Cultist Simulator: Five Tricky Design and Production Decisions

On Tuesday 16th October, we’re releasing our first major update for Cultist Simulator, along with the Dancer DLC. It’s a bit of a monster – the update + the DLC altogether increases the amount of content in the game by about a third. We have a release candidate for the update on the gateofhorn beta branch right now if you want to take a look, although the DLC won’t be live until Tuesday.

I thought I’d share some of the meat of some of the fiddlier decisions we had to make along the way. If you’re a dev, you’ve probably run across similar questions, or will. If you’re a player, this is how the sausage is made.

 

URGENCY VS IMPORTANCE. We’re a small studio with minimal QA resource and we like to get early feedback from our audience – so generally we release new content on to a beta branch as soon as it’s out of the oven.

And we set a deadline early, as we like to do (though we actually slipped it by a couple of weeks). That meant that if we ran into delays, we’d have think about what content to cut . So we had to think carefully about prioritisation – should we do (and beta-release) the Dancer DLC, or the free part of the update, first?

The Dancer DLC was more important. We wanted to buy advertising around the launch, and there was an implicit promise to Perpetual Edition owners (all DLC free forever!) that there would in fact be some DLC, and that they wouldn’t have to wait forever. So if we went live with no Dancer DLC, that would be embarrassing and commercially difficult.

But some of the mechanics in the free update were more urgent. The Dancer DLC is fairly self-contained, but Follower wounds and gifting – NPC romance – NPC followers turning rivals – these are all complex systems with interlocking effects on game balance. I really wanted to get as much feedback as possible, as early as possible, while we still had time to change them; and I wanted some of that sweet beta tester bug reporting.

In the end, we released Follower Wounding – the most significant balance change – on to the beta branch early. Then I hunkered down and wrote Dancer. Then I went back to Romance and Rivals, which had a slightly lesser impact on gameplay, and we added a couple of weeks closing work at the end of our timetable so I had some time to fix up stuff if it didn’t work (this is why we slipped the deadline a couple of weeks). I’d rather have had more feedback time, and we might set a more generous deadline next time, but that’s gamedev – delay is expensive

This fed into the next decision.

 

THE POTENCY OF RIVALS. How commonly should Followers turn Rival? It happens very rarely, at the moment, unless you’ve romanced someone and then dumped them. I was strongly tempted to make them appear more often – the Rivalry mechanic was a big part of what we promised for the update, and people have responded well to it. But, as above, the Rivals mechanic hasn’t had that long to bed in, and – key point! – most of the people testing it have been veterans who know their way around the game. A mechanic that feels gentle or pleasantly tense to veterans can feel bewildering or brutal to less experienced players.

So I skewed cautious. Rivals are still relatively rare, though you can see the mechanic if you want to, by dabbling unwisely in romance. We can always tune it up so they appear more often later… but we have enough planned around NPC behaviour that I suspect we won’t want to crowd it out.

 

DLC PREVIEWS? Were we going to make the Dancer DLC available on the beta branch?

On the one hand, we could really use some of that feedback and testing.

On the other hand, we’d lose some excitement at launch; and how would we deal with players who didn’t have Perpetual Edition, unless we allowed DLC pre-orders? Would everyone see the DLC, and then lose it at launch?

And there was another issue. DLC is complicated, especially across four storefronts, one of which (itch) doesn’t offer DLC at all and where we’d have to add it manually to Perpetual Edition. We didn’t want to have to keep deploying and undeploying and redeploying different DLC versions to different branches while trying to handle support requests about why DLC wasn’t showing up on a particular batch of Kickstarter backer GOG keys, or whatever –

In the end – and I cannot stress enough how important this is for a small team – simplicity was the deciding factor. The simplest thing was to leave it all out until launch, so that’s what we did, although I semi-accidentally let everyone see a preview of some of the early Dancer content on the beta branch. (Semi-accidentally means ‘I realised before I deployed it, but didn’t think it was important enough to take out’).

 

DLC PRICING: Cripes, this was difficult. Price it too low, and you’re giving away your work. Price it too high, and everyone calls you a gouger. Where’s the sweet spot?

Lottie went away and researched what looked like similarly-sized DLC for other games. From comparisons with those other games, we could have priced it as high as 8.99 USD (nearly half the price of the whole game, better be worth it!) or 1.99 USD (less than a dollar a unit sale, after platform cut, publisher cut and refunds). Lottie suggested 2.99 USD, and I held out for 3.99 USD. Then she convinced me, but meanwhile I’d convinced her.

So we went round and round, but in the end we settled for 2.99: because this is largely about fulfilling implied obligations, and providing a little trickle of revenue to cover our free updates. We don’t expect to make that much money anyway – DLC won’t, at our scale. So we announced it as 2.99, and the overwhelming reaction was ‘yipes, that’s cheaper than I was expecting‘.

So, annoyingly, we probably under-priced it. Honestly, I did too much work on Dancer. I got nervous and wanted to do the Best Job Possible and over-designed it, and we had to cut back on that and it’s still too big really. And it’ll be harder to raise the price for future DLC.

But I think that’s a silver lining and it was probably still the right decision. We’re running a lifestyle studio, not a profit machine, and I’d much rather be able to do little bits of DLC in a relatively relaxed way and not have to worry too much. So in the long run I think this was probably okay. WE’LL SEE.

Anyway this decision affected the next one, too –

 

POWER, ENLIGHTENMENT, SENSATION… AND CHANGE. You can’t romance an NPC unless you share their deepest desire – one of Power/Enlightenment/Sensation/Change. Power, Enlightenment and Sensation Desire are existing routes to game victory, and Change – the bone-deep inexplicable desire to change yourself – is the new route to ascension for the Dancer DLC.

So I went through our existing NPCs and assigned a relevant desire to each one, and jiggled the assignments until everything made sense and was reasonably balanced. And then I wrote the romances. And then I realised that, hey, I’d just put 25% of our NPC romances behind a DLC paywall. I didn’t even realise until that late, because I had all the Dancer content there in my workspace.

So I dithered about this for a while. Would people object? would people go hunting for the romances and get frustrated when Leo or Clovette was unromanceable? If I put a note in the game saying BUY DLC TO ROMANCE THIS CHARACTER, would that be worse or better?

In the end, what made the decision again was simplicity. The romances were in the game; they worked; a few of them failed gracefully if someone didn’t have the Dancer DLC; and the Dancer DLC, as above, was probably too cheap anyway. And, as it happened, if someone really wanted to romance Leo or Clovette or one of the other Change-ys, they could edit their save file very easily. So I wasn’t going to worry about [% of people who fancied Clovette] x [% of people who wouldn’t buy the DLC] x [% of people who would object to the romance being unavailable without DLC]. And if anyone got confused, we have a very helpful community and I’m active on the forums. They’d work it out.

(What’s going to happen if I add more Desires and ascension methods? I’LL WORRY ABOUT THAT LATER.)

Those were the decisions! Let’s see how they work out. And here’s the Dancer DLC. It’s cool. You get to take your skin off as well as your clothes.

 

DANCER DLC FOR CULTIST SIMULATOR

September #3: TENNYSON

How in an unholy month of moons did we get to the end of this sprint already?! Well, first things first. We had An Announcement this week:

Write it in your diaries! Mark it on your almanacs! Fix this brass alignment on your tarnished astrolabes! This is when our Dancer DLC releases, in just over ten days (😱). If you’re not already, follow us on Steam – I *think* you’ll get a ping when the DLC’s live.

The Dancer DLC will release at 11AM PDT / 7PM UK-time and is $2.99 / £2.50 / €2.39 or FREE if you own Perpetual Edition.

I quite possibly set the price too low here but let’s see how we go. If you see us eating dust and living in a tent in six months’ time, take pity on ur poor occult developers.

Soooooon.

We also won our second prize this sprint, which was totally unexpected and totally delightful. Forward Ladies, a women in biz org, inexplicably gave us one of their Start-Up of the Year awards! Everyone else I met at the ceremony was, like, ‘My name is Tamara and I own nine crisp factories’, or ‘I am Esme and I have built a £12mil-turnover biz in two weeks from laying cables in the sea’. Enter us, saying ‘Hi I’m Lottie I make text-based games about cults’. Crickets; tumble-weed; the oddly appropriate ticking of some giant, distant clock.

Those of you who subscribe to our newsletter will have already heard of our woeful awards tale, but suffice it to say that we do not go to awards ceremonies with any real sense we’re going to win. Anyway, we did! Yay!

Now, on to actual development work, you SLAVE-DRIVERS.

Alexis finished off romance and is finishing rivals today. Romance is dastardly with a surprisingly sugary finish (I wrote a v smol amount of the content! Alexis says my writing is ‘noticeably more feminine’ and then returns to his study to idk hew some rocks with a raw steak 💪). The design he’s settled on is elegant, especially when romancing your Followers comes with a natural minefield:

  • how do you ensure your cultists have consent, when the system’s set up to let the player pull the levers?
  • how do you write convincingly apophenic romance scenes, when you never specify your gender or preferences? cf all of Alexis’s previous work.
  • how do you mechanically fit trysts, lover’s tiffs and (this is CS, after all) romantic tragedies into the overall schema and balance of the game? We had to cannibalise the Season of Serenities for the Season of Ardours, for example.

 

Well, Alexis bloody went and did it cos he’s dreamy. I’m a big fan of the final design, and I hope you will be, too.

Above table level, Victor is a perfect gentleman. The hand he keeps above the table is placed palm upwards. A moth lands on the outstretched palm: he closes his hand to crush it. ‘Good memories,’ he says. ‘Let’s go.’

 

Rivals are… well, YOU BRING THEM ON YOURSELVES, shall we say. It introduces a new way to lose, because there weren’t enough of those in Cultist already. More significantly, it also introduces some new problems to manage as you scrabble not only to achieve your own desires but to do so quickly enough that your traitorous underling doesn’t achieve their ascension earlier.

Or you could just send a Hint after them, I guess.

Finally, some consequences to horrible staff management.

The Dancer DLC will come with a bunch of new achievements – some for Dancer-only ascensions, then a whole nother 21 cheevos for each of your romanceable Followers. Good luck with that.

Phew! All that’s missing now is that new, shiny art to replace all those placeholder images. Lemme just go find our artist and throttle her for leaving it so late.

In the meantime, Chris Payne‘s been setting up the back-end of localisation, now that our Russian and Chinese translations are largely complete. These won’t be out for another while because we’re getting the translations double-checked by a second set of eyes. This isn’t remotely a slight to our translators, who have worked their multilinguistical butts off for us. But as you know, Cultist’s language is pretty complex and we want to make sure its translation is as bug-free and elegant as possible.

Next sprint is, obviously, DANCER LAUNCH WOO! It’s also our next design stream, so let us know if you have any Cultist-related things you’d like Alexis to elucidate. And if you are a long-view sort of person, haffalook at our roadmap to see further down the road.

September #2: SHELLEY

Happy Friday, believers! Your bi-monthly glance through the window of our souls is here.

In case you missed me talking about it constantly and it taking over my life, this sprint we opened our Weather Factory shop! It’s on Etsy, we’ve only a small amount of stock to work out what sells and what doesn’t, and it’s v blue and pink.

Sadly, my GIFs are not for sale.

Things’ve gone very well – to the point my week has basically been wrapping things up, bothering Royal Mail post-people and cannibalising envelopes so they fit our Mansus posters. Turns out there are no mass-produced envelopes which can encompass the House without Walls. I’ll write a postmortem of our merch experience later down the line for other indies interested in starting their own shop, but the TLDR so far has been:

  • it’s fun
  • it’s more work than you think
  • nobody gives a hoot about branded posters. POOR IRIS! ;(

 

As you are one of the Special Ones by virtue of reading our blog, I will let you into the secret that our merch shop is not just an excuse for me to design fun physical items, but genuine market/viability research into physical goods for some currently unannounced Weather Factory initiatives and possibly even games. Shhhhhhhhhh.

Alexis, meanwhile, has been working on the Dancer DLC, which is currently playable on the beta branch on Steam (warning: if you don’t want to spoil yourself prior to actual launch, don’t!). This involves lots of diagrams like this:

IF IT NEEDED SAYING, THIS IS OBVIOUSLY A WORK IN PROGRESS AND NOT REMOTELY FINAL

Hope that helps explains things. Alexis has also given some 100% accurate information on what to expect from Ascensions, filmed an excellent (and recorded!) design stream on apophenic design and the Dancer, and has been working on romance, where you can date (almost all of) your Followers. There is a particular sting in the tail for those of you wishing to skip off into the Glory hand in hand with your chosen beloved – you do know what happened to Teresa and Christopher, right? Anyway, don’t let that ruin your candlelit trysts in the crypt. It’ll… probably be fine…?

Here’s my interpretation of Cultist’s upcoming romance:

And here’s Alexis’s:

Again, in order for Alexis to let me share this, I must say: NOT FINAL MAY CHANGE THANK YOU

You now have a 360-degree understanding of romance! I guess there is no point in playing it! #marketingfail

We were joined this sprint by not one, not two but THREE magnificent developers. Chris Payne, our habitual Make This Be Betterer, fixed a variety of issues from Aspect icons not fitting on verb windows properly to serious autosave bugs (we were alarmed to hear that 8% of players’ autosaves were failing, at one point – but it turns out almost all of that % was coming from one extremely unfortunate man in Minneapolis. SORRY MAN IN MINNEAPOLIS).

Fraser McCormick, who’s jumped in to help us with platform-specific issues before, came on again to a) you guess it, help with platform-specific issues, but b) make a playable web version of the game so we can try out some strange marketing things we’ve been thinking about for a while. And Mystery Man #3, Caolain of Rat Simulator fame, came in to QA the Dancer. He also brought banana bread. Have you brought me banana bread recently? NO YOU HAVEN’T. BAD YOU.

In the meantime, among being basically a merch carrier pigeon and speaking to students at the NFTS, I’ve been working up a bunch of new art. I’ve edited a few of them for important art reasons like ‘they need a fatter chin’ or ‘he used to look like Hitler’, and was also tasked with drawing what essentially boils down to a ‘I really need to have sex quite soon’ icon. This is your priceless insight into all the processes we artists go through all the way back to, like, Michelangelo. I should charge for this.

We’ll have some news for you soon too about soundtracks (who doesn’t want to go about their daily biz to an OST of existential dread?), and next week we’re not only running our inaugural Coven Club meet-up, but we’re also up for Forward Ladies‘ start-up of the year, so GO TEAM WEATHER FACTORY GO.

I leave you with my parents enjoying some nice cakes in France until Alexis told them about the infamous Werewolf of Dole who went around eating people in the same jolie bourgade as the one in which my parents were mainlining pâté. The jury’s out on whether he’s invited to the Bevans’ Christmas this year. We’ll be covering this breaking news story as it develops.

September #1: ROSSETTI

Before I get into what we’ve been up to, we have a

📣CHANGE WARNING📣!

We’ve decided to push back the Dancer DLC release by one sprint (two weeks). If you’ve read our retrospective, you’ll know that we ran hot trying to keep up with bug reports and feedback in the weeks after launch. This time, we’re going to put some extra time into QA and playtesting to make sure the launch for the update is as smooth as we can make it. Life has intervened enough in our original plan that we won’t be able to complete Teresa’s full content as get QA/playtesting in by the end of September, so our new release date for the Dancer DLC is mid October. We’ll announce an Actual Date in the next few weeks, but we wasted a potential press moment by announcing a date super early for CS itself and I would like to learn from that mistake.

There’s necessarily a big gap at the end of the indie year to let Halloween, ‘Triple-A November’ and Christmas play themselves out, so our updated release schedule is as follows:

  • Teresa’s Build (aka the Dancer DLC): mid-October 2018
  • Christopher’s Build: mid-January 2019
  • Franklin’s Build: March/April 2019

I’ve updated the roadmap to reflect our changes, and we don’t like doing this! But we also don’t want to release another Neville’s Build, so there. ♥

Now, your actual update! In between excellent ruminations on how to make best use of player feedback, Alexis has been writing what he calls ‘his sexiest content to date’, all about how you can take off your non-gender-specific clothes and also possibly skin and seduce benefactors who have a constantly ticking-up ‘Boredom’ meter before they unceremoniously dump yo ladder-climbing, possibly also skinless, butt. Or, y’know, die and leave you a lovely lump sum in their will.

We also commissioned a bunch of totally dreamy icons from our beloved Clockwork Cuckoo, and I worked on some familiars/aspects/Legacy icons, all in preparation for Teresa’s Build.

A warning! I may redo the colours on our Legacy icons, cos the Legacy screen could look prettier.

And let us all just pause a moment to appreciate this icon’s particular beauty.

This Gaiety Club’s icon is not particularly significant, just every time I see it a voice in my head whispers, ‘Ta-daaa!’

Chris has also been hard at work for us fixing a bunch of UI issues and again, filling the Quality of Life jug with the lemonade of Various UI Tweaks. You can see his and Alexis’s recent changes in our Steam patch notes, here: they include things like fixes to double-click bug issues, volume sliders not actually changing volumes, and improved automatic card placement on the tabletop.

This sprint, we announced that we’re officially opening the Weather Factory Church of Merch – rather more humbly called ‘Weather Factory’ on Etsy as some very selfish person had already thought of ‘churchofmerch’ – on Monday 17th September, which is LITERALLY NEXT SPRINT! We only have limited stock to begin with, as it’s a bit of an experiment, and welcome your merch thoughts on our Reddit thread here if you have them.

Fiiiinally, I opened Weather Factory’s women in games initiative, Coven Club, which sold out in a day and I hope to make fun buns for, and we sent out our August monthly newsletter that only had about 320582345032853294 typos in, but you know what, it also had some pictures too SO IT WAS FINE

If you have any questions about updated schedules, roadmaps or anything else in this update, feel free to leave a comment here or ping us directly @factoryweather on Twitter. I leave you with news that I literally cooked a parmigiana so monstrously huge that when I put it in the oven, the oven fell out of the wall, and that while I’m away on holiday in Italy, Alexis has punched a birb. This is the sort of #content you’re all here for, right?

How To Benefit From Community Feedback Without Losing Your Fucking Mind

Ryan Sumo (@RyanSumo) tweeted at 8:56 am on Tue, Jun 05, 2018:
‘I know you’ve already touched on this in a talk but practical strategies for sifting out important feedback would be much appreciated. Maybe a future blog post?’

Ryan, it’s been a while, but here it is. It’s a long’un: #5 in the bullet points at the bottom is the most useful bit, if you’re in a hurry.

Possibly you’ve heard of ‘Theory X’ and ‘Theory Y’. They’re two ways of looking at how people can be motivated to work, suggested by a gent called Douglas McGregor at MIT in the 50s. Theory X proposes that humans dislike work, avoid responsibility, and have to be ‘coerced, controlled, directed and threatened’ to get work out of them. Theory Y, on the other hand, proposes that work is a natural activity; that humans seek responsibility; that we do our best work when we’re allowed the most initiative.

Of course neither of these is straightforwardly true. Some jobs and some people work better in an X-ier way, some in a Y-ier way. But more than that, the same people at different times can be X-ier or Y-ier. When I was seventeen and working a summer job as a kitchen porter, I certainly wasn’t looking for initiative or responsibility.

So it is with feedback. Here’s a Theory X and Theory Y for feedback.

Theory X: Players aren’t experts in making games. Designers are. Player feedback expresses naive personal preference, not dispassionate assessment. And pressuring a designer to change their game is an attack on something they made and love – if you tell a parent that their kid is badly behaved, it’s unlikely to get a good response, even and especially if it’s true.

Theory Y: Players often know more than a designer about what it’s like to play a game. Games are engineered experiences, and getting data on how those experiences feel is of paramount importance. Feedback might sometimes be difficult to hear, but it is an unparalleled learning opportunity for designers to improve their games and their skills.

Most experienced designers, on a good day, will tip their hats to Theory Y. The same designers, on a bad day, will just want everyone to shut the hell up either because (a) the player is wrong or (b) they’re right but the designer ALREADY KNOWS.

To put it another way, all feedback is in principle useful. But some feedback is more useful than other feedback. Some feedback is more pleasant to hear than other feedback. And all feedback takes time to hear or read, and more time to respond to.

Or to put it another way, feedback is like sunlight. It’s vital, it’s generally something you want, but if you are exposed to too much of it without protective measures, it’ll take its toll.

I engage more directly with my community than some, perhaps even most, designers.  In any average work day I can easily see a dozen pieces of feedback: forum posts saying ‘I loved this  game!!’, personal insults, forum posts dissecting my game design, tweets suggesting UI enhancements, tweets insisting on UI enhancements, ten-word Steam reviews, thousand-word emails with bullet-point lists of what needs changing and what needs changing urgently, hundred-word emails gushing about how delightful an experience the game is,  fan art with an in-joke about a bug, blog posts reflecting on the game critically, Reddit posts asking plaintively how to get past a blocker…

And sometimes that’s great and sometimes that’s like eating nails. There are negative reviews, there’s personal abuse, there’s unflattering speculation about my motives… oh you know. But more than that, there’s just the matter of reading the exact same feedback like a hundred times. This is surprisingly hard to deal with, because one of the things about correct observations is that they will occur to lots of different people, and they all tell you, and it wears your patience away like dripping water.

(And a correct observation may still not be actionable criticism. It is correct that Cultist Simulator does not have a tutorial, and that this puts some people off. But that’s an intentional, if unusual, design choice on my part. It is correct that Cultist Simulator would probably work pretty well on Switch. But we can’t just push a button and put it there.)

And as Lottie has said elsewhere, it got rough in the week after launch. Cultist ended up at the top of the Steam charts, where we’d never expected to see it, and a lot of mainstream players downloaded our weird little niche game, and a lot of them had a lot of things to say about it. I saw a lot more than a dozen pieces of feedback a day.

How do I feel about that now?

 

I’m still overwhelmingly glad that I engaged with feedback as much as I did, before and after launch. The game is much the better for it, I’m a better designer for it, and I’m grateful to everyone who took the time to send thoughtful responses. Honestly, I think I’m grateful to people who sent mean responses too, though I’m not going to send them any Christmas cards.

Here’s my own route up Zen Mountain to Feedback City. I can’t guarantee it’ll work for you. And – vitally important – engagement with feedback should be voluntary. Neither your audience nor your manager owns your brain. It’s up to you what you decide to sign up for. But here’s what’s helped me to get the most from it.

1. Recognise that players may not mean it that way. For you, the game may be the culmination of years of sweat, passion and heartbreak. For a player, it may be a thirty-minute drive-by experience on an evening where they had a migraine and the pizza was late. It’s a casual interaction with a faceless Internet entity. They don’t know whether you’re one desperate coder-designer with an elderly laptop or whether you’re a glossy, well-funded studio of untouchable Californian tech millionaires.

2. Recognise that players often have a motive that doesn’t align with giving the most objective feedback possible. People post on forums to show off their snark to their peers. People post attacks on your design methodology because they’re frustrated designers. People send you emails full of aggressive suggestions because they secretly hope you’ll hire them. Or people are drunk. Or people very nearly loved your game but hit a bug that drove them wild with rage. Hypothesise one of these motives, and it may allow you to see past the nasty. David Foster Wallace is good on this.

3. Special mention for cultural and indeed neurological differences. If you have a player whose command of your own first language is not English, they really may not mean to be that rude. Russians speaking English, for instance, can come across as quite brusque to native English speakers. We have a lot of Russian fans, and I’m more attuned to it now, but it took me a while. I had an email last month that seemed really aggressive… and found out afterwards that the writer was autistic and hadn’t intended it that way at all. If you extend someone the benefit of the doubt, you’re doing the both of you a favour.

4. Educate your community. You can’t engage in detail with every criticism of your game; nor should you. But if you keep seeing the same point, and you have a useful point to make in response (‘our DLC policy is fair, because…’ ‘Yes, this was an unusual design choice, but here’s why…’ ‘This is a fair criticism – here’s how we messed up and what we’ll do next time…’) then consider putting the time into making a lengthy post about it. Your community can link to it, or use that information when responding to other players. Engaged communities are often respectful when a dev takes the time to give a thoughtful response, and often want to establish their credentials – or just pay it forward – when newcomers ask the same question later. This, in turn, may lead to more valuable feedback: ah, I see now what you were trying to do, says a player, but actually the way it came over to me was…

Corollary: it can be much better value engaging in detail in a public space, where many will read your response, than in an email exchange, where one person will. Consider publishing your response in a blog post or on Twitter, where it can educate your community. (Remove identifying details and/or get your correspondent’s permission, of course!)

5. Establish Gong Rules. Okay, this is the Secret Tip I’ve found most useful. Give any piece of criticism three strikes. If it hits three strikes, give yourself permission not to read any further. Decide your own list of strikeables, but here’s my top ones

  • factual error
  • very long post/email
  • feedback I’ve seen before
  • aggressive tone, sarcasm, abuse (per instance)
  • the phrase ‘just bad design’

Why does this help? Firstly, it gives you a feeling of control. You’re no longer just standing there while someone sprays you – you have your hand on the hose spigot.

But secondly, you’re building an algorithm to help you allocate your time usefully. I know from experience that sometimes a snarky opening can precede some really useful feedback. Sometimes people are just vexed. But I also know that with finite time in my day, (1) snarky opening + (2) a point I’ve already seen + (3) oh my god it’s a whole page… is less likely to be worth the fifteen minutes and the personal wear and tear it will take to engage.

Make it two strikes or five or one as you prefer. Build your own list of strikeables. Specific things will piss you off, specific things will be consistent markers of likely low quality feedback. If you have a specific strategy, you’ll save time and feel better.

6. When something stings,  try to figure out why, but most importantly take time out. I have a pretty thick skin these days. But odd stuff slips past my defences. There was a Reddit response a couple months back about how Cultist Simulator was a failed experiment that left me too angry to sleep –  because it was an unexpected off-topic addition to a thread where I was trying to be good-natured. There was a Steam post the other day that was only modestly critical but which referred to me by my first name, and that felt way more personal. Understanding why they annoyed me helped, but it didn’t fix it. I found myself responding more ill-temperedly to other feedback, and I stepped away for a day. Made a big difference when I re-engaged.

This segues neatly to two parting pieces of advice.

  • recognise that patience is a resource. Ration yours the way you’d ration physical strength.
  • the good news: like physical strength, it can increase when exercised carefully.

 

Good luck. Remember most people mostly mean well.