In Philosophy… II
Update posts too few and too far apart, brain and and hands jammed in a creation position… and and I’m out of coffee. Oh and it’s finally snowing outside. Definitely calls for a bit of philosophy… and a hammer. And more coffee.
But more on that later. First things first: status report. Construction of the actual game world has begun \o/. We finally migrated to our production scene structure, that is final enough to begin using as a creation tool. The animation system and related gameplay stuff is proceeding nicely, or as we like to say “slowly but uncertainly.” The game’s puzzles involve a lot of physics and tweaking them is tedious work as we have to and want to experiment. Work continues fiercely on all fronts and the end of the year is closing fast.
Which brings us nicely to the topic at hand; The Art of Progress Updates.
We’ve been developing Reset for a little over a year now so I think this is a good time for a little in-progress-retrospective. When we started this project we had a pretty good idea of the workload ahead of us, or at least we knew the major components at play. We knew that we had most of the necessary skills to carry out our plan. One thing we knew that we didn’t know exactly was the production time frame. We accepted the vagueness of the production schedule because we had a vision we weren’t ready to short sell very lightly. And after all this is game development
Turns out our progress is pretty close to what our experience has taught us and no unexpected development snags have come across [not counting the burst water pipe in our office ceiling (which almost destroyed our computers) and made us move the office to an even smaller brick walled room for a couple of months. Oh and one born baby! Except it was expected, so I guess it doesn't count.] So we’re actually in a very good shape!
One thing that has totally caught us by surprise was the incredibly positive reception to the stuff we’ve shown from the development. Now this is a good thing. Knowing that there are like-minded people out there makes us push even harder (if that’s possible.) But in relation to this article, as the reception is something we weren’t prepared for, it turns out this is also a bit of a problem for us. The actual problem isn’t that the reception has been positive or negative. The problem is that we weren’t prepared. We were so caught up in our vision that we didn’t think too much of the actual reception. I must point out again that in our case the problem isn’t a really negative one, but still something that we want to tackle. And this topic is actually a fundamental one in relation to indie game development.
The two biggest symptoms of not having a proper road map or experience concerning progress updates have been the sporadic update frequency and becoming unsure and scared of what to share. When we started we knew that we needed to allocate our time in the actual production. We didn’t want to spend time listing completed tasks which we thought would be boring for anyone following. We had a vague idea of only posting something meaningful and that is what we’ve tried to do. One thing we did know from the get go was that we want to find all the like-minded people out there and share our splinters from our hearts and minds in the form of Reset.
Now looking back it seems that our brains are still so programmed in the corporate way of doing things that our actions have not totally met our desire to more open. And we want to and have to work on that. So this is me doing exactly that. And here comes the hammer, whack! If something doesn’t work write about it with a hammer. Great, now I’m missing half of my keyboard.
Things that we still believe to be true:
- Most of our time is to be spent on production.
- Sharing the progress meaningfully.
Things that go under the hammer: Definition of meaningful progress updates.
We still feel that posting updates should be meaningful, instead of posting everything since there is too much noise in the world as it is. In our case we need to drastically lower the threshold of posting stuff since the only way to see what is a good amount and a good form for us is by posting.
I mentioned above about the topic being a fundamental one. What I’m talking about here is of course marketing. I hate to use the word because to me it has a very negative tone. I feel that if something needs to be “marketed” purposefully to me, there is something wrong with it. In my head it directly connects to words like “greed” and “bulls#¤t”. And here is the fundamental part, how to get people to know what your doing without labeling it “marketing”. I guess our heads still being a bit stuck in the corporate world is one of the reasons our “marketing” is coughing.
I’ve wondered for a long time what is the magic behind “viral marketing” or some form of “guerrilla marketing” utilizing social media, the form of communication which we and a lot of indie gaming companies embrace. Let’s call it “project communication” if you will. I’ve been wondering why a lot of small groups seem to be thriving using it and big companies seem to be stumbling. I find it interesting since the main mechanic is utilizing social media, which is available to everybody, big and small. Just a while ago, having stared at it the whole time, I understood what “project communication” really means.
When a big company engages their audience, there is always the company barrier between them and the audience. The gate keeping, the marketing. So even when a big company is present in social media, the contact is still through the gate keeper, and it is a one way street. When a small group engages their audience it is direct. This difference is self-explanatory to the point that it is extremely banal. But herein lies the magic. The signal is very clear. Like myself, there is a thirst for no-bs direct contact with people. Thus “project communication” is inherently only possible for those creators who are directly in contact with their audiences. Otherwise it is just “marketing”, being it any type of media. This is probably very clear to many people but it is funny how the human mind sometimes has a hard time recognizing an object when looking at it from different angles. And following this enlightenment we specifically need to shrug off the corporate frame of mind.
P.S Someone come up with a better name for “project communication”, it’s hideous.