Monthly Archives: January 2007

Windows Vista Released – What Happens to Indie Games?

Rumors and opinions

I’ve heard so many rumors about Windows Vista that it starts to be quite hard to track what’s really going on. In one indiegamer discussion thread there was some debate regarding the DRM (digital rights management) and how it’s done in Vista. It looks like Microsoft people are enforcing the DRM (compared to older windows versions) and how this affects is left to see. I know that personally I hate being forced to do something when I’m a good customer – and I actually wrote about this in the past. There are good points (in theory it should help against piratism), but it might be just really annoying to user in the end.

Security rumors

In the BBC article there was talk about the improved security. Bill Gates was reported to say that “Vista is more secure than other operating systems”. As we look in the past “secure” operating systems – and the need for security patches one after one – I have my own concerns. Finnish security professional from F-secure “It’s dramatically more secure than, say, Windows 3.x, Windows 95, Windows NT, Windows 2000 or Windows XP. However, it’s fundamentally not more secure than operating systems like FreeBSD, QNX, AS/400 etc, I would claim it’s not even as secure as another operating system from Microsoft; namely the operating system inside the Xbox 360.”. That’s something I can believe, and I bet we will see security packs in the future.

Compatibility

Then there has been talk about Vista’s compatibility: will older games work with Vista? Some people have reported problems, while some have said their products have worked fine. I wrote earlier that Vista wouldn’t affect indie game development – and took the older technology perspective arguing that since many indie games are played 5 year old computers which cannot run Vista. That’s why Vista won’t affect development of games that are targeted to older machines. Naturally Vista affects newer game development, AAA title development and eventually (when more and more people are moving to using Vista) it will affect casual games more and more. I thought Vista’s problem would be technical but there might actually be bigger issues: Game Explorer’s malware protection and ESRB ratings.

Rumors about Vista’s Game Explorer and ESRB rating killing casual distribution

ESRB rating is – roughly speaking – a symbol that lets people know if the game is suitable for kids or not. Unfortunately ESRP rating is expensive for indies and meant for bigger titles. This means Vista’s Game Explorer will give hard time for casual games. Besides the ESRP rating, the problem is the notifications about “hazardous” products. There was an article about this problem in GamaSutra which goes into detail regarding this.

Conclusions

I really don’t know what kind of conclusions to draw from the discussions. I bet DRM will be annoying, but it’s eventually the consumers who decide what happens: we are the ones who buy stuff or not. What happens to casual distribution is left to see, but I would expect Vista getting a lot of lawsuits if big games portals couldn’t let people install their casual games without warnings.

I suppose time will tell.

WordPress Upgrade Finished – Lesson Learned

Backup and make sure you read instructions carefully before making bigger upgrades

Alright, I’ve finished the WordPress upgrade and there’s one lesson I’d like to share: Make sure you always make backups and read instructions carefully – before starting the installation. Everything went smoothly for this upgrade, but I noticed that I might have had small problems if I hadn’t read the full instructions before making the upgrade. There was a small notification about permalinks, and if I hadn’t read that part I might have messed up my custom archives page.

Please let me know if you see some strange things happening because of the upgrade.

The Most Important Advice To An Entrepreneur by Donald Trump

Guy Kawasaki made an interview with Donald Trump. Guy asked a question: “What’s the most important real-life advice you can give to an entrepreneur?”

Donald Trump answered:

You have to love what you do. Without passion, great success is hard to come by. An entrepreneur will have tough times if he or she isn’t passionate about what they’re doing. People who love what they’re doing don’t give up. It’s never even a consideration. It’s a pretty simple formula.

Well said. I agree 100%.

The Most Efficient Way to Get What You Want

Give, give, give

I cannot stress this enough, but there’s a simple fundamental rule in life: the more you give, the more you get. As I look years back now I realize how beneficial to me many things in the past have been – without me even knowing that. 5 years ago I didn’t have a clue that I would be writing this blog – or this post – but as I look back I notice how much helping others have helped me today.

The more I try to help others, the more benefits seem to come to me. The more I’ve helped people in the past, the more help I seem to get in the future.

I don’t believe in “tactical helping”: like helping some people, but not helping some other people in order to find the “best way to get” something for you. I think that kind of thinking is very time consuming as you try to figure out what is the best ‘return on investment’. In fact, it’s impossible to know how others will react. I prefer a simpler strategy: whenever I have the resources and knowledge to help somebody, I try to do that.

Marketing and sales follow the rule of giving

If you browse some marketing and sales forums, you often here people asking questions like “how to get more traffic?”, “how to get more sales?”, “how to get a better salary?” or “how to get a promotion?” These are good questions to ask, no problem with that, but I think a better approach would be concentrating on giving.

Instead of asking “how to get more traffic or sales” you could ask questions such as “How to give more value to people? How to improve my product better according to customer suggestions?” Instead of asking “How to get a better salary or promotion?” you could ask: “How can I make myself ten times or hundred times more valuable to the company? How can I improve my work and be hundred times more beneficial to the company?”.

When you find answers to these questions about “giving” the “get” part will naturally follow.

It’s Nice to Be Important, But It’s More Important to Be Nice

There are lots of different kind of people out there. You can see all around you people who think differently about titles. I’ve seen some publicly awarded game producers and leaders who “know” that they are important and make a big notes about their titles and achievements. I’ve also seen people who keep a very low profile (maybe even lower than they should!) and don’t give a rat’s (bottom) about titles.

Some educated people are also very keen to remind everybody about their achievements. While it’s nice to be important… I definitely think it’s much more important to be nice. Game producers who make a big note about their importance won’t go very far with their team if they think they are more important than the other team members. You have probably worked in a team who had a team leader – or someone with “higher rank” than you. If you think about those times, do you think you gave more respect to those who were “more important” than you (or made sure you knew that they “were more important”)? Or was it perhaps so that the leaders with fancy titles were okay – as long as they treated you and the rest of the team well?

Do you know what Dalai Llama responded when he was asked what he thought about people who spoke to him as “His Holiness The Dalai Lama”?

If you think about that for a moment. One of the most known religious figures in the world – how would he react when somebody spoke to him with such respect? I’m sure some religious figures would be proud. He didn’t. In fact, he laughed warmly. He didn’t make a big note about the title he had. Surely, others did – but when he spoke to others he concentrated on the “being nice” rather “being important”. He left titles away, and concentrated on relevant issues. Can you see what a big difference it makes in being respected? If he would keep saying and mentioning how holy he is, it might make him just another (religious) “leader” in the world.

I must add that it’s okay to tell what you have accomplished. It’s okay to be proud about your accomplishments. If you finish a game or demo or can help someone, that’s great and definitely something to be proud of. It’s okay to tell what you have done so that other people can get a better picture about you and your work. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t tell others what you have done, I’m simply saying that the moment you start to think that “being important” (or “more important than others”) is your goal then you are heading to wrong direction. It doesn’t matter if you call yourself “game producer” or not. What matters is what you do and how you treat others. If you treat others well in your team, and if you make games – you’ll see that it means nothing (in terms of importance) to call yourself a “game producer”. That is just a title which helps other people to know what you do. Nothing more, nothing less.

You can call yourself “game producer” if you wish, and that’s completely fine. It’s much easier to distinguish “car seller” from “game producer” if people have labels after their names. Similarly it’s much easier to talk to the right person if you can see “assistant game producer” or “executive game producer” next to people’s names.

Titles are fine as long as they serve a purpose – and their purpose is not about being more important than others.

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Egg Plants Do Not Grow On Melon Vines – Same Goes With Sales

Your sales won’t get any better by complaining about them

Couple of days ago I saw some guys discussing about “how bad their business is” and asking others “I’ve lost lots of money on useless ads, ebook, programs, etc. How much you have lost online?” My first thought was: “Why this guys is asking these negative questions?” The japanese proverb “egg plants do not grow on melon vines” carries just the opposite message: if you want to concentrate on selling your product, then concentrating on past losses won’t help you in the future. I’m afraid that the guy who started the discussion won’t be heading anywhere good, unless he really learns something about the mistakes he made.

If you want to get sales, don’t concentrate on what you’ve lost – concentrate on what you can get

I cannot remember where I first heard the sentence “don’t focus on what you can lose, concentrate on what you can gain” but the meaning of that sentence really hit me today. Some of those people were concentrating on how badly they were doing and how they lacked sales, forgetting completely what they could learn from their mistakes. Talking about losses is useless if you don’t use it as an opportunity to learn and improve. It’s waste of energy, and only brings negativity to other people involved in the conversation.

Ask encouraging questions

I’m not saying you should pretend or forget your mistakes or losses. Not at all. I want to point out that this a discussion with a topic “How much you’ve lost?” Will not go anywhere. If the topic would have been: “What was your biggest loss and what did you learn about it?” – then there could be something valuable in it. If the discussion and questions are encouraging and lead to growth, then they have a good purpose.

Rather than asking “How much you’ve lost?” you could say “My product is not selling. What is the reason for that? What have I learned from the past? What do I need to make it sell?”

Highpiled – Free Block Stacking Mini Game Made in 21 Hours

Download game via the website: Highpiled.com (See how the game name is so close to Hightailed…)

It’s been some months already when I looked into physics libraries for Blitz3D. I started making a small game prototype to test physics, and I ended up testing the physics with shadows and added some tiny details. Today I decided that I could “publish” this small mini game – or game prototype – to public. I made the game quite long time ago (and made a quick website for it today) so I cannot remember exactly how long it took to make the game. If I remember correctly I spent few hours on three different days in a row, and then spent some more hours testing particles (which now are not in the game), and then few hours to test stuff so the final “hours spent” number won’t probably go far away from the 21 hours.

The game music is done by Indiepath and art by FroGames. Physics wrapper JV-ODE wrapper made by DevCode.co.uk. Open physics engine website: ode.org. The shadows are done using Devil’s shadow system, which can be found somewhere at BlitzBasic community.

I’m probably going to publish my thoughts about this mini project some time in the future. Overall it was a fun way to test different libraries by making a small game using them.

Try to beat my score “17.1 meters”: play the game.

Rock Paper Scissors – A Method for Competitive Game Play Design

Gamasutra published an article: Rock Paper Scissors – A Method for Competitive Game Play Design and I remembered that I wrote about the same issue in the past. My article is called: Rock, Paper, Scissors versus Rock, Bigger Rock, Biggest Rock.

The Gamasutra article makes some good points, the very first paragraph being one of my favourites:

Multiplayer games can be the most enjoyable games to play because the challenge comes from human intelligence as opposed to the often-predictable AI present in competitive single player games. It’s this element that keep some of the best video games alive well after their technological novelty has worn off.

The article points out some of the problems with Rock Paper Scissors style of mechanism for gameplay. For example, in a fast paced game the rock paper scissors style requires random & fast strategy in order to beat the opponent. I believe this is one of the key problems in some games, and better approach would be to make units totally different and balance the game by modifying the system.

That was just one example, and the article goes deeper than that into design theory, and gives some good hints about how to use the recommendations in practice. Here’s one example:

Make the RPS System Obvious

Players should quickly realize the presence of an RPS system in your game. The game doesn’t have to be presented as an RPS system, but the players should be able to quickly learn the counter attack or defense for every attack. To return to the soccer example from earlier, it is instinctive that one must move with the attacker to stop the ball. Players may not make this connection as quickly in a video game. If a player does not know how to react to a particular attack he will never have the “Next time I’ll try this” experience. If a player is not given a clear opportunity to learn he may settle with a button-mashing strategy. Once a player begins button mashing, he has less of a chance to learn and is more likely to become frustrated or bored.

There’s more hints in the end of article. Check it out in case you are into game design.