• Natalie Markovits

The power of implementing player feedback into the design of your games

Updated: Sep 6

Hello and welcome to Affogata’s podcast: Let’s talk customer feedback. We had the pleasure of hosting Riad Djemili, Founder, CEO, Code & Design at Maschinen-Mensch & Codecks.



A summary of what you'll find on this podcast:


1. Riad shares how designing a new game is challenging and how he tries to create the perfect balance between winning and losing, developing the ultimate experience, creating engaging features, and not having any bugs or technical problems.


2. A conversation on one crucial part that sometimes game designers may forget which is implementing player feedback in the creation and optimization of new games.


3. Riad also shares with us how Indie games gather and implement feedback why it is important.


4. Lastly, Riad discusses with us how he approaches conflicting feedback from different gamers due to it being such a subjective topic.

Check out what Riad had to say about all this!


Podcast



Transcript


Host from Affogata:


So, Riad, for our first question, we saw that you have been a professional game developer since 2007, which is amazing. Can you tell us more about your work both in Maschinen-Mensch and Codecks?


Participant: Riad Djemili, Founder, CEO, Code & Design at Maschinen-Mensch & Codecks


Yes, that's true. I started in 2007. Even in 2005, I already started working on mobile games like before the iPhone. It was a different time. Then I worked for seven years in the AAA industry, so that's like big-budget titles with 100-person teams. And after that, in 2014, I started my own company that's focused on creating so-called indie games. So smaller games, lower-budget games, but that allows us to take more creative freedom. That's Maschinen-Mensh. We are around twelve people based in Berlin, Germany. And then, since two years or three years, I'm also the co-founder of Codecks, which is a project management and community management platform for game developers which evolved out of our own needs.


Host from Affogata:


That sounds impressive when having so much experience. We would love to hear from you. How do you start the creative process of coming up with a new game?


Participant: Riad Djemili, Founder, CEO, Code & Design at Maschinen-Mensch & Codecks


Yeah, that's always a tricky question. For me. Personally, I like to tap into real-world subjects. I'm fascinated by history and like, social dynamics in the world and why the world is how it is. And I try to kind of put that into being inspired by that. A lot of games can feel a bit derivative in terms of being slight, like, what's the word? Slight changes to previous games and be very genre-focused. And I try to get inspired by not video games, basically, but by history books and so on.


The first game with The Curious Explosion, which is about expeditions in the 19th century, I got inspired by the waiting room at my dentist and I saw National Geographic Magazine about expeditions, and that inspired our first game. And that's kind of how I approach it.


Host from Affogata:


That sounds super interesting. I really like the fact that you mentioned that you base your games on reality and history. And how and from whom do you get your game design feedback?


Participant: Riad Djemili, Founder, CEO, Code & Design at Maschinen-Mensch & Codecks


In the early stages, I get it from my team. So that's kind of like the first-day feedback and then later on from game developers. In my circle, I am also the co-founder of a game development co-working space in Berlin with around 50 game developers. So in that circle, I can also get feedback. And then, of course, it extends down to a broader audience like doing beta tests or alpha tests with potential customers and also starting to share the concept on social media.


Obviously, in games, we have to make money with our games even though we have like a creative desire and want to create artistic work, but it also has to be commercially viable and that's not just on the merit of the gameplay itself, but just on the whole concept of like how does the game look, how can I convey what the game is about? Is this setting interesting? And so on. And that can be tested even with screenshots or just telling one or two sentences about the game and seeing how people react to that. Then of course then it extends towards the integrity detail about specific game mechanics in the game.


Host from Affogata:


Yes, I totally agree with you. And with this question I wanted to ask you, have you made a lot of changes in your games based on this feedback? Has it really impacted your game and your creative process and optimization of the game?


Participant: Riad Djemili, Founder, CEO, Code & Design at Maschinen-Mensch & Codecks


Yeah, absolutely. Of course, the shortest feedback loop is between me and myself. Basically, just my own opinion because I also don't know if the game mechanics will work. So I first tested on myself and then my colleagues and so on and then the broader audience and at every one of these steps, there are a lot of changes. At first myself, I realized the game mechanics are as good as I thought, so I'm iterating on that on a tight loop. But then after the feedback from the colleagues and the wider audience, there are a lot of changes.


For us, the two games that we put out were released in early access. That means that we kind of release a beta version with the understanding that we would keep working on the game and release monthly updates. So that's kind of like a new release model for games. It has been around since Minecraft basically, which is already like a couple of years and that really fosters understanding and a collaborative environment also not just in the team, of course, but with your audience.


They know they can give you feedback and you haven't moved on and are on to the next game, but you're actually incorporating that feedback. And we have done a ton of changes because for us it's hard to anticipate all the ways in which the game can break or be misunderstood things that you think are clear 99% of the time are actually not as clear as you thought. And you will have to work on better instructive, support, better UX, and more natural UX. But then also, of course, people exploit game mechanics and find tricks which break the game and also based on that and then overall just some things are not as fun as we thought. Sometimes we go back and exchange whole parts of the game and replace them with something that works better.


Host from Affogata:


And how do you approach conflicting feedback from different gamers? Because it can be very subjective, right. Some may like some parts of the games and some others won't. How do you approach it and how do you decide which changes to make and which ones to not make?


Participant: Riad Djemili, Founder, CEO, Code & Design at Maschinen-Mensch & Codecks


Yeah, the most important thing for me is trying to understand why people are saying or giving the feedback that they are giving. Most often customers or players see the surface level. They see they are bothered by a system and say I wish the thought would be stronger. And usually, they give feedback in the form of a proposal already. It's not the common case that they take a step back and don't give a proposal, but instead state what they're trying to fix with that proposal. And that's when my team works to understand why are people giving this feedback and is there an underlying issue that is the actual problem? If you only look at just the feedback on the first layer at surface level, you might be fixing the wrong problem.


Maybe there is a problem that's underlying. So that's what I always try to do. Kind of the underlying issue behind the feedback. And then if it's still conflicting or people are giving conflicting feedback, that might be a good sign because if you address every feedback in a game environment in a way that you kind of average out values, where somebody says like the sword is too weak and you make it as strong as other weapons in the game, but it's also too slow and then you make it as fast as other weapons in the game and so on. You basically end up with a soup of items where everything feels the same and you want to have those contrasting differences between things in your game where people also can feel like mastering the game and borderline breaking it and feeling good about themselves because they found a strategy which works really well and you don't want to optimize that way.


So in a sense, conflicting feedback is even for me, it's preferred because it might point towards a system that's actually really well working. It's more problematic. If everybody hates something, then it's really something you need to fix.


Host from Affogata:


Right. That's really interesting because I can understand how that way you balance out the game into how many times you win and how many times you lose. And that way you keep people and gamers more engaged.


Participant: Riad Djemili, Founder, CEO, Code & Design at Maschinen-Mensch & Codecks


Yeah. And you want to have the test have an emotional reaction to your game, right? So if they say oh, my opponent is always using this weapon, I hate it because I don't know how to strategize around it. It's bad if the players stop playing the game for that reason. But on the other hand, it's good that they are emotional about it and it's working on their mind and maybe they are able to find a strategy around it and deal with it. That's actually super satisfying.


Host from Affogata:


I can totally agree with that. And if you can improve the way you gather feedback right now, what would you do?


Participant: Riad Djemili, Founder, CEO, Code & Design at Maschinen-Mensch & Codecks


For us, we have a pretty special feedback system since we are just tied into the Codex IO platform which we are using and other game developers as well at this point. And it has a Discord plugin. So Discord is a chat platform. It's very big in the gaming circle and basically, I think 90% of game developers have set up their own Discord community where people or players of their games hang out. And this can be like small servers, but can also go up to like 50,000 people or so chatting on it. So that's where your audience hangs out and we want to collect the feedback where our audiences are right, so we don't but if we push them to another platform, there's like so much friction involved that people, just a lot of them won't do it.


So we try to collect the feedback on Discord where our fans are. And for that, we built a Discord bot that kind of takes the unstructured and random feedback that's like coming in as a flop and converts each feedback item into a kind of smart item that appears in our Codex IO platform and that way we can easily track it and organize and so on. And what's special about it is that I always say we are trying to put the feedback loop by giving players the ability to follow up on their feedback.


So instead of a random void where they throw their feedback into and never hear something back, they get these smart items and they can follow up on them and check the progress of the feedback that they have delivered. They can see, oh, has the developer seen this? Have they scheduled it, have they done it? And so on. And that encourages them to leave more feedback, which is great, of course, because the more feedback we get, the closer we can get to a perfect game. And our next step is then integrating this idea also into games directly so that from within the game you can give feedback and also get this feedback loop where you get feedback on your barcode actually fixed, which is a very satisfying feeling because, on the one hand, this problem is no more in the game, but also you feel like you've been kind of part of the development process. So it's really good also for collecting feedback is not just good for improving the game, but it's also like for improving your community relation and engagement. That's very important for us.


Host from Affogata:


It's really interesting what you mentioned because, at Affogata, we do this on a larger scale for bigger companies because we give value more to companies that have a lot of feedback on multiple channels. But I can completely understand why you saw the need for Codecks. Because at Affogata, what we do for gaming companies is that we gather the feedback from all channels like Discord and Vanilla Forums and Zendesk and Intercom, Google Play and App Store, and Twitter and all the channels and turn this feedback into valuable insights for companies so they can create a better product and game decisions. So I can completely understand where you're coming from.


Participant: Riad Djemili, Founder, CEO, Code & Design at Maschinen-Mensch & Codecks


Yeah, as a game developer, if you aren't using a tool for processing feedback efficiently instead of just using a random input here & there, that's really putting you at a disadvantage And for us, our system allows us to really engage on an individual basis without adding a ton of work on our site. So by having the system in Codecks, it's also a project management tool and the one we use anyway. So we can process this feedback organically without it living in a different silo. And by just doing our work, the community is automatically getting visibility on the progress and the process of the feedback. So that's really convenient.


Host from Affogata:


That sounds super interesting. I think that we can definitely get to work together also in the future. Riad, I want to really thank you so much for taking the time to participate in today's podcast. It was super interesting to hear your insights on how crucial is player feedback for the design and development of new games and what is the creative process of creating new games.


Participant: Riad Djemili, Founder, CEO, Code & Design at Maschinen-Mensch & Codecks


Yeah, thank you. It was fun being here. I hope it inspires people to pay more attention to this topic.


Host from Affogata:


I really hope so too. And thanks all for listening and don't forget to visit us at www.affogata.com


13 views0 comments