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Game Design Affected By Steam Return Policy - Two Hours Game Played

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by Gor-Sky, Apr 13, 2019.

  1. Gor-Sky

    Gor-Sky

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    In Steam a buyer can return a game if he/she didnt play more than two hours.
    I am wondering if this is an issue which should affect game design?

    With what game design I can prevent the player from returning a game after 2 hours?
    (And an advice like "Make a great game" isnt so helpful here)

    Also If you have changed your game design because of the two hour return policy i would love to hear your story and reasons behind it.
     
  2. Murgilod

    Murgilod

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    The only solution is to make a great game. You can't stop people from returning a game if they don't like it.
     
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  3. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    make game mechanics obscure and meter them out slowly. give the illusion of depth, even if there is none.
     
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  4. Volcanicus

    Volcanicus

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    Not what I have done but what I have seen.

    You could do what bad games like Nier Automata did and make the tutorial section super long before tricking the player into thinking it's not a farming game and after what you estimate is 2-3 hours, pull the rug from under their feet. That's what most games do in terms of design...

    Another is to use in game currency to buy quick perks at the beginning with low costs. Many VR games do this. The game is either free or maybe 2-3$ but you can in-game purchase to get more stuff. Usually like 5$ for coins. I am not sure if that is against the TOS.

    Unrefundable mechanics up to a certain point. For instance, spec points only being able to be changed in town XYZ along the way. So if they mess up, they have to restart or get to that place.

    Long travels. I have seen games where travel time is upwards of 5 minutes between points.

    And finally, Cinematics and other time-sinks. Put a bunch at the beginning, non-skippable the first play through.

    You can always do a "bugged" beginning. Suddenly your save file put you back 1 save prior by "accident". Happens, lol.
     
  5. Murgilod

    Murgilod

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    "You know what will make people keep playing your game? Making it suck. People like games that suck."

    - This thread
     
  6. Volcanicus

    Volcanicus

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    I get what you mean and I agree hardheartedly with your sentiment. However, this policy does mean a few things.

    If your game is multiplayer-centric, someone can buy it, download it, play with friends and ask for a refund if under the time limit. So that is unfair use.
    Your game has to have at least 2 hours of gameplay. Chess won't sell very well and neither will checkers based on that alone. So the game requires a bit of complexity.
    VR games are now a thing and they require on some cases physical exertion. Having customers buy in and out due to "buyer's remorse" (more like, laziness imho) is not a good thing for us.

    I am glad steam has this option to protect the consumer, especially if scams prop up. At least they will have a 2h window to deal with it and not 2h after buy but 2h of playtime. That's good!
    You have to keep in mind though that many people are fickle and will not buy. So if you want to keep them in, you have to design around it.

    FYI, worked at retail, we had about 20 returns daily. Sometimes, the same people, everyday. These people were money sinks and the only way around them is to catch do something bad and ban them.
     
  7. Murgilod

    Murgilod

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    Why would they only play a multiplayer game for two hours?

    Or it shows a fundamental problem with VR itself.

    This is a valid point until you brought up chess and checkers. Who plays these games once?
     
  8. Volcanicus

    Volcanicus

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    Any reason. Lan party and wanna play with friends? Get and lose it. AOE II comes to mind.
    "Why would" in my experience, is a bad question. Reminds me of an old joke:
    A QA goes to a bar and makes a few orders: he orders 1 drink, 0 drinks, 9999 drinks, -1 drink, Y drink and %& drink.
    A user goes to the same bar, heads to the bathroom and the bar catches on fire.

    The point being that users will do all sorts of things you can't expect nor make sense.

    There are many issues with VR, the entry cost is too high, the content is too low or expensive and if it isn't, most folks that spend 400-1000$ on VR hardware suddenly don't want to spend 20$ on a game.

    Off the top of my head, I am currently making chess and checkers in unity...
    Ok, how about solitaire? or UNO? or any iteration of a board game made virtual?
    This means that games without complex mechanics or complex stories cannot sell. They have to be free and with a cash shop.

    I digress, I am playing devil's advocate. Like you, I think a good game will hold them in.
     
  9. Murgilod

    Murgilod

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    And we've seen from return statistics from developers that this really isn't happening.

    Citation needed.

    Solitaire is a game people play repeatedly, same with board games.

    Hell is full of lawyers, so I think the devil is good on having advocates.
     
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  10. Cucci_A

    Cucci_A

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    Steam's refund policy is not meant to be used for demoing games. Customers are still encouraged to do their own research on a game to determine whether they might enjoy playing it or not. They can get their refund privileges revoked if Valve deems that they're abusing the policy.
     
  11. Lurking-Ninja

    Lurking-Ninja

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    You're showing the worst of the worst merchants' sign: gimme' your money, you gave me your money, get lost, it's mine forever.

    I would rather try to entertain the folks who will buy my game and if they still want to return my game and get a refund, so be it.
     
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  12. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    Guy ask whats best way to shrink heads, everybody tells him he shouldn't be shrinkin heads. Like they're so innocent!
     
  13. Gor-Sky

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    I am not asking how to deceive the player to keep a S***ty game. Most indie games aren't games that have like 40 hour content. There are small ones that are finished in 2 to 5 hours. So actually the player can enjoy like 90 percent of the game and return it even he liked the game. So somehow a small game has to overcome the 2 hour border.
     
  14. Murgilod

    Murgilod

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    No they don't because even 2 hour games have roughly the same 6-10% return rate all other games do.
     
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  15. Gor-Sky

    Gor-Sky

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    When this is true is it great! Because then actually the 2 hour return policy doesnt really have to be considered in game design.
     
  16. DungeonBrickStudios

    DungeonBrickStudios

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    I think it's a legit question in that I often wondered if games that can be beaten in 2 hours could be returned. Has nothing to do with whether or not the game is good or bad, more to do with players scamming and playing the game for free.

    Since some have stated that valve already keeps an eye out for this kind of abuse, one would hope that it would not be a major issue.

    General advice I would give is to just make the game compelling, longer than 2 hours, and good enough to hold a player for that long.

    One thing I've learned the hard way is that every part of your game where you take shortcuts, and don't work on it with the passion you put in the rest of your game, that part of your game is where all the cannons are gonna fire at and blow to smithereens. I released an RPG on steam with Legend of Grimrock in mind because I loved being IN that game. I did not love battling monsters in that game however. So I made a game in that genre, and those who played said "atmosphere!", "puzzles!", "level design!". But they never said "fighting gameplay!". They said that it was just kind of "okay" and "meeeeh, up to par maybe...?". And I absolutely knew that, because that's my own criticism of the game. I didn't create a complex character creation system that is typical of that genre, it was pretty basic stuff.

    If you suspect it's bad, then it's bad, and everyone else is not gonna suspect it's bad, they're gonna know it's bad. I hate saying that because there are flukes where a dev is thinking "this is terrible..." and the game explodes. We all hear about such cases because it's sensational, but statistically speaking, it's not happening to any of us and we have to rely on pure grit to get through.
     
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  17. BIGTIMEMASTER

    BIGTIMEMASTER

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    i was being a bit facetious, but of course i don't condone blatant deceit. But you put a lot of time into your project, at some point, ready or not you got to ship it. It will never be what it was planned to be. But you made it, and you need return on your investment. So give it every advantage possible.
     
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  18. SparrowsNest

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    Another option is to NOT sell your game on steam, a lot of other stores out there and you can always directly sell it to people.

    although i hear a lot of my testers(that are everyday gamers i basically hunt on the street) say that they view a game being on steam as a validation, or a certificate to it being an "actual" game, and I think that's an opinion that was somewhat true a good few years back, but now with the steam greenlight and all the ease of getting into steam(not that i'm complaining about being able to get my games into steam!) it's pretty a obsolete way of thinking imho.
     
  19. Joe-Censored

    Joe-Censored

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    Trying to design your game in a way where customers who would otherwise want to return it are unable to, is a very simple way to destroy the reputation of your game and company. But I suppose that will succeed in the goal, since you aren't going to get people returning games if no one wants to buy your games.
     
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  20. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Personally, I don't think it should effect game design in the vast majority of cases, in so far as you should be designing your game to be entertaining and engaging anyway. Personally, for most games, if players don't want to play my game for more than 2 hours anyway then I've done a poor job somewhere.

    So then... how do we manage that? A few things come to mind, in no particular order.

    • Make sure you honestly represent the game in the first place. Our games should be pretty close to what the trailers, descriptions, screenshots and so on all imply. If they're all action shots but the game is mostly walking and talking then it doesn't matter how good your walking and talking is, plenty of buyers were looking for action and thus may well be disappointed! On the other hand, if your impressions are accurate then you'll attract people who want walking and talking, and they'll be less inclined to return it.
    • Make sure that you present players with narrative hooks, goals, or other motivation early on. Basically, don't waste time at the start of your game with boring stuff. If the objective is to slay the dragon and save the town, make sure you introduce that stuff early on, before your players have a chance to wonder why they're supposed to care. Note that this doesn't have to be a story. "Get a high-score and show off to your friends!" could be all the goal and motivation your audience needs. Just make sure it's clear and early.
    • Make sure the player always has a clear goal. You don't have to hold a player's hand for every second, but making sure that they always have a clear thing to do is really helpful. If they ever ask themselves "what do I do now?" they should always be able to find a clear answer to that. (The type of answer should fit the type of game. Don't give away solutions in puzzle games, for instance!)
    • Make your characters engaging, or don't have characters. Avoiding the need for characters is probably better than having jarringly badly written or acted characters.
    • Only include things of solid quality. If you don't have time to polish something, don't include it in the game. Or, take the time to polish it. More is not better if it's not up to your game's quality standard. Anything you add to your game is an opportunity for players to get turned off of the quality isn't high enough.
    • Test the heck out of your game's introductory sections. This stuff is hard. Test it over and over with real players until they can reliably get through it on their own without frustration. Until you get this right it will turn players away.
    • Provide strong and clear feedback for user actions! Don't leave players wondering whether or not they're doing the right thing. Players don't understand the game at the start, so you might have to go further than usual in making consequences of actions clear, particularly of there is any kind of delay on those consequences.
    Note that these are all things that we should be doing anyway, regardless of Steam's 2 hour policy! Seriously, who wants to make a game that fails any of the above?

    The one catch that stands out to me is that some games really don't need to be longer than 2 hours. All of the above still applies to them, but it won't help to reach Steam's 2 hour threshold. My thoughts there would be to consider using other vendors if you want to make a short game.
     
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  21. Billy4184

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    First of all, make sure that there is an issue to begin with. Do sub-2-hour games have more returns? According to Murgilod they don't. If you don't check if the issue exists, all your time and effort will be wasted for nothing.

    Secondly, I think it's a fantastically poor idea to try to design a game according to a return policy. Like with DRM, you cannot convert bad customers to good customers by giving everyone a hard time. In my opinion, you are better off aiming to please your best customers, building a community and a following, and making people want to reward you for your work.

    Lastly I would never, ever buy a game from someone who tried to waste my first two hours in the game to avoid the possibility of my returning it, I can't see why any self-respecting developer would do that.
     
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  22. YBtheS

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    I agree with your point and everything but where did you get this statistic from? I can't find it.
     
  23. Murgilod

    Murgilod

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    I got it from asking developers who have worked on short games released on Steam.
     
  24. angrypenguin

    angrypenguin

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    Does Steam have a way to get hard numbers on that stuff?

    In the past I'd have used a combination of howlongtobeat.com and SteamSpy, but I don't know if that's useful any more.
     
  25. Billy4184

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    I wouldn't be too surprised if I found out that shorter games had less returns, simply because anybody who provides a complete experience without trying to wrangle more playtime hours from their player base with bloated 'content' (much less tactics for the express purpose of wasting someone's time) is probably actually going to satisfy a lot of people.

    Just thinking about the business of game development, there seems to be two different ways to do things: get people playing a lot of hours of your game, and sell it as a service (e.g. free to play, IAP, and all that sort of stuff). And then there are the 'gems' that people feel satisfied to buy outright because it feels like they own something with inherent value, and because the product generates around itself a certain sort of 'respect for the craft'.

    The worst idea in business is always that of obscuring what a product really is, because that way you can be sure that those who buy it will never get what they wanted and expected.

    Everything you described sounds like really fantastic ways to break immersion and flow, so that it occurs to your customers "Are there more satisfying things I can do with my time than playing this game?".

    Don't assume that just because you have someone playing your game, that you are done and dusted. You still have to work overtime to keep them interested and not hit that 'exit to windows' button.
     
  26. Volcanicus

    Volcanicus

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    I would disagree with this. Time and time again, marketing has proven to work and even though the customer base is angered, a few apologies here and there seem to appease the crowd. I would most likely guess that the silent majority doesn't care while the loud minority does.
    Off the top of my head: How many more Sonic games will sell even though this franchise went downhill ages ago simply because of the mascot? Or FF games. And so on.

    I would also disagree with this. Maybe I am taking it too literally but I highly doubt players who spent money will find a glitch or a bug and toss the controller away asking for a refund. Same way that what I described were the "final straws".
    If you make a collect-a-thon, collective players will not get discouraged by that; unless there are serious issues impeding on the collecting itself like bugged items that cannot be gathered, they persevere.
     
  27. Billy4184

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    I certainly am not saying a glitch or a bug is enough to make someone exit a game. What I am saying is that if you frustrate people too much, they will leave, because it's no longer worth their time.

    (Of course, there are ways to frustrate a player without making them want to leave, but that's a different story, it's not something that succeeds as a patch for circumventing a return policy. Games like Getting Over It are fine-tuned with frustration in mind from the very beginning).

    But making a tutorial go for ages or something like that is not an exciting sort of frustration. It's a wet blanket on enjoyment and is likely to present as simply very poor design skills.

    The best and simplest way to succeed is to make things that are as satisfying and enjoyable as possible, and connect with players enough that they respect your craftsmanship and don't want to run off with your product. You'll always lose a lot of customers to piracy and returns policies and such, but as they say they were probably never real customers to begin with.

    The way I would look at it is: I have two hours to convince someone not to return my game. What would be the best way to do that?
     
  28. Murgilod

    Murgilod

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    Do you really think there are any people using the Unity engine who are operating in this specific circumstance while also having the social clout to get away with it?
     
  29. CityGen3D

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    I dont think its something that should form the basis of design decisions about what sort of game you want to make.

    The sort of people that would play the system in such a way to refund a game they enjoyed having played it for just under 2 hours are few and far between. There'll be more people pirating your game and not paying for it in the first place.

    There's not much you can do about these people, you just have to make the best game you can.
    Most gamers want to support the developers of a good game, they aren't looking to screw you over.

    So make the game you want to make and want to play, thats the best way of approaching it.
     
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