Hello, and welcome to Dev Talk, the weekly iFanzine feature in which I ask a panel of indie game developers their opinion on a topic or current hot-button issue related to the games industry.
This week I posed the following question(s): “Do you pay much heed to user reviews of your games? And have you received any particularly funny, weird or otherwise memorable ones via the App Store or Google Play?”
Here’s what the devs had to say…
Reviews can be helpful, both positive and negative, but I feel you shouldn’t get too hung up on them. If a negative review is pressing you toward your vision for the game, then it’s helpful. Otherwise just accept it as one player’s opinion and move on. On the other hand you shouldn’t let positive reviews puff you up too much either.
We do pay attention to user reviews of our games but we’re very careful about how we deconstruct and interpret their words. People have been super sweet on our reviews and it warms our hearts. Every now and then a players might say something like “the game is too easy”, but they don’t mean “easy.” Instead, they root around for their undesired emotional response. They would have meant ‘predictable’ or ‘samey’ or ‘unrewarding,’ and all of these things can be fixed. It’s easy as a developer to try and quickly act on what’s being said. Our lecturers continuously try to drill this into us and remind us of the importance of listening.
Yes, we do. In fact, we try to answer every review, always encouraging a dialogue between players and developers. So far, this helped us greatly in prioritizing new features. The coolest moment is replying few days later with “Done! Check out the latest update.”
I’m a Steam developer, so yes, I pay attention to my reviews. We get a countable number, since we’re not in F2P. Even the hurtful ones, you have to parse through, to try and figure out what the person is upset about, and see if it’s something you can address. You never respond in kind, of course, but sometimes it’s as simple as they missed an option that would have helped them — or you legit screwed up and you need to fix a bug ASAP.
We got a really fun one on our solitaire card game Calm Cards – Klondike. The person wrote all these nice things about the game, how it was beautiful, no ads, great music and how it was exactly the card game he/she wanted to play(!), but they gave us 1/5 because you had to flip over every card manually and drag them to their place. We wanted it to be like a real card game, relaxing and calm. And we wrote all that in the description as well just to be extra clear. Guess you REALLY can’t win them all!
We do check out user reviews, just as we do critic reviews. Any feedback can be useful. What we’re mainly looking for are repeating patterns, good or bad. What’s the most often mentioned positives, or what’s the most often mentioned flaw? It’s useful to ponder on both, and either update the game accordingly, or keep in mind for the next game. But it largely stops there. We don’t very often give a lot of thought to single opinions, like “The hat on this dude is my exact favourite shade of purple, I love this game!” or “I’ve never played a game with this bad movement mechanics,” because a single opinion doesn’t really give us much to work with. It’s also quite typical to get polar opposite feedback, like “The levels on this game are amazing!” and the next review is “Wow, these are the worst levels ever.” We just chalk those to matters of personal preference, and it’s fine.
We also shield ourselves to some extent from the most vicious negative reviews, as I think and hope most developers do. The toxicity some gamers project towards developers is a pretty well known thing, and you just need to be able to cope with it in a way that doesn’t get to you even on the long haul. Probably the most reliable source of absurd hilarity are reviews from someone in a totally different culture, translated badly with Google Translate. It can be a true test of wits to figure out what the person is trying to say.
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