Everyone wins when great games are built and played.
When I was a student at Utah Valley University one of the things we did as students while developing our game was to bring out a version of our game out into the halls of the campus and have other students try out our game. I found this to be a great learning experience. Watching students play you could quickly find out what players liked about a game and what they didn't. You could also learn where the player gets stuck or is struggling to figure out what is going on.
It was really neat to forge friendship with many of these students. I'd get asked often, "So when is your next version going to be ready?" or they would talk to me about little things they noticed in the game when they were playing the game the previous night. As a developer I could take this feedback and quickly make changes to the game to make it easier to catch on to, more fun to play, and overall a more polished experience. Each time we did this the game would make leaps and bounds of improvements that mattered to the players and us the developers.
Now as a solo game developer no longer at college and working a full time job I've found it a bit harder to get meetings right next to players to get feedback. I want my players to have an enjoyable time playing my game and I want to ensure a quality release on my new game. I believe getting feedback on my game is essential to making a game that has a solid experience. Although it's been tougher to have meetups alongside gamers to get feedback; here are some of the things I've been doing to stay in touch with players.
I wanted to directly hear from my players so I added a Feedback button to the bottom of my game. Players at any time can pause the game by clicking it and submit bugs, feature requests or simply just let me know what's on their mind.
Live streaming my game development has been really cool. I made an account on Twitch tv and downloaded OBS to steam my development so everyone can see. One of the great things about being an indie developer is that I can be completely transparent about my game development. As a matter of fact one of my streams was making this article as promotion is part of game development. Maybe it's a little less exciting then other avenues for getting feedback but hey, if someone wants to learn how I did it they are welcome to know.
Having an email signup to my game's website is helpful so I can notify my players when I release a new version of my game. I used mailchimp so I could quickly make beautiful emails to send out to those who have subscribbed.
Unity's cloud build has enabled me an effective way to share my builds with players. It steamlines the build process saving me time so I can work on more features for my players. My game is currently in open Alpha for anyone to play. The game will stay in an open Alpha state until the game goes through the steam greenlight and a kickstarter is ran for the game. At that point the Alpha will become a demo for players to continue to be able to download and play.
The Development Roadmap for the game has been made public so anyone can comment and vote on upcoming features. This is a great way to know that the things I'm working are important to the people playing my game.
Using Unity's Analytics I'm tracking if players are making it through the level and jow many times they die before they clear it and other useful information to help me understand my players better. Unity's Analytics lets me know how players are experiencing the game quite literally in game. Untiy's heatmaps show me where players are spending their time in game.
I've set up an in-game notification system to let players know when a new version of the game get's released. When the player first loads up the game I have the game check my server to see if there is a new version of the game available. If there is, It will tell them about the new build and let them know about the changes being made. I hope this will help retention of the players plus I want to make sure players get the latest version of the game. That bug that may of been bugging them may of got fixed in the latest version. It's a great way to show I'm listening to the players and making sure the game will be great for them.
There are many local game developer events and groups I'm becoming more involved in. I met the Utah Games Guild at a local gaming convention Salt Lake Gaming Con and I also attend some local indie game nights that are held.
In conclusion although it is tougher now then it used to be to get feedback from players I'm still able to do it. I constantly look forward to new feedback from players. Try out the Pyxel Knight Alpha and let me know what you think. I promise you if you have some feedback I'd love to hear it.