Is This Constructive Feedback

I agree about the importance of detailed feedback, but I don’t think we need to be painful or harsh about it. I think just being precise and specific would help instead.

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I don’t know if I can confidently say I speak from experience but I provided feedback during the beta testing of the newest expansion for Night Road, Secrets and Shadows, as well as beta testing for A Kiss from Death.

I can’t say if it’s universal, but I get nervous whenever I give my opinion about a story, particularly a WiP on the forum, that isn’t 100% praise since I question whether it’s constructive or if it’s just me griping about something.

As a general ‘rule’, I approach criticism from the angle ‘Yeah this might hurt but the reviewers on the GooglePlay store or Steam or iTunes will be a a lot harsher AND I won’t have the opportunity to ask them why they didn’t like the story and how I could improve it cause it’s already on the market/first impressions are key.’

When receiving and giving criticism, I try to ask questions to try to engage in a dialogue with the other party. Sometimes I can’t always think of a question to ask when giving criticism, but usually I almost always have a question when receiving criticism even if it’s the default ‘What are you suggestions?/Can you explain more?’.

Generally I assume someone’s posting in bad faith and offering destructive feedback if they aren’t willing to engage in a dialogue with me to explain their view points, but the good thing is that hasn’t happened!

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I just want to say that I wasn’t speaking to you specifically making this post, that’s why I didn’t answer to your post specifically.

I just wanted to state my general opinion on the matter, and I’m not going to lie, my weariness is leaking through it. I see a lot of people expecting authors to just take in any comment thrown their way and to keep quiet about it.

If someone say something aggressive or insulting, they’re expected to just flag it and keep quiet. I understand that the forums don’t want to have people derail things into arguments, but I feel like something being said about how this kind of behavior is not acceptable would be a lot more reassuring to authors than just hiding everything and pretend it never happened.

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I think people have very different standards for “harsh”. Changed it to “detailed”.

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but I don’t think negative feedback is inherently destructive.

I agree that negative feedback isn’t inherently destructive – but I think that feedback given in a meanspirited way probably is, and that’s essentially what I’m getting at. I think we’re probably in agreement on this point, and just getting wires crossed haha! :blush:

I’m sorry, but I don’t quite understand what is meant here. Would it be alright to ask for clarification?

Oh, of course. Really, my objection was just to the specific phrasing of “what you think needs to be changed” in the original comment. I just don’t think the reader is really in a position to say that something “ needs ” to change – just that they might enjoy a work more if it did. I hope that makes more sense! My next point (“As readers we can make suggestions, but I don’t think it’s our place to dictate the direction that a work “should” take, if that makes sense?”) was kind of a continuation of that, and again I think that we are ultimately in agreement. I think this kind of comes down to the presentation of feedback/opinion about a work as being objective fact or a universal opinion, which I’m not super into. Readers can only really comment on their own experience and thoughts.

There’s been a growing trend of writers being hostile to any feedback, even if it’s purely constructive, and I worry about that making the community more hostile.

I agree that this would definitely be a concern, but I guess I’ve not been around here for long enough to be able to comment on whether that’s the case as someone relatively new to the COG world. I do think, in general, that writers wanting to defend or explain their work doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t engaging with the feedback or that they’re intending to be hostile towards it. They might just be attempting to initiate a discussion about their work, which I think is perfectly valid and can often be the best way to really develop a work (to really dig down into that negative reaction and get a better handle on where they’re coming from).

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This might be relevant. These are the guidelines I prosed when I started my closed alpha testing forum, in order to help shape the feedback I wanted and didn’t want:

There will be spoilers in here, please be careful and don’t share them elsewhere. I want other people to have clean reactions to the story once we get around to to the proper open beta.

Please make sure to only report bugs you find in the bug report forum. It makes things easier for me to find. DO NOT BOTHER WITH LANGUAGE, RHYTHM, GRAMMAR OR THINGS LIKE THAT. I have not smoothed down my language, this is literally my first draft, no edits.

THE FEEDBACK I AM LOOKING FOR RIGHT NOW IS:

1: Pronoun errors (nb they are a mess, I know, I will fix them. Don’t mind them.)

2: Bugs

3: Places where the story doesn’t make sense and makes you go ‘huh I thought I was…’

4: Very long segments of text. It’s hard to see when moving across labels, so if you find them, let me know.

5: The auction. You know the drill. Do you end up getting what you went there for or did the story forget?

6: I wish I could… If you have a strong urge that you wish that you could have said/done something that wasn’t in the story. SMALL THINGS! I am not going to make major changes (but there are things to be added), but if it makes sense, I can add dialog options and the like.

Now, the number 6 ended up being a lie since there were some VERY good suggestions that deserved a lot of reworking, but I didn’t want to tie myself down to every little wish there was.

I can really reccommend authors to spend some time considering what kind of feedback you want from posting your WIP and make sure to point that out. If you don’t have a dedicated discord forum, take a moment to add a standard feedback info thing at the start and the end of the demo, just to remind people of where you are in the process. If there are any particular points you are worried about, make sure to point that out too. I have several things like this:

IF YOU HAVE REACHED THIS SOMETHING HAS GONE WRONG WITH THE EPILOGUES. Please report and explain what path led here.

Just to point out places I know where things might be wonky.

Some other tips:

  • From what I have learned it is a lot easier to get feedback that you actually asked for than just asking for general opinions, most people are not professional testers, they need to know what you need.

  • You can post your WIP on Dashingdon, but just ask for direct feedback from friends, twitter, tumblr, whatever social media you use if you don’t think you’re ready for everyone to chime in.

  • If you are testing out a concept and wants to see if people like it, then say that at the start of the demo and in the WIP thread. There might be people who don’t give detailed feedback, but might still want to chime in with a “cool, would like more” if they knew you were trying to find out whether to continue with the story or not.

  • If you know that you are in a vulnerable place at the moment and only want to hear nice things in order to get the project going, please say so. A small “please, be gentle” or “I know there are issues, I just want to know if this sounds interesting” might give you more of the kind of feedback you are ready for. Then, once you’ve got used to people reading your stuff, you can ask for more.

  • Writing a game/story is a marathon, and not a sprint. You might want different feedback at the start compared to at the end, the important thing is to be clear what you want.

And finally: It is the responsibility of the AUTHOR to set the limits of what type of feedback they want. A tester/reader can’t read your mind, BE CLEAR. Most people don’t want to be assholes, lack of communication is often to blame.

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Good point.

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Sure will, my testers came up with a tagging system for bugs to make it easier to tag bugs too, they have been amazing in organizing themselves and figure out how to make communication happen.

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The whole sentence was:

Which I think holds true. The fact that you took a portion of my sentence to make me say something I didn’t is very disappointing. If this is how even mods behave, I feel even less comfortable discussing anything on these forums now.

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https://forum.choiceofgames.com/faq

I recommend people read the rules

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But when you start out and post a wip here, you don’t. You’re alone.

Yes and no. You are alone with your idea and how to write it, but you are not alone and without support.

There are a lot of rules on this forum to help steer the discussion, there are protections from many things authors faces on more open social media. Yes, you don’t have someone handling things for you, but you are working in an environment with clear rules to limit bad behaviour and people who should at least theoretically know what they are talking about more than the average joe. As someone who has also posted elsewhere, the difference about what can be said is HUGE.

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This is something I agree that I can do better about. I agree with you that it is not always the best thing to do just hide stuff. Sometimes it very much is, like when someone is just trying to troll or stir the pot to get a rise out of people. But your words make me realize that it would sometimes also be a good job to have a moderation post in addition explaining what is not ok, when messages disappear. That would probably save trouble down the line.

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I can agree with @OscarArcane - there are very different circumstances for a person who writes for fun and for someone who writes for money. And feedback and overall relationship of reader and author can be- and, I think, should be - very different.
But when you are intend of selling a product you should be prepared that people on steam and google play will be absolutely harsh. So it is much better to listen to detailed criticism here - a really nice place for authors from what I get- and know your weak points and be prepared for hellhole of comments from more general and less gentle public.

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I understand what you mean, but as clear as the rules are, we still are debating what makes acceptable feedback and what isn’t. There’s still a gray area there that people can use to justify not thinking twice before giving ‘harsh’ feedback (what is considered harsh still being up for debate). This kind of feedback, in the mean time, affect the author which may not be a professional, prepared to distinguish ‘useful’ from ‘not useful’ feedback. And even if they were, when the ‘harsh’ criticism piles on, it can affect their confidence, ‘thick skin’ or not.

Always giving the responsibility to the author to handle things is a lot imo, and not very fair. it’s their responsibility to write the story, to specify the feedback they want, to read and react to all the feedback, to flag and wait for a mod when they are being attacked or made uncomfortable. I think that’s a lot on top of writing a whole story and all of that, for most of them, on their free time.

That is exactly what I was getting at! Thank you for understanding, I wasn’t sure if that was clear.
I think a show of support would go a long way.

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I think here is where we differ. Because if you want to be published, that is indeed what an author needs to be able to deal with. It will only get more intense once it is out, and handing a WIP thread on the forums is a good way to learn. But I have come to realize that maybe the discussion here are about two categories of WIPs, and that’s why it is becoming muddled and people are talking past each other.

Maybe it would be clearer to have two different WIP sections…

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I think I separated the diverging discussions from each other – If I missed any post that does not belong in this discussion, please let me know.

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What’s constructive or not could also have to do with what kinds of suggestions are coming through. Focussed requests from authors about what kind of feedback they want could be very helpful with this, like @malinryden suggested above.

When I started writing CS games, my struggle with feedback was less tone (I’m from a musician background, so we’ve heard it all, heh) and more how to understand what feedback would be helpful for improving my story and what would not. An article I found very insightful was this Mythcreants piece on what beta reading is and is not, written by a developmental editor. The article addresses conventional fiction, so not all the points are applicable, but it has a general discussion of beta reading and its functions.

One section starts, ’ Beta readers report their experiences. The task of beta readers is to help predict how the story’s real audience would respond to it.’

For me, the distinction between reporting what isn’t working versus suggestions on how to fix it helped me focus my approach to feedback. Often understanding what doesn’t work for a beta reader and why (‘this whole section is very confusing because I still don’t understand what the magic harp is supposed to do’) is very useful because it lets me know where I’ve lost the player.

On the other hand, following specific suggestions on what should be done instead can make the issue worse if the suggestion turns out not to fix the underlying problem. Maybe the beta tester says, ‘The whole section with that harp was really boring. You should just take it out.’ but really all that’s needed is actually a sentence or two clarifying the problem, or a choice illustrating the harp’s purpose, a couple of pages back.

The instructions and examples on official CoG beta tests may also be good to give a look (although notably HG authors have some different needs, including potentially wanting assistance with grammar). There are also some older threads on beta testing here on the forums with discussions that might be helpful.

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Yeah, you’re right–that’s what I had meant, but I used stronger language than needed. I edited it to make it more clear. I think saying “should” is fine since that’s more suggestive than the mandatory “need”.

I agree with you. Writers should and are able to defend or explain their writing against destructive feedback, and can choose not to take a constructive feedback. My biggest concern though is when a writer mistakes constructive feedback as destructive and reacts accordingly.

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