Dragons! Dragons!

IndieGameBusiness.com informed about an interesting contest winners at Shmup-dev.com – A developer site that focuses on the design of shmups (that means shoot’em’ups or shoot-everything-that-moves games). The site’s main focus is to bring attention to a genre which still has a lot of promise in the shareware sphere of casual gaming. The community there is a mix of shareware developers along with freelance artists as well as freeware game designers all the way to shmup-fans.

The contest launched about 3 months ago, and it was named “DRAGON SHMUP” – as the days passed by, more and more people signed up and started announcing their intentions to enter. In the end, many people dropped out of the contest due to lack of time or resources, but the ones that stayed in, surely made some impressive games.

Sovereign’s Slave grabbed first place right ahead of Smark’s Lair. Then at the third place they have hiryu, a cute adventure loaded with retro nostalgia! You can go through the list and see games with graphics and detail all the way down the ranks. With nice titles competing for the first prize, it’s a great time playing each one of them!

Check out Dragon Contest and see the reviews, screenshots, and play some shooters.

Last Vacation Day

Today is my last vacation day. I’m still on holiday, and enjoying the (hopefully) warm weather before getting back to work.Tomorrow is going to be busy day: I have several hundreds of emails to respond, game offers to check, development to do… and of course gameproducer.net to update.

See you tomorrow.

How Hit Games Are Created

I believe there are two most important factors in producing hit games: excellent game and excellent marketing. I’m sure there are many elements that make the hit game (such as excellent team), but it all boils down into these two items: quality and marketing. They are like the two wheels of bike: if one is missing, the bike won’t go very fast.

There are excellent games that aren’t selling well. Why is that? I believe their marketing efforts (such as market research, segmenting, proper promotion, branding) might be insufficient. Maybe they have the best game that’s ever done on this planet – but if nobody hears about the game, it won’t be a hit game. Excellent quality alone cannot guarantee massive sales. It’s like a bike with only back wheel: you won’t get anywhere where fast with it.

On the other hand, there are games that have millions dollar marketing budget and billion dollar brands behind them, but the game just won’t sell well enough. That’s simply because the game quality is missing. Again the bike with only front wheel won’t go very fast. It’s waste of (lots of) money to start high budget marketing on a game that nobody wants.

But sometimes… sometimes, some guys get it all right. That’s when Sims, Oblivions, Myst and similar AAA games are brought alive. They might not appeal to everybody, but they appear a massive amount of people. Great game, with a great marketing produces a hit: a 2-wheeled bike in great condition.

It takes two wheels to get the bike moving fast. In games that means: excellent game and excellent marketing.

7 Ways to Get Ideas

Game ideas. We all have them, but where do they come from? Where do you get help if you’re stuck with level design or feature design? Here’s 7 tips where to get some ideas.

[1] Watch cartoons and read comics
Yep. You got that right. I find different cartoons – whether it’s Donald Duck, Jackie Chan or Pokemon to be very useful sources for inspiration. There’s always good ideas to steal borrow from them. And it’s cheap too! Cartoons and comics can bring you ideas about what kind of enemies you could have, what kind of combat systems you could use, what kind of environment and challenges you could encounter in a level.

Besides, it’s good way to spend time with your children.

[2] Play games
Playing several different kind of games is an excellent way to get ideas. Whether it’s health systems, user interface, animations or anything – you can always find nice designs in games. Just make sure you don’t get too addicted into playing.

[3] Go for a walk
Having a break from computer and going out is excellent way to get some air that your brain needs. Go outside, walk for 30 or 60 minutes. Listen to birds (in case you happen to live in the woods like me ;)) and really let your mind get some relaxation.

[4] Read a book
Not game development book, but something totally irrelevant to game making. It can be fiction or anything. I find Terry Pratchett to have great philosophies and fantasy themes in his books. They are sure to give you good ideas when you lack motivation or inspiration.

[5] Investigate religions and myths
Check out ancient myths, or religions. They can give nice ideas and inspiration about different creatures or different game play ideas. Religions can even provide you the gods you might need in your game.

[6] Watch a movie… about anything
Bit similar to what was said earlier – watching movies (totally different from what you usually check) can have tremendous impact on ideas. If you always watch only action movies and make action games, then your mind goes in certain pattern. What if you’d check out an adventure movie or drama or comedy or even some indie movie – and get totally different perspective on producing action games?

[7] Read and surf blogs
You are already doing this, but continue surfing. Check out the blogs at the GameProducer.net side menu, and start checking them out. There’s plenty of interesting information that could give you new ideas on game development.

Bonus tip: Read A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young. It provides a step-by-step technique for getting ideas.

What Blog Software Are You Using?

Some people have asked about the software and hosting I’m using. Here’s detailed information about the solutions I use.

Which publishing platform?

I’m using WordPress to publish my entries. I like how flexible and moddable it is, so that’s my choice.

Which ping services you use?

I use the following:




Some months ago I used the following list, but it made the publishing process so slow that I decided to stick with the 3 best ones, in my opinion.







































































Where is your blog syndicated?

I have my blog syndicated on several places (and I use Angsuman’s Feed Copyrighter to provide copyright information for my RSS readers/syndicaters).

Here’s alphabetical list of some sites that have syndicated my feed:
Casual Game Blogs
Planet MicroISV
PRToday.net (using BitFeeder technology)

What WordPress Plugins do you use?

I use several plugins. One of the best ones is Spam Karma which catches spam messages very accurately. I definitely recommend.

Other plugins:
Angsuman’s Feed Copyrighter – as already mentioned: a copyright (or other message) note in RSS feeds.

del.icio.us – Bookmark this! – plugin to help add del.icio.us bookmarking. Another bit similar is Sociable.

Recent Comments – to display recent comments from readers. (I have slight problems with this plugin… it seems to get errors nowaydays when I try to customize it)

Related Posts – Pretty nice plugin to show (quite) related posts after each blog entry.

WordPress Database Backup – to backup data. Pretty okay plugin, although everything can (and will be) backed up through webhosting cPanel.

What webhosting service provider you use?

We use LiquidWeb hosting. We have customized dedicated server.

What newsletter service you use?

Indiegamebusiness.com newsletter service.

Have you done your web hosting theme by yourself?

Yes. I’ve totally done the template, except from the fancy image. That’s work of great 2D artist Olivier Derouetteau who kindly let me use his fine work in my blog.

Pre-Launch of Celtic Hill, an Online Multiplayer Games Portal

I’m proud to (pre) announce my latest business expansion: Celtic Hill, a site dedicated to quality online multiplayer games. We have made our first partnerships with OddLabs and their game Tribal Trouble. I’m extremely pleased to see this fine game on our site, and as I mentioned earlier: we are looking for more multiplayer titles and distribute them. I’m going to make official announcement in the coming weeks (and will get more games on the site), but feel free to check out the site already.

Celtic Hill is different type of portal. First of all – the site focuses on publishing few quality multiplayer titles rather than filling the site with tremendous amount of poor titles. Secondly: rather than showing only indie or commercial games we focus on publishing any kind of multiplayer titles. It doesn’t matter if there’s 1 or 100 people in the development team. As long as the game is good, we are interested in publishing it, no matter if it’s indie or AAA game. The third main point is that Celtic Hill doesn’t care about the system requirements: it doesn’t matter whether the game is done using Flash, DirectX or .Net techologies. As long as the game is fun and runs at least on PC, it can be considered to be distributed.

Go on, check out the site celtichill.com and try the first game. There’s more to come in the following days and weeks!

The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Game Producers

I believe there are several mistakes game producers can do – and here’s the seven poor examples.

1 – Find only faults, ignore job done well
This is probably a habit we all make – whether it’s our kids, pets, or our spouse. We tend to focus on the negative aspects. It’s easy to find faults, but when everything goes well – we say nothing. It’s same in game production: when team does a lousy job, they get blamed. When somebody is late, he gets blamed. When art comes late, somebody gets the blame. When everything runs smoothly, what the game producer does? He says nothing!

Get rid of this habit. Start seeing the full half of the glass. And I mean really start seeing and looking for it. When the whole team does a meeting properly, thank them. When the programmer does something extraordinary that wasn’t asked, thank him. When you have had a good day – thank for that. Change your attitude. Focus on positive elements.

2 – Ask opinions, then ignore them
This is another poor habit from game producers. First they might have massive plans, where they want everybody to contribute (and of course state that it’s crucially important that everybody gets involved) and finally they gather opinions. After hours and hours of work and brainstorming the game producer sits down with management team and ignores what everybody else said. People don’t (always) mind if their opinions is not asked. But if you ask some one’s opinion, be sure to hear it as well.

3 – Set unrealistic schedules, and expect people to work overtime
This must be very common in big corporations – not so much in indie teams – where big goals are set, milestones are established, and plan seems to go well. When the deadlines approach… producer notices that they are late on schedule and as they cannot reduce features, increase costs or delay the deadline – the obvious answer is: get people to work overtime, without extra payment.

That’s poor, poor habit. It will ruin motivation, ruin your reputation and eventually ruin the whole project. Manage risks before they occur! Make sure to set realistic plans and negotiate deadlines also in the beginning, not only when they are about to be missed.

4 – Get people to work on something urgent, and then ignore and never use the outcome
This is probably one of the best ways to ruin motivation (believe me, I’ve done this several times…) and people’s trust. If you continuously give people tasks (such as ‘new 3D model’ or ‘new user interface library’) and then ignore the task and not implement in the main game, you are sure to run into problems. It’s waste of time, money and patience to do work that’s never used. There’s the old management saying that’s very true: failing to plan is planning to fail.

5 – Be always right, don’t ever make mistakes
It isn’t always necessary to be right. It’s okay to be wrong. It’s okay to make mistakes. Trying something that doesn’t work and then trying something else is okay. But, for some reason some game producers just won’t get this. They get into fight about anything in order to ‘save their face’ or to ‘show negotiation skills’ or to just simply in need to be right. What they don’t realize is that being right is dangerous. Being right can get people against you, and kill team morale.

For example, a producer might get into fight about how something should be done. Maybe they say they have experience about what game platforms should be used and they won’t give a second thought for any other possibility. If they are possessed by the idea of having ‘windows only’ then they might die before admit that it might be reasonable idea to consider Xbox or Mac as well. Whatever facts you present doesn’t matter – their pride demands them to defend their position. Even if it costs them money, time, respect, or friends.

One good way to deal with this habit, is to ask yourself: “Do I want to be right, or do I want to keep my respect (or job or friend or whatever issue it is)”

6 – Manage, for the sake of management
Please, if you have this habit: get rid of immediately. There are producers who care more about how something is done rather than the outcome. If you want to have a high quality 3D model in .3DS format in 4 days, is it really necessary you to tell your modeler whether he should use Lightwave or 3D Studio Max? Isn’t it much more important to focus on results rather than how the work is done? Even then, there are managers who love to micromanage everything.

Another poor example is scheduling meetings for the sake of meetings. Is it really necessary to keep meetings, if nobody even listens (or remembers) what was agreed (if any) when they could be working on something important? Don’t get me wrong – daily reports can be good, but if your meeting has stuff only for 15 minutes, then don’t make it 1 hour for the sake of having “one hour meeting each day”.

7 – Lead by poor example
This is the poorest habit that sums everything: if you lead by poor example, then you can expect your team to work poorly. If you always come late to meetings, how can you expect other team members to finish their tasks on time? If you come late to work, how can you expect team members to work overtime? If you cannot deal with the work load you have, how can you expect team members to finish their tasks on time? If you take the glory, and ignore everybody else in the team – do you really expect team members to respect you?

Get rid of your bad habits. Be professional. And act like one.

How to Bring Players to Your Site?

The first issues indies tackle is the need to bring people on their site. Yesterday, I was asked:


We are begining the marketing campaign soon, but do not have too much money to invest. Are there any ideas you can give me on how to bring players to my site?

As always, the most important thing that will bring your site visitors is to make sure your game has the quality it needs. Be sure to have excellent game, with excellent screenshots on your website. Make sure your website and your game are ready to attract players.

I have written several posts about this issue in the past, and here are some good starting points:
Very simple marketing plan for indies. This is a very simple and easy-to-use marketing plan for indies. It’ll help you to get people to play your game, and also to visit your site. For more detailed plan, see also the marketing plan for indie games. Software promotions is another way to promote your game. Be sure to check them out, if you haven’t done that already.

For more information, be sure to check out these categories:
- Practical marketing – fast, easy and (often) cheap ways to promote your business. Don’t just go through the posts and use none. Instead, check them out, bookmark or briefly dot down your own ideas. Make sure you put down all the efforts you plan to use in the future. Be sure to take at least some of the ideas, and put them use right after you’ve gone through the whole category.
- How to get more sales – posts dedicated to helping you to figure out how to get more sales. Some of the posts are very brief, some longer – but all of focus on one same thing: how to bring you more sales.

If you are interested in other ways to earn money – besides selling games – be sure to check also the new money category which points out nice ways to get some income. The posts in the money-category will give you information about how to fund your game, but also present good tactics on how to actually get any money from online business.

Be sure to remember that it takes time to build traffic – you cannot expect magic happen in one night. Some of the fastest ways (such as press releases) can bring you nice traffic in both short and long period, but best ways to get traffic is to combine efforts: from forum signatures, press releases, software submissions, blogs etc. and build from there.

Quick check on past posts

In the result of having problems with our previous website hosting provider PowerVPS we purchased a brand new dedicated server. There was a 3 days delay when the DNS entry propagated all over the network, and thus making gameproducer.net offline.

Here’s a brief summary of latest posts in case you missed them:
- End user agreement – example file now online and updated
- Free money – are you leaving some on the table?
- Email todo – way to use emails to track your todo tasks.
- Business opportunity – Do you have an online multiplayer game you’d consider to publish?
- Edoiki progress – new art and future news

Check ‘em out.

Challenge #5: Game Ideas

The fifth gameproducer.net challenge is about game ideas. I tell my game idea as an example and you are free to participate. Some time ago I wrote about violence in games and mentioned that although I’m not much of a fun of mindless violence, I understand it can be efficiently used (such as in games like Hitman or Gibbage). Now I present one of my game ideas, which is is totally different – much like the opposite of Punisher, that was mentioned in the previous post.

Idea for a game: Gandhi
Those of you who don’t know Gandhi, I give you little introduction: he was a man from India and lead the country – hundreds of millions of people – to India’s independence without use of violence. There’s much more to say about this man, and those of you who are interested about him, I suggest checking the following material: Brief introduction to his life, Famous quotes by Gandhi. Book: Gandhi An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth. Also the movie about Gandhi’s life, named simply Gandhi is worth watching, although the movie is not as good as his writings.

I haven’t processed this game idea any further than to a level of thinking about the game scenes and philosophy behind the game. The core idea of the game would be to describe the life and events of Gandhi. The game would try to teach us that guns & killing wouldn’t be the only way to ‘solve’ problems – pretty much focused around his famous saying: �An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.� The game could use be presented as some sort of strategic, rpg and/or adventure theme: you could take the role of Gandhi and ‘lead’ the so called ‘troops’ to independence. The game could also present different paths and take situations that really occured.

Even though I enjoy seeing action & massive battles (like the ones that take place in Battle for Middle Earth) I believe this kind of very different approach could find its audience.

If you want to comment the idea, or tell us about your game idea, feel free to contribute to the challenge.