The role community feedback plays in games development

Gaming communities around the internet have been posting and discussing problems and issues in games for years. As social media became more and more prevalent, more devs started taking these posts and complaints into consideration when developing new games, or even just patches. This does sound like a great initiative, but there is a lot of danger in doing this. A danger for the developers as well as danger for the quality of the games being created.

In a recent article, Ryan Schneider from Insomniac games gave us a glimpse into how their oversaturation on community feedback hampered their artistic vision.

“One of the hardest lessons we learned [at Insomniac] was the shift between Resistance: Fall of Man and Resistance 2,” Schneider said. “We were relatively inexperienced when it came to interacting with our community at that point in time. Social media and community were still in their relatively early days, and we over-indexed on how much we listened to our fanbase versus trusting ourselves.”
In other words, they listened to the vocal minority. Schneider said the result was a sequel that felt too different from its predecessor, and sales that reflected that.
“That’s something we learned the hard way over the years,” Schneider said. "Just because you see it online and you see it in the forums, that doesn’t necessarily represent the majority viewpoint. And even if it does, you still have to think about your predisposition. You have to challenge and reaffirm your own beliefs about what you’re trying to make before you can deliberate and make the final decision.

It’s a really interesting quote that should be more understood by more gamers on the internet. Unfortunately not all our ideas and thoughts are correct, implementable, or should be within the artistic vision of the game.

Tynan Sylvester, the lead designer on Rimworld, states similar feelings in a recent reddit post on the Rimworld subreddit. Here he was talking about the upcoming release of the 1.0 version of Rimworld, a game that’s been in early access for 5 years.

My job is to serve RimWorld players as a whole. That includes super hardcore players with 200 mods, who know every detail of the UI and want more ultra-power user options to make everything more automated, faster, fewer clicks, more fluent. It also includes the 76-year old grandmas and 10-year-old kids who email me to thank me for making a game they can actually play. It includes the people who talk on forums, and the great silent majority who never say anything online at all.""

Following from this, he then stated:

I have to make changes that help a lot of those people without hurting any of them. Many power user requests, for example, would hurt new players by adding complexity that new players need to learn to avoid. Nobody wants to open a game and see 100 buttons on every menu, even if each one has a power user purpose. It’s intimidating.

It is clear that developers will need to understand that there is a fine balancing act to be done on community feedback. Developers cannot completely ignore what the internet and the fans want, but overindulging them in their wants and demands also means that a game can stray more and more away from the initial artistic vision. Many of these games are popular due to the fact that the initial concept was amazing and fun to play. By bastardising this with too much community feedback, the game can become something not resembling what fans actually find fun and enjoyable

While there are many games that can do with listening to their fans, we have to remember that we are not the developers, and we cannot determine to path forward for games. Especially in this age of early access titles, beta test, feedback is necessary, but should probably be tempered.

So next time you feel like developers are not listening to your concerns and issues with a game, remember that they themselves may have other plans for the game.

What do you think, should developers listen more or less to community feedback?