I started working on Idle Civilization in January of this year and had set a deadline for myself of 1 month to get it to a “working” state. Now we all know that in programming, that rarely happens, so six weeks later I had a working prototype which I decided to show to the world. It is now almost April and my game is still in Beta, but it is in a much more advanced state, both from the point of view of stability (bugs, mechanics) as well as content.
The important thing I want to underline is that I don’t think the game would’ve come so far along if I hadn’t published a beta version of it when I did. Community helps a lot and having people actually play your game and give you feedback is immensely important. From the point of view of the developer, everything is quite …well, obvious. It’s obvious why this works like that, it’s obvious where that button leads, what clicking that will do, what you’re supposed to do next. Even to me, when designing this idle builder, it was quite obvious that, oh, I’m supposed to get here in X hours, then I’m supposed to create a colony, pick this and that when I start over… and… NO!
NO, that’s not how it works. What is obvious to you is completely obscure to others. They won’t understand the game in the same way that you do. The only place where the roles are reversed is where bugs come into play. That is where things you would have never thought of turn out to be awful bugs.
So that is where a community is important. Without all the lovely people who played my game, Idle Civilization probably wouldn’t have shaped into something coherent. So let’s see what exactly I mean here:
1. Listen to feedback – It won’t be easy, a lot of players will just rip your work apart. So don’t get emotional, don’t get angry and lash out. LISTEN, listen, listen and try to understand why they said the game is not fun, or what is broken, or why they don’t understand what’s going on. Try to see it from their perspective and fix it…as much as possible.
2. While making your game should be fun, playing the game should be equally (or even more) fun. So if some concepts and mechanics look good on paper, they might not do so well in game. Don’t be afraid to change things around.
3. Prioritize community over revenue. Now this is the most important thing and while it should be evident, a lot of people just want a quick buck. Let’s take a quick example at my game: I could’ve waited a lot more until it was ready to be published, have a fully polished game and eye-catching stuff before I published it to Kongregate. And this would’ve been a bigger shot in the dark. On the one hand, if the game had been good from the get-go then yes, it probably would’ve received top ratings, made the front page, shot up real quick. Now I decided to get a lot of beta-testing first. Has this affected my rating? Most certainly. Have I lost a lot of potential players who got scared away by the buggy start? Most certainly. But as I’ve worked hard daily to address the things my players reported, I feel that I have also built a community of people who appreciate the game. Idle Civilization is now a lot better because of the direction everyone has pointed me in and because of all the feedback they gave me. Like I said many times before, the game would’ve have existed without my players.
4. Read, read and answer, answer. Answer to everyone, answer your comments, your bug reports after you fixed them, your personal messages, facebook messages, answer your trolls, your haters, everyone. This is immensely important, especially for a small dev like me who is just starting out. People really appreciate who makes them feel like their opinion matters, like their issues are addressed and their bugs fixed.
Thanks for reading and let me know about your own experiences!