At first glance, you might argue that the difficulty of our game was a huge oversight on our part. Not true. To that end, we actually did have a playable beta of Rebirth out for two years before the game was launched, and it was available to the general public. We held extensive beta testing at the Reflect forums and Game Maker community, but our followers there would all be seasoned veterans of the game by the time we ended up beta testing what would become the launch build. The game was too easy for them at that point, so we had made few balancing changes to the build that was released on June 14th, 2011. Consequently, in spite of all our efforts before launching our game, we still ended up putting out a product that was more difficult than it needed to be.
[Author's Side Note: I would like to state - for the record and as a complete side note - that Yeti Trunk believes our Wanderlust franchise presents a unique gameplay experience to the more popular “action rpgs” which it is so often compared to. For example, while I was playing a (very) popular “action rpg” last year, it occurred to me that I had leveled my character from 1 to 15 with virtually no deaths, no difficulty, and with 95% of my accomplishments being achieved with the click of a single mouse button. To an observer who wasn't watching my screen, I may as well have been playing Fruit Ninja! As a gamer, I simply refuse to believe that this represents a legitimate challenge of my skills, and consequently I am always shocked to read that some fans wish our game could be played in a similar fashion.
Wanderlust: Rebirth was designed to be a combat game first, and rpg second. In fact, we designed the game entirely without items first, and once the combat was fun and engaging, we then added the crafting system (which was a hugely requested feature from the fans, by the way). In any so-called-action-rpg, the combat mechanics ought to be the first priority. Alright, back to the topic at hand...]
Not only is it difficult to predict how your game will be received by the public at large, but as a truly “indie” developer, you simply will not have the resources to do sufficient testing of your game before its inevitable launch. Still, as gamers we should never expect virtual perfection from developers who, unlike large corporations, have absolutely zero resources available to them. This is why it's essential, as independent developers, to take the fan critiques “in stride” and address them as best you can.
[Author's Side Note: Let's not forget that, ultimately, the fans possess the means - the money - to determine if you're going to be around to make the sequel to that dream-game of yours; so listen up! Also, beware the shameless plug of Wanderlust: Adventures in the following paragraph!]
Yeti Trunk learned, very quickly, to value the feedback of our fans (and the not-so-fans). We've embraced it and it has led to dramatic changes in how we approach game development. For example, we're now at the point in Wanderlust: Adventures - the spiritual successor to Wanderlust: Rebirth - where we've re-designed entire systems and characters based on the feedback we heard from players! Even further, we've altered the core game experience from Rebirth (a linear arcade-action rpg) to mold Adventures into a free-roam action-adventure rpg. As it pertains to cooperative play, we've spent time focusing on making it easier for players to team up in Wanderlust: Adventures; players will be able to join games at any time, with the only exception being when a group enters a dungeon.
In summary, and in the simplest terms... if you're going to make a game for others to enjoy, then you ought to listen to others' opinions. Even if you've skipped reading the past few paragraphs, I sincerely hope that the first few were sufficient to opening your mind to the idea that co-operation can be a crucial element to developing great video games.
Good luck making that dream-game of yours!
~Matthew Griffin, Yeti Trunk
[Author's Side Note: P.S. In spite of what I've written, please refrain from criticizing this article because unlike in a video game, I cannot 'patch' this essay! Cheers!]