Psychochild's Blog

A developer's musings on game development and writing.

3 August, 2016

Negativity and its effect on indie developers
Filed under: — Psychochild @ 8:19 PM

Let me tell you a story about my good friend Dave. He’s a smart guy and an indie game developer. He’s stuck with game development for many years. He finally had a success big enough that he’s working on making games full time.

Dave wants to work on a new game. He’s trying a lot of things. He’s trying some 3D this time instead of going with 2D as he has before. He’s working on some AI-driven stuff, instead of heavily scripted and content-heavy games before.

Dave showed the game to some fellow indie developers. But, you know what he found? Negativity.

And negativity doesn’t help.

Reasonable warnings

Now, this wasn’t just a friendly warning. Like when some enthusiastic kid brags about how he’s going to take a weekend to code a WoW-killer, and you’re obligated to calm them down and suggest that maybe a more modest game project may be good to start with. As someone who has seen a lot of designs for potential WoW-killers, who has seen people try to build potential WoW-killers, and has witnessed the path of game development littered with the corpses of WoW-killers, I know how hard it to pull this off. But, a friendly warning might help take the sting out of the eventual stumble and fall.

This wasn’t even a friendly warning. Sometimes you have a friend who just wants to do something stupid. Maybe he’s drunk and wants to go hit on that girl obviously with the totally ripped guy. Maybe she’s sure she can find love with the married guild leader. It’s times like this you need to step in and take a bit of anger from a friend in order to save your friend from getting a whole lot of hurt later.

This is barely even a polite warning. You know, the kind you might give to strangers to prevent them from walking into a bad situation. Maybe the way is closed and you’re just walking back from that way, so you warn someone going that way. Maybe the bathroom is flooded, and you want to help someone else avoiding getting sewage water on their shoes. You do it because you hope that someone would help you out as well.


This is full-on negativity. People casting aspersions at what someone else is doing. Negging someone for whatever reason. Maybe they tried and failed. Maybe they just heard some horror story. Maybe they’re repeating the negativity they heard before.

“Don’t do 3D!” they shriek. “It’s so hard!” Really? Using Unity and buying assets from the store Dave got a very nice looking zone done in a very short time. The game concept he’s working on just requires 3D architecture, not 3D models. Even Meridian 59 could handle 3D architecture!

“Don’t program AI!” they yell. “AI is so hard!” When you get down to it, scripting the whole game is hard, too, but it’s the type of difficulty that takes a lot of time. Creating content is hard. Some people just can’t do it very well. Dave realized that he likes the programming parts of game development, but the writing and content creation isn’t quite his cup of tea. He often put in mod tools right in his previous games so that other people could make their own content instead of relying on him.


Dave’s made a lot of games. He’s evolved over many years, becoming a better game developer and programmer. He’s got a lot of experience, even if he doesn’t have a lot of big-name success behind him. Yet.

Instead of being negative, the right answer is to be supportive. Dont’ tear down, instead build up!

Think 3D is hard? Then give some advice. “Hey, my friend did a 3D game and had a lot of problem. The big thing she ran into was….” Help someone new avoid the pitfalls that you are familiar with, don’t just be negative. “Oh, I remember that one 3D game I did. If I were going to do that again, I would totally makes sure that I….” Show the person where the bodies are hidden, don’t just scream “There be dragons!” and faint.

Some people like a challenge and want to do something different. Dave knows that diving into a full 3D game is going to be tough. He’s smart and he has plans to keep it simple. But some support would do him a world of good.

Don’t be negative

This applies to more than just indie game developers. This may come as a shock, but sometimes MMO players can be negative, too. “Don’t make me group. Grouping sucks.” “No flying mounts? This game is THE WORST!” “Only people who can spend 40+ hours per week trying the bleeding edge content in a guild of like-minded people deserve to have cool looking stuff. Fucking welfare epics!”

This type of negativity hurts, too. At best you’re going to make a developer close themselves off to feedback from the audience. Most likely you’ll shut potential avenues for exciting new game design off from the developer, leading to yet more derivative BS. At worst, you’re hurting someone pouring themselves into a creative effort.

As a player, the best thing to do is stop and explain out your thoughts. “Grouping sucks!” doesn’t help. “I don’t like grouping because sometimes I only have 30 minutes to play.” is better. “You know what would help grouping? A way to add people I like grouping with to a special list where I can find them easily.” is even better. More detail helps.

So, give support, don’t just be negative.

Now tell me, what’s your tip for helping to support others? I could be supporting MMO developers, supporting other creative people, or even just supporting people in your life. What works for you?


  1. I work full time as a Social Worker and have a sideline doing Games and Websites. I love technology and I love working with people. I have learned that in interviewing people you need to dig deeper to get the answers you need.

    I think that developers need to learn to ask deeper questions than just an initial ‘what do you think of my new game concept?’

    People like to give initially vague answers because they want to avoid thinking deeply about an issue. But once you get the first response, ask what was not liked in particular. What could have been done differently? People need to be coaxed to share what they really think. I see that in my job and I see it in games.

    Comment by Chris Billows — 3 August, 2016 @ 8:40 PM

  2. Support doesn’t have to be completely lacking in objective feedback, either. From what I’m discovering, negativity just breeds more of itself, internally and externally. It may be a hard habit to break but it’s worth it on every level – personal, social, professional.

    Comment by Ysharros — 4 August, 2016 @ 4:59 PM

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