Ragequitting: What Causes it and why not to do it   Leave a comment

Welcome back to Gratuitous JRPG.  This is Epic Alphonse, back from a writing hiatus with new content to give!  Just in time, too, since Nonfiltered’s college schedule has become soul-crushingly brutal.  Over the time I was gone, I wrote out my game’s entire storyboard.  Storyboard writing may sound simple enough, but when it’s being done for a full-length JRPG it is anything but.  Over this time I also sent it over to two people I knew to look over and critique it.  However, this will be covered later in the post.  Right now the main focus is on the storyboard.

I will have to ask forgiveness for not revealing the entire storyboard.  It takes up nine pages on a document, single-spaced, and would inflate this post’s length to measures that may well break WordPress.  The task of writing one is grueling, in-depth, and required a lot of time simply planning out the game’s pace.  And to put it bluntly for anyone trying it themselves: this is the first hell for game designers, and one of the parts where you realize everything you take for granted in a game you may play–you are going to have to plan out the entirety of the general plot.  Up to and including the transitions and   I cannot offer any advice in attempting this task on your own aside from the fact that you will have to push through it.  It may be easier for the more writing-inclined, but for the less so like myself, this will be one of the harder parts.

By the time you are done, chances are you will detest the entire thing, and want to scrap it and start over from scratch.  This is a natural product of exhaustion, and more of an indicator that you need to take a notable break.  At this point, it would be ideal to get an outside opinion and critique on your storyboard at this point.  Someone knowledgeable in writing would be ideal, though not required.  The point is to get somebody outside the development process to look at what is present and give some form of critique.  For the best results, send it in to two to three people and have them critique it separately.  More opinions help, but only to the point that they don’t start to run together.

What comes next is the hardest part of showing your work to anyone else: taking the critiques you asked for.  If you’ve felt invested in your work at all, this will be painful.  This brings me to one of my biggest points in the whole blog, so read this closely, and recite it daily.  Bookmark this post and read it again if you forget it.  You will need thick skin to survive in anything related to game development.  Or for that matter, any creative pursuit where your works are shown to a portion of the public.  If you intend to release your game, you and your work won’t simply be subject to the opinions of your peers and those you personally send work to for looking over.  In today’s world, courtesy of the internet giving everybody a voice to be heard over a long distance, many people will voice them.  A good portion of these voices will not necessarily have positive things to say.

crosshairs

Imagine these on you at all times.  And the more well-known you are, the more accurate they’ll get and the more of them there will be.  This is why you will need to get thick skin.

The type of statements varies depending on the person.  There is detailed feedback, that is based on the work itself–the best of which will typically have time given to it and written out in full, or at least directed as precisely as possible.  This you should look at, since there’s often something to derive from those.  Next comes the general feedback–the casual one/few-statement matters.  Take these with a grain of salt, especially if they’re not clarifying what they’re specifically talking about.  Going down the line, there’s the uninformed feedback.  Uninformed feedback does exist, and is typically a result of basing one’s opinion of the full game on the first impression–such as the first hour of the game.  Hi there, IGN and Gamespot, you may sit back down now.  If they are generally in line with each other and some of the more detailed feedback, however, there may be some substance

Then comes the feedback that is at the most, barely relevant to the game.  The first is peripheral feedback, which is when somebody outside of your standard audience has feedback on the game.  This may, for example, be a WRPG fan giving commentary on a JRPG, or a consumer of horror giving commentary on fantasy.  This can be notable if it’s insightful or from a non-core group you are attempting to reach out to, but sometimes it falls straight into the uninformed feedback bin.  Then there’s the genre-based feedback.  This is typically not worth listening to, since this sort of feedback is what occurs when you give someone who hates JRPGs a JRPG and then expect feedback from them.  It will typically result in something along the lines of “I hate this game because it’s a JRPG and it should be less of a JRPG, because as is it, and all videogames are all the worse for the sole reason of this game being a JRPG.”  Often with more colorful language.  This may, and frequently does, cross with peripheral feedback.  Ignore it.

The last category of feedback is one that has caused no small amount of problem among all sorts of people worldwide: abusive feedback.  This differs from all the other types of feedback because it is not meant to provide information.  It is somebody using feedback as a means through which to verbally attack.  This sort of feedback comes in two varieties.  The first is what is considered standard trolling–simply trying to get a reaction.  My advice for the genre-based feedback goes double for these sorts–ignore them, and whatever you do, do not respond to them in any way.  Doing so will only worsen the attacks.

To be more serious for a moment, the second type of abusive feedback is something much more vile, insidious, and sadly, prevalent in today’s world.  These are the attacks not for the sake of trying to provoke a reaction, but directly at the person, for who they are or what they’re doing.  These are the people who will throw in personal, racist, sexist, and hateful attacks.  Even worse, they will make implicit or explicit threats against one’s own person, friends, or family, and sometimes for the most petty possible reasons.  The most notable case of abuse I can think of is that of Jennifer Hepler, a writer who worked for Bioware on Dragon Age 2–who had threats leveled against herself and her children, by irate and vocal fans of the series who blamed her for the game’s problems.  This, sadly, is not an isolated incident, nor is it limited to writing.  David Vonderhaar received threats of violence for announcing a patch with minor statistical alterations to Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.  And these are just the high-profile cases.

Many other people in creative works, be it game development, writing, art, film-making, and so on, are attacked viciously, for varied reasons.  This is, sadly, a very real problem in the world today.  Whatever the reason, if you are getting attacks over message boards, e-mail, or any other form of online communication that are sexist, racist, or otherwise hateful, or contain implicit or explicit threats, there is something seriously wrong.  I sadly do not have much advice to give, nor any I feel qualified to give, on this issue should you encounter it other than this: find help.  Nobody deserves these attacks for any reason.  For those of you who wish to read more on the incidents mentioned earlier, feel free to read the following links below as a start:

Back to the matter of having your work critiqued, I suppose, for all I’m not sure how to really segue back into this.  This will apply down the line at testing as well, but it is vital to ignore your first emotional reaction to the responses you will get from those who you ask to look over your work.  And your second, at that.  What is most optimal is to step back from your work and look at both your work and the comments from an objective viewpoint.  Once you get through that, you can start to edit your work, keeping in mind the perceived problems and high points.

With the feedback I got from my storyboard, to fill out an example, I started to work through and break my problems into five specific groups.  Severe problems were those that would require extensive changes across multiple scenes throughout the game to fix–which is a reason to catch them early–the later a problem comes up in development, the harder it is to fix.  Thankfully, I only had one such.  Major problems are those that require a significant change to or removal of one scene overall–I have a couple, but thankfully not too many.  Moderate problems are those that only require a part of a scene to be added, edited, or dropped–and probably the second most common sort of problem I had in my storyboard.  Minor problems, my most common, are those that can largely be addressed through working with the actual writing of the game itself, and are meant to be resolved then.  And lastly are preferential issues, which are more the perceived result of the reviewer’s preferences than anything else–something that I personally doubt is an actual problem that needs fixing, but is good to note nevertheless.  This last one is a reason why it is good to know your reviewers and testers, rather than to throw it to people who don’t know you.

With the end of that, I must make two personal admissions as to mistakes of my own during the process.  The first is that I rushed the finish of my storyboard, which left things particularly bare during the second half or so.  This was an inexcusable foul-up of mine, and a result of wanting to finish writing it already.  In other situations, this may be the result of strict deadlines, but mine had less of a reason.  The second mistake I will be committing is that I will not resubmit my storyboard for critique after applying fixes.  Ideally, I would resubmit at least once, if not twice or more so that issues would be cleared up and new ones not introduced before being planted into the game.  However, as a function of this blog is to show the process of how a game would be made, and I made a deliberate decision to sacrifice additional writing revision to have more time during which to show the full game creation process.  This is something I would advise not doing, as I am certain the quality of my game’s writing will suffer as a result.  All in all, I am not perfect, and I will be showing my mistakes as well as my successes as I go along here.  And this is two of my first.

Writing for a game is hard.  Writing for a JRPG is even harder.  And even harder yet is taking criticism on a project that you have invested at least a small portion into, never mind a personally significant project.  You need to be able to take feedback well, and not lash out emotionally at it.  But keep in mind that no matter the quality of your game, it is not a reason to receive abuse that you, as a person, do not deserve.  Keep at what you’re doing, you’ll get something out of it.  This is Epic Alphonse, signing out.

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Posted September 16, 2013 by EpicAlphonse in Uncategorized

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