“Everything we’re told is important to someone, and so it’s important to us,” is one of the first things Midwinter Entertainment CEO and co-founder Josh Holmes tells us about listening to customer feedback.
Scavengers is a battle royale game developed by Midwinter Entertainment in collaboration with tech outfit Improbable, which has players – in teams of three or five – fighting with AI enemies, the environment and other teams to try and emerge victorious and escape a… pretty shitty planet.
Free battle pass HUGE!!! 🤘🏼
— Silvrman (@SilvrmanTSC) July 19, 2021
Let’s be honest here: it’s easy to talk to a company about how they’re listening to the fans when they have the millions of adoring fans that something like Call of Duty or Battlefield has, but Scavengers has – by comparison – a small playerbase, with some very vocal detractors. This is when it’s most interesting to talk to a company about how they are listening to fans to improve. After all, these are the games that actively have to change to win people over.
But with all of that noise, how easy is it to listen to fans constructive, rather than just facing the sound and fury of a game’s Reddit?
“It’s a difficult balance. We’re in Early Access, so gathering as much feedback as possible
is key to the continued development of Scavengers ahead of its full release,” says Holmes. “We pull feedback from multiple sources, such as Reddit, Discord, social media, and in-game Survey and that just generates so much data.”
“It comes in different layers of feedback, from bug spotting down to feature requests,
and then general gameplay critique, and we listen to everything – every opinion is valid.”
Out of this sheer noise, the team works to identify patterns and trends: perhaps a gun is perceived as too powerful, or a particular strategy seems unbeatable. The team are already pulling tons of player data out, but this can help them identify what they should look for. Then they can see whether it’s an issue and either take steps to rectify it, or look closer at why this player perception is what it is.
“Whether we address an issue or not, it’s important to us to be available to
our community and to explain ourselves when it comes to any updates and changes we
make to the game because it’s as much their game as it is ours,” adds Holmes.
However, some choices can appear confusing, at least if you don’t know the reasoning. The game recently introduced limited lives instead of the previous system which allowed people to respawn forever as long as one member of the team survived.
“Looking at data we could see that for players who were struggling in a particular match, having unlimited respawns simply prolonged their frustration and increased the likelihood of quitting a play session or in some cases the game as a whole,” explained Holmes. “Rather than extending the struggle within a particularly challenging match, having the player start over with a clean slate and the opportunity for better success can result in greater enjoyment. So by limiting the number of times a player could respawn, and introducing a mechanic by which they can earn additional lives, we introduced a limit to how long a player might be forced to swim against the current.”
The work, particularly because of the game’s current existence in Steam’s Early Access program, often involves a balancing act between adding new and exciting stuff – like the addition of a new Player vs Enemy AI (PvE) horde mode, which arrived on Friday – that can bring in new players, and quality of life improvements and balancing passes to ensure the game is still compelling for those playing it.
“Whilst it’s an exciting time, it’s also a lot to juggle. We know that as we get to full launch some of those challenges will get easier, whilst others will take up more of our time. We’re a couple of months through Early Access right now, so our next big push is to get more content to our players. We launched Season 0: The First Frontier update last week, which offers a limited-time free mini Battle Pass. This is new territory for us, so we’re really looking for how our players react to determine the type of cosmetics and items we include in the future. In addition to that, I’m really excited about how players respond to our horde mode.”