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I recently released the first publicly available free Alpha for my top-down shooter: Dread

I'm trying to decide whether a weekly / bi-weekly small update release schedule is better than the more traditional monthly (or longer) large updates.

The more frequent schedule would mean that players would have a new build to play more often, but the new builds would likely only have a few bug-fixes / feature additions at a time. Would players grow tired of the constant updating, or would they feel more attachment as they are more involved in the development process?

I'm thinking that, due to the somewhat experimental nature of my game, it might be a good thing for people to have the opportunity to suggest tweaks to the new features during their infant stages. But I don't want my desire for feedback to bias my decision.

What are your thoughts / experiences on the matter?

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updates are painful as a developer. if you're in Beta, do more often for the users to keep them interested. thereafter, increasingly less as necessity subsides –  zanlok Mar 7 '12 at 21:01
    
If you need more feedback, post sprint/release retrospectives on a public blog, with screenshots. –  ashes999 Mar 7 '12 at 22:09
    
Zanlok: They are painful, but such is the price being a good game dev –  BerickCook Mar 7 '12 at 22:30
    
ashes999: I have a blog already set up just for that purpose. dreadgame.blogspot.com –  BerickCook Mar 7 '12 at 22:33
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2 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

This depends on the average time between plays of your game. Profile your player base or gather statistics about how often they play.

Two extremes to modify according to your situation:

If players play every day, like in World of Warcraft, lean towards incremental updates. The game will feel more alive, offering a little bit of new content every couple of days. This also means players will not be faced with a huge download and/or jarring gameplay changes.

If players play for a few days every two months, like in Terraria, lean towards larger updates. When players come back to your game, they will have the opportunity to experience a heap of completely new content, hopefully reinvigorating what they found fun to begin with. This also means players coming back will usually only have one update to worry about.

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I will keep that in mind. At the moment, I don't have enough base info to draw conclusions from. –  BerickCook Mar 7 '12 at 22:00
    
Here is a great article about Valve and how they made TF2 free-to-play. They talk about how the updates increased their revenue when they did giant updates. gamasutra.com/view/news/164922/… –  Grant Mar 8 '12 at 7:17
    
Thanks for the article Grant! –  BerickCook Mar 8 '12 at 18:42
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First, if feedback is your goal, I would recommend setting up a UserVoice account. You can get one for free (with some limits). Drop a link in your game for feedback to go to your uservoice page.

The update schedule really depends on how simple your update process is. If all I have to do is double click your patcher, wait five minutes (or less) and start playing, I think a bi-weekly is fine.

Now, for an alpha/beta, bi-weekly is fine, maybe even weekly or every 10 days would work. That keeps people involved and they feel like there is something new happening. Once your game is released, I would rather see monthly updates, with immediate critical bug fixes.

That said, you can still gain feedback through external sources, I recommend uservoice because its simple to setup, and it is very simple for your users to submit feedback. That said, there are other providers with similar services. Check them out and pick one that suits you.

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Thank you for the link to UserVoice. I will definitely look into that. –  BerickCook Mar 7 '12 at 21:57
    
Good link. Get Satisfaction is a similar service BTW. But according to this, UserVoice is probably better for games development, since it is better at helping prioritise features. –  Nick Wiggill Mar 8 '12 at 21:39
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