Game Design Game Development

Do You Listen to Feature Requests?

Last night, I loaded up Killer Kittens from Katis Minor on my laptop and brought it to my local LUG meeting. I had almost everyone at the meeting try out the game, and I watched them as they played. I already knew that I should just watch. If they get stuck due to an interface issue, I should make a note of it, but I shouldn’t interfere. Most players won’t have me standing there to guide them, so I should learn what they might encounter as obstacles.

Well, I definitely need to add a screen to the game that explains the controls. B-)

As for the game itself, a number of people actually enjoyed it! It was exhilarating to watch as people hit the “Restart game” menu option after losing all of their reserve ships! People would actually come back for multiple turns at the game, sneaking into the chair after someone got up. Up until this past week, the game was a poor Space Invaders clone. Now it was actually fun!

And then there were the people who obviously didn’t enjoy it. Watching someone get a game over without advancing past the first level, then getting up and politely saying, “That was fun” wasn’t fun. Granted, some of these people don’t play video games in general, but some of them did. Maybe the game is too hard? Maybe the game just doesn’t feel right? Is it too difficult to tell where the bombs are? Does the fire rate of your own bullets need to be increased?

While I did ask people for their opinions after they were finished playing, some of them started asking questions about the game during the play session. One question I received a lot of: “How do you get an extra life?” It’s a missing feature, and while I have always intended to provide it, I did not write it down until now. Another feature request was shielding. I currently do not offer shields or walls as the original Space Invaders did. Some people wanted a way to shoot multiple times. Quite a few wanted power-ups, while others thought the fire rate and speed of the bullet needed to be increased.

Some feature requests are no-brainers. A way to get an extra life? No problem! Temporary invulnerability when a reserve ship is activated? Yeah, absolutely! Changing the number of bullets you can have in the air at one time? Um…Now I’m not so sure.

Not listening to customers is bad. Completely listening to your customers is also bad. Well, it isn’t bad to listen to your customers, but I don’t want to implement something just because my girlfriend and a couple of other people requested it. Yes, they are playing the game and identified what they would like to see, but just because they want it, it doesn’t mean it would be good to put in the game.

I had a few people request power-ups. Some people requested multi-shot, rapid-fire, area-effect explosions, and a bonus ship to shoot down. Watching the people play, I realized that I needed to provide multiple difficulty levels. I also found a bug involving the pause menu coming up during the game over menu. Some of these things I plan to add or change. Some of them I plan to ignore, partly because they would require major overhauls of code and partly because I am not sure that it wouldn’t hurt the game.

Even though I am not sure about some of these feature requests, I think I can only help this game get better by trying those features out. If the game becomes more fun because you can shoot more than one bullet, then I can keep it. If not, I’ll throw it away.

The best part is that I have something that is considered fun right now. People played my game and actually liked it! I can use the current game as a control as I experiment with different features. I can always release the game with its current feature set, get even more feedback from the world, and use that feedback when making a potential sequel or upgrade.

In any case, I’m still pretty happy that people enjoyed the game, even with its poor graphics and audio work. B-)

6 replies on “Do You Listen to Feature Requests?”

That Does sound like fun! So, when are we gonna see some screenshots or maybe even get to play that demo? I’m definitely looking forward to that ;-).

P.S.: In case you’re wondering, I’m a Computer Science senior and I’m aspiring to be an independent game developer myself. I stumbled upon this blog a few months back and it’s been on my RSS list since then :-).

Thanks for reading, Islam! I was actually hoping to have a completed game by the end of the month, and I haven’t even thought about the time needed to port it to Windows (I do all development on GNU/Linux).

I was asked to give a presentation on game development with GNU/Linux for the DePaul Linux Community. That talk should be within the month, which means that I need to figure out what to talk about! This game will definitely be shown at the talk in various stages of progress.

While I don’t think I can hit my month’s end target, I will try to get a demo up for people to try out. If the feedback I got at the small meeting is any indication, releasing this game to the world should give me a lot of good ideas.

In the old testament of the Bible they mentioned using 2 or 3 people to establish something, like a judgment. Also int he new testament God said “If 2 or 3 people are gathered in my name…” indicating that if two people were, say, praying for someone to be healed and they both believed God would heal this person, then it would be done.

So I sort of say the same thing, if at least 3 people are requesting a feature then you should look into it. You can always remove it later.

Watching players play your game is gold. Better than feedback. Better than advice from Will Wright or Sid Meier.

Dude, congrats on people digging your game!

As for listening to feedback… you really have to have a good filter for that. I get all sorts of comments and requests for art thigns going into my game that I never implement. Some things I backburner, some things I implement straight away. My favorite way of dealing with that sort of thing is meeting them headon and sharing their excitement at the idea and finding what I like about it, and either likening it to something I already have in the game or finding a way to frame it in a way that I build on their idea and make it something that’s actually worthwhile to add.

When I have to let them down, I tend to minimize it, or assume a little of the blame for not being able to do it, while acknowledging the coolness of their input. Or framing it in such a way that I’m partially implementing their idea and making them feel more involved. Ultimately, that’s all people really want, and if you can get quality feedback out of it, then that makes everybody happy. It’s an interesting dance, especially when you’re dealing with the directors of your company! heheh.

Finish and release your game! 🙂

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