We finally released Avadon: The Black Fortress for Windows. So far, it is functional and selling very well. I am really heartened to the reaction to the game. It is doing way better than I thought it would, and it's doing me a world of good to know that a game I put so much heart into doesn't appear to suck.
Because my morale is so high, I am going to do something I almost never do. I am going to go to a forum full of people who hate my games, my writing, and the mere fact that I still draw oxygen on this planet. Namely, the Avadon thread on RPG Codex.
RPG Codex is an interesting place. It is inhabited by people who like role-playing games, but love hating them. It's full of anger and enough raw bigotry that I would never advertise there. But, if you want to keep your self-esteem under control and read bad things about a game you wrote, go there. Just don't ever let those people get into your head.
So, if you are interested in what it's like to write a game and get feedback from the vast madness of the internet, take a look at these threads (mildly NSFW). Here are some comments from the thread, and my responses to them.
"I love Vogel's games but damn the demo is so boring..."
"The demo area is small and extremely crappy"
Demos are always boring. Tutorials are always dull. There are two ways of doing a demo. One - Put the player in a training wheels dungeon and teach him or her enough to play the real game. Two - Set up a really big, flashy set piece to start the game, and have the player wander through it doing nothing.
They both have their points. I've done both. But tutorials are always work. That is life.
By the way, while my demos are smaller than they used to be, they are still some of the longest demos out there. My demos used to be longer than some other full games, but, to be brutally honest, that's just bad business.
"Anyway, party members not dying but being just unconscious and resurrected after combat ends. DECLINE"
When you're designing an RPG, there are lots of toggles you have to flip. Will people recover from their wounds over time or do they have to go back to town? Will the party jump between towns/dungeons or will the whole outdoors be explorable? Will items be automatically identified? Do you have to keep track of ammo for your bows? Each answer to these questions has its good as bad points. There are no right or wrong answers. You just pick what works best for the design.
There are people who will, for religious issues, say they will never ever buy your game if you make one of these choices or the other. Ignore them and do what is best for what you're trying to do.
Oh, and there are some people who will respond to things about your work by posting an angry smily or some other image meme. Ignore these people. If they had anything valuable to say, they would use words, like people, instead of jpgs.
"I do loathe the worldmap. A single large continent shaped like a rough circle does not an interesting map make. Dunno why it bothers me the way it does but it does. "
Oh. Come. On.
There is an important lesson here for indie developers. When you make a game with a small team, you have millions of decisions to make and little time in which to make them. There isn't time to second guess everything. For a lot of stuff, you have to make the call and move on.
When people nitpick, you can't take it to heart. You have to forgive yourself. People will always nitpick. To borrow a phrase from my favorite SF story ever, the dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.
"Got bored with the demo as soon as I was sent to the beginner dungeon to fight rats and spiders. What a lousy piece of shit game."
You are right. I'm sure those two minutes of gameplay were crushingly disappointing!
"It seems like he put in a lot of effort to attract the casual crowd. The "casual" difficulty mode for people who are "new to fantasy RPGs"?"
A lot of complaints that the early game, especially on Normal difficulty, is too easy. When someone says that the default difficulty should be harder, what I hear is, "You should make a pile of money in your backyard and set it on fire."
I make the default difficulty easy enough that 90% of players can get through it. If this doesn't give you a challenge, play on a harder difficulty level. That is why it is there!
"Yep, Jeff fucked this one up a bit - although not as bad as some people put it. Give him some credit, go to TPB and help yourself."
By TPB, the poster means The Pirate Bay. In other words, he's saying to go pirate it. I honestly think that most of these complaints are not sincere. They're just pretending the game is bad to justify their pirating it (and playing the whole thing three times). Another good reason to be very careful about whose feedback you accept.
"I am seriously disappointed. Shittiest Spiderweb game so far. By a lightyear. Will definitely not register the demo."
"Hope that it'll flop commercially"
"Started the game right now and I'm lacking words to describe my disappointment."
"Jeff Vogel went full retard"
"I wonder if Spiderweb is going to survive it..."
I think we'll be just fine.
As I said, the game is doing great. A lot of people are playing my bland, dull, derivative demo and saying, "Hey! Want more of that!" This is the biggest lesson for small developers. People who post on forums are a tiny, tiny portion of your audience. Read them occasionally. Pick through them for the rare tidbit of good feedback. But otherwise keep a respectful distance.
And, to those who have registered, thank you so much! I love flattery, but, in the end, there is no compliment better than a credit card number. That people are actually giving me their real, hard-earned money is incredibly flattering, and I thank you for making it possible for me to write Avadon 2.
Edit: I've closed comments. I think everyone who wanted to say something has had a fair chance. Thank you for the bits of interesting feedback. I will be doing more blogging on some of the issues raised. If you have more reasons why I am not cool anymore, you will have a chance to share them then.