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Observations from an Open Development Model
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Hey guys, this week, we decided to write about some of our lessons learned so far using a open development model. After being a little annoyed with every company keeping their games ultra-secret until right before launch, we thought it was time for a change. My apologies in advance if it’s a little text-heavy. Here’s how it’s going so far:

Content Production

For the last four months we have been updating a weekly developer blog. In this blog we have been posting articles on art style, game-play, tech choices and more, as well as screenshots, concept art, etc. We plan on continuing these posts up until release.

Results: (Comments, great channel to communicate/keep people engaged with the game before actual release)

Gameplay Videos
While these are by no means Hollywood-level trailers, we put together two videos so far (with more to come!) showing some of the cool stuff we’ve done, namely: one showing ship-building and one showing some weapons.

Results: They say a picture says a thousand words – so with a 30fps video, we’re talking about a lot of words. These have been the most valuable resource for gathering useful feedback – either directly on the YouTube pages or through the various news/blog/media outlets that have featured the videos. In fact, we are currently in the process of revamping and polishing our main character after hearing reader/viewer opinions on it.

Content Sharing

We’ve built a press kit with some logos, screenshots, etc. and regularly kept in touch with a long list of news, media, bloggers, etc. with any significant updates to the game.

Results: Every company or even group of people doing *anything* of importance needs to know how to manage PR. While the cold calling/e-mailing process can be extremely dry, the drafting/prep process is surprisingly easy and the results are always worth it. Through press releases and PR management, we’ve had our content featured on Rock Paper Shotgun and IndieGames.com, among tons of other platforms. These mentions always help drive traffic to the site and supplement comments on appropriate channels.

Every week, we’ve been cross-posting our dev log posts on TIGSource in order to engage the indie game developer community here. We’ve also submitted links to r/indiegaming on reddit.

Results: TIGSource has been fantastic for useful and encouraging feedback. With certain posts, reddit exposed the game to a ton of people and led to some pretty massive traffic spikes. However, posting links to reddit is best done by someone who is an active user and regularly votes on links – otherwise, you can end up looking like a bot and getting banned. Just saying…

Social Media
We’ve almost always had a company Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages, but never set up individual pages for Windforge (for example, like a Twitter page for the main character). We’ve kept everyone up to date with lots of content, both related and unrelated to the game.

Results: So far, social media has been a great place to speak to people genuinely interested in what we’re doing, since they subscribed/followed/liked us. As such, we generally find people are more willing to discuss and have more direct conversations. However, most social media messages have a limited lifespan and require a lot of maintenance to be useful.

Overall Thoughts on Open Development

  • Open development is great for feedback – although it takes some desciphering of varying/contradicting comments.
  • Sharing the triumphs and challenges of game development with the public is a humbling experience
  • People familiar with a “corporate” approach to communications will be lost with this model. You have to be honest, transparent and down-to-earth. Open development is all about pulling in feedback, not pushing out updates and hoping for the best.