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uDevGames Reboot Brainstorm

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Post: #1
Main Question:
What makes uDevGames relevant in 2013 and beyond?

Main Points of Discussion:
Any relevant points of discussion will be edited in here by me (or any mod really).

Decisions:
If any get made Smile

Alex
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Post: #2
Proposal:
Regularity: Obviously I'm not laying any blame or anything at all. I'm just saying I think successful contests are regular contests. People can expect them, people can plan around them, they know they are coming and will be back soon. An example is the Ludum Dare, which is held 3 times per year (April, August, and December). This brings people back repeatedly. Planning ahead to multiple contests is a lot of work however.

Discussion:
Open source: A great aspect of uDev in the past has been the great source code that got released at the end of the contest. I loved going in and reading through what was done to make the games I played when I was younger. Unfortunately, that time may have passed. Obviously people can still release it if they want (random idea: maybe a separate voting category for those who do?), but with the Mac and iOS App stores, it's so easy to rip off the code have some scammer submit it to a store to make money. Most people would like to own their games more and be able to sell them on their own later.

Discussion:
iOS vs Mac: Obviously this is an iOS and Mac development forum. Just wanted to bring up the discussion. Is there any way to do an iOS contest? It seems more popular/bring more people in. We don't want to abandon the mac obviously though, and it's a much easier contest to run.

Just some thoughts to get things started.

Alex
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Post: #3
Facts:

1) Hands down, the difficult part about uDG is getting good sponsors for prizes. If it wasn't for that, there's no reason the contest couldn't be slapped together overnight and run regularly.

2) People enter other contests that have no prizes all the time.

3) Other contests without prizes are much shorter.


Question:

If the majority don't want uDevGames to be a short contest, prizes were uDG's past attraction and prizes are dropped, what becomes uDG's new attraction? Why participate?


(I have one absolutely out-of-left-field answer but I'm not sure about it yet.)
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Post: #4
(Jun 2, 2013 10:27 AM)SethWillits Wrote:  Question:

If the majority don't want uDevGames to be a short contest, prizes were uDG's past attraction and prizes are dropped, what becomes uDG's new attraction? Why participate?

Answer:

A longer contest lets a person learn about the contest late and still develop a worthwhile entry – whereas if you don't learn about Ludum Dare before it begins, or if you don't have the time to develop your entry in the two days LD runs for, you have to wait three months to compete in a two day contest.

A longer contest lets there be time for entries for iOS (or for any other platform for which apps require approval) to go through the approval process, thus a longer process lets people develop entries for a wider variety of platforms.

If the contest is a regular contest (I agree with EvolPenguin that regularity is important, and I think twice a year – once during the summer and once during the winter – would be ideal), then there's the opportunity to implement ladders based on public or peer voting – and I think that ladders would foster greater competition and inventiveness than the possibility of winning a prize.

As an alternative – or addition – to themes, the contest could have non-traditional categories entries could be awarded points in – eg. "most surprising" – categories changing with each contest.

Mark Bishop
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Student and freelance OS X & iOS developer
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The biggest hurdle is prizes. If prizes are dropped what new thing would make uDG interesting. A long uDG even with prizes was apparently not all that interesting the last two times anyway, so a long uDG without prizes is surely even less interesting and not worth running unchanged.
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Post: #6
Despite the site being around for some time, there are still people that don't know of it. So you really need to do heavy PR to get the masses to take interest. And you have to do PR during the course of the contest. Especially reach out to various colleges and groups supporting various frameworks/APIs, like OpenGL people, SDL, etc.

The level of sponsors must be wide, from the coveted dev tool to that nifty little utility from a small software company. Try to get prizes from game asset companies. (ie sound, 3d models, etc) Cash & hardware prizes was always a boon.

My feeling was that iOS platform has attracted people who are focuses on making $$$. I think the Mac on the other hand still has many hobbyist. (Not sure I stated that right, but maybe you get the idea.) I would include a category for prizes called 'Best Multi-platform'. So if devs have their game running on iOS, Android, PC as well as the Mac, then give kudos via prizes.

Initially the purpose of me launching the contest was because I felt we needed more examples of source code for Mac developers to look at. Following that reason, we needed something to force small/indies to work in a high pressure environment to get them into the mindset of pro developers. And of course, with the prizes coming in, the ability to put better tools into the hands of promising developers was important to me.

How to make uDG relevant in 2013? I think if you can somehow turn the winning games into a great ‘bundle’, that might be the new angle to take. So source code requirements stay in effect, people still get prizes, but you work towards polishing and getting more levels for the bundle version. Sell the pack at a reasonable price and provide those devs with a cut. Also consider getting a booth at a game show to market the games further.

Try to get a commitment from Game Dev magazine for them to publish the winning game’s postmortem. Exposure like that for a small dev is worth its weight in gold.

You also need to reach out to Apple to get a link in the app store so your bundle will be shown. I recall when Peter Cohen ran some coverage of the contest on Apple.com, it was very helpful.

Cheers

Carlos A. Camacho,
Founder
iDevGames
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(Jun 3, 2013 04:56 AM)Carlos Camacho Wrote:  How to make uDG relevant in 2013? I think if you can somehow turn the winning games into a great ‘bundle’, that might be the new angle to take....

Interesting. That's somewhat along the lines of my crazy idea. I still need to noodle on it before I say anything.


PR is ridiculous. Maybe I'm just terrible at it (I don't do any for my own apps, actually, so I have no practice), but despite all of my efforts it failed miserably during the last contest.

I think it will require making actual contact and commitments well in advance, but getting commitments will require the contest being much more interesting to developers. Either way, help on the PR side would be nice.
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(Jun 3, 2013 04:56 AM)Carlos Camacho Wrote:  Initially the purpose of me launching the contest was because I felt we needed more examples of source code for Mac developers to look at.

I think this is still relevant today. Up-to-date OpenGL game code for the Mac is really hard to find. For experienced devs like long-time iDG members, getting up to speed with the latest OpenGL is not much more than an annoyance. But for total newcomers, forget it, they're out of luck!

In a Mac contest, I'd prefer that certain game libraries and engines be prohibited. For example, as much as Unity3D is awesome, they have their own community and don't need free promotion here. Another example would be cocos2d, which has a large community and does not need help from iDG. So if all you want to do is make a game for the Mac, there are mainstream resources to do that now. Therefore I'd like to see a more "back to the roots" game contest where the hobby hacker gets a chance to show off some skills and share some code.

=====

My thoughts about iOS contests:

I think Carlos is spot-on about iOS mostly attracting developers because of the money, not as a hobby.

Further, there is absolutely no need whatsoever to see any more source code for iOS apps, so a contest for iOS really doesn't need an open source requirement. Indeed, the thieves out there would just take your app and submit it for themselves, as we've seen far too many times. I for one have zero interest in entering an iOS contest where I share source code. We don't need any more developers on iOS. The only draw for me to enter an iOS contest (if I had time, which I currently do not) would be to gain exposure for the app, which could be quite lucrative for the winner, and even quite helpful for the losers. So there would be no need for prizes either, since the prize is free advertising. Considering the cost of ads for iOS these days, that value is much higher than probably all of the previous uDG prizes combined, and then some.
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Post: #9
Always look for a win-win situation. So when approaching sponsors, you need to convey that. Some of course will join simply because they support the idea of the contest.

I'm wondering if you could create a Humble Bundle of developer centric apps during the contest. So on the sponsor's page, put the bundle on it. So not only do they get PR, but also some potential sales.

You should also get them to offer promo codes like 'uDevGames2013' and get 15% off their software. Provide direct links to purchase.

Again, think win-win.

There are so many students across the country learning computer science. You need to find ways to reach them to get 'em involved.

Don't forget to create a press kit with banners that devs and others can use to put on their web sites.

cheers

Carlos A. Camacho,
Founder
iDevGames
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Post: #10
I think maybe we shoot for too many prizes. The big, once-a-year, twenty-different-winners-unless-oh-crap-Justin-Fic-just-registered-well-he-can't-win-ALL-the-prizes-can-he-I-wouldn't-put-it-past-him extravaganzas were fun, but like Carlos said, prize-wrangling was a royal pain.

Most contests have fewer prizes. As a bonus, if the contest is actually run regularly you may find it easier to attract a few more prizes.

I just had a crazy idea- a sort of cross between Kickstarter, Humble Bundle, and iDevGames.

• The prizes are a % of the prize pool. 1st prize 50%, 2nd prize 25%, and so on down. (Any distribution curve you want.)
• A portion of the entry fee would go into the prize pool.
• Anyone could contribute to the prize pool! Just like the humble bundle, the leaderboard would show the top donators, who could use it to advertise.
• The contest would be run regularly. The first ones might be quite small. But in theory the bigger the prize pool, the better the contestants, and (to a lesser extent) the more contributors are attracted to donate.
• Portion to charity.

I'm not saying this would be easy to build or manage. It would not. It's the hard parts from Kickstarter, the Humble Bundle, and iDevGames, combined. Much harder than scaring up a dozen software licenses for prizes.

But it's refreshingly direct: the level of demand for the contest from players, advertisers and contestants directly feeds back into the contest's size. If the contest sometimes is 5 hobbyists battling to win back their entry fee, so be it. Over time it could snowball.

I don't suppose we could con the Humble Bundle guys into running this for us? :-)

Measure twice, cut once, curse three or four times.
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Post: #11
Promotion of an app is definitely the toughest thing these days, so a prize that guarantees some great promotion would certainly attract many developers.

A promo that would guarantee an iTunes App Store Featured spot would be ridiculous.

Having a Kickstarter-like model might be great, especially with the charity angle.

Does anyone know the Humble Bundle guys? Matt's idea seems like a unique take on what they've done so far.

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I have serious doubts about any attempt at a Humble Bundle partnership.

1) They wouldn't even return my emails to ask if they'd even put up a simple prize for uDG. (For those who don't know, David Rosen who was a well-known regular here and in uDG started Humble Bundle, but now they are supposedly 'a separate entity'.)

2) Humble Bundle is all about completely cross platform games. In all uDGs combined, very few games have ever been compatible on even one other platform.

3) We are relative nobodies compared to them. If HB was to do a contest, they could run their own and have a few hundred entrants in a matter of hours. There's simply no reason to run one with us.

-

One of the extreme ideas I had was iDevGames could become a publisher of sorts. The contests would become a filtering process for finding a few good games. Those few good games (maybe one) would be selected and iDG would supply some money for that developer to spend directly on development (art, music, whatever). The sales from the game would be earned exclusively by iDG until the Cost was recouped, split evenly for a while longer until some other Number is reached, and then maybe a tiny percentage for a set time or some max total is reached.

The contest serves as a great way to find the "right" game(s) to support, the financial backing helps the developer finish and polish the game, and then iDG earns its money back plus some in order to offer more money to the next developer(s).

I'm not suggesting this, but it's a thought I had.


The other part is where to get initial seed money, whether the public can offer donations/kickstarts to the contest as a whole, individual entries, during or after the contest, whether some bundle of the top or all games is created and sold through — (problem is, if all the games are free anyway...), etc.

Raising money during the contest and splitting money it between entrants is a logical thing to do, but it's an even harder sell than the majority of kickstarter campaigns. With Kickstarter you're almost always seeing a working prototype, where with uDG the whole point is to do it within those three months starting from nothing. How can people be expected to support you in/with sufficient numbers if they can't really see what you're working on until maybe half way through the contest, know whether you'll finish it by the end of the contest, and be guaranteed to work on it after until it's in some fun and complete state. It seems like a good idea, but the issue is how to make it worthwhile to the random Joe who wants to give you money. In other words, I don't think such a system can rely on the "charity" of others. Not on this website anyway.


I have had a dozen other thoughts, but those are some to chew on.
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Hmm, really good points on HB. It'd be nice if there was some connection still, but maybe it's been too long Sad. And yeah, there's no benefit to them right now. On a totally random note: I'm still waiting for Overgrowth dammit Rasp.

The publisher idea is interesting. I don't know how much developers would be interested, you'd have to find the right terms and everything. However, one hit game would put iDev on the map for this. I think the culture right now is "indie" in the most full sense, people want to put their own name on things and be known for their products. And the "no-one helped" but still made millions stories like Minecraft etc make everything think they can do the same. I think in general publishers are not looked upon as... valued(?) by developers right now. They think they can do it all based on the couple of people who did. The idea is cool and could be a very valuable process, the question is if people would join. I dunno though, I think if we had a consistent contest and some good games out it could draw a good crowd in the end. I think I like this idea the best. Bootstrapping it still remains the most difficult part of the equation.

The kickstarter idea, while in vogue and cool, seems risky and least likely to succeed. There are already problems with people not completing the things that people pay for on kickstarter, and here we have a whole bunch of people who are only entering a contest.

Overall cool ideas though, I think it's a direction we have to head to be interesting.

Alex

Minor continuation: That was one of the prizes of the OMG contest, was freeverse publishing the game. Although it didn't end up working out if I remember correctly. I think a potential feature of the "publisher" idea at the beginning would be to allow the winner to publish under their own name if they wished, but give them support like advertising on mac/ios gaming sites etc. Just a potential idea to help bootstrap. On the other hand the whole point is to build the brand, so I dunno.
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So totally random thought: what if we removed the assumption that uDevGames must be a contest at all?

I do like the idea of setting up some sort of bundle of all the games, so what I'm thinking is this: instead of a contest with winners and sponsors and prize pools and all that, the goal becomes the bundle of games itself. And we just plain ol' sell it the way bundles are sold.

I'm working off the idea that ALL of us can market better than ANY of us. And in uDevGames the contest, each entrant does the PR for *their own* game individually. There is no motivation whatsoever for an entrant to market someone else's game, or even the collection of games as a whole.

So instead of each entrant ONLY doing PR for their own entry and Seth doing PR for the contest itself, *everyone* does PR for the bundle. With enough people pushing the same message in the same direction, it might be enough to get a lot of attention. If the bundle is good enough and makes enough money, it will attract developers, both new and seasoned, to the site to get into the next one.

The bundle needs to be regular, and I'm kind of picturing it like a quarterly software mag, or even a pulp mag. Every "issue" could have like 5-10 games in it, and developers are encouraged to enter again and again, so if there's a star developer their continued presence could actually help push the mag.

The bundle would be similar to Humble— limited time only, pay what you want, no DRM, with money going to the site, charity, and individual developers. I wouldn't bother going to Humble about it though. I agree with Seth's points— they're big time now and they know it, and have no reason to help us.

As for the games, we keep the rules from uDG the contest: 3 month dev cycle, must be from scratch. Sequels (actually) encouraged, or even games meant to be serial/episodic in nature, as well as cool original one-offs. I'm still ok with stuff like Unity/Cocos, although I would say we enforce a maximum filesize.

And as for community/education, which is the point of the contest, we could reinstate the devblogs from 2004/2008, and encourage the authors to write up some in the form of articles as they go. I would encourage source code in the form of useful snippets and algorithms, as opposed to whole projects that anyone can just dump on the app store (which has now happened three times, to Lugaru, Felinity, and The Supporter.)

I just think it would be cool if the uDG was rebooted such that individual developers were motivated to work together and push ALL the games, and help each other out as well along the way, so the bundle as a whole is as good as possible. And for there STILL to be motivation to have the best game, but let it be an intrinsic motivation, and optional at that. (Maybe we get someone who doesn't *want* to have the BEST game, just a good one that they make an episode of every issue.)

And on a personal level, it would also mean I could enter the next uDG and instead of:

Quote:oh-crap-Justin-Fic-just-registered-well-he-can't-win-ALL-the-prizes-can-he-I-wouldn't-put-it-past-him

it could be more like

Quote:oh-crap-Justin-Fic-just-registered-this-issue-is-gonna-be-badass-we-should-get-in-on-this-Wink

Anyway, just some food for thought. Let me know what y'all think— if it's not appropriate for uDG itself, I'd still love to do some sort of software mag-type project.

Justin Ficarrotta
http://www.justinfic.com
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Post: #15
Damnit, Fic. Why do you have to have such a good idea? Wow

I like this for a lot reasons, although I propose a few modifications:

1) No open source requirement. Although it'd be strongly favored to open source as much as possible, not requiring the games be open source would allow much more flexibility in technologies able to be used. (perhaps someone wants to license some proprietary C++ engine that only comes in source files) We've also had a couple problems with people taking uDG entries and putting them up on the App Store. Not requiring source would make that harder, and might ease the fears of some developers. For philosophical reasons, I liked the requirement of open sourcing the games, but for more practical reasons, I think it shouldn't be a requirement anymore. I never found myself going through the source for these games, anyway. (Seriously, I don't want to read your messy code hacked together in a couple coding binges, anyway Rasp )

2) Every entry requires a postmortem. This, I found, to be the biggest reason I loved uDG. There were always tons of interesting stories and advice in these, and it was a shame that only the people who won prizes made them. The winning games' code wasn't as useful for making my own games as compared to the story of how the winning games were made.

3) The normal uDG is done annually or semiannually, with voting and judging done similarly to the 2011 uDG. There wouldn't necessarily be any prizes or any consequences of the vote, but if people want to award prizes, now would be when it'd be done.

4) A secondary "finalization" run done in the 3 months after each uDG, where devs would polish up their games from the 3 months before, and *then* they'd be up for sale in the bundle format. In this period, we'd start fanning around the magical advertising glitter.
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