Monthly Archives: January 2007

Get Familiar With Different Games and Design Methods

The game design event was a success and I received some great insight and ideas from it. My first lesson – or reminder actually – is that if you want to improve your video game design skills don’t just check out different video games. I want to say that if you want to be a good game designer, you should check out how game design is done in different type of games: board games, card games, role playing games, video games and so on. Designing a card game might be different from designing a role playing game or a video game but it will give you lots of fresh ideas on how to design your own game type.

For those of you who haven’t checked what is it like to design (pen & paper) role playing games, go and check out The Forge. That’s very active role playing community, and definitely worth a trip. Finnish people should visit Majatalo.org, it’s bit similar forum as The Forge – but for Finnish. If you haven’t ever designed board games, you definitely need to visit The Board Game Designers Forum – it’s filled with information about board game design. If you haven’t ever designed a video game, you might be interested in checking out Indiegamer.com which is (very roughly speaking) “The Forge of Indie Video Games”.

You’ll find plenty of information from those sources. Tomorrow I’ll tell more insight I got from the designer event.

Triptych Sales Stats From Chronic Logic

Josiah Pisciotta was kind enough to provide us the sales stats of their game Triptych. Compared to how much effort these guys put into the game, I think the results are great.

Title: Triptych
Developer: Chronic Logic
Released: June 2002
Development time: Two full time developers 3 weeks (plus one artists for a week or so for interface improvements which were added in patches)
Platforms:Windows (OSX and Linux added later)
Expenses: Less than $200 for art and sound

SALES
2002: 462 copies
2003: 147 copies
2004: 159 copies
2005: 143 copies
2006: 60 copies
Total Sales: 972 copies

Price: $14.95 USD

Total sales from chroniclogic.com after fees: $13000 USD
Other sales total: $12000 USD
Approximate total income: $25000 USD

Marketing and Promotion
As told by Josiah Pisciotta:

For promotion and marketing I did press releases on our web site and tried to get them to as many news sites as we could. I did a PAD file and submitted to as many shareware sites as we could find although I don’t know if that really helped very much. Keeping other products and news coming out helped keep people coming to the web site and finding Triptych as well. Triptych placed 4th in Game Tunnels Puzzle Game of the year award in 2003 and 4th in Game Tunnels most original Concept of the year in 2003. I also sent out review copies to game web pages whenever they were interested in doing a review.

Triptych scored well in almost all reviews:

Game Tunnel GOTY awards 2003: [link] [link]
Game Tunnel (4 out of 5)
Game Faqs (9 out of 10)
Games for PC (5 out of 5)
Home of the Underdogs Top Dog

A couple of magazine CD cover deals overseas made up a majority of the non Chronic Logic sales income. I think releasing the OSX and Linux versions and doing patches to improve the look and feel of the game helped extend the product life.

GameProducer.net comments:
Thanks for sharing these numbers Josiah, wish you and Chronic Logic success in the future as well!

Set Example

Yesterday I got a reminder about what it means to set an example. I’ve previously told our team members to “check forums & post & comment other posts”. When I’ve been working on some piece of code and needed testing, I’ve hurried up other team members to comment and do work. Yesterday I checked some concept art and agreed them via Messenger. I didn’t put a single comment in the forum (where the artist had put the concept art).

Thankfully he gently reminded me to “post some comments to forums”, and so I did – after he had said this. Funny how easy it is to require others do something, and then “forget” to do the same for your part.

After this small incident I started thinking how easy it is to lose focus when setting an example. It’s easy to ask others to work hard when you can have 100% focus on the main task. When you are getting really busy (or chose to be busy to be exact) – like I was yesterday – it’s easy to forget the small things you require from others.

If you require something from others, be darn sure to set an example on how things should be done. If you aren’t willing to do what you require from others, how you can expect others to do what you require from them?

Submit an Article, Get Traffic

More articles are wanted for the Game Production Carnival – if you have written an article to your blog in the past 1-2 months, consider submitting it to the first Carnival. I’ve received some articles already, but more are needed.

EDIT: Just to make sure this: The first Carnival edition will be hosted at GameProducer.net. The submitting process just goes through the other site.

Challenge #8: What Is The Most Addictive Game You’ve Ever Played?

In this challenge I hope to get some great games mentioned, and analysis for the reasons that make these games so great. The question is: What is the most addictive game you’ve ever played? You might remember some old game that you just had to play – over and over.

Saying just one game is really tough, and there were some really great games that I just had to keep playing:

  • Stratego: old board game where the other player didn’t know your troops. That feature was also the key strength of the game: you could bluff.
  • Civilization: The first version was simply great. The possibility to conquer the world in different ways (I liked to build the space ship rather than nuke other countries) and the great number of variables really hit me.
  • Bridge (card game): Elder British ladies aren’t the only ones who play this card game. The rules, bids and strategies make this game really interesting.
  • Sims: Some people hate this game, but I loved it. It was really fun to earn cash, get new stuff, and then repeat. Over and over. Collecting stuff and building your own house that was my key reason for playing.
  • Risk based games like Lux. I’ve played many of them, and there something really great in the concept. Playing it on computer makes the rounds fast (compared to board game version) and the rules and game mechanism is really simple: move pieces to attack. I believe the simplicity, short rounds and possibility to play with friends made this really addictive to play.
  • Texas Hold’em: I actually haven’t played – only watched this poker game being played – but again there’s something fun in bluffing and simple game mechanism.
  • Evil Genius: again world domination, but this time you get to play on the dark side. That was fun. Dungeon Keeper was also fun for the same reason.

I believe I could keep listing more games and the reasons I played them, but I think I stop now and let you speak.

What games have been really addictive or fun to you? What was the reason that kept you playing?

How To Create Games Incredibly Fast

Introduction to rapid game development

In the previous post I talked about the impact of user experience compared to telling or showing the product to user. I also mentioned a game mode we tested with the artist. The game mode was made in just few hours (after spending almost a year making the framework and learning multiplayer coding) – and I was really amazed how fast a new small game could be done.

One guy asked in the blog comments how to make a game in one hour. Making a game in one hour seems almost impossible, but there is a way to create games really fast: prototyping. It might not be possible to make small games in just one hour, but prototyping might help finding out fast what really works. I will give you some resources in the end of this post, but before that I’d like to share some of my opinions regarding rapid game development. Extreme programming is one methodology that can be applied very well in prototyping.

What’s special about rapid prototyping or extreme programming

If you want to create games fast then one of the key insight I can give is that you cannot plan and change plans forever. While I say that planning is essential in game production, I also believe that you really have to start working on the game as soon as possible. Creating a prototype in seven days is a great way to focus on production: it helps you make such a version of your game that helps you testing the core gameplay.

I’ve wrote in the previously mentioned article that it’s essential to plan your code. I highly suggest learning how other people are doing. Learning to make something else than a spaghetti code is a good start. Learning to name code variables properly is another good thing. Codinghorror.com (“.NET and human factors by Jeff Atwood”) has some fine examples that can help you avoid some mistakes. When you have reached the level where you know some pretty good coding practises I think it’s time to start programming or prototyping. I have spent months making the framework and now it is in such shape that I can prototype new game ideas in mere hours. Fast prototyping wouldn’t been possible earlier since I didn’t have the necessary knowledge on how multiplayer code should be done. I’m not claiming to be expert in multiplayer programming, but the fact I managed to code a rough prototype in less than a day makes me feel that I’m going in the right direction. There’s still parts that need some major optimization and some parts still missing, but so far things look good.

Extreme programming contains some principles that are good in prototyping: “make frequent small releases” and “leave optimization till last”. Both of these tips fit well for making prototypes or small games. I believe that making the core gameplay really fast – a prototype of a game – is a path to building games fast.

Additional resources for fast game prototyping

For additional resources, see the links below. Both websites are highly recommend for those interested in making and prototyping games fast:
Articles about rapid game prototyping
Experimental gameplay website

To find a proper tools for you, my favourite website recommendation is: DevMaster.net. It’s a site filled with different game engines and descriptions.

Some information about extreme programming can be found: here.

A Demo Is Worth a Thousand Images

When you present a game it’s okay to tell about the game, show images and video clips but nothing beats letting user experience and evaluate the game by themselves.

Yesterday I talked with Edoiki game artist after he had read my idea for a new game mode. I had explained the game mode idea in our forums, but before artist had a chance to say anything I asked him if he would like to test the demo. “Sure”, he said.

The gameplay was made roughly in just few hours and all the unit graphics on the screen were placeholders, and even the user interface code was far from being polished. Before we could start, I needed to explain some rules and meanings like “blue color means dead unit”, “red is for civilians” and so on. In this alpha prototype there was nothing expect the core game mechanics made for two players.

We took couple of quick matches that took a few minutes each. Here’s the comment he wrote to our project’s discussion forum:

“hum-hum, game description text seemed a bit vague for a description and i was just about to complain on the down sides of it (as usual)…but once we got playing with the actual game, it all were clear and obvious, and it was a whole bunch of fun and excitement too…seriously, it ROCK’S AND KICKS (bottom)! Brilliant!!! “

While I was pleased to see his reaction, I must say that this lesson about letting user experience the product really hit me. Design documents are okay, but before players can fully understand what the game is all about you need to have a demo.

Some marketing specialists might recommend “showing instead of telling” but I really think “experiencing instead of showing” beats that. Rather than just giving a sales speech, let the customer experience your product.

Carnival of Game Production Headquarters

GameProducer.net is proud to announce the launch of the Carnival of Game Production. This gives you readers submit articles and also a possibility to host Carnival editions.

Submit Articles to Carnival

If you have a new article (preferably not older than 1 month, and maximum of 2 months old), roughly 400-500 words (or more) long, deals with game production or game development (and is not filled with links and ads) then you might have what we would like to see.

If you know what Carnivals are, feel free to proceed to Blogcarnival.com and submit your entries. In case you want more information… read on.

Ongoing Carnival Edition and Deadlines for Submiting Articles

Proceed to Blogcarnival.com to get information about the current edition. You can see the deadlines for article submission. If no deadlines are given, please send your articles couple of days before the date of the edition.

Carnival of Game Production FAQ

What are Carnivals?
Briefly put: Collection of stories about some topic – in our case it’s about game production.

How can I benefit from Carnivals?
Basically, it’s a win-win-win situation for everybody:

  • Carnival host gets traffic (for exchange on him putting effort on checking the entries)
  • Writers get traffic (as they get listed at the host’s site and linked)
  • Readers get plenty of quality stuff to process (as it’s recommended to make sure that all entries are quality articles)

Why should I be interested?
First of all, if you host a Carnival, then you’ll get plenty of traffic. If you write to carnivals, you also get nice amount of traffic. For detailed information: see this post.

What is this Carnival of Game Production?
Simply put: a monthly gathering of game developers and producers at a central location. The idea is similar to those other “Blog Carnivals” – but here we present quality articles dedicated to game production. Anyone wishing to participate in the Carnival is welcome. The Carnival is hosted by a different blog each time.

Who can participate?
Anyone with a blog and an opinion about video game production or development can participate.

Where do I submit my entry to the Carnival?
You can submit your entries here. Use the link ‘submit an article’ in the left menu to send

The article I submitted was not accepted, now what?
If you didn’t meet the conditions (game production related article, 400-500 or more words long, not too many ads) then it might happen that your article won’t be accepted. Focus on writing an article that provides as much as value to readers (and for example don’t concentrate on advertising your products) and try submiting again.

What if I want to host an edition of the Carnival?
Glad you asked. If you want to host a carnival, then contact me and put “I’d like to host Game Producer Carnival” or something similar in the subject line. If you get accepted, you’ll receive a reply from me.

Anything else?
If you get accepted to the Carnival, it is not necessary to link back, but it would be a nice gesture if you would mention the website that hosted the Carnival where your article got featured.