Providing feedback in a way that doesn't hurt is something I've been thinking about a lot in recent years, albeit in a slightly different context. A large part of what I do (both professionally and on open source projects) involves code review, as both the reviewer and the reviewee (which spellcheck thinks isn't a word, but I'm using it anyway).
Oh, Please Do Remember I'm A Human
If something sucks, I want to know about it. But! I'm not a robot. So if you can tell me it sucks -- clearly, so that I know you mean it sucks -- without bludgeoning me emotionally, that would be best for all of us. When I get worn down emotionally by overly-negative stuff, I get slower.
Basically think of it like this:
Healthy feedback: "Thing A is no fun at all, or is broken or whatever, and probably needs attention. Possible resolutions might be XYZ, or I don't have ideas but what specifically is bugging me is 123, and addressing that would probably make this fun/functional/whatever."
Toxic feedback: "Thing A sucks, I don't know what you were thinking. I'm not having any fun at all." (NB: Even if you're not having any fun at all because of some issue, a better way to say it is "I can't get past this issue to really evaluate the rest of the game, because this one thing is bothering me so very much.")
What Chris said above is excellent, but I'd like to add some more specific points:
- Be professional. You're here to do a job, and that job is helping the Arcen team build the very best game they can build. Too much emotion can distract from that.
- Be nice. Chris said it better than I can. :-)
- Be concise. Include all necessary detail, but try to avoid clutter. All else being equal, shorter tickets take less time to read than longer ones. (Don't take this to extremes, though. Sometimes a little extra fluff is helpful.)
- Talk about the game, not the people. This is something that sounds obvious and a bit silly, but is surprisingly important. Basically, "you did a silly thing here" and "there's a thing here that seems silly" both carry the same information but only one of them accuses the developer of silliness.
- Look for good things as well as bad. Your main job as a beta tester is to find problems so they can be fixed, but it's also important to occasionally mention things that work really well. (More on this below.)
- Check for duplicates before reporting a problem. It doesn't take long, and it saves the Arcen team a whole lot of admin work. If you aren't sure if you have a duplicate or not, open a new ticket and include something like "this problem looks kind of like that one, but not quite". If you do have a duplicate, add extra details to the existing ticket if you think they can help.
As I was writing this list, I found myself spending a lot of words on the "look for good as well as bad" item, so I'll explain it in more detail here. On the one hand, a steady stream of problems can be really depressing even if they're reported in the nicest possible way. On the other hand, concise reports of particular problems are very important. The idea is to occasionally mix in some positive feedback with the negative in a way that adds value without getting in the way.
I often write something along the lines of "I love how the potion crafting system blends alchemy and chemistry, but the UI for using dephlogisticated air makes it hard to interact with" rather than just reporting the UI issue. As well as the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing that they did something great, it tells the team that my problem is specifically with the UI rather than the underlying game mechanic. Adding "Despite the somewhat clunky menus, I'm very pleased with the wide variety of cuisines available for Thoraxian Royal Feasts" or similar to the end of a ticket achieves the same effect.
This post ended up being about twice as long as I originally intended, so I'll stop here. Just remember that my list is a set of general guidelines and anything the Arcen team says about the kind of feedback they want should take priority. This is a topic I'm particularly interested in, so feel free to add to my list or disagree with it. I'm not particularly active on the forums, as you can see by my post count, but I'll be keeping an eye on this thread.
As an aside: Chris, am I on the beta list? I'm happy to wear whatever colour shirt you choose for me, but I "signed up" long enough ago that there may not have been a list yet and I'd hate to miss my opportunity to
take over the world
help you guys build an awesome game. ;-)