After a lot of thinking, chatting with people liking the game and a few ones not liking the game, I’m finally able to understand what’s right and wrong in Dungeon Guardians in term of gameplay.
So in short, almost nothing is wrong.
Like already hinted in my Review of Reviews, people not liking the game and vocal about it are usually just mighty idiots (with a few exceptions).
But let’s put them aside for a while and check what people who liked the game had to said about its shortcomings :
- Enemy abilities lack a bit of variety. This is likely the biggest issue with the game, as it means the combat lacks of variety, and thus is less engaging and more repetitive than what it could have been. For the possible sequel, a big objective will be to emphasize different new enemy abilities which will bring new tactics and strategies during the adventure.
- Combat system is hard to get into (it was also explained in Review of Reviews), and not understanding it makes you think it’s too much Random Number Generator (RNG) based. This is one is tough to fix because it’s the flip side of the strong point of the game : its combat system is unique, although it’s strongly derived from MMORPG and more especially from World of Warcraft one ; but in Dungeon Guardians you control 4 characters, not only one, and it changes a lot of things. For WoW fans, it’s not too hard to get into it, but for the average Dungeon Crawler fan, it’s a lot to take, but it’s doable if they take the time to read the in-game tutorial and the different ability descriptions. So for this point, I don’t see any solution to fix it except maybe reworking a bit the tutorial to make it more clear.
- Story & Lore are too basic. Although not directly influencing the gameplay, a stronger story and lore is always more engaging for the player and can help motivate him to stick with the game when things are hard on start-up (and even later on ). Dungeon Guardians is in par with the average Dungeon Crawler in this area, but it’s true that compared to full scale RPGs, it’s thin. There, the main issue is the lack of budget. As explained in “Story Done !“, it’s very time consuming to build lore & story into the game, and it often requires special assets and thus increases the cost of the game. For the possible sequel, I’ll see what I can do, which will be hopefully more if I can get a bigger budget…
Add that’s all for the shortcomings..! When browsing positive reviews on the Steam Store page of the game, most players have none or very few complaints about the game.
But the game has only a 83% positive rating ; ok, it’s really not bad, but when you read the positive reviews, you might wonder why it’s not higher.
Let’s do a quick recap of the strong points of the game (still from the positive reviews, but also from comments in the forum and reviews from specialists) :
- Unique combat system, based on Tank/Healer/Dps with Threat & Aggro management
- Solid level design (even great at times)
- Visual are good (or great for an Indie game), including the numerous FX during the battles
- 20 Boss Fights, each with an unique strategy and setup
- Puzzles not too hard and optional while still being creative and fun to solve
- A bunch of little things that I won’t list because it’d be too long and not really meaningful one by one ; but their presence shows that a lot of care and thoughts has been put into crafting the game
So now, let’s have a look at our bunch of idiots, why don’t they like the game if it’s so awesome ?
First, let’s put aside 2 categories of players who don’t like the game but are not idiots :
- Impulse buyers, or people who don’t check in detail the game before buying it, or just want to check it out “just in case” ; once they play it they figure out it’s not a bad game but it’s just not for them and get a refund. I have n0 issue with these people, I’m glad they gave the game a chance and I’m glad they got refunded.
- Players who get bored after a few levels while playing a challenging difficulty level. As noted above, the strategies to beat the enemies lack a bit of variety, and it’s not possible to know before playing the game if it’ll have enough variety for your taste or not. (quick tip: you can respec your Characters to deeply change the gameplay if you really need to get more variety during your adventure )
Actually, I have only a grudge with about 2 third of the players who post negative reviews on Steam (ie: “Not Recommended”).
So now let’s examine the different reasons given by the simpletons to justify their negative reviews on Steam. There are actually only a couple dozen of them out of thousand and thousand of sales, but I have to let off some steam and I think it’s actually interesting to see this process and see what we can learn from it :
- Players who refuse to learn how the combat system works (by not reading the tutorial, nor asking for help in the Forum) and conclude it’s a bad combat system, often adding it’s too much RNG based. In bonus, they’ll also say sometimes the Talents bring nothing, while if they were playing in a challenging difficulty level, almost each Talent could be the difference between life and death. Some also say the game is unbalanced. Basically, they didn’t understand anything and pretend the opposite. This is the main reason I call them idiots, because this attitude it’s the main characteristic of an imbecile : not knowing he doesn’t know.
- Players who say the combat is too difficult (or too easy) and refuse to change the difficulty setting because usually they play other games on “Normal” and thus they should play “Dungeon Guardians” on “Normal” difficulty as well (although the game doesn’t have any difficulty level labeled as “Normal” ). These ones are utter complete idiots, nothing can be done about them.
- Players who say the combat is basic, and refuse to acknowledge it’ll get more varied and deeper once they get the tons of abilities & talents they can see when they level up but still didn’t obtain. Again, hopeless imbeciles.
- Players who say a Boss fight is too hard and refuse to temporally lower the difficulty level or read some tips to beat the Boss. Again & again…
- Players who say that Dungeon Crawlers should be full of puzzles. This is a matter of taste, it doesn’t make a game good or bad to have tons or very few puzzles, it’s just a style. They do not understand that. Plus the store page advertises the game as having only a few easy mandatory puzzles (harder ones are optional). They’re idiots.
- Players who say they want a turn-based game. 1) Why they buy a realtime-with-pause game if they want a turn based game ? 2) The game features actually a bunch of auto-pauses and an option to slow down the time during the fights. Yet, they refuse to check them. And yup, you already know what I think of them…
- Players who wants to have square-dancing based combat. The store page specifically says the game doesn’t require square dancing.
- Players who don’t think MMO combat is good in a Dungeon Crawler. Again, it’s strongly outlined in the game description, videos & screenshots ; why did they buy the game if they didn’t like it even before launching it ?
So what can we learn from all this ? Is there some possible fix to avoid the negative reviews they leave on the game ? Is there anything to do so some of them could actually enjoy Dungeon Guardians ?
The short answer is a double-no.
As you may have noticed, a good bunch of these players do not read the game description, nor check the game videos & screenshots, or just ignore them, and even don’t check (or believe ?) the existing negative reviews before buying the game.
Moreover, they seem to seldom check the game options, and thus adding stuff especially for them seem to have little to no effect, as they are either not aware the options are there, or refuse to use them.
So why so much idiots ?
Dungeon Guardians attract them more than other games because visually it looks like other 1st person view Dungeon Crawlers, and all have more or less the same gameplay. Bringing something really different ought to make some people unhappy (especially if they don’t read the game description).
Moreover, the Threat & Aggro concepts are pretty abstract, which means some players are going to be intellectually challenged to understand what’s going on. Some will like that, some others will just lower the difficulty setting and enjoy the exploration and the explosions, and some others will hate the game for showing them their limits.
Personally, I’m always very pissed-off every time I get a negative review (as you may have guessed by now ). Most of times, I find them unfair, superficial and just plain idiotic. But I guess it’s the price to pay to make something different, unique and relatively smart.
Note : I have the same issue with my tennis game, but to a lesser extent as it’s really outdated visually, so most idiots are repulsed on 1st sight.
Based on my 2 games on Steam, my advice to my fellow experienced Indie developers is to mostly ignore negative reviews ; most brings little to nothing. Instead be very attentive to people who like your game but outline its shortcomings ; these ones will be very pleased to see you improving your game from their comments, while the unhappy ones will never acknowledge any amelioration.
Although, in case you’re very inexperienced and actually create a less-than-good game, check the negative reviews, you may still have a few things to learn from them…
PS: From all the questions and issues exposed from the refund notes, the reviews and the comments in the Forum, I created a FAQ for the game. It’s still too early to know if it’ll help with the negative reviews, but it might lower the rate of questions in the Steam Forum…
Addendum, July 2017
Of course, some people were a bit shocked by this post, and likely rightful so. Although, I think I’d rather be honest, even if a bit borderline, and show you what the average Indie developer feels & thinks (I have discussed this kind of issue with other Steam developers, and hum, let’s say I’m not alone in that case ).
However, since last September, I have been lead to chat with several new negative reviewers, including some who had posted what I consider some harsh and unfair reviews. And it turned out that when engaged decently, they were almost all nice people, or at least nice enough. (although many negative reviewers never answer me, so I can’t vouch for all of them )
So I’d like to redefine a bit what I meant by idiot by starting to say that I could easily include myself in that league, if I didn’t know that posting hasted, superficial & venting negative reviews was actually hurting other human beings.
The thing is lately I have less time to play (I became a daddy 1 year ago), and often when I play a game now, I want it to be awesome, and right away like I expect it to be, and don’t want to dig too much if it’s not. And when it’s not, I might get rather frustrated. I guess it might be what happens with many of the negative reviewers of my games, as they can get rather tough to get into.
Thus said, I still wish that some of these players would ask for my help and check the options I designed for them, rather than post a negative review and never touch the game again…