Make a Successful Indie Game Using Kickstarter… Criticism, Praise, & The Indie Gaming Community (part 5 of 7)

So you have a small presence on the Internet. If you are good at promoting yourself and using social media, you have a larger presence on the Internet. When you do launch your Kickstarter.com page, your presence will grow even further.

Let’s take a moment and talk about the ugly side of the Internet.

Criticism

Typically, if you are a small indie developer slowing making a game, people will either be supportive or just ignore you. But when you start gaining fame and appearing in front of certain people more often, they start to get irritated. If you get a lot of praise, people who would normally ignore you would become jealous.

More importantly, the second you start asking for money for your game, people will start to get a lot more aggressive. Money is a important commodity, after all, and even supporters will be hesitant to give you funding if you ask for it. Games are expensive to make and expensive to buy, and people simply don’t have time for poorly made things. If there is anything off about your product, people will let you know.

Some people will be especially cruel, and write essay-long rants on what you are doing wrong. I’ve been able to turn a couple people to being nicer, but the Internet is a fierce place. It’s unavoidable. But the important thing is how you deal with these nasty comments.

You could ignore them completely, but I don’t recommend that. Like it or not, there is usually some truth in criticism, sometimes it’s less obvious then you think, but it is there. Before you completely disregard comments, read it once or twice and take away what you could do to make your project better.

One particular blogger named “davidgaames” (I guess “davidgames” was already taken) took the time to write a long post about my Kickstarter campaign, and makes a habit of singling out bad projects (on a free wordpress site). Most of his readers are similar to him (sadly). After reading his reply comments, he has some very serious issues with himself. Parts of his post didn’t make sense or have any merit, but some of it did. Here’s some of the truths I took away from the blog:

  • The way I wrote my Kickstarter was a little full of itself. I wrote it as if it was the best thing ever, as if the story was meaningful, as if it would change your life. Whether or not it would, it’s hard to convince people of that, and being a little more humble would have done me well.
  • I need to be careful not to be too much of a hypocrite, in all areas of the Internet.
  • My reasons for funding on Kickstarter could be a little better supported.
  • My demo needed to be a lot better to impress anyone.
  • I should have registered a business to avoid using my name on Kickstarter. He kindly uses my name as a “tag” for people to make his rant easier to find, and it’ll follow me for the rest of my life.

That was what he tried to say, but I also got some other information in-between the lines:

  • He wrote this blog post two weeks AFTER the Kickstarter campaign ended. That suggests that people are still finding my game well after it finished.
  • He reviewed this site, and read some of my articles.
  • He downloaded my demo and played it.
  • Like most criticizers, my game stuck in his mind enough for him to feel enticed to write a detailed article about it. In his case, he took time to get images and explore the game as much as he could.

Basically, he’s my biggest fan. He probably doesn’t like me as a developer or how I ran my Kickstarter campaign, but he took the time and effort to get examples and probably wants this game to succeed one day. If I released a better version of the game, I bet he’d be the first person to buy it. And I bet he’s following my blog posts, and is reading this right now.

If it helps you to think of your critics like this, then do so. It is true that they paid attention and took you seriously enough to want to provide their opinions, so criticism is actually better than no comments at all. Don’t try to get criticism on purpose, of course…

And how should you respond to criticism? You might be tempted to reply back to them and explain yourself, or explain why they are wrong. Avoid that, that only fuels their fire. Take a lesson from most marriage counselors, take a breath, and say “You’re right. I’ll keep that in mind. Thank you for letting me know.” What can they say to that? But if you add a “but” at the end, they will be happy to use whatever they say to prove their point, and continue arguing with you to get more attention. I haven’t always followed this advice myself, but I should have more often. Be kind and grateful. Remember, any press means more people will have your game in their mind, which is always a good thing.


“…how should you respond to criticism?…Avoid that, that only fuels their fire… “


Praise

The Internet isn’t all bad. For all the criticism you get, you will get praise as well. This praise is justification that you are at least on the right track.

However, not all praise will continue, especially when do start asking for money. Some people are quite nice, and will kindly give you a few pointers on how to make the game a little better. Listen to them, that they take the time to say it kindly means a lot.

It does feel great when you read comments from people who are genuinely excited for your game. Not everyone understood what my game “James – Journey of Existence” exactly was, but a handful did, and loved it. When you make that connection, it means the world. If there is a single person out there who would buy your game, all your hard work will be worth it.

But arguably, criticism is more important then praise. It helps you narrow down what your weaknesses are, and what you are doing wrong. Making and promoting your game for the first time is a great educational experience, and you need to use all of it to improve yourself. In fact, on my main page for “James,” I quote several people who made comments on the game, and included quotes from people who hate the game.

The Internet isn’t all bad. You should see the majority of comments on your game as positive. If more than half of the public doesn’t like your game, then you might have some serious problems and should reconsider how you are proceeding with your project. Of the sites that allowed likes and dislikes, some of them have come really close to giving my game more dislikes then likes, so I have some work to do.

The Indie Gaming Community

You are technically part of the Indie Development Community now. But have you met or talked with any of them yet? Why not?

The Internet is full of developers trying to make the next big game. Some of them are fantastic, arguably better then the best selling games out there.

Indies need to support indies. If they like your game, they will probably say so. In fact, indie devs could be your biggest supporters. In turn, give back and support other indie devs. Comment and give praise. Pledge to a few Kickstarter projects. Communicate and pass around ideas. Attend game jams and meet people in person.

But have you thought about collaboration? What if someone wanted you to join their team to help finish their game? Would you help? What if someone offered to join your team and help finish your game?

Surprisingly, I got a lot of people using Kickstarter to contact me to offer their services (most of them for money, but even still). For some reason, most of these people were musicians and sound designers (I’d swear there are more of them then actual game programmers). Think ahead of time about what sort of people you actually need, and whether or not you would hire someone. You might be able to make a deal to share your Kickstarter funding upon success IF they can provide to the campaign to further improve its image. I did this and got a couple musicians to help until my campaign was over, and the comments on the beauty of the music was good for all of us, and my failure meant neither of us had to commit to payment of time or money.

Think about how you would react if someone wanted you to join their team. You might be flattered and flustered at the time, so think it through beforehand. It’s a good idea if you can. Making connections is always a good thing, and focusing on one aspect of game development might lead to a stronger product. But if you really want to make your own games first, you need to find a way to sound less selfish when you turn people down. Also consider if you are the right person they need for their team, or if you personally know others that might be more appropriate. Consider making a deal for them to help you if you help them.

One person offered to collaborate and join our two game projects somehow, but after meeting, he changed his story and explained he just wanted me to help fill out his team and finish his game as an artist. Don’t do that. If you want to get people to join your team, say that outright in the email and be straightforward. I loved his idea and initially agreed to join, but other commitments pushed me to back out of the project early on, as well as postpone my own indie work. What’s more, my animation skills are obviously mediocre and are in need of practice, so I am not the person they really need right now. Despite this, I consider these people a valuable connection, and would definitely play their game if they ever complete it.

Ok, so your game is in active development, you have a small following online, and know what to expect. Let’s begin planning that Kickstarter campaign…