From the bombardment of bad reviews of “Taiwu Picture Scroll”, a glimpse of the word-of-mouth dilemma of independent games

On September 21, the domestic independent game “Taiwu Picture Scroll” ushered in the update of the “official version” of the game. The update time of the game is set at 23:00 in the evening, but it still can’t stop enthusiastic players from entering the game overnight for the first time. However, the expected “blow-up” did not appear, and it was accompanied by thousands of negative reviews. As of September 30, a week after the new version of the game was launched, the positive rate of new comments on the Steam platform was only 41%, and the recent evaluation of the game has dropped to mixed.

We don’t know if this bad review was expected by Luozhou Studio and the team’s core eggplant, but judging from the programmer online events that happened after the game, the team did not have a preparatory plan for the word-of-mouth trend after the game was launched.

Through this bad review incident, we also see that “Taiwu Picture Scroll” will not be exempted because of its status as a pioneer of domestic independent games, but instead bears the expectations of more players. In the future, it will become more and more difficult for domestic independent game developers to maintain word of mouth in a clever way, and producers must face more fundamental game quality issues.

Conscience operating to earn word of mouth is not working?

This “official version” of “Taiwu Painting Scroll” can be described as twists and turns. This is closely related to the historical trajectory of the project “Taiwu Painting Scroll” itself. The fact that “Taiwu Painted Scroll” can become the “light of domestic production” in 2018 is really the result of the right time, favorable location, people and a good deck of cards. In 2018, the fire of “PUBG Mobile” caused the domestic Steam installed capacity to rise rapidly. This is the right time. At that time, domestic game self-media podcasts began to rise, and there was an urgent need for domestic games to “take the pot”, which is a geographical advantage. “Taiwu Picture Scroll” producer Eggplant has a legendary experience of making games with twists and turns. This is Renhe. With all the good cards, “Taiwu Picture Scroll” achieved one million sales with only 30% of the completion rate, becoming a well-deserved “light of domestic production” at that time.

Seeing that his game is recognized by players, Eggplant is very encouraged, and has always adhered to “conscience operation” in the commercialization of games to give back to players. Subsequent updates of “Taiwu Picture Scroll” are almost all free, and no mainstream commercial operations have been done. But Eggplant was not satisfied with this, and announced in 2019 that it would suspend daily updates to the current version, and instead enter “closed development” to make the “official version” of the game.

Then the game entered a development cycle with almost no new news. External players did not know the internal development situation, and rumors of “eggplant running away” appeared from time to time. These rumors are easy to refute, but the expectations of the player group for “Taiwu Picture Scroll” have been raised again and again. The final game went live in September this year and lasted two years. Two years is not a lot for an indie game, but it is a long time for gamers who want to see earth-shattering changes.

However, the newly launched version cannot respond to the high expectations of players. To make matters worse, the closed development led to the launch of the game with a large number of vicious bugs, which naturally became the focus of disappointed players. By the way, even the players who participated in the closed test before will become the target of spraying.

Of course, this is not the first time Taiwu has experienced a bombing of bad reviews. The production team has already encountered mixed reviews due to events such as bounced tickets and “game submissions”. The rush to launch this time is also because the game announced the launch time early, and there is no way out.

Picture source Zhihu

This bad review may also be expected by Eggplant, so he plans to operate with conscience to hedge the bad review. For example, there is no charge for this “official version”, old players can update for free, and the old version of “Taiwu Painting Scroll” is still retained. The game is also still in “early access”, without the name of the official version. In addition, Eggplant also made an early promise that the game will be launched as soon as possible in the creative workshop, obviously learning the painful lesson of the bad review of an independent game in the first half of the year.

Conscience operation used to be the secret to maintaining the reputation of domestic independent games. The game has bugs, the content is not rich enough, or the art is not enough. As long as it is free, players will show patience. The conscience operation of “Taiwu Picture Scroll” cannot be said to be ineffective. After all, the game still maintains 41% of the praise, and did not directly compete for the “domestic games with the most negative reviews” like some independent games in the first half of the year. From this point of view, anti-commercial operation is indeed the only label of “Taiwu Picture Scroll”. But producers who can operate like eggplant are, after all, few.

Programmer’s online, the most hurt word of mouth

Originally, the bad reviews of “Taiwu Painting Scroll” on the line were also considered the only way for small team game production. BUGs are inevitable, and players are more concerned about the attitude of the production team and the speed of fixing bugs. However, during the launch of the new version of “Taiwu Picture Scroll”, there was also an incident of online dumping between current programmers and resigned programmers.

The process of the incident is that the back-end program “Wind Queen”, who has left the game, quarreled with the current back-end programmers in the game MOD group over code issues. The current back-end believes that many bugs in the game are “bad debts” left by the predecessor who resigned, and the predecessor said that he left as early as 8 months ago, and the current BUG cannot be blamed on him.

Soon the debate spread from the group to player forums such as NGA. Others reposted some of their speeches to Zhihu, further spreading the debate. The team’s main creator, Eggplant, did not stand up to express his position.

This post has now been deleted

In fact, it is very common in the game circle for the resigned personnel to have disputes with the current one. Regardless of the reason, these disputes often end up having a negative impact on the game. After the new version of “Taiwu Picture Scroll” was launched, there were many bugs, and the players themselves had great emotions. The programmer’s line-up just gave players new ammunition and a battlefield for quarrels, which will only make the player group more divided.

It’s a pity that Eggplant didn’t come forward to explain and clarify the public opinion crisis of programmers online. Let the players guess, things will only develop in a direction that is more uncontrollable by the producer. Maybe this incident had nothing to do with eggplant, but the programmer’s final damage to the line is still the game’s reputation. In today’s “post-truth” era, Internet quarrels often end up not seeking truth but taking sides, which will only keep the community divided. Not only is it not conducive to breaking the circle of the game, but it will only continue to shrink the circle of the game.

Learning to “end” is also an art

As of press time, the “Taiwu Picture Scroll” team is still working hard to fix the patch. But the game’s reputation has not improved. The new version of “Taiwu Picture Scroll” has been updated in all aspects such as plot, art, and gameplay. It can be seen intuitively that the production team has invested a lot of manpower and material resources. Rather than saying that this is the official version of Taiwu Generation, it is more like an early access version of Taiwu Generation II.

However, it is precisely because there are too many changes, the new version has accumulated a lot of bugs, the new content lacks novice guidance, and the new UI interface is also under-tuned, making players uncomfortable. When players compare it with the relatively perfect previous version, they will naturally complain about “why should I change XX”, and some of the interesting aspects of the new version are covered up by these complaints.

Perhaps the eggplant will also sigh secretly, why some of the content that the players expected, but actually made it, will be badly reviewed? After all, two years have passed, players’ own game experience and game tastes will change, and the entire game market is constantly changing. For players, they are no longer “accustomed” to domestic independent games, and raising the requirements is naturally conducive to the development of the game, especially the already well-known game such as “Taiwu Picture Scroll”, naturally it has high requirements.

Compared with the practices of other independent game producers, perhaps Eggplant can also refer to: that is, once the game is launched, it is no longer something that belongs only to the producer, and needs to maintain communication with players at any time, and “closed development” may be more suitable for a Brand new items rather than version updates. Whether it is “Taiwu Painting Scroll” or any game, there is no perfect game in this world. How to end a game in a timely manner and start a new creation is also an art.

Of course, perhaps this is the reason why many players admire Eggplant in their hearts. Because Eggplant is unconventional, developing free new versions regardless of cost rather than starting new projects. This kind of project establishment policy is the same as the eggplant reverse training code, which is completely anti-commercial logic. Perhaps it is this kind of personal temperament that determines that “Taiwu Picture Scroll” has enough personality. And such individual games are not too many, but too few.