Telling your story with Dream Build Play–the $5000 developer diary challenge

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Dream Build Play is well under way and everyone is hammering away at their keyboards (or waving their arms in the air for Mixed Reality entries) working to perfect their masterpiece entry for the competition.  Your journey however should not be an isolated task, you need to tell your audience what you’re doing, what you’re up to and the challenges you face. You need to shout about it to let everyone know how hard you’re working and these days, you can even earn some extra cash for doing so.

If you haven’t done so already, check out Andrew Parsons latest news post, updating everyone on the progress of the contest!


The Great Developer Diary Contest

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As promised in my recent posts about the Dream Build Play contest, a new challenge has arisen in addition to the main event. The challenge is to chronical or tell the story of your DBP journey from its humble beginnings to your final submission.

If it’s a competition, there must be rules of course but these thankfully are fairly easy to manage:

  • A minimum of 5 posts for the duration of the competition

  • The complete set of posts have to cover a period of at least 30 days

  • For Blog posts, you need to write a minimum of 350 words per post (no maximum, although the judges may disagree with post the size of “war and peace”)

  • For video posts, they each need to be at least 8 minutes long (if you do live stream recording, best to edit it down to just the important “outtakes”)

  • Maximum 1 entry per-person – so if you are a team, you each have a chance of winning with your own diaries!

So a minimum of 5 posts, text or video, that cover a period of more than 30 days. E.G. Post 1 on 1st September and post 5 after 1st October
Last day to qualify for the Diary competition and still have a chance of winning is 1st December 2017, giving you 30 days with the last post no sooner than 31st December, closing day
 

Through the course of your journey, keep in mind the judges are looking for some specific content in your posts, namely:

  • Talking about your game, the project, what you are building and why (the obvious stuff)

  • Big up the stuff you are really proud of and Unique features of your game

  • Go through the technology you are using, what engines frameworks and components you have used. (nudge, focus on anything Microsoft’y )

  • Walk through your personal journey and the team you are working with (if you have one). Include the cat/dog/children if they are helping (or aiming to destroy your entry and take over the world)

  • Highlight any specific challenges you have faced and how you overcame them (or will overcome them if they are on the “Fix after the competition”

  • Light up your dreams for the project once it’s finished (even if that is after the competition), where do you see it going and even the other platforms you want to take it to beyond UWP

  • If you have more plans after the competition to add to the project, funky DLC or more levels, then shout about it

Above all, just have fun.  I’ve found such activities a nice distraction from the pain of developing projects / titles, they help you reflect on what you have done and can even give you fresh perspective hearing yourself talk about it out loud.


Judging Criteria

Highlighting this from the Diary Competition T&C’s, these are the specific criteria the judges will be using for reviewing and scoring your Diary Entries.  The entries are taken as a whole, not on a per post basis (unless one of your posts doesn’t qualify against the above criteria)

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Where can I do this diary thing anyway?

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There are soo many options these days for Blogging / Vlogging / Logging, it can be hard which to choose. Ultimately you want something easy to use, doesn’t require a lot of work and above all, is FREE. 

One tip I usually give out is NOT to use your personal service, unless it’s one you have specifically about the game itself.  Setup a new account for EACH game or project you work on so that the content is focused on that game.  Later you may include some of that content in your Game Studio’s website, but keep each projects blog info in a single place.  if you need to refer to other game / video / content, then just link / embed it. Just keep each project focused so that readers don’t get overloaded or lost.

So, let’s run through a few of the options open to you:

Blogging Services

First let’s run through some of my personal favourites in the blogging space. As you know I blog a LOT and syndicate that work out, so I’ve tested and used practically all of these services in some shape or form.  In no particular order, I’d like to introduce:

DevPost (Markdown)

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DevPost is a great service that is geared around development projects and hackathons. It gives you options to detail your project, the team and even offers GitHub integration that links with your project as well.

To top it off, it also has a Blogging service centred around the project for you to post updates and news about your project.  Note that the site uses Markdown as it language of choice for writing posts.
DevPost does have one really annoying feature to be aware of, it is a “Fire and Forget” post system. Once you hit POST, you CANNOT update it Confused smile

Devpost is the syndicated site I use for all my DreamBuildPlay resources and posts

 

GameDev.NET (Inbuilt editor)

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Unaware to most, unless you actively use it, is that GameDev.NET (A premier game development info/news site), also enables anyone to create their own community blogs on the site itself.  I myself recently set one up to syndicate my DBP content there.  It has a very friendly interface which should be very familiar to anyone who’s commented on any site and you can attach images / videos and such to posts if you wish.  My only real complaint with this service, is that it doesn’t support draft posts, so you have to create any publish in one go.

 

WordPress (Inbuilt Editor with API support)

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WordPress has been the mainstay of many a blogger for many years with a very stable platform. They also offer a FREE service to host your blog under their Internet namespace (e.g.  “myblog.wordpress.com) with a massive 3GB of storage space, which is more than enough for a lifetime of posts with fairly hefty images (just not your Unity builds).  If you want your own custom domain name for your site, they offer paid plans to upgrade to as well.  I Personally use WordPress myself but installed on my own hosts as the software itself is also freely available.  Most of my blogging is done using the tools listed below in the “Useful Tools and Resources” section, so I don’t even have to visit my site if I don’t want to for posting.  It really is a versatile and free platform!

 

Itchio (inbuilt RichText editor)

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Itchio is a well-known and much-loved distribution service for games, near rivalling Steam and other outlets but completely FREE.  It also offers options to sell your game as well.  It’s also fantastic for GameJams / Hackathons or any case where you want to distribute a release or tech build of your game to the wider public.  You can keep your game up to date either with DevLog posts and / or new releases, either of which (provided you meet the post requirements) will be sufficient for DBP

 

Patreon (Inbuilt RichText editor with option audio / video support)

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Most tech-bloggers and content creators as well as some game developers have already used Patreon to operate as a crowdfunding system, in fact, quite a few game dev bloggers use it to generate income for tutorials and some really kick-ass stuff.  The charging is optional however and you can choose to simply run it as a blog and selectively charge if you wish, giving you many options for how you run your page.  It can be a bit cumbersome to get started with all the options they throw at you but once you are up and running, it’s fairly easy to navigate around.  Patreon also recently launched a “Live Stream” feature, so you could also use this as a video service if you so wished.

– DIY

Of course, if (like me) you prefer to control your own destiny, you can just use either your existing blog site (so long as you tag DBP posts separately and use that link) or use Azure to host your own Free blog site (both Ghost and WordPress are good free options on Azure).

 

There literally are no limitations with regards to blog services, so long as the URL you post to your Diary Contest entry ONLY has those posts listed.  If judges need to wade through other non-DBP content, it will likely not bode well for you.  Like most tech-pundits and reviewers, they only want to see quick and easy to reach content about your specific product, so bear that in mind.

 

Video Services

If you are more visual and/or are already fed up of typing with all the development going on, you can always just switch on your camera and talk to your hearts content.  Some find it easier, others can become shy but just go for it. Talk about your project as if you are telling a close friend, cry on their shoulder with the troubles you face and scream with excitement at the challenges you have overcome.  It can be just you, or a presentation you are talking over. Just make it interesting to watch and above all, have fun!

For the bravest amongst you, you might live stream record your journey, which is a great way to pick up fans and have people talking about your project.  just be sure to edit it down for the diary competition entries, the judges will have tons to go through, so be sympathetic to their plight.

Just make sure your Videos for the Diary (play-throughs don’t really count) need to be at least 8 Minutes long and keep in mind, don’t make it TOO long, else Judges will either fall asleep, or potentially get too engrossed watching!

Without further to-do, here are some of the recommended services you can use for your video diary:

Mixer

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Mixer is Microsoft’s own video stream service (previously called Beam), with a ton of features focusing mainly on game streaming.  As you can already see from the DBP competition, Microsoft already put a lot of emphasis on using Mixer with your game (if you can). For extra Kudos, you should take advantage of Mixers unique brand of Game Integration capabilities for streamers through an extensive API, allowing consumers to directly influence a Streamers broadcast through the click of a button or even controlling with a gamepad.  That being said, if you are going to do Video diaries of your game, I highly recommend setting up a free account and using Mixer.  I would even go so far as to also recommend streaming / recording play-testing of your game on Mixer throughout the lifetime of your game (even beyond the host competition).  You can even add rewards for viewers with your game if you offer DLC or add-in content, so repeated watching actually earns people “stuff” (Just checked and I recently earned some WOT, Halo Wars and Battle Islands free DLC, just for watching)

Twitch

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Twitch is Mixer’s main competition (except YouTube) and is the original “streaming” service available to most games.  Its popularity skyrocketed since its launch being used for games, live tournaments and Vloggers alike.  It’s an obvious choice if that’s what you are used to and offers a host of built in tools to get you up and streaming / recording fairly quickly.

YouTube

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YouTube is as YouTube does, we all know it is a fantastic and easy to use Video hosting service and in recent years also started offering its own brand of streaming service to keep pace with the streaming trend.  Only recommendation when using YouTube, is to create a separate dedicated Channel for your DBP entry (actually, it’s good advice for any new project, Just DON’T use your personal account).  You don’t need a separate login/account, just create a new Channel.  Give the new channel a name and what it is about and you’re done.  Best of all, it’s FREE!

Vimeo

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Vimeo is the unsung hero of the video world, but offers enough tools and support to rival its bigger brothers. It’s hard to say why it’s not as favourable but it is a very capable service.  You can create a new account for Free and start uploading straight away and it offers some interesting tools to help you on your journey.

 


Useful tools and resources

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Now I would be remiss if I didn’t round off with a little extra help and walking you through some of the tools I use to integrate with the above services. Whether you are typing, videoing, streaming or annotating, there are tons of resources out there to help you get the best professional look.  Granted a lot of the services above do provide their own editors and content management systems, so these are tools I use to enhance my experience but they are mostly optional.

Here’s my list:

  • OpenLiveWriter – My go-to software for writing posts for WordPress, it does however support many other blogging software like Google Blogger, Sharepoint, TypePad and more.

  • Markdown Monster –  A monster Markdown writing tool with preview / editing / publishing and rendering features. Very powerful (although personally I currently use VSCode for Markdown, MM is tempting me over with its extensive features)

  • SnagIt – Need a snip off the screen, a quick video / gif of what you are seeing or even a Panoramic capture of a scrollable area. This is my absolute must tool for scraping and quick recording (also used to help create this article!)

  • Camtasia – My go to software for desktop recording and all in one multi-track video/audio editing.  It’s not free but does have a free trial and there is an older FREE version of Camtasia for quick screen recordings if you google it 😀

  • Xbox Game bar – Most still don’t realise there is an in-built full game (and screen, nudge nudge) streaming recording system built direct in to Windows 10, on both the Xbox and PC.  Just hit Win+G and up it pops.  Even supports broadcasting now as well.

  • Audacity – For the audibly inclined, Audacity is the go to tool for voice / audio recording and editing tool. Tons of features with multi-track support, you simply cannot go wrong with this tool. (useful for audio podcasts and diaries too)

 


The Notable mentions

Quite a few devs have already taken up arms in their race to meet the demands of the DBP Diary competition, with some awesome shots of progress so far.  I do hope they make playable versions online we can try:

  • Antimatter Instance by Tarh Ik – Some games do truly defy categorisation and this one certainly fits that bucket as a martial arts vs boxing brawler named after an astrophysics concept
  • Puck-Off by Erik Skoglund – A great little table-top ice hockey game with 4-Player multiplayer already!
  • The Long Night by Charles Humphrey (aka @NemoKrad) a Scifi Story driven game about humanity rediscovering it’s spacefaring journeys and discovering new races.image

Happy Blogging / Vlogging / Whatever

Make sure you take time for yourself with the competition. Unlike most gamejams, you will take regular breaks, sleep and maybe even take in a movie or two, so don’t sweat it too much.  So, when you are taking breaks, contemplating your project and where it’s going, also think about jotting down your thoughts in a post or video and you may end up with an extra cheque in the post (do they really still have those?) and bag that extra cash.

If nothing else, you will have loads of extra material to showcase your game to players and get them playing!

Above all, HAVE FUN!

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