Feedback - Thoughts on Reviews and How to Grow A Feedback Loop


#1

There are many problems with marketplace and Steam reviews.

I honestly do not understand why authors from here take them as serious and to heart as much as they do.

I understand using what you can for self-improving and I understand better then most how they impact sales but neither of those reasons should be enough to cause the weight given them overall.


Samuel_H_Young: A general update
#2

There aren’t a lot of ways to have tangible feedback from the readership outside of these forums. It’s hard to know what people want if they don’t say, and reviews are as close to a direct pipeline to what they want as anyone can manage.


#3

Preface - If Samuel wants us to take this elsewhere, I understand. But I would like to address this and in doing so maybe address something that bothers me about observations about this matter from other authors as well …

As I said, I do understand their use as tools for improvement. Given time and practice, often you can glean things to help your future development.

There is no easy way to build a true feedback network. It is much easier with tools like Paetron and Tumblr today then it was 10 years ago, but it still takes a lot of time and effort to do this properly. The things I see @Eric_Moser do, with attending local conferences and trying different promotional tactics are just a sample of the hustle often required to make things work, marketingwise. It is the same with feedback.

I disagree with you about reviews being “as close to a direct pipeline to what they want as anyone can manage.”

There are a lot of things that you, as an author, can do. For example, establishing a Tmblr for yourself as an author and for your project is one way that many here have discovered that really builds a feedback loop much more focused, much more relevant and much more truthful. It also is writing based so should not be as stressful or alien as other things that you can do.

Getting a focus group established for you project is also often a pretty easy thing for many that come here - convert your table-top/rpg group into a reader’s core … people you have been gaming with for years will be a much truer source for immediate feedback and the fact that many of these groups have migrated to discord makes it as simple as talking to them directly. Most of your friends would be honored to become an important part of your development.

These are just things that involve minimum effort that pay-off thousand-fold over using reviews as your pipeline to understanding what people want.

I’m sure experienced authors have writing circles and other resources they can help new writers explore and teach how to make…

Resources that are much better for feedback are just waiting to be utilized. Reviews made on the marketplace or Steam do have value but in my humble opinion, they do not deserve the weight that they are often given in this community.


#4

I agree with you and disagree same time. I am Spanish and except the tmblr I can’t do absolutely anything you say.Here people of my age not rp there is no conferences at all. Except comics thousands km away and once a year. My friends don’t speak English.

Samuel here could have a dedicated fan base and testers.
but someone like me Lol has to force people to reading my stuff and most people give a shit and don’t say anything or even worse say It is okay… period.So I except one or two person I am writing more 70,000 words absolutely BLIND of feedback like by absolutely myself.

For me Seeing other people wip feedback or market is the closest I will be untilI ended the game.

It is the best way ?No it is not but I have no money to pay people to testing. I can’t force peopleto testing.So that’s how reality works few authors have all feedback most have absolutely no helping whatsoever.


#5

Perhaps we need a “who cares about reviews” thread?


#6

Perhaps a thread concerning reviews (of all types). I think everyone should be able to agree to “care” about them, I think there is just a discussion to be had about “how much to care” about reviews (of all types).

Edit: Or better yet, perhaps a “How to build feedback” thread where everyone can share tricks and knowledge and practices. The only trouble with this would be the usual spurt of participation followed by the sound of silence other such important threads like this have experienced.

Our community could use a lot more of the skill/resource building types of threads but the ones began often don’t lead to a continuing discussion.


#7

I’m gonna be honest, but marketing yourself as an author is a gigantic waste of time. It takes lots of dedication and time, and even if relatively successful, its result would be a drop in the bucket compared to what Choice of Games brings to the table. They are the publisher, so I leave the audience in their hands.

The best thing an author can do is write a good story, and thousands or tens of thousands will come without you having to do a thing. Hell, even here on the forum, you’ll get 3x the feedback and reader interaction for an engaging, well written WIP than one that isn’t quite as great. (Though obviously there are lots of factors that go into that, but you get the general idea.)

Now, this is coming from a guy who only had a successful game after 4 years and his 4th try, and who also tried to market himself on FB for like 5 years. So I’m not just trying to blow smoke up my own ass, here. I just sincerely believe that our time is better spent writing than doing lots of self-advertising.


#8

Lol, You got lots of good feedback in your first game lol :wink: Some well, it was really harsh from someone I know quite well lol. But I think that game feedback helped you a lot to improve. And your other games weren’t so bad in sells after all is was a niche market.
I am trying to cheering you lol But I need cheering myself so I am terribly ineverything is not harsh truth lol. :hugs:


#9

Personally, I think there is a middle ground re: promotion.

I agree 100% with Sam that the best promotion an author can do is to write a strong story, and then write another and another. If you gain an audience, the worst thing you can do (I know from experience) is to leave them waiting for 2+ years for another story. When you have a library of works established, you multiply the value of each new reader. It’s not very efficient to write one story and then try to “market the hell out of it.”

He is also 100% right that it makes nooooo mathematical sense for us to try to sell our products to individual customers. We’d have to be making upward of $10+ per sale for that to make sense, and most of us here make less than $1 per sale. But I think we all know and accept this. I’ve been focusing my efforts on networking with other writers, publishers, artists, etc., getting my name out there as an ambassador for IF, etc.

But I also think @Eiwynn makes great points. There are SO many authors, and so many books and games and other entertainment products, that you need to differentiate yourself from the masses. I was listening to one of Joanna Penn’s podcasts (she’s great) recently, and she was talking about branding yourself with a unique voice, and I really think that’s important as AI intrudes into the Creative space, and as pros crank out more and more content faster and faster.

None of us are going to be writing these gamebooks forever. Sure, I hope CoG/HG is around for 20 years, but that’s certainly not a guarantee. People who are serious about pursuing careers, or even productive “side hustles” as Creatives, will work on lots of different kinds of projects over time, and they would be well-advised to develop their own following, not just passively accept the audiences from individuals publishers or other companies they work with.

Was that a nice middle of the road response? (I might want to run for mayor of my city in a few years so I’m practicing being neutral and non-offensive).


#10

You got it. The neutrality at least. But when you say about being politic I imagine you like some sort of Lex Luzor lol. You could do a easter egg as mayor in your own game lol.


#11

lex

Lex mad now! :grin:


But back on topic, I think a good way to “grow a feedback loop” is to be active with your audience, hence the “example” above.


#12

As for reviews, I agree as author you have to learn how to filter.
Taking Heroes Rise as example:
There’s a lot of things that are not optimal and could need polishing, and a bit of problematic stuff.

But is it bad because it has socio-political commentary in it, as some reviews on steam rage and ramble and rant (aka ‘OMFG evul sjws are ruuuining whatever!!11!’ )?
No.
It’s not all good because said commentary is missing the mark and drowning out the story, not because it is there.


#13

I posted my general thoughts on reviews here.

Good work! Though depending on how much your city reflects national political dynamics, you might want to consider practicing combativeness and targeted offensiveness–those seem to be getting candidates a lot more mileage nowadays. :frowning:

We can look to @Cataphrak and Allen Gies as well as @Eric_Moser as good examples here.

FWIW, the fantasy world I was writing as a 17 year old would never have made a successful novel or game. I had to scrap pretty much 100% of it in college and start again. There are vestiges of that college-era world and storyline in Rebels–but not a lot. People wouldn’t have bought what I was able to write back then, and for my own self-worth’s sake, I’m glad that most of the candid feedback I got at the time was given by good friends in one-on-one conversations, not in the cold light of an app store. My first published book came out when I was 31, and Rebels when I was 41.

Of course plenty of people succeed far earlier, especially if they spend more of their time writing than I did. But feel good about that “4th try,” Sam–you’re growing and learning much faster as an author than I did.

One suggestion on feedback groups: leading a D&D (or other tabletop RPG) group can be really helpful when it comes to trying out storylines and game dynamics. You have to be careful when you’re writing the story to not just transcribe the events of your D&D campaign, lots of which will play less well in prose than it did around the table. (On the re-read, I found that Raymond Feist’s early books suffered heavily from this, as of course does plenty of the classic TSR pulp like Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms.) But for getting outside your head and seeing the surprising ways that other people will want to react to the choices you offer, nothing beats a tabletop.


#14

You too huh?

I started on the Infinite Sea when I was 15. I’m glad I’ve had the time to iterate on it and throw out a lot of the stuff I thought was neat back then based on feedback. I’m doubly glad that I chose to start small, meaning I could iterate on the fly while I was writing Sabres and Guns by taking in outside comments and just applying an increasing general body of knowledge to the vast, empty spaces which I’d yet to definitively fill in.


#15

I’m on my third attempt at a successful CS game in three years (4th game overall) .

My First attempt here, game-development-wise, is a hot-mess that can still be found in the dead WiP burial grounds.

Someday I hope to release both it and my second effort but I realize both projects will need a lot of work to become viable and successful.

I wish I had started writing and pursuing such a career when I first had found a desire to write. Instead, I did not follow the muse. It actually took the discovery of this wonderful community and the support I’ve gotten from everyone here to give me the courage to venture forth.

I never was able to latch into any table top rpg types of games, but I have conveyed members from the community of fellow testers I’ve been a part of for years into a core feedback core.

I guess my life experiences have led me to look into possible solutions outside the norm and where others say no way, I always say I’ll find a way.

My message about expending effort and hustle was supposed to be focused on creating feedback cores and not marketing but in referencing Eric Moser, I guess I lost everyone.

If people don’t feel they have options available to them, I’d be happy to talk things out with them. I know I have helped a few people accomplish goals regarding testing and feedback in the past few years and as part of paying all the support and kindness I get from everyone here, I always try to assist where I can.

Creating a quality feedback core takes work and effort - whether it is the churning over millions of words in game after game (ie Samuel), converting a D&D group into a feedback core (ie Havenstone) or using a writer’s group to form an IF fiction feedback core (ie Kevin Gold) there are a lot of different solutions available.

I will continue to advocate for using reviews only as a secondary source for feedback because there are issues that impact them and often these issues with reviews skew the constructive qualities of the feedback given.


#16

First game out, I’m not on facebook. I don’t really like interacting with people that much, and the thought of marketing myself was the reason why I folded my first game company back in the late nineties.

I read all my reviews that I can find. Yes, everyone. Maybe I have been lucky, maybe it’s the fact that I’m in my late forties (and an aspie), but the negatives doesn’t get to me that much. That being said, the positives doesn’t give me that much either (apart from a smile).

What does help me then? (apart from this place).

Tumblr.

I started the Fallen Hero tumblr a while before the game came out, and while it has been slow growing, I cannot overestimate how much it has done for me. It’s a way for me to interact with people, see what they talk about, listen in, have fanart and fanfiction, and above all, keep the game alive. That’s the thing, I want people to keep thinking and talking about it, and for that, they need friends. Other people who like it. Tumblr is a way for them to intersect and find other people they can gossip with, and it’s built a nice little community. And that’s what keeps me going.

Retribution will be much larger than I anticipated, and also take longer. I need something to tide people over, and the tumblr is it.

I think my MOST important lesson so far is the fact that I haven’t been the main draw of the tumblr. There are people out there with thousands of people following them, and just having them pulled in meant that all of a sudden other people heard of it, and pulled in more and so on. Influencers is such an overused term, but it’s not wrong. I’ve been lucky having a few being bullied into playing the game by their friends, and watching the virus spread have been fun.

In short, I didn’t create the feedback loop, all I did was provide the content, and I kept providing new content so they stuck around.


#17

I know deep down I need something like a Tumblr, but I’m always hesitant to put a bunch of time into social marketing-type stuff or blogging when I have limited time to write to begin with. And when I haven’t gotten much of a clue on how to build a following. Shoot, I only clocked over 100 followers on my Twitter account from publishing NPT, and it was created like eight years ago (even if, admittedly, I didn’t use it much from 2012 to 2017). I’m about as skilled at finding mainstream appeal for my stories as I am at finding mainstream appeal for myself, which is not very. And what’s worse, I almost like it that way. Contrarian to the last, I guess.


#18

I haven’t been interested in any of the premises of the games you’ve made so far Sam (just personal taste, that’s all) but I’ve seen you around enough to be genuinely interested in future projects. So you might not think you’re doing much for building an author profile, but whatever you are doing it’s effective.

Then again I’m a crazy person who looks at writing as a means of self-expression and fulfilment so what do I know! ha ha


#19

I highly recommend finding a (good) local authors’ critique group.

They may not totally “get” interactive fiction, and so you may not be able to bring your IF to the meetings, but you can bring short stories and other things you’re working on. They can really help you work on the “craft” side of things, and this feedback is invaluable. The diversity of backgrounds can also bring a lot to the table. To me, a “good” group for myself includes a few people who are more skilled than I am, a few people around the same skill level, and a few folks who are newer in their writing journey.

Plus, I think many writers are introverts, and it’s awesome to get out and interact with real people face to face, and learn from constructive criticism. It can also provide a “boost” when you’re stuck on a story or just have writer’s block in general, or when you’re feeling blah or unmotivated.


#20

Thanks. Though it’s probably safe to say that if you aren’t into any of the stuff my published games or WIPs have to offer, that’s not gonna change. :stuck_out_tongue:

That’s what writing is for me, and I think that’s what it should be for all authors, too.

That’s good to hear that I’ve been effective, though. If anyone wants to know my secret, it’s writing every day and interacting with testers and fans on the forum. :man_shrugging: