Go Live Prep
20 March 2019 - Prepping for go live is a bigger task than you might think even for a single player game like Terran.
Heathen Engineering's Terran has been in early access for 3 years and is the first full featured project from Heathen Engineering. Over the course of early access various boards, patch notes, screen shots and more have been posted ... well … everywhere. While these are a great way to showcase the game's evolution you want to make sure they are clearly marked as Early Access or otherwise not indicative of the release build. In hindsight this could have easily been handled with a bit better organization and that’s what we will look at in this post.
So what’s the risk if we don’t properly organize all of this pre-release information?
The biggest risk is when you go to push your marketing efforts and potential gamers are reviewing your game. If not managed well reviewers will see all your video’s and chatter about this great new release along side screen shots and teasers from the pre-alpha with no or little way to separate the two. Adding to confusion and generally presenting a lower quality face to your game is obviously not what you want to do at such a critical point.
Ways to mitigate the risk
First it’s important that you can easily and accurately identify these yourself. Remember that file names and metadata tend to get hosed nicely as things bounce around the spaghetti monster that is the web so make sure your method of identification is clear even for the general public and won’t likely be stripped such as a water mark on images and videos and proper date lines on web-pages, posts and articles.
Know where you put what
Setting up an initial organization pattern can be great but know that it will change over the life of a long project. Community sites come and go and change on there own so expect from the on set that you will need a flexible way of tracking what content you have published where and how you can update it or archive it.
Create a timeline
If your involving the community so early in development, the evolution of your game is a big selling point. Creating a site or other public resource that showcases this evolution can be a focal point of your early marketing efforts, it can also help inform the media and wider game community that … ya that grey block screen shot … that’s prototype phase not current state.
Build relationships with the various sources that use or post your images, articles and videos, help them keep the fresh stuff up front and the old stuff clearly marked. Prepare packets of the latest images, videos and links and make sure they have access to them. Press kits are great sure, but most sources read them once … maybe … and unless you tell them there is an update with new goodies, they have no reason to go back and check.
Be open and chatty
This one again sounds easy but can be harder than it looks. Make sure the community knows what your doing e.g. that your involving them early in development. Make sure they understand that things will change, and day 1 alpha is probably going to differ *a lot* from day 1 release.
At least consider a little restraint
Community driven and open development sounds romantic doesn’t it? Well to some it does. Before you go down that road though really assess rather or not you have the bandwidth to do it right. Game development can be hard, more so for small indies where a bad case of the sniffles can set your project back weeks never mind serious life events. Open development lifecycle can be a great boon … or bane … really depends on what your team can handle.
The above suggestions are just from our own experience, share more tips and ideas in the comments and help build better games.