The Pros and Cons of Public Game Development

We took a quite open way in development when we started working on Dead Wake game. We set up the forums and started launching a public version every 1-2 months. Right from the beginning.

I’ve been pleased with this experiment and can confirm that having some kind of versions right from the start does a world of good to any project.

Here’s some good things that have happened thanks to opening the development to the public:

  • We’ve got players to test the game. We have set up a mailing list where we announce big events related to the project. There are signups coming everyday.
  • We are getting quite a lot of publicity. Reviews such as this come out of nowhere. People & press are listening to our story and writing about us.
  • Players are getting more and more involved: gamers at the Dead Wake forums say that “we need to do”. They are not calling “you should do”, they are taking the product ownership and saying that “we are doing the game”. I find this very important. The players are involved in the design – and they like it.

And of course there’s always some challenges which one could consider:

  • It takes time to promote the game: I have not put much effort to promote the game, but it could take a lot more if I wanted. So far I’ve wanted (almost) everybody else to handle the promotion, while we focus on developing the game. I’ve sent some press releases and given some answers to those who have been interested, but that’s pretty much it.
  • It takes time to manage the community: luckily we’ve been fortunate to have great, positive people who have contributed – and helped to moderate the forums. The more popular the forums grow, the more moderators we shall take. Naturally this takes some time away from development, but good moderators can be really valuable resource.

Magazines and players seem to get astonished when we say that we develop the game according to customer ideas (as long as they fit in the core idea of the game): it makes a good press story. And it helps making the game such that our players really enjoy it.

Juuso Hietalahti