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  • Natalie Markovits

How player feedback influences a producer at a gaming company



What you'll listen to in this episode:


1. Minute 08:18 - "player feedback is very important for any gaming company to survive" - Jinesha shared with us and how player feedback influences her day-to-day position.


2. Minute 10:30 - Jinesha shares with us the metrics and things they look at to create and optimize games such as market trends and technology. And once the game is released, what players like the most, monetization performance, etc.


3. Minute 14:35 - We asked Jinesha what insights bring the most value to her and she told us they always look for performance insights, specifically how smooth is the game when players start playing it. Also, how many people are encountering problems in the game. "Usually, players are very vocal about such things. They write it on the community chats, and they let the company know because the players are not going to be easy on us."


4. Minute 18:15 - Jinesha has worked in several gaming companies, both mobile and console and she shared with us what are the main differences she was seen between these 2 categories and also the way they collect and utilize player feedback.


Audio



Transcription


1:03 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

Hello, and welcome to Affogata's podcast, Let's Talk Customer Feedback. Today we have the pleasure of hosting Jinesha Gandhi, Producer at RedHill games. First, let's say hi to Jinesha. How are you doing today?


01:14 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

I'm good. How are you? I'm just enjoying the lovely cold of Finland.


01:19 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

I'm so happy to hear that and we're super happy to have you here first of all. So, before we dive into the player insights, we would love to know more about you. So, can you tell us who are you? What three words would you choose to describe yourself?


01:34 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

So, my name is Jinesha. I work in the gaming industry. So, I have around 10 years’ experience making video games with mobile, console. Gaming is my passion. So, being from India, a country where you know, making video games is still very new, and especially for women to join the gaming industry is, you could say, you know, kind of unheard of. It's been quite a ride and it's been fun. If I had to describe myself, probably I would say, that I guess, I'm a lot of fun to talk to. I love doing what I do. So, for me making games is passion and profession, and yeah, now happy-go-lucky person.


02:26 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

That sounds great and actually just getting to know you just a bit. I can totally see that. What is your favorite video game of all time?


02:37 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

I mean, it's hard to choose one. But the kind of games I like to play are more story-based scrollers I puzzle solving games. So, I feel it kind of relaxes me and I really liked that genre. So, if I had to say probably this game called Inside by Playdead studios, I really liked the game, and I don't know why I feel so connected to that game. It's just amazingly made, and I also like Mario Odyssey, made by Nintendo. I think it's a very beautifully made game. So, these two games I really like.


03:19 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

That's awesome. Thanks for sharing that and lastly, I know this is gonna be a hard question. So, if you would have a time machine, would you travel to the past or the future, and to where?


03:33 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

I wish I had a time machine. Probably to the future. I don't know, 2040 probably. I mean, the reason being, is I would love to know what are the new things happening in the gaming industry and if I get to know that, then I might get an edge of being you know, one of the few people to start working on it in 2023.


04:01 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

That is so smart. You want to get ahead. I love that. Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Jinesha. It's always great to get to know the person that we're interviewing before getting into the more serious questions and now before we dive deep into today's subject, let's listen to a short story from our tales of the feedback crypt.


04:35 STORY

The now defunct gaming publisher Acclaim had an assortment of crazy ad campaigns in its heyday, including offering $10,000 for the first parents to name their kid Toorak to promote the game of the same name, or you're gonna love this one, painting pigeons to look like tennis balls for the launch of Bill to tennis. That's so not cool. In many of our clients' campaigns where we saw that offering to pay for UK speeding tickets on the launch day of Burnout 2 was positively reckless. That's right. If you received a speeding ticket in the UK on the day of Burnout 2 release a game that obviously depicted fast and reckless driving, Acclaim had your back, essentially giving permission for motorists to drive recklessly. It seems the Acclaims' poor decisions extended to the finances as well, as the publisher went out of business in September 2004.


05:36 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

And with that story in mind, we can't wait to hear what Jinesha has to say today. So, let's start. So, Jinesha, we saw that you have a lot of experience in the games industry working at places like Ubisoft, Massive entertainment, and now RedHill games. Can you tell us about your experience at these companies? What do you exactly do as a producer? And so, can you introduce a bit to your role?


06:02 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

So, I mean, so I've worked with really great companies, Ubisoft, and Massive and working with them, I learned a lot about, you know, game development processes, how things are done. I think, everyone should definitely work with these big companies, especially if you want to get ahead in the gaming industry, you get to learn from them, the best people in the industry, and now RedHill games. So, working on a really cool project at RedHill games and working with wonderful, wonderful people. So, usually, what a producer does, I mean, if I explain it to you in laymen terms, we are like parents, in the sense of a producer is someone who has a holistic view of the entire project, and they have to be on top of things. You have to know what each person is doing and your team. Also, you know, as a producer, you need to create a safe environment for your team to make mistakes and work cohesively. So, these are a few things that you do. Of course, you have planning, budgeting, but if I you know, if I see things from a bigger perspective, I think, working with people and understanding that you work with people, not machines, is even more important. What I do is all the things I just explained. Yes, everything together and yeah, it's a lot of fun being a producer, I think it's more Passion Driven thing to do because it's not easy. It's really, you know, a hard and tough job. But once you get into the role, there's no looking back, like you will learn so much from everyone.


07:53 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

It sounds really fun to be working with so many stakeholders in the company, and kind of like looking high-level into everything from a project. So, that's really fun.


08:04 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

Yeah, it's awesome. Like, for me, I never get bored. I have so much to learn from everyone on my team.


08:11 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

It sounds like it and how does player feedback influence your day-to-day job as a producer?


08:18 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

So, player feedback is very important for any gaming company to survive. When we make a game, we have an idea and we see it till the release, it is important to take player feedback into consideration not only when the game has been released, but also during the development phase. So, a lot of companies, they do a lot of play tests, after the Alpha build, for example, where they have people come to the studio from outside. They sign NDAs. They put in a room, and they just need to play certain parts of the game and some companies also put in cameras, just to catch a reaction because at times when you are in that zone of playing, seeing a person's reaction really adds a lot of value and when people play our dev builds and share feedbacks, it really gives us an insight to okay, are we going in the correct direction or not? What are the things we should change? What are the things that don't work? What are the things that people have liked this group of people have liked? So, this also helps us in improving our game before releasing it and you know, before facing flak if it's not good.


09:41 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

Yeah, of course, to catch like the red flags or catch also the positive of moments of the game to reinforce them, right?


09:48 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

Yes. It's really important to do that and to make sure that, you know, people outside your development team are also involved in playing the game and they like it because at the end of the day, when we make games and we put it out there, we are creating an experience for people who are paying a good amount of money to buy your games, so we need to justify that and we need to justify the time as well.


10:16 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

I completely agree and when you do all of these player research for player feedback, what is the type of data that you search for? What are the metrics you look to optimize the performance?


10:30 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

So, usually, the kind of data we look at is, you know, new trends in the market. You know, while this is while we are working on the game to make sure that our game is you don't know not outdated, and it has parts with the latest technologies, the latest games that are being released. So, new trends in the game, most popular games and why they are so popular player feedback for them. Trending genres, latest trends and technology also games, how they do well in demographic areas. Any information that you know we try to collect all information possible by just reading and going through data. When it comes to what metrics we look at to optimize the game's performance. Well, to be honest, this is a bit subjective, because when we are in the game development phase, we look for metrics. You know, we look for metrics, where we get to know that in our map, which parts of the map are causing memory issues, for example, because the game is very heavy. Eventually, we have to keep optimizing, keep optimizing till the release to make sure that, you know, it can be released, and it's just not too heavy and breaking things. So, during the game production, we have teams that work on gathering this information for us and telling us and telling the dev team that, okay, you have this game map. You know, when the player is going from point A to point B, point B is like getting really heavy for us, in terms of memory. Point B is like having a lot of lags. So, we get this kind of data, and this really helps us in making correct depth decisions and you know, finding solutions beforehand, and instead of having players sit and complain. So, that's one way of doing things. Once the game is released, we look for all kinds of information. So, basically, we look for information like okay, what levels are the most popular, or most played by players? Which characters are used the most? Which skins are being used? What is the monetization data, the retention information, and the amount of time people are spending on the game? I mean, are people spending a lot of time on the site content we've made? Or is it just the main content, for example, All this gives us a holistic view of how the game is doing in the market, as well as it even gives us information on okay, what parts of the game really work and what don't and the parts that don't work, we think about ways to improve them, and probably released, you know, DLCs, and we keep working on the live content.


13:28 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

It sounds super interesting because it's interesting to hear how you merge and balance qualitative and quantitative data to always kind of like, optimize and see what's wrong and how to make it better. I like that you utilize those two data points to be able to optimize the games.


13:48 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

Yes, I mean, it's like I said, it's not only you know, we make it. We wait for people and okay, the QA team is testing the game, and the features work. But in the long run, when you have, you know, so many things, you know, you have so many moving pieces when you make a game. So, we really need to know that which parts of the game make sense and why some parts are breaking, because the more you play, the more you test, and you get to know you get into the depth of your game, and you actually get to know where the problematic areas are.


14:25 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

Yeah, it makes total sense, and with this in mind, also, what are the top three player insights that bring your team the biggest impact?


14:35 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

Well, I would say is that first performance like you know, like to get to know from people how smooth the experience is, how good the experience is for them because you know, we don't want to release games where people play the launch the game and in five minutes, they have a crash or they have a stuck or they have a lag and that would be such a bad experience and you know, it would cost us also our goodwill. So, one of the insights that we definitely look for is performance, how smooth is the game when you start playing it? And if people are encountering issues, how many people are encountering them? Usually, players are very vocal about such things. They write it on the community chats, and they let the company know, because the players are not going to be easy on us.


15:32 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

That's actually what we measure with Affogata. I'll tell you about it later. But yes, players are very vocal.


15:40 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

Yes. I've seen that with Cyberpunk. So, I know. Yes. So, we want that kind of information. Then also, you know, another important part is, are they having fun? Do they like it? Are they enjoying it? Because we make games for entertainment value as well, right? So, our players don't like what we had in our mind for us, the game is fun, because it's our baby and we've invested so much time in it. So, we love it. But it's important for the player to love it more. So, it's to you know, it's again, that information that Are they enjoying it? What are they enjoying in the game? Are there any specific characters that they resonate with? Is there like a specific level or specific map that they like? What is it that they enjoy, and this really helps us understand their mindset and also one feedback that I would love and hope to get, is it players can also tell us how we can make our game better. I know, they are not game developers, not all, but they are the end user for us. So, to get that information from them that what do they think and, you know, elevate this game? What could we have done better really helps us also, you know, I guess, looking deeper and make better experiences for them.


17:12 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

Yes, I agree. It tells you how you can optimize because as you mentioned, players are your customers, you are making the games for them and what I was gonna tell you before is that exactly at Affogata for instance, what we do is that we gather all of these feedback from the communities, from Reddit, from Discord, all these places where players are super vocal, and then it analyzes to tell you like how you can improve the game? How can you change certain parts of the game, maybe your players are thinking that a level is too hard, or maybe they think that this character is not well-represented and things like this, that will definitely help you optimize the game as well. So, it's very interesting that you're mentioning that.


17:56 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

Yes, most definitely.


18:01 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

And we saw that you have extensive experience that combines both mobile and console gaming. Can you tell us what are the main differences that you've seen working for these two categories?


18:15 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

So, when it comes to game development for mobile and consoles, I think when you make a mobile game, it's, you know, it's faster to make a mobile game and to release it and then we work on the live content for the mobile game, which is also released, you could say, you know, monthly live content, we have to keep releasing, because with mobile gaming, most of the people who play mobile games are casual gamers. So, it's, you know, making sure that they have something new to come back to when they use your game, or people get bored, and they go to other games and with mobile games, the biggest competitor that we have is social media. So, how do we, you know, it's about like hitting the nail and making sure and thinking that how can we have people spend two hours or three hours on our game instead of Instagram, instead of Facebook, for example. So, that is one part about mobile, but with console games, because consoles, obviously have bigger memory and you know, they have a good CPU, GPU, and all of that. So, we can make high-end games in console and I think we can make a really, really good experience in console which I'm not saying that on mobile, you can't. You can because mobiles have really evolved. You know, and they've come a long way. But when it comes to the kind of people you're targeting, I think console is more for serious gamers or people who really like playing certain titles and are passionate about certain companies, and with console games, you have a huge development lifecycle. It's two years, three years or five years, or ten years in some cases and then it's about live content, which is again, you know, every three months or six months. So, I guess that's the biggest difference in layman terms. I don't think my parents or grandparents would ever sit and play a PlayStation game, but they might play games on phones.


20:30 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

Yes, definitely. It happens with my parents as well. They love games on their phone. But that's about it. Well, that's actually very interesting. I'm always thinking about the differences and of course, there are a lot of differences in many aspects. But always asking this question from people from the inside that have the experience, it's super interesting to hear what are their thoughts on the differences. So, thank you for sharing that as well, and now that you've mentioned, what are, in your opinion, the two main, like the main differences between these two categories? Can you think of how do you see if you see any difference in the way player feedback is collected and utilized to optimize the player experience in both categories as well?

21:21 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

That's a good question. With the mobile games, I think actually, for both games, most of the feedback, at least from my experience, it's always been on community forums, or, you know, finding this feedback on portals, like Metacritic, IGN, for example, that, you know, a mobile game is doing really well or if it isn't and same for console. The biggest difference and feedback would be, I think, for console from what I've read, because I try to keep a track of my games, what I've read is that people, you have serious gamers who are playing console games, so they really, really love the company, and they wait for you know, these companies release games. So, for them, it's a passion. So, getting their feedback, you kind of understand that they are like, okay, fine. This is something we really like, we don't like to get very meticulous in the feedback in console. That's what I feel and in mobile gaming, usually, I guess the feedback are a bit more generic from my perspective. Yeah, because it's, you know, like I said, it's more casual gaming. There are good, while games like PUBG, for example, which did really well and you had so many people playing it, and they had a craze for that. Yeah, but most of the mobile games because there are so many mobile games, you don't know all of them. Like if I open app store, I think there's so many every Yeah, once every two days there's a new list of video games. So, you know, which one do you use? I try to read the reviews for the kind of reviews that people have written. Okay, this button is not working. This experience is not good. Not a lot about the gameplay. Not a lot about the narrative of gameplay or what's really interesting, maybe because those kinds of people are not really serious gamers who've played a lot of console to understand the importance.


23:40 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

Yeah, I understand exactly what you mean.


23:43 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

And plus, in mobile gaming, you have so many different genres. It's not only narrative or shooters, you have even casino games, which are so famous, like card games or, you know, Blackjack, I don't think a lot of people will have feedback except okay. The user experience might not be the best or the multiplayer there are bugs. Exactly. But in console, people are going to be like, Okay, why? Why this story, like, for example, in Last of Us 2, which is an amazing game. A lot of people had the complaint that the story felt a bit short. But the game is amazing to play. Combat is amazing. So, you know, people in console for them, it's about resonating with a character, resonating with a story. So, they get very connected to these things.


24:33 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

Yeah, I understand. So, I get completely why you mentioned that the feedback is more meticulous because it goes really in-depth in the game.


24:43 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

Yes and I think people fall in love with these characters with the world.


24:49 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

Definitely. Yeah, and for the last question, you did mention a bit in a few questions back, and I know it's gonna be a hard question. But if there would be a dream insight you could get from your players, what would it be?


25:07 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

Probably how to make a game better. When they played to just be honest and tell us, you know that, you know, what we liked what they didn't like how we can make it better because we are here to, I mean, the reason we make games is yes, we are passionate. It's also to create a different world for these people, where they can immerse themselves and just forget about reality. So, it's important for us to know what works, what doesn't work, and what they think, will make the game better.


25:41 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

I agree with that and that's an awesome way of ending the podcast. So, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to participate in today's podcast. It was super interesting to learn about your role as a producer and how player feedback influences your position.


25:57 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

Yes, it was a nice topic, and a different topic from what I have spoken about in the past. So, thank you for having me.


26:04 Natalie Markovits | Affogata’s Host

Of course. Have a great night.


26:07 Jinesha Gandhi | Producer at RedHill Games

Yeah, thank you so much, Natalie. Looking forward to the release of the podcast.

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