Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Happy or unhappy gamers

Business innovation and quality thrives on feedback, and messages. Capitalism is basically just a system a signals from consumers to producers, to optimise production processes. Generally, capitalism works on the crude buy/don’t buy and price systems. If your pies taste crap, sales fall. If you still sell pies at £10 each, your pies kick-ass. etc…

The problem is, unless there is constant iteration of new products, or constant price tweaking, it’s tough to get decent feedback on products over short periods. The signal is binary, either buy, or don’t buy. Cancel, or renew.

Games, especially online-games have far better possibilities for sending signals back to their makers. They generally don’t bother, but they could do. Gratuitous Space Battles attempted this is a fairly crude way, with challenges. At the end of playign a challenge, you could choose to rank that challenge for both quality and difficulty. Other players, can sort challenges by those criteria, and hopefully the best challenges rise to the top. Obviously the idea was that new players of the game would choose a ‘fun’ challenge, rather than randomly ending up playing against a hardcore, spammy or even cheating fleet.

That’s not bad, but it could go much better. I know if someone rates a challenge as difficult, and high quality, but do I know if they really enjoyed it? Maybe the challenge was fun, but the games performance was bad, or they thought the enemy fleets ships looked crap, or there is something else that is suboptimal. Ideally, I’d be able to look at a dashboard right now, and see 100 people are playing GSB, 64 of them are loving it, 12 are frustrated, 7 are bored etc…

Games don’t ask for feedback, but they should do. Would you reply if they did? If, as the next battle was loading in Battlefield 3, it asked you to rate that last game, by 4 or 5 different criteria, would you do it? Would you do it if it happened as you went to quit the game? ( I suspect not). Would you do it if there was some sort of reward (extra XP or whatever…).

I think this is definitely worth an experiment, at some point. If everyone thought that GSB was awesome, but the challenge browser was crap, I’d like stats on that, not just relying on the self-selecting sample of forum posters. (I know… people filling out surveys self select too).

10 thoughts on Happy or unhappy gamers

  1. I generally ignore filling out surveys/reviews in all forms even if I fully believe in a product, and generally want to give something a favorable review so that others buy it. The one exception to this rule for me seems to be netflix, and xbox live marketplace. Both have a simple graphic with 5 stars, and give you the option to rate something with the push of 1 button. It’s not something I’m proud of, I am a very opinionated person and genuinely want my opinion known, but I’m also lazy!

  2. This may sound stupid, but I’ve always seen zero feedback as equaling good feedback. I’ve never had someone simply write me to give positive, informative feedback unless personally I ask for it, but they DO write unprovoked if there is a problem.

    Benji is probably right, the method would have to be a simple one to really get a response, so maybe list the aspects you want feedback for with a simple 1 out of 5 slider(or buttons, what-have-you). I would only ask these at a win/loss screen, as they are natural break points anyway.

  3. I’ve never found a rating system (1 to 5 stars) to be useful, and don’t believe my idea of a 4-stars matches other people’s… so right off the bat I’d say the results are going to be fairly inaccurate and somewhat random if you leave the binary (liked/disliked) status.

    Perhaps, offer a simple like/dislike option on a couple of various questions with an optional text box to provide additional feedback.

    And randomize the questions so its kind of a game in itself.

  4. Blizzard is smart. They force you to provide a reason before you’re able to unsubscribe from their monthly fee ;-)

  5. Very good point, and good question. Would I answer those questions? Sometimes, definitely not always. I would only answer if the interface (GUI) was gracious enough I could get to the point very quickly (extremely quickly). I would answer if it was SUPER easy, the easiest and less time-consuming thing ever. I think I tend to rate stuff I really like or really dislike. So that’s a start for some rating algorithm.

    Would I rate if XP was given? ABSOLUTELY every time. Would it be honest? Yes. Would it be thought through? Somewhat. I’d surf through those questions every single time. I would never lye, but wouldn’t spend much time either. The easier and faster it would be to rate, the more I’d take it seriously (instead of just getting annoyed and answering stupid stuff).

    Is this idea good? IT’S GREAT! I’d love to give feedback to small indie teams (solo) like you.


  6. I really like the idea. I believe the number of responses and the “quality” of the feedback would depend a little bit on the type of game that it is. In other words, a strategy game might receive more detailed and efficient feedback than a first person shooter. Not because people who play one more than the other are dumber or anything like that, but because of the frame of mind you’re in when you play different types of games. Even the differences between specific styles the same genre would receive different results regarding feedback. Another example would be comparing the Call of Duty and Battlefield series of games. While both are first person shooters I think the feedback for both would be drastically different.

    I’m not saying that none of the feedback would matter, but it would create a broad spectrum of results that wouldn’t entirely be useful for a particular game or series. I’ll give a simple example – people have complained about the “noob-tube” in CoD in the past and people abusing it, or the fact that you can knife a person from 20 feet away. These are common complaints, however, Activision does not care about this type of feedback. I guess they only want to hear what people like about the game, not what people don’t like.

    So if this sort of experiment was to work properly I think it would have to start with the indie developers. Either a small group of indies that develop games in different genres. This would probably give the best results as to whether people even care about giving feedback (regularly) or how important the feedback is to game development. We’re still talking about a broad spectrum of feedback but at a much small demographic of gamer making it easier tweak a feedback system and tally the results.

    To answer your question, I don’t think everyone would leave feedback, but I myself would in most cases… As long as the game isn’t so frustrating that I just shut the whole system off. :-) Obviously a game definitely needs feedback if that happens yet I would rather not give the devs the time of day. in my experience though that sort of situation really only applies to big game developers, and the so called “Triple A” titles. The reason I’d rather not leave feedback on a game like that is because I honestly believe that to them it doesn’t really matter. From my experience, they only care if someone has something good to say about their game – and even then they don’t really care unless they can use it for PR purposes. If I could get through to an individual developer (a game designer, programmer, artist, etc.) then the situation might be different. That’s why I think it this experiment might work (and might ONLY work) with indie developers and indie games.

    I like the idea a lot though.

  7. Wow, Cliff, this is eerily similar to, although decidedly smaller scale than, an idea I’ve been pondering for about a week now. I think you’re on the right track.

  8. A little bit of bribery could also work for getting feedback.

    Offer something minor in exchange for feedback. Say, go to your website and fill out a survey and receive, say, a new skin for one of your ships. Doesn’t have any gameplay impact, but its something people can do to stand out.

    Think TF2’s hats. Everyone likes hats! They don’t benefit you in any way, but people will do all sorts of things in order to get more hats.

  9. Could you convert all your GSB content into an ‘Escape Velocity’ style open ended game.

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