So jeff thinks game devs should rarely read their forums. I disagree, although he makes some good points. The best point, is about taking things personally, and getting angry. I often get angry on forums, but rarely my own :D.
I’ve found my forums to be fantastic for four reasons:
1) I find out about bugs quickly from people who won’t email me
2) Other people find solutions to their problems really easily in a sort of self-updating FAQ method.
3) People who are considering buying the game can see it’s popular, and read real opinions on how it plays from actual buyers. As long as your game is good, this is a win.
4) I get great feedback on what works, and what doesn’t, and find out how people want the game to expand and develop.
That last point is vital. When I designed GSB, the challenge system was a bit of an afterthought. it wasn’t the core of the game, which was supposed to be offline. Eventually, that challenge system got vastly expanded and improved based on forum feedback. I also improved a number of things that people had asked for, but which had not bothered me, such as the ship design hull picker.
The big danger, and Jeff mentioned this, is that you can’t get too swayed by the forum posters into switching design decisions. There is a big temptation to do this, but be wary. If I look at the percentage of GSB buyers who are forum posters, it’s pretty small. They are a tiny percentage of the playerbase, and not the group that I should really take design cues from. Some of their ideas are truly cool (someone mentioned fighters that could repair other fighters recently), but the key is to knowing when you have spotted an idea that really is good, and when you are following the crowd.
There is a solution:
You develop a huge, planet-sized ego such as mine. This solves everything. That way, you can easily brush aside 5 page forum threads saying how you need to change the game to do X, because you know you are right and they are all wrong. It’s pretty much essential as a game designer working on an original design, to be pretty full of ego.
Most really good design decisions seem pretty insane. A turn-based life simulation game doesn’t sound like a top hit, nor does a politics game with a complex charting system of icons as a GUI. Nor does a space battle game where you can’t control anything. They all seemed to work for me. A virtual dolls house worked well for one guy, as I recall. You need confidence and ego to push those ideas through.
The only problem is, if you *do* have that frame of mind, you will not work well as a team. You need to be indie, or promoted rapidly to lead designer. Otherwise you will go mad. I was in a meeting with Peter Molyneux once, where he was explaining how the game would work, and I interrupted him mid-flow with the phrase “surely it would make more sense to do it like this…”
It was briefly, like that moment where Worf Challenges Gowron for control of the klingon empire. Sadly, my Daq Tagh was next door on my desk. Bah.
That was the last design meeting they let me in :(
In retrospect, I see that I am exactly the same sort of person myself, so no wonder I ended up as an indie developer. Also, let me be clear that I’m not saying you need to be a total bastard, and angry, or difficult. You just need to have the confidence to know when you are right. My aim is to do that, but to still be nice to people. I still manage it, 9 days out of ten :D