Kickstarter Lesson #123: How to Give and Take Tough-Love Feedback

9 October 2014 | 56 Comments

On Tuesday I recorded an episode of Funding the Dream on Kickstarter with Richard Bliss about giving tough-love feedback. I kind of stumbled through some of my thoughts on the podcast, so I thought I’d try to write them out here.

Thanks to the myriad of forums, Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook groups (here for games and here for general), it’s really easy to get feedback on Kickstarter projects. As someone who both gives and receives advice on a frequent basis, I’ve seen a broad range of positive and negative situations arise from the feedback process. So I thought I’d write out some guidelines to keep in mind for that process.

Also, just to be clear, I am not available for consultation on your Kickstarter project. However, if you have a question, just ask it in the comments of the corresponding Kickstarter Lesson–I try to help out there.

How to Ask for Advice About Your Project

  1. If you ask for feedback, be open to receiving feedback. Countless times I’ve seen people ask for feedback on Facebook because they either (a) want publicity or (b) want affirmation. Then they get defensive when that’s not what they receive. Don’t be one of those people. Carefully consider if you’re actually ready to receive feedback; if not, just don’t ask! There are much better ways to publicize your project or get affirmation.
  2. If you ask for feedback, be open to acting on the feedback. It’s one thing to receive feedback well; it’s another to have the courage to incorporate some of it into your project. Time and money are typically the two constraints here, both of which are solvable. You may have had it in your head for months that you need to launch today, but guess what? You don’t need to launch today. And yes, money is a legitimate constraint, but if numerous people have told you to pay for better art, it’s worth the money to get a few beautiful, compelling pieces of art before you launch.
  3. Ask for feedback after you’ve executed the idea but before the project launches. Ideas are hypothetical–there’s no space for feedback when you just have an idea. You need to have actually made something before you can get feedback on it. But don’t wait too long. If you’re having heart surgery, do you want the doctor to study your MRI for the first time before the surgery or after he’s cut open your chest? Kickstarter is your heart–do it justice by asking for advice before you launch. Preferably at least a month before launch, but after you’ve finished the first draft of the project page (it’s tough for people to look at a work in progress for the purposes of offering advice).
  4. Ask very specific questions. It’s fine to ask for general advice about your project page, but a much better way to get your foot in the door is to ask 1-3 very specific questions. If you do, you’ll likely get some great ancillary advice as well.
  5. If you ask for feedback during a project, ask for people to tell you the top 3 reasons why your project is failing and brace for impact. That’s the right question to ask. The wrong question at that point–but the one most people ask–is, “How do I get backers?”
  6. Seek feedback from more than one person. Originally I wrote this point as “not all advice is created equal.” But I decided to rephrase it, because it’s just as helpful for you to get feedback from a creator whose project barely funded at $5,000 as it is to get feedback from a creator who wildly overfunded at $200,000. Both have different stories to tell and lessons to learn, and the truth is that you don’t know if you’ll end up with the $5,000 project or the $200,000 project. So the key here is to get advice from a variety of creators.
  7. Respect the time of the people from whom you seek feedback. This ties into all of the above points, but it extends beyond them to the dichotomy of helping one person versus helping many. The key is that if you can ask for advice in a public forum instead of a private e-mail, do it. By doing so, you’re giving the person or people the chance to respond publicly, which could potentially help other creators too and even create a dialogue with different opinions. There are exceptions to it, and I’m particularly sensitive to it because I get asked for advice privately a lot when I’d greatly prefer for people to ask questions in the comments of these posts to show a sense of generosity of information to other creators. It might be daunting to post publicly, but the people in those Facebook groups genuinely want to help, and it’s much better that they catch your mistakes early than thousands of people roll their eyes at those errors when your project goes live.
  8. Be wary of any advice giver who uses outlier, mega-projects as supporting evidence. Look at outlier projects like you’d look at a Komodo dragon: Respectfully, but from a distance. Otherwise leave them alone and look for more down-to-earth projects that apply to you (and listen to people who use those types of non-outlier projects as examples).

How to Give Advice on Someone Else’s Project

  1. Ask yourself, “Did this person request feedback?” A trap that I often fall into is offering feedback even though the person hasn’t asked for feedback (my ex-girlfriends can attest to this). If you do this, be acutely aware of whether or not the creator has asked for your input on their project. They might not be ready for feedback, and that’s okay.
  2. Start by identifying at least 2 things they’re doing right. This isn’t about softening the blow of blunt feedback; rather, it’s about reinforcing the things they’re doing right. If a person is about to get a wave of feedback, they need to anchor themselves on something they’re already doing right or their feedback capacity will flood.
  3. If the project is live, give advice about things they have the power to change. Man, I struggle with this. Usually when I look at a failing project, I see a dozen things they should have done or fixed 3 months ago, and it’s too late now. But it doesn’t help for me to identify those aspects of the project–not yet (that’s for if/when the project fails). Now is the time to offer feedback on things they have the power to change, like the text on the project page, their participation in the comments, or reward levels that don’t have any backers (they can and should be removed).
  4. If the project is on a failing trajectory, tell the person. Send the creator a link to their Kicktraq page and point out the ugly truth: They’re not going to successfully fund. They have the right to know, and it will shift their frame of reference in a way that will benefit them in the long run. It’s still up to them if they want to cancel or finish the campaign.
  5. Understand that offering advice does not behold the recipient to taking the advice. It’s tough when someone doesn’t heed your advice or incorporate any of the changes you suggested. Sometimes this is a case of someone violating the first rule of asking for advice, but it’s not up to you to decide that. You simply have to come to terms with the fact that your advice merely presents an opportunity for the person to improve their project, and in the end they need to decide what’s best for them.
  6. If someone asks you, “How do I get backers?” in the middle of a project, here’s your answer: Stop thinking about backers and start thinking about your next backer. Identify him or her from people you already know, and send him or her a personal e-mail to connect them with your project in a way that creates opportunity for them, not obligation or imposition. Then open a fresh e-mail and do the same for your next backer. Then again. They can also read this for more ways to address the mid-project slump, but I’d start with the above advice.
  7. End with a note of encouragement. This method of “sandwiching” blunt feedback with something positive at the beginning and the end of your feedback note was mentioned in the comments by Gamer Dave and tlehmann. This isn’t a place for false hope; rather, it’s a way to give the person a little jolt of enthusiasm so they actually act on the ideas you’ve discussed instead of slumping back in their chair in despair. You can even use this as one final way to slip in some feedback. For example, if the person hasn’t been engaging in the comments at all, you can end with, “One of the reasons I love Kickstarter is the sense of community that creators can build through the comments sections–I look forward to seeing your great sense of humor there!”

***

Now it’s my turn to ask for feedback: Do you agree with the above suggestions? What am I missing?

Also watch: So You Want to Do a Kickstarter (Eduardo Baraf) and read How to Ask for Advice Over E-mail (to which I would only add, “If the target of your advice has a public forum, ask there instead.”)

56 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #123: How to Give and Take Tough-Love Feedback

  1. I think there are different types of feedback- Experienced and Speculative. Both types of feedback are valuable, but in different ways.

    Everyone has an opinion, and if someone is kind enough to share their feedback with you, its important to try and see it “through their eyes.” This is especially true for end level consumer advice. “What dont you like about the art?” , “Where do you lose interest in my KS video?”, “What makes you most excited about the project that you want to share with your friends?”.

    You can benefit from as many pieces of feedback of this type as you can get.

    Alternatively, Its important to take Procedural feedback about your campaign from people that have experience running KS projects themselves. Consumers are not faced with the same trade-offs and logistical challenges you are on your project.

    Id say its important to categorize the feedback you get into the above categories so you can stay focused on whats important in the different phases of your campaign.

    1. Steve: Thanks for sharing that distinction. I really like the idea of trying to see things through someone else’s eyes (as hard as that is to do sometimes).

      I also like the distinction between getting feedback from a creator and a consumer–both perspectives are useful in different ways.

    2. I like the breakdown of Experienced and Speculative feedback, but I think that even Experienced feedback should be taken with a grain of salt. There are those with Seasoned Experience, people that have a clear track record. Then there are the Lucky few, those individuals who succeeded, but their path is not easily repeatable. I’m sure we could break down the levels of experience even further, but here is why I make the distinction:

      I attended a Kickstarter panel at a local gaming convention. The sole presenter was a gentleman who is a published RPG author and a just so happened to have a single successful Kickstarter campaign under his belt. His success was based on the fact that he had a fairly large built-in following before launching his campaign. His advice was only from this limited perspective. At one point, when someone in the crowd asked what were some of the best ways to advertise a Kickstarter campaign, the presenter’s response was, “Kickstarter is your marketing platform. They do all of the marketing for you. Don’t waste your money on other advertising channels.” Now, this is complete hogwash and I almost stood up, called him out, and inquired about all of the failed campaigns that never see the light of day. Sure, if you are lucky and/or have a built in fan base that pledges the day your campaign launches then Kickstarter is likely to feature your project. But Kickstarter doesn’t feather every project and it is foolish to think all one has to do is simply create the project and Kickstarter does everything else. Clearly, this individual did not understand the odds that first time project creators and unpublished authors face.

      1. Richard: Wow, that’s astounding that the creator would give such inaccurate and misleading device! I believe that we creators need to look out for each other and avoid spreading fallacies like that, so I would have applauded you standing up to correct him. Hopefully the audience took it upon themselves to research a little more before creating their own Kickstarters.

        1. Yeah, I was shocked. Kickstarter is not a marketing platform. This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard someone say that it is though. Understand his perspective though. To him, and I believe he wasn’t trying to be deceitful, all he had to do was click the launch button. He didn’t spend a cent advertising his campaign and he over-funded. But he had a mailing list. That’s the catch in this situation that he isn’t making the connection that most project creators aren’t starting out where he did. They are starting from square one. Starting from scratch means building up a fan base months before clicking that launch button.

          1. That’s true–I’m sure he wasn’t intending any malice. But if you’re going to give Kickstarter advice, you have to understand that your situation is not universal, especially if you’re a repeat creator or someone with an established fanbase.

    1. Even with a question like “Do I have your permission to be open and honest with you?” I still feel unable to be completely honest about a troubled campaign. Because I am a reviewer, usually I get to feel all of the excitement on the creator’s end. They are so pumped up and excited. And they chose me to be one of the few previewers of their game. Because of this, and especially if it is truly a fun game, I might even be excited for launch day. But then the project launches and it looks bad, as in there isn’t a even a slim chance that the campaign will succeed. For me, where the suck part comes in, is that I don’t want to be the only naysayer. I don’t want their ire. I don’t want them to blame me somehow when their project does end up failing. And I imagine my negative view of their project page is a hard pill to swallow if everything else they are hearing is positive.

      What I’ve done in the past is bring up issues as simple questions and observations. For example something like, “I see you have two starter decks, both named something seemingly random that the backer is not going to be familiar with. How do potential backers know which deck to choose? I assume both starter sets have different play styles, but I didn’t see any detail about what comes in either set in your details section or why a backer might want one set versus the other.” Sadly, this approach hasn’t always gone over well, as in no action is usually taken. Typically, the project creator hasn’t asked me for feedback so I don’t push; they just wanted a review on my site after all.

      Occasionally though, and actually kind of frequently as of late, I get emails requesting feedback/advice. For these, I still don’t feel like I can be brutally honest. I want to help but I also want to spare their feelings. I know what it is like to have your baby (your project baby, not a literal infant) picked apart. Because of all this, I am kicking around the idea of charging a small fee for my honest opinion. I’m talking around $5 – $10 at most. I think by having the project creator spend even $1 they are actively giving me permission to not hold back. Simply saying “Yes, please be brutally honest with me” isn’t really enough in my opinion. Feelings still get hurt. But paying for critique, at least in my mind, lets me off the hook. They not only solicited my advice, but they paid for it. It shows me that they are serious and indeed do not want me to hold anything back. Thankfully, some project pages are easier to fix than others and I don’t feel so bad about pointing out smaller, easy to fix issues.

  2. It’s always nice to give the, something inspirational at the end when giving feedback. Like “looking forward to how you incorporate the feedback” or “it may suck your campaign may fail, but I’ll be sure to look at the next project/ project restart.” That way the constructive, harder to take feedback is sandwhiched by positive statements.

  3. This is great, the only thing I might go “ehh” on, would be Kicktraq, I really dislike it, it can set false hopes in some, and bad news for others who could possibly get a jump towards the end. I realize, odds are, it’s more correct, I’m just not a fan of it and wish creators could opt out of it scraping data, regardless of its use one way or the other.

    1. Timothy: Thanks for your thoughts. The key focus there wasn’t on Kicktraq itself, but rather that you use some kind of data when you tell someone their project is on a failing trajectory (just so it doesn’t come across solely as your opinion).

  4. Great article. Good advice about providing positive feedback first. I always go with the sandwich method of telling the creator what is good before listing what needs to be improved. I end by reaffirming what I think is strong/unique/special about the kickstarter and how to keep on pursuing their goal.

  5. I think the point about knowing whether someone really wants feedback is quite an interesting one. There’s numerous times my girlfriend has asked me about something to do with her work at Uni, and when I’ve been too quick off the mark to critisise done more harm than good. I’m not one to avoid saying my mind though, so I’ve gotten use to doing as a couple of others here mentioned. First of all, checking that she really wants feedback, and secondly trying to start with positive points first.

    Its’ funny how I never really thought about it, but when I’ve directly answered its’ gone a big ignored, or the topic gets changed and you achieve nothing. When I’ve gone the ‘assert the good things first’ route then the response to the bad feedback is a discussion about how to make it better and improve on things.

    Really moved me with this article, its’ gone beyond ‘kickstarter things’ and made me rethink a whole aspect of my communications with my friends and particularly my girlfriend.

    Thankyou, and sorry my reply really has naff all to do with the impact on kickstarter projects ;P

    1. Chris: Well done for honing that skill of checking to make sure she actually wants feedback before giving it. I’m still learning. :) And that’s interesting that framing the feedback with a few positive notes actually opens someone up to the rest of the input. I could definitely see how that applies well beyond Kickstarter.

  6. I provide a lot of feedback to people, and I’ve learned some of the lessons you wrote above the hard way.

    I usually try to put (what amounts to) a disclaimer at the start of a conversation. In it, I’ll usually frame my comments (i.e. this is about this section of what you’re doing, e.g. video, pledge levels, etc.) and not general commentary about the person or their game. I’ll also include my intent at the start – i.e. that I have faith in them and their product, and I’m trying to help them improve their offering. I then make the point that to do so, I have to focus on what parts of the project could be improved for me (and people like me) to like it even more.

    As such, I think I have some thoughts that can add even more value to your thoughts above and hopefully give you and your readers a little more insight into the topic and why your ideas ring true.

    The reason why I see my ‘disclaimer’ as important is because you want to appeal to the collaborative mindset – i.e. the “we’re all in this together” mindset. If someone knows you’re on their team, they’re going to approach the criticism from a different and more positive light. It creates a positive feedback loop where you’re working together to make something that both of you will be happier with – which is something both sides want.

    Criticism that comes from a social hierarchy mindset – i.e. the “I’m right and know better than you” mindset is much more likely to set off defensive behavior because it belittles the person you’re commenting on – and this will happen even if you start and end on a positive note. Although, starting and ending on a positive note is very often a good short-cut into the collaborative mindset.

    It takes a lot of practice to keep in the first mindset, because the second is easy to slip into when you’ve been in the industry a long time and see the same mistakes being made by much more inexperienced people. It’s always worth remembering that (a) you were there once and (b) it’s more important to include someone into the fold and start that positive feedback loop than it is to simply point out someones flaws. It’s something most of us struggle with (I certainly do).

    P.S. I never thought about public vs private comments. Sorry about asking you for private advice – I’ll do better next time. Often enough, I comment privately because I know someone doesn’t want the weak points of their projects aired and it also makes the commentary much more personal (again, “we’re all in this together”) rather than as a throw-away, off-the-cuff comment. But your thoughts on it makes so much sense I really can’t argue against your logic. Perhaps it depends on the manner of commentary?

    1. Val: I really like that “team-oriented” framework, the idea that we’re all in this together. Well put!

      Also, no worries about private advice–it happens all the time. I’ve just gotten used to referring people to the blog comments, and I reply quickly there.

  7. Jamey,

    As always, your advice expressed is spot-on, and I’must especially sensitive to it since I did many things wrong with our first launched KS project, and less (hopefully) with our relaunch and second project.

    Similar to feedback I provide my staff at work, it must be respectful and something which the individual can actually address. I remember asking one “friend” on Fantasy Flight Games’ forum for advice, and he sent copious notes, posting them in a thread to me. To your point, this was potentially useful for many people and I moved it into the public arena.

    As always, thank you again for your thoughts and insightful comments.

    Cheers,
    Joe

    1. Joe: I like that you used the word “respect” here. I think giving and receiving advice is all about mutual respect–being respectful of the creator’s passion and effort in the way you deliver the advice, and respectful of the adviser’s time and insights in the way the creator receives the advice. Thanks for mentioning that!

  8. Great read.
    In my opinion, if something is an honest constructive criticism it doesn’t need all the flavour of the sandwich feedback or asking if you can be honest. After all those are often used to cover some punch particularly the second one.

    It is certainly very nice to hear what is good about what you did, thus sandwich is a good approach, though I often see it dilutes & hides the real problem.
    For example, “It was all good, you only didn’t get the job because the standards were high”. A perfect sample of a sandwich feedback that sounds nice, yet tells you nothing informative & if you look closer it even ‘insults’ you by saying you are below the standard :)

    Personally I much more prefer a straight to the point answer which suggests or even tells you what needs changing in plain analytical manner, in a way a good article is written or Timothy gives his feedback in FB group :)
    For example, have $1 pledge as it gives people access to updates, every little bit helps & they are likely to upgrade later on… ultimately this guys presents it much better here https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-113-why-every-project-should-have-a-1-reward-level/

    Thank you very much Jamey.

    1. Konrad: Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that the sandwich method needs to be used very carefully to reinforce what they’re doing right (so they can continue doing it) without diluting what they’re doing wrong (so they can take action).

  9. Fantastic article, definitely going to highlight it to others. We had some interesting experiences with feedback in the past.

    At the early stages of designing a game it was only our friends that had playtested the game, we got some good feedback but we knew some of our friends we’re being friends and not saying exactly what they thought, so we invited over one guy who we know would give his completely honest opinion (regardless of if we like it or not) and his feedback was invaluable. It was initially hard to hear but the changes we made to the game improved it massively.

    Following from that the game got selected as a finalist in the UK Games Expo Redesign competition, part of the process from that stage was being invited to the London HQ of the competition to take part in a playtest/feedback day held by Playtest UK. The people involved were dedicated and experienced playtesters, some were game designers but most just enjoyed playing prototypes and giving feedback. It was obvious that they were experienced in this because their feedback was honest and fair, they knew what we could change without changing the game completely and not only did they tell us what they didn’t like, but they suggested multiple ways we could make changes to improve those things.

    Definitely worth getting feedback from many different sources.

    1. Gino: Thanks for your thorough comment. It’s great that you took that bold step to invite the guy who wouldn’t be considerate of your feelings when giving playtesting feedback–we all need playtesters like that! :)

  10. I agree with everything, perhaps apart from the necessity of ‘sandwiching’ the criticism between positive reinforcement.

    I would like to add to your ‘ask more than one person’ point though. You say, “it’s just as helpful for you to get feedback from a creator whose project barely funded at $5,000 as it is to get feedback from a creator who wildly overfunded at $200,000. Both have different stories to tell and lessons to learn, and the truth is that you don’t know if you’ll end up with the $5,000 project or the $200,000 project. So the key here is to get advice from a variety of creators.”

    I’d go further. I think it’s just as helpful, if not even more so, to get feedback from a bunch of folk who haven’t ever done their own kickstarter and maybe aren’t even familiar with kickstarter, but who would be part of the target audience for your game/project.

    1. behrooz: Thanks for sharing your perspective. I think that’s mostly a good idea to get the perspective of a wide variety of people, including those who haven’t backed a Kickstarter project. The only reason I wouldn’t suggest making those people a core part of your feedback loop is that if they haven’t backed a Kickstarter project, they’re less likely to back a Kickstarter project, so they fall slightly outside of your target audience. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t reach out to them, of course, but I learned pretty early on in my Kickstarter career is that it’s far more difficult to convert non-Kickstarter backers (and/or non-gamers) into Kickstarter backers than it is to engage people who are already familiar with the platform.

  11. This can be used for everything and I like it. I would enjoy your feedback in this form as I’m a hopeful indie developer and have a ks project I’d like to submit in a few months. I’d be happy to send you a link to the art without typing over it, or mail you a proto type for your input on art and/or game play.

    I know your very busy but without asking you’ll never know right. :)

    Thanks
    Jon

    From phone may not be the right link:
    https://m.facebook.com/WombatWords?ref=bookmark

    1. Jon: Thanks for your comment. I appreciate you asking, but I don’t do individual consulting on games or Kickstarters. It’s great that you’re looking for some tough-love feedback, though–I’d highly recommend turning the Facebook groups I mention in this article. They’re all about tough love. :)

  12. The feedback I have received has been fantastic and I have incorporated much of what I heard. One night after a play-test I said to myself, “I hope I never play with a group like that again.” It was the worst board gaming experience of my life. However, even that night provided some great insight! Thanks for the tips Jamey. I will use these in the near future.

  13. I really like this post. Feedback/Advice giving and receiving is dear to both our hearts.

    One funny tip is: Beware who you’re getting feedback from.

    Once at a convention showing around The King’s Armory I sat down with 5 people I didn’t know. Four of the 5 are raving over the game and cheering, one is brooding and trying his absolute hardest to smash and trash everything he can. After shielding against his every criticism with a great answer from the actual rules that defused x y or z criticism I come to find out (two hours into this, mind you) that he himself was currently trying to build a tower defense board game and was really just mad that “we beat him to it”! UGH! Had I known earlier (which obviously was impossible) I would have ended the barrage with a request for a little gamers-are-friends respect. : P

    To add to the tale: He did raise one valid point in the two hour barrage, about an add on component we had. It was still during pre-press and we were able to fix it. I actually ran into him this May and was able to thank him! Booyaa! It was a fun (and humbling) choice to go and thank him. And I think we’re both better for it as a result.

    Thanks again for this great one.

  14. John: I’d also like to add that those can be the best playtesters to have because they have got a better understanding of the genre and the mechanics than anyone else.

    I’ll admit that I have an emotional connection with this story, because I am often in that position with games I playtest. While everyone else might say it’s great and move on – I will nitpick, poke, analyze and suggest alternatives. I know the value of that because I’ve experienced it with my own designs – the people that are the most critical are the ones that help the game evolve to an even better state.

    That being said, if you feel that a playtesters feedback is unproductive, there is absolutely nothing wrong with saying that they have a different vision for your game than you do. If it isn’t a direction you want your game to go or isn’t the audience you are targeting – that’s ok. That doesn’t make the playtesters ideas bad – it just means it’ll fit better in a different game.

    I think Jamey can attest a little to how I nitpick – but, if an idea I give isn’t a good fit, it’s best to move on. As a designer, it’s good to let your playtesters know that conflicting ideas is ok.

  15. […] Decide if you’re willing to change: If you’ve already commissioned some art, take a good, hard look in the mirror and ask yourself, “If people tell me the art isn’t good enough, am I truly willing to listen to them and find a new artist?” If the answer is yes, proceed to step 2. If the answer is no, don’t waste anyone’s time by asking for advice you’re not going to consider. Here’s more on that subject. […]

  16. What I would add:
    -Always thank the person generous to take time to give you feedback
    -Ask follow up questions. Thus helps you to really understand someone’s point and it shoes you are taking them seriously
    -indicate what you are going to do with the feedback (for me thus almost always is: “I’m going to think about this”)
    -DO what you said you would do with the feedback
    -let the feedback giver know what you did with the feedback. Especially if you are not going to act on it, give a reason

    I’ve found that with these steps people become more prone to give you (valuable) feedback over time.

  17. Bastiaan: Thanks for these additions to the list! I like all of them, especially the last three. There have been many times when a game designer has requested feedback about a submission we rejected, and I spend upwards of an hour writing a huge e-mail, and all I ever hear back is, “Cool, thanks!” A few designers have followed up weeks or months later with an update about how they used the feedback and how it worked in playtesting, and I really appreciate that.

  18. Jayme

    I keep this bookmarked for personal reasons; however I still struggle with

    “5.Understand that offering advice does not behold the recipient to taking the advice.”

    When I get advice I try to please (it’s an inheritant flaw of mine). How could I address this when I receive feedback?

    Thanks
    Jon

    1. Jon: Thanks for your question. It sounds like you feel if someone takes the time to give you advice that you’re expected to take their advice? I can understand that.

      I think the key is to figure out whom you’re trying to serve, and serve them above everyone else. For example, I try (I don’t always succeed, but I try) to put my customers first. So if someone gives me advice, instead of serving the advice-giver by simply taking their advice, I frame it in terms of my customers by asking, “What can I gain from this advice that best serves my customers?”

      Does that make sense?

  19. Jamey

    First my apologies for the misspelling of your name.

    Let me preface my answer with I am in rounds of play tests still, that said, yes I understand. Yet sadly I have not acted well upon it.

    Regardless both the advice and the reply are well said I just need how to put in controls so that I can filter the advice.

    Be well
    Jon

  20. Hi, myself and three of my girlfriends have created a game we have been working on for 2 years. We now have the game at a state ready to be put out to the public and are now working on developing our Kickstarter campaign. We would love to have it reviewed outside of practice plays but here is where my issue lies…we have a game that is more connection based vs strategy (and by connection, we mean through personal reveal and humor, nothing cheesy or serious). But it seems most games in the industry are strategy, fantasy, war,etc…I have full confidence in the game until I am faced with presenting it to a “gamer” and having it reviewed. Any suggestions or advice?

  21. Hi Jamey, sorry, I should have been more clear. We have actually had lots of blind playtesters over our 2 year development process, but it was suggested to us before we launch our kickstarter to have game reviewers/bloggers test it out. Most of my research has found reviewers and bloggers that lean more towards the traditional “gamer”, those who review more strategy based, fantasy, war games…So that is where my hesitation lies because we have a game that is completely in the opposite direction…If you would like you can take a quick peak at our website to get an idea…

    playfriendorfaux.com

    Thanks, I appreciate your quick reply and any all feedback you are willing to give!

    Chrissy

  22. Hey Jamey, love the blog! Some questions about more traditional market research (i.e. surveying for statistical analysis) below. For perspective, this would be in addition to or even conducted in combination with playtesting.

    How often do you conduct primary research or surveys (for statistics or analysis) for a project with gamers who play games similar to what you’re designing? For example, to try and isolate what features or mechanics they enjoy the most.

    At what stage — or stages — do you typically conduct surveys/research? When the game is just being conceived and mechanics and features are still very fluid or maybe closer to completion?

    What sorts of questions do you ask users to get the most useful insights? Again, maybe mechanics they enjoy from other games, things they dislike about other games, etc.

    Finally, separate from blogging and building the crowd ahead of time, which sounds like the most critical point to success for a Kickstarter, how much impact do you think the market research has on a project’s success? Assuming many or a number of other best practices are followed. (Big assumption, I know)

    Thanks again and keep it up!

    Nick

    1. Nick: Thanks for sharing your question here! That’s an interesting question about gauging what players want or enjoy in the context of all games, not just your game.

      I would say I very rarely do this, partially because I read, watch, and listen to so much board-game related content (and I play a lot of games and talk to those people about what they like and dislike). But every now and then I’ll pose a question about a certain mechanism on social media. And really, my YouTube channel has been great for that, because I always talk about a specific mechanism and end the video asking people if they have examples of that mechanism in other games.

      So I would say my research is constant and never-ending. :) That said, if you’re looking to poll people, I think anytime is fine. That’s a great way for you to build community and get your name out there on Facebook, Twitter, BGG, etc–people love to talk about game mechanisms in the right groups.

      Aside from the ancillary benefit of building community, I would say it’s important for you to understand any industry before you try to launch a project in that industry.

  23. […] Choose when to consume criticism. I’ve found that if I’m in a good mood, I tend to be more open to hearing and learning from criticism. The opposite is true if I’m in a bad mood. Due to this, I try to be acutely aware of my emotional state when I’m entering new threads (sometime I can detect the overall tone from the subject line). I write more about consuming criticism here. […]

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