Game talkOn getting criticism

 Posted by (Visited 32401 times)  Game talk  Tagged with: , ,
Oct 142013
 

Lately I have been working on multiple new games. And whenever you are working on games, of course, you get people to try them, and a lot of them don’t like what they see.

I’ve gotten a lot of criticism over the years, and I haven’t always taken it the right way. These days, criticism comes from all directions, and work is often shared before it’s really done. It can be hard to know what to listen to and when to stick to your guns.

Ultima Online is a Hall of Fame game. It averaged 6/10 in reviews. Star Wars Galaxies got a famously mixed reception, and closed down a while back; I still get fan mail.

So here’s my takeaways from all those years of being told that my work sucks:

Everyone who dislikes your work is right.

This is the hardest pill to swallow. I’ve never gotten a piece of feedback that was wrong. You see, you can’t deny a player their unique experience. Whatever they felt, was true. For them. And something in your work triggered it.

It is useless, and worse, actually self-defeating, to attempt to deny the critique. Sure, there are sometimes reviews that seem spiteful, unfair, and the rest. But the vast majority of the time, people are giving their honest reaction.

And the bottom line is, you put the game out there in order to get reactions. If it were not for reactions, you could have just kept the game in your drawer and gotten everything you needed out of it.

The criticism that is useful is that which helps you do it better.

People make games for different reasons. Some do it just because it is fun. Some do it as a form of personal expression. Some have a message to get across, and some are out to make money to put food on the table.

Whatever your goal is, doing it better is held in common. That sense of craftsmanship is the common ground that unites us all. Do what you do better, serve the work better, and you get to do it again.

That means there are two aspects of your work that you want to hear about the most. What you did right, and what you did wrong.

Nothing’s perfect.

All our babies seem perfect until that first player touches them. We have to learn they are not. Nothing is. People who point out flaws are just pointing out reality. If you can’t see the flaws in your own work, you probably need to get some distance. You can’t do your best work if you cannot get that distance, because you will learn to gloss over problems. It is amazing how they will vanish into a blind spot.

In my case, I often have to leave stuff sit for a long time. A year, or more. The fastest way to short-circuit this process is to stand behind someone who tries to play my game, and shut up and say nothing. It’s awesome: suddenly everything in it sucks! Then I furiously take notes.

The fact is that to do creative work is to know that most of what you do is shit. And we feel that way because we know we can do better. Honestly, if you aren’t pushing the boundaries of what you can do, you’re probably not working hard enough. And working at the edge means a lot of screw-ups.

You often have to choose between your ideals and your message.

One of the commonest pieces of feedback I get is that I am choosing some philosophical ideal over the player’s experience. It might be getting wedded to an aesthetic or visual I love that is just confusing the issue. It might be sticking with PvP for too long in order to serve an ideal of virtual citizenship, not paying attention to how many players are being chased out of the game.

The irony here, of course, is that if I can’t make the player’s experience positive enough, my ideal is failing to reach them anyway. And what good is it then?

It doesn’t mean I have to give up on the philosophical ideal. But it does mean that there are many many ways to compromise, and not all of them leave you compromised. In fact, being uncompromising may be the least successful way to achieve your artistic goal.

You have to dig to get the gold.

Most feedback you get isn’t going to be from fellow practitioners. Even when it is, they are not going to know as much about the specific ways in which you did things, the tools you used, the practices you follow, to be able to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong without a pretty deep dive.

This means that usually, when someone tells you that something is wrong or broken, it’s going to be wrong. But wrong in the sense that it will be imprecise. You need to find out what the problem is underlying the problem. In other words, the symptoms described will almost always be right, and the diagnosis will often be wrong.

Don’t discard the feedback because of this. Look at it as a door you need to push on. Dig deeper and find out what the real issue is.

Good feedback is detailed.

Sometimes you get a piece of feedback that is highly specific. It offers alternate word choices. It tells you the basics like you’re an idiot. It offers suggestions that are likely things you considered and discarded. It rewrites the plot for you. It feels like a rug burn: condescending, a checklist of everything wrong. You walk away feeling like this is the worst feedback ever.

It isn’t, though. It’s the best.

Look past what may feel like condescension. This sort of detail is impossible for someone who has not engaged fully with your work. The sign of a critic who does not care is brevity, not detail. It’s dismissal.

Now, all the other caveats about whether or not this feedback is right still apply. It can be detailed and not right. But never dismiss serious thought.

People who tell you you’re awesome are useless. No, dangerous.

They are worse than useless because you want to believe them. They will defend you against critiques that are valid. They will seduce you into believing you are done learning, or into thinking that your work is better than it actually is. Especially watch out for the ones who tell you that nobody understands your genius.

Honestly, this is going to sound horrible, but self-doubt is one of your most powerful tools for craftsmanship. None of the designers you admire feel self-confident about their work in that way. None of them think that they are awesome. They all suffer from impostor complexes the size of the Titanic.

I am not saying that you need to lack confidence in yourself. (Heck, you’ll never put anything out if that’s the case! You need to have the arrogance to assume anyone will care in the first place). I am saying that nobody is ever done learning, and people who tell you you have arrived will give you a sense of complacency. You should never be complacent about your art.

Someone asked for feedback will always find something wrong.

This is super simple. When someone is asked to critique something, they will feel like they have failed if they don’t find something wrong. So everyone will always find something, even if there’s nothing major to fix.

That doesn’t mean that the thing they mention is wrong. If the only feedback you get from multiple people is the same minor thing, you should feel pretty good!

Good work may not have an audience.

This is a sad truth. There is no correlation between quality and popularity. You may make something that is sophisticated, subtle, expressive, brilliant, and lose out to what is shallow and facile and brash. Oh well. And that really is the right attitude to have about it, too: oh well. Getting bitter about it is pointless.

That said, don’t underestimate the skill required in being simple, polished, and accessible. Dense and rich is easy. Simple is hard. You denigrate “pop” at your peril.

Any feedback that comes with suggestions for improvement is awesome.

That’s because it means the person offering the criticism actually thought about your goals. So either you get avenues to explore that assist you in your artistic goal, or you get told that your goal is invisible to an audience! Both are highly valuable information.

If you agree with the criticism, say “thank you.” If you disagree, say “fair enough,” and “thank you.”

Complaining about a critique, or about a bad review, is utterly pointless. You can’t deny the subjective experience of the reviewer. You also have to be thankful that they paid enough attention to actually say anything at all. The fact is that indifference is the enemy, not engagement, even if that engagement doesn’t get the results you want.

You’re going to face way more indifference in your career than anything else. There are a lot of people out there working really hard, and they all want the audience attention that you do.  Always be grateful for the attention. Someone takes the time to let you know what they thought? That’s already one in a thousand. They cared.

You are not your work.

Above all, don’t forget this. Oh, be personally invested, of course. Your art will be poorer if you are not. But every little ship we launch is just our imperfect crafting of the moment. And we move on. We create again, and again. Each can only ever express a fragment, a tiny fraction of ourselves. And if you are trying to always improve in your craft and your art, then every old fragment, everything out there in the world already, that’s old news. You are on the next thing. Your next work, that’s who you are. Not the work that exists, but the work that does not yet.

So if someone savages it, who cares? That was yesterday. It’s not who you are now.

Hold on to that, because a lot of people can’t separate the work from the artist. Including a lot of artists.

That’s all I’ve got.

And really, this post is as much for myself as it is for anyone else. Because we all need reminding.

  53 Responses to “On getting criticism”

  1. +1

    people who don’t create and then put it out there for everyone to consume/critique, either 1) don’t understand how hard it is or 2) are terrified to do it because of criticism. this is a great summation of the process to understanding criticism.

    oh, and detailed feedback on ways to improve your work? awesome! i just want to hug those people — even if i have to reach through the internet to do it.

  2. […] Source: Koster’s blog […]

  3. Here sir, take my like: +1
    This is brilliant beyond words.

  4. Agreed.

    Coincidentally, I got excellent feedback this morning from a 12 year old who was handed my game without any instructions.

    He swiped the screen, poked at the screen, and he even shook the device, but could not make it do what he wanted. He kept moving between the two monsters and couldn’t kill him. He was ignoring the brightly colored Attack button.

    Yes, I lost a potential tester (he thinks my game is lame), but I gained a lot of insight in how ‘real’ people will interact with my game.

  5. “You are not your work.”
    I think you should emphasize this point more. We’re inclined to see our work as a measurement of our own ability, to treat each piece as an American Idol performance we want to dazzle everyone in the crowd with, but
    while our abilities have room for constant improvement, making a game isn’t about showcasing our abilities.
    If know what you’re making, if you know the intent, the purpose and the scope and what niche it holds, then simply make what you intend to make. People want you to believe there’s a right and wrong and that they know which is which, but in general there really isn’t such a thing. If you’ve made what you intended to make then whether or not someone likes it is mostly a matter of personal tastes. It only says anything about that person in relation to that particular project.
    You have to know what you’re making. You can’t make much worth a damn by simply sampling what other people think you should be making.
    In my opinion don’t take most criticism too seriously. Increasingly in our culture people feel the need to play the role of the tv judge. Just about every site has a comments section on almost every page, every celebrity has some column for people to discuss how they’re running their lives wrong, every talent show has millions of viewers voting at home with their own precious opinions on who’s the best. You can no longer do anything without someone somewhere being the judge of you failing the in the grand ‘design competition’, the ‘health competition’, the ‘life competition’. I’d say take technical criticism from your peers, things that will better help you to execute what you set out to do, but avoid the noise as best you can.

  6. Hear hear! Very well put

  7. This is great, I have been thinking about this lately, but, what do you do with contradicting feedback? one that tells you that something is wrong, and another one that tells you it’s good?.

  8. Great points Raph but permit me to play Devil’s Advocate.

    I’ve long thought designers of MMOs are too worried about what players think. Players know this and game this.

    In sport a ref makes a decision and it’s not negotiable. Rules tend to be clear-cut and long standing.

    MMOs lack that clarity and it hurts the game. Case in point: when SWG was in its first year Combat Medics had a really bad effect on pvp. My gang could be brawling another gang for an hour then suddenly a CM came along and one side gets Mind Wounds and the fun was over. It was really not fun.

    There was a small group of highly invested very articulate forum posters on the official board who would instantly rally to face off against any complaint. Over and over someone would say it sucked that CMs kill pvp (which was a hell of a lot of fun until a CM turned up), and within an hour there would be half a dozen posts shooting it down with the same rote arguments (bring a doctor, learn to play, etc etc).

    Because Sony was and is obsessed with customer feedback (appropriate in a company that sells radios and walkmans but not appropriate in a referee) it felt like they were scared to fix quite glaring flaws where a loud and articulate player base that enjoyed being overpowered articulately resisted the change.

    Imagine a soccer match where when someone is given offside the players then surround the referee and all shout at him and the ref gives the decision to the team shouting the loudest.

    It’s not good enough to see players as informed sources of information. We’re competitive we’re clever and we’re cynical. From our perspectives you developers are a resource we can exploit to help us win.

  9. This was an excellent read, thank you ! I wish i could find something to criticize so as not to fall in the dangerous category though…

  10. If there’s one huge concern I have had over the years with this subject, it’s that I always get the sinking feeling that the feedback comes from primarily a hardcore subsection of the gamer base, and that the developer base is also filled with the same types.

    It just seems to me that the issue of all these Themepark MMOs in recent years, largely not real successful, is exactly because of this issue. That these groups are over weighted with that particular genre of gamer. Coming from hardcore Single Player Games, player and developer alike.

    I have to say here also that it seems to me this is changing.

  11. Interesting post. The “You are not your work” is an issue I face with every new member of my teams (though I’m not in the gaming industry).

    What I find interesting is a beginning trend – that popular belief isn’t God. I’m fed up with games changing direction because the players whine.

    Most of the time the users give you their diagnosis of what they think is the problem, but their perception of the symptoms is often based on some past experience, not on the facts. So whar you get is a biased diagnosis, while what would like was an objective list of symptoms and suggestions for remedy.

    So when you produce something, make sure to enforce your principles. Those principles is what the players bought. If some loud minority whines alot, be very careful to change those principles, because you will loose the silent majority if you do.

  12. Erithiel, I strongly agree with that. I wrote a little bit about it here: http://www.raphkoster.com/2011/06/30/marketing/

  13. What a fantastic read. Some years ago I produced a mod for a well known game. The general public did not take to it, but it became a cult classic with clans and guilds. I beat myself to death over it thinking that I was failing because my mod was not reaching pop culture status. I know now, not then, that I was simply catering to a specific audience and it was very little to do with me or the work. None the less, at the time I drove myself up the walls adding feature after feature “chasing the prize”, putting in 20 hours days for months. No amount of compliments or accolades soothed me because I was so focused on being #1.

    I wish I could go back and tell myself to stick with what made it work and cater to the people playing the game and not trying to reach the audience that isn’t yet.

    If only I had read this then! True words of wisdom, and I hope it reaches the eyes and ears of up and coming developers.

    ~cheers!

  14. Mostly agree, but there are a few things I think deserve mentioning

    First… Yes, all criticism is valid insofar as it simply expresses how someone feels (and people are allowed to feel however they do). BUT, not all feedback can and should be taken on board as ACTIONABLE. It should be heard, read, evaluated and fully considered. What to actually DO with the feedback is a whole other article (that I hope you will write).

    Second. One reason you can’t act on all feedback is that much of it is contradictory. A level is too hard for some players and too easy for others. The lighting is too dark for some players and just right for others. Etc. Even in these cases, there may be fruitful improvements – a level was too hard for some players because it lacked proper set up text though some subset of players got by without it (and then found it too easy). But the point remains, sometimes you have found the sweet spot BECAUSE you have opposing POVs about your creation.

    Third, some feedback can be “wrong” insofar as it truly represents player error. Now that CAN lead you down a fruitful path (usability, say), but that’s not quite the same thing.

    Finally, while I completely agree that creators must take onboard all the feedback, I also have pushed hard to have people on my teams deliver useful, constructive, DETAILED and specific feedback. “I don’t like it” is acceptable from John Q. Public. It is NOT sufficient from a member of the development team. Anyone can say good/bad or like/dislike. The meat is in what drove that impression. People in the business of making games can and must go beyond simple value judgements.

  15. Raph, thank you for writing an exceptional post. I deal with this issue of feedback with games and also with my novel-writing, which is often even more painful, because at least with videogames I can tell myself that external factors were involved! :-)

    For acquiring feedback, I’m a huge fan of standing behind the player, never speaking, and just watching them play. It is the most informative approach for me, and I don’t consider a game design to be done until I’ve gone through several sessions of that kind of 1:1 usability testing.

    BTW, a short video that helped me deal with some of the emotional issues of creativity: Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED talk, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86x-u-tz0MA

  16. I have always learned so much more from people who critique my work than from people who just love it. I feel a great sense of gratification when people love what I offer, but I get better and can improve when people take the time to help me improve. That said, sometimes people simply don’t like what I’ve done. Perhaps they didn’t like the format or that I left something out that was important to them, or that I didn’t meet some expectation of theirs. It’s easy to tell myself that you can’t please everybody, but in reality, they are offering me an opportunity to rethink my approach, maybe in the next project, or in this one if it isn’t too late. One of the reasons I create is to communicate with others. It’s great when the communicate back.

  17. Beautifully written. Deserves a disclaimer that this really applies to ALL creative work, not just games – by extension, the commenters in this thread critiquing your post should be considered helpful, and the ones saying “great post!” are doubly ironic ;)

    I strive to be the designer who can get an earful from playtesters telling me how they hate everything about the game and by extension they hate me, personally, as a designer… and then turn to face them and genuinely say “wow, THANK YOU for doing this, it is a gift to me that you say these things and it will make the game so much better.” I’m not there. I’m not that kind of person yet. But I’ve seen it happen with other designers and it is magical to behold.

  18. Awesome post! It’s certain to get some great replies; I’ve already read some good stuff.

    Trying to stay away from the other comments, I’d like to offer my thoughts on to to get useful feedback.

    I am really not a fan of “specific” feedback insomuch as people tell me exactly what color something should be, the interface should have bigger buttons, etc. What I try to do with feedback is “listen to the pain.” For instance, if someone can tell me they feel “confused” in a particular area it is far more useful than “make the buttons bigger.”

    While we’re at it… I like to watch people’s faces while they play rather than a video of their gameplay.

    If areas / experiences are a problem for enough people, I can make the judgement call to invest time in solving for that pain. The team will do a better job at solving it than any specific piece of feedback from users because they’ll know the easy ways to solve for it, and hopefully those ways will be the answer.

    When I play through a game for the first time, I write up my emotional reaction to the experience. This is something you can really only do well during the first playthrough, so it needs to be very specific. Spend MORE time writing what is good than what needs love. The team needs to know if they are doing a good job. In fact, you may think something is good that they didn’t know they did right, OR you may have experienced it in a way that they didn’t want you to. It’s difficult to tell sometimes. If you’re confused about play… say it.

    I try to find and cultivate players that I can communicate with in this manner, i.e. they are good at telling me their emotions. They also need to be able to get others trained to do it that way as well. This feedback is especially good when used in combination with unrequested, very specific, feedback from other users. When you can cross-check the two… you can get some damn good results.

    Whatever the case, your comment about the people that agree with anything is pretty much right on. Those that tell you it’s great are not helping anything, but they MAY be having the best experience of their lives. That’s awesome, but it’s not going to sharpen a sword.

    Those that share their feedback with you no matter how tough it may be to hear… they do help sharpen your sword and they are valuable. That’s really what we need if we’re going to do our job… deciding if we want to change things or not.

    My last word (for now) on this post is that the only way you CAN do your job is to never take any of this stuff personally. If you can loosen up and listen to the pain, you’ll be able to get there. If you fight it and take things personally… you are in the wrong industry OR you need to go get some therapy, because it’s going to EAT YOU UP. Your point about having some self-doubt isn’t wrong… I just think it’s more healthy to be just open to optimizing the experience rather than through doubt. If you have created an experience that really maximizes the feelings you want players to feel, that’s great and you should enjoy it. But since you didn’t do it completely on your own you shouldn’t become an egomaniac. You had to listen to people in order to know how to tweak it, so it’s not all you, baby. :)

    Fight for the users!
    bjc

    PS Bring on the feedback for the feedback!

  19. >Everyone who dislikes your work is right.
    Yes, but your work isn’t for everyone.The ones who should be liking it but who aren’t are the ones you need to worry about.

    >The criticism that is useful is that which helps you do it better.
    Much of game design following playtests is about editing. People tell you all sorts of things. Often they contradict one another. Some of their ideas are good, some are not so good, some are atrocious. You have to choose which ones to listen to and which ones not to listen to, based on which will improve the game as you see it. You get to decide what (for you) is signal and what (for you) is noise. Ideally, that’s an artistic position; in practice, it’s often a commercial one.

    >Nothing’s perfect.
    Corollary: this means everything can be improved.

    >You often have to choose between your ideals and your message.
    I disagree. You don’t have to compromise your ideals. You do, however, have to figure out how to convey those ideals to the player. What you want to say doesn’t have to change merely because you can’t yet figure out how to say it in a way that people understand. The game design is itself part of the process of saying it. After all, if you could express your ideals better some other way, why would you try to express them through a game?

    >You have to dig to get the gold.
    Feedback is evidence. What it’s evidence of isn’t necessarily related to what the feedback purports to say. There are two directions you can come at this, not just the one. The first direction is to look at the feedback, assemble it, organise it, and follow the consequences of it in your design. The second direct is to look at your design and postulate what feedback would arise if your assumptions were wrong, then see if it’s present. Digging for gold is the former approach: “someone found gold here, I’ll look for some more”. Prospecting for gold is the latter approach: “what kind of terrain might I find gold in?”.

    >Good feedback is detailed.
    Indeed. I’d say that if at all possible, you should engage with the people who provide you with good feedback and see if they can give you more. Propose solutions to the problems they have identified and ask if they think these would address their concerns wihout introducing further problems. Note, though, that “good feedback is detailed” isn’t the same as “detailed feedback is good”, which you sort of imply in your discussion of this point. Detailed feedback can sometimes be awful.

    >People who tell you you’re awesome are useless. No, dangerous.
    This point doesn’t seem to have been picked up by the several people responding to your post saying what an awesome read it is…
    This is one of those points that works differently for different people. Some individuals have such depths of self-doubt that only by being surrounded by a constant cacaphony of people telling them how great they are do they have the ability to continue. Others think that they’re not getting the recognition they deserve and will take every claim of awesomeness as a reason not to give up. I agree that many will start to believe what they’re told, though, and acquire an inflated view of their own abilities. This seems particularly true of stage schools, which churn out youngsters with unshakeable self-belief, who are so convinced of the huge magnitude of their talent that they feel it’s their duty to share it with the rest of us, even though the rest of us are indifferent to them.

    >Someone asked for feedback will always find something wrong.
    Corollary: if you look at your own work, you’ll always find something wrong with it.

    >Good work may not have an audience.
    Worse, it might have an audience but you can’t put it before that audience. There are some brilliant games for smartphones, but none of us know about them because they’re 500,000th in the app store.

    >Any feedback that comes with suggestions for improvement is awesome.
    This kind of feedback has to be listened to every time, because it has a “how” component to it. Also useful is feedback that identifies the causes of a problem if not the fix, because it has a “why” component to it. Other feedback is less useful individually and more useful in aggregate.

    >You are not your work.
    True, but your work is you.

    Richard

  20. People who tell you you’re awesome are not useless. People who tell you that you’re an infallable demigod and defend your every mistake are, but the people who love you and your work will balance criticism with praise. Don’t reject or downplay praise. When you’re just getting started in a creative endeavor, you need that occasional ego boost. And even when you’re getting more praise than you think you deserve, positive feedback about what you did right is just as important as what you did wrong. Otherwise you end up changing things that didn’t need to be changed.

    I have to fight my tendency to reject praise, out of shyness or a general feeling of unworthiness. Too much modesty is a handicap. Part of believing in your work is being able to accept that other people believe in your work too. And besides, rejecting praise is an insult to the praiser’s judgement, analytical capability, and good taste :)

  21. Criticism is part of the creative process. You work hard to bring something into the world and your first reward is people telling you what they don’t like about your work. But it’s important to realize that creativity is an iterative and continuing process. You never expect to get it right with version 1. I’ve been involved in usability testing since 1995, often in labs behind mirrored glass observing people use software. And it’s an incredible learning experience to see how people approach things. You quickly realize that people rely on all of their past experiences and the way they are used to doing things when trying to interact with your software. It absolutely influences their expectations and what they’ll feel is “intuitive.” This is why if you design something that is based around your preferences or follows the way you think, the group of people who like your product will typically be very similar to you. I’ve seen this play out so many times. But if you want to play this game, you need to be able to interpret the criticism for what it is and use it to challenge your design assumptions. I once worked with a backend engineer who wanted to get into UI development. His workflow was that he would think hard about a problem, come up with what he thought was the perfect solution, implement it, and then feel a sense of accomplishment that he was done. When he did his first (and probably only) UI project, he was almost in tears during a usability testing session as he watched users become frustrated as they struggled to use his “perfect design.” From that experience, he decided that he wanted to stay on the backend. It takes a certain breed who can do creative work, accept criticism as an opportunity to gain more insight, and not feel discouraged.

  22. It’s really difficult dealing with criticism, specially when you can’t remember why you took some design decisions, that you thought where right at that moment. For example many times I had a design, then before doing a prototype people ciriticize the design, then I changed it, the prototype was made, and people realized it didnt work, so we get back to the original design! thats frustrating…

  23. […] Raph’s Website » On getting criticism […]

  24. […] Raph Koster on digesting criticism and learning to balance hope vs. real-life experience. […]

  25. […] This was a blog post passed onto me through some forums I frequent.  http://www.raphkoster.com/2013/10/14/on-getting-criticism/ […]

  26. I find it hard to agree with some of these points, but I won’t deny their credibility. I have yet to encounter any kind of legitimate reception for my work, but when I do I will be sure to look back on this piece in order to cope with what I receive.

    I want my work to do well, in every regard, for I feel like what I’m creating is… a part of me. It even defines who I am. Criticism is hard to take, but I do value it. I just wonder sometimes if what I do is for me, and me alone. That if I were to be perfectly happy with the end result, would I really care what other people think? I still don’t know if I should, but in other regards, this piece was very eye opening for me. I appreciate that.

  27. […] Found this article by Ralph Koster (game developer – Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, according to wikipedia) on Metafilter, and holy cats is it relevant to MFA. I'm thinking about adding it to the OF&FC preamble. It's absolutely worth reading the whole thing, but I'll pull out what I think are the highlights: […]

  28. Why do i keep thinking about SWTOR devs when i read this, the most arrogant people i know that refuse to take feedback work in Austin.They actually ban people on the forum everyday who is not in anyway rude or trolling just speaks the truth.Take a lesson EA.

  29. Funny story, Wildhubba… I had a stint as a contract forum moderator with EA, and I had to remove posts (and sometimes posters) on a daily basis for violations of the board rules. But the devs still wanted feedback from those posts, they were still visible and viewed internally, and in at least one case we ended up hiring somebody who had been suspended from the forums.

    I don’t recommend violating board rules; the people who abided by the rules and posted constructive, actionable criticism got top billing in the summaries. But no useful feedback was ignored, even if it was expressed in terms a bit too… colorful for public consumption.

    Of course, that was one team on one game. I have no idea how SWTOR handles their forums. But I suspect it’s a similar system. Any time you’ve got millions riding on a project, you’d be criminally negligent not to pore over every bit of feedback you can get your hands on.

  30. Sometimes feedback is about comparing what we intended to what we did. We change what we did to better match what we intended.
    Sometimes feedback is about comparing what we intended to what they expected. We either have to change our intentions, or ignore their expectations.
    IMO: The first of these is a no-brainer. The second of these is quietly profound, and difficult to see in ourselves. While many blogs touch on the first, this blog touches on both. Very refreshing to read. “Problems vanishing into a blind spot”: yes, exactly! “Watch out for the ones who tell you that nobody understands your genius.” Amen. It isn’t genetics, it is hard work.

    Having said that – there are a few points that may be improved.
    First, maybe the distinction above could be emphasized. Sometimes we move the work closer to the goal, and sometimes we move the goal closer to the collective need. I feel that these are distinct processes.
    “You often have to choose between your ideals and your message.” Agree with the general advice. Maybe “compromise” is the wrong word? But yes, compromises don’t all leave you compromised.
    “Good feedback is detailed.” Agree with the main point. You could emphasise that good feedback may come from one review with a lot of detail, or a collection of many (undetailed and apparently different) reviews. Treating many criticisms collectively can get a similar degree of detail.
    Again, getting criticism can be thought of as a way of distilling a collective wisdom. To get at the real issue, maybe we need to dig wider.

    Thank you for the blog.

  31. […] Raph Koster on digesting criticism and learning to balance hope vs. real-life experience. […]

  32. […] asking to be criticism. That said, someone posted this article to a game designer I really liked: Raph's Website » On getting criticism The short points from Raph Koster are this (if you want his explanations, check out the article): […]

  33. […] you read this article by game designer Raph Koster? I instantly recognized several themes, not just from my game playtesting days at Cranium, but also […]

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