Hello! I'm Tom. I designed a game called Gunpoint, about rewiring things and punching people, and now I'm working on a new one called Heat Signature, about sneaking aboard randomly generated spaceships. Here's some more info on all the games I've worked on, here's the podcast I do, here are the videos I make on YouTube, here are some of the articles I wrote for PC Gamer, and here are two short stories I wrote for the Machine of Death collections.
In general I really like open game development – talking and writing publicly about what I’m working on – but I do have one problem. The time when I want to share what I’ve been making is when, after an exhausting amount of work, I’ve finally created something I’m happy with. But sharing it invites critique: anyone who sees a way it could be better will generally tell you about it.
And it’s just the wrong time to hear it. I spend all the rest of my time dissatisfied – that’s how I get things done. The point when I’m actually happy with it is the light at the end of the tunnel, and sharing it is part of how I celebrate. Having it picked apart right then – even if the suggestions are fair – is crushing. I go from exhausted but happy to exhausted, miserable, and daunted. It doesn’t even help me make the thing better, because I’m too demoralised to work on it anymore.
Sometimes, of course, I ask for feedback. But when I don’t, I think I’m going to just quietly disable comments. It’s not a case of “Oh god the comments”, it’s just an evasive way of saying “I’m not looking for feedback on this.” I stay aware of any real problems by doing lots of playtesting, and if it’s something that doesn’t bother actual players, it’s not worth having my enthusiasm drained over it.
Marc Forrester: Sounds a lot like Heat Signature is close to release from here :D
Shaun Cheah: Ah snap, I'm probably guilty of this. I see something I like and I think I have an idea of how it could be better and I just say so without thinking of the effect that criticism will have on the thing's creator. It's something I should work on, I think.
But yeah, I can see how this is a good thing. I've heard a lot of advice to just never read comments ever because they tend to be terrible all the time, but that advice predates the rise of the upvote/downvote system which allowed comments sections to kinda manage themselves. This is a good middle ground, I think.
StevenM: I feel a similar sense of misery but for a different reason. I generally produce my work and shop it around for the explicit purpose of people giving suggestions and critique. The misery comes when a fix seems so obvious I wonder how, through hours of toil, I overlooked it completely. So I go "I finished it!" to "How did I miss that?!" to "Well I know what to fix now".
The general solution for this scenario, I've found, is the old standby of simply waiting until the next day and reviewing the work with a fresh perspective. Often I revise the piece again before shopping it around. Sometimes people still find obvious errors - and that's fine, too. It means I have a plan of action.
James Thompson: I can totally empathise with this. When you get to a point where you feel really happy with something you have worked hard on, then getting even totally valid criticism is really dispiriting.
tinyangrycrab: You are a bro. Do not fret and accept your broitude. Good work bro!
Austin Moore: I can understand what you mean and i think this counts for everything , i remember an essay i spent an few days on and was so proud of it i freaked out when handing it in because i did not want to see the mistakes.
If you don't want to be showing off every detail that's fine, i think its amazing you are doing any kind of open development
Keep it up Tom. :)
Diego: This is a great post but you could have improved it with examples where this happened, this way the reader won't be confused as to whether he was one who gave unwanted criticism. :P
This was a joke. I hate making this disclaimer, but I'm on the internet for long enough to appreciate its importance.
Seriously now, I understand your point. And I never thought about that before.
TooNu: Oh goodness, now I don't know what I said about the testing :/ this is a really great post Tom, it must be emotionally draining of course and I appreciate how open you have been about your development time.
Feedback is great, but it sucks also for the reasons you've written. Hopefully the process will be worth it and you can look back and believe it was all worth it (despite how negative you felt at times).
Good luck anyway Tom :) I will buy Heat signature on day 1 anyway :)
icuurd12b42: Heat Signature is starting to look pretty sweet.