You Don’t Need Game Art In The Beginning of Your Game Project

I have used 3D models in the very start of a game project. This is not necessary. I recommend the exact opposite: Don’t hire a 3D/pixel/gui/other artist to do graphics in the beginning of your game project.
- The graphics will most likely change anyway – that means the artist needs to re-do his work
- You don’t need final graphics to test your gameplay: you can use placeholders to test your game.

Instead of a human model have a 2 unit tall blue box moving in the screen. Instead of having an elven warrior fighting, have a 3 unit tall brown sphere moving on the screen. You need trees? Use green cones to represent them. Same goes with the graphical user interface: you don’t need animated button to “Start a New Game” – you can have a white box with a black borders and times new roman text: “START NEW GAME” in it.

Use of placeholders will benefit in the following ways:
- It enables you to test your gameplay faster (as you need to tweak the graphics later when the core game is done)
- It saves time, nerves, money or all of them as your artist doesn’t have to re-do his job over and over

Easy Way To Enchance Your Coding

Lazy people do this: They get rid of redundant code. Only those who want to code same things over and over don’t do this.

It’s easy to copy & paste a block of code from one place to another “because you are in the hurry” or think it will be “harmless”.

Listen very carefully: Don’t copy & paste code blocks and start getting rid of redundant code. Reuse and exploitation of previous librariers and source code is fine, but too often developers copy their own code without thinking the consequences. Common problems with redundant code are:
- When updating your code, you need to update several places which takes more time
- When updating your original code you forget to update the other places. This causes visible or hidden bugs which take more time to fix
- When adding more elements into game it’s harder to do and takes time and might cause errors.

If you are about to copy & paste code, please don’t. Instead – create a function or a method to handle that. If you have variables like var1 and var2 replace them with an array. If you are not familiar with programming arrays or functions then you might want to check their definitions from the Internet. There are lots of places where you can go to check out these.

Here’s a small example – let’s assume you have made a block of code that checks out different items :

if (item1 == “sword”) { …
} else if (item1 == “shield”) { …
} else if (item2 == “bow”) { …
}
if (item2 == “sword”) { …
} else if (item2 == “shield”) { …
} else if (item2 == “bow”) { …
}

First you could get rid of redundant code by the use of functions.

updateItem(item1) ;
updateItem(item2);

function updateItem(item) {
if (item == “sword”) { …
} else if (item == “shield”) { …
} else if (item == “bow”) { …
}
}

Then you might want to get rid of those unnecessary variables item1 and item2. You can do this by creating an array containing the values: (this might not look so critical now, but if you want to add item3 later in the game you don’t need to go through all your code and add function call updateItem(item3) anymore. This is very helpful in the future.)

items[] = array(); // defined somewhere in your code
.
.
.
for (i=0; i < items .length; i++) {
updateItem(items[i]) ;
}

function updateItem(item) {
if (item == "sword") { ...
} else if (item == "shield") { ...
} else if (item == "bow") { ...
}
}

There you go, nice and clean. This is very simple way to program, but it will do a massive aid in the future – especially if you plan to code sequels or add-ons for your game.

Conclusions: Use functions/methods to get rid of redundant code. If you have redundant variables, use arrays to make coding easier. Avoid copy & pasting code blocks.

GameProducer.net Wants Your Feedback

GameProducer.net is a relatively new blog, but the popularity is increasingly growing (about 5000 unique visitors in January, only few hundreds in November/December 2005).

I would like to hear your feedback. Give me the good, the bad, the ugly and the horrible. I’m especially interesting in hearing all the *negative* issues you have with this blog. Anything goes: layout? graphics? colors? background? content? typos? language? Anything comes to your mind.

If you have suggestions for improvement – please let us hear them.

Don’t Be a Blog Addict

This post might be quite a strange to hear from a blog writers mouth, but I definitely believe in this: Don’t get addicted to blogs. Same as with any other activity: think why you are having that habit or activity. If reading blogs is fun and you are okay with that, then fine – continue doing so. If reading forums is fun and you prefer it that way – then so be it.

But – decide what your goals are:
- Are you doing it for fun? Is this okay for you?
- Are you trying to learn something? (What? Why? Does this habit (blog/forum/articles/book reading benefit you to reach your goals?)
- Are you interested in the industry news? (Then choose the blogs or newsletters that suits best for you. If you want to read about “what’s happening”, then choose blogs that will give you that benefit)
- Are you interested in knowing how other indies are doing? Then you perhaps want to read more of that kind of blogs – but, ask yourself: “Why are you interesting in knowing how others are doing? Shouldn’t you focus on your own efforts rather than someone else’s efforts?”
- Any other reasons why you are reading the blog? Are these reasons okay to you?

I don’t consider myself a blog addict: I visit different blogs to check how others are doing and what’s in the “news”. I also check out other blogs to see how they are writing their blogs – and learning to write on my own blog. I also read blogs (and articles) for pure fun: I simply like to read. And if I learn something while reading, the better.

Polycount Productions Founded

They finally got my company’s re-registration processed: Polycount Productions. The doesn’t have much content yet, but at least it’s up.

It was quite an interesting registration process. Initially I entered “Cogito Productions” for the company name. This name was not accepted because “There’s similar company in similar industry”. I checked that there was a company called Cogito Ltd and found it it worked on some area which definitely was not “games”. (I couldn’t find the information any more, but it could have been carpeting or something similar). And besides that – the Cogito Oy is bankrupt. Their business doesn’t exist anymore (besides in the trademark registry stating “in bankrupt”). Quite interesting that I could not register a name like that. Basically this is okay: Polycount Productions sounds better to me and that’s what matters.

Still, got my first experiences with the Finnish laws concidering companies.

Edit: small interruption… in fact: Polycount Productions got registered in one place… but it could not go into trademark registry. This time they said “company name cannot have only general terms in it”. Strangely there’s a company called: “Polygon Arts”. I asked about that, but they couldn’t give me proper reason why that company has been accepted. Now the re-re-registration process is going on – and they will let me know if the “Polycount Productions” would be accepted – or will I have to use “Polycount Productions Finland”. Company is founded, now I just wait for the *final* registration.

What Makes a Game Fun?

Raph Koster, Chief Creative Officer for Sony Online Entertainment, has written a book Theory of Fun. This book convincingly answers the question, What makes a game fun?

The book explains why we love certain genres, like the FPS, RTS, RPG, & MMOG: “Given that we’re basically hierarchical and strongly tribal primates, it’s not surprising that most of the basic lessons we were taught by our early childhood play are about power and status.”

This reminds a bit the post Players Prefer Points – we want to rank higher and higher. I think this is an element which we game developers should consider.

I’d like to hear your comment, please tell us: What makes a game fun?

Game Producer Qualifications

An example of qualifications for a game producer:

- At least 3-5 years experience in managing teams of creative people, and managing creative projects from concept to release. A technical background is preferred.
- A willingness to do whatever it takes to get the highest quality games shipped, including the occasional unpleasant task (making installers or wrappers).
- A passion for game development, and the ability to manage equally passionate people in a rapidly changing marketplace.
- Ability to balance the needs of a business with the talent of a creative team.
- Independence and initiative – a proven track record of seeking out tasks, finding new ways to enhance productivity both personally and for the team.
- Extreme attention to detail without compromising the ability to do many things at once with ongoing interruptions.
- Ability to create top-quality products with a limited budget and resources in a highly competitive market, all in 40 hour weeks.
- Highly developed written and verbal communication skills. Must communicate ideas easily to the entire team including artists, designers, and offsite contacts.

I think many indies who have taken their own route carry these qualifications with them. Some skills might be weaker, some stronger, but you can see similarities between an indie game developer and a “generic” game producer.

Stop Checking Your Email All the Time

I believe there are many professionals who check their email all the time. If you are one of them, think about breaking that habit. If you read your email every hour for 15 minutes that’s quite a long time – maybe you could try to read your email only once in the beginning of the day (for 10 minutes) and once in the end of the day (for 10 minutes). Resist the urge to have a “quick check”.

Try what suits for you, but try cutting down email usage. Try this experiment for 30 days and see what happens. Use it the way it suits you: if you spend 1 hour daily, try to use only 30 minutes. Reduce by 10%. Even a small step is a good if you are really addicted to checking your email.

How to Increase Newsletter Signups

Story by Tom Cain (www.smallware.com):

Last year, I made a change to how I let people sign up for my email list that has worked really well. I thought I’d share:

I started the email list in 2002. There were links to a dedicated signup page throughout the site and in the order receipt. Signups were not that great, only a few thousand since 2002.

In July 2005, I changed the demo download from an HTML link to a form with a download button. I put a text input field right above the download button that lets them sign up for the list:

http://www.smallware.com/download/

In the six months since, my traffic, downloads, and sales have remained steady. But the size of my email list has more than doubled. I have gotten more signups in six months than in the previous three years by making this change. I believe it’s because it makes signing up easier — everything in one action — but I don’t know for sure.

Anyone looking to increase newsletter signups might want to give this a try. Two points that I think are important if you do:

1. Clearly mark the email field as optional.
2. Note that you won’t spam them.

I hope this info helps anyone looking to increase their signups. If anyone else has tips that worked, I’d love to hear them.