Some PR notes
So I've been looking at the game and some of the hate it has drawn. I cannot say whether it deserves the criticisms, since I haven't bought it and I find the price a high deterrent, but that's not what I'm here to talk about.
There are several games I decided to avoid because I saw the dev being too protective of his baby, or wielding the ban hammer too righteously and too fervently. That is a dangerous turn-off. Games I might have otherwise bought dropped off my list when I got the sense the devs were hostile. Yes the mob can do terrible things to your game's reputation, and you need to wield your PR tools to protect your game's image. But when you swing the hammer too hard or too wide, you attract more attention for that than anything the mob was piling on... and then the mob really gets incensed.
There's 2 reasons an overly-defensive dev worries me:
1) I don't dare voice my honest opinion, and will have to avoid official forums (more about this below)
2) The game quality will suffer if the dev is too certain of the greatness of his game (again, more below)
I used to attend a board game developer's group every other week. We played and reviewed each others' games regularly, trying to prepare and craft them properly for prime-time. The biggest problem we had was people doing the testing were too pandering, or they didn't know how to give a critical analysis of the game's good and bad points. Rarely did we wrestle with someone who was abusive or unreasonably negative -- just one guy in the whole group, actually, and I stopped dealing with him.
Why was not enough criticism a bad thing? Because if we didn't have someone ready to tell us our baby is ugly, we could never make it better (and it's a bad idea to learn later rather than sooner). As devs, we can't see the huge, glaring, pulsating warts on our baby's face; we're too fond of the little bugger, or through long hours of development we've learned to overlook them. When someone is maliciously hostile you blow them off and manage as appropriate; but when a tester says nothing more than "I liked it" or "It's nice", that's devastating. You can't draw any useful information from that. If the positive review is broken down in to various components, that's a very good sign. But games drown in blindly positive "critique". This goes for reviews of a finished product too -- I avoid the "it's good" and "it's bad" reviews, and read into those that really sink their teeth into the game's good and bad aspects.
So here's what I'm saying with #1: People who tell you the controls are ineffective are doing so because this is something that sincerely needs fixing. People who tell you the price ($25 or $18 on sale) is very high for such a simple game are doing so because this is a big deal to them -- the new XCOM is only $5 higher than your normal price, for example. People are saying these things because they are sticking points, things that hurt the experience or ward them away from a purchase. And that brings me to problem #2 above.
I'm waiting to buy Nidhogg until they fix their network code (I would mainly play online with people who live hours away); and from what I can tell, they might do it. The game is $15, which is a lot for the singleplayer campaign; but when I hear the network code is up to snuff, I'll happily pay full price or even slightly more; I won't even wait for a sale. But I'm waiting now, because that's a showstopper, a deal breaker. I'm not being malicious. It's just that for $15, I want to get a fun time out of it, and people I've asked say it's neat but way too short for that much cash.
Am I making a fair assessment of the game's singleplayer? Erm... I don't know; I'm going off of the opinions of people who have played it. But I remember struggling with Magicka's netcode and letting loose some very colorful, very creatively profanities; I want to wait until this game's online multiplayer is working well.
So let's return to LODT: When a game's major points of criticism are awkward controls, no pause button, high price and insufficient length, I pay attention because that sort of thing matters a whole lot to me. If you think people are committing shadow puppetry or meat puppetry, that's its own matter; but if their concerns are coming up over and over again and they seem about right, then the worst things you can do include, right near the top of the list:
-dismiss those claims and telling everyone your game is, in fact, awesome in your opinion
-act belligerent toward those who are belligerent to you
-establish a pattern of banning people for being vocal
Doing these things promises to prospective buyers that legitimate problems are unlikely to be addressed in the future, and it's dangerous to voice honest opinions in the forums.
The strongest example of how this "ban hammer" response has affected my purchasing choices is Origin, EA's response to Steam. When they started banning people wholesale and robbing them of access to even play their games (including innocent people who were simply mentioned by banned players in their posts), that sent a clear and burning signal to the gaming community that a new world power had risen in online distribution, and that we should be afraid.
After watching the bizarre witchhunt unfold and the fallout settle, I had concluded I would never do business through Origin. I want Dead Space 3, but I will wait until it's on steam or some other service. Have they fixed the problems with Origin's moderators? Maybe. Is it fair for me to continue judging them after all this time? Eh. But EA did the equivalent of unleashing a drug-stimmed guerrilla into a fistfight, and that gave everyone pause.
Image matters, and the image of "stuck-up ban-loving diva dev" can be worse than "lame game do not buy", though it depends. Some people and products have made a killing by cashing in on the drama and spectacle of their bad reputation, and have nurtured that love-hate relationship with the press and their customers. But if that's a road you dare go down... I wish you luck. Get a professional PR person on the case, you do not want to wing that yourself.
In conclusion to my rambling post above:
You have to have a very thick skin to wade in the vitriolic cesspool that is public relations. If you DO NOT have a thick skin, step away and let someone else do PR. I'm drop-dead serious here, have someone else moderate your forums. I'm pretty thin-skinned myself, and a jab in the right spot can really make my ears burn. ;) If I released a game, I'd want someone else to be my face-man, so I don't screw it up. It's important to let attacks roll off of you, use your dev tools in moderation (not too little, not too much), and otherwise protect your game's image from slander, without slandering it yourself.
As for my own decision to not purchase:
I've watched a couple gameplay trailers and read some reviews of your game. It looks neat, and appears to have potential. But... for $18 or especially $25, this is not a good purchase for me. This is especially true when people express concerns about clunky/unreliable controls and game length, and then the dev talks about how his game is great and gives me the impression that these issues won't be changing. That's ultimately what affected my decision.
Should you censor those criticisms to avoid shedding impulse buys like that? Erm... Err.... please don't. Once people sniff out a highly censored, climate-controlled image like that, they flee in droves. It's a big deal. It's why people become uncomfortable when presidential debates or speeches turned out to be fraudulent (audience was hand-picked and controlled, etc), or even when sitcom laughter was a pre-recorded laugh track played strategically instead of an actual audience responding to the show. Or when an insane national dictator claims he took a vote and got a 100% approval rating. ;)
Avoid that image, it's toxic and it could very rapidly make you infamous and unable to wield the power of a happy and devoted community.
I hope this thread will not be deleted. I can understand if you lock it though, to prevent people from piling on with angry rants. I don't encourage it, but I haven't read your forums at length and I don't know the full scope of what you're facing.
Whatever the case, good luck to ya! Just because I'm not purchasing the game doesn't mean I don't wish you, as an Indie Dev, well.