Larian Studios - To Listen or Not to Listen
Larian Studio's head honcho Swen Vincke has updated his blog discussing one of the big pros of being self-funding and self-publishing, which is the ability to make the choices they could not make before.
We received feedback today from a group of journalists about what they thought of a hands-on session with a beta-version of the game. Specifically, they were asked to name three things they liked and three things they disliked. From that list a few issues got flagged, and the question now is whether or not we’ll address those issues.
We are dangerously close to release, so anything we change now is bound to have a significant impact. But of course, not intervening means that for sure those issues will pop up in reviews, and if they’re bothering the journalists, they’ll probably also bother our players. Naturally, if we continue fixing things that pop up, we’ll never release because there’s no such thing as a perfect game. So, when is enough enough ? And should we listen to the feedback we received?
Had this been one of our previous games where we were paid via milestones, the decision would already have been taken, and no changes would be made, definitely not at this stage in development. But it’s not somebody else’s decision to make this time. It’s ours, and I am happy that we get to make this type of decision.
To make it concrete, the issue at hand has to do with the difficulty, pacing and tempo of the RTS part of Dragon Commander. Several journalists think it’s too fast and too hard. That would be a simple enough thing to solve if it weren’t for that other group who thinks it’s too easy. Go figure
Unfortunately it’s not something we can easily fix by introducing a gamespeed slider or balancing multiplier, so we’re either going have to make a real choice for who our primary audience is or introduce completely different sets of balancing data from which players can choose.
That obviously will impact development, because suddenly we’ll have doubled our balancing work, so it’s not a trivial thing because it means not only extra design work, but also a shitload of extra QA work.
For the purpose of my blog and my arguments pro self-publishing, whatever our choice in this is doesn’t really matter. The cool thing is that we actually can choose and that we know things like this prior to release, so we have a chance to do something about it. If we didn’t self-publish and wouldn’t have been that closely in touch with the journalists, we would never even have had this opportunity.
For the purpose of the success of my game, it of course matters a lot.