Something That Every Game Producer Should Learn From The 3 Monkeys

There’s one thing, one really crucial saying, every game producer needs to be aware. In fact, this might apply to anybody who wishes to present anything in public. If you wish to write an article, you need to know this principles. If you wish to present game ideas, you need to know these principles. If you make games – you definitely need to know the wisdom the 3 monkeys are telling us.

There’s an old story or saying about three wise monkeys. These monkeys don’t want to get negative influence in their life. One puts his hands to cover his eyes, one to cover his mouth and one to cover his ears.

Together they form a saying: “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”

That’s the principle that can greatly benefit you when you present anything in public. When I launched the first beta version of my Dead Wake zombie game last month, I applied this principle when getting feedback.

See no evil, hear no evil – and your motivation goes higher
When you launch any plans or games to public, somebody will say something bad about your game. It doesn’t matter if you have a poor or great game. It doesn’t matter if the game sucks or is the greatest innovation since the sliced bread. It just means there’s somebody who says bad about your game – no more, no less.

Often the feedback tells more about the one who said it than the actual product. Some people are simply saying bad stuff. Some people are just like that. Even if somebody gives them 1,000 dollar extra bonus – they get crumby “because they should deserve more” or “the dollar bills weren’t shiny enough”. Rest assured, they’ll find fault in anything they see.

And that’s perfectly fine.

Your job is to filter this “evil feedback”. After all, if somebody says your game is not good and doesn’t give any basis for this statement – you have no use for the comment. Every developer can greatly benefits from this attitude. See no evil, hear no evil.

By filtering “evil words” you gain something very valuable:

  • Hearing no evil, and listening to any good stuff is motivational. If you concentrate on bad comments, or any flaws that people might point – you won’t be motivated to continue working on your product. It’s much better to check out all the good stuff people have said about your product. Keep bad remarks away, get good comments close to you. Focus on the good elements, ignore the evil remarks.

    If you hear several several people saying good stuff about your game – you know you are on the right path. Concentrate on those. After all, it’s not your job to please everybody (that’s impossible anyway), but to make a great game for some people.

  • Seeing no evil, but looking for solutions. “Seeing no evil” doesn’t mean you should literally close your eyes when you think somebody is going to say something bad. No. It simply means that if somebody says “that’s rubbish” (and gives no reason why it’s rubbish) then you can simply ignore that comment, or ask why the guy thinks so and what could be improved.

    If you look for any valuable hints on what you can improve, then you are on the right path. Simply make notes and write down what you learned from the suggestions, and ignore the bad stuff.

After announcing the Dead Wake game’s first beta version, I got lots of feedback in various sites. I saw some guys saying “couldn’t see anything, was too dark” and some people saying some complaints, but can’t recall what exactly they were (I suppose I’m also using “Remember no evil” as an additional guideline). It might be easy to start defending my game, but I’d rather let the game do the talking. If somebody doesn’t like the game then that’s no big deal. I simply ignore that kind of comments.

Some of the feedback that was telling “it was too dark”. This statement simply showed me that now I have one new feature to bring in the next version: “make game brighter (and less dark)”.

I listened to what isn’t working and fixed that (or put it to my “future todo” list).

Then I concentrated on the good stuff I received. In fact, I got great feedback. Here’s some examples of the kind of feedback I got:

  • I saw guys saying how they “eagerly wait to see the next version”. This is motivating.
  • I saw gamers commenting how they love any zombie games and can’t wait to see more of this.
  • I saw comments from gamers who really looked forward to see more physics features in the game
  • One guy said “I’m drooling” when he saw “headshots” in the next version’s feature list
  • One gamer journalist even remarked that “points went up” when I explained that Dead Wake is done “gameplay before story” style. That remark was highly valuable for me – not just motivationally, but businesswise.
  • The greatest comment game from one guy who actually wanted to buy the game so that he could see the next version. I warmly laughed and said that it’s not in sale yet, and he should see the Dead Wake game site for the next release dates.

The new game has got so much positive feedback, that I feel great about developing the game. I’m already listing suggested ideas, but the feedback I got me thinking about another listing too. I planned to start listing the good feedback on the site, or somehow collect the good comments that was said. I believe it would be great to see all the good stuff listed in one place, and just by looking at the comments I could feel more motivated.

When you focus on the good feedback you get, and pick the ideas from the suggestions you will feel more motivated and have plenty of ideas on how to improve your game – without any negative burden.

Say no evil, and people see you as a professional game producer
I might have biased approach on this, but somehow I think that truly professional people don’t say evil. I believe professionals can give ideas on how to improve your game. Professionals can point out problem areas in plans. Professionals will know when to say things directly, and they know how to face the reality. If game is not selling, professionals can admit that as a fact, and say that “this isn’t working, we need to try something else”.

“Say no evil” doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t point out errors. Professionals know that there might come the time when they need to fire people, and say that out loud. Firing people is not necessarily about saying evil – it’s about saying the facts. It might be the attempt to make things go on the right track.

“Say no evil” simply means that there’s no conversation like this:

  • Producer: Feel free to give me feedback about my game!
  • Somebody: Your game sucks!
  • Producer: No, it does not.
  • Somebody: Yes it does – BIG TIME!
  • Producer: No moron, you suck!

Instead, the conversation should go like this:

  • Producer: Feel free to give me feedback about my game!
  • Somebody: Your game sucks!
  • Producer: Ok. (or alternatively asks why, thanks for the feedback or says nothing)

I might have said this earlier, but this is worth repeating. The key thing to remember hear are that comments about your game are not comments about you. That might be easy to forget, but crucial when you want to hear feedback about your game. If there’s bad controls in the game, that doesn’t make you a bad person (or a bad producer for that matter). All that matters is how your game is doing, and what are you going to do next.

If you have a game that sells big time, you might be aware that the controls are difficult for some people but great for your audience. There’s no reason to fix something that’s not broken. If your game does fine – then feel free to skip the feedback.

If you realize that you could dramatically improve your game by fixing the controls, then you need to make a decision. Bad controls in your game doesn’t make you a bad producer, it’s what you decide to do next. If you decide to fix them – that’s great. That means you are in the group of people who learn from their past and improve. If on the other hand you start fighting (saying evil words back), it really doesn’t improve your game. It doesn’t do much good for the controls if you keep mocking people who give you feedback.

There’s another very important element to ponder in the principle of “Say no evil”. Written word has the bad habit of staying in the web. One bad sentence said year ago might do you bad in the future. Who knows, perhaps some publishers are about to give you money to produce your game when they realize that you had a bad mouth that doesn’t fit their company imago.

It might happen that saying evil would not bring doom over you – but it certainly is not helping anything, so why do that in the first place?

When you have nothing to say, say nothing.
Charles Caleb Colton (English cleric, writer and collector) has said: “When you have nothing to say, say nothing.” If your goal is to improve your game, then fighting with others won’t help much to achieve those goals.

Filtering evil comments, focusing on the inspiring comments, concentrating on the good feedback you receive – and not retaliating goes a long way.

Juuso Hietalahti

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