Balancing Creators Wants versus Players Wants

Bernkastelwitch

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This is a bit hard to explain but I know some people here have been debating whether to put stuff they like in a game or focus purely on what other players would want as of late. Mostly people saying you "shouldn't make the game you want because no one would play it" or "Focus on making a game other gamers want, not what you want.".

Or at least creative decisions that are either purely on the developers intentions versus what the gamer would like more. I have noticed people discuss stuff like this big time and some people are on one extreme or the other.

For me, I do think the developer should have a lot of stuff and features they would like to continue to motivate them to make the game and balance it out for other plaeyrs. Making something purely for others and never yourself tend to make projects fall apart, I have noticed.

But what do you think on this little debacle? Do you think there can be a balance depending on the game or should a game be purely made with the developers wants or make it 100% for others? What do you think?
 

Andar

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your question can't be answered because you're missing too many points.

just the two biggest examples:

1) "The Player" does not exist. there are different types of players that find different parts of games good or bad. Just as an example I prefer turnbased battles where I can think, other players prefer action battle systems where they can button-bash to win.
you can't have both at the same time, and either wish might be fitting for a game.

2) not every idea of a developer - especially a new developer - is a good one, but your question assumes that it is only personal opinion that counts. But some ideas that are common to developers are always bad ideas, like feature overload for example.
 

EidolonDreams

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I think ideally it depends on what your goals and vision are.

On one hand, you are (hopefully) trying to create something unique by following your personal vision.

But on the other hand, you need to ask who the consumer is, and whether or not you care about $$$.

Is this for profit? Then giving your consumers what they want is going to hold a lot more weight than a personal project. Ignoring this fact is bad for business***

Are you trying to create something really unique, regardless of who likes it? Or is this a job?

How niche is your target audience?

*** it's important to note some things:

1) your audience may not know what they really want, and they may not be able to see the long-term game effects of it.

2) what they want might be really bad for your game, or the rest of your audience. Which leads us to...

3) consumers with too much influence on development will absolutely keep moving goal posts on you.

It's a balancing act, but the best way to deal with it is to know what your goals are, and to get really good at communicating with your target audience about what they think they want.

That make sense?
 

ScorchedGround

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I think a game made 100% for the players will always be inferior to the alternative.
If you don't love your own game, then why should anyone else do so?

It's impossible to please all players anyways, so even building a game with only the player in mind will be disliked by some.

Also I find it hard to believe that you can acutally produce a *great* game if you yourself don't even like the direction your OWN GAME is going.

Don't get me wrong, the developer can make A LOT of bad decisions, but making yourself a slave to the playerbase will never be a mistake in my book.

That being said, there is such a thing as "feature overload".
We as developers often have too many ideas, but too little room in a game.
But sometimes we forcibly try to fit everything in anyways. That most often leads to confusion and a lot of different features, none of which end up as particulary remarkable, because there is just too many.
 

Bernkastelwitch

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Don't get me wrong, the developer can make A LOT of bad decisions, but making yourself a slave to the playerbase will never be a mistake in my book.

I've noticed quite a few people in this community outright claim you should only focus on the playerbase and not what you want personally because of "bad gameplay decisions" or those games tend to be "unfun".

I personally agree no one should be a slave like that but it seems to be a sentiment I have been seeing on and off.
 

NamEtag

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You should know how to make a game that players want. KNOW, not necessarily do. If you can't look at your own work from an outside perspective, or you have a misunderstanding of what players want or what will sell, then you will get into a lot of trouble whether you are willing to compromise on your own wishes or not.

As for "putting stuff you life".....make a good product. Let all the features support and play off each other. Write a story that makes sense within the themes and setting of the game. Don't keep adding things that you think are neat or just learned how to do, that's how you make a tech demo, not a game. That applies to developer wishes AND player wishes.

Basically I'm saying it's a false dichotomy and you're navel-gazing about something pointless.
 

AphoticAmaranth

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I think it's ok to make a game you'd want to play. After all, you too are part of the playerbase. (Or at least, I would hope so)

If you don't like your own game, how can you expect others to do so? Besides, different players have different preferences. You can't please everyone.
 

watermark

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Make a game you love because otherwise you won't be able to endure the boring parts of development. Also you can't make a good one if you don't like that genre.

For example, lots of people love Match-3 games. It's a huge market. But I personally hate this kind of game. I start yawning after 5 minutes, no matter how many other people rave about it. There's nothing wrong with the game itself. It's just not my thing. Now, I can admire a well made Match-3 game from a dev's perspective, but I won't spend time playing it. If I don't like this kind of game, I can't imagine myself making a good one, no matter how much time I put into researching it.

But I do recommend playing other people's games because there's lot of great ideas out there. Just pick the ones you like and adapt them to your game.
 

Tea++

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I think it largely depends on your end goal.

If it's a free passion project, then make what you want and the player be damned.

On the flip side if money is your primary goal, put your ego aside and find out what the largest audience of your genre wants. It should be 100% player driven to get those dolla dolla bills yo.

Of course it can be variable, you can have an end goal that's more in between those two things as well, in which case you may be happy with a little of column A and a little of column B.
 

gstv87

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a lot of AAA games lately have failed due to "giving the players what they wanted", with their test sample being too small, at best, or outright hand-picked to round their figures, at worst.

if you will "give the players what they want", you have to ask the question "ok, *who* am I giving this to, and what about *everyone else*?"
because *everyone else* will always be larger than your scope of study.

that's why I laugh when what should otherwise be a "solid" game comes out and there's always a bug that stands out as being neglected or intentionally ignored.
....and then you see in the credits a hundred playtesters, supervisors, executives, quality control people, etc....
did NONE of those hundred pairs of eyes spot the failure?
there's only one answer to that: either you didn't spot it (in which case, you suck as a play tester), or, you intentionally left it there (which implies, you were intentonally working towards it, or were unable to remove it, both of which speak badly of your capabilities as a game designer)

don't be afraid to stand by your work and justify it, even if you have to fall into a Brie Larson justification: "I don't care what a 40-year-old man has to say about the movie. The movie wasn't meant for him."
even if that point is valid, one would expect that the movie (or, game) adheres to basic genre rules such as having characters or a story that makes sense.
if the movie or game is then made with hand puppets or top of the line CGI, that's a director's choice, not a genre rule.
 

Tai_MT

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Much of the debate comes from the difference in what a player wants versus what a dev wants.

Here's what the true debate actually looks like:

"I like X feature, so I'm putting it in my game, and players will like it automatically! Even if one player likes it, it's fine!"

"I don't like X feature, and I don't engage with it anytime it's been introduced. It's boring and I wish developers would stop putting it in their games because it's just bad and a waste of time."

It is difficult to reconcile this for a few reasons.

1. The game dev is often a "creative". As such, their work is DEEPLY personal to them. There isn't much of a way around this. A critique on their game or the way they design things is almost universally seen as a personal attack on their very character, even when it isn't worded that way.

2. The player of a game doesn't give two craps what your vision of your project was or is. They care that it's fun. Nothing more. Nothing less. Their personal investment is in whether or not you are wasting their time and money.

So, personally, I attempt to approach the subject a different way (rarely ever works, but there's no harm in trying).

I tell people what is boring about whatever they're implementing. I tell them what all the problems are. I tell them not to implement it if they aren't going to do anything beyond what these systems already are. Boring System from Boring Game A is going to continue being Boring System in Boring Game G.

I try to arm devs with the ability to see their desires in a critical eye. That is, tell them what all the issues with it currently ARE so that they can PLAN AROUND them. Or, rather, mitigate the issues.

While I often couch this in the language of "If you can't be bothered to put in the work required to make the feature fun for a majority of your players, then don't implement it, because it's only going to be appreciated by a very small percentage of people who really won't care if it's not in your game to begin with.", it is easily disproven.

That is to say, there are several users on these forums who have taken the criticism of such systems (not always from me, either) and thought about them critically. They reworked the way the systems typically interact with the players to try to maximize fun and engagement. There are at least two I know of on these forums who have "gone the extra mile" to make "on screen encounters" more fun, engaging, and less tedious. They took the complaints people had about them and worked to shore up the shortcomings.

However, most users, on either end of the aisle, aren't willing to budge.

As a game player, I don't care what your vision for you game is. I just don't. I don't care what you wanted me to feel. I don't care what you wanted me to think. I have my own feelings and my own mind, and I'm going to think and feel what I want. In fact, I may trash your message in my head while I play your game. I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR VISION. I bought your game to HAVE FUN. If you are not making me have fun or letting me enjoy my time with your game... THEN YOU HAVE EFFECTIVELY SCAMMED ME OUT OF MONEY. As you have scammed me, I am now entitled to tell people how I've been scammed (reviews!) and to let people know they shouldn't play your game.

This is me as a game player.

As a dev, I want to get my vision for the experience across to the player. I want the player to feel the things I want them to feel. I want them to think about the things I want them to think about. I want them to be invested. Why can't you just accept my vision?! WHY DO I HAVE TO CHANGE WHAT I'M DOING JUST FOR YOU?! Stop going out of your way to NOT HAVE FUN with my game! If this isn't your type of game, STOP PLAYING IT! Stop hating it if you don't like this genre of game or these mechanics! It's not a game for you!

This is me as a game dev.

Now, here is me as a user of these forums:

If I am not willing to attempt to make the thing I enjoy making, fun for someone to experience, I should just cut it out of my game and stop wasting time with it. If my themes are presented in a way that the player doesn't care or revolts against, it is my duty to make that more palatable for the player to engage with. If my mechanics don't provide the fun I thought they would, it is my duty to figure out whether those mechanics are necessary or if there are ways to make them fun for the players. If the player doesn't care about my vision, then I need to find ways to make them care as players, without forcing them to do so. If I am not willing to put in the effort to appeal to my audience, I do not deserve the audience. If I am not willing to compromise my vision a little bit so that the players have fun and I still get my message across, I have no right to make a game. Changing the way the message is conveyed does not change what the message is. It just changes how easily digestible that message is.
---

So, my advice to anyone who has a feature they want in their game.

If people say it's not fun, you need to understand why it's not fun. If you aren't willing to put in the effort to make that feature fun, then just remove it. It's a waste of time and effort on your part. If you really care about your feature so much that you're not willing to drop it, then you need to care enough to put forth the work and effort into making it fun.

Those are your options.

If you don't want to put forth effort to make it fun, drop it.
If you don't want to drop it, you need to put forth the effort to make it fun.

You don't get points or good reviews from failing to do either.
 
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ZombieKidzRule

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There are a lot of good points in the previous responses. For me, I compare game development to writing.

I write because I have a story to tell and I tell it the way I want to tell it. I write because I enjoy telling the story. People either appreciate the story or they don't. I'm not going to change my story to try to please the nebulous concept of the average reader or even a dedicated fan base. I don't write to make money. That is peripheral. And as a reader, I don't expect authors that I like to cater only to my select preferences.

My approach to learning game development is the same. This isn't my job. I'm not doing it to make money. I am doing it because I am having fun and it is a different way to present a story that I can interact with. I am going to make the game that I am interested in and that I want to play. Again, I am not going to consider the nebulous concept of the average player or any sort of genre stereotype player.

Do I want people to enjoy and appreciate what I write or what I develop? Sure. But am I going to change what I do because I am trying to guess what the potential audience might want, enjoy, appreciate, etc.? Nope. In my opinion...that way leads to madness.

I bet if you took a poll of players and asked them what makes a game "fun" or not "fun," you would get a wide variety of opinions and most likely no solid consensus. That happens here...in this microcosm of people who are both players and developers.

So, you are left with the prospect of either taking a variety of opinions on what is "fun" or "good" or "enjoyable" from whatever sources that express those opinions and altering your vision to try to accommodate OR you can follow your own preferences.

Now, I'm not saying you have to completely disregard feedback, solicited or unsolicited. You should always consider feedback. But you should never lose sight of the fact that all feedback is based on that individual's personal opinion.

If the feedback is about pure facts, like there are spelling and grammar issues, or bugs, or what not, then that is one thing. But a lot of feedback is entirely subjective. Just read reviews on Steam for games that you personally like or dislike and I think you will see that people often express positive or negative opinions that are completely opposite from your perspective. Although the person offering that feedback/review might believe that they are stating facts...they are often just expressing their own personal opinion. And that doesn't make them right. Opinions stated as facts are still just opinions.

I am also reminded of a question that one of my previous leaders liked to ask when people raised issues and framed them like "they said" or "people don't like" or "people want". The first question out of that leader's mouth was who are "they" or which "people"? Why? Because all too often speakers have a habit of over generalizing opinions, sometimes minority but vocal opinions, as if they represent a collective or substantial opinion. And the majority of the time, when someone was asked that question of who are "they," the response was typically never specific or it turned out to be that person's own opinion. In which case, they should have just taken ownership of their opinion and not tried to make it more influential by attributing it to a nonexistent group of people.

And I won't even raise the specter of what constitutes a representative sample.

In summary for the TL:DR folks...you do you and enjoy doing it. But only if you aren't trying to make money and you don't desire the validation of others. Otherwise, be prepared to drive yourself crazy trying to make everyone and their subjective opinions happy.

But this is just my perspective and opinion so take that for what it is worth. I won't try to speak on behalf of anyone else.
 

Tai_MT

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@kvngreeley

Pretty good points about personal opinions and the way people view their own perspectives. I rather like the idea of having to explain who "they" are. "Gamers like X" seems a silly statement if you can't easily google it and pull a large sample of players to support that.

Also, yep, you're right. It depends on what your goal is. Your priorities need to shift if you're looking for money and accolades. I think that's why you sometimes get authors who engage in "Creator Backlash". Namely, their public really didn't like the things the author/dev thought were their best work, but instead enjoyed something that the creator thinks is "beneath" them.

I would just like to add one thing about the creative process. It's from my own perspective.

I think the most valuable thing a creative of any kind can have is an "editor". That is, someone to tell the creative "no". Someone to say "It's too much", "It's too far", "It isn't accessible", and "It really just isn't done that well". Someone like that inevitably ends up making the creative refine their craft. Or, tells the creative what the limitations are, and then the creative lets out their genius by working around or with those limitations. Or, at least, that's what any good editor ends up doing.

Much of the most interesting things I've written or done as a game dev has come from someone telling me "no". Or, even, from having to work around the limits imposed upon me. After all, a diamond isn't valuable until it's refined and placed into a jewelry setting. It's just a cloudy hunk of amorphous rock otherwise. That's what creativity is. Raw creativity is rarely ever pretty. But, it always has the potential to be amazing once it is worked and refined.
 

Bernkastelwitch

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I think another thing to point out is who you get criticism from. There's some people who are making a game based off franchises not many people played but adore so there's likely some people who don't understand some stuff. An example of this is how my game is inspired by Suikoden with its warlike themes and lots of playable characters. The latter a few people flip out without ever seeing it in practice and only bring up examples of games that did it poorly(Chrono Cross, you're one of my favorite games and all but you're always cited for a game with a lot of playable characters and not Suikoden).

And then there's more personal stuff like how I had artists outright reject work to even draw a character for my game even if I had the money because the characters are to quote one of them, "Too weird to even exist". Characters in question being a race of parasites controlling a host of people and mutating them. That's the one thing artists I keep commissioning for my game draw the line at because "It's too weird for a JRPG" or something like that.

Just two personal examples of stuff like this. I still listen to them at the very least and I see why they think like that. I think the creator can still have a lot of creative freedom while still listening to feedback and not only add features or whatnot to "Cater to Mass appeal" which may be what a lot of people worry about when they hear this stuff.
 

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