Relax, Sometimes Things Just Happen

Yesterday I finished the first version of the ‘Secret Game’ project plan. I was bit worried where I could find an artist to make the sounds/music the game needs. I thought it would be better to have artist ready right from the beginning, and we didn’t have one. All other 3 (besides me) team members were quite easy to find.

After a night sleep… an interesting email had dropped in my mailbox. A sound/music artist had emailed me and offered to participate. Funny thing that I didn’t do anything to get him join the team. And luckily, this guy seemed to be a very talented and had some good samples to show me – with reasonable salary.

The pre-production phase for the ‘Secret Game’ is now complete. We have a team in place (5 members: 1 programmer, 1 producer (doing also programming), 3D modeler, 2D texturer and a sound/music artist), the engine is picked and a project plan is completed.

Remember: Sometimes things just happen… it’s not always necessary to actively search for a solution – the solution might appear to you when you least expect it. It’s not always needed to actively search for a team member – let team members search you. Same can happen in game ideas, marketing goals, sales pitch writing etc.

GameProducer.net Newsletter Now Available

I have set up a not-so-regular newsletter for gameproducer.net. Of course I’ll keep all the material available in the blog, but the newsletter will contain following information:
- Announcements about major changes at gameproducer.net
- Announcements about longer articles
- Information about the games I’m producing (like the secret game project)
- Announcements about new sales stats

The main content of the site will still be available via the blog, and I keep writing it daily. You can unsubscribe by clicking any email you receive.

And naturally your email will be kept secret. I just hate spam – So, you won’t get any unsolicited email.

You can sign up by putting your email address in the box located at top-right corner of gameproducer.net sidebar – just below the banner.

Thanks.

Can I Be a Game Producer?

Yes you can.

Especially you recognize any of these in you:
- You have a dream of creating your own game (good, good – every goal begins with a vision)
- You might have tried to develop some games (even a better sign)
- You are interested in games (chances are that you enjoy games, and can build a career around them)
- You are jealous to successful game developers, or feel at least little bit jealous sometimes when you see success (this is a good sign, we humans are jealous to something what we want)
- You have developed a game demo (a very, very good sign – this means you got what it takes to developer games!)
- You are interested in both programming and business of game development (being a producer means you have to take responsibility not only about programming)

Sounded familiar to you?

The Best Project Planning Tools

The best tools for project planning are: pencil and some paper. Okay, almost the best. Quite good at least. In some cases.

I’ve been doing years of project work and I believe some things like (parts of game design, preliminary project plan, graphics concept art etc.) are best done in paper. It might sound bit strange… but pencil & paper have some very good benefits:

  • They are available all the time – you don’t have to turn on your computer and wait for the programs load.
  • They are available anywhere – you don’t have to design in front of your computer… you can be out in a forest and draw lines. (I prefer sofa)
  • It won’t crash. I have never seen an memory error while planning on paper
  • It’s darn a cheap! Pencil & paper doesn’t cost anything compared to almost any professional tool (of course there are very good free tools available, but still – they are very cheap)
  • It’s flexible: drawing something in pencil is much easier than using mouse and trying to use freehand tool (even those ‘draw boards’ aren’t so good in my opinion)
  • It’s all in one package: whether you do budget, project plan, or concept art – you can use the same tool (pencil & paper) for all of those.

Use pencil & paper in design – and put finished paperwork on computer when needed.

How To Pick a Name For Your Company

Question:

I am working on my first Indie title, and I am obviously in need of a company from which this could be released to the portals. My current problem is finding a good name for it. What should think of when coming up with a name for your organisation.

Answer:
This question might seem trivial, but it can be quite tricky to find a good company name. Here are something that you might want find useful when figuring out possible candidates:
- Backward naming: Instead of “game” use “emag”. Instead of “dev” use “ved”. “Gamedev” would turn into “Vedemag”. Or “gamer” would be “remag”.
- Use dictionary: dictionary is a nice place to find names. Remember to check out dictionaries of different languages. You might find interesting names from there.
- Brainstorm: Put every idea on paper. Don’t ignore a single one word. Put all of them in paper… and play with them. Select parts of different words… and combine and use them together.
- Naming forums: There are forums where you can ask for help when it comes to naming your company. See if they can help you.
- Other people: Ask other people – your friends or family – to help with you. You’ll get plenty of ideas.

After you have found a proper candidate:
- Test the name: Ask what other people think about your name candidate. Ask 5 to 10 people what whether they like your name or not. Remember: There’s always somebody saying bad about your company name – no matter how you name it. There’s just people who think your company name is too short/long, too boring, too wierd, too similar, too this, too that. Accept the fact that other people’s recommendations are only their recommendations – and it’s up to you to name your company. Listen to them, but feel free to ignore them if their feedback doesn’t seem useful.
- Use Google: Remember to check that there aren’t companies with the same name. Go to google and search with your company name. When I checked name for my company I saw that ‘arctic productions’ was taken, also ‘arctic games’. I finally managed to find no companies with ‘polycount games’ (or ‘polycount productions’)
- Legal issues: In Finland they always check if the name is legal and not trademarked when you try to register it. You should consult a lawyer or registration office to make sure your company name is not already trademarked.
- Domain name: Make sure you have a website address available. Go to register.com and type your company name – and check that it’s available. I think either .com or .net should be available. Well – they are the best. If you have other ending (like .co.uk) you can use it – but I personally think .com would be the best choice.

Other recommendations:
- Shorter the better: My company name (Polycount Productions) is not a short name so it can be bit difficult to remember. If possible – get a short & catchy name. Something that’s easy to remember.
- Pronounce: Make sure you know how to pronounce your new company name.
- Say it out loud: Try saying your company name out loud and see how it sounds in your ears. Is it pleasant to the ear?
- Brands: You might want to stay away from those big brands – don’t get anything too similar with big companies. Invent your own stuff.

Finally:
- Make sure you are happy with the name: After all, it’s your company. Make sure you are happy with the name – and go for it.

Hopefully you find these hints useful. There’s lots of material in google about naming a company. If these tips weren’t enough, go check out google for some more.

Sometimes Programming Is Like Playing an Adventure Game


Image from the legendary adventure game Monkey Island 2 – remember to visit Grumpy Gamer – The personal blog of Monkey Island creator, Ron Gilbert. Fine place for adventure gamers is justadventure.com, check that as well.

Recently I had coded for several hours and it was 6 pm. I had just finished a piece of SQL code and it seemed to work… until I noticed that DELETE record was not working, but there was no error message.

I made the every possible thing I could imagine:
- double checked the query string – was ok
- checked the field names in db several times… all okay
- I added debug info… everything seemed ok
- I searched for any error… nothing – all was ok
- I went through all the variables… no errors there
- I cursed (didn’t help)
- I repeated all this over and over and tried to tweak something here and there… didn’t work.

I decided to finish for the day. I had woke up at 6 am and I was bit tired. I decided to continue tomorrow.

The next day it took me about 1 minute to locate the error. I made a simple test (used bit different variable content) and it was there. The error was not in the syntax, but in the content.

I’ve noticed same thing happen me years ago when I played lots of adventure games. I had played the game for hours and tried to find the solution for the problem, but without any luck. But… after a night’s sleep and with fresh brain – the solution is apparent. I recommend you to do the same: If sometimes you feel you cannot solve a problem and you feel tired – go to sleep and let your brain solve the problem while at sleep. It just might work.

One Reason Why They Won’t Buy

Make sure your copy protection does not annoy customers. That’s been mentioned earlier. When I was working at Indiepath, the GEOM game used to have security system that wouldn’t allow users to install more than one copy of the game.

Luckily one of the customers complained about the issue and we had a chance to fix the problem:

I started the process to purchase Geom, then canceled in the middle. The price of the game is a little on the high end, but not too bad considering it seems to be a good game. However, if I can’t even install the game to both my desktop and my laptop for $24.95 then forget it, you can keep it.

This is exactly why negative feedback is so welcome. If he hadn’t said that GEOM would probably still contain the copy protection. Luckily he mentioned it! Today it allows multiple copies to be made for the user. That’s enough to keep most of the pirates away but still allowing honest people to play the game (like in the case they have more than one computer or so).