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How Tiny Brains' developers learned the importance of a community the hard way

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There are a lot of things Spearhead Games — the developer behind the action puzzler Tiny Brains — believes it could have done differently with its debut title. At the top of its list? Building a community around the game.

Speaking to Polygon, Spearhead Games said its development team, which consists of design and development directors who have worked on big budget franchises like Assassin's Creed, Dead Space and Army of Two, made a rookie error in its approach to developing Tiny Brains: it neglected community development. The studio believes this may have hurt the game, because it meant very few people knew about it, and even fewer understood what the game was trying to do.

"The thing is, as a new independent developer, there were a lot of things we did not know how to do," said Spearhead co-founder Malik Boukhira. "The one thing we do know how to do is design gameplay and make the core of video games. We thought that it was the only important thing. What we realized [in hindsight] was gameplay is important, but it's also important to take a step back and look at the wider picture. We needed to factor in the community a lot more."

"The one thing we do know how to do is design gameplay and make the core of video games. We thought that it was the only important thing."

According to Boukhira, the experience the developers had at big studios didn't prepare them for community development because they never had to deal with it. "When we were on AAA titles, our jobs were very specialized," he said. "So we became really good at one specific thing, but had no insight into everything else involved in making a video game."

The development team doesn't believe it's too late for them to begin building a community around their game and studio, though. Even though Tiny Brains already launched last year, its developers are taking steps to foster a community so as to improve on what they have, while also better preparing themselves for their next project.

"The fuel of progress is discussion," said Spearhead's Simon Darveau. "The more discussions we have, the more brains we can get involved, the more people we have talking about that, that's how something can go further, become better and be better understood by everyone."

As part of the studio's community building initiative, it is livestreaming its development process on Twitch once a week so that community members can be directly involved in the making of a game. The studio hosted its first session yesterday where it created a Tiny Brains map in one hour while accepting feedback and ideas from viewers. The team plans to host a stream every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET to give its community insight into the different facets of game development.

"When we showed the game at PAX [last year] and had people interact with it and talk to us, it was very enriching," said Boukhira. "So we thought, why not do more than just interact with them only twice a year? Why not have a channel to interact with them all throughout the development process?"

Spearhead Games' Twitch channel can be viewed here. Their one hour game design challenge can be watched via their channel.