Processing Negative User Feedback: A Six-Stage Model for Not Going Insane
As an independent game developer with a game in early access, I get a lot of feedback on my game, not all of it very nice, or coherent. In this talk, I present a six-stage model that describes how a problem with your game is perceived and communicated to you by your users. This model accounts for mismatches in perception, assumptions and language between the player and developer. It can be practically used to determine the root cause of the negative feedback.
I live in Zurich with my partner and two cats. My main current project is Airships: Conquer the Skies, a Steampunk shipbuilding RTS. I also do smaller prototypes and games on occasion, as well as maintaining Selenium Builder, participating in Open Data work, and doing freelance software development.
If you're looking for game development advice or feedback, I'm happy to help.
My free time is largely spent playing board and computer games and cuddling the aforementioned partner and cats. I also organize game development meetups, do talks, fiddle with various art styles, and write about stuff. I have a morbid fascination with all the bits of history that get left out in school. I'd like to believe that rationality and kindness are not opposed.
Airships now includes instructions on how to set up your own multiplayer server. Here's why this matters:
I was recently thinking about just how satisfying fancy-looking progress bars in games are. When you've got a nice, swirly XP bar, and it fills up, and you gain a level, that feels viscerally great. Meanwhile, progress bars on the web tend to be minimalist. So I decided to make some decidedly fancy progress bars using CSS.
When you're creating a new ship design, it's nice to be able to work quickly. Having to scroll through the list of modules is pretty tedious, which is why Airships has long had search for modules. In version 9.1, I've improved the search system, allowing you to get the exact module you want with very few keystrokes.
A quick pixel piece from this photo reference.
I've been thinking about the different kinds of grids of tiles and blocks used in games, which come in a variety of scales and shapes.
The HMS Sojourner was an experimental airship from some years back. A huge Suspendium crystal had been found in a deep mine, and the kingdom's best scientists had examined it and found it to be flawless. A crystal of this size, powered up, could lift a ship to unprecedented heights.
The Sojourner was built around the crystal, carefully cradling it in a giant frame of shock absorbers. Huge boilers and generators provided the power to energise the crystal. A team of experienced engineers tended to the engines. The captain was a steadfast veteran.
I realised that I was sick of futzing around with Google Slides for simple presentations, so I made a plain text to HTML slides compiler. There are many like it, but this is mine. I called it Talkify.
I like writing about bugs in Airships. I don't want to present myself as some infallible rock-star Indie developer, because I'm anything but. Airships is a game for builders and tinkerers, and I have seen again and again that you like reading about its creation, warts and all.
So today we delve into The Mystery of HMS Longcat.
A lot of the work I'm putting in for the next version of Airships relates to its interface. Be that improved module search in the editor, or the ability to mod in new map sizes and difficulty levels. One particular improvement that's long overdue is the ability to scale the user interface elements depending on the screen size.
I just bought and played Voyageur, a science fiction story game for mobile. It's one of the games supported through Failbetter's Fundbetter programme, and since I'm mildly obsessed with Sunless Sea, I thought I'd give it a try. I was largely disappointed, though.
I won't bore you with explaining how my own unreleased SF story game would be totally superior. You've read it here before, and comparing a real and finished game with a set of ideas is hardly fair. Instead, let's dig into what makes Voyageur unsatisfying.
I've been ill over the last few days, probably as an inevitable consequence of doing so many events in January. So I've been playing a fair amount of Sunless Sea, a great game if you're ill, because it's quite soothing in a "dark sea filled with monsters" kind of way.
And as always when I play Sunless Sea, my thoughts turn back to Space Exploration: Serpens Sector, my old game project that got backburnered hard when Airships: Conquer the Skies took off. The two games are in the same "go from port to port in your ship and do stuff" genre, after all.
You are in a spaceport, and your Mars rocket is ready to board.
This game is dedicated to Elon Musk, who very much wants to go to Mars, but won't stand up for people just trying to get home.
This is an in-depth tutorial for newcomers to modding. We are going to make a simple mod that adds a new kind of enemy to spawn in strategic mode, a peasant uprising. You need no graphical skills for this one.
As the rather stuffy writer of the Bestiary states, "Pirates have their own crude tradition of flags and symbols." This is true in the real world as well, though I actually think that pirate flags are a rather fascinating topic. And given just how blood-drenched some real-world lords and knights were, I'd accord their heraldry the same amount of respect as I would a pirate flag. That is no actual respect at all, just a healthy dose of terror.
I've been devouring Geek Sublime by Vikram Chandra, which I was given as a Christmas present. The book ties together foundations of computer science, Sanskrit, and the writer's own life experiences. It does not stay up in the clouds creating clever equivalences and brain porn moments but also examines the relationship between the powerful and the powerless, the remembered and the forgotten.
And so Sanskrit is a beautiful language with a rich legacy, but it's also a tedious rote subject inflicted on countless students in the name of shoring up social ideas of purity and hierarchy. Code is amazing, but much of it is promulgated by strutting jerks who see themselves as the new masters of the universe.
One thing the book mentions that I particularly like is the Indian aesthetic theory of rasas. Originally formulated in the context of theatre about two millennia ago, the idea is applicable to all forms of art and literature.
Why do I like it so much? Because it describes a precise mechanism by which art and literature actually work.
2016 was a perfectly decent year for me, my friends and family, and you already know the ways in which it was awful.
So let's skip the summarizing and let us cast our eyes to 2017.
I'm starting a new series of blog posts showcasing Airships Let's Plays on YouTube. First and foremost has to be Stuff+, who's been making videos about the game for more than two years. A lot of you probably already know him because he introduced you to it!
After a great deal of time in development, the next major release of Airships is done! Headline features include monsters like dragons and giant spiders, new music, and player-created combat scenarios.
The task of classifying the dangers of our world is ongoing. Dragons were once thought to be myths, but have proven all too real. Rumours of dragon-tamers may yet turn out to be true as well.
Addenda to the bestiary.
Saw one of them reasonably close up today. It was hunting not for me, I think, bigger prey. Drawing is mostly from memory, but I can tell you that it was fully as large as the stories say.. Should make a fine add. to the compendium if you ever decide to take that up again.
A bestiary entry about dragons.
Yes, of course I’ve heard what the superstitious locals say: “Stay out of the mountains! There’s no shelter on those harsh peaks, and every last combe and glen is infested with killer spiders!”. They say there’s no way to safely cross that mountain range - anyone trying to rest high up on the peaks will die of exposure, lashed by cruel icy winds. Better that, though, than to risk seeking shelter in the forested vales.
A bestiary entry about giant spiders.
These are men, they say, but I count them among the beasts. Some of them rose from common thieves, others deserted, ship and all, to start a more profitable venture than soldiering. All of them are cruel and rapacious, issuing forth from their lairs in the mountains and deep forests to prey upon common people.
A bestiary entry about pirates.
Monstrous terror-mechs in the shape of giant man-eating nutcrackers. The brilliance of their inventor is only matched by her sadism.
A bestiary entry about Fleshcrackers.