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Communications Games

Why Creators Should Never Read Their Forums 221

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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  • 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 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 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.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.