My First Steam Post Ever: A letter to Xavi Canal, Tommy Kent, and Whomever it May Concern.
This is long. You will not read it, and I understand.
People not reading important letters is the main reason why I have future job security.
I have been a member of Steam since March of 2009. I have never wanted nor desired to come to these forums. I tend to avoid all forums like the plague, unless it is to see if anyone has a bug/workaround, etc. Never to post.
I usually have little to say: I play my games and move on with living my life--in which I usually spend all my time reading, writing and arguing with people anyway--so forums are somewhat redundant.
This is my exception.
Dear Mr. Canal, and Other Developers:
1) Pretend to care, even if you actually don't. Trust me, it works (even for me, and I teach it). There's quite a living to be made in consulting companies about the benefits of pretending to care (or, if they have the drive and resources, actually learning to care). To do so, however, has a great cost: you must listen and respond. This takes time, effort and usually money, and is a major reason why people have spokesmen/women to do this for them. Regardless, pretend to care.
You seem to have fans/moderators out there, especially those that can actually code/mod/enhance your product and have done so. For free. Let them speak for you. But beware of whom you send.
2) Change the Steam description. This is an alpha/beta/work in progress. Nearly all games are “continually being developed and updated”. This leads to confusion and anger. Do not pretend. Do not debate it. Do not justify it. Change it. As soon as possible, if not immediately. Others have suggested it, and you would do well to listen. You would eliminate most of the debacle that your release created. Many developers like to release paid betas/alphas, but they get support because they do so by saying clearly, unequivocally, and without any flowery language. There are tons people who know they are getting an incomplete product and STILL WANT IT. They want you to succeed. Work with that. Pretend to care.
3) Keep a Journal. A public development journal for your work on Towns could do wonders to open up the community here. Use the steam news, other sites (with links on Steam), and anything else to let people know where you're at in development, what you're working on, and what is coming soon. Even news or stories, so we know you're alive. Don't make people like me dig just to figure out what's going on. If other people have great ideas you want to include, mention it! If you have a new team member, let us know! Just don't only post one thing on the forums, update news, and then nothing. Pretend to Care.
Dear Mr. Kent (and Mr. Canal, since Kent is apparently your agent, at least in part):
1) Stop it. Stop. It. I am no forum guru, but I deal with enough passive aggresivism in everyday writing to know what you're doing. It is not helpful. It is not a good use of your time. It leads to flame wars, and confuses the issue. Do not insult the community you are posting in. Do not hawk the game next to posts that hate it. You do more harm than good, and confuse the issue. Do not make snide remarks. Do not harass your friend/supervisor/boss's customers (whatever your relationship with the man) in any way, shape, form, or manner.
2) If someone posts a long, well thought out review that does not make you happy, take a deep breath, STAND AWAY FROM THE CAPSLOCK, !!!!!Exclamation points!!! and move away from the keyboard in general. Do not react. Do not get angry. Look, and listen. Address the whole post, not the parts you don't like or want to ignore. Treat people with respect. Keep a lid on your sarcasm, your wit, and your temper. Then:Post constructive comments, not negative ones. Your responses must be clear, address each point, and include a neutral tone of voice. Surprisingly, the words you type, the way you type them together, and the way you address a point in written form actually conveys your attitude and tone of voice, just as if you were in the room with the other posters. Neat huh? I'll give you the same advice I gave Mr. Canal.
3) Pretend to care. These are people who, for whatever reason, were intrigued enough by your game to buy it. For some reason, they're not satisfied. DO NOT ASSUME THIS IS JUST BECAUSE THEY DON'T LIKE THE GAME. Do not assume ANYTHING. These people have a problem, whether they love the game or not. Avoid any snark, sass, angst or other negative writing (especially if you did not intend it, and it just came out that way). They would not be writing here unless they had a problem and needed help. Don't insult them by reminding them that others are fine with it, THEY ARE NOT. Would you tell a hungry man to shut up just because other people have food? How well do you think THAT would go over?
4) If you have trouble organizing or expressing your thoughts clearly and concisely, consider using bullet points, outlining, or number, as I have here. It makes things clearer (though not always easier).
5) Look, listen, read, take a breath, and pretend to care. If you're the one they sent to help address the problem, whether you're a developer or just a volunteer, you become the face of the game and developer you care about. Do them proud and build bridges to this community. Don't burn them down.
And just so you know,
I actually LIKE THIS GAME, and hope there is more and better versions in the future.
Dear Purchasers/Steam Customers:
1) Caveat emptor. Section 12.5 of the Steam Subscriber Agreement you have legally agreed to: "Valve does not screen such third party content available on Steam or through other sources. Valve does not assume any responsibility or liability for such third party content." These agreements are written by lawyers for a reason. Welcome to the Rule of Law.
2) You might get (and may have gotten) your money back settlement style, where Valve simply oils a few of your palms to quiet the squeaky wheels, but this is done at Valve's sole discretion and beneficence. They have no legal obligation to care or pay you anything they already legally own, but sometimes it is either: 1) Good enough business sense to pretend to care (don't scare away customers); or much more rarely: 2) Someone in a position of authority decides to actually care. I wish you luck.