One thing that we like to do at IndieHangover is highlight projects, freelancers or services that we think might help the Indie Development community. Sometimes this takes the form of highlighting great deals for developers, sometimes it’s drawing attention to interesting discussions about obscure and technical aspects of indie game development and sometimes it’s offering tips on how developers can get the most out of their convention experience.
Project Dogmeat (working title) falls into this category, as its not only a tool that I find very interesting, but is specifically meant to help small development teams with the monumental, and often under supported, problem of marketing.
Project Dogmeat is being created by Pilone Consulting, a consulting firm which specifically caters to independent developers and small studios. Based in Middletown, Connecticut, Pilone Consulting offers a number of service revolving around production, brand services and marketing, and has a number of client that should sound familiar to you if you’re an InideHangover regular, including GrappleHook Games (Skorecery), Fire Hose Games (20XX & Catlateral Damage) and Copper Frog Games (Tattoo: The Game of Ink).
Coming from years of game development and professional digital advertising experience, we realized a huge stress point for independent developers and small teams was the home stretch of development. While most of us are aware that the ninety-ninety rule applies to any type of software development, few developers realize just how much work goes into marketing, networking, and getting eyes on your game. It’s easily to get overwhelmed (and distracted) by having to work on your game while constantly refreshing social media pages to see what people have to say, so we not only want to eliminate that from your workload, but give you the added bonus of fully analyzed, digestible, and relevant audience reports.
In a hyper-competitive landscape,understanding your audience is an incredibly powerful advantage over the competition, and we simply want more developers to see success and be able to continue creating original content.
Project Dogmeat aims to add one more tool to the belt of indie developers marketing their creation. It is, at its core, an information gathering tool that fetches data about how best to market your game. Project Dogmeat is made up of three primary modules: aggregation, analysis, and presentation.
The aggregation module takes user configuration (per client requests) and regularly scans online communities for a specific term or terms (a hashtag, name, etc). As long as the client searches are running, not only are new positive matches added to the existing database, but all previous matches are checked for updates as well. This allows the analysis module to effectively understand metrics over time, not just at a specific point. Currently Reddit is supported, and Twitter is in active development (and others in the design phase). We are aiming for at least four sites in mind for public beta release.
The analysis module essentially runs a two-step process on locally stored raw data. First, it pulls all relevant raw data (let’s say for a specific Reddit post), compiles it for the report, and stores the “cleaned” data. While it’s running that initial compilation, it’s also looking closely at quantitative and qualitative points of interest and making note of particularly strong or weak trends. These notes are also stored locally for the presentation module.
The presentation module is basically a lightweight static site generator. Based on locally stored data, it generates a static webpage full of useful charts, diagrams, and data to present to the client. This page is easily shared and saveable, with the option to save specific data sets as CSV for client-side analysis. These reports are highly configurable, like the rest of the system.
One of the thing Chris Germano, the director of operations at Pilone Consulting, hopes to achieve with Project Dogmeat is to help independent teams “discover who their audience is”. I think that the real strength of Project Dogmeat revolves around this idea, or more precisely, how to most effectively address the audience of your game.
Here’s an example of what a report from Project Dogmeat may look like, using Grapplehook Game’s Skorecery as an example:
Please note that this is from an older, WIP version of the software, and reports generated for current/future clients may include some newer metrics and layouts.
Here’s how the whole thing works, in my own words (Note: as Project Dogmeat is still in a pre-alpha state, this is very much subject to change):
Project Dogmeat begins by imputing a number of key phrases and search terms into the software (which is likely to be a web interface in the future). The software then goes to work; listening and collecting data from the internet (currently, this integrates with Reddit, but is intended to work seamlessly with other social media platforms). The scope and length of this aggregation phase is determined by the developer, with the goal to get an idea of the performance over time of these concepts or phrases.
Next is the real meat (haHA PUN!) of Project Dogmeat where all of this data gets parsed and analyzed. A lot of different metrics get calculated (volatility, impact, interaction rates, etc.), and this step is what give Project Dogmeat unique potential. While many monitoring program already out there will collect this type of information for you, the possibility of having a background programming sorting and analyzing that data into a easily understood and usable way is pretty exciting.
Finally, Project Dogmeat takes the extra step and presents this information to you as a report, broken down into different section, organized and tailored to the specific needs of your game and team.
Additionally, Project Dogmeat also wants to add in an element of predictive analysis, thought this is a long term goal (aiming for late 2017). There’s no way to directly equate internet interest to game sales, but there are certain trends that can be tracked and noticed over time. Positive correlations between when posts go out, what kind of language is used to describe a game and responses from different communities are all valuable information, and the idea of looking at how other games, and your own game, are approaching interaction with the community, and then tailoring your plan to better address that, is a superb idea.
Project Dogmeat is still very much in a pre-alpha state, and there’s a lot of work that still needs to go into the program to match its lofty goals. The projects immediate goals are based around improving its monitoring capabilities and expanding to other social media platforms. However, there’s a lot of potential here, and we think it may be worth putting Pilone Consulting on your radar. It’s certainly our hope that this may be a good fit for some of our readers.
You may also want to check out Pilone Consulting’s Pre-Release Design and Product Audits for Heliophobia and 20XX. Not only are they interesting reads, but they are great examples of what Pilone Consulting can offer to smaller teams.
If you’d like to contact Pilone Consulting directly, or have question about Project Dogmeat’s appliction, you can find that information here.