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Communications Games

Why Creators Should Never Read Their Forums 221

Posted by Soulskill
from the lalala-i-can't-hear-you dept.
spidweb writes "One full-time Indie developer writes about why he never goes to online forums discussing his work and why he advises other creators to do the same. It's possible to learn valuable things, but the time and the stress just don't justify the effort. From the article, 'Forums contain a cacophony of people telling you to do diametrically opposite things, very loudly, often for bad reasons. There will be plenty of good ideas, but picking them out from the bad ones is unreliable and a lot of work. If you try to make too many people happy at once, you will drive yourself mad. You have to be very, very careful who you let into your head.'"
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Why Creators Should Never Read Their Forums

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  • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) * on Thursday January 06, 2011 @03:59AM (#34774168) Homepage Journal

    ... don't have one. It's really that simple. If you do have a forum on your site -- any site -- then users have a reasonable expectation that you'll read it and, if not cater to their every whim, at least take their opinions into account. Failing to do this send the message "we don't care about our users," and that's not exactly a formula for success.

    BTW, this shouldn't be taken as a slam against Spiderweb Software, which has produced some really excellent games over the years. More a general note, I guess.

  • by devxo (1963088) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:03AM (#34774188)
    It's still a general place for the users to go and discuss with each other. Usually you also always find other people willing to help you if you have problems with the game.
  • by Lemmy Caution (8378) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:10AM (#34774224) Homepage

    Creative people are often sensitive. I wouldn't want to limit my world to things created only by people with thick skins: they are often unperceptive.

  • by Zenin (266666) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:12AM (#34774230) Homepage

    Agreed.

    Of course you can't just stick your finger in the wind of the forums to design your game. You do need to actually judge and filter ideas that come up in forums; Design is not a democracy.

    But more then a few games with great potential have shot themselves in the face repetitively by ignoring the forums. They either never were aware of huge game-destroying issues or came up with their own incredibly horrid solutions, when in fact the users had suggested exceptionally good ideas in the forums.

    The nice thing about game forums...the users do much of the filtering for you already. Bad ideas get torn apart by other users with great haste, exuberance, and detail. They figure out every possible angle much better then developers could ever do.

    ----

    It's very disheartening to watch your favorite game crash and burn while the developers implement bad idea after bad idea, despite really great suggestions flooding the forums.

  • by gravos (912628) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:30AM (#34774264) Homepage

    If you're not going to read your forum... don't have one. It's really that simple. If you do have a forum on your site -- any site -- then users have a reasonable expectation that you'll read it...

    I think this is a rather silly perspective. I personally provide a chatroom and forum services for players of a game I wrote and have similar services for other software I've written. Sometimes other users answer questions, occasionally I do, and sometimes they go unanswered. There is no "reasonable expectation" that I personally will read anything: if that's what you want, you should find a commercial product and purchase support at a nominal hourly or per-incident fee.

    Time spent reading forums is time not spent developing a product. Jeff makes a good argument in TFA that, in many cases, this is a good tradeoff.

  • by Serious Callers Only (1022605) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:43AM (#34774302)

    Bad ideas get torn apart by other users with great haste, exuberance, and detail.

    Or not, as the case may be; good ideas may equally be torn apart because they don't agree with the preconceptions and assumptions of the particular users on the forum. Your argument assumes that large collections of people will produce the best solution, or even a usable solution, by consensus. That's not often the case in my experience.

    Democracy is the least bad political system because it limits the power of those in charge and forces them to be held to account, not because it produces efficient or desirable results. To apply it to realms other than the political is not always useful.

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:57AM (#34774350)

    You've got all sorts of hyper-critical morons calling every moving under the sun boring or overrated. At the same time, you've got the fan boys calling Paulie Shore movies the next Citizen Kane. Open calls for criticism usually garner responses from the extremes.

    It's like looking up car reviews. You might as well throw out all the 1 and 5 stars since they're respectively the guy pissed off that the dealer took too long getting the car cleaned or the woman astroturfing for Ford.

  • To be honest, as a long-time member of their forum, I can confidently say it will indeed drive you mad, regardless of whether you are Jeff Vogel or not. :P

    However, the division between what Spiderweb Software does and what the forum thinks has been there for years, and its reason is simple (and kind of frustrating): Spiderweb Software made a game that its fans loved, and it bombed (Blades of Avernum). Then it made a game that the fans didn't like (partly out of They Changed It Now It Sucks, but also for real complaints like a simplified gameplay and greatly reduced impact of character mortality) and it sold very well (Avernum 4). The company had no real choice in that matter - making a small group of fans happy simply makes no economic sense compared to making games that sell.

  • by 19061969 (939279) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @09:04AM (#34775158)
    Critique is fundamental to design - good & great designers actively seek out criticism. Whether the criticism is worthwhile is another question, but any designer worth paying is big enough to deal with flack. IMHE, I've found designers to be the most motivated solicitors of feedback.
  • by gman003 (1693318) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @09:18AM (#34775246)
    I fully believe that there is something to be gained by reading your forums. Not every single post - just the ones that catch your eye, or seem to be highly-read. Sure, there's going to be a lot of crap, but there's plenty of good ideas out there too.

    However, there is very little to be gained by responding to your forums. At most, you might say "actually, that does seem like a good idea", or "I already discussed this in a blog article several months ago. It just doesn't work.". Responding to even half of the stupid, short-sighted and ignorant ideas people post would be a massive waste of time, and would probably drive anyone insane.
  • by aztracker1 (702135) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @09:25AM (#34775292) Homepage
    Not only that, but having support and/or marketing staff/people in place to filter suggestions, is probably a good idea... TFA has some valid points, if you've seen the way some indie games go, it's a wonder they get anything done as often there are diametrically opposed requests for changes in game metrics.
  • by pak9rabid (1011935) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @10:40AM (#34775986)
    If I had listened to my customers, I'd have built faster horses. ~Henry Ford

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