It’s pretty crazy to that Dead Cells is already an indie hit, when it isn’t even out yet. This is because the game has already been available via Early Access on Steam. With 750,000 copies sold and a vast majority of positive reviews since originally entering Early Access for Windows back on May 10, 2017, it’s clear that this was the right choice. But Early Access didn’t seem like such a good (or safe) idea back then, according to responses given in a Gamasutra interview with Motion Twin Lead Designer Sébastien Bénard. Here’s how the team when from skeptical to successful.
Bénard cited the Motion Twin’s approach as a key factor in keeping fans content, while allowing the game to grow through additional development and experimentation. It was all about making things clear to the community and never promising something that had a chance of not being ready on time or being the right fit. Bénard reflected, “If it was some kind of experimental thing, we’d just explain that it was experimental, and that it might not survive Early Access. That was true of multiplayer, something the team mentioned as a possibility early on: it was always described as a ‘maybe,’ so fans weren’t angry when the idea was ditched.”
But not making fans angry wasn’t the same as making everyone happy. Every game will be criticized. Sometimes, that’s on the player and their tastes, but other times there’s something there for the team to think about. Bénard said, “Even if I don’t agree with some points, usually there’s some meaning we can take out of it. Most important feedback is negative—it’s really useful for us to focus on it and understand the small things that people didn’t feel was right with the game.” This couldn’t have been an easy feat, as the average player usually doesn’t have the background to clearly articulate what changes need to be made or what’s causing a certain control to feel a certain way. Other times, the criticism is more focused on expressing anger or frustration than providing feedback. It was up to the team to parse through that and find something they could use.
Bénard referred to his time reading player feedback and interacting on forums as playing a crucial role in creating the final version of Dead Cells, as almost half the changes made during Early Access were a direct result of player feedback. Motion Twin reinforced this relationship by being transparent about the impact player feedback had on their game. Patch notes explicitly mentioned when a change was a direct result of player suggestions. “It’s the feeling that even if your idea is not taken, it has been heard,” Bénard stated. All of this is in keeping with an emphasis on equality, which we even see in how their employees are paid.
Watch all these wonderful ideas, from Motion Twin and players alike, come together when Dead Cells releases on August 8, 2018 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Remember, you can even get a physical copy via Signature Edition games.