Written by: Calvin Kammer
Today I was reviewing feedback from playtests for our Kickstarter campaign pre-launches. I thought about how we use the feedback we get, and how without it my job as a game designer would be much different, and much more difficult!
We’re producing two games right now; an improv party game and a screenplay drafting game. The goal has always been to launch both of them on Kickstarter campaign back-to-back. The idea being that the success of the first campaign will help propel the next one.
Sidenote: the games are more or less ready to go, with a few changes here and there they are both ready to be printed en-mass.
Right now we are waiting on feedback from any and all playtesters we find. We’ve ordered 20 advance copies of both games and so have been giving them away to friends, coworkers, and recent college students at an alumni mixer with the hopes that they play the game and give us feedback. We don’t have a list of testers, and this is our best attempt of receiving immediate feedback so we can place a bulk order of our games.
All the feedback we receive has been great so far, and has added a few improvements to our games I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise. At this point we’ve had a handful of playtesters and while we haven’t received a “thumbs down this wasn’t fun”, most of the feedback was adding optional features to the games which made the game more enjoyable for them.
I feel confident that both games have merits that make them extremely sexy for the right kind of player. That feedback that we get helps us find out who that exact player that would find our games to be their exact match. We all have ideas an hunches as to who would like a game the best, but if we can actually find this information out we can do online promotions and ads specifically geared towards certain audiences.
For the improv game I’d think it would be a hit for drama clubs and improv teams to use as an improver’s toolkit. But, who knows what the actual market fit is until people are playing the game and telling me what they think.
Feedback has always been critical to making my games the way they are. Getting feedback early on is great when your idea is ready for it, though it can be troublesome if you are looking for it too early.
As I've receiving criticism of my games over the years I've found that negative reviews and feedback affect me less and less. Either the person is a troll, we messed up, the product wasn’t for them, or they are trying to help.
Screw em. You can tell when you see these. Kill them with kindness if it’s a public forum or block and ignore. If it’s on Google reach out to support and report the review, if it’s legitimately fake they may remove it. I've personally dealt with this at my escape room, and to the Google support team's credit one of them has been removed.
2. We messed up:
It happens. Own up to it and make things right. It often means that it costs the business, but my philosophy is that you can always afford excellent customer service when you have an excellent product. Kill them with kindness and then some. Eating the cost now may mean saving the relationship of a player, but if that doesn't end up improving things you simply must move on.
3. The product wasn’t for them:
You can sell the world’s greatest peaches but people that don’t like peaches won’t care. Move on and kill them with kindness. If your game isn't for them there is nothing for you to do, and don't try to convince them otherwise or explain why they are wrong, it's a bad look. Everyone has their own tastes and preferences when it comes to games and telling someone they are wrong for liking Catan is gatekeeping the hobby from new players. Board games are for everyone, though your game might not be for everyone.
4. They are trying to help:Oftentimes a negative review or feedback is an attempt to open up a legitimate conversation. Sometimes it can be resolved best in a non-public setting so you can address specific issues they encountered. Being open to feedback is critical for any business’s success, and a board game studio is no exception.
Feedback is crucial. Any project benefits from it, but game designers should know just how valuable it is to making your game shine. Not all feedback is worth the same!
Right now we give our playtesters the general ask of “just email us back with any feedback you may have”. That may change but should be fine enough for now. There were some printing and colors issues for the advance copies which were easy to be resolved, so hopefully we receive feedback on gameplay or prompt changes.
Some feedback I’ve received drastically changes each game, so much so that I might as well start over and make a new game! These feedback is appreciated, though it isn’t clear to me yet how valuable it would be to change the improv game into a clue-esque guessing game… with light improv elements!
Thanks for reading! If you found this to be engaging please engage in the conversation by commenting or sharing this post. I'm always open to feedback, and am looking forward to continuing expanding on Blurbs from the Bloated Toad.