March 26, 2015
At an early stage of Concealed Intent’s development I sent it out online to get feedback from people who expressed an interest in the game. There were very few replies and most of those were just of the form “yeah, it’s ok.” As a result I started doing playtesting while sitting next to the victim/tester. This is a much better technique – a huge amount of information is gleaned from just watching someone else play, any comments are a bonus. However, it does not scale, especially as a sole indie developer. So in the background I continued to try finding a better way.
At GDC Hugh Jeremy presented Subnautica’s feedback system. Oh yeah, this is what I wanted. Being a proud member of the “break’n’enter” school of game design, I had the example code and presentation slides downloaded within minutes. Now a similar feedback system is built into Concealed Intent.
As developers we need to make it as frictionless as possible for players to communicate feedback to us – otherwise most won’t bother. This is the beauty of the Subnautica system (and my reimplementation).
- Collect feedback from within the game. Don’t make the player switch to a different application. Create an in-game screen that can send the feedback automatically to an online collection system.
- Ensure there is a quick-key to jump straight to the feedback screen from anywhere within the game. When the player has something to say, ensure they can reach the screen quickly.
- Collect minimal information from the player. The more information fields, the more intimidating. Concealed Intent has just 2 text boxes and a submit button. If the player has an online account (like Steam) then one of the fields is filled in for them.
- Collect the player’s emotion. This is a brilliant idea from Subnautica, there are a range of emoticons each acting as a submit button. So there is always a guide to what the player is feeling when they provide feedback. Overtime hopefully more positive emotions will dominate.
- Make as much of what is collected optional. Other than the clicking the submit button, nothing is required in the Concealed Intent feedback screen.
- Add extra information behind the scenes. As Concealed Intent is turn-based and already logs game events, the feedback system just adds this log to the submission without the player’s interaction. Screenshots, framerates and other game info could also be added to aid diagnosing bugs.
- But don’t send anything personal or identifying! Make sure the system is safe and will not compromise the player’s privacy. Hash login id’s and other personal info if it’s absolutely necessary to have them in the feedback.
- Have a back-end system to handle the feedback. A simple CRUD website should be enough. Subnatica’s system is public
- Think about rewarding the player for leaving feedback. Subnautica has a Steam achievement for feedback.
How well the feedback system works when live is something for a postmortem. Although it seems to be working well for Subnautica so far (13% may not sound like much, but I’d be happy with that). It should at least work better than my previous system!