Do you really have time to support your own video game? If you’re an indie game developer, the answer is probably no, but app and game stores expect you to provide this service for your customers. In this episode of GameDev Breakdown, we’ll take a look at some strategies you can leverage to make this part of life a little easier.
Here’s the problem: indie developers work full-time jobs, they develop on nights and weekends, and they have to release their games for not-enough money in an attempt to capture eyeballs. Every game developer wants their players to have a positive experience, they’re just short on hours in the day.
That doesn’t mean it’s okay to leave it to 8-bit Jesus! Anything worth doing is worth doing well. This means indie games need to look their very best on launch day, and failing that, devs need to spring into action when problems arise. Most platforms require you to provide a support website, e-mail, or other contact information, and failing to address issues will do more than tank your ratings–it might very well result in forfeited revenue and even put you in trouble with stores. Simply put, supporting your game is the right thing to do.
As we’ve talked about in other episodes, the game industry is younger than most other industries, and in this case, I think commercial software has some lessons to teach us. For example: you’re not a triple-A studio, and you don’t have a big support team, but the customer support knowledge base approach could help you stay on top of issues and save your players some headaches. When you interact with a player who has identified an issue or observed something unusual, don’t just rush to the code base to fix and patch. Document it! Start a file on the issues, fixes, and workarounds affecting your game. Consider putting it in a special support section on your marketing site.
While you’re making changes to your site, think about starting a support forum. WordPress can help you get this done in a few minutes, and it’s not the only solution. Steam has a version of this, many platforms don’t. Let your players discuss issues, help one another, and help you get to the bottom of things. Keep an eye on it and stay ahead of anything big. Don’t worry about players working each other up and turning on you. It’s going to happen, but it doesn’t mean you have to worry about it.
Ultimately, as long as you’re offering a game in exchange for money, you need to be available for support. This doesn’t mean you have to add new features and make preferential changes forever, but as long as someone just bought it, it needs to work.
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Todd Mitchell is a US Midwest-based comedy writer and game developer with bylines at Weekly Humorist, Fanbyte, Slackjaw, End of the Bench Sports, and more. He’s the author of Inside Video Game Creation, the founder of CodeWritePlay, and host of the GameDev Breakdown podcast. Follow him on Twitter @Mechatodzilla.