Fans are the Bane of my Existance.
Submitted:|| 18th November, 2013
Want to make the most random game ever? Here's a tip. Gather a bunch of your non-designer friends together and listen to them spout out ideas about how you should 'improve' a game you've been working on. Accept all suggestions and before you know it, your game will become practically unplayable. Success! Fans can be the saving grace that drives the popularity of your game release, or they can be the reason why a great game never sees the light of day. The only difference between a successful and unsuccessful game release is how the designer has managed advertisement and communicated with their fan-base.
Being public about project development is always a double-edged sword. Yes, it's important to generate a buzz before a release, but it also opens the designer up to a whole lot of unwelcome criticism and less-than-subtle suggestions from people who don't understand programming or game design. Ignore requests and you lose fans. Drag feet on implementing complex requests and fans get impatient and lose interest. Profiling may be wrong, but it's about the only way you're going to keep the undesirables off your backside and manage your fan-base pre-release to ensure the few bad apples don't rot out the whole basket.
The Vicarious Designer:
These fans have the desire to make games, but absolutely no follow-through. Learning seems like too much work - they're just waiting for the magical programming fairy to descend from the heavens and bestow uber1337 skills upon them. More often than not, the vicarious designer isn't interested in your game; they're interested in turning your game into their game. Rebuffing their suggestions is usually enough to run them off to the next designer.
The ADHD Idea Fan:
"Oh, you know what would be awesome?" is usually the first phase out of these type of fans right before they prattle off some idea that has absolutely nothing to do with the scope or goal of your game. They aren't necessarily interested in taking over, just turning your game into a fangame staring 12 industry-official mascots and a pVp section that plays like Super Smash Bros.
The Technical Improvement Fan:
This type of fan already knows a bit about game design. Perhaps they're a fellow designer, or just someone who understands programming. Their suggestions are at least a bit more applicable than the others, but they're usually full of ideas on how to embellish on something that already works as intended. In most cases, it's a good idea to at least consider their suggestions, but keep your projected release dates in mind. Don't get so wrapped up in unnecessarily improving your game that it upsets the rest of your fans because you keep having to push back your release.
The Graphics Ascetics Fan:
Perhaps they've taken a few art history courses or think they understand color theory, fung-shui, or some other design standard you don't. "That enemy shouldn't be blue and grey because those colors clash" or "Are you going to do anything to fill that white space? Your sprite is missing an unexplainable something" are common responses from Graphics Ascetics fans. The great thing about Graphics Ascetic fans is that if you encounter them, it means your graphics are nice enough to get their attention in the first place.
The Hurry-Up Fan:
"Did you release your game yet? When are you going to be done? What do you mean you've pushed back your release data again?". As designers, I'm sure all of us have experienced set-backs. Perhaps it's complex engine code that takes a few more weeks to effectively realize or a discovered bug well into a game's development. Stuff happens, right? If the Hurry-Up Fan had their way, you'd be awake 24 hours a day stuck on a diet of hot dogs and Mountain Dew doing nothing but designing. Shame on you for taking a bathroom break. They don't care how much time you're forced to devote to design so long as they have a finished, playable product in their grubby little hands as soon as possible.
The FreeGame Fan:
Your game is awesome until you announce you'll be charging $5 per license, then it's completely crap compared to X_GAME with is offered for free. Normally, as soon as you announce your game is a purchasable title, you'll lose all of your FreeGame fans, but they'll certainly pop in every once in a while to remind you that you're an evil, evil game designer for expecting money for your dedication and work. The Unrealistic Expectation Fan: The Unrealistic Expectation fan thinks your new game should be just like MineCraft with an included MMORPG engine, pVp system, character classes, and thousands of weapons and armor items. These fans won't stay fans unless they feel like they're being appeased to some degree.
It's up to you to decide how you deal with your less desirable fans, but what you'll likely end up learning is that your fan's comments and suggestions are infectious. If you don't manage communication within your fan-base, a few unnecessary negative opinions can quickly swing the way many of your normal fans feel about your game. If presented too early, a project has far too much time to receive unnecessary or inapplicable criticism. I always suggest at least finishing the core engine of a game before going public and then being particularly hard-nosed about changing engine features by request. Personally, I wait until I'm two or three months behind an expected release to start advertising. It gives me an excuse to tell fans with complicated or off-topic suggestions that it's far too late in the design phase to add x-feature.
It's important to be firm with your fans when necessary and do it as privately as possible. The only thing worse than dealing with your most unruly fans is not dealing with them and realizing your project has suffered as an affect.
At least I'm not CircyRegistered