1. Listen To SJWs
No game developer who has ever taken SJW advice has ever come out unscathed.
2. Tell Your Players/Fans They Don't Deserve Your Games
From hit game developer with a decently-selling, popular game, to obscure DJ Nobody. Phil Fish rode his massive ego straight off a cliff. No game developer is "too good for his audience". Even if angry players/fans are pissing you off and criticizing you, make sure you watch out for those sharp corners. You fly off the rails on an ego trip and I can guarantee, 9 times out of 10 you are never living that down. You'll be lucky to be gaining even half the sales you were, from game to game, if you start trying to tell your gamers you're too good for them.
3. Blame Your Player Base For The Poor Sales Of A Game
This is never an ok thing to do, and it's never a smart move. "Was my game not good enough for you? You're just ungrateful!" Another sign of an over-inflated ego. Scott Cawthon is guilty of this. Admittedly, he's good at making it funny, and he self-deprecates here and there, so he's not the worst example. This is the video game industry. Good games tragically don't always sell amazingly well, but you can guarantee a crap game is going to flop. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this is one of the roughest industries out there.
Movies, for example, are able to be "go bad it's good". Video games, not nearly as much. The voice acting can be 'so bad it's good', but as Superman 64 and E.T. for the Atari 2600 have shown us, if the game is a certain level of bad, it just remains bad. And if your game is objectively terrible, blaming your fans for your own failure is the best way to become like EA. (Voted Worst Company In The Entire World two years in a row.)
4. Attack Your Fans For Demanding More
In this scenario, you're actually the one being ungrateful. Your fans love your game(s) so much that they want to GIVE YOU MORE MONEY in order to experience more, and you're upset by that? To quote Rebecca Watson: "Guys, don't do that."
Scott Cawthon and Masahiro Sakurai are good examples of this, especially Scott. He's upset people want more Five Nights At Freddy's, when it's his own fault people keep demanding more in the first place! He made FNAF with an apparent and compelling mystery. The internet exploded trying to solve that mystery. Scott announces a second game, people expect the mystery to be solved, FNAF2 only ends up expanding and deepening the mystery. People become even more invested in solving this puzzle. Scott announces a third game, people expect the mystery to be solved, FNAF3 only adds more layers to the mystery, further compelling people to want to solve it. Scott announces a fourth game, you get the idea. People wanted the clues to solve the mystery, FNAF4 only added more to the mystery.
He then announces FNAF world and not only does he not add more clues, he teases even more to his mystery in one ending. Now he's got an entirely new game series, FNAF Sister Location, and an entirely new set of mysteries. And he's blaming us for it? It's starting to feel like Munchausen Syndrome at this point. Scott, you've had 5 games, 0r is Sister Location 2 out already? Well, you've had 6 games and a book to give players enough to solve the entire mystery and leave FNAF behind. You have no one to blame but yourself.
I get it. He wants to move on. I know what it's like feeling trapped by other projects, but Scott, buddy... you're the one imprisoning yourself. The more hype you generate, the more people are interested in your stuff, the more people are going to want. Not only is it a bad idea to attack your fans for wanting more, it's also kind of abusive. It's like tossing meat to a dog and then swatting it when it asks for more. Don't play hype-building games if you can't commit to paying off the hype, and don't blame your players if you overshot your hype goals and can't keep up anymore.
5. Pretend Like You Know Better Than Your Players
Mmm, more delicious ego. "You don't want that. You think you do, but you don't." Anyone familiar with that little, yet extremely infamous quote? For those of you who don't remember it, and for those of you who are unaware, that was said by someone on the Blizzard team in regard to the question "Have you thought about making servers that represent old expansions the way they used to be?" for World of Warcraft. A fact people were even willing to pay specifically for.
Meanwhile in reality, whole thousands of people gathered onto the World of Warcraft Nostalrius server, which was one of the largest vanilla servers, run by fans, and they gathered there specifically to say goodbye to the server when Blizzard decided to shut it down.
Google "Goodbye Nostalrius" if you want to know more or just don't believe me.
6. Sue/DMCA Your Players And Fans For Negative Reviews
No... there is nothing smart about this. Do not ever do this, it will only bring you ruin. You'd be better off closing down your own company and quitting the industry over the negative reviews than doing this even one time. You're infinitely better off letting people speak their minds than attempting to control the image of your game through force. Digital Homicide learned this the hard way.
7. Rage At Your Players And Expect Them To Keep Playing
I honestly forget who it was, but there was a rash of developers, about a year ago who were saying things along the lines of "I don't want <X> group of people playing my games." The result was that a lot of people of the targeted groups stopped supporting them.
Actually, Phil Fish is a good example of this, too. Any time someone criticized him or his game, he insulted them, indulged in delusions of grandeur, and carried on as if people were going to buy Fez 2 and thank him for it.
As gamers and developers, we aren't just individuals. We are a living, breathing mega-community. Think of gaming as a pond. If you throw a pebble expecting to hit just a single drop, what's going to happen? The drops next to it are effected, and the drops next to those are effected, and the drops next to those are effected, and so on. When you disrupt the water, the effects are felt all the way to the far ends, and to the deepest depth. If you attempt to single out, bully, or insult just one person unfairly, whispers are going to spread all over the community.
(Note: there are exceptions to this. If the person's being an ass, and being an ass back is justified, go for it. People are still going to be upset by it, but as a net whole, it will be a positive reaction. Example:
Complaint: "Ugh, the main character of your game has big breasts! Why couldn't she have been fat, frumpy, and unlikable? Why did you have to go with the sexist, misogynist, trope of the big breasts, hot chick?"
Response: "Because fuck you, that's why."
There is a difference between being an asshole and being a badass.)
8. Lie Pretentiously
"My game was flawless! Ahead of its time, in fact! It only did so poorly because it's so ahead of its time, people just don't get why it's so excellent." Oh of course it is! There's no way it could possibly be that the game just wasn't very fun, or had some other problem with it!
"If you didn't like my game, that's because it wasn't meant for you, it was meant for <X> group of people who would get it better."
"What do you mean my game 'lacked game play'? It wasn't meant to be fun, it was meant to be a breakdown of the condition of humans reflected by the mirror of whatever mcguffin I decide to pull out of my ass to hand-wave and responsibility for the game coming out as a flop."
Nobody buys these lies, nobody has ever bought these lies, and nobody ever will buy these lies.
Why? Because there is no excuse for artistic, smart, clever, 'commentary on <X>', or subtly genius games to be unfun. We've had games that are absolutely brilliant, far ahead of their time, and had hidden meaning that were absolute charms to play.
Doom used pseudo 3D to make a fully roaming FPS, something that was far ahead of its time, virtually killing off the on-rails shooter.
007 The Golden Eye re-revolutionized the FPS genre by adding on the split-screen multiplayer functionality as an afterthought, and breaking free of Doom and Quake's control setup, killing off the "Doom clone" as an FPS genre almost in its entirety.
The Deus Ex series has always been chock-full of intelligent commentary.
Final Fantasy 7's story is brilliant in so many subtle and direct ways.
All of the games I listed were of the artistic, revolutionary, or intelligent variety, and they were all fun to play, and massive hits. I repeat myself: there's no excuse. It's just a lie, players will see through it like a freshly Windex'd window, and it's going to hurt you in the end.
9. Take The Money And Run
You never, ever... EVER do this. Hey, look, another stupid thing Phil Fish did...
-Accepting money, cancelling a project, and not refunding donors.
-Accepting money, using it on a different project without the OK from your donors.
-Accepting money and quitting your profession without refunding donors.
-Or getting overconfident, spending money that isn't yours on unimportant or unrelated things, and running out of money as a result...
This will always backfire on you. Once you start accepting money, you have a duty to the people to finish the project, and if you can't finish, you have to get the OK before changing projects. And once you start spending other people's money, you have to commit to the promise you made them in exchange for their money. Once you accept and spend other people's money, you have to make good on that exchange.
"But Bastendorf, aren't you guilty of exactly that?"
Yes. I won't lie, deny, or sugarcoat it.
Ashamedly, I am guilty of doing essentially that. I started a project, I started a Patreon to help fund it, I realized I couldn't pull it off and I was in way over my head, and I decided to drop it, and no one has been refunded.
But! I have more principle than that! You see, I haven't cancelled the project completely. It's on hold and I will be picking it up again after this project is complete, because I've improved greatly since then. (It's amazing to look back and see how rapidly things fell apart for that project, and how far I've come since then, all in just one year.)
Secondly, I haven't laid a finger on any of the money that was given to me to work on that project. All $70 are still sitting there, right on my Patreon, awaiting the revival of the project.
I'm not touching a dime out of it until I can commit to the project.
And thirdly, I did talk to my patrons and got their permission. They permitted me to put it off under two conditions: 1. I wouldn't spend the money on anything but that project. 2. I have to eventually return to the project and work even harder to make up for the wait. They didn't remove their support out of outrage, they removed their support for financial reasons. I'm sure it will resume once the project resumes.
And it will be awesome! (Only trouble is that it will also receive an AO rating, so not everyone will be able to play it...)
So, I didn't really take the money and run. I took the money and said "I can't pull this off, but if you trust me to hang on to it, I will return to."
10. Attack Players For Doing Something You Didn't Intend For Them To Be Able To Do While Playing Your Game
Man, I forget who it was who was doing this, but this is something some devs have done in the past. I think, if I remember correctly, the story goes that gamers had found a trick in a game that made for a pretty fun challenge. It didn't really break the game, or exploit it, but it added this edge to it, and players had popularized it and were having a good time with it. However, the developer found out, threw a tantrum over it because players weren't having fun with the game in the approved way, and patched the game so players couldn't do it any more. Hopefully that's actually a thing that happened and I'm not pulling that story out of my ass.
Well, regardless, it still serves as a cautionary tale anyway. This is one of the stupidest things I could think of that a developer could do. First of all, its your responsibility as a developer to make sure gamers can't do the things they're not meant to do. So don't get on their case for it. And second, there is no such thing as "the right way to play". If you're a beginner, or aspiring developer, you need to understand that no game is perfect. You could spend 6 months developing a game and 4 years trying to make sure nothing that you didn't intend is possible, but still someone somewhere will find something that doesn't work right, or something that's broken, or whatever. Just look at Super Mario 64. More than a decade later and people are still finding new oversights and finding new and inventive ways to break the game.
And when it comes down to it, why change it? If it's something super specific like MissingNo or Hat In Hand, and the average player isn't going to encounter it unless they seek it out, why would you patch it out? Why would you prescribe a set of guidelines to tell players how they're allowed to have fun with the game?
It's like Anita Sarkeesian's "You shouldn't be able to kill female NPCs!" or Season 3, Episode 51 of Spongebob: Party Pooper Pants. If you want to see it for yourself, go look it up.
I've seen devs go apeshit over mods and modding. Sad, really. Fortunately, developers getting a totalitarian idea of what fun players are allowed to have with their game is a rarity.
Fact of Life: You're not going to be able to stop people from looking for challenges that you didn't intend for, or speed runners from finding the best ways to complete your game in the shortest time possible, or game breakers from trying to find any and all ways to break and wreck your game, nor should you try. You should make sure there are no game-breaking bugs that can be encountered through normal game play, but you shouldn't try to stop challenge seekers, speed runners, or glitch hunters.
Why? Because if people love your game so much that they're willing to spend hours, days, months, and even years finding new and inventive ways to keep playing your game, yelling at them for or blocking them from doing so would be stupid and uncaring. In fact, developers who are truly great embrace these types of people and reward their efforts. Well, ok, maybe not game breakers. But speed runners and challenge seekers for sure. But you shouldn't attack game breakers or modders, either. Good games with mod support usually sell extremely well. And trying to block modders only make gamers angry. And when it comes to game breakers, they can be helpful. When beta testing your game, you want the craftiest game breakers you can find so you can weed out bugs.
And that's my top 10 list of things you should never do as an indie dev.