Developing Thoughts 4

Continuing the posting of the Developing Thoughts column from 2004.

Taking the Rough with the Smooth

When Revolution released In Cold Blood, after working on it for nearly three years, one of the first magazines to review it gave it only four out of ten. I remember being quite shocked that this thing of beauty, this long labour of love, was not being adored by everyone who played it. What were these people thinking? Did they not realise how much sweat and sleepless nights went into the making of this game?

When you do anything that involves putting your soul on display for everyone to see, there will always be times when some of those people will brandish the whip of harsh criticism as they pass by. Taking your chances in game development’s creative free-for-all, means there are times when you’ve got to be prepared for any ensuing pain.

Of course, there are those of a masochistic nature who revel in the barbed comments that come their way, and others who use it as ammunition to condemn the masses as ignorant plebs, for not finding everything they create to be of sublime merit. But the majority learns to take it in their stride or run the risk of becoming a casualty of criticism.

Personally, I enjoy constructive feedback. In fact, this edition of the column was inspired by an e-mail I received offering some thoughts on my writing. This guy was clever – by starting with compliments on my work in general, he was then able to sneak in some pretty insightful remarks that got me thinking. How evil is that? To get a writer thinking about his own work. And on a weekend, too! If only all criticism was so fair.

Fairness, after all, is the only thing we should hope for when being reviewed or criticised. We have no right to expect kind words or high scores, even when we know it is the best work we could possibly have done; for every person has their own subjective viewpoint which will colour how they approach the material under review.

It is incredibly hard, however, not to feel frustrated by people who write off a game without even seeing it; who seem to think that no one has a right to experiment in a genre that was once renowned for its innovative development. To me, this not only lacks any semblance of fairness, it is also not really criticism – constructive or otherwise.

Whatever the tone of real criticism, I always find that the positive aspects outweigh the negative by a long way. Yes, take on board what is being said in the averse pieces and learn from them if you can; but use the positive to drive you forward with a will that enables you to deal with the negative and make your next project better still.

I once had a guy come up to me in a supermarket and point at the Beneath a Steel Sky T-shirt I wore. “That’s the best game I ever played! You should convert the Broken Sword games for the Amiga!”

I welcome your constructive feedback, for I want to give you games, in return, that instil those kinds of responses in people.

© Steve Ince, 2004