GameDev Protips: How To Efficiently Improve Your Game Using Player Feedback

When gathering player feedback, it’s important to have a good method of organization so that you’re not just trying to tackle things in an arbitrary manner. I like to organize points into specific groups — a form of development triage. This could involve categories like “clarity” or “juice” that are descriptive within the rubric but don’t directly tackle the core gameplay loop. Make sure to create these categories in a way so that you don’t indirectly manipulate your priority list. If you place a suggestion like “add some sound effects to this feature” beside of a bug report, the obvious thing needing fixing is the bug report. These quality of life changes are better fit into the “juice” category, whereas important issues like unclear mechanics and bugs can go into “clarity” and “bugs” respectively.

Once that’s done, it’s important to remind yourself of the priorities of these categories, such as clarity being more important than juice; many developers will try to fix their problems by adding more and more features until it’s too late to fix and every feature is half functional and barely understandable. Another category that I occasionally use is “features” but this category can be a curse in many circumstances; as previously mentioned many developers like to jump straight to features over fixing up what they already have. As a result, I try to avoid using it until I feel that the rest of the game is up to par to warrant more content. Adding more features is usually nice, but if you’re adding them over fixing bugs or making improvements in other areas, your game will end up looking like a hobbled mess by the end of development. As a result, I’d say the typical order to work on fixing, at least based on these categories mentioned, is to start by fixing any game-breaking bugs.

After that, focus on improving current features within the “clarity” category. If you believe that everything feels as it should, you can move onto the “juice” category and pump it up a bit. If you feel that your game needs more, you can go ahead and move onto the “features” category. Finally, fix any minor bugs that may be present; the reason this is mentioned last is because changing other parts of the game can introduce more bugs itself, so your work might be in vain if you work on fixing every bug early only to find them back in a different form later.

Important Takeaways: It’s all about organization and tackling things in the right order. Creating categories can accomplish this, but make sure the content within your categories won’t introduce a development bias due to juxtaposition. An example of this would be to have minor visual improvements being beside a critical bug, which may prompt you to push the improvements aside in favor of the bug. Make sure you know the right order to working on your game: Fix any critical bugs, improve current features, make them pop out a bit, add new features if necessary, then fix the minor bugs that are left over from development; don’t bother trying to add more content onto a broken game or a game that plays poorly — you’ll be doing yourself a major disservice.

GameDev Thoughts: 3 Small Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Game Development Career

Are you considering starting your own game development studio? You might want to avoid the most common mistakes. There are many mistakes indie developers make when they first open the doors of their indie studio. Below are a few that are not only worth avoiding, but you must avoid if you want to start your brand new venture on the right foot.

Don’t onboard friends who know very little about game development. Somewhere at the moment you are reading this, somebody is planning to develop a video game with his or her friends. Your friends might love gaming, but believe me, there’s a difference between being a fan of gaming and being passionate about developing them. Furthermore, there’s a difference between thinking that you know what makes a game great and actually ‘knowing.’ It may seem fun to hire your friends to make games with you, but do your due diligence.

If they actually have a proven track record of tinkering around with game design, then great! But actually creating a startup around the idea that a group of friends can develop games every day and actually make a living doing it? It’s not realistic. In short, if you are serious about starting an indie studio, you may be tempted to hire your friends. Unless they’re actually the best candidates for the job, avoid the temptation and hire professionals who are actually qualified.

Don’t neglect written agreements. When you work with people, always remember to have everything in writing. What happens if your indie game becomes profitable beyond your team’s wildest dreams? Does everyone get a fair cut? What if a few of you cannot agree on the direction of the indie game? What happens then? Moreover, whose actually in control of a game’s intellectual property? Remember, you’re not just creating a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, you’re creating a legitimate product that could be fruitful. Think about it: what would happen if Notch had created Minecraft with a group of friends without a legitimate agreement? It could have been disastrous.

Don’t skimp on outreach and social media marketing. Regardless of whether you like it or not, marketing is vital to your potential success. We’ve talked with a lot of indie developers that either say to me that they will figure out the marketing details later as the game is being developed. Not a very good plan. They think that the game will be so good, word-of-mouth will spread the good news about the game. That is an even worse plan. Drew Williams, co-author of the book Feeding the Startup Beast suggests spending 10 to 20 percent of your desired gross revenue on marketing when starting out.

“As you become a more established business,” says Williams, “that drops to 5 percent to 10 percent of gross revenue, and for the largest businesses it’s typically 5 percent or a bit less.”

The success of your indie game relies heavily on marketing. Awesome games won’t sell themselves. There’s too many great games that are being marketed properly to allow other indie games to be spread via word-of-mouth, so unless your indie game accomplishes something so revolutionary that it comes out of nowhere and amazes everyone, you’re not going to get the downloads you need to sustain yourself as an indie game developer.

Important Takeaways: If you’re going to recruit people to be on your team, remember to check their credentials. Make sure that they’re knowledgeable and responsible individuals with a passion for game development — not just gamers. Next, remember to always get things in writing (or at least a solid email chain). It’s too easy for misunderstandings to happen when there isn’t anything written down. Finally, don’t forget marketing. Creating a fun game is only half of the battle. The other half is trying to figure out how to break through the noise. Get started with social media marketing as soon as possible, and make sure to do research into how to grow those channels.

GameDev Thoughts: Have Indie Games Become Practically Worthless?

It seems as though people are willing to pay less and less these days for indie games. Studios that slave for years on their beloved games have been setting their initial price point to somewhere between $1 and $10. Is this even remotely fair? Some might argue in the affirmative, as the market gets what the market wants, but let’s dig a bit deeper.

How does a developer price their games? Sometimes it may seem like we are just picking a number and hoping that some people think it is fair enough for the work that we put in. Is that how it works? No, not at all. The most common and most effective way to figure out how much your game is worth is to simply ask your audience. One way to ask is to leave your fate to the consumer entirely by using a pay-what-you-want model. This is not the best model. The value of your product will never be reflected in your revenue stream. Most people will either pay the minimum or nothing at all. You might be lucky to get a few people who overvalue your time and pay you more than the average, but these are rare. Using this type of payment will not reflect the value of your game, and will leave you feeling like your time was wasted.

What should be done is asking your audience what how much value a service like yours would add to their lives. If you are an indie game studio, how is your game adding value to the customer’s life in the form of entertainment value. Is that value $3 or is it $15? If the value is closer to $15 then you should price it out that way. No one will fault you for pricing out your game higher if they value is there for the customer. If you are pricing your game too low, the expectations will be much much lower.

Developers need to eat, too. Back when video games sold for a bit more money, game developers were better able to offer better customer support. These days, with value of games eroding at an alarming rate, developers have had to make up for the lost revenue by trying to get a price point to attract as many customers as possible. However, the increase in number of players mixed with lower total revenues means that game developers have gotten a bit jaded. It’s increasingly difficult to continue treating customers as individuals rather than just another number.

If what you aren’t pricing the game at the true value to the customer then you will attract a different type of people. Let’s use a logo design studio as an example. They could price it out really cheap to get more customers, but the expectation won’t be the same as one that charges a moderate to a high price point. Would you go for the cheaper option? Maybe. But, what type of customers does that lower price point attract? Are they cheap themselves? Are they rude? Do they try and nickel and dime you? Do they demand the world? Do they want it NOW?! And so of course there’s added benefit to pricing you product at its appropriate value — you’re able to provide a valuable product for customers who actually care about the product, instead of individuals who may want everything for nothing.

Important Takeaways: When pricing your indie game, make sure to do it with the audience in mind. Make sure that you’re sending the right message with your price, rather than just trying to undercut the competition. Value your work. Remember, price is only an issue in the absence of value. Focus on delivering as much value as you can with your game, and charge accordingly.

Set your game’s selling price according to how much you would pay for that game if you were in a customer’s shoes, and not a penny less. You can always drive sales by having discounts, but if you set your game’s initial price too low, you’re doing yourself a disservice by making it seem like your work is worthless.