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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 PatPending (953482) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @03:57AM (#34774162)
    Sometimes you just have to wonder about the /. editors...
    • by kesuki (321456)

      Sometimes you just have to wonder about the /. editors...

      no need to wonder, just watch the tv we grew up on.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Desler (1608317)

      Slashdot has actual editors? Since when? (And no the people purporting to be "editors" is not the same thing).

  • 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 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 Moryath (553296)

          The problem is that there are games where there are unified calls - nigh unanimous - and STILL the developers aren't f'ing paying attention.

          One clear example: Lionhead Studios. One thing on almost every forum I've seen is a massive call to fix the "houses constantly breaking down" problem, either by implementing a global or per-city "repair all houses [lionhead.com]" function. Yet, Lionhead are content to just ignore this.

          Of course, Lionhead are probably not the best example, since they obviously didn't playtest a number

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            The problem is that there are games where there are unified calls - nigh unanimous - and STILL the developers aren't f'ing paying attention.

            Your specific example notwithstanding, the wiser developers know full well that "nigh unanimous" complaints on a forum, in general, means "unanimous only among the people complaining", given the people who are happy with (or just don't mind) whatever "unanimously" needs to be changed aren't going to manically gush on and on about every bit of minutia they love about the game.

            • by BobMcD (601576)

              The problem is that there are games where there are unified calls - nigh unanimous - and STILL the developers aren't f'ing paying attention.

              Your specific example notwithstanding, the wiser developers know full well that "nigh unanimous" complaints on a forum, in general, means "unanimous only among the people complaining", given the people who are happy with (or just don't mind) whatever "unanimously" needs to be changed aren't going to manically gush on and on about every bit of minutia they love about the game.

              This is mythology, rather than fact. Only in a developer's mind does 'no feedback' equal 'positive feedback'. Imagine you cook a meal and many of the people you serve it to throw a fit about it being too salty. Not a single person steps forward to disagree. Do you assume that just because the total people served is greater than twice the number of people complaining that it was NOT in fact too salty? Of course not.

          • by Quirkz (1206400)

            I wrote up entire, multiple-page analyses of why certain classes were getting ignored by the player base ...

            I sympathize a lot with most of your post, but that particular line made me shudder a little. When you're a developer with streams of input coming in from all sides, sometimes a massive analysis is too daunting--or exhausting--to properly appreciate or deal with. It's definitely possible to get too much feedback, particularly all at once, and especially if it comes across as argumentative or boils down to "you're going to have to scrap everything to make me happy." (Not accusing you of doing that, but I've

        • What no one seems to have thought about is some of the legal implications. I haven't seen this happen with games but I did see it happen with a well known author. He used to participate regularly in a forum about his works until some fan accused him of stealing his ideas and demanding payment. The fan had no legal leg to stand on aparently but the thing did go to court. Sowered the author on forum participation.
          • by story645 (1278106)

            He used to participate regularly in a forum about his works until some fan accused him of stealing his ideas and demanding payment.

            It's become standard practice for authors to tell their fans "please don't send me any ideas, I can't legally read them" and put lots of other disclaimers on their participation with fans. I know that in HP fandom, Rowling has admitted to reading forums but won't read fic for the same reason.

          • What no one seems to have thought about is some of the legal implications. I haven't seen this happen with games but I did see it happen with a well known author. He used to participate regularly in a forum about his works until some fan accused him of stealing his ideas and demanding payment. The fan had no legal leg to stand on aparently but the thing did go to court. Sowered the author on forum participation.

            Happens a depressing amount. In a recent episode of Extra Credits, a web series with a game developer co-writing, the non-developers have said that they filter out all incoming email containing "What do you think of my game idea?" before the dev ever sees it because he needs to protect himself against risk of being sued for stealing ideas.

            Sadly, a creator HAS to isolate himself from the fans to a great extent because all it takes is one prick with access to a lawyer to claim "You stole my idea!" to cost t

    • There's a reasonable compromise if you have a substantial enough forum population: impliment thread rating and when a thread gets righted highly enough by enough people go take a look at it.

      • Dwarf fortress in general takes this approach even so far as being used as a way to sugest priorities with the DF Eternal Suggestion Voting.

        You can't sift through all the crap yourself but once you have a community who will hang out on your suggestions forum for you the dross of "oh, HAI! We should totally have quicktime events in this game cause they're awsome!" quickly gets burried by sane forum members while good ideas will get mostly positive attention.

        • We should totally have quicktime events in this game cause they're awsome!

          And then you have other people say they'd never play quicktime events because the updater always nags to add iTunes and Safari to the installation, and your press-X-to-not-die cut scenes [tvtropes.org] should use Windows Media instead. Cue another reply that VLC is more capable than either and available on more platforms.

        • by arth1 (260657)

          Dwarf fortress in general takes this approach even so far as being used as a way to sugest priorities with the DF Eternal Suggestion Voting.

          Bugzilla too allows voting (unless turned off), but votes are almost always ignored completely -- it's just a way to give the users a perception that their opinion or support counts.
          Much like letters to congressmen, which really only benefit stationary companies and the post office, but placate the sheep.

      • by arth1 (260657)

        There's a reasonable compromise if you have a substantial enough forum population: impliment thread rating and when a thread gets righted highly enough by enough people go take a look at it.

        You assume that being highly ranked means it contains valuable content, and isn't just a combination of back patting, being short enough to read for Gen-ADD, very obvious, slightly funny, and attention catching?
        Written and voted for by users without a clue of what's actually implementable, and ignorant of laws preventing plagiarism?

        BFG-9000 IN FRMVL!! VOTARZ NAO!!1!

        Like here, the gems of wisdom are usually hidden within all the noise, and obscured by the popular posts.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          Written and voted for by users without a clue of what's actually implementable

          Everything is implementable if you're talented enough.

    • 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 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 kesuki (321456)

        "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"

        i know how you feel, final fantasy was one of my favorite series but the latest ones are sorta uninspired. advance wars went wrong when they went to a online version of the game, lacking voip and simplifying maps, while making non fog of war play very one sided. it is like they wanted people to be bored with it and not play.it.

      • by psetzer (714543) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @06:26AM (#34774616)

        While you get an idea of what the people who post in the forum like by reading it, it's not necessarily the best choice overall. The people who post on gaming forums are going to be a self-selected subset amounting to a couple of percent of the total player base, tops. This means they're going to have opinions that may not reflect everyone who plays the game. Most notably they're going to be more hardcore than average.

        There is no war game, simulation or RPG mechanic so utterly baroque that someone won't decry streamlining it as 'dumbing down' the game. Inevitably that someone posts on the developer's forum. People got unbelievably pissed off when Dungeons and Dragons got rid of THAC0 and made higher armor classes better. All THAC0 did was complicate the rules set and give newcomers one more reason not to play past their first game. D&D 4e among many other things eliminated enemies that drain levels on touch since permanently weakening a PC sucks, it disproportionately hits melee classes, and it brings the game to a halt as you recalculate everything every time someone gets hit.

        Ultimately, designing a game is a different skill set from playing the same game. Players can give an idea of what they personally liked and disliked, but as a rule have a pretty terrible idea of what's possible and what's balanced. Designers who forget that are begging for trouble.

        • by rich_r (655226)

          There is no war game, simulation or RPG mechanic so utterly baroque that someone won't decry streamlining it as 'dumbing down' the game.

          That's a keeper!

        • by BobMcD (601576)

          There is no war game, simulation or RPG mechanic so utterly baroque that someone won't decry streamlining it as 'dumbing down' the game.

          Well, those things are synonymous, so that's basically a non-statement, isn't it? You simply cannot remove complexity without resulting in a less-complex game. You can, if you want to get pedantic about it, disagree that 'simple' 'dumb', but that's an entirely separate discussion, and at least slightly dishonest intellectually.

          People got unbelievably pissed off when Dungeons and Dragons got rid of THAC0 and made higher armor classes better. All THAC0 did was complicate the rules set and give newcomers one more reason not to play past their first game.

          People always get unbelievable pissed when D&D launches a new version. Mostly because they're horrible at launching new versions. They have no identity and tend to rip and re

    • Forums can still be useful, you just need other people separate from the creators to filter things first.

      Based on my own experience with large forums, about 10% of the posts will be good ideas and positive remarks, 10% will be actionable bug reports, and the rest will be a mix of unhelpful criticism, bad ideas, useless bug reports, and off-topic. Wading through all that will wear anybody down.

      I completely understand creators not wanting to deal with that. Find some users who've been reliably helpful for a

    • 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.

    • The whole reason of having a forum is to have an equal discussion medium. Everyone who participates is on equal footing more or less and you can have big discussions on whatever you like. If that's not what you are after, that's fine, but then don't have one. Just post the information you'd like to give to people on your website. Having a forum and ignoring it is stupid because, as you note, it makes people feel neglected but if someone doesn't watch after it it'll just get used for spam or other shit like

      • by delinear (991444)

        I couldn't agree more, particularly on the thick skin front - there's nothing difficult about scanning a forum for good ideas, even if people are being nasty, unless you have the sensibilities of a 12 year old school girl. This

        "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."

        Sounds like plenty of development planning meetings I've attended. There's nothing special or mystical about forums, just like any other gathering of people you have to ignore the idiots, realise which people have their own agenda and have a modicum of talent for picking out the good

    • I couldn't agree more. One of the most pleasant things I've noticed since becoming a heavy Android user is that small-time devs are much better at listening to their customers' complaints, and actually read their own forums, answering users' questions and acknowledging bug reports and feature requests.

      I'm surprised many people don't seem to care about this kind of thing. Getting an answer within 24 hours from a dev, whether by forum, e-mail or whatever, will greatly help my willingness to send cash his way

    • For suggestion, bug report, and support forums, I agree. For general purpose, game discussion, and chit chat forums, I don't. There's something to be said in allowing users an outlet for their nerdy discussions, and in allowing them to provide their own tech support, completely apart from developer considerations.
    • Anonymity online does breed assholes, as TFA quotes. A way to avoid non-constructive opinions is to provide dedicated channels for feedback and issues your users may have, encourage them to be unbiased in these channels, and have someone moderate these too, preferably.

      All the rest (of the forums) will then fall under free discussion (free range), and those channels should not even be considered a source of development ideas or feedback.

      Simply put: separate feedback and ideas, from everyday talk and rants. I
    • by mcvos (645701)

      Offering a place for players to discuss the game with each other and help each other with problems can still be a valuable service.

      Personally I disagree with TFA, though. Feedback from players can be incredibly valuable. You just need to be picky and efficient about it. Know which fans tend to write useful stuff and only read that. Have a rating system. Have a personal blocklist so you can ignore the idiots. Maybe have an explicit "this is what I read" forum, and only allow valuable fans (positive karma and

    • 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 delinear (991444)
        There's a big gap between refusing to implement your fanbase's suggestions and refusing to engage with them at all, though. In many cases people are more than satisfied with a "that's a great idea but unfortunately it wouldn't work for us because X, Y, Z" kind of reply that shows at least you're thinking about what they're telling you. If they spend their time and effort explaining on a forum you set up for discussion of your game how they think you could improve said game and you just refuse to even acknow
    • If you're not going to read your forum... don't have one. It's really that simple.

      Tough call. Forums are a community experience, just because you're not going to be monitoring them heavily doesn't mean that people won't benefit. For some of the game forums I post to, I'll often get another player to answer my question fairly quickly... which a developer/supporter might respond to days later. And sometimes the community responses completely remove the need for an official response (often because the question was already asked-and-answered by a developer some weeks ago).

      With the interne

    • I wouldn't be nearly as worried about criticism as I would be about the possibility of getting sued by someone saying I stole some idea he posted on the forum. When I used to work in LA, staff screenwriters were officially discouraged from reading show and movie forums for that very reason (there were a few notable exceptions, but most writers/directors/producers avoided them like the plague, or at least were very careful to keep their perusing hidden).

    • That's presuming the original goal was to care about your users, but when you're an indie developer, you have no users to care about.

      There's nothing wrong with you hosting a forum for users to post on. That's where the help and support can be from other players sometimes, where people can often make bug reports without the need of a fancy bug reporting system. Those are typically the ones the developer should be reading.

      If you are a game developer, and you are running short of fresh ideas for your game, I h

    • by GooberToo (74388)

      ... don't have one. It's really that simple.

      Not really a good idea at all. Providing a forum helps to create a community. For many games, community is key to longevity and survival. At the same time, people are especially dumb. Given that many gamers are somewhat young people who have no actual experience in the real world, all too often their notion of better is well beyond idiocy. Given that these type of idiots tend to flock together, even a point rating system is likely to have absolutely idiotic notions rated up. So no matter what, you're likel

    • by brkello (642429)

      I disagree. Forums aren't just for complaining to the developer because you think you can design the game better. It is to discuss the game and post announcements. Having a forum is a good way to create a community around your game. The developer doesn't have to read it...some people will appreciate it...but as long as it is a good game, that is all that matters. I could care less if a dev posts in the forum.

  • So far as I can tell no-one reads forums. Even here on Slashdot I regularly get people who reply to a long thread when they clearly haven't bothered to read all of it.

    Thankfully that's still considered rude on mailing lists.

    • by Kjella (173770)

      Well, that's because I've read so many ten page threads where seven of them are two-three persons flaming each other and three pages are discussion from everyone else. Once I hit the first page that's full of nothing but shit I'm more likely to jump to the last page and just give my opinion on the subject. The SNR on most forums is just atrocious because some people can't help getting fired up by each other even though it's like having two people use bigger and bigger megaphones so that no one else in the r

      • by PReDiToR (687141)
        And yet if someone rips through the thread and redacts all the "Me too!" and "I know this is OT but ..." and "IT NOT WORK 4 ME" posts they get called a Nazi and the banhammer comes out ...

        Forum Rules are usually posted in a sticky at the top of the forum, and they should be read. We need to be a little militant with n00bs and fools to get the message across. Breed a generation of people who will actually RTFM and learn how to ask questions intelligently.
        • by nabsltd (1313397)

          We need to be a little militant with n00bs and fools to get the message across. Breed a generation of people who will actually RTFM and learn how to ask questions intelligently.

          Having just been through reading a 1200-post thread on Cinavia audio watermarking, your post perfectly summarizes that thread.

          About half of the 1200 were completely useless, with about 50 useful and informative posts, and only about 10 that had information that would really be part of the development effort. I can understand how a small developer might decide to ignore a forum about their product, simply because the SNR is so low that reading the forum wouldn't leave time for actually writing code.

    • by Haedrian (1676506)

      I agree with you. I think that chickens should not be considered Turing powerful.

  • Spidweb seems to take things a bit personally. Good thing he doesn't read forums; I don't think he could take this criticism.

    • 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 mcvos (645701) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:32AM (#34774810)

        There are actually creative people who can take criticism. No idea how rare they are, but they definitely exist. John Carmack has posted on Slashdot. Brad Wardell has posted on usenet (off all the hotbeds of flamewars and trolls...). And I think Brad has had very productive discussions there, which did influence his games.

        For example: Brad prided himself on the good AI for Galactic Civilizations, and it certainly had the best AI I've ever seen in a turn-based strategy game. But it still lacked true killer instinct. Brad said it'd be too frustrating if the AI truly pulled all the stops on dirty tricks. I (and others) disagreed; we argued that if a game had difficulty settings called "impossible" and "masochistic", we expected some serious punishment to come our way. We wanted the AI to trick us in the same ways we tried to trick it. In the end, I think he made one particular AI pull all the stops on the hardest difficulty levels. Not all, unfortunately, but it's still something.

        Of course there were also idiots who complained that the game was too hard because they couldn't beat the AI at "hard" difficulty, and needed someone to explain to them that they could set the difficulty to "normal" or "easy". You just need to be able to recognize the idiots and trolls and tune them out. Anything that might be useful, you need to read in the most positive light possible. But some people have mastered those tricks.

      • 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.
      • Speaking as a graphics designer with a multitude of creative hobbies including drawing, I can flat out say that creativity and the creative process isn't a dainty and delicate thing. It's dirty, it's messy and very often very ugly, ESPECIALLY to those creating!

        I really don't mean to sound insulting here, but I see/hear the whole "creative people are often sensitive" shtik way, WAY too much.

        Yes, there are circumstances where creative people SHOULD be sensitive about their work and the resulting feedback and

      • by Garwulf (708651)

        The problem isn't criticism - criticism tends to make you better, actually. The problem is abuse. I posted this on the blog for the article, and I think it bears repeating here:

        Coming at this from the perspective of an author, you get some similar issues with fans. Before I go any further, I have to say that 97% of the fans I've met are friendly, lovely people who I wouldn't mind having a drink at a pub with - they're kind and appreciative of all the work you've done, and they just enjoy your work for wha

  • On the flipside (Score:3, Interesting)

    by estitabarnak (654060) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:09AM (#34774212)

    I had a great time playing Galactic Civilizations II. The experience was certainly enhanced by interacting with the game's creators on their forums. These folks were pretty good about releasing major updates for a good while after the release date, so suggestions actually made it in to the game. If nothing else it was nice to feel like someone was listening for once.

    In short, responsive/interactive game developers can enhance the experience both in and outside of the game; taking every suggestion doesn't matter.

    • by Ravenger (715905)

      I participated in a community forum for a game series I worked on for many years. As a member of the game dev team I was able to give insight and information to the community, and help with tech support and problem solving.

      I helped build it into the central place on the net for info about our games, and in doing so we garnered a reputation for excellent customer support, and I had a great time interacting with the very people who played the games I worked on, and made some good friends.

      You do have to filter

  • In .y experience this i all too true. I've developed a few homebrew apps for the wii, and while the wiibrew wiki was great for dusplaying your work and interacting with the community' it also gave a lot of peple the impression they could their creative input should carry as much weight as the author's

    I did get some good feedback, but it was usually drowned out by all the 12 year olds asking everything from mp3 players to game system emulators to be integrated into your app. I found it really hard after a

  • by sstamps (39313) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:38AM (#34774286) Homepage

    Jeff is right that managing game forums is a job. A thankless one that can chew through even the most heavily armor-plated CSR over time. Community Management can be one of the most difficult jobs any game company employee can take on. So, yes, if you as a creator/developer, or your team does not have the skillset to manage forums, it's going to become a cesspool of unhappy people fighting amongst themselves and denouncing your existence and lineage all the way back to Lucy.

    Gamers are passionate people, though the game industry is not necessarily the only industry where you'll find such. The trick is, if you are going to have forums, and you want them to be of value to you as a creator (as well as to your customers), you have to manage them. Ignoring them because it turns out to be an intrinsically difficult job isn't really much of a solution, and will really only fan the flames even more. A lot of the time, the act of distancing yourself, either in intent or just apparent, will make it appear like you just don't care; that you live in an ivory tower away from the players and look down your nose at them with the all-too-common "I'm the game developer, and I am always right/best/smartest/insert-superlative-here", regardless of whether you explicitly say it or not. When it comes to this phenomenon, appearance of impropriety has nothing on the appearance of hubris.

    What this means is that you have to communicate. Frequently, candidly, and, most importantly, VISIBLY. Remember that "say five nice things for every mean thing" notion goes both ways, but is meaningless if hardly anyone sees it.

    There may also be technical problems in communication. Some game companies opt for some REALLY REALLY BAD community portal/forum software that is just total pants. No matter how good a communicator you are as a creator, or how stellar your Community Management team is, if your communication venue and tools are crap, it will completely ruin you. On the flip side, an extremely well-designed community portal / communications venue setup will make your job of communicating and interacting with your customers an absolute delight.

    Yes, there will be those people who will simply be chronically unhappy with you no matter what you do, and yes, the anonymity of the interwebz can turn people into total douchebags. Do everything in your power to use the carrot to try and bring them around, but never be afraid to resort to the boot if they simply insist on spreading their misery to you and the rest of your (otherwise happy) customers. Not saying necessarily ban them, but at some point, you can just simply say "I am truly sorry that I/we have failed to resolve your issue(s) / bring you enjoyment with my efforts; I want you to know that I am at my wits' end trying to do so. At this point, I would suggest that maybe this game / community simply isn't for you, and I would urge you to seek out another game or form of entertainment that can bring you enjoyment. There is simply no sense in remaining somewhere where you are miserable, and I don't want you to be miserable, here or anywhere. I wish you the best of luck in your travels, and you'll always be welcome to return, if you do find something of value to you here later."

    One last thing: don't fall into that "well, the forums are only representative of 10% of the playerbase, and only the loudest cranks to boot" trap. Whether it is true or not is irrelevant to how you treat your customers. It generally is only true to a certain degree, and grossly generalizing and overtly dismissing the entire body of forum participation as non-representative of the greater majority of your playerbase is the kiss of death, ESPECIALLY if you say that publicly. So, don't do it. Ever.

  • On the contrary, a developer should pay attention to the forums if only to keep an eye on bugs. It's perfectly fine to do whatever you want with your chosen project but you'd better know about the times where something doesn't quite work as you'd expected once it's out in the wild.

    • by Peeteriz (821290)

      As the TFA states, in most companies someone should scan the forums - but it shouldn't be the developers. Hire (or recruit from users) someone to sift the bug-reports and reasonable suggestions from the junk and bile.

  • Make it clear what input you want from users, make it specific. If you just say "here's a forum, post your comments" then you'll get lots of random whining. If you try to implement every single idea mentioned in the forum it'll end up as design by committee, and maintaining one creator's vision is usually a better idea. Game designed by committee: Yet Another WW2 FPS. Game designed by visionary: Super Mario Galaxy. Which would you rather make?
    After a while look for someone with many well-thought-out posts a

  • Angry Birds on the iPhone is a paid app without ad support. It runs very well, and is a great "toilet game." You can lose yourself for quite a while playing it.

    Angry Birds on Android is ad supported, with fullscreen video adverts between levels and banner adverts during play. The banner advert in the top right of the screen makes zooming and seeing the whole of the map difficult, and when out of signal range (Plane? Tunnel? Anywhere where you have hours to spend doing nothing) the video adverts don't load,
  • by Kokuyo (549451) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:52AM (#34774332) Journal

    Nobody who retains any semblance of sanity and wishes to keep that should ever engage in online discussion. It's usually pointless, annoys people and yourself to no end and you seldom feel you've accomplished anything.

    Now if only I had realised this before starting to develop this god-damned need to add my two cents whenever someone is wrong on the internet...

  • 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.

  • by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @04:58AM (#34774356)
    Just go with the general spirit of the open source community. Set up a chatbot that post "Fix it yourself if you do not like it" to every forum entry and don't give a shit about your users. Problem solved. Or not.
    • by Ash-Fox (726320)

      Set up a chatbot that post "Fix it yourself if you do not like it" to every forum entry

      Can you link me to forums that do that? They sound like an amusing read.

  • None of their fans are going to want to see all of their time taken up by community engagement. Some, certainly, are clueless, and enjoy being time vampires. You deal with time vampire 'fans' the same way you deal with time vampires in real life.

    If you have an issue with the time commitment, make a rule for yourself and stick to it. "I'm only going to visit the forums on Friday nights." Or something similar. People will give you a wide berth, especially once your forum reaches a decent size (more than 10k m

  • So much for the power of prayer.

  • To a certain extent I agree fully. Hearing criticism can be quite helpful, but often times that has ulterior motives behind it, The criticism itself isn't often times objective, but extraordinarily subjective at least online. I've played WoW for years and it's easy to see what a community can do to a game, both good and bad, and how sometimes it leads the developers to take on a position they wouldn't normally (like acting like god). The developers on WoW forums have aquired a very nasty tone through all th
  • Some people can happily read through a list and pick out the ideas whilst laughing at the insults and caustic trolling, others get frustrated by content and end up dejected. If you're the latter type, you're probably best outsourcing it or leaving it be. But there's much to be said for communicating with your community, and as long as you remember that for every IQ 120 there's an IQ 80 out there - all, unfortunately, still allowed behind a computer - then it becomes easier to shrug it off. Besides, it's YOU

  • All things in moderation. Avoiding what your fans have to say is no better an idea than trying to satisfy their every whim.

    I thought all good developers knew that.

  • by qvatch (576224) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @06:17AM (#34774596)
    Case in counterpoint, Dwarf Fortress and it's most active forum frequented and responded to by the game creator. He answers questions, takes (in an ineffable manner) suggestions, and otherwise participates in the enjoyment of his game. Example: http://www.bay12forums.com/smf/index.php?topic=60554.msg1848408#msg1848408 [bay12forums.com] Dwarf fortress: http://df.magmawiki.com/index.php/Dwarf_Fortress:About [magmawiki.com]
  • Thank DEITY$ Bioware doesn't do this. NWN wouldn't have been half as good if they had ignored the input of their players. The same is probably true for their other games, but NWN sticks out in my head as a game that the devs actually listened to the players for the most part.

  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Thursday January 06, 2011 @07:12AM (#34774734)

    Is this perhaps the same reason that politicians NEVER listen to the people they represent? (With the sole exception of lobbyists who show up with large amounts of cash).

    • I can say for certain that those who are creating for consumption (like indie game designers and myself) LOVE to hear complaints, comments and even flames in the form of cash! Priority, of course, will be given to larger denominations!

  • ...be why God never answer prayers?
  • A good example is Heroes of Newerth. Some games do require input from the players in order to balance, or fix, broken systems. Most MMORPG also fall into this (and generally fail to do so...). Hell most competitive games should get input from the players. Of course, if the creator can't be arsed to hire moderators to keep the flaming and trolls in check, that's an entirely different matter.
  • I finally understand why I never see the mythical blue post!!
  • 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.
  • but still users can come up with some pretty stupid ideas. I mean in my mind the most classic one was how many players of the Street Fighter games wanted throws completely removed from the game. (Including EGM advocating removal of the throw.) That would have definitely been a stupid decision if Capcom went with it. (What was even more stupid is they didn't seem to have a problem with an unblockable attack that wasn't a throw.)
  • The reason people post vitriol on forums is due to the fact that it is allowed. All forums should have clear strict rules about profanity, personal attacks, non-constructive criticism, etc. If forums were moderated and any time a flame was posted the user was warned that they could be banned then maybe less flames would be posted. The warnings must be followed through. You will probably find that most of the issues are being caused by a very few people.

    There are compromise positions between 'read everything

    • by Ash-Fox (726320)

      forums were moderated and any time a flame was posted the user was warned that they could be banned then maybe less flames would be posted.

      You then get the anal retentive people who just sit there, waiting to report anyone who goes slightly out of line. Even moderation should be moderated.

      • by jklovanc (1603149)

        You are correct, and the forum moderators will tell the "anal retentives" where the lines are and that if they continue to abuse the reporting system they will be banned.

  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Thursday January 06, 2011 @10:36AM (#34775916) Homepage

    I haven't read the article yet, but I have seen web forums be communities of fail. I'm not convinced that this is due to unavoidable faults either in forums or in human nature.

    People will complain loudly about your products. They are not always rational or right. This will remain true whether you provide the venue for the forum or not.

    Customer feedback is a vital part of any business. You need to have people who are capable of interfacing with customers. The best people for this are people who enjoy communicating with people and want to do it, and who also happen to have a solid working knowledge of the product. These are often other users of the product.

    If you host a forum, you need to cultivate it in order for it to thrive. This does not mean censoring complaints about the product. It does mean policing the forums to keep abuse, trolling, griefing, and spam under control. Being a forum admin is probably not the best use of time for high value developers or designers. If you have a staff, the forum admin work should be delegated to an appropriate person or team who is suited to the task and knows how to do it well.

    Having a presence on the forums will make a huge difference in how the general userbase perceives your company. If knowledgeable, helpful employees take the time to read and participate in forums, users of the forums will tend to be more appreciative and sympathetic toward the company. If official participation is loose and personable, not overly corporate toe-the-line, your customers will generally feel warmly toward the company. Don't punish low level employees who participate in the forums and openly admit that the product has faults or that the company could be better. It's obvious to everyone that you're not perfect, and punishing people for saying so isn't going to fix the problem.

    If your only way of getting good information from your employees is through manually sifting through forum threads, you're doing it wrong. Your forum technology sucks, isn't well integrated with the rest of your business, and is out of date. That is why it fails. You can't just bolt a forum on to a web site and consider the job done. You need a system that rewards people for investing the time in participating positively to the forum, like Stack Overflow does. Forums where people are asking questions, especially where they are having problems, need to have follow-through and resolution. If this isn't provided, then the forum is largely a waste of time for everyone involved, and a frustrating experience.

    You also need to integrate your forum into your overall customer relationship strategy, and other areas of the business process, such as product design and marketing. Forum discussions shouldn't dictate your product's design, but certainly customer feedback should be taken into account when considering your priorities, and a well-designed forum that provides useful datamining tools can provide this. A customer relationship management (CRM) suite can provide this integration quite well. Check out a product like Lithium [lithium.com] and see what it can do for you. Western Digital uses Lithium CRM in their product support forums, and it's a lot nicer than many forums that I've seen used by other companies.

  • 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
  • ... should not be developing games, period. Most game developers _suck_ at making games and can't take criticism. To have forums means you need thick skin. Bioware has publically stated they used public feedback from websites and forums to help design mass effect 2, and Mass effect 2 ended up being better for it. They know that developing a game is a process of feedback and discourse.

    Supreme commander 1 was released unfinished state and the AI was horribly broken, without the support and MOD forums AI

  • It's just a matter of realizing it's a "cacophony" of opposing and often incorrect ideas" and simply:

    1. Enjoying the positive remarks as a motivator, which are there if you've done a decent job.
    2. Letting the gestalt sink in for that next "eureka" moment.

    At the very least have someone whose job it is to read and maintain the forum.
  • It has become one of the best real time 4X games created because of the heavy community involvement with the devs. The game even has a built-in IRC client where the devs hang out and help their players, take suggestions, and basically improve the game in almost real-time. I'm not related to them, but I felt the need to point out that there are always exceptions, and this game is a strong case for it. The love these guys have put into their game is beyond anything I've seen to date, and the game itself is (I

  • Here [steampowered.com] is an example of an indie developer who has been extremely active on the forums, and the game is all the better for it. Honestly, based on how much time SnowBrigade spends on the forum, it's a wonder he gets any coding done. :) And yet there are regular updates including many player suggested features, addressing player brought up balancing issues, etc. One of my own suggestions was recently implemented as well.

There is no distinction between any AI program and some existent game.

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