Why criticism is a waste of time

Many people make suggestions about games. Very few make into the game. Yesterday I wrote how I’ve started a project to complete Subnautica (a struggling indie game) in a much harder mode than the developer-created hardest, to show the players and the devs that such mode is possible and interesting.

On the Subnautica reddit I got a strange confirmation why it’s the correct approach and why just criticizing and making suggestions is a waster of time. This is a suggestion collection thread. You don’t have to read them, just marvel the size of it:






Most of the ideas are minor and good or at least neutral. But who would go through all this?! If you are a dev, you don’t just have to read it, you have to think about the dependencies of the software and other game systems. For example a simple solution of “removing corridors from stairs” can cause players glitch into the edge of the stairs, which is now impossible because the corridor doesn’t let them go there. A dev must consider this possibility before implementing the change and then have to spend time to figure out a workaround, or fix the bug that was concealed by the corridor (that someone forgot to add a surface to the side of the stair so you can walk into it).

You realize that even with the best intentions, giving a fair thought to every suggestion is impossible, right? Then how can you get your message through? By implementing it as well as possible yourself. For example my suggestion “growbeds should not generate food very fast and without energy, especially when the food can be converted into energy” is probably a good one in theory. But one can consider that there are areas where you can’t get other food source and the whole zone must be redesigned with hundreds of hours of work. Or that players can get energy starved without hope and other means of getting energy must be introduced, again with hundreds of hours of work.

So even if he reads my suggestion, he must think “does this new mode generate enough net player involvement that translate into enough $ income to warrant my hours”. By completing the game without the usage of growbeds completely (both indoor and outdoor), using only plants found in the wild for eating or energy generation, I do the testing for him. If there is a problem with either getting food or energy, I will bump into it. But if I complete the game without it, I’ve proven that the current growbed rules are stupidly easy and a complete removal is possible while keeping the game playable. Ergo, he is safe to implement my suggestion “to both seriously decrease plant grow speed and to make it impossible to grow plants without either sunlight or energy consuming lights”, as this is still an easier mode of playing than “no plant growing at all”.

So if you have an idea: shut up and get to work, speak only when you have results. Working first will guarantee higher visibility too. A post where I do something the other players thought impossible is surely getting more comments, upvotes and links than a post where I present some words.


Author: Gevlon

My blog: https://greedygoblinblog.wordpress.com/

4 thoughts on “Why criticism is a waste of time”

  1. You have created a fictitious scenario of a prototypical developer needing to read and comprehend all feedback, decided rightly that is silly, and then concluded feedback is thus a waste of time. But that conclusion is completely wrong.

    If a company has a community team, or a marketing team, or a product management team, or a producer staff, then there is somebody whose job it is to keep an eye on feedback, filter through it, summarize it, and pass it on. Good companies… which are admittedly few… create a process around this and watch trends. They can categorize similar ideas coming up, see whether the same old forum crank like Dinsdale is pushing his same idea for the 100th time, which can be safely ignored, or if a bunch of first time posters suddenly showed up talking about an issue or idea, which might warrant looking into it further. And, in a system where there is constant, if poorly organized, feedback, you can also tell what isn’t a problem by the lack of comment. If something new goes in and you can tell from the back end that people are using it but nobody is complaining about it, then you might have done something right… or horribly wrong if it is EVE.

    In short, criticism has value, but that doesn’t mean somebody is going to jump on everything you say, respond, and change things, or even that your individual comment will be heard. But any dev team that makes a consumer product and that does not want feedback is doomed.


  2. I somewhat doubt people can do ‘the testing’ with most of the suggestions listed in that big post, like the ignored hull breach. Or is your point that these kind of suggestions are ‘bad suggestions’?

    I always thought suggestions by the community are random feedback, and the developers have to filter out the good ideas (which are either easily implemented or are beneficial for the game in any way), or can be seen as ‘possible problems in the existent game’ like balance issues, or not enough to do, or things that disturb the immersion etc.
    Anyways, I don’t think these suggestions are a waste of time, it’s like a big brainstorming done by the community, as long as noone forces the developers to implement them.

    Not directly connected but maybe still interesting for you, there was an ‘enforcing gender roles’ discussion about the ‘indie survival’ game Rimworld. A good example when developers/game designers and the community/media evaluate ingame things on completey different criteria.


  3. If a company is seeking feedback, why would they be tasked with keeping track of an out of the way reddit thread? Surely the company who made this game has their own forum/portal community site setup to correctly monitor this. This recent reliance on what’s being said over on “reddit” is troubling.


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