Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Open Thread: Development Diaries

I was going to email the Editor with this, but I figure other people in the community might have some thoughts. There are so far two development diaries and I have a few questions/thoughts about what policies should generally guide not just them but future entries as well.

1: Should development diaries remain limited to one post, or should the updates go in new posts? I’m reluctant to see an individual game dominate the blog, but am unsure how often people go back to check on earlier blog entries. If possible, should there just be one post that gets moved to the top every time it is updated (I think that can be done)?

2: What kind of details do people want to see? Should the author be specific, listing individual game elements, broad, only giving a general knowledge of what is going to happen and save the full details for final release, or somewhere in between?

3: How frequent should updates be? Do people want to hear ‘got in nine new dialogues today’ or should updates be limited to ‘major’ progress?

4: Should the development diary also serve as a question area? For example, should the author be asking ‘how do I do X with the engine’ or ‘would be people rather see a scene in a movie theater or in a park’? Would it be better if questions where present or should the diary be limited to actual game progress?

5: Would it be better if all of the above was just done on its own blog? Palmer has his own blog for Sister’s Attraction and maybe each author should just have a page for their work and get a link in the sidebar.


  1. Well here are my random thoughts on the questions!
    1) It depends. As you mentioned I would hate to see the blog just spammed with a couple of games. If it were possible just to update and move it to the top, that might be a good solution, especially if it is only a, say, weekly or something update.

    2) That depends on the author, I suppose. As people have mentioned before with partial releases being sent out all the time, the players can easily get tired of certain portions they go through over and over. The same would apply to knowledge, I suspect.

    If you tell them everything that is happening, when it comes will it be as good? I guess that depends on the person. Some people want to know only the tiniest morsel of info about a movie while others will happily hear you tell them the twist and ending and still watch it with glee.

    Personally, I would stick with maybe some of the mechanics of the game, what kind of game it will be, and maybe some settings/characters or things that make the game interesting overall without spoiling the whole thing. An example or two wouldn't hurt, but I would leave some stuff to be discovered.

    3) Again, depends. When people get watching a game closely, they probably are happy to hear about ANYTHING. You mentioned Palmer's blog, and I think people love to hear whatever he has to say. Also I know Starbound (not AIF, just a game) had updates near the end very frequently on what they were doing. Gave people who checked up all the time something to see and feel like things were getting done.

    I don't think this is a requirement though. It is better to have some info about development rather than months and months of quiet if you are trying to please a fan base, I suppose, but like most of these questions, I leave it to the author. I don't need to hear exact numbers myself, but hearing more substantial updates wouldn't be a bad thing.

    4) Again (and again =D), author's decision. Do you want to let the potential fan base feel like they are a part of the team, giving them such a choice? Or do you have a certain story that you want to tell (or a certain scene) that fits your game well? If you decide the latter, I wouldn't feel bad about making such decisions yourself.

    5) Mixed feelings on that one. I think it would be alright to do a bit of a mix. Have your own blog where you are doing whatever you want - daily updates, all kinds of information on the game, dev. diary sort of things. Then, keep a less-often updated (major updates, weekly, whatever) as a post here with either a link on the right, or within the updated posts to your blog.

    That way a couple of things could be done. Dead projects could be removed from the links on the right if there was no word from the authors. Also, the site wouldn't be flooded with posts of every little update, yet this could still be a central hub to which all the projects are connected. Kind of fitting with the name and imagery of this site, I suppose =P

    Just definitely want people to still feel a reason for visiting this site, but also not to be overly cluttered from a project or two that might give frequent updates.

    A lot of blab for just a couple cents (or a lot of nonsense), but there you have it.

  2. I'd like to see "anything I want to say about anything" updates stay on any author's personal site. I think a good standard for this (or any) community blog should be: is this an update that is of sufficient utility, or interest, to the general readership?

    So, an update that adds significant information regarding a release date, or the content of an ongoing work, would be OK. So would a technical discussion that might assist other authors, or in which others can assist the author.

    In other words, "added nine new pages of dialogue about a reindeer diet" wouldn't make the cut. "Decided to add a threesome with Santa & Rudolph" would. "Finally figured out how to make Rudolph drink the bourbon" wouldn't. "I can't figure out how to make Rudolph a container that can hold a variable amount of bourbon; can anyone help?" would be OK.

    In an ideal world, a post that's merely an update on a potential release date would just be re-edited and moved to the top. "Spring, I think" would be replaced by "definitely not before June" and would consist of little more than that, unless an explanation seems required. Alternatively, perhaps there could be a permalink in the sidebar with the latest release dates for various games known to be in production, in which case full post updates would only have to be made if there was a particularly interesting reason for the update ("I realized that describing reindeer-on-elf action requires much more research on my part, and so the game will be delayed so I can travel to northern Canada for several weeks of field study").

    All that said, for now I'd rather err on the side of too much content than not enough, and until the blog starts speeding by at an unmanageable pace, I wouldn't want to put too many restrictions on what people can/should contribute. Things can always be reigned in later.

    -- thundergod

  3. To a certain extent I think it depends on what purpose you want the dev diary to serve. If it's just to gather audience feedback about your ideas and keep people informed about the likely release date, then you can probably post that here without overwhelming the site. However, if you're doing it to build anticipation for your game and help sustain your own interest levels, then that's probably going to require more frequent posts and might be better on your own blog.

    That said, we're getting a post every 2-3 days at the moment, so I don't think you need to worry too much about spamming. You'll soon work out how many posts the audience can stand, based on their reaction (ie. if you're not getting any comments, you probably need to dial it back a bit).

    Personally, I'd prefer multiple posts as I think a single, continually updated post would make it more difficult to find any new information. I'm also more interested in posts asking for feedback than I am purely informational posts.

    One thought I did have was to have a list of games 'In Development' in the sidebar (ideally linking to all posts with a particular label). I'd prefer not to have keep manually updating them (eg. adding dates or organising them chronologically). If that's what you want it would be easier to have your own blog as there's a gadget that will automatically do that (but only if you're using Blogger, which is why I haven't used it here).

  4. My main problem with developer diaries is that the author is potentially setting up expectations that they can't fulfill. I'm definitely guilty of that, which is why I've really laid off writing Soccer Story dev diaries even though I'm still actively working on it. I've ended up essentially rewriting the entire game twice and changing a lot of stuff around. It's sort of cruel to get people worked up about something that may or may not happen. I may start writing about it again, but only if I'm CERTAIN of what I'm writing about.

    1. Yes, the intentions are good, but more a project is ambitious more is possible one don't end it, because of problems and in Internet too much people pretend too much. Reading palmer blog is an example of what can happen and he is an example of person that haven't abandoned his project.