[Programmer Thaddaeus Frogley talks about how all game developers can use harsh criticism to their advantage, in this #altdevblogaday-reprinted opinion piece.
Critics, eh? Where would the games industry be without them? Well, that might be a good topic for a rant, but what I want to waffle on about today is how we as developers deal with criticism.
It’s a tough world out there. People are not nice.
"You’ll feel as if you’re waging war on the set of The Muppet Show
"If you think this sounds a bit repetitive, you’re right…
"The texture work is blurred and repetitive. The game is saturated by grays. The particle system is lacking. The lighting effects are underdeveloped.
"I’ve been playing it for over an hour nonstop and I just don’t get it.
In times like this there aren’t just a lack of words at the situation, but a lack of faith in people, because whatever shit-hole idea you think you can attach to a license in order to gain revenue, it’s nothing compared to what game devs that will do anything for a dollar are capable of.
All quotes from reviews of games I’ve worked on. Were those comments fair? Some of them, to an extent. In their own way. As hard as it can be to swallow, there are lessons to be learnt from all criticism. Even if you don’t always agree with it.
If you can’t look back at your past self, and shake your head in disapproval of your own naivety… If you can’t look back on your older work, and know with confidence what you did wrong… and what you’d do differently next time, then you are not growing. You are not advancing in your art. If you don’t swim, eventually you sink.
Recognizing your own mistakes, and learning from them, is how one improves. Criticism provides vital feedback, points to consider. You don’t have to take it personally, but do take it to heart so you can learn from it.
One of the differences, I think, that sets the triple-A studios apart is their ability to self criticize, and their refusal to accept anything less than the best for their games.
To survive working in a top studio, to be able to make the best of the best games, means having the strength to accept criticism as an important part of a positive feedback loop. Get rid of the crap, and what you’ve got left at the end, if there is anything left, must be good.
But if you can’t handle being told when your shit stinks, you are in the wrong industry. Round these parts you could be pooping rainbows and someone is going to tell you that your rainbow excretions are the worst they have ever seen.
So suck it up. Take it in. But don’t let it get you down. Criticism, like water off a duck's back. But you know what? Ducks also swim on water. Without it, they’d just be waddling around. The ducks need the water, and we need to accept that criticism is an important part of the process.
Now, one last thing I want to talk about: Metacritic
. Last week Metacritic showcased a new feature, they added a developer’s career score. Then retracted it the next day
I was not, and am still not, so sure how to feel about that. Many developers will work on games that review badly at some point in their career, and often a game will review badly for reasons completely out of the individual’s control. Given the weight that the industry already places on Metacritic scores, is it reasonable to meta-score individual developers? Probably not.
After all, the industry is already struggling with the growing disconnect between what the core gaming reviewers want from a game, and what the average (read: casual/social) gamer wants. Adding a further incentive to pander the critics, or encouraging people to “Alan Smithee” their involvement with a project they’re not sure will review well, is probably not a healthy move for the future of games.
If this subject interests you, you may also enjoy reading Nicholas Lovell’s “What Jacqueline Howett's Professional Self-Immolation Can Teach Us All
[This piece was reprinted from #AltDevBlogADay, a shared blog initiative started by @mike_acton devoted to giving game developers of all disciplines a place to motivate each other to write regularly about their personal game development passions.