Zeu's Guide to Fun and Success with Custom Magic is reproduced here with permission of the author.

Thinking About Feedback

You wouldn’t be a part of the custom Magic community if you didn’t want to share your cards with other people. Sometimes sharing a particular card is the end of that card’s journey, where you just want to show off its finished state. But often you will want to change a card based on what other people say about it, i.e. the feedback the card receives. However, the process of analyzing feedback for your cards can be complicated. In addition, you must also think about the human element: how to react to feedback such that you continue to receive it.

Making Feedback Useful

The most important tenet of using feedback is this: More feedback is always more valuable than less feedback. People have many different perspectives on cards, coming from their player psychographics, skill levels, and their backgrounds and experiences. Some people will notice things that others won’t. If you really want to make a card as great as it can be, you will want to make sure you show it to a wide variety of people to get their feedback on it. However, there are diminishing returns on collecting a lot of feedback. This is because only some feedback is what’s known as “actionable feedback”. Actionable feedback is feedback that you can actually act on to improve a card. As you collect more and more feedback, less and less of it will be actionable over time, for a few different reasons.

Sometimes certain perspectives won’t be useful to you. For example, if you were trying to make a card to appeal to the Johnny/Jenny psychographic, and multiple Timmy/Tammy players were complaining that they didn’t understand how to use the card, you wouldn’t necessarily want to change the card, because appealing to Timmy/Tammy players wasn’t the point of the card. This means that their feedback wasn’t actionable. Feedback that goes against the goals of the card isn’t actionable.

Very often there will be problems that people will point out that you will recognize as acceptable tradeoffs for the card’s positives. For example, you could design a rare that’s on the complex side, but still quite fun. A significant amount of the feedback you could receive on the card would be critiquing it’s complexity. You could make an effort to lower the complexity with things like templating reworks or reminder text (things that don’t affect how the card plays) but you’ll likely find that any more extreme simplifications make the card play worse. After a certain point more and more feedback about the card’s complexity won’t be useful to you, since you know that you can’t act on it. Feedback that you’ve already tried (and failed) to implement ceases to be actionable.

Despite these problems, you need to have the confidence to welcome negative feedback. Some of the negative feedback you receive won’t even force you to change your card, and sometimes the feedback you receive will even be incorrect! If you think a piece of feedback you’ve received is wrong (or perhaps coming from the a perspective that isn’t useful to you), you can safely ignore it entirely or store it for thinking about again later. Yet when you do receive feedback that is useful to you, the rewards of the improvement will be staggering.

Reacting to Feedback

(This section built with help from ShadowCentaur).

You want to readily accept lots of feedback, both positive and negative, so you can make use out of as much of it as possible. However, often times designers don’t react to feedback in ways that is conducive to continuing to receiving it. Accepting critique politely and calmly will improve how respected you are in the community, and improve the relationship you have with whoever is giving you feedback. Being defensive or trying to convince the other person that they are wrong will do the exact opposite.

This can go even further. Implementing the critique you receive, and showing the revised card to those who critiqued you increases their desire to give you feedback, since you are showing that you are receptive to their feedback. You don’t even have to end up deciding to move forward with the changes, just showing that you’ve considered them helps to increase trust.

On the other side of the coin, do not give large amounts of feedback to other designers that aren’t accepting of it. This will only serve to frustrate them and you. Give only one or two comments, then wait for them to respond. If their response to your feedback is positive, give more. Over time you will become familiar with the ability of the other designers in your community to take feedback well.