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Poll: In Hindsight, Does Full Transparency Make a Better Game?

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Discuss: Would Broken Age Act II benefit from even greater transparency than Act I by sharing rough drafts and pre-alpha walkthrough videos? Or, did Broken Age Act I find the "sweet spot" for incorporating transparency in creative projects?

A good old-fashioned surprise -- where you dramatically throw off the curtain -- has the side-effect of casting a spotlight on negative commentary. This is like spraying lighter fluid on attention-seeking online misbehavior. A big surprise uncorks everything at once, including lurking negativity that hasn't had an outlet previously. So naturally, sharing more up front takes the fizz out of negativity -- could doing so further improve buzz surrounding the game, sell more copies, and build even more respect and loyalty among fans?

Yet on the other hand, if spoiler-immune backers view rough-draft gameplay earlier, would this ruin the surprise for the spoiler-averse? Could poor reactions to very early drafts doom a game from a business perspective? Would it be an unmanageable nightmare to rewrite dialogue and puzzles once early versions have been viewed? It's a tough question complicated by the doggedness of online journalism, the newness of crowdfunding, and the lack of precedent for a high degree of transparency.

I have to admit my bias: I love what artists can do with complete creative control, and I believe there is an inherent tension between transparency and creative control. For instance, I cringed when Double Fine polled backers about the name of the game. It sounds pretentious when I say it, but I love what emerges from the "auteur" approach of a visionary working in relative isolation. I must admit, the fan in me still hopes to see a modern graphic adventure written by Tim minus the pressure of 90,000 onlookers peering over his shoulder. That said, the writing in Broken Age clearly delivers a strong emotional punch, so Tim has proven that moderate transparency can work.

The deeper question is: If a studio such as Double Fine had all the money it needed, would it choose to develop a game like Broken Age so transparently? Is there an the upper limit where transparency starts to hurt the game?

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Not sure I agree with the idea that there's necessary tension between transparency and creative control, because I think that a capable auteur is able to distill all of the external stuff and figure out how it can be used to feed their vision without compromising it.

I will say that restricting certain content to backers only has resulted in a few very confused PR moments, which makes me err towards greater transparency like that Massive Chalice has benefited from, but that only works best in a game without a heavy story focus, because I surely would have enjoyed my first play of BA less with a lot of knowledge of the game in advance.

Which means that my answer has to be 'it depends'. It depends on who is making it, whether they're the type of person who knows how to filter feedback, and it depends on what kind of game it is, for what sort of things can be shared without harming it.

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I think that the transparency made it a better game. I think the team took what they wanted from the feedback but didn't feel pressured to include anything they didn't want.

On the other hand i think i would enjoy it more if I hadn't seen the documentary first. It felt so much better to to walk in to the "beach town" because i hadn't seen it before. The visuals of it felt more stunning even if i don't know if it's better than any other scenes really. and the lines you heard spoken ijn the documentary wasn't as funny. Maybe I'll wait with the rest of the documentary till i played act 2

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I lost track of the documentary what feels like a long time ago. :P When they first showed the cloud world, I think. I should catch up now.

Will they be streaming online for the foreseeable future, or will they be taken down for non-download tier backers?

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I think in this instance the transparency worked.

If it was to happen again that I kickstart a Double Fine project I would almost prefer full privacy until perhaps beta and at very least let the documentary become a movie.

Don't get me wrong, I love the Double Fine and 2 Player Productions work and I would love to see more from both but,

I feel that I would want the team to dedicate themselves to making it and not explaining it to everyone.

I'm not saying either that the game suffered from the attention I just think that once is enough.

DF and 2PP have proven they have the where with al to produce fine gaming experiences!

There is no doubt that what will come next will be worth every penny.

YES! the ability to buy a title early for $15 that will sell for double/triple is appealing and by no means stop kickstarting,

BUT, close some windows and focus on what you do best. (Until you become documentary award winners!)

So that's why I chose More Creative Control -- Let Tim and history alone decide what makes a great game, with some leeway for specific forum/community/beta input.

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thats a tough question (so a good one!)

I dont think poor reactions to early stuff would bring down hype. Overall I think it has helped build up hype (not as much as a PR campaign maybe but still).

and I dont think backer influence is an issue at all - although its kinda hard to tell at all. its been so spoilerfree that its always been a debate of ("this is just WIP wait and see" VS the occasional skepticism (on for instance the animation tech). and that is kind of a pointless debate to have (Im not pointing fingers. Ive been in some of those debates and it was kinda fun) and to listen to for the team (probably). I think an earlier beta (ie later relase) or optional input on puzzles could have helped with at least more accurately estimating the game length ?? if they would have wanted to. but thats up to them, Im fine either way - would be fun to see more about the design process (and maybe add input) and its also fun of course to be surprised and just experience the game. win win.

its certainly got ME hyped though throughout the year! Ive never been so into adventure games. =)

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I think there could've been a bit more transparency. The documentary showed Tim struggling with things like game difficulty, and the resounding feedback from the beta is now that the game is far too easy. That could've been prevented, methinks.

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I think similar Muf, there are a lot of stuff that could have been avoided with a little more talk from the fans.

Not even pre alpha, maybe just some examples of puzzles (with spoilers included of course).

But as far as the interaction goes, this is the best kickstarter I've backed.

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Trasparency helps, because it make you understand more what is behind the scene.

I don't think that the creativity of the game should be in control of the people, but it is super important doing game testing with a good portion and variety of people, or with the kind of set the people closed to who bought the product during all the phase of the project.

In the web business we always do a Usability test to see how interaction works, looking at the DF videos, I felt that the people playing the game where a bit under pressure to please the big crowd that was behind. I mean you do an user testing with 6 people watching, you feel obliged to please them, it happen all the time when you do it with one, I cannot believe with a big group behind.

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I think there could've been a bit more transparency. The documentary showed Tim struggling with things like game difficulty, and the resounding feedback from the beta is now that the game is far too easy. That could've been prevented, methinks.

I'm unsure how more transparency would have helped solve the issue of puzzle difficulty. You see Tim struggling with it in the documentary, and to solve that problem they did extensive playtesting - more playtesting than any adventure game he'd been involved with. There's always going to be some people who say the puzzles were too easy for them, but how better to strike an overall, best-for-the-average-gamer balance than extensive playtesting with people ranging from backers, non-gamers and game developers? I think they did as much as they could have, considering time and budget constraints.

Whether the puzzles SHOULD have been best-for-the-average is a different argument altogether, of course.

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