Blade Edge

Computer software | Video production | My life in general

Blade Edge about header

You and Your Blob errr Blog

May 22nd, 2008 · 1 Comment · Personal

Last month, I wrote a small feature for Josh Dallman’s blog Casual Indie. The feature was edited down for size so I’ve been waiting to post the full, unedited version here to my journal. Enjoy!


Even though I manage to keep myself pretty damn busy these days helping to run, there are always times where I just want to sit back and unwind during the week. Playing games isn’t much of an option – it’s too easy to let my weak-willed self get sucked in for hours and then oops, that article I was supposed to have published already? Yeah… not good. Instead, to take my mind off work for a little bit I like to foray out and check up on what other people are doing by reading their blogs. It’s a great distraction, sometimes it even gets the gears in my head turning thoughtfully, many times I’m made wonderfully aware of cool sites or videos, and every time I can finish catching up on a particular blog and say “that was fun – back to work!” Well, unless I’m stupid enough to check out a game link – I warn dare you not to get addicted to that game (Damn you, Trent!!).

Besides being a nice distraction for me however, blogs serve many uses for their creators (you) and there are lots of good reasons why many developers out there have blogs these days. If you don’t currently own or operate a blog, I’m about to make several strong (some would say obvious) cases as to why you should. If you already own and/or operate a blog, then perhaps you can glean some additional insight into how to best take advantage of it. First off though, it’s important for me to note that I’ll only be talking about two kinds of blogs: Personal and Company. There is also a third type I like to call Media blogs, like the Indie Games Weblog or Kotaku. Although I love visiting blogs like these as well, they’re not the kind I frequent when I’m looking for a break, and they’re not the kind many people will be seeking to emulate.

Personal blogs in this context refers to a blog belonging to and operated by a single individual (such as the ever loveable creator of Crayon Physics Petri Purho). It does not mean that it is a blog used to detail one’s personal life. Although we all have interesting stories to tell about ourselves, and many are suitable for sharing, that trip to the doctor’s office to get the tube inserted into the… yeah uhm, we all don’t need to know about that one. Company blogs are when a development company owns the blog (like Cryptic Sea) and various team members post to it. No, a Personal blog owned by the sole proprietor of a company (like Petri’s Kloonigames) is not considered a Company blog, as that company is their personal property and not its own entity. Thank you, Mona, for educating me on business entities better than my college course ever did, BTW.

Blog Goodness #1: Exposure

The most obvious benefit to having a blog for yourself or your company is exposure. Don’t worry, I’m referring to the decent kind here. Obviously people who come to read your blog will learn more about you and your company, if you so choose to provide them with constant updates of acceptable quality. How do you get people to read your blog? The first thing you should do is simply tell your friends. Pass around links to entries you make and solicit feedback, don’t be afraid to poke and prod to get people to check it out – they’re your friends and they will support you. Once you have your inner circle covered, start expanding your reach and talking to other people who have similar blogs, they’ll most likely list you in their blog roll if they like what you’re doing. Meanwhile, your friends are telling their friends, who are telling their friends – you get the idea. Eventually you could see yourself up on places like Andy Schatz’s website Qatfish, which aggregates high-quality blogs from all over the net.

Blogs do not advertise themselves – people must first know you exist.

Blog Goodness #2: Candidacy

Here’s the next great thing about blogs: the ability to reach out and connect with your audience. People who play your games will feel more attached to the product if they know the developers behind the title. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re all your buddies, but it does create a user base that will stick around from project to project (so long as you stick around). As I mentioned earlier, you’re not looking to share personal stories with your readers, unless those stories pass along some moral or intellectual benefit and wouldn’t make the average person uncomfortable to read. Instead, you mainly want to be as open and honest as possible about your company and your product(s) through your blog. There’s been a delay in the release of the latest patch for your game – don’t tell people: “It’s okay, we’re working on it and it will be out shortly”. Lay it all out and let them know what’s really going on. A Company blog might admit: “Our database servers crashed and we lost a few days worth of data, some is recoverable, most is completely lost and we will have to recode it. The patch will be delayed by at least 5 days, sorry for the inconvenience!” While a Personal blog might admit: “I slept in late and completely forgot I was supposed to release a patch today. Even worse, I didn’t commit it to the CVS repository and it still needs to be built. Check back later tonight – my apologies!” Also, in addition to being outspoken about your company and projects, don’t forget to respond directly to comments people leave for you as well.

People stick with others they can trust. If you’re always honest and open, they won’t have any reason to go away, and every reason instead to stay.

Blog Goodness #3: Motivation

You might not even realize it until you really think about it, but blogs can do wonders for your productivity. How could you possibly disappoint your (hopefully) huge audience of readers and potential players by failing to complete a project? How can you ignore all those many pleas for certain game features? How can you deny yourself the glory of releasing your title to many hyped-up individuals? By the time you’ve accrued a decent following on your blog, you’ve essentially created a cheerleading squad for yourself. Use it. You’ll be amazed at the motivation you’ll get from people genuinely interested in playing your game. Had a bad day? Post about it! You’ll most likely get plenty of comments from your readers to help pick up your spirits and carry on. True, not all games are meant to be completed, but again this is your chance to be open and honest when telling people why you are unable to complete a project. For that last 10% that catches so many developers, having a load of people poking and prodding you along could well be what you need to push through to completion.

It’s not a one-way street. You have to give people something to be excited about! Post lots of cool images and videos and invite random readers to play test at various stages of development.

Blog Goodness #4: Inspiration

In the same vein as motivation comes inspiration, and not just from your readers, but from yourself as well. Don’t be afraid to use your blog as a place to just go and dump out your thoughts through your fingers. It’s not a painful process, I promise. If you’ve done a lot of writing (be it blogging or actual writing), your brain commonly wants to output your thoughts in some sort of structured manner, which is wholly unlike the way a lot of people think. Forcing yourself to place your thoughts in order so you can write them down sometimes has a way of making things clearer to you. Just try it if you don’t believe me. Besides random musings, throwing up simple stuff like sketches and a screenshot of something funny and unexpected (be it a bug or some sort of emergent play) can also generate a lot of feedback from your readers that may lead you to think about things in a new light.

Dreams are great things to get down in your blog, because they don’t commonly last long in your memory.

In Conclusion

Despite all the good stuff I shared above, the most important thing is that they will only help you if your blog has a purpose. Do not create a Personal blog for yourself and over time start posting more entries about your personal life (helpful though they may be) than about your project. Do not create a Company blog with half your staff posting about the game and the other half posting about whatever the hell they feel like or nothing at all. People will come and read your blog for a reason, and although many will probably not admit it that reason is for their own self interest. You’re not blogging about you for you; if there’s nothing in your blog that people can take away and apply to themselves or leave feedback on to feel they are contributing, they will not read it. Make sure at the very start that you know what you’re blogging about, and stay true to that purpose. Make sure everyone active on the blog also shares and understands the purpose of the blog. Finally, make damn sure that your readers understand the purpose of your blog.

Have fun blogging, everyone! I’m off now to tell all my buddies about this cool new blog Casual/… in the meantime, kudos to all you old farts who got the title reference.


One Comment so far ↓

Leave a Comment