When Should You Show People Your Game?
When is the right time to show people your game for the first time? When is the first time that I should get feedback? When should I show people in my little circle see my stuff? I have been asked this question a couple times from various places like e-mail, Twitter, all kinds of places. Questions like these really help me understand what level my audience are at and what their thinking is.
And I think that before we get into when’s the best time to actually show the game off, I think we should talk about the psychology of it. Because if you are constantly in that phase of prioritizing, optimizing, and thinking about the best time to do something, that can cause a lot of unnecessary anxiety. I know, I’ve been there. I remember doing that for a long time. I always thought that everything had to be perfect first, all neatly lined up, and that I should reveal my work to people only when the time’s right. And I realized that way was really ineffective and inefficient. It didn’t work for my lifestyle; it drove me crazy, and made me more than a little anxious. Just constantly wondering, “When should I do this? When’s the best time to do this? Oh! If I don’t do that now I’ll lose out!”
But I realized that life is a lot more fluid than that. It has more scales of gray than black and white. There’s really no right time to do anything. So when people ask me the question of when should I show someone my game, my answer would be, “Why haven’t you shown them already?” You want to show people as early as you possibly can. As early as when you have a playable prototype, get their feedback all the way. And I have to clarify this. When I say that, I’m assume that you have a supportive group of people around you. NOT people that are just going to shit on your game, tear it apart, and misunderstand or undervalue the intricacies of what you’re building and all that stuff. Because I know about that personally, I’ve had my share of negative people.
If you have a circle of supportive people that want to help you succeed and like playing your type of games, share with them as soon as possible. Get their feedback, start iterating. When done, repeat the process. Go through that loop over and over again. I guarantee you that will help you build a better game. The answer to the question is simple: As soon as possible.
I’d like to quote a start-up guy, I forget who: “If you are not embarrassed by showing someone your work, you showed it to them too late.” It means you waited too long. And I’ve always thought that that was a great quote, because it’s true. If you get to the point where you feel you’ve completed it and you’ve achieved something, that’s probably too late for a feedback—for a critical feedback that you need to change the game. You spent all that time working on the mechanic that’s not really much fun—and you didn’t know that because there’s no way for you to really judge your own project objectively. You need other people’s feedback.
Critical feedback is very important to building an entertainment experience that will be shared to the rest of the world and throughout your player base. And if you don’t show people, if you don’t get it out there as soon as possible, and you don’t get feedback on it, who knows where you can end up? You can keep going. For years this was one of my biggest issues: I didn’t show anybody my work. I would start and stop projects, and I would always talk about them to people, and everybody’s like, “Yeah, but where is it?” and I’d reply, “Oh it’s coming, it’s coming guys, it’s coming.” But I never actually show it to them.
I never showed anybody the projects. I got to a point where I wasn’t sure what to do. It didn’t feel right anymore and I would just quit, leave it on the table and never come back to it. And that was one of the worst things I could do, I realize that now.
The steps to make better games are:
- Constantly show your game to people in your circle.
- Get their feedback.
- Show it to them again.
- Keep this loop going until you and the people who helped you with their feedbacks are satisfied.
These people are invested in my success. They want to help me. They want to see me be successful. And they also want a good game.
If they play my game, and there’s a shitty jump move, or some kind of tactic they don’t like, they’re going to be honest and say, “Hey this doesn’t work”, “This feels bad”, “This doesn’t feel like it should.” And since I know that they’re just being honest with me, I go back and fix that thing, iterate, and show the next version. And when the feedback is, “Yeah it feels so much better”, I know I’ve done well. All those little details are things that you can’t really see when you’re playing the game. You can fix a lot of it, of course. But there are little details that you miss, that you will always miss, no matter how good you get. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I still miss little details. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of little intricate things that I should have caught but miss. And I find that the longer I do it, the more I miss…It’s crazy! But it’s stuff that you have to get from feedback. It doesn’t come from any other place.
And if you don’t show people your stuff as early and as often as possible, it’s not going to improve as much as you want it to. And my mission with Game Dev Underground is really to help as many people make as many great games as possible. So if you want to do that and join the mission, you have to show your game to people. I’m sorry there’s no way around it. There’s no magical book. There’s no magical formula. There’s nothing like that. You just have to show people. It can be scary, embarrassing, and worrisome, but you need to do it. Great games are made by multiple people—they really are, even if they have solo developers.
Great games are made by multiple people. That extra wisdom in the group, that extra, perspective and clarity goes so far in so many different ways. And you should use it. If you don’t have that group of people, you need to find them. There are thousands of places on the internet. In the comments section of my videos, I have lots of lovely people there. Game Dev Underground is a great place. We have tons of cool people. If you need people, they’re not hard to find. They’re all over the Internet so I recommend that you find some, and share your stuff as early and as often as possible. That’s how you make a great game.