How to Get People to Bookmark Your Site

The only way you can get people to bookmark your site is not telling them to bookmark your site. The only way to get people to bookmark your site is to give them valuable content – give them something interesting enough to read, see, hear and experience. Whether people bookmark your site or not is not in your hands. You can only offer them content they appreciate and hope for the best. It’s up to you to use links that say ‘bookmark this site’, but I bet that has little or no influence on the user’s decicion. It’s only couple of clicks from the bookmarks menu anyway to do.

Texas Independent Game Conference (July 22 – 23)

Warren Spector (Ultima VI, Wing Commander Ultima Underworld 1 and 2, Ultima VII: Serpent Isle, System Shock, Wings of Glory, Bad Blood, Martian Dreams, Deus Ex etc.) and Greg Costikyan (Games * Design * Art * Culture) will keynote at Texas Independent Game Conference.

The mission of the Texas Independent Game Conference is simple – provide the forum where indie game developers can get together in a neutral environment and explore the things that really matter to them: like how do you start a studio? What are the best game markets for indie developers? What do people mean by indie developer anyway? How can you market my game effectively? What new tools are available? You can participate in a survey that asks what you want to see at the conference.

The list of companies involved is quite impressive: Bioware, Roxor Games, Aggressive Games, Public Games, Critical Mass Interactive, Breakaway Games, SecurePlay, GarageGames, Pulse Mobile Games, Skilljam, Octopi, Freeze Tag, Digital Convergence Initiative, Game Camp, Manifesto Games, Advanced Gaming, The Game Attorney and more.

There’s also a blog available about the event, so go on and participate in the discussion.

Little hint: They offer an earlybird registration for just $90, for those who register before July.

Have a Working Version After Every Coding Session

It’s crucial that as the game production progresses, you must have a working product. At the end of your coding session, you project must work (at least to some extent without crashing). By always having a working version you know that the in the next session you can continue working on the game, instead of trying to find out what’s wrong. It’s also practical to have a working demo in case you need to show the demo to someone: you’ll always have something to show.

Remember: Have a working version of your game before you stop coding for the session.

Sales Statistics: Crystal Cave and Crystal Cave Gold

Title: Crystal Cave & Crystal Cave GOLD
Description: Crystal Cave and Crystal Cave Gold are family-fun puzzle games.
Developer: 300AD
Released: 1st March 2004, GOLD August 2004, Mac August 2005
Team size: 2
Time of development (all version together): 2 months (not fulltime, only 3-4 hours/day). 2 weeks programming + graphics, 3 weeks levels design, 1 week testings and one month creating level hints (due to customer requests, because some levels are really hard).
Platform: Windows, Mac OS X

Sales:
Price: US $12.95 (Crystal Cave), US $19.95 (Gold)
Direct sales:
- Crystal Cave: 334 copies
- Crystal Cave Gold: 252 copies
- Crystal Cave Gold MAC: 74 copies
Net sales: (Net sales is the cash received. Gross sales is the sales before payment processing fees.)
- Crystal Cave: US $3328.09 USD (Gross sales: US $4649.84, including sales taxes)
- Crystal Cave Gold: US $3450.78 (Gross: US $5427.36, including sales taxes)
- Crystal Cave Gold MAC: US $1211.72 (Gross: US $1559.54, including sales taxes)
Other sales:
- Portals, distributors: US $4000 – $5000 (Gross: not allowed to say – Gameproducer’s guess: near $15000)
TOTAL: US $11000 – $12000

Conversion rates: (counted from files requests, not from full download files)
- Windows: 1.0%
- Mac: 0.7%

Downloads:
Windows: 55000 (25.000 download.com, 30.000 primary and secondary servers)
Mac: 12100

Expenses:
- press release: US $100
- porting the mac version: US $150
- other (download.com, google adwords, etc.): US $650
TOTAL: US $900

Promotion methods:
- Manually submitted to download sites first year
- PromoSoft
- Press release
- Google adwords
- Download.com (US $99 program for 4 months)
- newsletters to friends
- competitions (that were self made)
- sending infor to several news conferences

Additional comments:
Pavel Tovarys:

Tip for developers – don’t do very hard logic levels. Some of levels in Crystal Cave GOLD are extremelly hard and there are no many people who finish them and casual players have usually problems with middle difficulty levels, so we got hundreds of level support request “how could I finish the level” and we had to create a special hints page for the players. Some of players send us tens of support mails ;)

Thanks for the sales statistics Pavel, and good luck with the sales.

Don’t Plan Every Line of Code In Front of Your Computer

Don’t plan your code when you sit in front of your computer and watch your code. At least don’t plan every line of code in front of your computer if you think you are not progressing anywhere.Sometimes it’s better to plan your coding somewhere else, like on a walk, or at shower or in the kitchen. Write down the plans when possible. When you are happy with the plan, sit down and code the planned module.

I find it useful to plan far away from the computer… and when the plan is done – I can come to the computer and work the plan. Of course there’s changes, bug fixes and new ideas that come to my mind when I code. Then I can adjust the plan, and plan the code while I’m typing. But generally speaking, if I just stare at my code and get nowhere, I usually try to step away from the computer and plan far away from computer. And after the new plan is ready… I come back and type it.

For me it suits. Feel free to try it, you might be surprised how focusing either on planning or coding makes all the difference.

Sometimes.

GameProducer.net Wants Your Game Sales Statistics

Do you have sales statistics (download numbers, units sold, promotion methods etc.) for your game you’d wish to share?

GameProducer.net has already published details for 6 games, and has 1 more (or actually – 3 by one developer) coming in the near future. The sales pages have receive greatest number of visitors, and every single sales page have been read by thousands of people already. Gameproducer.net gets about 10 000 unique visitors (people interested in games production) each month – this is a nice opportunity for you to get more visibility for your game, and to help the indie community.

Feel free to contact me in case you are interested.

Thanks again for those who already participated.

Question Authority

Don’t count on people telling pure facts to you in the heat of discussion. The fact that somebody is a professional, doesn’t mean that he is right, or knows the right way. Professionals might have their own habits and customs which they’ve done for years – and continue doing so without considering new ways of working, thinking or acting. If somebody says “I’m a technical expert, I’ve worked for EA” that doesn’t tell what the guy did at EA.

Here’s something you might use. Whenever you hear somebody saying something like “I’ve done that, it doesn’t work that way” you should remember that it might only be his one time experience. It might have happened in different country, under different circumstances. There’s no guarantee that it will happen to you, or that it would always happen that way.
- “Studies show that…” (You might ask “What studies? Give me a link to article”)
- “The best way is…” (Why is the best way? Is there arguments for it?)
- “The worst thing because he says so” (Who is he? And why should we believe him?)
- “Always” (Always? Are there no exceptions? Ever?)
- “Never” (Really?)
- “Whenever” (Whenever? No exceptions… not just sometimes? In all situations?)
- “You should” (Should I? Why?)

There’s no need to strike back with full force when somebody is saying “gardening is the best hobby, ever!”. Leave room for tolerance. There’s no need to question everything all the time, but there could be need for critically evaluating what somebody says to you sometimes. We all (yes – we all. you, me and the rest of the world) have the right to express what we think, and that’s something nobody should get offended. Let people tell what they think, but process the reasons (or ask for them) and tell your opinion if necessary.

Question authority, make your own conclusions based on what’s said, not who said it.

Have One Computer-Free Day Every Week

The Sunday is the day when my computer is turned off – and stays that way. I have decided NOT to sit on computer on any Sunday. The Sunday is basically my day of rest and being 100% with the family. I might read a book, eat well or do something else. But no games, no Internet – no computer at all.

This has had the following effects:
- My motivation to work on the next week is much higher because I’m “eager to get to code/produce/develop”
- I can charge my batteries better by being very lazy on Sundays – I won’t work… I just rest.
- My productivity has NOT decreased – in fact, I don’t recall a single “I don’t feel like coding today” day since I started doing this (before this I had maybe once in month or two a day when I simply stared on the screen… doing nothing) – I work more concentrated & motivated and this compensates the shorter coding time (compared to coding also on Sundays)
- This has had a positive impact on family life: I have more time with my family. When your family relations are fine, the coding tastes much better.

Of course you can pick any day you want – or do the resting in some different way. But the bottom line is: resting is important. If you work too much, too long, without resting – something will break. Maybe it’s your computer… Maybe it’s your physical health. Maybe your mental health. Maybe your network of friends. Maybe it’s your nearest relationship. It may take time before something breaks – but eventually it will. And fixing (if even possible) it will take much more time than preparing for it before it happens. Work hard, but be sure to rest enough.

If you like coding one month 16 hours a day and then being one week totally lazy, fine – do what suits you best. Having one computer-free day every week works for me, but you can try anything that feels good to you. Just remember to rest or eventually something will break.

P.S. I wrote this entry at Friday and set the publish date for this Sunday. No need me to be here to write when I can be lazy on sofa… ;)

The Three-Phase Business Plan of The Underpants Gnomes

I read this story about South Park’s Underpants Gnomes just few days ago:

The Underpants Gnomes are a community of underground gnomes who steal underpants.

The Underpants Gnomes have a three-phase business plan, consisting of:
1. Collect underpants
2. ???
3. Profit!

None of the gnomes actually know what the second phase is, and all of them assume that someone else within the organization does.

This situation can be actually quite common. Producers might try setting up a website, but lack the idea on how to get people to visit, download and eventually purchase the product.

I’m currently writing a Indie Game Marketing Plan article to gamasutra that will hopefully shed some more light in what underpants gnomes… eh, I mean game producers – can do to get from phase 2 to phase 3. Please, be patient. I let you know when the article is for you to read.

In the meantime, here are some tips to get you started in promoting your game:
- magazines (use press releases to get them to see you)
- major websites (like Java.com or apple.com – contact them directly or/and use press releases)
- news sites (like GamerShell, use press releases to get there)
- advertising (careful usage of adwords, banner advertising in sites like Game Tunnel)
- contests/nominations (e.g. Independent Games Festival)
- major download sites (e.g. download.com)
- PAD service for download sites (for example PromoSoft or Shareware Tracker)
- affiliates (by carefully choosing)
- articles/post mortems
- blogs (ask for reviews)
- gaming forums (but don’t go spamming… read the site posting policies before posting)

Taking Paper Copies Doesn’t Need to Be Difficult

I learned one thing yesterday:Taking paper copies doesn’t need to be difficult
I got a new printer-scanner-copier machine (HP PSC 1410 to be exact) to replace the old printer that went broke. The new PSC was relatively inexpensive, about 80 euros, but the qualities surprised me:
- It’s much more silent than the old machine
- It’s much faster than than the old printer
- It’s much more easier & fun to use.

Previously, I had used a scanner-printer combination to get something copied. The process went like this:
1) Locate the scanner under several boxes of stuff
2) Tell dogs to go barking somewhere else while I’m playing with the scanner USB cable (if I happen to find it)
3) Turn computer ON
4) Yawn while Windows XP loads…
5) Put the paper to scanner and wait for a while for it to scan the data to computer
6) Wait until GIMP recovers from 8 errors during the opening of the file
7) Click ‘print’ in GIMP
8) Wait for a while until the printing is done, and find out that the printer couldn’t print such a light colors
9) Darken the scanned image, and print again
10) Say ‘okay… it’s missing some parts but it’s quite ok’ and be done

Now I do this:
1) Put the stuff in the PSC machine and click ‘colored copy’
2) Smile happily (and think about if I could have some more papers to copy)

I don’t even need to turn the computer ON, the machine does everything fast & easily.

I really recommend you to think about how to improve the quality of work. If the tools (computer, printer, scanner, phone, or whatever you use much) are good then it’s much easier, much faster and much more fun to work. Work doesn’t have to be (always) painful.