24: Feedback

24: Feedback

How do you incorporate feedback when testing your designs, and how do you make sense of contradicting opinions?

 

 

Feedback is great, of course, but what you’re looking for is repeated incidents from different groups. If something is gamebreaking, yes, it must be fixed, but if it’s a rare occurrence that players can successfully game their way out of, I see that as part of the game’s journey. There’ll always be weird outliers, so a lot of the time the question boils down to “Is that a bug or a feature?”.

Regarding contradictions, I always keep in mind that it’s my name that’ll be on the front of the box, so ultimately the call on what direction to go is down to me. You can’t design for everyone, but you should always aim to create something that you are happy with. Go with your gut and see what feels right.

Michael Fox

I try to find the underlying issue, the rule or mechanic that is sticking and then try and smooth that out. Very rarely do I use the bare feedback from a playtester at face value.

Adrienne Ezell

Feedback is probably the most important tool for me as a games designer, as I use it to help determine if the game is actually engaging with the intended audience in the way I had hoped. I tend to use quite detailed surveys to gather feedback, but I am always conscious of the fact that sometimes my playtesters are trying to design a different game entirely!

Sam Illingworth

When the feedback makes sense to me, I always apply a change in my design in that direction, in order to see what it brings and if it works. When contradicting feedback all makes sense I usually try one out, then the next, and so on, and see if one works better than the others. And sometimes, I find a solution that satisfies all the received feedback, and that is epic bliss!

Doria Roustan

I always keep in mind that it’s my name that’ll be on the front of the box, so ultimately the call on what direction to go is down to me. You can’t design for everyone, but you should always aim to create something that you are happy with. — Michael Fox

It really helps to have a solid sense of your target demographic before going into playtesting and collecting feedback. Some playtesters are good about taking into consideration that different games are made for different audiences and that they don’t all need to match the template of their personal favourites. Others, not so much. Generally speaking, trust in the feedback that comes from players who are excited about the game even if it’s flawed. The people who genuinely enjoy it and want it to succeed. Don’t pay so much attention to folks who want the game to be something else completely.

Clio Davis

It can be a very difficult process differentiating progressive feedbacks and feedbacks born out of biases. One way I incorporate feedback is through actual plays and trying hard not to be emotionally affected. And when there are contradicting opinions, I quickly announce that I am neutral, I then lay out the facts (game components, storyline, appropriateness etc) and we try both feedbacks and move on with the best applied one.

Kenechukwu Ogbuagu KC

The real job of a game designer is to identify what to keep and what to trash in all playtesters feedback. That’s the reason why i’m always participating to all playtest sessions, to analyse these feedbacks through my own filter.

Bruno Cathala

We prefer to playtest once or twice, take the feedback home and then work on it. This allows us to make smaller changes, a bit at a time. It’s a slower method, but getting many playtests in row can produce a lot of overwhelming feedback that is hard to sort through. As for contradicting feedback, we just have to keep our design goals and target audience in mind and that helps us figure out what feedback is useful & what’s not. But even contradictions can show us new paths the game can take.

Sarah Reed

Generally speaking, trust in the feedback that comes from players who are excited about the game even if it’s flawed. The people who genuinely enjoy it and want it to succeed. Don’t pay so much attention to folks who want the game to be something else completely. — Clio Davis

In Fight Club, the Narrator’s boss asks “Can I get this icon in cornflower blue?”. It’s not long before the Narrator attempts to bring down Western capitalism. One sympathises.

Asking players what they want is folly. And just listening to feedback isn’t enough; you have to really hear it, and decode its source. Seemingly contradictory opinions may then reveal themselves born of the same mother: frustration, displeasure, disappointment, regret.

It’s not your playtesters’ job to solve your game design problem, so don’t listen to their solutions. Hear their problems, answer their questions, and don’t just make the icon cornflower blue.

Bret J. Gilbert

I put a lot more weight on what people are telling me about what worked or didn’t work than their specific suggestions for how to fix them. If people have contradicting opinions I try to figure out what’s at the root of that: often it’s a taste issue, over whether people enjoy things like direct conflict or randomness in their games. And then it comes down to me having to make a decision about what I want the game to be, and who I think my audience will be.

Elizabeh Hargrave

What kind of game do you want to make? Who are you making this game for? What kind of moment, or experience, do you want to create?

As a designer, you need to choose a focus and decide for yourself – would this feedback help you make the game you want to make, or a different game?

Everyone has their own biases and preferences – even changing at different moments!

If you’re unsure whether to go with A or B, try one. If you’re still unsure, test it a few times, then try the other.

You need to make the hard decisions.

Bez Shahriari

I must say that I have very rarely seen contradicting opinions among my play testers. They often dislike this or that, or everything, in one of my prototypes, but most times they all agree. I don’t take notes when play testing, I usually sleep on it and try to come up with new tunings and ideas.

Bruno Faidutti

Just listening to feedback isn’t enough; you have to really hear it, and decode its source. Seemingly contradictory opinions may then reveal themselves born of the same mother: frustration, displeasure, disappointment, regret. — Brett J. Gilbert

I try to test with new players (especially designers) whenever possible. “I liked the previous version better” is tainted feedback; you need fresh eyes to see what people genuinely miss because it’s lacking, rather than just missing it because they liked it. The best games have exactly what’s needed and nothing more.

Peter C. Hayward

Play and clarify as we go along. Often there is a pause for discussion; in some cases, if the comment is such that I feel more thought is needed, I will abandon. I don’t always look for an answer immediately; indeed, a barrage of suggestions can be overwhelming and, frankly, is unwelcome. Contradicting opinions – usually with me on one side – will really depend on the issue; I am perfectly happy to compromise! Ultimately, it is my design so the final say has to square with the ‘me’ that’s left alone at the end of the day!

Tony Boydell

I watch players more than I listen to them. Sometimes playtesters tell me that they had fun, but actually seemed bored. I don’t take feedback at face value. I trust my instinct. It is not the job of playtesters to fix my game, or even to offer suggestions (though that can be helpful). I want to know what emotions they experience during the game. Negative experiences are fine if they are a “taste” issue, and the game functions as it should… so long as other players are having a brilliant time. A consistent lukewarm response is not good enough.

Adam Porter

I try to listen carefully to all the feedback in my testing sessions. And I also put them in context, based on the type of player I have in front of me. I write down any comment said or feeling that a player had and try to look at them a few days later. Any contradicting opinion is always welcome, as it gives me more perspectives of a particular problem.

Eloi Pujadas

While I appreciate every comment playtesters make, I’m very particular about what actually gets incorporated into our games. I prefer to make small changes when iterating because I want to know what, specifically, is affecting the overall experience. I look at 3 factors when determining what to incorporate:

1) The intended vision for the game – does the feedback align with the overall direction we want the game to go in?

2) The propensity of data – how many times has the same feedback been given?

3) Who gave the feedback – are they the intended audience for this game? What is experience?

Sen-Foong Lim

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