Releasing quality content for our clients and their fans is one of the top priorities in our Gaming Services division. So much so, that we will never give a definite date on something being ready until we can personally testify for the quality and stability of the mechanics we put our name behind. We do our best to stick to this type of quality schedule by working off a system we call Recommended Releases. Unfortunately, things come up that require us to divert from these plans, either due to unexpected issues or client-requested changes. Going forward, we want to increase our public-facing transparency in regards to how we handle the development of the many projects we handle at Melon Development. For the first edition of this, we’ll cover the fan favorite for every game: Content Releases.
What exactly is a Content Release?
We define a Content Release as any new feature or mechanic, that was not part of original documentation, that is being added to the game post-release. Content Releases can introduce new gameplay features, alter current mechanics, or even be to provide seasonal or temporary content to a game. We treat Content Releases as if they were tiny games, almost.
It begins with documentation.
The first stop is Game Design. Our Game Designers will draft up coherent and set-in-stone documentation for your content release before it’s sent to development. This allows you to confirm exactly what you’ll be receiving. Our Game Design team will also check your new update content against your existing game to ensure there aren’t Gameplay Collisions. Gameplay Collisions occur when a new content release may heavily alter the impact or functionality of an existing feature that the game already has, unintentionally. This may be making an item useless, making a function less valuable, or causing a potential economic exploit. These are the things we check for before getting started. This period can take up to 2 weeks to properly account for, depending on the size of the original game and the size of the update being proposed.
Stats and metrics.
After we have your documentation for your update nearly completed, we also check into how your game is doing in regards to new player acquisition, player retention, and player conversion. These 3 key metrics are some of the most important parts of ensuring your game continues to be successful for your community and you as a business. If we see that one of these metrics are lacking more then they should be, we may make additional recommendations to add or change some of the content in your release to better improve these figures.
Off to Development
Once you’ve signed off on your update, we’ll assign team members to handle your release. If you’re on a Full-Time Contract with us, these will be the same team members that have always handled your game work, if not, we’ll assign team members that are the best fit for your project based on their availability and required skills. Our team will use the documentation that you approved to begin crafting your release and getting it into a playable state.
The First Testing Session
We try to have content ready to test for you as quickly as possible. We understand that clients love seeing progress, but the time between development starting and the first testing session can vary. Large, complex features, with lots of moving parts, may take longer to test and ensure they’re up to spec vs smaller adjustments. When we reach the first testing session, this is generally when we’ll provide our client with a ballpark figure of when they can expect features to begin finishing up.
Changes and Adjustments
After the first testing session, many clients would like to make some changes to the spec. This is totally okay and happens all the time. We account for this flexibility in our documentation, and as long as the requested changes to compromise the current systems that have been built, it generally doesn’t affect timelines too much.
We encourage clients to have a dedicated Discord or small community of testers that want to help test new patches before they roll out publicly. Private Beta releases allow your testers to find issues that our team may have missed or not accounted for. We begin recommending beta testing as we approach our recommended release for your update.
So.. what’s this “Recommended Release”?
Only after development is completed and your private beta session has been completed, do we consider your content update to be at a Recommended Release stage. This is when we feel confident that the aspects of your update will not compromise or collide with current gameplay mechanics, there are no major bugs or issues with the release, and we feel that the update reflects on your game in a positive way. Once we hit this state, we’ll inform our client and that’s when a public release date is usually announced. We never recommend for our clients to publicly discuss release dates for updates until a recommended release is available for their game.
A Word on Final Changes
Once we hit a recommended release for an update, we highly recommend that new changes and adjustments to the patch are re-run through the First Testing and Beta sessions prior to being included in the recommended release. This may cause some pre-launch changes (but post-recommended) to be delayed until after release, but we strongly believe that last minute changes that were not documented, to begin with, are never worth the risk of compromising your entire update.
When clients choose to follow our recommended release system, it ensures that everything relating to their projects roll out with the quality they’d expect from Melon Development. It’s not always easy for everyone, though, as it’s always exciting to show off what’s coming to your player base and give them even more reason to keep coming back. However, we never mandate or force release schedules on any of our clients. Clients will always hold 100% of the say on what gets prioritized. We provide ultimate flexibility for everybody to allow them to be as hands on or hands off as they like.
Embracing an organized release schedule will only help reinforce your game quality, and communities will always adapt to whatever release schedule you choose to do.
We hope our first post on the insights of our Recommended Release system has been helpful! We look forward to covering many more topics on our blog. If you have any recommendations for content you’d like to see us cover in the future, don’t forget to tweet us!