Recovering from bad reviews

Hello.

I’m the publisher of the recent Sorcerer’s Story release. Anyway, my reviews are pretty poor, mostly due to my poor grammar and spelling. I knew me not catching some mistakes was inevitable, but I guess I messed up a lot more than I thought. I got permission to edit the files and have it updated, and will use Grammarly to fix the errors (don’t ask me why I didn’t use Grammarly on the initial edit, I guess I got arrogant.) Is there a way for my game to recover from bad initial reviews, or am I stuck, and it’s best to learn my lesson and use tools like Grammarly for future games? Or will a fixed game, at least somewhat counter-act the negative reviews?

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I’m sure If you re-release it with the corrections that people brought up they’ll probably give you more favorable reviews I never played it but I’ll give it a look after it’s re-released :+1:

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It will likely never be as high as it would have been if you had made the changes prior to release, but they can definitely get better. Even if it didn’t help the ratings for this book I would recommend doing it for your own personal growth.

Don’t let this deter you too much, plenty of people want to write a story but never finish and publish it so you are already well out in front of most people.

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Speaking from experience, there will always be ‘griefers’ in these reviews sections.

People who make ridiculous claims that the story is somehow purporting some form of bigotry. Or some people will complain that the game isn’t free despite it saying that you only get to play the demo before having to pay for the rest of the story. Some people complain these stories aren’t long enough again despite being 150k words on average.

Don’t pay attention to these people. You will always get some form of negative reviews. That goes for all kinds of content creators. Focus on the positive reviews, focus on the reviews that look at both the ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

These people aren’t worth your time, thoughts, or worries.

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You may find this thread of use:

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I’d say make an announcement in steam that the game has been edited and updated. Own the mistake, show that you put the effort into fix it, and hope that the recent reviews are a lot more positive.

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Your situation does not really fit what the community has talked about before, but there are bits and pieces that have been shared over the years that can help you.

Fixing your game by doing a proper copy-edit pass is a great start.

There is another thing you can do as well. I’ll let a published author explain it in their own words:

There are other posts in the thread this was pulled from you can learn from too, but they really do not apply to your immediate goal.

Another idea to help give your published story a boost is to write future “add-on” content. @Eric_Moser is doing this for his CCH2 story (or is it CCH?) … he is making special content that will add 50,000 words (again I think) to the original story. This adds value and shows those that supported you by purchasing your game that you care.

Maybe Eric can explain better than me with details I am not remembering correctly.

Another author that does updates to his games is JimD … Zombie Exodus and ZE: Safehaven both have content valued added into it.

I’m sure there are more examples I am not recalling at the moment.

My point being here is that you create hooks to allow everyone to take a second look at your additional effort.

Edit: Here is what another author has done… I am very impressed with this effort.

So, the key is to add value to your updating in ways that your readers will appreciate.

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Hi there @AgentV,

Feel your pain (I was pinged by a link to a very similar thread I made). Yep my first game got ripped to shreds in the initial reviews. (Oddly enough it still sells better even now than Oedipus which rates quite a bit higher and is a more recent release, but that’s a completely different discussion :slight_smile: )

One (of many) of the reasons I do advocate writing “short” (sub 100k) games as a first effort is that many writers do show inexperience which results in a backlash in the reviews. If you know where the problems lie, you can try to improve on them next time. Or not. If you really don’t want to go there, the choice is yours and you can branch into a different area of writing. In the end the decision is yours, do what makes you happy.

That thread that was linked Gower worth reading. Lots of good advice in there. @Eiwynn is one of the reasons I’m still around, her posts on separating constructing from unconstructive crit and the nature of how and why people are reviewing (which she’s stated many times on the forums) is good advice. I get it, it’s super easy to take crit personally and see it as a reflection on yourself, but in the end it’s aimed at the work not you as a person. If you’re putting writing out there, you’re going to get critisism of both helpful and unhelpful kinds and need to develop enough objectivity to deal with it.

Ok onto your game specifically- just a note, I haven’t read the whole game (I’m still working though Floating city from the last lot of releases because I need more spare time.) This is just general advice and first impressions. I’m trying to be constructive and helpful so please don’t take anything I say personally.

  1. This is your first game and although some authors hit a home run with their first release, many don’t. The audience for CSG often has specific likes and dislikes that take time on the forums and reading other CSGs to get a feel for. Inexperience with coding, formatting CSG stories well (including things like balancing linear sections to branches) and general story writing inexperience can all play a part here.

Also remember that a lot of people don’t know that HG does contain work from a lot of amature authors (in fact some readers think it is the same authors responsible for all the games). Your game WILL get compared to fan favourites which are often written by more experienced and sometimes professional authors. This can’t be avoided. People are paying for a product, and if they find it not to their satisfaction they’ll leave negative reviews. (Even highly rated games get 1*'ed by some readers for not being free.)

  1. It’s short. I know I said I recommend short for a first work, there’s a lot of pros to doing this and I don’t think you were wrong to do it (at least you know where the problems lie now instead of writing a 500k epic and getting this sort of feedback), but the audience out in the wild doesn’t know this is your first work… neither do most of them care. You’ll get stars taken off for shortness as there’s been a trend towards CSG readers wanting longer and longer games over the years.

  2. I saw a comment about no RO’s? Although personally my experience isn’t broken if a story doesn’t have RO’s, a lot of the COG audience really likes them and will take stars off for their abscence (also happened in my first game.)

  3. Coverart. Although you can get away with coverart which isn’t eyecatching if the game is rating highly enough to attract people in, it still really helps. TBH your coverart doesn’t draw me into clicking on your game and as such you’ll probably get less traffic and following on from that less reviews. There are stock sites around where you can buy (or sometimes even get for free) images which are free for commercial use which you can use as is or edit. It’s cheaper than hiring an artist for games where you’re not sure if they’ll make back the cost of the artwork or if you enjoy making your own covers. Highly recommend checking those sites out. (Try here for starters: Stock art sites )

  4. Ok, so this is where most of the reviews seem to be coming from- spelling and grammar. One thing to note is that bad reviews will often feed on themselves (can speak to this for my first game). People read the bad reviews and go in expecting the things that are outlined in the reviews so it can become a highlighted piece of critisism.

I actually didn’t see your WIP thread when it was active, but it doesn’t seem to have gotten a lot of feedback. Feedback from CSG readers is invaluable. They’ll pick up heaps of things you haven’t noticed that could be improved. One of the things that makes it really hard, especially for a first time author here, is to get people interested in your game. There are so many WIP’s that getting attention for your work in particular can be difficult as everyone only has so much free time to give. I’d suggest leaving feedback on other “less popular” WIP’s and just generally hanging out on the forums and talking to people. Make some friends and you could end up with people who would be willing to work on your games because they like you and want to help out if they have the time :slight_smile:

Re: Grammerly and other “text fixing” programs. They help, and at a minimum I’d use one as a tool, but I don’t rely on them completely. I use the spelling and grammar function on MS word and it picks up a lot of things but it isn’t perfect (it missed some things and recommends the wrong corrections quite regularly) and doesn’t replace people actually reading your work and providing feedback. For example, in your demo screens there’s a sentence that contains the word “of” instead of “for”. That kind of thing can be missed by electronic correction programs. If you haven’t run one of these programs through your current game yet however, I’d do so. (COG will likely allow you to update.) Hiring a professional copyeditor would be nice, but for a game like this would be very expensive and unlikely to make back what it costs to edit it. (I’ve looked into it for my own in the past and for a 100k game it can be thousands of dollars.)

When proof reading your own work, change it up. I’m terrible at picking up my own typos. My brain auto corrects what I’m reading to what I think I’ve written and I’m not alone. (Studies have shown this is common.) So change the screen colour from white to black, change the window size to move the text around, change the font and size of the text etc. Basically trick your brain into thinking you’re reading something different. It does help to an extent.

The way you write your forum posts is very good. Some of the text in the game is a bit stilted in places and there’s a fair bit of telling instead of showing. (For example you talk about seeing a blast but don’t describe what the blast looks like- What colour is it? Does it give off heat? What sort of sound does it make when it hits? etc.) I suspect this comes under lack of experience with writing choice stories more than anything else. Just needs practice.

What can you do?
Entirely up to you. The fact that you’ve made this post instead of rage quitting has earned a +1 in my book. One extra thing I’d recommend is to do some friendly game jams. Good experience, no pressure, short turn around for finished work and you often get feedback/reviews from readers. There’s a Halloween one currently running on the forums here. Ectocomp is coming up on the interactive fiction forums. I think you’ve missed introcomp which would be another good one for getting feedback on short games you can action. Spring thing is probably a bit far away, but maybe in the future. Itch.io frequently runs free game jams. They’re good for practice although the amount of feedback you’ll get is variable on them (sometimes you get lots, sometimes none at all). I’d try out one or more of the above jams/comps I listed as they generally have good helpful reviewers.

Read a lot of modern text games. Especially ones published here as this is the style you’re going for, but there’s years worth of IFcomp entries available as well for free and you can see what sorts of entries did well and did less well and take lessons from that too.

Anyway good luck. Try not to take the reviews to heart and write what makes you happy. Just pick out any useful elements in reviews to help improve games in the future.

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I couldn’t have said anything better than what jacic wrote.

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I’d like to thanks everyone who took the time to help, and will give individual responses to everyone here:
Damar_Glover: Thanks for taking the time to do so.

Lance_Heyen: I was expecting this kind of answer. I’m thinking also if I make the edits, people who read the reviews but try the demo anyway will be less detered. The super harsh reviews have either slowed down or stop, so it looks like the bleeding has stopped slowed down.

The_Black_Reaper: While I agree that it’s important not to take it too to heart or personally (and I have ignored the hyperbole many reviewers have used) I do find that if there’s a consensus, it’s best I listen to the general direction of the message while ignoring the harshest phrasing.

Gower: I’ll check that link out, thanks.

kckoble: While the game isn’t on steam, it is on the google play store. I can’t write the updates but can suggest them to COG. Since it’ll also affect their sales, there’s a good chance they’ll listen. I do agree though that regardless of platform, owning it is better in the long run.

Eiwynn: I understand a lot of what you said. I can make future games long (I have one WIP that could use some lengthening, so I’ll surely keep this in mind for my future projects). Thanks.

Jacic: Thanks, your post will likely help me with all future games, especially with getting feedback. I can add in a romance to future games as well.

Adrao: Thanks for vouching for someone. This does help with determining the best advice out there.

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@Lance_Heyen said it well about how there is no second chance at a first impression. Fixing it now is both the right thing to do and likely to help in the long run (and just remember that the long run is long indeed; this story could be out there for years or even decades potentially), but especially with a misfire, it will take a year or more to equal the reader numbers you got just in the first month. Launch window is irreplaceable. But first stories are like first pancakes, sometimes they are a throwaway. Toaster only just this month ticked over 1,000 copies sold, just shy of two years after release.

However, I have noticed that when you say the same thing about children, your older daughter can sometimes take offense. Women, am I right?

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Yeah, that makes sense. However, this game won’t be everyone’s first impression of me. If I’m more careful in the future, people who didn’t see my first game (or don’t remember it was me) will have a better impression of my future games, if I properly apply what I learned, right? I guess its best to chalk this up as a learning experience, and do my best at damage control?

Just got Grammarly and ran it through my current WIP and noticed my work could use a big help, so its no stretch I’ll see similar results with my first game. Maybe it’ll be good in the long run. Just as you said though, the long run could be years.
Thanks

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That’s true. The other side of the coin for a middling first story is that most people won’t hold it against you, simply because they don’t even know it exists. A story of poor quality that still sells moderately well would actually be more detrimental to your rep than a poor one that doesn’t.

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I updated the game, and it appears as CoG has published my updates in hosted games. Over the past couple of days, reviews have been a little less harsh. Hoping it helps me out in the long run, and future sales won’t be affected very much. I had another game as a WIP which I will continue to edit based on the advice given here (making a romance, making it longer, proofreading advice, etc) and want to submit it in a few months. Hopefully, this experience will make me a better writer and my second game will perform better

I would once again like to thank everyone who left a message here. It’s been helpful from both a pragmatic and emotional standpoint.

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I’m glad to hear that you are keeping your calm about this. My first experience with my first game was somewhat similar. I had gone through the game myself, playtested it with beta readers in the forum, and I still got tons of “poor grammar” reviews, which really affected the game’s launch (“whaaat? how can that be? I read it so many times… others read it…”). Then, I went back and slowly re-read it slowly, proof-checked using word, and found SO many problems.

So, another piece of advice… write your game (from start to finish), proof-test it in the forums (until everybody is happy… listen to playtesters, they are your readers, and they know better than you… I can give you many stories, but from my first game I still remember @poison_mara writing, “I don’t care at all, I just want to fireball his ass!” (and thank you so much mara for every sentence of that long review, it helped me so much! :slight_smile: ) which made me realize how flawed my game was -from an emotional point of view for the reader-, and which lead to me writing an entire new branch for the ending of the game (i.e. the game diverged completely from that point, so whoever wanted to “fireball his ass” went down a completely different path in the game), and then sit down, and SLOWLY play through it yourself. Hopefully by this time you can enjoy your own game (this is starting to be the way that I assess my own games… normally by the time I finish them so much time has passed that I forgot much of what happens… and if I enjoy reading it myself by that point, then it is something?)

It’s all a learning process, and I assure you your next game will have a better initial reception.

But, in the meantime I downloaded and started reading (haven’t finished yet as I need to do other stuff today related to my daytime job). But, I have posted my own review on google, telling people that the grammar is much improved and to give it a chance. Hope it helps!

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@adrao Thanks… for took that review so well. That’s not frequent. Most authors don’t really want to see a sincere feedback. They say that they want it, but in reality, they don’t. The reason why nowadays I don’t read wips at all, except for writers like you.

I don’t want to discourage, I just want the authors to make the best game possible giving them unfiltered no bullshit visceral description of what the reader could feel. Better hear that during the development that in the comments of 1 star of Google play… But sadly most authors are not aware of that.

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I think a lot of authors especially the younger ones can’t help but take critical comments as personal attacks on themselves which the majority of time they are not.

It can take less than 5 minutes to write the average good review. A critical one can take upto 10 or even longer. Author’s need to realise that most of the time the reviewer actually like they game and are trying to help by providing feedback and have taken time out of their day to tell you what they think needs improvement.

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To be fair – many readers need to learn how to give their feedback better as well. You can say the same feedback both in positive ways and in negative ways … and if the reader chooses negativity it can put the author on the defensive.

As an author, bluntness can close off your ability to receive the feedback. As a long time tester, you have to often find ways to protect an author’s fragile ego to allow them a chance to hear your feedback.

I know both sides of the issue here, and sometimes there is no easy answer.

Luckily for me, I really connect to @poison_mara’s feedback (most of the time :wink: ) and she provides really valuable feedback that helps a lot.

As I said in this thread, your job as an author is to recognize the true gold from the fool’s gold in everything… it is a skill that everyone needs.

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Oh definitely. Some times the right wording can dull the sharpness of a critical comment.

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Well, I guess I’m the exception in that I’m happy to get visceral comments! As Mara put it well, I’d rather get it from friends in the forum (when I can do something about it) than one :star2: comments later on Google store. But, I’m an academic with years experience getting comments from other academics (believe me, nobody on this forum can beat an academic in their destructive brutal comments!). My skin is very hard, and it is almost impossible for somebody to get under it nowadays (at least in writing… And this community is brilliant in their level of constructive criticism!) I know I say this many times, but once again I’d like to appreciate all feedback I get, I know how much time it takes to do so, and the quality of games powers so much to players!!!

So… I guess again the advice to any new/young author is… Listen and grow a strong skin. The comments are there to help you improve, by those similar to the ones who will later be reading your work. If character L is a fan favourite, don’t kill her (or, at least create a way to avoid her dying! It’s interactive fiction after all! And once again, thanks to all those who keep insisting for things to get changed!! :wink: )

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