There are two types of games: popular and others. Obviously, about 30% of success lies on the shoulders of marketers. However, the audience pays money, so it always gives fair feedback. Let’s figure out how gamers influence developers, what means they have and, what is more important, do they really have to do something to affect the game design process? Is it possible that too much transparency of development doesn’t help? How should designers communicate with people to be like Fortnite, which became a phenomenon before its actual release?
Do They Really Care About Us?
As I already mentioned, gamers pay money. That’s why they’re not shy at all to share their real point of view in comments. Do developers care? The answer is a big YES. AAA projects have special departments to research feedback. Grand Theft Auto V is a good example. Its developers restrict their publicity but follow some wishes of players to make the game universe more diverse. Mass Effect 3 received tons of complaints about lack of details in the ending, so BioWare released a free “Extended Cut” DLC with comprehensive explanations. Destiny 2 developers Bungie held a special Community Summit to talk to bloggers and explain them all their decisions. In addition to that, they submitted a bunch of changes coming but cautioned guests with $5 million in penalties to make them keep it confidential. There’s a comprehensive explanatory video on Datto YouTube channel.
Why was the summit so secret? The answer is in the next paragraph.
Follow the Golden Mean
Golden mean is a kind of a rule of balance in how things look and work. This rule must be taken into the attention of both gamers and developers.
Developers, it’s clear that you are professionals who are fluent in the technical implementation of ideas. At the same time, you are people. People make mistakes and have their unique vision as we do at GamesMojo.com. It’s up to you to decide the best format of communication with your audience. You depend on consumption, but you don’t have to do something if you are not sure about it. Imagine closed testing. One person says replace one feature with another, but it sounds stupid from your educated point of view. Do it your way in this case. However, if this person offers a $1 million idea, hurry to test its implementation. That’s how Rockstar did with Red Dead Online. They tested it, listened to people complaining about irrelevant expenses in in-game stores and rapidly recomputed the system.
Gamer, you’re a consumer of a designers’ vision. You are free to react as you want, so if you want your helpful ideas to reach those who are in charge you should know the how far to go. As I said, developers are people. Very smart people. People who don’t have time for a coffee sometimes. Let’s respect each other and be reasonable. Take your idea, share it with the game’s community, gather feedback, write a petition. That’s a great way to be heard, to save everyone’s time and, probably, to come to some sort of an agreement. Try to be mature and think thoroughly before arguing.
That’s why the summit had a high secrecy level. Bungie knows how to do games, and they had to know what to tell their guests, so they told them reasons for their mistakes. All the guests were chosen according to their knowledge and maturity. These are the marks of people developers can closely talk to. Even if they didn’t agree upon everything.
Developers are able to get multiple benefits from the feedback flow. It’s only the question of approach. Many MMOs like Roblox are frequently affected by over-listening to the audience. It’s obviously good to listen, but it’s impossible to satisfy everyone. Games are art, so main ideas must be sacred at some point. If you give players too much freedom, you may fail to unlock the real potential of your creation. The best formula is given by Michael Hartman, CEO of Frogdice, “Good developers listen to the audience, while great developers know when not to.”
Transparency vs. Trust
One of the main purposes of video games, as we think at GamesMojo.com, is to bring a new experience. As a developer, you can dig out some ideas from the community feedback. However, it’s too occasional of an approach to be an advisable system. As a rule, ideas appear in the creator’s mind, and the way of implementation may have many stages, depending on many aspects. There are only a few projects which are created by small groups of 1 to 3 people. The most common scenario requires dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of employees. Anyone of them has ideas, but the purpose is still one – a good product. Generally, designers are not people who think about money. They are concerned about better experiences.
At this stage, marketers and other business partners may affect games badly as they basically don’t think of it as a form of art. Smart developers overcome these problems. At the same time, if we add transparency to the project’s workflow, it would be a mess. Imagine yourself building a car. You are the head of the company, and you have to make engineers, designers, and third-party stuff manufacturers work as one. If you replace body engineer by paint chemist, they won’t do it.
Similarly to cars, games include variable values. So, the number of people in collaboration is indirectly proportional to the number of variables and vice versa. Do all those people need additional brains? Two heads are good, but they require experience of collaboration. Fans aren’t generally versed in UI, UX, programming, and other professional stuff, so sometimes this hinders the creative process.
The Bottom Line
All in all, it looks like developers do not need any community feedback upon their current projects before beta-testing or demo runs. In cases like GTA or any PS4 exclusive, community intervention is totally unacceptable. At the same time, many indie beginners may show off their groundworks to gain interest (crowdfunding as an option) or check the acceptance of unique ideas. Listen, but know the limits.
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