Monthly Archives: May 2006

E3 2006


Screenshot from a ParaWorld game

PS3, Wii and Xbox 360 are getting a lion’s share of attention this year, but luckily there are great PC games coming too. I think one of the most interesting AAA games this year is Spore. Will Wright (man behind Sims) are presenting the game this year. The Spore’s idea is innovative: the game takes you through a simple cellular creatures… that will eventually create cities and war with others. It’s a world simulation.

There are other games like Warhammer: Mark of Chaos, The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, new installments on Splinter Cell and Rainbow Six, Dark Messiah of Might & Magic (powered by Valve’s Source engine), CivCity, Sensible Soccer (I remember playing the old version years ago…), ParaWorld (just saw the screenshots which looked interesting) and many others.

Read more at the official E3 Insider 2006 website: e3insider.com

The 7 Rules of Backups

Are you creating a game but don’t have backups? I know people who are so paranoid (and paranoid is good in having backups) who backup everything every 2 hours. And they backup in several locations. They want to make sure they never get into a situation where a work of several days is lost.

There are some guidelines to making backups, see them yourself.

#1 – Data losses can happen to you
Don’t believe that your game data will be safe, or that backup recoveries are something that happens to somebody else. It can happen to you. Viruses, hard drive crashes, system crashes etc. can make tremendous damage to your game production, if you have not backed everything.

#2 – The most dangerous data loss threat causer is you
Yes, the most common data losses don’t happen because system crashes or other threats. It’s much more like that you accidently delete or damage a file or a folder.

#3 – Make two copies of critical data
More is better than less in backing up data. If you have really critical data (that would be your game production files) then periodically backup that data to different places. One good idea could be to send all your game data to a secure place at your webhosting. Besides this you could have external disk or tape and perhaps a CD or DVD. Memory sticks can be handy with small amount of data. This way you can have all the data in 2, 3 or even 4 different places.

#4 – Backup it regularly
Make sure you backup regularly. Do it once a month, once a week, every day, every 2 hours, after a major update, before the launch. But make sure you do it. Depending on your pace and time on production you might survive with simply one or two backups per month. Intense development would require every day backups, or even hourly.

#5 – Make it easy to backup
One reason why people don’t backup their data might be that it’s not easy to do. You might have a DVD backup system and think it takes too much time to backup everything. Spend a few bucks on a proper backup tools and you can run the backup program in background… almost without noticing it to happen.

#6 – Understand the need for backups
Another reason why indie producers don’t care about backups is because data losses have never happened to them, and they think they are safe. Ask yourself: would it be bad for you if all your data would be lost? I mean everything. Every single line of code, every little note, all project documentation and plans? If all would be lost, would that be a bad thing? Understand that backups are crucial. It doesn’t cost much to make backups, but the importance of backups comes very obvious when something happens.

#7 – Start now
Don’t plan to start making backups ‘next month’ or ‘in the future’. Start now. If you don’t start now, then you are not going to start ever. Find a backup device, buy it right away and schedule your computer to make backups.

Do it now.

GameProducer.net Visitor Statistics

I use Awstat and Webalizer to see the visitor statistics. The problem with tracking users is the different ways these programs measure traffic.

According to Awstat gameproducer.net has traffic is been like this:
- January, 6590 unique visitors, 73393 page views
- February, 6257 unique visitors, 108395 page views
- March, 6703 unique visitors, 132726 page views
- April, 8262 unique visitors, 132847 page views
(Total unique visitors: 27812)

Webalizer gives the following information:
- January, 7388 unique visitors, 65922 page views
- February, 8213 unique visitors, 100767 page views
- March, 9929 unique visitors, 122405 page views
- April, 13866 unique visitors, 126967 page views
(Total unique visitors: 39396)

I don’t use Analog in anything else but to compare the results. According to Analog there has been 33500 unique visitors in January to April. The average of Awstat & Webalizer figures is 33605 uniques. I don’t have the knowledge on how these different analyzers measure traffic, but it seems to me that Awstat is more strict than Webalizer when analyzing the visitor data. I’m still waiting to get Google Analytics to measure my site. It’s basically Urchin that Google bought.

Anyway, the current data gives the message that the site is growing.

Another way to measure site statistics for me is Technorati. At May 8, the GameProducer.net technorati rank is 32,295 (208 links from 66 sites).

I get you more numbers in the future.

Challenge #3: How to Make Your Game Sell More

This time bit different challenge… I want to challenge you readers to show a game you are selling and then all participants can suggest hints & tips on how to improve the sales of those games. The hints can be suggestions about improving website, changing gameplay, adding new visuals, giving more info… anything that comes to your mind.

If you want to announce a game, please give the following information:
- Website
- Download link
- Optionally details like conversion rate or promotion methods you are currently using.

Just comment on this entry and let others know about your game – and get more sales.

Yesterday, I announced that Pre-Ordering of Edoiki will be made available. If you have no game to announce, feel free to give me your suggestion on how I could get more people to pre-order the game.

Good way to think about the improvements is to ask: What would this game need so that I would purchase it?

Pre-Orders

We are progressed enough to get our game project Edoiki for you players to test. I haven’t experimented with pre-ordering before, and for this game I’m going to try it.

Other developers recommend some tactics for pre-orders:
- discounts
- status or special ranks.

If you have good suggestions (besides optimizing the website), feel free to share them. It will help me and others in similar situation.

I haven’t decided the price for Edoiki, but we will propably either start with $19.99 or $29.99. Pre-ordering costs the same. I will add screenshots, concept art, game rules, descriptions in the edoiki.com as the pre-ordering begins.

The status/rank I shall use, very much actually. There is a 3D hand in the game. As players get more wins, their rank will get better and they will get new rings or marks in the hand. I thought about having a small wound for each loss… then you could determine how much a person has played by simply looking at his virtual hand in game. Now, those who pre-order will get a special rank. I haven’t decided it yet, but they could get a special tattoo in their hand, or a special jewelry (or bracelet) that would be available only for those who pre-order the game.

I will make an official press release using the indiegamebusiness.com press release service when the pre-ordering begins.

As mentioned already – this is the first time I’m using pre-orders, so I have no first hand experience about this. This means that I have pretty much nothing to lose. After the pre-ordering period is over, I will have either more experience or experience and money. It’s a win-win situation for us.

I keep you informed on how the experiment goes.

igLoader – Easy Way to Get Your Game Demo Online Without Java or Flash

igLoader is a neat application that can get your game demo online without need to use Flash or other web programming language. You just purchase the kit & go online. It was actually quite fun to see igLoader to embed a web browser inside igLoader… and browse another igLoader site inside igLoader… makes your head spin.

This is what the developer mentioned at indiegamer boards:

Our product, igLoader, works with Firefox, Opera, Netscape and IE. It’s incredibly simple to use, we have lots of satisfied customers including miniclip.com, who are in the process of moving all their old ActiveX games to igLoader. The latest version allows you to embed movies/music/flash or even complete HTML pages as the game downloads; perhaps giving your customers a flash mini-game to play as the game “proper” downloads.

The author continues:

All the igLoader commands for network and embedding control are native to the language. A leading Basic manufacturer have adapted their latest software to integrate properly with igLoader (not official yet, still beta).

I think the igLoader stands out with these features:
- It works with different browsers (you need the small plugin – similar to Flash, but smaller file size)
- It doesn’t require (almost any) additional programming, the game you have is automatically converted into a webversion. No Flash coding, no additional graphics making, no (almost) nothing!
- Price: about 60 bucks per title – compare to the price of transporting your game to Flash/Java and getting it to web…

The author uses it at their game site cloverleafgames.com, some indie developers use it and I know Miniclip.com (the big game portal) uses it. Can’t be that bad.

As mentioned, the application costs about US$60, and there’s a free development edition available at their site. To find out more, and to download the development edition visit www.igloader.com.

2D or 3D graphics?

One of the initial questions in game development are whether to use 2D or 3D graphics. Some people say that one should use 2D because it’s easier, simpler or something that beginner developers just should stick with.

In my opinion, 2D games are not easier and simpler to understand than 3D. I think that 3D graphics should NOT be used just the sake of using 3D graphcis. There are AAA titles that would be much more playable using 2D art. If there are massive number of items and functions, then 3D graphics might slow down the game too much in order to be playable. It’s a shame that there are not many 2D adventure games from big companies (but luckily indies are still doing it), I think Monkey Island and Full Throttle (and others) were great as they used 2D.

But there are good reasons for using 3D. I list some of them:
- I simply think 3 dimensional gets you immersed in the game better than 2D. This is purely a matter of opinion, and it doesn’t mean that 2D looks worse. It means only that the 3 dimensional world is something I like.
- 3D physics gives you the option to use physics in great way. If you need to model a ball that would roll on any direction, 3D gives you this option easily. In a 3 dimensional world that’s possible, but not in 2D.
- Animations require less effort to create: if you would like to create 10 different combat moves for a 2D character, you would need to do quite a lot of artwork to handle that. And tweaking the animation requires doing the whole lot of work. In 3D you can create a mesh, add bones and animate the character. If the animation needs tweaking, it’s much easier to handle than in 2D.
- Visual effects (alphas, mirrors etc.) are bit easier to do in 3D. There are engines that can fake 2D to use 3D effects… but those engines are not pure 2D engines. In fact, they are 3D engines that look like 2D engines.

These are some of the reasons I prefer to use 3D, but that doesn’t mean you should start doing 3D. There are places for 2D art. Many puzzles and indie adventure games for example use 2D. What you could do to make the decision is to see what your needs and goals are, and make the decision based on that. If you have good 2D skills and experience, then go for it.

Don’t Blame The Dogs

Some time ago our two dogs decided that I spend too much time online. The newcomer chewed the network cable. I was hopelessly offline.

First I was bit angry, but managed to think who was to blame here: was it the dogs or me. My initial thought was to blame dogs, as it was the smaller one that chewed the cable. Then I thought that maybe the dogs thought had found a new toy. They have never seen a network cable before, how could they know it wasn’t meant to be eaten. I also thought that it wouldn’t have required much from me to plug off the cable when dogs were left alone.

It was me to blame. I hadn’t taught the dogs. Dogs had a reason to chew the cable – they wanted to play. I didn’t plug off the cable.

How this philosophy works in games production?
I hadn’t heard from our artist for a several days, even when I had emailed him and given game specific instructions. I was bit surprised, but I decided to give him time. I know he is a busy man (terribly busy man) so he simply might not have had enough time to deal with my post. After few days I was about to ask him… an email had arrived to my mailbox. He apologized… and said that he had wondered why I hadn’t contacted him after his latest post, but realized that the post was still saved in his drafts. He thought he had emailed me, but the email was not sent. Simple human error caused us both to wonder what’s happening.

The lesson behind these stories are that you shouldn’t blame others – they might have reason for their behavior. Instead of blaming others, ask yourself how you could take responsibility and contribute to solving the issue.

Don’t blame the dogs.

How to Name Your Game

Finding a proper name for your game be tricky. Here’s the process we went through in naming the game.

#1 – Brainstorm: First step in finding a proper name is to get all possible ideas on paper
When we started looking for the name for Secret projet – Edoiki – I used couple of japanese books (as the game’s theme is japanese/chinese) and tried to look for phrases and names that could be useful. I got some names on paper. None of them were used in the end, but still that doesn’t mean that books couldn’t be a good source for finding the name for your game.

The next step was to find some kanji symbols and japanese names Japan Guide proved to be quite useful resource. I managed to get some hints from there for later usage. About.com’s 50 popular kanji symbols were also good help.

Next I asked some suggestions from our artist, who (amazingly) happened to have friend in Japan who he can “pester” with some questions.

#2 – Mixing ideas
Next we started mixing different ideas… like ‘ai’, ‘iki’, ‘edo’, ‘senshi’, ‘do’ that were suggested.

#3 – Availability: Check whether the domain name for your game is available.
After we found a name, we had to try whether it was available to register. Register.com offers an easy way to check out domain names. My initial suggestion ‘Senshido’ – senshido.com was taken, but senshido.net was available. I’d prefer to have .com domain name, but decided to proceed.

#4 – Are there other games with that name?
Use google to compare whether there are games with that name. Senshido game did receive some sites, but fast checking didn’t reveal other games named as Senshido.

#5 – Ask others and either go back or decide the name
I started asking people how they felt about the name. Senshido (which I liked) got poor or average results from the people I asked. Also the problem with pronounciation (which might hurt word-of-mouth) and bit difficult name to remember (when you need to google for the game) were also bit problematic.

Even though I liked the name, others didn’t like it that much and as there were small problems: word-of-mouth, difficult to remember and the fact that senshido.com was taken all resulted in declining this name.

We stepped back to phase #2 and started mixing ideas, checking google (“Edoiki game” in google resulted in no matches), asking others (who rated the name as “good”, better than Senshido anyway) and finally decided to get that name.

I spent several hours in getting the name and I must say that without the help of others, it would have been even longer process. Now secret game project has a name: Edoiki (and a website: Edoiki.com).

How to Get Your Casual Game to Major Portals

Casual game makers ask:

Question:

How can I get my game to [name of the big portal here]? How to get them to respond?

Answer:
You need to (1) have a great game that’s suitable for portals and (2) contact them (get them to response). You might not always get lucky, but after you have contacted portals you might have a better clue on how to improve your game to get to the portals.

Here’s an example of email we received when we introduced one game to a portal:

Unfortunately, our review team has decided to pass on distribution of the game at this time. It was felt that the gameplay required too much manipulation for our audience (aged 30-60, over half female), who are used to games with a higher click-to-reward ratio. We reviewed a similar game a few months ago, and unfortunately, the same reaction occured. Our audience is a savvy one, but as these games are generally just a fun distraction for them, they have a low tolerance for games that take too many steps to accomplish moving a game piece or creating a match, etc.

The best examples of the type of gameplay our audience resonates with can be found via the link to our weekly top ten seller list.

We got rejected, but this helped us to improve the game – and to try get it to portals on another time. As you can see: they have a guideline on what kind of games they want to see and they recommend checking the weekly top ten sellers. Every major portal has the top ten bestseller list – download the demos and check the design elements in their games. There’s no need to copy the games, but you can use ideas from other games to make your game successful.

Question:

What are game portals? Are they different from publishers?

Answer:
The very short answer would be: Game portals are basically big game sites that can get enormous traffic – even millions of players each month to visit their site. Portals take your game (if it’s good enough), and sell it through their website. Portals don’t sell through other portals. Game publishers on the other hand can get your game, and present it to different distribution channels: portals, retailers, affiliates etc.

Question:

What major portals there are?

Check out these portal lists: indiegamer.com or logler.com. Some of the biggest game portals are: Big Fish Games, MSN Gaming Zone, Real Arcade and Yahoo Games