Comments About Your Game Are Not About You

Don’t take personally if someone blames your game, comments bad controls or lousy graphics.

He is commenting your game. Not you.

Even if his tone of voice might be somewhat insulting try to dig the deeper meaning of his criticism and ask yourself if there is anything useful in the comment. Saying “this game sucks” doesn’t help anything, but comment “this game’s level design sucks” might suggest that the game levels might need some tweaking. If you hear same complaints again from someone else I’d suggest doing something about it.

Don’t take it personally.

The Donkey Drive

Even when you think player is always right you might want to consider this story about pleasing everybody.

A man and his son go to the market to sell a donkey.

They pass some travelers who laught at them. “How stupid, they are both walking and have a donkey! Why don’t they ride it?” Ashamed, the son asks his father to ride the donkey.

They pass another group of travelers who get angry at them. “Look at this cruel father! He sits on the donkey and makes his son walk. How cruel!”. Ashamed, the father and son swap places.

They pass yet another group of travelers who get even more angry at them. “What an ungratefull son! He sits on his donkey whereas his old father walks in the dirt! Such disrespect!” Ashamed once more, father and son decide to ride together.

They pass a last group of travelers who get angry as well. “Look at this poor donkey forced to carry those two fit people on his back. What a way to treat an animal!”. Ashamed, the father and son do not know what to do… How can they please everyone?

(I don’t know the author of this story, I’ve seen this on the Internet and if anyone knows the author, feel free to mention and I’ll link to them.)

What Is a ‘Royalty’?

Question:

Okay, here is my question. What is a royalty. I read about it on sites but I don’t get what it means. Can you explain it to me?

Answer:
Yes I can.

Shortly put: Royalty is a percentage of a game’s sales paid to the developer as specified in the developer/publisher agreement. For example, you could get 30% royalties from all sales. If the game sells $1000 and if your royalty portion is 30%, you would get $300. If the game sells another $1000, you would again get $300 more. If the game sells nothing ($0) then your share would be $0 ($0 * 30% = $0).

Thanks to the person asking this, it’s good to remember to define terms when using them. I try to do that. On the other hand, I have a good hint for anyone asking about a meaning of some term. First you should try to use google for finding definitions. Just go to google.com and type define:yourword. In this case, you could go to google and type ‘define:royalty’ and you’ll hit a big list of definitions.

How To Be A Successful Game Producer?

SOrange presented a tricky question:

Question:

How To Be A Successful Game Producer?

Answer:
First you must define success. For someone… a successful game producer can mean producing a game. For others it can be several produced games. Somebody could think that they would need to get a game producer job at some big company in order to be successful. Others might think that producing a hit game would be considered success.

The second part of being successful is very easy to remember: there’s only one thing you need to possess in order to be successful game producer. Brian Tracy has presented the universal rule on being successful: You must never quit. You cannot lose if you don’t quit. And if you don’t quit, you will eventually go through any obstacle that you might encounter. If you won’t give up you will eventually be successful. You can rest for a while if necessary, but don’t quit.

In order to be a successful game producer you must first define success, and secondly – never quit while reaching that success.

Why Game Publishers Get 70% And Game Developers Only 30% of The Royalties?

Question:

Why publishers get 70% of royalties?

Answer:
It is easy question to ask why game publishers take 70% of the royalties from sold games – they even’t do anything for developing the game! But they do a massive job after the initial development…

But you must understand than if you complete a game… nobody will automatically come and buy it. There must be somebody to tell people to come and purchase the game. That somebody can be the publisher. The other fact to consider is that most publishers have already created a customer base of maybe tens of thousands of players. Players who have purchased other games by the publisher. It will take years to build large customer base.

Then there are some other things you must notice. Press releases for example are not coming out of nowhere. Somebody needs to write them. Advertising the game is not going to happen without effort. Submitting the software to hundreds of game sites will take time – and might actually cost money in some places. Somebody must also take care the customer service. Hundreds of weekly emails can’t be just left unanswered – somebody has to do that.

And then there are the website costs. Space and bandwidth is never free. Usually the publisher is paying that. Last but not least the eCommerce provider might take about 10% out of the profits – publisher might be paying that cut.

Some indie developers say they use 50% of their time for developing the game and 50% for marketing it. Publishing takes resources. If you cannot make your game sell… would you be happy taking 30% of something rather than 100% of nothing by presenting your game to potential publishers?

Dealing With Legals Issues When Developing and Releasing Your Game

Eric asked a question about legal issues. This post is one of those ask game producer questions.

Question:

What legal issues are important to consider/or are typically involved with the indie developer releasing their first game? Are there steps that they must take to protect themselves? What must they do to sell their games legally?

Answer:
I’m not an attorney, but I believe there are some legal issues you need to consider.

Is your game too similar with another game on the market?
If you are creating a game that’s based on existing game on the market then you really need to consider legal aspects. There needs to be enough different elements in your game or you might get into trouble. Our secret game project is based on popular board game, but we’ve changed the core gameplay mechanics and the theme completely different to avoid legal issues.

Is the name of your game already in use?
This can happen to anyone. It just might be that there’s another game with same name than your game. Easiest way to deal with this is to pick a new name. Remember to check the google before deciding the name of your game.

Don’t use or ‘lend’ any copyrighted material
Never use anyone elses graphics or sounds in the game. Don’t use free material. If you do – make sure you understand the licence and write it down next to the game file. For example, if you have map.jpg file that is public domain or something, then make a map.licence file and write there the licence info. If you don’t do that you will forget what material was copyrighted and what wasn’t.

That’s why I repeat: never use anyone elses material. Get your own material. Or stick with placeholders if you need to.

Does your company own the copyrights for code?
When you produce your games, make sure all the developers involved understand that the material they put in game are owned by your company. If you are not doing this, and a team member leaves… you’ll have a big problem.

Is your company name registered?
I’ve registered my company name right away before the new game production even begun. I’d suggest you to do the same. That way nobody else can ‘steal’ your company’s name. Same can be done for the game as well.

Team member contracts
Team members need to have contract about what their are making and for what kind of payment. Usually this is bit easier with artist (because their tasks are easier to define – it’s quite impossible to define ‘bug fixing’ for programmers). Here’s something you might want to define:
- The exact tasks that needs to be done (or objectives for programmers)
- Will team members be expected to work after the game release?
- Payment (Deferred? Royalties? Hourly based? Task based?)
- What happens if the project is sold to another developer/publisher?
- What happens if the project is canceled?
- Who owns the assets contributed by the team member?
- Will the team member still be eglible for profit sharing even if he leaves?
- Order of paypack (in case of profit sharing or deferred payment)
- Tools (will contributors be expected to use their own tools or will your company purchase the needed tools)

I’ve managed with smaller list, but these items can be useful to consider.

NDA’s could be signed
If you want, you can use non-disclosure agreements. These contracts basically mean that the parties involved are not allowed to tell others about your game. You can get people to sign the papers which is more official, but I have always trusted people and made agreements on ‘virtual handshake’ – emailwise or someway told them. This has worked every time, and I haven’t had problems with this.

If you prefer papers – use them.

Do I have to get everything on paper?
Yes, if you want to be sure. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve used ‘virtual handshake’ and email agreements (which has worked fine) but because different countries have different legislations it’s best to get everything on paper if you want to make sure it’s legally binding.

Are there other legal issues to consider?
As said, I’m not an attorney – so if you need extra advice: please contact a lawyer.

There’s also a legal kit for starters. I don’t own one, so I cannot tell how useful it is. But, it’s sold here: gamedevkit.com

The Golden Rule of Game Development

This is the 100th post of this blog – and I believe the golden rule of game development fits nicely here:

Player is always right.

When some players give feedback about bad controls and some others are saying exactly the opposite… your task is not to ignore the bad feedback. Your job is to re-consider those controls. Are you making your game controls for elite players only? Should there be some shortcuts or tutorials or adjustments? Should you have more control methods than mouse or keyboard? You can decide to keep the controls as they are, but you could try to create custom controls and see if that helps.

When some people complain about the great difficulty of your game and others are saying how easy it is… then your job is not to make it either more difficult or easier. Your task is to create several different difficulty adjustments so that all can get to play. If your game is online multiplayer game, then you could create “newbie” zones/arenas for starting players. And “pro” zones/arenas for really experienced players. If your game is a match-3 game, you could have several difficulty levels for both kids and adults.

Whatever it is that the players are telling, listen to it. You aren’t anymore making the game only for you. You are making the game for the players.

Man In Glass House Should Not Throw Rocks

Listen to the problems players have – don’t get hurt by their insults if they have a bad day.

Even when they might call you stupid and be totally wrong. Because your game didn’t work on their computer that doesn’t mean you should counter attack to that insult. You should try to resolve the problem. Ask whether a new video card update helps or installation of the fixed version helps. Or anything else. Ask whether you could help.

It might turn out that the player has done some very simple mistake and is blaming you for it. You should try to see deeper and try to handle the problem not the symptoms. They might even notice their own fault and apologize later – and tell their friends how extraordinary support they got.

Wrongly said insult – and there aren’t any rightly said – will harm your business.