Hi there! Last week we discussed extracting constructive criticism. It may sound sound funny to some of you since criticism hurts and sucks. Constructive criticism is, as most of us have been told repeatedly is necessary for improvement. So, we should buckle down, bear through the discomfort, and learn from it, right?
Well, this week I come with a warning. When we are crazy enough to think we can design and build a fun game, we are stepping into a situation which, like love, will have a lot of ups and downs. So, just a heads-up, prepare to have your heart BROKEN. Shattered, even.
This goes beyond negativity. Angry people on forums or negative reviews – yeah, no fun. What I am referring to are those moments when you come face-to-face with an undeniable truth. The truth that something major is wrong with your game. It is no fun, doesn’t make sense, doesn’t work, or. . . whatever. After you’ve put over a year in to a project, hundreds of dollars, dozens, if not hundreds, of tests – your heart and soul, basically – that truth hurts! It hurts more than any single poopy person because it can not be refuted, denied, or dismissed.
It can happen to any of us and likely will happen to all of us. What am I talking about? There’s a word game out there. Players draw cards with words on them to build a sentence in front of them. After their sentence is built they can start using those words to guess at words in a hidden sentence which everyone is competing to complete. I thought it was a unique take on “hidden information”. Plus, these sentences were all scripture verses – so it would be an interesting learning experience, too. I spent every waking moment of 3 months compiling information, creating clusters of sentences which overlapped enough that they piece together another verse. . . worked on card layout, a point system, made sure it was scaleable for solo up to big groups. I had such high hopes! I knew this would be unique and fun. It took a couple of days to build the prototype (a TON of cards had to be handwritten). The first chance I got, I gathered a group of 4 other friends and we played. IT BOMBED. Just did not work. Too many words, too many sentences, too much stuff with too little cohesion. And I was crushed. I actually wanted to cry.
I made a fighting game last year. It started with a drafting phase where all players picked piles of cards which would eventually become their deck for the fighting phase. I loved it. My favorite part of the game, actually. Through months of playtesting I was able to streamline it so that players had a good balance of what their character needed, was relatively easy to do, and still afforded the option of hate-drafting their opponent’s cards. I took the game to several new people who weren’t afraid to tell me what they thought. Most had a really hard time learning the drafting part. Some were willing to tell me several times that part sucked. I tried to argue, but every new person became hung up on the same thing. One day I was thinking about how to improve the game, and my heart broke. It knew before my brain could catch up that I had to tear off my favorite part – the foundation of the game.
A great example from outside of Lagniappe Games is Legacy by Eric Harding at Starcat Games. This is Mr. Harding’s second attempt on Kickstarter with this game. If you haven’t checked it out, it is a BEAUTIFUL game. Truly magnificent. He also has really competitive pricing going on and has even made it EU friendly. Simply put, Mr. Harding appears to have done everything right for publishing this project page. But he is struggling to make his funding goal. I was able to participate in a conversation with Mr. Harding on the Game Crafter’s public chat while he was seeking advice. It was obvious that he was hurting. At the time, it looked like there was no way he would fund. I know it would break my heart. As bad as it must hurt to be faced with the fact that something must be fundamentally wrong for a project to fail twice, he was still looking for answers and advice. He had already made major improvements to the game, rebuilt his project page, and revamped his shipping and game costs, but he was still looking for ways to improve.
THAT is the key. You don’t give up on love just because of a few dozen crazy losers. So, don’t give up on your game! It hurts, sure, but you will survive. If the game sucks, like my word game, kick it to the curb. If the problem is fixable, like my fighting game, man-up and make the fix! Do you want to preserve your baby and just not share it with anyone else, since nobody else will play it? If your dream is to put something out there which people will enjoy and even request, then we have to bear through the pain, accept that the problems are problems, and get to fixing what’s broken. Even now, I’m facing down the possibility that my first big game, my baby, made need a theme overhaul to make it interesting. The idea that my game may be broken has been a rock in my gut for days, but at least I know it can be fixed.
What about you? Any horror stories about game related heartbreaks you’d care to share? Please, take advantage of the free therapy of getting it off your chest in the comments section below 😉