6/365 – Meditation Games #6 – Piecing Together Success

Developer: Bertine van Hovell tot Westerflier

Launcher Quote: “When you launch a new thing into the world, there is always that pinch of doubt and anxiety; will people even find your little creation? Did you even do it well enough for people to care?

And sometimes it’ll take far longer for the right people to find your work.

Until that moment, you sit there, waiting, fearing you did everything wrong.

This was inspired by the day Thomas Wrobel and I woke up one morning to find that the little web-based project we thought was a failure, consumed 40 gig in bandwidth in one night. 

All it took was the right blog to post about it.”

The interesting thing about playing these different games is that it’s a bit of a game in and of itself to see how the developer’s launcher quote and the game presented hook up with one another. I’ve thought that certainly in the course of these 5-minute writeups that at some point, I’ll get it wrong and guess something completely unintended with what the developer was thinking, but honestly, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As someone who works in games whose job it is as a Community person to take feedback from players, it’s actually valuable to bring a different viewpoint that developers aren’t seeing due to their closeness to their products, a sort of nugget that might appear based from someone’s purely external idea of their game experience.

Such as it is that I wondered how the launcher quote for today’s game by Lost Again‘s Bertine van Hövell tot Westerflier, connected specifically to the little jigsaw puzzle game that was put together. The game experience in general was fairly straightforward – find the way the pieces fit together and click them in, and eventually have a whole picture, eventually leading to a cheering sound effect, applause, and fireworks going off. It actually reminded me of my early days in my youth, when I sat in front of a computer trying to learn Windows 3.1 and Dos, and passed some of the time with age old favorite Solitaire, which rewarded you with a nice little visual element of the cards creating trails of themselves on the screen (which by the way you could always inadvertently create yourself if you messed up your desktop windows back then).

It wasn’t until I noticed the smartphone in the upper left hand corner quietly counting the months (and likely years) forward that I sort of thought about what was said in the launcher about finding out success for a product and being anxious that you hadn’t figured out the thing that would get people to play it and like it. A puzzle like the one I’d pieced together seemed to take 5 minutes for me, but in the smartphone’s estimation took at least 4 “years” of time. Such as it is with game dev, I think. You iterate and experiment, and see where pieces fit, and eventually piece together the puzzle that might bring that sort of validation, that success from others in the form of outside recognition. To get those fireworks, those cheers, that applause – that could take a long time, and would likely be fraught with long months spent trying to fit together what you’re developing or doing.

As a Community professional in games, you tend to see this process first-hand, seeing how patches and releases and milestones are struggled to by a development team, how puzzle pieces of a game don’t always fit together and you sometimes don’t have a whole picture until you finally release (or even post-release through a re-design). Our job in Community is to make the player understand that – sure, to advocate for a better player experience for developers who may see the puzzle piece design of a game one way while players see it another – but always to display to the player that it’s sometimes a long process, and that for all the experience and bravado developers talk about in public, that there’s always something that might not fit or that they’re stressing over when it comes to hoping nobody craps on the content once it’s out there (or worse, doesn’t know it exists). In games, and in life, sometimes the puzzle picture isn’t clear until you’ve spent the time to put the pieces into place.

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