Why You Should Treat Game Dev Progress Like An "Update"
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In this article, we discuss items like change-logs where game devs summarize their work made during development. For instance, a game studio will publish articles describing the major points of change that have occurred as part of their latest game release. This is done both at the snapshot level for work during development, and once the update has dropped in a more official format.
In my case, I started out by writing up brief descriptions of what I’ve developed for my game over a month-long period, and then accompanied that with a small highlight video on key features added. Over time, I found myself with this beautiful view of the stages I’ve gone through in making a game, and it’s something that I love going back through. It’s the same feeling that causes people to watch game devlog series on YouTube - there’s something inspirational about tracking a game’s development cycle through an “update” mindset.
Are “Updates” Reserved For Top Studios?
Nope! Today I want to talk through the benefits of approaching and publishing updates that describe the development milestones for your game. With this, here are the benefits we will be reviewing:
- Builds Excitement
- Helps Prioritize Changes 3 Adds a Professional Touch
- Allows For Better Feedback
- Free Marketing!
Let’s dive in!
Simply put, posting your game dev progress through updates is exciting and motivating! Seeing a more condensed outline of the items you have achieved brings a sense of accomplishment. In the world of indie game dev where every step forward seems to push the end goal 10 steps farther, having these small victories laid out adds to the feeling of satisfaction. It gives this visual confirmation that you can develop whatever you put your mind to. I have also found that these victories breed more creative ideas - by seeing what you have already created through updates, no matter the format, you’ll likely find new ideas to make your game more engaging.
Helps Prioritize Changes
In a more practical sense, using any medium to record updates to your game will aid in prioritizing the time spent developing. As an indie developer, we’re limited on the time needed to construct the games we picture upfront. With updates, this path becomes more clear as it bundles features together into subsystems. We may not always have the time to develop everything we want, in which updates will help in evaluating the most critical features to add. This will likely vary, going from the core mechanics that ensure the game works to the more artistic details that will keep players invested.
Adds a Professional Touch
Updates add character to your game - it’s not just “I coded an inventory system” but “I found a way to interact with the world that allows the player to impact their environment.” That second point is more interesting to read, and it helps give players a better idea of how the game is being approached.
Furthermore, updates give this level of credibility behind your game’s identity. It shows the audience that you’re not just developing a game with features that have already been seen. Instead, you have taken the time to better understand the game so that it stands out from the rest, and you are committed to making the game a reality.
Allows For Better Feedback
Published updates surrounding your game will often help focus everyone's attention on the kind of feedback you are looking for. They may still offer feedback on other aspects, but the excitement and new-ness of certain features will invite more dialogue for how those items fit into the rest of the game.
It’s in a similar vein that you’ll be able to gauge the popularity of features through the kinds of responses you get for certain updates. A new mechanic, story element, visual effect, etc... might become the most hyped part of each update as you publish them. Through this, you can adapt future features to better fall under those popular themes and appeal strongly to your player base.
You will even develop personal feedback loops through your updates in how you write them. Based on your game, the tone behind how features are detailed to the audience could require several iterations. Using this time during development to describe each part of your game only serves to strengthen your image of it. Without realizing it, recording your progress suddenly becomes a way of improving communications so that newer players can better relate to the game, and older players feel that their feedback is impacting the game’s development.
Marketing continues to be a key part of indie game dev careers, at least for having a financially stable place in it. If you’re already taking the time to record progress then, you may as well adapt it into marketable bits to reach people. You will definitely want to mix up the format based on the platforms you publish on, but the majority of the work is already done upfront!
It also helps that the idea of “updates” is already established in the indie game dev community. From devlogs and blog articles to Discord posts and more, the game dev community has this natural affection for reviewing the work of others. Your commitment to developing and posting about it as if it were an "update" builds accountability with others. They get to be excited for the new work you’ve accomplished and become inspired, while you get to build your community through new relationships. It’s a win-win scenario all around, and with zero drawback to showing others the work you have already done in the first place!
Invest just a few minutes to record the key milestones in development for your game over a given period of time, and then share it with others! That’s the minimum recipe for “publishing a game update” and with all of the benefits we have reviewed, there’s hardly any reason not to do it. Do not worry as well if the first few times are rough - the more you develop a habit for it, the easier and more rewarding it will become!