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Customs Creation - October 2018

Posted October 22nd, 2018 at 04:28 AM by HS Codex

Customs Creation
Criticism: Giving and Taking
Author: Scytale

Creating custom Heroscape units is a lot of fun. Even more fun is seeing them played in games. You can create all the customs you like and play them in your home games; plenty of people do so and have great fun doing it. Some like to take that next step and share their creations with the online Heroscapers community. Of course, itís nice when someone else prints out and uses your designs in their games (as a creator, there is no greater compliment), but the true value of our generous community is in their invaluable critiques. Refining a unit with your own playtesting and your local group is all well and good, but the broad experiences, varied tastes, and discerning eyes of the people that frequent the customs community can really help to raise your customs to the next level.

Getting Feedback: Realistic Expectations

We all know that Heroscape has been out of print for a long time now. Itís amazing our community still exists at all, so itís no surprise that it isnít nearly as lively as it was in the gameís heyday. The customs community is no exception, though it has proven more resilient than other areas of the site due to its nature. So it should come as no surprise when no one comments on your posted custom unit. Actually, even back when there was a lot of activity on the site, most posted customs received little attention. Why? Arenít we all fans of the game and excited to see new stuff? Sure, to an extent. But there are a lot of customs out there. Tons. Just trying to look through all of them would take almost superhuman levels of tenacity.

On top of that, writing a meaningful critique takes time and energy. Sure, responding with a quick compliment is easy enough, and you see that from time to time, but to give real, valuable insight takes mental effort and real time. Custom creators tend to be the most interested in their own creations (obviously), which often eats up much of that creative energy, making critiquing other peopleís customs almost more of a chore.

Bottom line: keep your expectations low. Especially if youíre new, donít expect to see a lot of response to a wave of customs.

How to Get Feedback

With all that in mind, how can one expect to get feedback at all? It can be discouraging for a new user who hears nothing but the chirping of crickets, even keeping in mind what I said above. There are different ways to get some attention. Patience is one such way; simply be diligent about updating your own customs thread with unit changes and new work. People are looking, even if theyíre not commenting, and after a while someone is bound to speak up.

There are places you can turn to to solicit feedback. The most prominent is the Freelance Feeback Focus Group (3FG). Like most threads, it isnít as active as it once was, but it is a place you can post units to get some feedback. Just take it slow and easy; donít abuse a resource like that by flooding it with units to critique. If you are confident enough in your design to try for SoV approval, I highly recommend soliciting feedback in the pre-SoV Workshop thread. But only do so if you are looking to make an SoV submission, and only after soliciting feedback elsewhere first (preferably your own customs thread).

By far the best way to get feedback on your customs is to give feedback to others. Other designers are just as eager as you are to receive feedback on their work. If you are willing to give feedback to others, they will be much more likely to return the favor. Spend the time to look around, get acquainted with whatís out there and get involved with the community, even if only on a small scale. A little interaction goes a long way, especially if itís giving to others what you want to get.

Getting Feedback: What to Expect

There are different reasons people post their customs in a public venue like Heroscapers.com. One common, somewhat misguided one, is to solicit praise. Itís easy to get really excited about our own customs. Theyíre our creationsóour babies. Itís also easy to expect the same reaction from others. The reality is, they probably arenít amazing, especially if youíre a new designer. Making something great takes a lot of knowledge, experience, and creativity; making something stunning requires much more. Your customs donít simply exist in a vacuum; they are being compared against the countless other custom units in existence. More specifically, they are being compared against the best custom units on the site, because those are the ones people most easily remember. Thatís not to say your work will be immediately derided, though; the folks on the site are good people that are far more likely to give positive reinforcement and encouragement. Just donít expect to be heaped with praise.

Getting positive feedback is always nice, but itís not always especially helpful. The best thing you can hope to get from feedback is criticism. Responses that point out a customís flaws and weak points are invaluable; reading and understanding such posts can drastically improve a unit. They are also what can really help you grow the most as a designer. Be thankful and gracious to anyone who takes the time and energy to give your unit a thorough review, whether positive or negative or both. Those people are your greatest assets.

Giving Feedback

Similarly, when giving feedback to others, take the task seriously. Thereís certainly nothing wrong with a quick ďI like it!Ē post; we all enjoy positive reinforcement, and just knowing that someone else saw their work can be exciting. But itís not all that helpful, nor does it show serious consideration. Think through the unitís possibilities, look carefully for flaws in its powers, and try to find exploits. Consider how well the theme is presented on the card, and try to imagine how the unit is likely to be played in a game. As with any good feedback, try to talk about both the good points and the negatives. Itís ok to offer suggestions, but try not to do so too often. After all, this is their work.

You may be surprised to discover that the more you do this the better your own work becomes. It really shouldnít be surprising, though: itís a form of creative exercise. It also gives you a valuable perspective. It can be hard to accurately judge your own work simply because youíre too familiar with it. Learning how to spot issues in other peopleís customs can help you see the problems with your own.

Getting Feedback: What to Do With It

There are two extremes I see from time to time when people get feedback and suggestions from others. The first is defensiveness. It is fine and even appropriate to explain why you made the choices you did with a unit when they are challenged, but itís easy to slide into outright defensive behavior. When people take the time to critique someone elseís custom unit, they expect their words to be taken to heart. Having those comments dismissed by the creator is a real turnoff; that creator shouldnít expect to see more feedback anytime soon.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who modify the unit to match everyoneís ideas and requests. In something like the pre-SoV thread where there can be lots of feedback, this can quickly water down a design, or worse, entirely ruin it. Everyone has different tastes and would approach designs differently. Trying to please everyone shows a lack of faith in your own work, and ultimately may end up not pleasing anyone.

So what is the right approach? Remember that those who are taking the time to comment are there to help. They are assisting you in improving your design. That means their viewpoint is valuable, but it doesnít mean itís right. Think through the comments, consider alternatives, and decide for yourself what is best for your design. Be gracious and accommodating, but stay in the driverís seat.

Summary

Feedback on your custom creations is a fantastic asset, and one that should be treated as such. Donít treat Heroscapers.com as a service; it is a community. Be willing to give feedback to others, and take the time to learn how to do so well, as it not only makes you a better member of the community but will help your own design work as well. In doing so, others will come to appreciate your insight and be willing to help in you kind. Just remember to respect their views on your customs just as you expect your views on their customs to be respected.
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Comments

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flameslayer93's Avatar
Another well written article, Scytale! I think many folks start out defensive when getting feedback, regarding ‘Scape or otherwise. It’s great to see it pointed out.
Posted October 24th, 2018 at 09:20 AM by flameslayer93 flameslayer93 is online now
Old
superfrog's Avatar
This is very good advice. I've been active in the customs section of this site for 6+ years, and even I got some great insights from this article.
Posted October 26th, 2018 at 04:16 PM by superfrog superfrog is online now
 
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