700-, and 770-post mark. At the end of it all (again, we ceased counting on Sunday, March 31st, at 12:30 a.m. EDT so that I could write this column in time for my deadline), here was the final tally:
Total number of separate accounts that posted in the thread: 194
Positive responses: 13.9% - 107 posts
Negative responses: 23.8% - 183 posts
Neutral responses: 15.2% - 117 posts
Off-topic responses: 47.1% - 363 posts
Already it's easy to see that the claims made that the thread was "filled with rage" are already highly dubious. However, let's go into a bit more detail, shall we? One also might find it interesting to note that of the total 770 posts in the thread by the time we analyzed it, 38% of the total posts (290) were made by a total of 10 people. That's right, 10 people made up a total of 38% of the total overall posts in the "filled with rage thread." What's even more interesting is that one person posted a total of 71 times or just around 10% of the thread's total posts, and those posts were mostly categorized as being Off Topic; only one was considered Neutral.
Of the 770 posts, 183 were deemed to be negative or contained a clear opinion that the poster was disappointed, dissatisfied, or angry about the Romulan faction in the upcoming expansion. Interestingly, those 183 responses were made by 71 different account names, meaning that the average negative poster responded 2.6 times in the thread. However, 75 different accounts replied with a total of 107 positive posts, meaning that those who were more upbeat about the new faction posted 1.4 times. So there it is: Angry people posted about their about their anger just about twice as much as those who are satisfied or happy about the change.
So here we are, once again, being drilled with claims being made by angry players that the majority of the playerbase hates what's going on because the forums are being "lit up" or are "filled with rage" or "everyone" thinks he's being screwed.
Frankly, the numbers just don't add up. In the future, my fellow STO players, please do not bombard me with unfounded claims in the hopes that I will just take your word for it. This wasn't that hard to do. Sure it was tedious, but it is important for all of us to have an objective look at the data and reassess the idea that somehow a big thread in a forum holds more credibility based on its lengthiness alone.
Until next week, live long and prosper.