Saturday, June 9, 2012

Topics to Make Your Developer Blog Interesting

At the game company that I work for, we've discussed internally about starting a new blog to build our studio brand and more importantly, attract new hires. We've had two brainstorms about topics that we think the blog should cover and as with all brainstorms, many out-of-the-box ideas came from it. Thinking about this more, I think it's not really a big secret about what makes a good developer blog.

To start, who is the target audience of this new blog? I think it can be broken down into three categories. The first are people who have talent but aren't currently in the games industry. To attract this group as hires, we just have to show them why games are the industry to be in. Thankfully, we have so many employees who are passionate about games. We live and breathe games. We should write about why games are important to us. We should show the awesome games we're working on, the amazing art we produce at the company, the fun game challenges we do, and cool tech demos of our game engines.

The second category are people who are in the games industry, but don't have that superstar talent yet. Attracting this group to our blog is easy. We have to educate them. Personally, I only ever spend time reading another company's blog if it's informational or educational. I'm a busy man so I'd only dedicate my time to reading and following a blog if I feel like I can walk away learning something new or thinking about something in a new way.

Fortunately, we have a lot of great talent in our company. Game designers should write about game design theory, dissect a game that they're currently playing, or walk through the reasons they've made a certain decision in our games. Artists should write about art techniques, or about the many iterations of art designs that a single game went through and the reasons why those changes were made. Programmers should write about programming problems they've encountered and the clever solutions they find, or introduce new tools that they started using. Analytics and revenue teams should write about how data drives game design or what kind of UI has been proven to monetize. Producers can write about their experiences with scrum or tips for managing a team.

There is such a breadth and depth of knowledge to be shared. While I understand that many things of the company are disclosed for contractual reasons, close-to-full transparency and sharing of knowledge is the best thing your blog can have. Ronimo, the developers of the fantastic Awesomenauts, has a great developer blog written by the lead programmer that is very transparent about their programming problems, art iterations, and even unreleased game concepts. I'm subscribed to over 600 blogs and this is easily one of my top five blogs to follow.

Finally, the third category are people who have the talent and are in the games industry, but they're just with another company. To attract this group, we have to show them what we offer as a company that others don't. Most certainly, the best thing about the company is that we empower employees to have creative freedom and give them many avenues to express themselves and have their voices heard.

We run a weekly brainstorm meeting where we tackle design challenges a project is facing. Every employee can attend the meeting and throw out ideas, no matter how crazy or farfetched they are. As we always say, there are no bad ideas in the brainstorm. We have an idea submission process where any employee can submit a snippet of a game idea and then a dedicated team develops a prototype of the idea in two weeks. If the idea is great, it might even turn into a full-production game for the world to play. We also run annual game jams where the entire company steps out of their everyday roles and get inspired to make off-the-wall games. Not many game companies give their employees the channels to have their creativity expressed, so that is definitely a strength of ours that we can expose.

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