Being part of an active game development forum, I often stumble across works in progress from fellow enthusiastic devs. This in itself is pretty great. The problem – and I’ll confess to this openly – is that I often skip over projects which are only in the concept stage: you know, those ubiquitous walls of text outlining grand plans and awesome gameplay without actually providing something tangible for me to get my grubby little paws on. What gets me more is the submission of gameplay videos and WIP screenshots as some sort of compensation – I believe that these sort of endeavours reflect an overall attitude of game marketing which doesn’t really belong in a close-knit community.
It may be fun, but does it get me excited about the game? To be brutally honest: no. Heck, with a mobile Internet connection as expensive as the one that I have at the moment, I can’t even afford the per-megabyte charge to download the self-indulgence that some devs afford themselves (which, ironically enough, often hits my bandwidth harder than the game itself would).
If such media were to be accompanied by a tangible gameplay experience – something that I could actually test, comment on and have fun with – I’d totally give the user a thumbs-up for added flavour. I always post one or two screenshots of a project whenever I provide the executable. But if you’re going to post on a forum seeking feedback for work that isn’t playable, you’re going about it the wrong way.
When you present an idea to others, it’s extremely important that you have some sort of working prototype to back it up, no matter how simple. This proves two things: (1) you’re actually committing yourself to a project and (2) you’re looking for more than just a pat on the head from your fans.
I don’t want to inspire guilt in people who feel proud of their creations. Far from it, actually. I think that all of us ultimately want a pat on the head for a job well done, but this should never be at the expense of the end-user. We make games because we want people to enjoy our work, yes. But if we lose sight of their enjoyment in our quest for empty developer posts and self-servicing market schemes, then we’ve lost sight of why we turned to game development in the first place.
Think of how World of Goo started off – a humble submission on an experimental gameplay site. No marketing. No teasers. Just a developer with an idea who got people playing what he started. And look where the game is now.