Momonga Monday: 8 Hard Lessons We Learned From Our Dev Blog

A couple of months ago, we decided to start writing blog posts about the development of Momonga. We called it “Momonga Monday” so folks would know when to look for fresh updates.

After three months, the results are not bad at all. We have learned many invaluable lessons and I would like to share them with you.

1. Previews Are Okay

When is something a spoiler? You have seen the end boss, Kuton. You know his background, you know you will face him. You have not yet seen the final fight yourself – you have not played it yet. But is the fact that you know he’s there a good thing? Or is it spoiling your game experience?

Here is my humble guess.

First, nobody wants ANY spoilers for something they are totally into. Suppose Game Of Thrones would blog about the filming process for season 3. I would not want to read it because it will give away the plot.

The other side of this is the cold fact that hardly anybody knows this crazy pinball game we are building. If you don’t know that it exists, you can’t care about it.

My takeaway so far: Plenty of people have seen a picture of the Eiffel Tower. I did. Then I visited Paris, and it is still amazing to see it in real life. Pictures of the Eiffel Tower will not make people say “no thanks, I’ve seen it already”.

(Not the real thing)

I also believe that if you see the hard work that goes into making a game, you might want to taste the end result.

It’s a fine balance. No spoilers, but no secrecy either.

2. Some Posts Work Better Than Others

It is hard to blog about things. One post every week, on Monday. It works pretty well, but is it worth it? Are we giving away too much? Are the readers getting bored of the little snippets? Perhaps we should just make a big splash with a press release and new trailer and new screenshots, coming out of nothing?

For this question, let’s look at the stats:

There are huge differences between posts. The worst post ever was one where I apologized for missing the deadline. Maybe it’s a good thing that nobody read it 😉 And the best post of all-time was the week before that – on worldbuilding. Note that some of the blog posts have been running for quite a while now, and they all generate some hits after they have been first posted:

screen-shot-2012-06-25-at-22-07-41

It is hard to conclude anything from this. Some posts work, others don’t. I know there is a small base of awesome people who check in regularly. Then there are some posts that have social media sex appeal (like the worldbuilding post). Then there are Google-friendly posts like the Unity Facebook tutorial and the 8-Step Guide to iPhone Interface Design.

What topics work best? Here’s what I have learned so far:

  1. Tutorials
  2. Stories
  3. Creative updates
  4. Curated content

Ideally, you want to mix them all. Tell people about this really awesome way you’re doing things. Give a peek behind the scenes to share the creative process. And then connect it to some other blogs / sites / games to give it context.

3. Your Blog Has A Purpose

It is important to think about why you want to blog. Do you want to post a weekly status update, get more traffic, or get feedback? You need to have the primary goal in mind.

We set a simple goal: To blog every Monday until the release of Momonga Pinball Adventures. We don’t have a clue what the effects are so we kept it within our own reach. I believe that if you are making consistent, predictable effort to create good blog posts, folks will start to follow you eventually.

This makes the blog a big experiment – like many of the things we do these days. We hope that people like it so much that they will actually buy the game when it comes out. But this is not the immediate goal of this Momonga Monday blog. The immediate goal is to share weekly progress updates.

Along the way, we get feedback, improve our Google ranking (search for Momonga and you will see us on page 1), and hopefully convert some poor souls into fanatic followers. 😉 but the goal is the same: A New Momonga Blog Post Every Monday.

A final takeaway from this is that you need to define your target audience. We have struggled with this, as we are building a game not for game developers but for gamers. And I don’t have an answer to that yet – I cannot seem to find a great way to connect with players directly with this blog. Perhaps in the future, but for now we are still looking for the magic bullet.

4. Plan Ahead

We had a week-by-week topic list from the start, and that has helped us greatly. It is hard to determine what you are going to write about when the deadline is TODAY. When you have a preset plan, you can start early and gather the information days or weeks ahead of the deadline.

These days I am a bit short on topics. The reason is that the deadline has been postponed. This means we have some extra weeks to fill. Some of the best posts have already been written, and now we need to think of other stuff. And you know what? That’s not a bad thing at all. The best performing posts were off-topic, and there’s more to come. We will ramp up the blog when we get closer to launch.

Still, it is not ideal to build “hype” (if you can call it that) too far in advance.

The takeaway is to plan ahead and drip the good stuff over time. Be sceptic about the schedule unless you are 200% sure you are going to make that deadline.

5. Read

I read game blogs and developer blogs. I read about writing. I read about content marketing. I subscribe to a handful of great bloggers. I read business books. I read books on game design. I read just about anything I can get my hands on.

Reading is important because it gets you inspired for the next step.

6. Write, Write, Write

Write as much as you can.

I am a busy guy, but I try to find the time and energy to write daily. It is important to keep your writing skills sharp. Even when you don’t have the job description for it, it is always good to improve your writing. I keep a personal journal, blog, and write whenever I get the opportunity.

You will need every inch of writing skill when you sit at your keyboard and you need to get the bloody blog post out the door.

7. Gather Feedback

I watch the stats of the site religiously. It is hard to get the nuggets of gold from the graphs, but the gold is there so I study them.

When the Worldbuilding post went up in Reddit, it was amazing to watch the visitor stats go up and up and up:

screen-shot-2012-06-11-at-22-59-01

Woohoo! We got more than 2k visitors that day. But the interesting part came when I digged deeper: The bounce rate of Reddit traffic was 90% and the average visit lasted for 29 seconds. With nearly 4k visitors, only 10% really read the post and felt like they should check out another page on the site.

The stats don’t lie. Dig deep and learn.

Then there is the feedback from the other outlets. Facebook likes, retweets, responses on forums – this gives you a pretty good indication of the awesomeness of a topic. When we got 30 likes and 7 comments on Facebook, I knew it was a good post. The truth can be harsh (we had 0 likes and it hurts!) but that is the beauty of it.

The takeaway? Open Google Analytics. Watch. Learn.

8. It Works

All in all, blogging works. We have had some hits and overall, our site has gotten more and more traffic.

blogging-works

I will keep on writing!

Now it’s your turn. Are we on the right track? Does it suck? How’s your blog doing? Let me know in the comments!

Cheers,
Derk

11 Comments
  • Anthony Thomas
    Posted at 05:50h, 26 June Reply

    These are some pretty great insights. Make me inspired to restart blogging on my game site too. More importantly to re-examine my goals for it and refocus the blogging on that.

    thanks!

    • Derk
      Posted at 10:34h, 26 June Reply

      That’s great to hear! Looking forward to your posts 🙂

  • René
    Posted at 09:23h, 26 June Reply

    Another great blog, Derk!

    I get a lot of inspiration from seeing Paladin at work. It comes across as very creative and very disciplined. We started blogging last year and we noticed a nice visitor boost in Google Analytics. You said it: blogging works. BUT, it’s very hard to keep posting after a few months. AND not everybody can write… so you’re right about that too.

    And as for who you write for… in this case, maybe you should be writing for people who can convince other people to buy Momonga. But somehow I get the idea you already knew that… 🙂

    Thanks for the inspiration (again)…
    René

    • Derk
      Posted at 10:33h, 26 June Reply

      Thanks René! 🙂
      I guess there is a dip after a couple of months – you really run out of topics to write on.
      Totally agree with the target audience!

      Cheers,
      Derk

  • Martijn
    Posted at 09:24h, 26 June Reply

    Mooie insights guys. Heb het blog met veel plezier gelezen tot nu toe. De posts die laten zien hoe jullie werk- en leerproces eruit ziet inspireren mij het meest. Waaronder deze dus…

    Keep up the good work!

    • Derk
      Posted at 10:32h, 26 June Reply

      Cheers Martijn! 🙂

  • Delapouite
    Posted at 12:44h, 26 June Reply

    So if someone shows you a picture of the true Eiffel Tower and you end up visiting an Asian replica, is the disappointment also inverted?

    • Derk
      Posted at 14:46h, 28 June Reply

      Depends, what were your non-expectations? 😉

  • John Eternal
    Posted at 19:57h, 29 June Reply

    Great write up Derk ^_^b

  • Shen @ Beginning iOS Dev
    Posted at 14:45h, 01 July Reply

    Awesome post!

    I’ve noticed the same thing with posts on my own blog. Some posts do extremely well while some fall flat on their face. Annoyingly, some of the posts that I thought would do the best were the ones that bombed.

    Sloooowly trying to analyze the reasons for this

  • Tobias Führ
    Posted at 16:54h, 14 July Reply

    oh my god, thats awesome.
    great topics and big stuffs learned.. you got the point about spoilers, purpose of blog and organizing the future post, I will send for my coworkers this post and website, i love it…
    I´m brazilian animator in a game studio and last week we started making a diary dev, each day one person of production post (illustrator, programmer, game/level designer, artist, etc) so they post about what they make in the whole week( production process, tips, fun stuff, etc). we are more than 5, so some days are fights to post… hehe
    thankfully,
    Tobias Führ ( if you have some time to take a look in our blog: http://ludemagamestudio.blogspot.com.br/ U will make us more happy, hehe (and sorry but the blog is in portuguese, hehe)

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