This is the first in a three-part series on what went wrong with my first attempt at releasing a “game” to the public. In this part I will go over one of the three major factors that I felt contributed to the underwhelming response to my efforts: I did not make efforts to make the mod easy to get up and running.
One of the biggest lessons that I learned from this project was that no matter how good your game is, if people can’t get into it with little effort, it won’t matter. The response I got from the people that actually played the game was almost unanimously positive. Several people told me that the mod became the game to them, and they couldn’t go back to normal Minecraft afterwards. With positive initial feedback like this, I was sure this was going to be a smashing success. Then the negative feedback started rolling in. Nothing about the game itself, but waves of questions about compatibility and installation. I thought (erroneously) that the modding community would have no problems installing a stand-alone mod, but I wasn’t involved enough with the community to know how wrong that was (which will be the topic of the third part in this series, so more on that later).
Many of the people playing with mods were using one of two popular modding engines. These engines forced some compatibility between mods, and limited the mods to the places they allowed to maintain it. Essentially, they were unofficial modding APIs made by the community, and I decided not to play ball. I went beyond the scope they provided in a number of ways, and I didn’t want to sacrifice my vision for the game for the sake of compatibility. By itself, this may not have been a big issue, but there were other issues with compatibility that really prevented the mod from catching on.
The deluge of questions and criticisms related to the community APIs was a bit of a blow to the ego, but not entirely unexpected. I was hoping that the video preview and the screenshots would get people to decide it was worth it to at least try it, and unfortunately for many people that was not the case. I thought that if they would just try it they would be hooked, but so many people turned away before they even tried it. Over a year of hard work on my part being offhandedly dismissed due to what I perceived as such a minor issue was hard, but once the reviews started rolling in, things had to improve. But while the reviewers and community voices were at least willing to install it, they had issues of their own.
One of the big features of the popular mod APIs was that it allowed the youtube reviewers to pull the mods apart from the inside and really dig into them. Without that, many of them attempted to do a review and then stopped because they didn’t have the tools they needed to do it. I tried to patch that functionality in to get them rolling, but I couldn’t compete with people dedicated to making it easy for them, and I was set at odds with the people I was relying on to spread the word and get people to overcome their trepidations about installing it.
I was a bit upset about the way this all unfolded. I thought my game was so good that its quality would make people ignore these issues and I was dead wrong. I set such a high bar for both players and reviewers to get into it that many people wrote it off before giving it a chance. Many of these issues are unique to modding, and my future projects won’t have the exact same issues, but the underlying current will always be there. Making it easy to get up and running is now just as high on my priority list as making the game fun to play. I have seen this paralleled in the game industry at large with DRM issues and launch-day servers problems, I should have known better. I had said to myself “but that won’t matter, my game is good enough to get past that.” I’ve learned that anytime I hear myself say that phrase though, that it’s time to rethink things.
Next up I’m going to go over the importance of having a solid player introduction to your game.