The Challenges Of Game Development: An Amateur’s Perspective

Before I get started, I’d like it made clear that everything I write here is purely my own personal opinion, based off my own experiences. This is my blog after all, this is where I write to express myself when no other outlet feels appropriate at the time. Nothing I say in this space should be taken as being representative of Chucklefish or its staff. With that said, I hope you find this perspective interesting.

Like many things in life, I’ve found my work as a game developer to be a constant learning experience. Often it has involved learning practical things that are directly relevant to my work, like honing my understanding of JSON and Starbound’s systems in order to get the results I desire. Sometimes it has meant learning more difficult lessons, like knowing when and how to distance myself emotionally from negative feedback, and trying not to take it personally.

Honestly, this can be difficult at times. When negativity is directed at something you’re so passionate about, something you’ve spent years of your life working on, it can feel like someone is criticizing you directly as a human being. When faced with negative attitudes, I try instead to focus on the legitimate criticisms that often lie behind them, and then assess whether or not they are something I can reasonably address.

A good example would be simply looking at Starbound’s steam page. At time of writing, 92% of the reviews given to our game are marked as positive, which is great! It makes me happy to think so many people are enjoying our game! But you wouldn’t think that to be the case if you scrolled down and saw the large number of negative reviews dotting the front page. My first reaction naturally being to ask, why?

Upon deeper investigation, the criticism of these reviews largely seems to stem from the total decline in stable updates for the game. As we’ve continued to work on Starbound behind the scenes, the people who have supported our game are eager for more content as soon as possible. This criticism comes from a place of passion, and our players simply want what they were promised. This is a criticism I can understand, and even empathize with.

Those who have been following the game for some time would likely know that we tried doing updates on a weekly basis at first. It led to many expressing dissatisfaction with the amount of content they were receiving in this piecemeal fashion and honestly, it limited us as developers in many respects, especially having to make sure that anything we put out to the public was working without disrupting the cohesive and otherwise-functional whole. These weekly updates were ultimately scrapped in favor of our current system of writing regular daily updates and our nightly build that allowed people to peek behind the curtain, if they were so inclined.

I for one have quickly begun to see the benefits of the “when it’s done” philosophy that many higher caliber studios like Valve and Blizzard have been using for years. The upside of this approach is that when our next stable update does hit, it’s going to be packed with loads of new stuff for our players to check out. The downside is it that it can mean a lengthy wait, as it has done, which understandably can be frustrating to our players. I’m still waiting for that Half-Life 3 announcement myself!

I think the greatest lesson I have taken away from this whole experience, and the thing that I want to convey most, is that game development is hard.

But boy do I love it.

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