Getting Feedback is difficult

Posted on:October 07 2016

Since the first day when I created software, I always wanted to have feedback from people, so that I could improve my software. That's one of the reasons why I started blogging back in 1998, when the term 'blog' didn't even exists. (I was working on an isometric diablo like game named 'Irrlicht' back then, which unfortunately was never finished).

I've learned that the average willingness of giving feedback voluntarily is very, very low. For example for every 100 readers of this blog, only 1 will post a comment. Driving this value up is possible, but telling the readers that you want feedback usually will not work. (But making some unusual claims or invalid statements will do this easily, usually.)

Until now, about 2000 people have downloaded the alpha demo of my game. You would expect that I already have at least 20 people giving me some insight on how to improve it. Interestingly, I only received 6 so far, of which 3 are angry that the price of the game is so high. (What!? It's just 9 euro!?)

Not sure what this means. Is this a good sign? Do people like the game, and they don't see any reason to complain? OR is it a bad sign? The game is so bad that they don't bother to deal with that at all? I have no idea.


_6/2000 is a user reply efficiency of 0.3%. Unless your quarterly statistics improve over the next trimester it may be in the institution's best interests to instigate workplace change and re-evaluate of your role in the organisation. You continued irrelevance is forcing the hand of level 7 management!_

Warning: lots of rhetorical questions ahead.

I'm glad to hear you have had six people give you feedback. I highly suspect that the total number of downloads is somewhat irrelevant or misleading. Don't take it to heart as some sort of "rejection ratio" or anything like that.

Feedback is complex. I've never seen two people react the same way to it. Have you considered asking a close/trusted friend what they think the feedback means? They could give you a different perspective, as a person that is not the developer.

bq. Not sure what this means. Is this a good sign? Do people like the game, and they don't see any reason to complain? OR is it a bad sign? The game is so bad that they don't bother to deal with that at all? I have no idea.

If this is the first time you have gone through this process of releasing a demo then you only have one sample point to go on (or 6 if you want to count that way). You need to keep going and get some more data before you come to any conclusions with certainty.

Did you expect to have a full and complete understanding of how you should go forward after releasing your first demo?

bq. [...] of which 3 are angry that the price of the game is so high. (What!? It's just 9 euro!?)

Hehehe :) There are multiple ways to evaluate the value of something.

Someone new to the game does not (hopefully) pre-conceive anything about the game. They try to evaluate its positives based on what they read about it and what it's like when they try it. In other words, you need to convince them that it's worth the costs.

The maker of a game is very familiar with their creation and believes it valuable from the get-go. They already like it and it takes effort to make them think it's not worth the price they have decided it is worth.

Just as it's easier to find flaws in someone else's essay rather than your own, it's easier to see flaws in someone else's game than your own.

For me atleast: I would not buy it in its current state. Here is my evaluation of it:


- gameplay uninteresting

- appears to be going down the path of 'buy into the development', which many games have lead down to unreliable or mediocre paths.

- costs 9 euros


- written by an interesting developer

- demo is free

How does that compare with your internal list of pros and cons?
2016-10-07 10:18:00

Thanks, that's really helpful. There is an updated version available on the website since a few days, with lots new features, and it is a bit better now, I think.
2016-10-08 03:55:00

Hmmm. So 50% of your feedback is that the price is too high, therefore you choose to ignore it (because you don't agree with that) and then you complain that there is not enough feedback.

Are you actually looking for feedback, or do you just want people to validate your opinions and to tell you how to make your game because you don't want to put the effort in to work it out yourself?

That was deliberately harsh on my part, to make a point. Now let's get on to the constructive feedback.

First, look at the price comments. Why do they say that? Well, they're comparing to other games that are cheaper. How are they comparing? Initially by the look of the game. Your modelling is simplistic, the textures are repetitive, the whole game doesn't look very good, and certainly not something worth paying anything for.

So now you have 50% of your comments complaining about the quality of the graphics. That's actionable data that doesn't require you to lower the price of your game.

Unless you go Minecraft 8-bit you have to go Fallout 4. There is no space in-between as far as quality goes.

And the environment has to be a believable location that looks like it was lived in, or it has to be procedural and really interesting. The middle ground just feels lazy and cheap.

Finally, you need to always be pushing what the game is actually about, within the game. Don't just leave the player to fool around. Guide them to play the game in the way that is most fun.

You're clearly not ready for public feedback yet. Like Hales says, you need a trusted person with good instincts to help you get it to the stage where you're exciting players, not p***ing them off.

You launched too early. Don't blame the players for that.
2016-10-12 12:25:00

As far as gameplay goes, you need a Take All button, or at least a Take All Of Same Item button.

And show if a Container has been searched. When everything looks the same, this is important. This could be a different graphic or a different colour highlight when you mouse over it.

And "Word map"? Shouldn't it be "World Map"?
2016-10-12 12:39:00

BTW I'm testing on the web version. If this isn't the latest version, you shouldn't be letting me play and get the wrong opinion about the game. The only version I shold be able to play should be the best version.
2016-10-12 12:41:00

Thanks guybrush, even for the harsh critics. :) To correct a few points: The game is playable quite long even before buying, and the web version is quite behind the win32 version, yes, unfortunately. Thanks for the other points, will look into that.
2016-10-13 04:11:00

This doesn't come entirely as a surprise, given that even during a code peer review there is far less (constructive) criticism than one would imagine (just look at the code yourself again after some time passed - be sure to wear a helmet), and in this situation the peer is kind of forced to give feedback.

There might be a variety of reasons for that, which I am sure I do not know most of. One might be that criticism tends to get ignored or misinterpreted. To stay with the code review example: If you find that the implementation by itself is quite fine, but unfortunately misses the requirements (like assuming something of the input data which isn't true) you would likely say something. But if this goes nowhere and in the next review you see an optimized version of the same code which still misses the same requirement, you do become somewhat ... uninterested. (Yes, it is fine you spent several days of work optimizing the shit out of that code, but still it is solving a problem we don't have... Maybe Niko remembers the specific instances I base that on :-) )

So let's leave force away: Giving feedback does involve work, constructive feedback typically even more. To constructively criticize a game you not only have to play it (and probably become bored or annoyed or whatever), but you also have to have some idea how to do it better, or narrow down what exactly it is that pisses you off. This is easier with actual bugs, where at least you can follow some system to narrow it down (although most people can't be bothered to do that), for design issues it is more of an open problem.

If I do have time and it is easy to give feedback (by easy I mean something like the game asks me for feedback before exiting, say, or there is a feedback button right there in the game) I usually will; if I kind of like where the game is going I will also try to be constructive (if I feel like I just got robbed the comments might reflect that, too...), but there are a lot of ifs in the above. I haven't played PostCollapse (at least not in the current state, but only a very early browser version), so I will not comment on it; but given that a lot of Steam purchases end up never being run at all (37% according to one article) and the general unwillingness to spend anything than the bare minimum of effort on a game the feedback ratio is not entirely surprising.

In a sense I do like the idea of the feedback button that Microsoft Office provides: It is right there, so if you are annoyed by something right in this instant and are not in full stress mode it makes it easy to give feedback. The way that Universe Simulator does it is also quite ok - an early access version is of course permitted to ask me about my experience in this session; the only thing I dislike here is that it only comes up in the end - I do not keep notes about each and every marvel of impossible physics that the game spew at me, and there were lots - an in-game feedback button would probably have helped more, and indeed would have permitted them to even include some record of the last few actions I took with the feedback report.

But overall I do not get paid for this kind of work, and it is therefore a gesture of good will from my side, and as such gestures go they are voluntary, and I might simply not feel like it. Because I want to fetch me some beer rather than giving feedback, or whatever.

So, to end this with some hopefully constructive remarks: For early-access versions include a feedback mechanism right within the actual game, and be sure to keep track of what the user did recently, in order to make it as easy as possible to give feedback. Do not expect everyone actually using it, but the incentive is higher this way.
2016-10-14 05:00:00

niko, did you ever look into player tracking software? If you wait for players to give you feedback, you can usually wait a very long time. The trick is to get information about their behaviour in-game, so you can get lots of information yourself. For instance: Average play session duration, does it get shorter? If so, players are losing interest in the content. How many people a day/a week/a year actually play your game? And so on. What you do right now, is essentially flying blind.

I may be a bit biased, since my company actually does player metrics software ;) But this is exactly why I founded the company in the first place: To give game devs the information they need.

Since I do not want to spam, I am deliberately NOT placing a link to our software here (and our business guys will hit me for that). Just drop me a line if you are interested in the topic.
2016-10-22 18:08:00

Interesting, thanks. No, there are already stats implemented in the steam version now, which gives quite some useful data for now.
2016-10-24 11:58:00

@niko: Steam can only offer you exgame metrics, like play time, active users and so on. We can also offer you ingame insights, like most used game features, player activities the last time he ever played the game, and so on :)
2016-11-01 12:28:00

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