Show Your Game: A Few Dollars More

 Your Homepage - Your Blog - Your Wiki - Your Lens - All That Jazz - A Few Dollars More

While you can get a lot of things for free, that's not true of everything. It's a shame, but it's just a basic fact of life.  Since this site is about setting yourself up for free, just consider this bonus content.  You don't need any of the things I'm about to talk about, but you may well want them, especially if you're planning on your project expanding in the future.  With that in mind, I'm going to be talking about these things which will cost you money, and concentrate on the way you can get the most bang for your buck.

Register A Domain - $10

Even if you're not going to use it for a while, grab your domain early. For 10 dollars or less you can register it through a site like godaddy and just sit on it until you need it. Registration is for a year, and it's a very small price to pay compared to the hassle that you can expect if you don't pick it up now.  If someone else grabs it in the interim, you'll just end up kicking yourself.

Depending upon your registrar, you may be able to just redirect the URL to your free page.  It's not quite as good as hosting your own domain, but it lets you use the web address in conversation and signatures.    You can also look into things like google apps, which let you use your domain for email, using the gmail interface.

One of the reasons this is so critical to take care of early, especially if you can get a redirect, is that you don't want to be a victim of your own success.  If your game or idea takes off enough that your free page will no longer cut it, you don't want to have to change your web address because that makes it harder for your existing fans to find you. They have your address bookmarked, and they're going to be inconvenienced by a change. Keep it easy for them.

As an illustration, I've registered showyourgame.net and it redirects to the front page here. It's as simple as that. 

Host Your Own Site - $100(ish)

Ok, the first thing is that while you can get hosted for anywhere between 5 and 10 dollars per month, they tend to prefer those payments by year or they tend to be a little higher.  Eight dollars a month is probably something you can manage, but dropping a hundred bucks at a time can be a little daunting, especially if you're not sure you're going to get any real use out of it.  So first and foremost, if you aren't sure you want it, then just register the domain and call it a day.  As long as the domain is in place and you can get some kind of redirection up, you're ready for the long term.

When the time comes that you're feeling the limits of your free site, or if you just feel like you want more freedom to experiment with your site, that's when you'll want to consider plunking down some money on a site of your own.  Now, I use bluehost.com and I'm happy with them, but that doesn't mean they're right for you. Google around a bit, look for reviews, talk to friends who have web pages and look for the best match for you.

Buy Some Art - $15+

It is worth investing a little bit of money in art.  It doesn't need to be a lot, but even a few pieces can go a long way.  Now, you can get by with free art, but if you decide you want to go a little farther, there are two pretty cheap options that can go a long way.

You can go to istockphoto.com and buy some credits. Right now(3/29/08) the minimum purchase is ten credits for thirteen dollars. There's a price break as you buy more, but it's fairly minimal, so I tend to just buy the minimum.  Search around the site, and you'll find that pieces cost between 1 and 10 credits depending on size and type.  I generally suggest one of two approaches.  First, you can just spend it all on one high quality image which you can get a lot of use out of. This will either be an icon or illustration set, or a complex image you feel you can chop up like we do on the wiki.  Second, you could raid the dollar bin for bargains. While it's not as comprehensive as the full site, it's still got several thousand images to choose from, and I admit I tend to start there for any project I'm working on.

If you're willing to put in a little more time for greater payout, then you can go to clipart.com and start looking around.  They have an interesting model, in that you pay for a period of membership, and during that period, you can download as much as you want.  For a designer on a budget, you can get a lot of value out of taking your time to search for all the images you need, bookmarking them all, then purchasing the shortest subscription you can manage (1 week for $15.95) and download them all.  A word of warning: they have a lot of images, and the vast majority of them look like cheap clipart, and you don't want that.  Take your time, be picky, and if you  don't find enough images to be worth picking up, then absolutely do not bother picking up any at all.