I lift inspiration from the smallest of sources. Jim Rossignol wrote me a short e-mail which contained the line "time issue for grown up gamers, that might be a good discussion thread actually." A year later I wrote The Second Game. In August, in response to my take on Zombie Cow's Privates, Dan Marshall sent me an e-mail which said "The review I read yesterday said it was 'a turd' and for 'perverts', so yours has made me smile." And thus Punchbag Artists was born. Be careful what you say to me, I might just write 2300 words on the topic.
I can't pay Jim back (not yet) but I can pay back Dan. I'm going to reproduce his answers for Punchbag Artists in full. As he was the last developer to get back to me, having been on holiday and ignoring the world, he was the lucky recipient of far more precise questions than I had been fielding to others.
Anyway, Dan, like most of the developers I contacted, sent enough information for a whole article by himself. That's Dan for you. He'll expand to fill as much space as you've got, like an airbag, but with more hot air.
How do you deal with destructive criticism? Just try to ignore it or does it inevitably have an impact?
Negative comments are crushing, soul-destroying and it really affects me.
Not every game is going to be to everyone’s tastes – there are AAA titles out there with metacritic scores of 90+ that I personally didn’t enjoy at all. And that’s fine! Not everything is going to be to everyone’s tastes. The trouble is that internet comments are so disposable and easy; people rarely write ‘the gameplay wasn’t quite to my tastes’, they’ll just declare that it’s ‘fucking shit’ and move on.
I’ve had more lovely emails from people saying how much they enjoyed Privates than any other game I’ve made, by some considerable margin. And yet for every dozen comments that say they really enjoyed it, the one that slags it off is the one that sticks out in your mind and cuts deeper than anything.
There’s some small comfort in the fact that over the years I’ve probably left a billion comments all over the Internet simply saying some film, TV show, game or other is utterly shit. We all do it. What I meant, obviously, was that they were “not to my tastes, but well done to whoever made them for all their hard work.”
Did you ever fire back at something you thought was unfair? And did you regret that or was it cathartic?
I’ve normally only ever replied when people brazenly state things like “it would be better if they did X”, which is always a frightfully easy thing to say from behind your little desk. Thing is, more often than not we’ll have tried that idea during development, and it turned out to be terrible. I've replied to those. It wasn't cathartic, people just whine back and it never ends.
A lot of people criticised Ben There, Dan That! for not having much in the way of music, sound or voices. Some people were pretty outspokenly unpleasant about it, for which they needed a little internet slap and a reminder that they’re playing a FREE game.
Do you think things will improve in the future? (Is it possible to cure the internetz?)
Ha ha, no chance I’m afraid. What a shit and boring and pointless fucking question. And the way you used a ‘z’ on the end of Internetz makes you look like some sort of pre-pubescent whiney little internet bitch. I have no idea why you even bothered writing that question. It was a complete waste of my life reading it.
What website is this for, anyway? Couldn’t you get it printed in any proper ‘magazinez’? No wonder if you’re asking rubbish questions like that. Give up. Give up right now and do something else instead, you’re clearly not cut out for question-asking.