Wednesday, April 18, 2007

To Share or Not To Share

So I was talking to Andres about marketing yesterday. I've been debating a lot about whether or not it would be a good idea to share a lot of the development process with the community. This would include posting WIP stuff. We both agreed that most people don't understand WIP postings. Because of this, it's a risky thing to do marketing-wise. But you know, I think that's why I want to do it. I think it would be cool to try to educate the community about game development. This would include showing people what game development looks like in-process. If we could educate even one future producer that it's ok for a game to look a bit ugly in the early stages, I think it'd be well worth it. And think of how great it would be to educate current producers that it's ok! Plus, I still think the advantages of being open and allowing the community to form a closer relationship with the development team would greatly outweigh the disadvantages of people who are uneducated about game development thinking the game sucks while it's still a WIP.

Another cool thing about sharing development process is that people will get to see how the product is evolving while it is evolving. I think this could create a more emotional attachment to the project, which would result in people being more interested in it.


MonkeyScience said...

You have to remember though, educational or not, showing people the rough beginnings slowly developing into a completed product will take all the oomphf out of your final release. It's the same reason developers don't like playing their own games. They have to stare at till their eyes bleed, worrying about every tiny short-coming. Other developers may be interested in seeing your process from a professional stand-point, but you'll take all the magic out of it for Joe Public.

Besides, GOOD producers know WIP, it's their job to know it and direct it.

torncanvas said...

Good point. I think there's a happy medium, though. There's a sense of wonder you get watching your baby grow up into a mature, polished experience. It'd be great to let others participate in that experience. And it's not like people will be playing the game periodically every day while it's in-progress, so it won't be the same as the dev team. The progress they'll see will be in the form of a diary-like report and screenshots, with the occasional YouTube video or something. It's more like they would see the progress an annotated design doc moreso than the progress of the game itself.

torncanvas said...

It's important to hold some stuff back, you're right. But you can still show what you're up to and the progress you're making. For example, you could talk about a new game mechanic somebody thought up, then later even back it up with a video of it in action. I think that would be ok, because people still wouldn't be experiencing what it feels like. They'd just see cool stuff happening and get excited.

Also, I think the people that will be keeping updated on the progress of development will be those who are interested in development itself. Those people are more of those like the mod community, so this seems to be right up their alley.

I guess I see this as like another aspect of the community experience. It would be something equal to modding. Kind of like a public design doc or something.

Mike Boxleiter said...

I actually really agree with showing off the product during development, as long as it isn't total shit when it is shown. We want to avoid showing something that makes us feel like saying "This is a work in progress" every couple minutes. If you look at Counter-Strike as a good, though slow, example, it was fun from the first time I played it in Beta 2 or something. Every update some players were alienated but others joined on and the community is still going strong many years after development mostly ceased.

You can release screenshots and do a dev diary, but if you release working snapshots of the game periodically, and do so when the game is actually FUN, people really seem to respond.

Greg Wohlwend said...

I think in our position, growing a community from day one can be incredibly valuable. This is a tough industry to even get into, let alone be successful in, so the more friends made and lessons learned now could mean good things for all involved.

As for it "not looking like shit," I remember listening to one of the gamasutra podcasts on gaming journalism and obviously the journalists were pushing for more screens/info early on even in alpha stages to gather a community, and I agree. I would think many of the gamers looking around those sites/articles were more appreciative than critical of the quality of the screenshot.