I’m troubled by dev blogs. Well, to be more accurate, I’m troubled by my own dev blog. The trouble goes something like this;

I’ve got a very tight development budget. In fact, when I say “budget” what I’m actually referring to are those one or two precious golden hours between the time when my kids finally fall asleep due to the innate boredom of the act of only pretending to be asleep and until I myself pass out on the keyboard drooling from exhaustion somewhere between the alt key and the space bar.

Having such limited time to play with, every night I manage the miraculous feat of self-discipline of forcing myself to thump down in front of the computer intent on getting some work done, I’m got a choice to make. Do I spend this evening trying to think of something clever and relevant to say and hammer away some semi-pointless blog post that I’m pretty convinced no one will read anyway or do I code, advancing the actual game ever closer to completion?

Add on to that the fact that I’m a programmer at heart, through and through and rarely feel as comfortable and at home as when immersed in nested loops and recursive calls and that not only do I write painstakingly slowly but I also need much more peace and quiet and concentration to spew forth something that a human is suppose to understand as opposed to a compiler.

Needless to say “I’ll blog tomorrow” has been the go-to solution to this conundrum every single time so far (hater’s gonna hate & coder’s gonna code).

Tomorrow!

“Tomorrow, tomorrow, I love’ya, tomorrow, you’re only n+1 days awaaaaay!”

I also tend to be a bit prejudiced when it comes to blogs. When the blog-bubble┬áhit Iceland around the millennium most blogs around could be categorized into two neat piles; pointless rant and rhetoric and general whining about politics and current affairs (today’s commenting system’s ancestors) and pretty mindless “diarrhea-of-the-mouth” about literally nothing at all like what people had for lunch or how someone thought they’d found an awkwardly positioned pimple but after much squeezing it turned out to just be a particularly stubborn piece of crumb from the morning toast and could have been taken care of with a casual brushing aside but now instead they’ve got this red swollen spot from the needless squeezing and how this whole experience has totally ruined that persons whole day and so on (kind of like Facebook today).

So blogging’s not of to a shiny start. Never the less, pretty much any “Indie-Game-Marketing 101″ guide, video, blog and article out there lists up a few foundational pillars that every indie needs to have in order to successfully market their game:

  • Landing page – People need a place on the internet to visit to learn about your game
  • Screenshots - People need to see what the game looks like
  • Game play video – People need to see the game in action (doubly so for Prismatica, cause screenshots of the thing don’t make a lot of sense until they move)
  • All the important info about the game (platforms, release date, price etc) – People need to know when the game ships and to where and how much they’d need to fork over to play it
  • Testimonials, previews, reviews etc – People need to know if it’s any good
  • Info about the developer/studio – People need to know if you’re any good
  • Contact info – For contacting you (duh)
  • Press kit – Basically all of the above in a downloadable zip file
  • …and finally, every guide mentions the absolute necessity of a development blog – …but all fail to explain why :-/

So having weaseled out of blogging so far and sort of ignored this last little bit of “fact”, it’s nevertheless been lingering in the back of my mind, gnawing at me from time to time until I pretend it’s not there and just start coding.

Recently I’ve gotten a bit fed up with coding though, so it’s grown harder and harder to ignore the gnawing after some considerable contemplation I think I’ve finally managed to work it out.

The point of a dev blog is simply to exist!

Ok, that sounds a bit anti-climatic so let me try and explain my theory.

Indie marketing, especially for first timers, largely consists of spamming gaming news outlets with emails and press releases. There are all these nifty little tricks of the trade to get your email opened, to get most of it read, to get the game downloaded and played, to weasel on to the journalists good side and so on, but never the less, game sites are bombarded by hundreds of such emails every day and even if you follow all the guides and utilize all the gimmicks, and your email is read and you peak the curiosity of an editor who might publish something about your game on their site, they’re still going to have to answer one question before doing so, especially if you’re a first time developer; Will this game ever actually see the light of day?

As i said, there are thousands of indie games being built at any given time, and news outlets are bombarded with press releases from hundreds of these constantly but how many of those ever actually get finished and shipped?

Publishing some hype piece or preview of a game that never ships is pretty pointless. It’s pretty much wasted time for the editor and might even reduce the credibility of the site itself if it keeps happening over and over again, so even if all it takes is for the editor to copy paste your meticulously crafted press-release onto their site, taking the whole of 7 minutes, if they deem the survivability of the whole project iffy, it just ain’t going to happen.

And that’s where the development blog comes in. Landing pages get old with time, so surprisingly quickly in fact that I’ve come to believe that time moves at least 50% more quickly on a landing page then elsewhere in the universe, and screenshots, gameplay videos and so on more often than not don’t have to be updated all that often. This means that the dev blog is probably a journalists best chance to get an accurate glimpse into the viability of any given project. The more active the dev blog is, the more likely it is that the whole project is also active and blogging regularly about the progress, latest updates, what’s going on and how things are moving along in general undoubtedly goes a long way in convincing anyone that there is passion, ambition, talent behind and above all, movement in the project.

Now, this is only a theory mind you, but I’d bet a project with a healthy activity in it’s dev blog has a much greater change of rambling onto the pages of the bigger gaming media outlets (I have a sneaking suspicion that what count’s here most is the regularity of updates rather than the quantity and/or quality of the content).

On that note, let this be the first of many, many healthy (if not overly interesting) future dev blogs from me. Hell, I might even mention the actual game from time to time if I can get around to it! ;)

So that’s my theory. The point of a Dev Blog is simply to exist and by it’s existence and activity show the world that your game hasn’t been abandoned and reassure the entire internet that you’re still working on it and eventually it WILL see the light of day, so any gaming journalist out there can safely post stuff about it without risking eventual embarrassment and ridicule.

So what do you think? Am I on to something here or do you fervently disagree? Let me know in the comments (gotta try and use them for something, right?).

Come to think of it, I probably could have just Googled this or simply asked someone…? Oh, well, hindsight is 20/20 I guess. :)