Many video games start with a great idea, but a great idea alone isn’t nearly enough to ensure success. If you’re not listening to your players and giving them the support they need, you’ll only end up with bad reviews and no shortage of refund requests. In fact, the Steam platform alone sees an average of 75,000 support requests per day, around 90% of which are refund requests.
Improving player experiences isn’t just about releasing DLCs and fixing bugs. In fact, the best approach is to look at your game and its community from outside; that starts with building strong and lasting relationships with your players. The success of any video game relies more and more on these relationships. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, given the constantly growing influence of online social communities.
#1. Listen to Your Community
Your first duty as a game developer is to create a compelling experience for players. Sure, you might have a great idea to start off with but, from the moment you start working on your game to long after its launch, you need to be closely involved with your community. The moment you abandon that community is usually the moment your game starts fading to obscurity.
Online communities have become the driving force behind both current and future games. They’re invaluable platforms for people to provide their feedback, ask you for support and even do a considerable portion of your marketing for you. That’s why it’s so important to be consistently present across all platforms you use, including your on-site forums, social networks and platform-specific communities like Steam for PC.
#2. Allow People to Make Mods
Modding remains a contentious issue with many developers, while others readily embrace it. For many studios, allowing modding can be complicated due to licensing issues with the various middleware that a lot of popular game engines, such as Frostbite, rely on. Other developers worry about mods giving players unfair advantages in multiple games, as Rockstar claimed when it temporarily banned OpenIV for GTA V last year.
Despite the occasional complications, drawbacks and the fact that some developers simply don’t want to see people tampering with their hard work, modding can actually be extremely beneficial for both current and future developers.
It helps enormously to improve replayability and keep a game fresh for years after its release, all at no cost to the developer. Allowing people to mod gives players the chance to improve your game and, consequently, improve the entire player experience. That’s why Sky UI, a user interface mod for Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, has almost 5 million downloads.
#3. Reward Your Most Active Community Members
Players like to feel a sense of accomplishment – not just inside the game, but also for participating in your community. Recent years have seen a rapid rise of achievement systems in video games and the platforms that host them. In fact, these systems have become so popular that many of game-design elements are now being applied to non-game contexts, including community forums.
By recognizing a player’s accomplishments as an active member of your community, you inspire them to continue participating while setting a good example to other members of your community. Some examples include in-forum achievement systems, member ranks and access to special private forums for your most valuable posters. This form of gamification can greatly improve player experiences outside the game by encouraging meaningful social interactions.
Far from being the predominantly solo affair that they once were, video games have become a major part of modern culture. This is partly thanks to the increasing influence of online communities. By making the effort to build meaningful and lasting relationships with your players, you’ll have all the insights you need to continuously improve their experiences and come up with ideas for your next big project.