Monthly Archives: November 2006

Approximate Guide to Selling Indie Games

Jake Birkett has written a guide to selling indie games. There are seven points that are gone through in detail. The overview looks fine, and here are my own comments to Jake’s 7 points.

1) Finish your game!
I agree 100% with this statement, although I would like to throw out that innovation can be used. Jake says that you need proper menus, and that’s true – but perhaps there could be different type of “menu screens”. Like instead of choosing playmode from buttons you could show the game arena and let the player click one of the objects in screen – these objects would represent different menu items. For example, one of my ideas for Morphlings was to show several planets in the beginning of the game and player could click rotating planet to choose level.

2) Alpha Test
“Alpha” is one of those words which have different meaning depending on company. What Jake says is true – alpha testing is done in the beginning and I would add that it doesn’t necessary need any real art: spheres, cones and cubes will do just fine to represent different objects in game.

3) Beta Test
I’m using “beta” in very broad manner, and depending on company beta can mean anything from “first playable version” to “almost finished product”.

4) Self-Publishing, 5) Find a Publisher and 6) Put your game on the portals
I wrote an article: How Do You Get Your Game to Market?, which deals with these points.

7) Improve/Refine!
I agree – improve and refine, but don’t be the feature creep (adding new non-important features over and over). I wrote a section about this in my Basic Marketing Plan For Indie Games.

Read the Jake’s article, definitely worth checking & reminding yourself about the possibilities.

Sales Statistics: Xmas Bonus (Updated)

Xmas Bonus got new updated sales stats. The total (as of end of July) is 230 – spread across Big Fish Games, Reflexive and Cloverleaf games.

Monthly breakdown:

December 2005 – 179 units
January 2006 – 39 units
February 2006 – 4 units
March 2006 – 0 units
April 2006 – 2 units
May 2006 – 2 units
June 2006 – 1 unit
July 2006 – 3 units

Total: 230 units

Conversion rate was 0.51% on one portal and less on the others.

Use Separate Game Purchase & Download Pages (Like buy.php Or download.php)

I’ve got and seem some people using pre-made “buy now” links that are terribly long. Links like: https://www.ecommerceprovider.com/product.cgi?id=12345

Why not use link like this:
www.yourgamesite.com/game/buy.php

Have this type of code in your “buy.php” file: (you can use .cgi or .asp or whatever suits you)

< ?php
// buy.php
// this code will redirect visitor to your ecommerce provider's site
header("location:https://www.ecommerceprovider.com/product.cgi?id=12345");
?>

Basically what you’ve done now is that instead of using the direct link to eCommerce provider’s site (where people pay the game online) you are using a buy.php file in your own site to redirect the player to the shopping place.

  • With little trick like this, you don’t have to worry about PAD or review sites getting the link wrong if you decide to change eCommerce provider or need a new purchase link.
  • If you always give www.yourgamesite.com/game/buy.php to these review sites, then you can easily change the link in the file to match your current eCommerce provider.
  • Downside is that your site must be online or people won’t be able to get to the buying site.
  • The additional bonus is that you can track the buy page hits better when it goes through your own site.

The same goes with the download link: instead of having “www.yourgamesite.com/game/setup.exe” you could have “www.yourgamesite.com/game/download.php” and forward it to “setup.exe”.

Hightailed’s buy link www.hightailed.com/buy.php and download links www.hightailed.com/download.php are done like this, and basically it just redirects visitor to shopping cart (or to download site). If I ever consider changing to another eCommerce provider like Plimus or RegNow it’s very easy to me to do the code change – all I need to change is one link in the buy.php file – and any sites that have linked to Hightailed’s buy page are automatically okay. If I want to use different name or different folders for “setup.exe”, it would be easy to change.

Don’t Care What Others Think About You

In yesterday’s post – why some people are so irritating – it might have sounded like I’m telling people to “shut up and do nothing if somebody irritates or insults you.” The reason I’m writing again on this is that I personally think that no professional game producer should let other let other people decide how you should act. Whenever somebody counters with anger, he is really giving control to somebody else than yourself.

Besides… and as gentlemen, we know better ways to deal with insults. ;)

So, is being passive a good thing?

When I said “you shouldn’t insult back” I didn’t say “do nothing”. I said that there’s always room for intelligent response. If somebody mocks you, you can listen to what he said and think if there’s something useful for you, and then you can express your own opinion – in a calm manner. If it feels like you are getting angry – then sometimes saying nothing (when you are angry) can be better than saying anything at all.

I’m not suggesting people should just take the insults and do nothing. I’m suggesting that people shouldn’t get into level of insulting. If you have intelligent answer, then feel free to express yourself but when somebody is calling names or doing something like that, it does no good to respond back in same manner.

I don’t know who said it, but I like this guideline: “If you have nothing good to say, then say nothing.”

Now, to the second point. It was said that “if you do nothing, people might think you are a wimp”.

Why should you care what other people think about you?

If you honestly think you’ve acted right, without violating the rights of others, doing any harm to others and said things that you feel are best for all parties – and then other person thinks bad about you – why should you care? If you’ve already done the best you can, and the other is still mean or not cooperative, why should you care if he thinks bad about you?

From what I’ve read in the forums, there’s some people who think I’m giving poor advice and know nothing about game production. Who am I to argue with their thoughts? Everybody has the right to think the way they like. I’ve said it several times that people should use their own brain and question authority. I’m writing this blog because I like telling my thoughts – whether anybody is listening is 100% up to them. I’ve said it that all advice I give here might be totally wrong and information is provided on “as-is” basis – use it with your own risk. Why should I care if somebody thinks I know nothing about game production? I’m not here to *prove* someone what I know or don’t know. I’m here to write my thoughts. I’m not here to defend myself: I’m here to say what I think has been valuable for me and if somebody finds some info useful, then great. Basically I’m letting the results talk – they might be really poor, great or anything between.

Why should I care if somebody thinks I’m a crook? That’s in their mind, and there’s not much I can do about it.

Final words
I would also like to point out that I don’t want to suggest taking an attitude where you think “why should I care about anything”. It’s fine for all of us to care each other, but I think people shouldn’t care too much what others think about you.

Game producers need to deal with other people whether face-to-face, in forums or at phone and if we get upset over every bad word we heard… we are definitely digging a deep hole for ourselves. It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice.

Why Some People Are So Irritating

In the past (and long before I read book called The Way of Zen by Alan Watts) I really thought that some people were simply irritating – and it was their fault. I was sort of doing the same as in the blaming the dogs post entry.

After reading many books about philosophy, psychology and religions I’ve come to sort of “see” that it’s not “their” fault if *I’m* getting upset. Naturally there are people who act and even try to irritate you, but in the end: it’s your decision how you react. I’m not saying there’s a switch you can click to control your emotions 100% all the time, but I am saying that you can practice and train yourself to get less upset in different situations.

In those annoying situations (especially if you are without enough pizza and coke…) it’s easy to get frustrated, but here’s some methods to with these situations:

  • Ask the “How does this look like after 5 years?”: Is the situation really so big that it’s something to care about even after 5 years from today? If your car doesn’t start on one morning – so what? After five years you don’t even remember the whole situation, why make a big issue about it now?
  • Remember how many people in the world would gladly change your problems to their problems. Almost sixth of the world’s population don’t see food every day, and if you get irritated because pizza was cold – how crazy is that?
  • Consider the reasons behind other people’s behavior: If they are irritating, they simply might have had a terribly bad day at work – that might happen to any of us, so we really got to try to remember what we would like to hear after a bad day.
  • Can you stay calm for 15 minutes if somebody mocks you: Ask yourself if you can try to stay calm and not to say anything insulting for 15 minutes. That’s all what I’m asking. Try to wait for 15 minutes before making counter attacks to the other. Surely you can control your feelings for 15 minutes, so there’s no reason not to do this. You can make intelligent answer to the other, without need to get angry. If you still feel irritated after 15 minutes has passed, then repeat this method.
  • Don’t send that email angry: Remembering this might save you from lots of problems. Don’t send emails when you are angry. Don’t reply to threads if you are angry. Don’t write your blog angry (grumpy is okay, but not when angry ;). Wait until you’ve calmed down, and then re-read what you were about to say. It doesn’t hurt to wait 30 minutes or so.
  • Just shut up: Remember that you can always keep your mouth shut. If you cannot control your emotions, control your mouth. Combine with the 15-minute rule.

I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t care about anything, I’m just pointing out that there’s no need to get upset about everything.

Windows Vista Doesn’t Affect Indie Game Production

BBC reported the release dates for Microsoft Windows Vista. November 30 will be the date when companies can get the operating systems. Home users will have to wait until January 2007 to get hold of a copy.

Because Vista might have strategical effects (for example regarding what game engine you might use or what computer system you are going to support) I want to remind that I might be totally wrong – so please don’t just blindly accept everything I say in this article. This is only my personal opinion and thinking. Use your own brain, and feel free to argue back and tell your own comments.

Now to my thinking:

I’d argue that Vista doesn’t have much impact in average indie game production for several years.

I must point out that the one-man studios, casual game makers and many smaller indies won’t need to care about Vista. I think that those game developers who look at the future and those who make game engines need to make more changes – but for average game developer Vista doesn’t really matter. I base my argument on the system requirements.

Windows XP (recommended):

  • 300 MHZ (233 MHz minimum)
  • System memory: 128 MB (64 MB minimum)

Windows Vista:

  • 1GHz 32 or 64 bit (800 MHz minimum)
  • System Memory: 1GB (512MB minimum)
  • Graphics card: Runs Windows Aero (minimum: DirectX 9 capable)
  • Graphics Memory: 128MB (minimum not said)

As you can see, the system requirements are much greater than in the past. 512MB system memory minimum for Vista must be a bit sort of joke, because in my personal experience Windows XP pretty much needs at least 512MB – I have 2GB and that seems to do okay, 1 GB is my personal recommendation. Then the graphics card recommendation: 128 MB recommended. How many laptops out there can handle Vista if 128 is recommended? I’m not sure if this recommendation is based on the new user interface features and could be that there’s no real minimum as they said.

The other interesting is the DX9 capable graphics card minimum (and quite good actually if you think about those who make game engines – “forcing” people to DX9 will get some guys angry but for game developers it’s good if players have good hardware and software running). Those older graphics cards that doesn’t support DX9 cannot upgrade.

If you compare the requirements between XP and Vista it looks like players with older computers have to make a major hardware update – or buy totally new computer to get Vista. I doubt how many people are willing to do. I’m doing fine using Windows XP so I have no need to rush to get Vista. Maybe within 2-4 years the situation is different.

And if players aren’t updating their computers – and if indies already target to computers that are 3-5 years old – why should we even care about Vista?

Average indies (who aren’t making mods and are selling their games) are not doing games with the latest graphics. There are developers who target to 5 year old computers. These players with 5 year old computer are not updating their hardware just to get new fancy operating system. Some of them will, but it might happen during time period of several years – not instantly.

Game engines will probably work fine with Windows Vista. There has been some discussion with “graphics errors”, but after updating to latest video cards – these errors might most likely vanish. For engine programmers it’s bit different situation. Those who have done their rendering engines, must now consider the DX10 and make sure their DX9 works also at Vista. I’m not saying these guys are automatically in trouble, but magic words like “need to support 32 bit / 64 bit” and “need to support new operating system” will most likely cause problems and issues for those who are making their own rendering engines and like.

Luckily that’s their problem. We game developers are safe, I think.

Blog Birthday Is Approaching…

I just noticed that it’s only few weeks before GameProducer.net is one year old. When I come to think of this… it’s amazing to see the outcome of taking tiny step each day. I mean – If I had looked at writing this blog “all at once” I’ve probably never had started. But as I decided to take baby steps (and of course use my blogging secrets ;) I’ve managed to participate in creating a site that’s filled with posts, comments, debates and other discussion. I have to say “participating” because this site wouldn’t really be what it is today without the help of you readers – so thank you. I really like to get feedback – anything from grumpy comments to praises – as it helps me to improve, and takes the blog content really to another level.

It’s good to continue from here.

Pjio.com Pre-launch Information

I previously mentioned about pjio.com beta phase. Indiepath has now made a press release about the pre-launch:

Independent UK-based software developer Indiepath released today some pre-launch information about pjio.com, a video game website where the community controls the content.

Pjio, due for release on the 6th of November, is an online gaming site where developers can freely upload and share their creations with communities gamers on, and off site. The pjio package is compelling, virtually and Win32 game can be uploaded and delivered as a browser-based game within minutes. All pjio games are delivered as web games and can be embedded on any web page by simply cutting and pasting a single line of HTML code. Furthermore, the developer can have players sent direct to their own websites by including links when uploading a game.

Pjio believe that the ability to deliver such a rich array of titles coupled with strong community aspects, such as player groups, messaging and chat, make the site a compelling place for game players to come, stay, and play.

So, if you have game waiting and you need some exposure & online playing possibility – check out pjio.com

No Wonder Nobody Wants to Do the Ugly Testing

Kal_Torak – one of the readers who has been commenting since the early days of gameproducer.net – pointed out a huge list of things to test. While most of the stuff might be more suitable for other application programming rather than games there’s still some useful reminders like “Test with and without anti-virus software installed”.

When I look at that long list it really makes me feel that making that type of testing is probably one of the last things I’d like to do in programming – and no wonder. There’s literally hundreds of tiny issues that can cause big problems. Issues like “Verify all commands work from menus and command bars”. Lucky you who use automated testing…

Ocean Media Releases Public Demo – Wants Feedback

Ocean Media has just published their first game’s public demo and reported the need for feedback. To make the offer more interesting, they’ve promised to display your name in the game credits (in case you test the demo & give some proper feedback) .

The demo download is available here (PC/Windows, 6.6 megs). Game website is here.

My own general comments:

  • First I would like to see more screenshots on the website. The game looks so good, so no need to be shy about showing us some pics.
  • I really like their logo in game – has nothing to do with the game, but nevertheless – I like it.
  • I think the idea is actually quite interesting – it’s different twist on match-3 type of games, and I kind of liked it.
  • Graphics were very polished, and the website graphics really lose this battle. The game art is beautiful.

Then some hints & tips for interface & gameplay

  • I had small problems with matching the icons because the icons in the game area were bigger than the icons in the right side.
  • It could be good if the option screen ‘windows’ opened bit faster, and it wouldn’t hurt to be able to click any of the buttons… instead of ‘back’. You could simply click ‘High Scores’, then click ‘Credits’… and click ‘Play’, rather than ‘High Scores’, ‘Back’, ‘Credits’, ‘Back’ etc.
  • Tutorial was okay… but there was bit much info. Would it be possible to show some of the information after each level?
  • It could be nice to have some sort of help if you get stuck. Check out how they do this in Big Kahuna Reef (they show tiny graphical hints on where to place things next)
  • Gameplay issue: I’m not sure if this last comment help: but I managed to solve first 3-4 levels simply by waving my mouse swiftly – and I happened to match the tiles. Don’t know what you can (or even want) do about this though, but just wanted to mention.

Bottom line: I’m sure there’s lots of casual gamers who would like to play this game – it looks very finished already. Good job.

Now, people – check out the game site & download the demo, and give this guy some feedback.