Monthly Archives: January 2006

When Something Is Crap, Get Rid of It

Whether it’s crap code, crappy article or crappy feeling you have the right to get rid of it. I had written an article for today about the definition of ‘casual games’. In the article I wrote in a provocative manner that the ‘casual games’ definition is a broad term and vaguely defined.

This article has been in my mind for the whole day (and before I published it) and I honestly think it doesn’t serve this site’s purpose which is to help game developers. I still think the ‘casual games’ don’t have a full proof definition, but I think my article was going into pointless ranting about this issue.

I decided to take that article away and replace it with this blog entry. That was crap that didn’t belong here – if anywhere. I concentrate on giving hints about game production – that’s what this site is all about.

Don’t Be a TV Addict

An average person watches television over 3 hours* daily. That’s over 1100 hours in one year. Are you part of this group? What would happen if you would change TV to computer. Would 1100 hours boost your game development?

*Number varies depeding on research, country, gender etc. This figure is based on one estimation in Finland.

Bad Feedback is Good

If you want to improve your game you must start searching for criticism. If you keep asking your players: “What’s wrong with our game? How can we make it better?” you’ll hear brilliant ideas. You will most likely hear negative feedback (and bad language) – but you’ll hear positive ideas as well. If the feedback is presented in a harsh manner ignore how it was said and listen to what is being said. Put a word filter on – if necessary – but be sure to get the point of the message. If somebody mocks your game without any arguments just ignore the comment and move on, there’s nothing good to get stuck on useless junk. Remember: Don’t take negative feedback personally, the idea of the feedback is for you to improve your game.

Continue improving. The best feedback is criticism. Ask for it.

If you have ideas on how to improve gameproducer.net, please feel free to suggest.

Words From EA’s Game Producer

Lord of The Rings: Battle for Middle Earth (BFME) is one of the games I enjoy playing (I play using name “cogitogamer” in case you are interest). It’s been long time since the version 1.02 update was released – even though it was announced to come much sooner. There have been lots of rumours, delays, excuses, explanations – but finally it seems that the update is coming.

EA did make a mistake by announcing the patch much earlier than they should have done. It’s always a bad thing to promise something that you can’t keep. But, I also think they did a great job by informing the community. I find it admirable that a big corporation like EA – and especially the game producer of BFME – can find time to actually make communicate with the players so directly – and listen to them.

Lo and behold, a miracle is arising and I tempt you not. Patch 1.03 is officially in LT, which stands for “Language Translation” for our international territories. This basically means the 150+ tool tip changes, among other changes, need to be translated to 11 different languages so everyone around the world can understand and enjoy the patch. We just went in today.

As i’ve said, we have been working on this patch non-stop for the past month in between finaling BFME 2. The unfortunate consequence of this timing, as has been the case all along is the amount of resources we we have physically been able to dedicate to the patch within QA. There are protocols the patch must go thru that we have no choice but to follow, such as the LT phase.

So what next?

Well, according to plan, we are aiming for LT approval by the end of this week, and then from there we go in to the final stages of CQC and ECG who give us the final sign off. Once they approve, we put the patch live. Once that happens, I am going to reset the GameSpy ladders and get everyone back on a fresh clean slate.

Once the patch is live, I am going to work with GameSpy to further anihiliate cheaters. We can get the community off to a fresh start.

So, I do not have a release date for the patch, but the good news is, we are in the finaling stages. I will let you know as soon as we enter CQC. From there, we can start to asses a release day.

I would also like to apologize for the process this patch has been thru and the unintentional neglect you have felt. It’s hard for you to see from the inside what we go thru here, but I fully understand that we can’t expect you to. In the future, I am going to work hard to ensure this doesn’t happen again in the same nature. Patch support is as vital to you as it is to me, and when it’s not delivered, I loose my own credibility as a community manger to help build the community, and it makes it extremely tough to build upon other ideals.

That’s your update for today.

Cheers,
APOC

Their game producer approached this problem in the following way:
- First he informs what’s happening (the patch is in LT)
- Then he tells what they are going to do (clean the ranks, handle cheaters)
- Gives a brief explanation about the delay (protocols, BFME2)
- Explains that there is no release day yet but it’s coming – and that they will keep community informed
- Apologizes the delay

The only (tiny) problem I see here is the “explanation” I think they should own the problem, not blame the “process”. Hiding behind a process, techonology, rules, corporation or anything will do more bad than good. If there has been release date announcements (or even rumours from players) earlier – then they should have said clearly what’s going on. Anyway – I appreciate the way their game producer participates and builds the community. That is something you don’t see happening too often. Thumbs up.

Something To Do Before The Project Kick-Off

Make contracts even when you are starting a freeware of an open-source project. I know some (sad) stories where a freeware project was about to turn into a sales vehicle but due conflicts between team member contributions this couldn’t be achieved.

Remember: if you start a new project then you must have written contract. Besides general project info, make sure there’s a part where you describe whether the contributed work can be used even if the team member leaves.

If you are in a situation where you don’t have contracts and want to start selling your game you have two options. You either negotiate the deal with the contributors or get new art/music/contribution from someone else. And learn that next time you will have those contracts done in advance.

Don’t Be a Game Addict

If you want to produce & develop your own games then you should consider how much time you will spend on playing games. This matters to all game developers: the beginning and more advanced developers. Scott Miller (3D Realms) admits he got addicted to World of Warcraft and mentions how playing the game has an impact on productivity!

So, I’m about 10 minutes away from being a level 32 warrior, but I can’t see myself playing too much longer, if only because this game is such a black hole of lost productivity (as the lack of blog updates indicates!).

The bottom line: If you spend your time on playing computer games then you will have less time to develop them. If you spend very much time on playing games and enjoy the situation – then fine. Just make sure it’s a conscious choice for you. Playing games impacts your productivity.

I’m not suggesting you to totally stop playing games – I think that would be a bad move. Other games can give you inspiration, motivate and give ideas for your own games. Just don’t get addicted to playing too much.

Don’t Believe – Test It

Recently I got a blogging advice about how to optimize your blog:

Keep your blog size as small as possible: 15 kilobytes is fine, 10 kilobytes better. Remember: most of your visitors will use 56k modems to read your blog.

I thought this hint to be a good piece of an advice and started to implement it: I took away some useless CSS code from my blog and limited the number of displayed posts to 5.

After this I asked myself: “Is this tip really useful?” I went to one of the popular blogs I knew and checked the filesize: the main page was almost 80 kilobytes (and the feeder was about 85kB). I decided to take my previous 10 posts per page back. If the top popular blog is big & popular, then the file size won’t be a limitation to me neither (I also thought about my audience – game developers – while deciding) .

It’s always good to listen to someone’s advice, but you should test the recommendation before accepting it.

Don’t take my word for this – test it.

It’s Right to Be Wrong

We’ve taught to be right, and stand for that. But it’s better to ask: do I want to get along with this team member and get the project done, or do I want to be right?

Don’t be too egotistical so that you can’t change your position a team members tell you that you are wrong. Discuss. Cultivate an attitude on the game project where everybody in the team knows they can tell you of your wrong decisions. Cultivate an open athmosphere – hear what team members have to say.

Be thankful for their feedback and comments.

It’s right to be wrong.

The Learning Curve

There was an interesting post about learning curve at casualgamedesign.com.

One very helpful point in the article:

I’ll repeat this, because I think it’s important: the player doesn’t want to learn the rules as quickly as possible, she wants to play the game as quickly as possible. As long as you design your games with that in mind, you’ll be okay.

Link to the full article: Learning the rules