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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperBusinessGame Journalists Are Your Friends
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Alex Vostrov
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« on: March 30, 2010, 04:48:46 PM »

Another blog post that might be useful to beginner devs (like myself  Wink).

I’ve had a minor revelation today.  It’s not overly original, but it was meaningful to me.  Perhaps you will find it useful too.

I’m in the middle of deciding if I want to make games full-time.  It’s a pretty scary decision – lots of uncertainty down that path.  Because of my semi-schizophrenic personality, one of the doubts manifests as “What if I make an awesome game and it gets buried in the noise?”

Being an indie developer is often a lonely business.  You can talk to friends in the same boat, but a lot of the time there’s an “us against the world” feeling.  The odds are usually stacked against you.

Today, I was finally able to put the stake through the heart of this mindset.

Your Secret PR Team

If you’re making amazing things, you’re not alone, wherever you are.  You have a secret band of allies who want to help you – the gaming press.

A lot of the time the press gets a bad rap.  The journalists are often rushed and pressured in the their work.  Mainstream devs blame them for playing the games part-way.  Gamers cast a wary eye towards bribery and corruption.  It’s a lot less glamorous than it appears from the outside.

While the concerns are valid, there’s also a ton of good that a single, passionate journalist can do.  If you have some hidden gem that they can bring into light, they’ll be your guerilla PR person.  They’ll show the game to their friends and contacts, explain why it’s notable and generally spread the awesomeness around.  That’s how I think that Dwarf Fortress got out – Tarn Adams has horrible marketing skills.

I suspect that in some quarters journalists are looked down upon.  They’re viewed as people who couldn’t make games, so they settled for writing about them.  It’s a grave mistake to adopt this view.  While the press might not be a part of the day-to-day creative process, they are a part of the gaming ecosystem.

By bringing notable works to the public’s attention, the journalists can encourage certain games and genres.  The press has an equal voice in the development of the medium, on par with designers and players.  Game development is such a fickle business that the influence of one passionate person behind the scenes might save a small developer from going bankrupt.

So, the next time you feel that you’re fighting against the world, remember that there are people who would be glad to fight by your side.  You might even try talking with them sometime.  After all, it’s likely that they didn’t get into the biz for the big bucks.  They might have some interesting ideas about design and the industry.
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Falmil
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« Reply #1 on: March 30, 2010, 07:52:40 PM »

Are you going to post every one of your article-type blog posts here? What would be the point of going to your blog then?
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Alex Vostrov
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« Reply #2 on: March 30, 2010, 10:31:16 PM »

I'm only posting things that are relevant to this board.  Sometimes I do book reviews or talk about other things that are not game related.

I'd rather have people to discuss my ideas with than have some miniscule blip on my analytics.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2010, 10:44:52 PM by Alex Vostrov » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: March 31, 2010, 04:08:50 AM »

i'd say that some game journalists are friends of indie devs, but that most aren't; most have never played or reviewed an indie game, and would never consider doing so. but some do, and we should be thankful for those few.
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Richard Kain
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« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2010, 01:44:57 PM »

I think that part of the problem is that indie developers don't reach out to game journalists as much as they ought to. If you've got a legitimate indie game that you are a decent way into, try ringing up every media outlet that you can. Journalists are always looking for new, interesting stories. If your game is decent, they will probably be willing to run something on it.

When it comes to marketing, indie devs need to be proactive about it. Get out there and sell your game, and people will begin to take notice.
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ஒழுக்கின்மை
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« Reply #5 on: March 31, 2010, 01:54:54 PM »

i don't think that's true, really; when immortal defense was released i sent emails to every major games journalist / games site as well as the ones that only review indie games, and only the ones that reviewed indie games reviewed it. blaming indies for not asking them to review their games doesn't make sense to me, because usually they do. they'll generally review indie games that are on wiiware/xbla occasionally, since that's part of their job, but not otherwise.
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« Reply #6 on: May 06, 2010, 07:56:20 PM »

1UP's Scott Sharkey was the fellow who got me into independant videogames in the first place.
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« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2010, 08:22:36 PM »

Do you have any hard data that backs up this idea?  I know Introversion was boosted a lot because of.. interesting.. PR tactics, but I haven't really heard much else.  I'd be interested.
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« Reply #8 on: May 10, 2010, 06:36:38 AM »

by xna, do you mean xblig? it's unclear what you mean because many pc-exclusive xna games do exist (like blueberry garden), but you said 'on xna' -- xna isn't a platform, it's a language/engine/library. if you do mean xblig, i think the main explanation for that is that mainstream game journalists typically own an xbox, whereas indie game sites are run by people who do not.

however, are you seriously saying games like poto and cabenga and ceramic shooter are "pixel art"? i don't think you know what pixel art means if so. you may be confusing pixel art for any game that's not 3d.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2010, 06:40:52 AM by Paul Eres » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2010, 08:30:29 AM »

why is it shocking? an xbox that can play xblig games (one with a hard drive) costs $300 -- and indies are poor. i do know think timw (of the indiegames.com/blog) doesn't own an xbox or any modern console (he lives in malaysia where they are out of the price range of most people there).

i didn't own an xbox until a few months ago. i was finally able to play a few xblig games that people had randomly sent me free codes for over the last few years. but i've not had a chance to review them, and haven't really liked the ones i've played or would put them at the same level as the games on the frontpage in terms of gameplay depth or interest value, with the possible exception of 'weapon of choice'.
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« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2010, 09:30:59 AM »

lack of an xbox was certainly the reason in my case (as a tigsource editor) at least -- and you have to remember that indie game blogs are run by volunteer indie developers, not journalists who are paid for it

so i don't think putting ourselves in a position is the right phrase for it, it's more like the editors are only ones who bother to (very occasionally) review games. expecting people to buy every system or platform so that they can review indie games on all those platforms is asking way too much: that'd mean that the editors should optimally have access to wii's, xbox's, ps3's, iphones, pc's, macs, cell phones, ipads, and linux systems (because indie games appear on all of those). we just aren't that rich. only professional game journalists have access to all that.

i didn't mean to seem defensive, it's just that that criticism of the site makes no sense to me, and is the opposite of my opinion -- i really don't believe that tigsource focuses mainly on retro or pixel art games or has a bias towards those. if anything, the bias is the opposite; i feel as if games with poor graphics aren't covered as much on the frontpage as they should be, and that there's a bias towards pretty-looking games.

but yes, please do review some games for the frontpage using the guest reviewer system, would be great to see more xblig games reviewed here.
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« Reply #11 on: May 10, 2010, 11:55:44 AM »

i personally don't like trailer and preview entries, and prefer review entries, since there are already so many unreviewed games i'd much rather have the games that are already released be reviewed than games that may or may not be released (and which nobody can play right now) previewed -- i feel that one of the big things wrong with the mainstream games industry is too much focus on games that haven't yet come out, too much hype, and not enough focus on the games that are already out, and on the classics; so i personally choose not to do any preview or screenshot/trailer entries because of that. this is just my thoughts on it though, the other editors probably feel differently.
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« Reply #12 on: May 10, 2010, 05:14:37 PM »

i personally don't like trailer and preview entries, and prefer review entries...

I totally agree. I've always found previews to be an odd thing to write about/hype. Often times things change so much by the time the product is released, it may turn out that your hard work covering the preview only ended up putting out misinformation and incorrect expectations -- but then I guess that's the job of the hype man, just get the buzz going. I just look for a release date and ignore them.

The one time I went against that was while following Spore (for years) which came back to bite me with that same misinformation and incorrect expectations. C'est la vie.
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« Reply #13 on: May 11, 2010, 09:57:32 AM »

Don't get me wrong, hyping a game before it comes out and doing a short story about a playable demo or the like is great, especially for the indy crowd (if the game is anywhere near being finished). Dev blogs are wonderful for this sort of thing. What I dislike is the full stories about what amounts to little more than a concept or a proof of concept that may give you SOME insight to the game, but in the end is almost nothing like the released product -- IF the product even gets released.

I know marketing and advertising is a big part of getting your product out there (indy or not) but having a full write-up about something that is too early to tell if they can pull off what they say they are going to, before there is any substance to the vaporware, is just for attention and anticipation. We don't need more Duke Nukem Forevers...
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« Reply #14 on: May 11, 2010, 11:09:05 AM »

We don't need more Duke Nukem Forevers...

I always laugh when I see comments like this.  But that's beside the point of this thread...  Big Laff

In general, I agree with Paul.  I prefer to hear (read) about something that's finished, has great value, and can be immediately enjoyed by the masses.  I've always believed that if something is truly fun, compelling, and generally worthwhile, it will find its way into peoples hands.
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« Reply #15 on: June 03, 2010, 03:30:19 PM »

there's a guest editor system, remember -- feel free to contribute an article. we don't work full time at this and are unpaid (unlike most game news blogs). if i were able to make a living just by playing and reviewing indie games, i'd do that every day. but it's only mainstream games journalist who have that luxury.
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« Reply #16 on: June 08, 2010, 06:31:08 PM »

Good discussion fellas.  Debate?  Discussion?  We all agree?  Cheesy

This site continues to make important strides, and it's quickly become my go-to source for indie news and reviews.   I don't mind previews when the game is nearly done/about to be released.  One thing I'd like to see a little more of is more editorial pieces on prominant indie game topics.

I am going to remember this thread and help bring it back right on topic.  I've just started putting together and releasing my PR materials for my first game which is finally done.   I am well braced for utter rejection and a cold hard butterslap in the face.  And then throw in a volcanic explosion of 'who gives a poo' since it's XBLIG.  We'll see - I have a nice list of PR contacts, and I am curious to see what the general response is.

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Dustin Smith
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« Reply #17 on: June 08, 2010, 08:14:35 PM »

I have to agree with Paul on both counts -- we're all unpaid enthusiasts (nobody on Play This Thing owns a current gen console) and reviews entries trump previews & trailers.

A quick Google search doesn't show much in the way of an XBLIG/PSN/WiiWare review outlet. If you could round up a handful of dev's for these networks that have decent writing chops you could get an entire site dedicated to these games. You'd certainly fulfill your own niche.
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« Reply #18 on: June 08, 2010, 08:23:46 PM »

robert fearon / oddbob and others actually run a site just for reviewing xblig games, it's pretty great -- http://www.xnplay.co.uk/

but one for wiiware/psn/xblig combined would be nice too
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« Reply #19 on: June 09, 2010, 05:36:15 PM »

xnplay is straight up the bomb

there's actually a good amount of others too (I like this site: http://www.xblaratings.com/), but we're dealing with a much smaller user base of course

what I miss is that Nick the Dude used to do really solid video reviews on a youtube channel - then he got a real 9 to 5....
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