Big changes coming to GDU...

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Tim Ruswick #1 89 1452

Hey guys,

So I know its been dead around here for a while. Thats my fault, I ran out of time to do the weekly chats and I stopped doing marketing for GDU...which, with an invite-only community, people cant get in even if they wanted to.

I shot out a survey, I have good understanding of what you guys want, and i'm planning on bigger and better things to help grow the community as well as help you guys be successful.

Here are just a few things that are coming up in teh next month or so:


  1. Switching to Amazon Web Services - Extreme speed increase, better access to the database, secured email (so we can do stuff like email notifictions etc) and less downtime.

  2. Underground Academy - with ocmplete video courses to teach you guys some of the most fundamental aspects of being successful.

  3. Teams within gdu, and project management tools built in to help you and your team communicate and work together.

  4. Badges that are rewarded for certain actions, certain amounts of XP, rep, etc that are displayed on your profile.

  5. A complete overhaul of the game page system. They will include press listings, quotes, and be more akin to press kits, as well as be on their own custom domain name built speciically for gamers (not developers).

  6. Private messages - been requested for a while.

  7. A big surge of new recruits incoming from a lot of industry wide sites and partners


We've had a feature request thread before, I dont want this to be that, but I would love to hear what you guys think of these changes, as well as GDU in general and the improvements you think it needs.

:)

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andyman404 #55 33 216

Kudos on announcing it. Now we're going to help hold you accountable! :)

Some thoughts:

1. Amazon Web Services:

What parts of Amazon Web Services are you planning on using? AWS S3 is great for image/file storage and sharing, and dirt cheap too. Hook it up behind AWS Cloudfront and you get a nice fast content distribution network.

The crummy part of AWS is EC2 - poor performance compared with real VPSs like Linode or Digital Ocean. (Just google "EC2 vs Linode"). What are you hosting on currently that EC2 would be an extreme speed increase? I guess if one is using AWS' database services too, then EC2 would make sense. Just be careful - committing fully to the AWS ecosystem could be much more costly than going with something more generic, especially if you become dissatisfied with it later on and want to move away from it.

2. Underground Academy

Similar to the Manifesto, these videos could be something that draws people in initially. Some videos could be for members only, while some are open to the public. Like cgcookie.com, a video site which focuses on the more technical/art side of game dev, sometimes the first video in a series is open to the public, while the rest of the series are for members only or cost a membership fee.

Also, I'd love to see more useful interviews with industry people - ask successful indie devs, marketers, publishers, review sites, etc - they have different takes on things. Kind of like that one GDU chat night with the guys from IGM.

3. Teams and project management tools

The "project management tools built in to help you and your team communicate and work together" - that sounds big in scope. I don't think that should be prioritized. What value would that tool need to add, that devs can't already get much better value from sites that specialize in project management & team communication such as Trello?

Maybe shift the focus to tools that help the game dev process. Examples:

- Game Design Document maker - interactive questions (branching tree of questions, text fields, and multiple choices) that help a scattered game dev create and flesh out their design doc, and then spits out an initial GDD (text-based or html). The question tree might branch based on genre/features. Has useful tips and "have you considered this and that..." for most question.

- Marketing plan wizard - handholdy tool that takes you from zero marketing plan to a full marketing plan, asking you questions, making you do tasks, and spits out the customized step by step marketing plan, timeline, and checklist.

- Game hook evaluator/augmenter - a bunch of questions that are rough predictors of how successful a game hook/plan is, answer and self grade (or have others grade), to see what its score is, and generate you recommendations on how to augment your game (See the book "David Perry on Game Design A Brainstorming Toolbox" - tons of great questions and evaluations)

- Matchmaking/barter board: there are a lot of solo developers who may need to someone with the skills they don't already have. This helps devs to form teams or get access to skills. Perhaps they can post what skills they need, and what they're willing to pay/trade for it. (ex: Unity expert needs concept artist. Willing to trade for C# programming time or testing time, hour for hour.)

- Member map - maybe you need to find some new teammates locally for collaboration/hands-on-testing, a Google map with pins of members' locations (based on their self-entered location field, not the NSA GPS snooping type) would be useful. Could filter this by "last active" so you can find only the people active on GDU within the last X weeks.


On invites/open:

Thought experiment: what would happen to GDU if it is opened up (no invites needed, anyone can join), or only some parts are invite-only? Pros & cons, new opportunities, opportunities lost. What value does it add to keep GDU invite-only?


On Funding:

This may be private, but how is this going to be funded? Performance hosting takes money. With invite-only, it would not be anywhere near enough traffic to generate the hosting cost through ads. The system takes lots of time and/or money to build AND maintain AND enhance/update so that it doesn't go stale.

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Tim Ruswick #1 89 1452

Andyman!!! Thanks for your input on this dude. I appreciate it.

So we started as a marketing tool, its evolved a little more into a community. I want to keep it as a cool mix of a mini-social network and a set of success tools for indie game dev, and Im happy with the new stuff so far!!!

AWS:

Im going to run GDU on an EC2 instance using PHP and MYSQL, which is what it was built on. Right now its on a shared hosting account, and with our ~200 users its already crashed a few times. I have a copy of the site running on the new instance and ive seen an 8x speed increase, plus I feel confident enough to build things that access the database more than once per page. Everything moving forward is more action/ajax based which makes a really clean UI.

Im also going to use their smtp service to send emails, both for new recruits as well as email notifications. I feel like that will bring people back when they get notified someone replied to them or they went up 2 spots in the ranking. Its going to be opt-in only of course, so you can turn it off.

I know its not the best, but its the best combination of powerful and simple.


Underground Academy:
A LOT is planned here. In fact GDU was founded on the academy idea but I just got too busy I couldnt put anything together. I have a TON of experience in digital marketing and have made hundreds of thousands online selling digital products, games and tools and founded successful software companies, so most of what I teach personally will be on the marketing/sales end - However im looking for a person or people to help with development tutorials for specific platforms related to game dev (like unity) as well, or as you like mentioned talks with successful developers etc. Anything I can do to help everyone be successful. Right now we're building basic technology to support the distribution of that throught the platform.


Project management:
You're totally right. Im not going to build something to compete with Google Docs or Trello.

The team system/collaboration/group is called a "Faction" and its going to be a mix of a clan and a team really. The tools are nothing hugely complex, think more of like a private forum, and a to do list system where you can share and collaborate on items that need to be completed within your faction...and then see what everyone else is working on at a glance.

This will be for small teams with simple goals, it wont work for heavy complex big huge teams.

And then the factions will be ranked just like recruits.

I love your ideas, I think the Design Doc Maker, Marketing Plan maker and the matchmaking barter board ideas are for sure doable and would be a good use to the community. I was also thinking something like a user-managed wiki for game engines and tools etc. And for sure something to help with press. All of those ideas would need to be outlined a lot more though.


Invites/opens.
Idk man. My goal with the invites was 3 things.


  1. If you have to invite someone, the chances of them being a troll are almost 0, and the quality of recruits stays high

  2. Cut down on dead accounts. Like I mentioned I want helpful, high quality people. Not going for numbers.

  3. Barrier to entry always create a higher perceived value, which means that the community and the tools are appreciated more, which means theyre respected and used more often.


Now with that being said, ive been absent the past few months, and I noticed that the activity here is directly related to my activity and how much I push it. And honestly Id like to spend more time building it then pushing it, so Im open. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think it should be opened up?


Funding:
As of now everything is being funded out of my pocket, and it will probably be that way for a while. Im doing some programming in my free time but a lot of this im paying developers for. Being a marketer and an ad development professional, Im really against ads inside the platform just to maintain the quality (I know, Im weird). The plan is to hopefully have some full scale super high-value courses on the academy to raise funds to pay for marketing, hosting and development.

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I think the biggest part of community and activity, is the smaller the community , the level of activity is going to diminish.. Its the same on a lot of smaller dev groups on FB.. Some of the small ones with only 100 members may only see a post a week.. This can be a good thing, but a bad thing to.. More people leads to new ideas and new questions.. As much as I like the invite only system, it really limits it at the same time.

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andyman404 #55 33 216

Thanks for the behind the scenes look into GDU, Tim!

More thoughts on community, open/closed:

I have mixed feelings on whether it should or shouldn't be opened up yet. I do agree with SquigglyFrog that if it is too small, then there is not enough activity to keep things going and keep people coming back. It needs to reach a sustainable critical mass where it can keep going even if you go on vacation - or with enough people in some way invested in keeping the community healthy to help keep it going.

In terms of open/closed gamedev community, one extreme example of the open model would be the Gamedev Reddit. Mini case study: It's got a few hundred devs browsing it at any given moment, a ton of interesting discussions every day, active moderators doing their job, and a mostly respectful but honest group of devs. Very useful for gamedevs who are just lurking even. However, the gamedev reddit "community" is so big that I'll likely not even pay attention to another poster/commenter's name because I'll probably never see their next post or comment amongst the hundreds of other posts/comments generated each day. (It's kind of like going to one of those megachurches where you'll almost bump into the same person twice).

With GDU, it's a cozier, friendlier community, where people actually remember each other, develop connections, can kind/track of see what other devs have been doing across the months (at least the ones who are active and post about it). After a few interactions, you're not strangers anymore.

I like the GDU Skype discussion thing too - quick stuff to share, or encouragement, or just funny stuff. Maybe get a chat thing that is open to all GDU recruits (one that you can look back in the history and see the discussions you missed while you were offline)?

More thoughts on Underground Academy:

I think the marketing/sales tutorials will be very useful. Everyone could always use more info on that. Maybe even focus exclusively indie game marketing/sales tutorials and be the best at making tutorials on this subject. Or expand it to other more generalizable non-technical topics of interest like indie game project planning, managing contractors, evaluating game ideas, sustainable gamedev lifestyle, fundraising, making an awesome promo video for your indie game, that most indie game devs need to know about.

They don't necessarily even need to be video courses all the time. Even just short regular weekly/biweekly/monthly articles/blog posts (open them up to be viewable by the public) would do (see http://www.indiegamegirl.com for an example of a useful resource like that). Then you can tweet/post those articles around, and it would hook people in to GDU. And of course - "For more info, get the complete digital video tutorial series on the subject..."

On the other hand, the technical/platform-specific side may not be as much return on investment: it only pertains to a smaller portion of your audience (too many different platforms, most devs are only interested in the one they're using), goes out of date faster, and you need to compete with plenty of other sites that focus on these technical subjects and do it very well.

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Gorogorosama #170 29 65

Underground Academy:

Would be very interested in this. Marketing is my kryptonite.


Open/Closed

Personally I'd be happy for the GDU to stay closed. Mostly because that makes it different. There are dozens of other gamedev communities we could go to.

Clearly we need more people here for the community to flourish, but that doesn't mean we need to open the floodgates. Just need to make more of an effort to bring in the right people.

One of the issues of course is how do we find aforementioned right people? I have gamedev friends that may fit well here, but what does the GDU offer them that they can't get elsewhere?

If it were a "cozier, friendlier community, where people actually remember each other, develop connections, can kind/track of see what other devs have been doing across the months", that may be cool. But we've still got a ways to go to become that.

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Tim Ruswick #1 89 1452

Guys I've got a couple possible solutions to the open/closed idea.


  1. What about in addition to the invite, we have an application process? So we ask them a few simple questions that are important to the community and the integrity of the underground, and if they pass, they get in.

  2. This one is weird, but I've been messing with HTML 5 games lately and I could make a small game of some sort that the applicant or potential recruit has to beat to join. Now this would stop trolls but it would still keep the barrier to entry higher, which in my experience, making people work a little to get what you have improves the quality of people you get.

  3. What about a steam greenlight type of process. Similar to the application idea, except instead of me choosing, we build a tiny little system where you can vote yes or no on new people and after say 3-5 votes they get in.


Let me know your guys thoughts!

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I'd go for 1 & 3... I dont want to flood this place, as it was said above, there are plenty of other communities, but we need enough people to keep it active and alive.. 1 & 3 would allow that best I think, and get the people we want here..

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Tim Ruswick #1 89 1452

You know number 3 is really growing on me. Im starting to really like the idea. Application allows anyone that wants to join to apply, but the community still gets to have a say in who comes in and who doesnt.

Thinking throught this though, should there only be a yes vote, and say 5 votes and theyre in? Or should there be a no vote as well that subtracts from the yes vote?

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Gorogorosama #170 29 65

I agree with the application / voting system. It also removes the barrier to membership from resting on your shoulders (ie new members can get in even when you are on vacation)

#2 is a cool idea but probably more trouble than it's worth.

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InstantLife #98 47 315

So like with GDU teams would you create a group for like a gamejam or other things and have like a group chat with those people?

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InstantLife #98 47 315

P.S. all of this sounds amazing!!

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