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Three essential tips for indies in 2014 (that should be obvious but aren't)
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Three essential tips for indies in 2014 (that should be obvious but aren't)
by James Marsden on 01/01/14 09:27:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


In today's socially connected world where relationships are fundamental to success, these tips could make all the difference.

At last, they're coming!

1. Never publicise a failure in the hope of raising your profile

This point doesn't refer to sharing valuable knowledge online in the form of postmortems and advice, it's for those who are struggling to gain traction with the press and are tempted to grab a headline for short term gain, when in the long run it won't help at all.

If you're in this for the long haul - which you have to be to succeed - you must build a track record of success online. Only success can attract great people, and you need great people to continue to succeed.

If a game fails to sell, instead of sharing your disappointment with the press for an easy headline (there's nothing more certain to drive traffic than bad news) and a small spike in sales, resist the temptation and instead train yourself to celebrate the silver lining (there is always at least one) and talk publicly about that instead.

This is especially important for when you're pitching your next project. If the only big headline that shows up from a Google search is about your spectacular failure, it will colour how people see you. Of course there is no sense in lying, but you can be selective about what you reveal to the world.

Finally, you should never, ever publicly pass the blame for your failure.

2. Always read the comments

We learn something new every day by reading people's comments online. Surge Deluxe wouldn't exist at all if it weren't for us scouring the internet for feedback on our games.

If you're making a product that's any good, you shouldn't have any trouble diving into forums and YouTube comments to engage with people. If you're making a product that's receiving harsh criticism, listen carefully to what people are saying and learn from it. 

3. Treat trolls with respect

Many people believe that showing patience & grace to trolls is a waste of energy, but it is possible to kill with kindness. Apart from one occasion involving a very disturbed individual, we've managed to dissipate every case of online aggression by treating the poster with respect. 

More often that not, an aggressor will be shocked at your humanity and apologise in turn for being rude. Because why wouldn't they? People generally prefer to be liked than disliked, but some just don't know how to start conversation positively. How many times have you heard someone start a real world conversation by moaning about the weather? 

Take the initiative and show some unconditional kindness to move a negative conversation somewhere more valuable. If you're aware of the Broken Windows Theory you'll understand why cultivating a positive community around your game is important.



If you enjoyed this article there's loads of other useful stuff here:

Also, check out our upcoming sci-fi platformer/shoot 'em-up hybrid Velocity 2X.

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Tommy Hanusa
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4. Don't do everything everyone tells you to do.

James Marsden
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That too.

Aaron San Filippo
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Not sure I agree on #1. We published a numbers post on Race The Sun a month after launch highlighting our low sales, and it was pretty instrumental in the game actually being Greenlit and thus finding commercial success on Steam. Other games have had similar stories.

The important thing in my opinion is that you control the story and don't let it reflect on you or your product. In the case of our blog post, we explained how we felt that the "I'll buy it when it's on Steam" attitude was a primary factor in our low sales.

James Marsden
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For some reason I can't load that link you supplied.

It's great that it worked for you, I've just witnessed many others fall foul of doing it, but perhaps they didn't have the sense you had in controlling the story.

I do however believe that the consistently positive press that we've generated for ourselves has opened doors of opportunity that would not have opened if we'd done things another way.

I often say that we've been blessed with good luck, and whilst luck is definitely a huge part of it, I know that some of the decisions we've made in the way we approached the press have been instrumental in building the relationships we have today.

Who knows what the future holds for us this year - it could all end in disaster - but I won't be talking about that if it does, I'll be talking about what's coming next in a genuinely enthusiastic and positive way =)

Christian Nutt
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Here's a shortened version of it:

TC Weidner
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not sure I agree with 2 and 3, either. Its like a head football coach listening in on sports talk radio and actually taking advise from callers, that would be pretty nuts and a sure way to lose one's job pretty quickly. Its the same for this industry, take advice sure, but from the right people. Everyone has an opinion, most however arent worth much if anything. Customers opinion matter for sure, but again, look for trending opinions, not individual ones.

as for trolls, they arent even worth acknowledging.

James Marsden
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When you say listening to the right people, I think players are the right people when it comes to understanding where the flaws in your game lie.

Of course our decisions are not all led by players, but we get really valuable information from people who can't be bothered to write a considered email to us, but who voice their frustrations on YouTube or an online forum.

For example, we found a very in depth discussion of our game mechanics on an online forum, where these players had spent more time playing our game collectively than our team had time to do in testing.

They found some flaws at the very top end of play that we hadn't spotted (they were far better at playing than us!). We listened, presented redesigns to them, and rolled them into the follow up game. From my perspective, that's invaluable feedback that we'd have never found if we weren't out there looking for it.

Regarding trolls, we've actually managed to turn a couple of trolls into fans of our games just by treating them with respect, so in my experience it is worth acknowledging them.

The broken windows theory seems to apply to game communities, because through this approach we've built a positive community of people online. I've only ever had to block one person on Twitter.

Perhaps it's just luck, or our following is so niche that we're not attracting the kind of attention that brings vitriolic hatred online, I guess we'll know in time :p