Don’t Be a Forum Addict

How much time you spend on your favourite forums daily? Weekly? Monthly? In one year on average?

What if you would put that time on game development. If you use 1 hour every day, that is about 2 months work days (7.5 work hours in one day, 21 work days in one month). Would your game development benefit from halving the time you use in having this habit?

Game Producer Responsibilities

Here’s an example of game producer’s responsibilites. (Direct quote from a game “producer wanted” ad)

The Producer will manage 1st party development at the studio. The role includes the following responsibilities:
- Be responsible for driving multiple games from initial concept, through prototype and development, to deployment and live maintenance.
- Successfully ship up to four AAA quality games each year (dev cycles may be 4-6 months).
- Manage small teams of 2-7 people each, plus contractors. Teams may be composed of artists, designers, engineers, composers, audio engineers, and testers, depending on production phase. May include personnel management for direct reports and contract/invoice management for external contractors.
- Plan, task, schedule, and estimate costs for the projects. Maintaining detailed task schedules and milestone lists, delivering weekly updates, and identifying and managing risks to the project are a all critical parts of the job.
- Coordinate efforts between the development team and the marketing and business team, and keep all parties updated accordingly.
- Manage requested changes to the games (from QA, beta, marketing, etc) balancing priorities, schedule and budget.

Quite a list. Should give you some information what they expect from producers.

Use Dynamic Signatures

I just saw the signature of a Sharpfish at Indiegamer. It looks like this:

Paul Timson
Latest Blog Post: New Year… Same Plans! || Reality Fakers – Fun Games For PC and MAC

Besides his website URL, the signature shows the latest Blog Post. I think that’s an excellent idea compared to show only “Game Blog”. If there’s PHP available in forum signatures then you can do this: make a small PHP script (or ask your friend) to fetch your latest blog entry and put it working.

2006 PGD Annual Game Programmer Competition

Pascal programmers might be interested in this. I got an email from the co-manager of Pascal Game Development

I wanted to let you know about an independant game developer competition thats taking place on the 15th of Jan. It’s called the 2006 PGD Annual Game Programmer Competition and we hold one every year around this time. Basically a team of game developers who use Pascal as the primary programming language, come together and compete for prizes offered by our event sponsors. It’s a great competition and we had some great games that came out from last year.

And we are doing it again this year with returning sponsors; Borland and 3Impact, and new sponsors Delgine 3D Tools, Spiral Graphics and Firelight Studios. The prize payout last year was around $4,000 USD and I think we just broke that number this year. We are also introducing a new format this year based on lessons learned from last year and previous game development competitions hosted by others. Even those just getting into the indie game market will benfit from the competition.

This is a must participate for any serious Pascal game programmer! Our competitions gaurentee to be unique from most of the other ‘themed’ game programming competitions out there. A signature of Pascal is that it help to teach as well as performs as a development enviroment an as such, so does our annual competitions at PGD (Pascal Game Development).

You can get all the contest details at http://www.PascalGameDevelopment.com!

1st official announcement about the competition:
http://www.pascalgamedevelopment.com/viewtopic.php?t=2839

Post about the competition’s new format:
http://www.pascalgamedevelopment.com/viewtopic.php?t=2871

Use Images in Your Blog

Images can make your blog look more interesting. I don’t have enough statistical data to prove this, but from my experience books (for example) without images are heavier to read than books with images. Articles with images are lighter than articles without images. I presume a blog without images is duller than a blog with images.

I don’t spreading images much all over your blog, but use them sometimes. Content of the blog is the number one issue that matters – of course – but interesting content with interesting images is better than interesting content only, right?

Test Your Game Concept Before Starting Development

Phil Steinmeyer wrote an blog entry ‘From Concept To Completion’ which shows how he tested different art concepts before actually started the game development. I find this interesting way to research what you players want. Same testing can be applied to other different aspects as well.

In the end – it’s the players who decide whether they play your game or not. Art made for them is more important than art made for only you.

Send Newsletters on Regular Basis

Send e-mail newsletters to current, past, or potential customers on a regular basis.

Make sure the recipients can opt-out if they wish. Sure way to get into spamming list is to send emails nobody wants. Give them news about your projects, games, hints, tips, etc. Make sure it’s on regular basis.

Tip: indiegamebusiness.com (not public at the time of writing) has a system where you can create and send your newsletters and press releases etc. Another one (newsletters only) is yourmailinglistprovider.com

1-Minute Solution to Getting Things Done

If you have a task that can be done in one minute – do it immediately. Don’t start putting small tasks under some heavy project… if the task can be done in small amount of time, it’s better to do it right away.

Small tasks can be anything from writing a short email, short blog entry, responding to some important questions, filing papers, signing checks… anything. I get a feeling of achieving something when I do this. Papers won’t bile in my desk. My ToDo-list stays a lot smaller. This way these small tasks get done: one hundred minor things can be done in very small time when they are done immediately after receiving them… but if you let these tasks pile – you’ll end up having a huge amount of work which might seem impossible to finish, and they might even require extra effort later (you’ll need to remind yourself what the task was about).

I recommend this: 1 minute tasks should be done immediately.

Creating Your Very Own Massively Multiplayer Online (Role Playing) Game

Creating a MMOG (or MMORPG) is a dream for many developers.

The biggest problems with MMO game development are pretty much the following:
- Time
- Money

Basically they are too large projects for individuals or small teams to handle. The need for solid network code and huge content is something which will take ages to complete. And those are just two aspects of programming. The need for servers, bandwidth, billing systems require money. These are simply something which small indies cannot afford. Small team making a MMORPG from scratch is waste of money and time.

Google can show us several (open source) MMORPGs that have been started, but I haven’t seen any finished indie MMORPGs
(If somebody can prove me wrong, please let me know.)

Edit #1: didn’t take many hours to prove that Dofus and A Tale In The Desert were created by indies… I should remember: there are always exceptions to the law. Thanks people!

Edit #2: Dofus had a million dollar budget. I doubt any indies can afford that – there’s most likely some invested money there…? I presume ATITD is the only one that has been developed and published by a self-funded company? Recently a person at GameDev mentioned “RuneScape” – which leads to the discussion about “what is the definition of Massively multiplayer online games”… Are MUDs considered MMO games as well? In any case – the MMO games made by indies are minority. There are lots of more unfinished mmorpg projects than actually finished games with massive amount of simultaneous players (exluding browser based) made by indies.

Luckily, there are alternatives.

Kaneva Game Platform
Recently I found a game development kit called Kaneva Game Platform. The main idea seemed very interesting. Kaneva let’s you create your own MMO game. The basic features & benefits are said to be:
- No fees, money is paid using royalties
- Editors to script your game
- Possibility to modify the engine using C++
- Kaneva hosts your game and handles billing

Unfortunately it seems that Kaneva uses 3D Studio Max (which licencing fees are way too high for indies) and secondly: the Kaneva crashed my Windows XP every time after 15 seconds. I really hope they get the game system stable. It looked interesting, the concept is nice – but the execution is not good. At least not yet.

Multiverse
Multiverse offers similar solution for indie game developers. They started offering their MMOG platform at the beginning of the December (2005) and their system is said to be:
- Make a complete Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) or virtual world for less money and in less time than you could have dreamed possible.
- Participate in the game industry’s most exciting frontier.
- Build the features that make your game unique, leveraging the expertise of the networking and infrastructure experts who helped build the web.
- Deliver your vision to a built-in market of players–without having to ask a publisher’s permission or give up your intellectual property.

And they have similar offering as Kaneva:
- There are no upfront costs. We only make money when you make money, and if you never charge a cent, you never have to pay us anything.

At the time of writing, Multiverse is in closed beta phase so I didn’t have the opportunity to test the system yet. The screenshots they provided looked quite similar to any MMOG out there.

I believe more and more MMOG options will be available for indie game developers in this year 2006. Keep your eyes open.