Walk Your Talk

You all know the story about a boy who cried wolf. It ends in these words:

We’ll help you look for the lost sheep in the morning,” he said, putting his arm around the youth, “Nobody believes a liar…even when he is telling the truth!”

The best way to predict someone’s future behavior is to look at their past behavior
If you have a habit of promising something, and then forgetting people. That’s what people will think about you. If you cried ‘wolf’ too many times, you can rest assured nobody will believe you when you really mean something. Nobody believes a liar, even when he is telling the truth.

Don’t promise what you cannot keep. If you cannot meet your commitment, deal with the consequences.
I got a message from one disappointed customer who said I hadn’t meet my commitment. I promised to personally email this person when new updates would be available for Hightailed game, but failed to do so.

I could have mentioned that I was very busy setting up my company, building gameproducer.net, chasing some other rabbit or telling some other task I had to take care… and all these would have been excuses.

I made a promise, I should have kept it.

If I knew that I couldn’t promise something, then I shouldn’t have promised anything in the first place. I apologized for the harm I had caused, and offered that the player could test our developer version of Hightailed (something that’s not available to public). I’m not sure if that was enough, but it was the best thing I could think of at the moment. I tried to deal with the consequences, but I assure you – it’s much better to deal with the promise than trying to fix something afterwards.

How to Look Like a Professional

Here’s an easy way to look like a professional. There’s a simple trick that does all the difference.

Take a look at these comments:

hi ,my name is joe.i’m a professional game producer at our company.we strive to make innovative games rather than profits.

Look what happens when you put dots and commas in proper places, use spaces when needed and capitalize the first letters:

Hi, my name is Joe. I’m a professional game producer at our company. We strive to make innovative games rather than profits.

Can you see the difference? It’s that easy. Just put a little more effort on your writing, and you look more professional, and more reliable.

How To Get People To Do What You Want

One of the challenges of game producers is to get people do what they are supposed to do. And on time. It might be true that it’s easier to get people to do what you want as long as you have money. You just give people money, and they do what you want. That’s partially true.

But, that’s definitely not the whole truth.

You cannot force anyone to do things for you. Even with money. If the person is not motivated – if he doesn’t want to do the job then even money won’t help. He might do a lousy job, or finish only partially if he doesn’t want to do something. The only way to get people to do something, is to get him want to do it.

There are much more other things people desire besides money. Here’s a short list of what people want. When you give people what they want, they are more willing to do what you want.

#1 – Money
As mentioned earlier: people want money. Some people want it more, some less. Everybody needs some amount of money to survive, so money can be one vehicle for motivation. Even small bonuses or upfront money can motivate people to work for a long period of time.

#2 – Trust
Team members want a game producer they can trust. If they think you are hiding something, making deals without telling them or keeping more money and royalties than was agreed then the trust is gone. And when the trust is gone, the game project progress stops and the fighting begins.

Be honest, open and trust your team members – that’s the way to build trust.

#3 – Listened
People want someone to listen to them. Don’t just hear them while they are talking. It’s important to listen what they are saying, comment and notice what their message is. If you ignore everything they are saying, then they start feeling that you are not interested. That leads them to be uninterested about your assignments. Why would they listen to you, if you don’t listen to them?

#4 – Involvement
Team members want to be part of the team. Don’t keep mentioning it’s ‘your project’, ‘your game idea’ or ‘your something’. Start speaking about ‘our project, ‘our game’, ‘our team members’. Have an attitude where you are the ‘king’ of the project and doing the hardest work. Start thinking how lucky you are actually having interested people in your team. When you get team members… be darn sure to let them – and others – know that you are doing the project together. Team members want to a have a solid team – and a feeling that they are part of the team.

#5 – Peace & Quiet
Even though people want to be part of a team, they also want work individually. In an indie project where people can be located all over the world this is not much of an issue, but in an office where interruptions can happen there is need for peace & quiet.

#6 – Recognition & Rewards
Team members want to hear that they’ve done a good job (when they’ve actually done a good job), they want their name to be mentioned in interviews, websites, credits… Don’t flatter people, that’s cheap. Give reward & recognition when you’ve think they’ve done a good job, but also let them hear if something is gone wrong. Group rewards can also be important for team members.

#7 – Titles
This is something that’s been a bit of a mystery to me, but people are keen to have a nice title. They want titles like ‘marketing coordinator’, ‘CEO’, ‘game producer’ or ‘lead designer’. I’m not saying you are like this. I’m not saying that marketing coordinators, CEO’s, game producers or lead designers are like this. I’m saying that some people are. Some people need to have a title for their jobs to feel important.

I see that this can be practical for communicating with other companies: if someone is looking for business deals they might want to talk to CEO, and when someone is looking for a job they might want to talk with the human resources. In this way it’s practical to have a title for external communication. But personally, I don’t think there’s need for titles in internal communication. But, I understand that some people want titles – and that’s fine with me. Just remember: people appreciate titles

#8 – Plan
Team members don’t want just automatically process everything that’s given to them. People want to plan their work, and work their plan. If you get people involved in the game planning – even in areas outside their responsibility – you are sure to get people motivated. The feeling of mutually planned goal is important.

#9 – Freedom
People want to freedom to choose the methods of working. You should focus on results, not the method. If you need a great looking 9000 polygon 3D orc model with a 512×512 .png texture in a .3DS format then say it. Don’t tell the artist to start using Milkshape & Gimp to do the model. Let him choose the way he wants to work – just make sure the results are okay.

#10 – Responsibility
People want to get responsibility, and they want to know the are important for the whole project. If you don’t give responsibility to your team members, they lose interest. They want to know that others are dependant on their work. They want you and other team members to know they are important for the project.

And keep in mind – everybody is different
We all have different wants and needs. It’s true that some people usually want some of the things mentioned (Rewards for example: everybody wants to know they’ve done a great job. You want that, I want that. Even humble people want to hear that they are humble – even though they don’t mention that… If you are honest with yourself, you feel good when somebody mentions about a job you’ve done well). Everybody is different: some people want more formal way of working, some people want informal. Some people like challenges, some people don’t. The secret of getting along with people is to think the project, tasks and assignments in their point of view. Find the unique needs of different persons. Be motivating, be inspiring, be professional and be happy. Find out what people want, and present the assignments in their way.

Should I Have Mouse Or Keyboard Controls In My Game?

There are times when you seem to have to pick one of the two possible options. One such issue is the controls of the game. You might wonder whether you should have mouse or keyboard controls in your game.

The answer I recommend: Have both. If possible, set the controls so that players can use mouse or keyboard. Let them choose. I found this way to sort out issues very useful. Sure, it’s extra work (at least some extra work), but that put player in the position to decide.

It’s not always useful, but think about it. Don’t automatically assume that you have only two options: A and B. Sometimes you can have A, B, and A+B or even new option C. Expand your thinking.

Team Members Are NOT Mind Readers

Have you ever encountered a situation where team member did not do what was supposed to do?

I have.

And usually the one to blame is NOT the team member… It’s usually the guy that stares at you from the mirror when you are shaving. Yes, that would be you – the game producer. For some reason game producers – or at least me – think that team members can read our minds. You have all plans sorted out in your mind, game play roughly sketched on paper and ideas dotted down… and you go to the artist or the programmer to do some task. After he has finished the task, he comes to you and you look stunned: the result is NOT what you asked. That’s because he cannot read your mind. If you think how something should be done, that’s not enough.

When mind reading fails, these tricks might be handy:

  • Write down what you want
  • Write also what you don’t want
  • Describe the situation
  • Make sure you write in a language he understands, not the language only you understand. Art monkeys don’t necessarily know programming terms!
  • Draw pictures
  • Draw flow charts
  • Draw diagrams
  • Use mind maps
  • Build/show/use physical objects if you need to! (Like they do in films studios – they build small objects to represent what needs to be seen in the movie. If you have a nice looking knife or chair you’d like to get modeled, show that to your artist)
  • Show design documents
  • Have references to other games when necessary
  • Give links to screenshots that might be relevant for the task
  • Use phone, skype or MSN to speak & chat, and to make sure the task is understood
  • Ask if the team member understands what he is supposed to do
  • Ask the team member to describe what he needs to do, or to somehow confirm what needs to be done
  • Sum up: number the tasks he needs to do ((1) 512×512 texture, (2) 2000 polygon 3D orc model, (3) …) instead of telling a fuzzy objective (‘I need an orc model’)

That ought to get you started.

Now, do you know what you are supposed to do when giving the task?

Challenge #2: Use Windowed or Fullscreen?

Yesterday, there was a post about different ways to annoy people. Today I’m throwing a challenge for you.

The Challenge
Let’s presume there’s people who want that when game starts, it automatically starts in fullscreen – without any hassles, no ‘ask for windowed/fullscreen’ – just start the game in fullscreen and be done with it. Then there’s people who want to run the game in windowed mode. They’d prefer if the game would ask before setting a fullscreen mode.

Now, the challenge: as you know that some people want fullscreen and some people want windowed game screen, how would you design your game to start?

Feel free to leave a reply and tell us what you think about this.

21 More Ways To Annoy Players

TooNormal gathered bits & pieces to make the total list.

Here were the original 8+1 reasons:

1. Make sure your uninstaller is incomplete and broken.

2. Violate my quick-launch bar.

3. Use program groups/folders named after your company.

4. Release buggy un-tested games.

5. Force installations to the C: drive.

6. Self extracting archives make great installers.

7. Sh*t on my desktop.

8. Don’t test with non-standard or international keyboard layouts.

bonus: 9. Laptops don’t exist.

These ones game from gameproducer.net: (Thanks to our visitors!)

10. Resize and move all the previously opened windows to the upper-left corner of the screen after returning from full-screen mode.

11: Open Game in FULLSCREEN mode without giving me any choice to Open in window, or even CLOSE/EXIT instead.

And here’s some more from Game Studio Forums (I left few away, as they were more bit different, but you can see the missing issues in the TooNormal site if you want)

12. Don’t ask whether a start menu should be created or not.

13. Always install videos on HDD without further asking. Making intro videos extra big and long because there is so plenty of disk space……………….ARGH

14. Install extra tools like media players.

15. Disable CD burning software to avoid warez.

16: Require you to turn off ALL security so all viruses, worms can walk on in from anywhere on the planet.

17: The software manual, including install instructions, is compressed in the CAB file on the CD.

18. Ask if you want to create a folder that doesn’t exist (just create it automatically).

19: Violate other Programs to make them not working.

20: Require a program not on the install disc (like a special direct x version).

21: Use three or more disc’s. one to install and two to change during any game (instead one DVD).

22: Do not allow button configuration.

23: Do not remove all files with uninstall

24: Do not run in fullscreen mode.

25. Always mess around with registry.

26. Use Star-Force copy protection.

27. Just convert your console title without adjusting the menu size, the controls etc.

28. Release bug-fixes only for registered members.

29. Include many unknown logos and animations while start running the game.

30. Get half way through a game only to find out the save feature crashes the game.

If you want to hear TooNormal’s comment, go check his post.

Some of the issues mentioned are big problem, while some are not so critical (like ‘ask whether to create a folder when it does not exist’ is bit annoying, but it’s takes only few secs to get past that issue – so no big deal really).

But, there something really interesting. See how it’s impossible to please everybody: one person (#24) says it should NOT run in fullscreen… while the other guy (#11) says it SHOULD run in fullscreen. Sometimes it’s impossible to build something that would suit everybody…

What Board Game Inspired ‘Secret Game Project’?

I received this email some time ago:

I’m writing a TBS similar to Reiner Knizia’s Samurai too but based in a comical fantasy world rather than Japanese. Its my first project so is taking a fair bit of time and I’m doing all the programming and graphics myself. If you fancy taking a look, you can find my blog at: www.whitespace.net.nz

Take a look at the site, his version of the Samurai game looked very good to me.

I must point out, that the ‘secret game project’ is NOT based on Knizia’s Samurai.

P.S. My lips are sealed for further guesses…

What Godfather, Oblivion and Sims Have in Common?

Godfather is a game based on multi-million dollar license. I haven’t played the game, but the reviews I’ve seen have been somewhere around ‘good’, but not exceptional.

But the one thing that gets praised in the reviews is the freedom: you can interract with in the game quite freely. The game has an open-design world for you to manipulate – to a certain point.

Oblivion is big & hyped game that got great ratings pretty much from anyone who has either reviewed or played the game. It’s said that the game has a massive world, and again the freedom to do what you want is something unseen. You can choose what you want to be, and how you want to act.

Sims (and the sequel Sims 2 and numerous expansion packs) is propably one of the biggest selling game families in this planet. And, important part is the freedom to act & play the game. Different people will build different houses, have different jobs, different decoration, different appearance – different anything. The freedom to choose (especially when you plug in some expansion packs) is once again great.

Freedom is something we might want to see also in small-budget games. I know there are some games that use open-world design. One quite good example could be the old Nethack – hack’n’slash rpg. One newcomer could be Kudos, a game where you control someone’s life. There are some, but it would be great to see more games with more freedom.

And, a tricky design issue: could casual games be designed around ‘freedom’?