Ville asked a question:
I have a question. List the pros and cons of opening your development to the public. We’re releasing demo versions of our game as we go on, it allows us to get in touch with the public more. But I’m afraid this might backfire somehow, like people getting tired of the game before it’s completed, or that they judge the game by the demos.
First of all, I must say that I really believe in public development – I think it’s a good solution for indies in many aspects. We develop Morphlings in a very public manner: we even put the design document available. Not to mention screenshots and demos (as we get new stuff).
1. Public development means publicity: If nobody doesn’t know about your game, then you can rest assured it doesn’t get the publicity it could have before the release. Different people will talk about it… tell their friends… news etc. I even got in TV when I showed Morphlings in one presentation!
2. Open development opens doors to more suggestions: people are eager to comment and give ideas. It’s almost like “You don’t need designers anymore – players help you to design” ;)
3. You find beta-testers: just put a newsletter subscription system online or some other way to gather emails. You’ll find plenty of beta-testers and potential customers.
4. You can get team-members when releasing to public. People who show they actually do something instead of just saying something tend to get more people moving.
5. It motivates the team: having everything *visible* means that people know better what each other are doing. It motivates to get good comments and see a evidence that the project is progressing.
6. It can get publishers interested. Games that are developed in public tend to attract publishers & distributors. That’s a plus.
7. You’ll get comments from other developers: they will help you, they will support you, they will motivate you. Basically they will do good to the development.
1. Financial risk: somebody might steal your idea, patent it… or run to market before you. I think this is the case with “smaller” indie games (development cycle less than 3 months) where time-to-market has a bigger meaning. In larger (indie!) games I don’t this is the issue… I just don’t believe people could steal your idea and do it. It would take huge time. Besides – aren’t there games like World of Warcraft, Battlefield, Sims or Half-life to be cloned? The ideas are already there. If somebody tries to steal your idea… then good luck. He would still need massive amount of resources to compete. I think the risk is there – but I don’t think it’s such a big issue for indies.
2. What if the project is canceled: the players might get disappointed and you might get bad publicity (“yeh, he tried and nothing happened”). But – I think if you are willing to finish the project and have courage to develop it no matter what… then go for it. There’s always the risk somebody gets disappointed or mocks you – whether you finish anything or not.
3. It takes extra time to maintain. It’s true that making your development public (writing public notes, commenting to suggestions etccan add extra work in the development phase but I don’t think it’s a bad idea: it’s basically some sort of “project documenting” in one way – so it’s not that bad to know what you have been doing.
I really think the benefits are much greater for innovative games development so I really would encourage doing so.