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Knowing your audience and using it to win at game design?


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So, this is an interesting question that I think is important to touch. How do you guys know that the game you have developed, or in the middle of development of, is what your player base wants?

What research have you done? What criteria do you use to gauge what feature you think will be popular? Do you build entirely because it is what you feel is important? How to get feedback, and how do you organize that feedback? Do you seek other's advice, if so who?

I know - its a lot of questions, but it boils down to the question of - do you really know your audience and demographic and what they want?

@runeowl @Regnant @Anoua @Pepper-Head @judda @The Dark Lord @Hare @tiff

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For Eliyo I have a vision I am working towards. I do seek feedback and discuss things with others, especially my husband, but have other family members as well. And now that is released I do seek player feedback. Currently that is mainly in the forum of a player suggestion forums where people can makes suggestions for improvements or new features, and others can comment on and join in on the discussion. Personally I really enjoy player feedback and while I don't let it make my decisions for me, I always take it into consideration. 

For Animal Acres this is even more the case since it was one I bought and already had people playing. When I first acquired the game, the very first thing I did was create a google survey to gauge what the community currently likes and why they play. What they don't like. What they wouldn't want to see changed, and what they would. Along with this information I also had them mention how long they had been playing. 

It was really useful starting out and honestly really interesting to read. All the questions were open ended completely and completely optional as well. I used google survey to make it, so it was also anonymous.  I think the community really appreciated that, especially since I was coming in as an outsider. And I still reference that survey sometimes, though recently have been thinking about doing another one. 

Some things are so interesting to read. For instance I asked a question about our animal image bank, I believe whether it was used or not, and someone who had been playing a while didn't even know we had one! They said we don't have an image bank for animals and thought I was the confused one. Granted we didn't have much in there anyway, so they weren't missing out, but it did show a pretty glaring issue with our user interface design that someone didn't even know we had an image bank who had been playing a bit. So all that to say it can be pretty insightful. 

But another thing is 40% may say or think one thing, and 40% say the complete opposite (the other 10% maybe something in the middle or even something completely different) and so at some point you really just have to decide for yourself too. But if you create something like a new feature, and 80-90% are saying something is wrong, it's pretty obvious something is.

Edit: 

Another thing is sometimes you have to wait things out a bit too. I made a change to the npc shops on Animal Acres limiting the stock more so player shops could be useful again. Now this is actually how I think it was intended, but with less users active the shop just wasn't clearing out. Well I changed it and people weren't sure about some really did not like it at all and thought it was a bad decision because they weren't finding items they wanted anymore since the players shops didn't have it and the general shop didn't either. I did give some consolation in saying that the shops stock amount could need tweaking but essentially we weren't going back. Gave it a bit (giving time for players to stock their shops) and revisited the issue. And the same person liked the update now and didn't think anything needed tweaked. So there is that too. Again though don't be disrespectful, but sometimes you do have to decide and stick to it as well.

Edited by Anoua
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