Monthly Archives: October 2006

Gameplay Must Come First?

GamesIndustry.Biz tells about LucasArts’s Chris Williams who says that “Gameplay must come first”. He says:

I don’t believe that someone is going to go out and spend the kind of money that it’s going to cost to buy a new system just for the pretty graphics.

Williams continues:

LucasArts has worked really hard to develop new technology that we think is fundamentally going to change gaming at the core. That includes creating simulated rather than animated characters which react differently according to context, and new physics effects for more realistic visuals.

I’m not 100% sure what kind of technology they are talking about… but “new physics effects for more realistic visuals” belongs most likely to the “pretty graphics” section rather than about “better gameplay”. The interview is going to be published tomorrow so we are left to see what happens, but my guess is that LucasArts continues the same path big companies are already doing: improving graphics. (I’m slightly exaggerating here.)

…which naturally leaves space for the rest of us indies: to focus bringing innovation in games.

Blogs Roundup #4

This time a different blogs roundup: only two sites (and one of them isn’t even a blog – but definitely worth mentioning).

  • Kloonigames blog – This guy got me interested in fast prototyping. He has done small games in mere days and wrote a great list of articles about rapid game prototyping.
  • Bluesnews – Not a blog… but a site where I send news items now and then. Lots of updated content & news. Worth checking. (Tip: send news to these guys, you’ll get traffic)

Small news item: TenGames sales stats will be online within a week – stay tuned.

Basics of Newsletters

Newsletters are important in any business: they are easy way to remind your readers about major updates, important news, new games or pretty much anything and get them to visit your site. Sometimes your customers might simply forgot you, and getting them back to your site can be done using newsletter. Naturally you can give discounts, special articles or services for your newsletter subsribers.

I strongly recommend to avoid sending newsletters from your own computer or from the same IP where you websites are located

The reason is simple: it might happen that people who you mass email might think you are spamming them and report you as a spammer. In the worst case it might mean that your IP gets blacklisted by major services, and after this the “regular” email you send might automatically end up your recipients spam box! Of course you can get yourself whitelisted again, but dealing with companies like AOL or others might take some time before you are cleared. That’s why it’s better to leave the hassle for companies who have already done this: if you mass email people using external service, then you don’t risk having your “regular” emails blocked.

The other problem is that your hosting provider might not allow mass email sending: it might happen that they close or delete your account for violating the terms of service. It also does no good to send emails from your own computer, as it might get in the blocked lists.

Here’s some newsletter services which you might find useful

  • YMLP – Free “light” version available, recommended by many people – including myself
  • eZineDirector – Haven’t personally used, but heard other people recommending this.
  • Aweber – The newsletter service I currently use.

Each one of them can help you to get those newsletters sent.

Question regarding newsletter signups

Should I force newsletter signups?

No.

That’s my personal opinion. Some companies think that forcing the email before download is good, but I personally don’t think that’s a good way to do business. People might put fake emails or simply not finish the registration. Or – if they would need to confirm their email they simply might block the collected email address.

Consider from your point-of-view: would you like to get forced to signup for a newsletter before you download the game? Or what if you would be forced to signup for gameproducer.net newsletter before you could read the texts? I doubt you’d like that.

On the other hand: would you like to receive email from a source that you find useful? Reminding people to sign-up for the newsletter (like having a field in the download page where they can optionally put their email address). I suppose if you think the site or game is really that good, you’d sign up. (Tip: Yes… GameProducer.net has a newsletter where I send people announcements about new sales stats and stuff like that)

Additional resources:

In case you still want to host newsletters by yourself, check out PHPlist for example. I’m not recommending it, but if you know the dangers then check it out.

What Kind of Games Women Really Play?

There was interesting comments at BBC news regarding womens. A stereotype could be that women like fluffy animals and pink (which might be true) but many of the comments were saying exactly the opposite. Here’s something what was said (by women):

“No need for sparkly pink consoles and games full of fluffy animals”

Heh – think about that when you design your next game.

“…’survival horror’ genres being my favourites.”

Survival horror… okay.

“I play in =PINK=, an all girl clan on the game Battlefield 2.”

I guess this means there is some room for PINK, but only in clan names…

“Sometimes there’s nothing more satisfying than bashing zombies around the head with frying pans, racing fast cars and stomping around as giant robots.”

Bashing zombiews around the head with fryings pans!?

“most of the games I’ve seen that have been targeted at female gamers are…awful. I personally don’t need pink and fluffy to make me play a game”

Another vote for no pink and fluffy.

Of course there were lots of different comments (from saying “games are too violent” to “why should women play at all?”) but basically I think these findings were quite interesting! Anyone designing game for women should have a peek at the article comments (scroll down) – it just might give you some new ideas on how to design your casual game.

Ping Google Blog Search to Get Traffic to Your Blog

ProBlogger mentions that you can now ping Google’s blog search. Basically this means that every time you publish your post, your blog will ping Google’s blog search – and this means more chances for you to get traffic to your blog.

There’s two ways to set up the system:

  • Manually (here)
  • Automatically in WordPress: Add http://blogsearch.google.com/ping/RPC2 in your blog dashboard (choose options > writing and scroll down to Update services and add the line there)

EDIT: New news is old news: Matt at WordPress mentions that he has added google ping to pingomatic.

I now have three places I ping:

http://blo.gs/ping.php

http://1470.net/api/ping

http://rpc.pingomatic.com/

I have a bigger list of ping services in one older post, check it out in case you want to expand your list.

How to Deal With Angry People

One word answer: patience.

I’ve noticed that the best way to deal with people who are angry at you – furious about your writings, mad at you because they didn’t receive a registration key or whatever – is to listen carefully what the other have to say, and then deal with the issue. Thank them for their time and think how you can deal the issue. Think if their commens contain anything useful or have a valuable lesson to learn.

Why thank them?
There’s at least two big reasons why you should thank angry people:

  • First of all: they just gave you an opportunity to teach calmness for yourself. That’s definitely something worth thanking.
  • Secondly: Many people might not say anything and never deal with you again. Complainers give you an opportunity to improve.

Why listen to them at all?
I’ve said it many times before that bad feedback is good. Complaints give you a chance to learn something valuable. Of course you are free to reject any comment you receive, but at least you’ve got a chance to improve your offering.

TOP 10 Selling PC Games

Gamedaily reported that NPD released their latest games sales information.

The table shows the top 10 selling PC games for the week of September 17 – September 23, 2006.

1. Company Of Heroes—THQ

2. The Sims 2 Glamour Life Stuff—Electronic Arts

3. World Of Warcraft—Blizzard

4. Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy—LucasArts

5. The Sims 2—Electronic Arts

6. Cars Radiator Springs Adventures—THQ

7. Sim City 4 Deluxe—Electronic Arts

8. Civilization IV—2K Games

9. Age of Empires III—Microsoft

10. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2006—Electronic Arts

Let’s count simulation games: Sim 2 Glamour Life Stuff, Sims 2, Sim City and then also Civilization and Age of Empires III (sort of). Half of the top selling games are one way or another related to simulation or tycoon – or at least have those features in them. WoW could be also said to carry this type of elements in it. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that Kudos would be selling well.

More similar information can be found at Game Sales Charts, GameDaily – and of course at GameProducer.net sales statistics

Experimenting Offline Promotion (Part 2/2)

Roughly a month ago I made a small offline promotion and the results seem to be quite marginal:

  • The “ads” were put on several stores
  • I didn’t notice any peak on traffic due this
  • I didn’t notice any significant impact on newsletter subscribers

I must say that I put only few grayscale prints, so that might have impact. I have some prints still left, and I’m going to stick them somewhere. It won’t hurt to place them anyway.

Darkmoon reported quite similar results:

Halfway in August, we did some offline website promotion, by distributing some flyers at a neighbourhood kids party. In the second half of August, we experienced some noticable growth. But I think the contribution of the flyers was only marginal. There was a small increase in direct hits, and 1 newsletter signup as a result.

In conlusion I think there should be more effort put in the ads: more money, more color, more copies, more places in order to make it more efficient. I suppose easier strategy for offline promotion would be to contact local news paper or talk with some local seminars rather than just sending flyers.

7 Golden Guidelines For Having Meetings

Meetings are part of the business: even indie game producers have to get out of the box and stop staring the computer screen all the time. For team leaders it’s natural to arrange meetings. Here’s 7 guidelines for arranging better meetings.

Guideline #1 – Don’t have a meeting just a sake of meeting
Unnecessary meetings are just that: not necessary. There’s plenty of managers who think that because office rules says “weekly meeting must be arranged” then weekly meeting must be arranged. Even agile game developers might arrange useless weekly meetings and call them “proven method for productivity”. I’m not saying that weekly meetings are wrong to do, I’m just saying that weekly meetings that are done just for the sake of having a weekly meeting hardly brings much value. The agile developers who use weekly meetings “properly” don’t spend 2 hours just for sake of chatting. If there’s nothing to chat, the meeting lasts only 5 minutes.

Guideline #2 – Start on time
Very important. Suppose you have a team of 6 people. Every time meeting starts 7 minutes late that’s 42 minutes (possibly) wasted time. Suppose 40 weeks – and every week somebody is 7 minutes late – means 1680 minutes wasted. That’s 28 hours wasted – almost one work week, just for the reason that somebody is late.

Guideline #3 – Finish on time
I don’t suggest that every meeting should be stopped when the clock ticks, but I think it’s important to deal with the agenda in timely manner. If the first issues get too much time, then the last issue will be dealt very badly – or not at all. I really think the meetings should not slip from the end. Instead – arrange enough time to deal with the issues rather than always saying “1 hour meeting” that in reality lasts 2 hours.

Guideline #4 – One leads the discussion
Linked to the point #3: somebody should lead the discussion and move to the next issues if necessary. If nobody controls the meeting… then it can easily lead to situation where people discuss many, many things not related to the meeting.

Guideline #5 – No too many issues in agenda
Don’t take too many topics in one meeting. It’s better to focus on few things rather than chase many rabbits. Overbooked agenda can easily lead to too long meetings or bad results.

Guideline #6 – Avoid ‘Will be agreed on the next meeting’ agreements
This is one of the trickies pitfalls to avoid, but I really recommend making decisions when they are needed. Postponing anything to “next meeting” means piling up everything until it all comes a big pile of unfinished issues. Avoid this type of agreements whenever possible.

Guideline #7 – No talk about TV in meetings
It’s easy to get sidetracked and start talking about television shows, latest news, games, business, and pretty much everything else but meeting. I really recommend leaving this type of talk to some other time (like right after the meeting when you are short on coffee…). Any time somebody starts talk about “good movies” it means your meeting is about to lose the value.