Wu Hing: The Five Elements Update

Wu Hing is a strategy board game that just got updated. When Kudos Games first released the game there were some issues with it: the rules of the game were bit difficult to understand. Some indies might think that game must be a hit when it’s released, or it will be a miss. I think indie games must be polished over and over to be successful. Guys at Kudos Games have realised and are doing exactly this.

First of all: the rules of the game in the first version were very difficult to understand, even when there were a tutorial that explains them. Now the developers have improved the game and put some tips. Even though the tutorial is still heavy reading, the overall experience is now better. Developers reported that they’ve made “minor updates such as added tips”. I don’t exactly know all the minor updates, but I personally think those small updates have really added the gameplay – thus making the game better in a big way.

One major update is the network mode: those who have full version can now play the game online. I think this is a very good example on how the games should be developed: when players really demand some feature, developers put effort to make that happen.

For more screenshots, information and a downloadable demo of game, see their website: KudosGames.com

MMO 2.0

Few days ago I wrote about the future of MMO games, and spoke about the need of innovation. Today I saw GameIndustry.biz reporting Perry to produce community built MMO. EDIT: Today I remembered that David Perry was the president of Shiny Entertainment and not the producer of Myst III: Exile as I first said in this post. Myst was produced by Dan Irish. Perry wrote a foreword for book The Game Producer’s handbook by Dan Irish, and my memory played a trick on me.)

Anyway, the key idea in that news is that Acclaim is offering community of developers – not just their “core team” – to contribute to the project. I don’t know if this project will be successful or not, but to me it sounds exactly something that could bring fresh new ideas to the whole massively multiplayer genre. With the increasing number of Web 2.0 applications and user generated content, it sounds like “MMO 2.0″ could mean “player/community made MMO gaming”.

Howard Marks, CEO of Acclaim, commented this project named “Top Secret”:

“Top Secret is like The Apprentice meets American Idol meets The Video Game Industry”

I don’t know how far they will go by letting the community create the game, but at least for producers wanting to get in the game industry this looks like a nice opportunity. And hopefully the project will evolve to something else than a MMO game where players start by killing lots of rats.

If you are interested in help them in design/ideas/art/animation/audio or other, feel free to check out Top Secret Project website.

Websites + Sounds = Bad, Bad, Bad

Today I got reminded about a good lesson that sounds on websites can be pretty annoying. Especially if the sound is launched automatically. I suppose some Flash sites might use sound and music, but even them should have some sort of mute button or make sure it doesn’t annoy people. You have to have a site where people expect to hear sounds and listen to music, otherwise it’s probably not such a good move to put sound on your site.

Yesterday I attached a multimedia player to GameProducer.net, and today I read comments that some people didn’t like playing sound without warnings (and to be honest: I’d hate that too, but for some reason I just didn’t see this coming). Sorry folks, and sorry for everybody reading this via syndicated feeds – now the sound doesn’t play anymore.

Websites and sounds don’t mix up well (excluding cases when doing promotions or having some multimedia sites where people expect to hear sounds and music). Thanks Kyle bringing this up, and thanks for David for eliminating the sound from the multimedia player’s intro screen.

Video Game Music Channel Wants Your Game Music

I chatted with the developers at stuffwelike.com and they mentioned about a multimedia player they’ve done for video game music. Basically players can freely listen to game music (and watch game videos) by using the player. Information on how to embed the player on your website can be found here.

Developers can freely submit content for the player (see here for more information on how to submit your game music or video). At the moment the system is just starting up so it will need some people to embed the system, but when more and more people start submitting their videos and embedding the player, the more publicity it will give for indies.

Folks at StuffWeLike didn’t yet have plans to monetize the system, and they are paying the bandwidth bill by themselves. The stuff looks interesting and if they get some ad funded system integrated (so that indies don’t need to pay now and not in the future) and possibly add some clickable links in the videos I think it looks another viable way to game promotion.

EDIT: The player was here one day, but now the media player (or their website) asked for a password, so I decided to remove the player.
EDIT #2: I found out that these guys really didn’t develop the media player, but used a technology provided by: splashcastmedia.com

Why Emails Titled “It’s very important that everybody in the team reads this” Won’t Be Read

This article gives you tips on how to get your team members to read your important messages. Every game producer faces a situation where he needs other team members to read some documents. Some leaders try sending emails using subject line: “It’s very important that everybody reads this note” (or sometimes with subject line “URGENT! READ THIS”) – yet those emails are not read or acted upon.

Here are 3 reasons why people either read your messages or not:

  • First of all, people need to know why your message is important. Your job is to explain why somebody should read your email. If you just type “urgent” or “important” chances are that people just skip the email thinking “somebody will explain it to me if it’s that important”. But, if you simply tell people with couple of lines why the email is important, you have much bigger chances to get people to read your notes.
  • Second reason: Boy who cried wolf won’t be noted for very long. If every other email you send is tagged “important” or “urgent” then either something is terribly wrong in the project and you guys need to have a serious meeting, or you are simply tagging notes important too often. Instead of trying to keep everybody informed about everything, you might consider thinking if there are some things your team members doesn’t necessarily need to read (unless they voluntary want them). Think twice before making everything important.
  • Third reason: some people might not be sure if they need to read your email. “Everybody” is such a wide term that sometimes team members might not know if “everybody” really means them in this specific situations – especially if you’ve used “important for everybody” in the past without really having important information for everybody. If stakeholders have had a meeting and then you announce that “everybody needs to read their notes” it might not be clear to user interface artist or game play tester to know if they are really included. It might be useful to somehow indicate each individual who needs to read the note.

As in any situation when dealing with people: first think from their point-of-view. Make sure you are writing important notes and only bother those people who really need to read your notes.

Reminders and News

Short post for Sunday so that you guys and girls have more time to spend with your families and friends. Anyway, I’d like to remind you about few things going on here at GameProducer.net.

  • First of all, there’s the Carnival of Game Production where you can submit your articles. I’ve received couple of submissions already, but there’s room for more. The next Carnival will be held at 15th of March.
  • Secondly, there’s a place for you to introduce yourself. It’s really nice to get to see who you readers are. It would be nice if you’d leave your email in the post: it won’t be available to public, but helps me contacting you if that’s needed.
  • And this brings me to the third point: Adrian Crook (producer at Relic Entertainment) introduce himself in this blog and I contacted him to give me an interview which he agreed to do. We’ll see the interview here (hopefully in the nearly future).

That’s it for today.

Future of MMO Games

More and more massively multiplayer online (MMO) games are being developed. More and more games extend their brands to cater the MMO market. With the increasing number of fast Internet connections, the market is growing. Indie developers can also jump in the MMO bandwagon using tools such as Multiverse. There are possibilities, but also threats in MMO development. Lord of the Rings Online is quite good example about MMO these opportunities and risks.

I have been following the development of Lord of the Rings Online game. I think it’s quite good example of what happens in the MMO market. First of all there’s strong brand (Lord of the Rings) that has already been used in different game genres. There’s action, strategy, and many other LOTR game types. Now they are extending the brand, and developing a MMO.

LOTRO also has one quite interesting element that has not been seen in AAA budgeted MMO games: pricing. They have the typical “around $10 per month” pricing, but they also have “$200 one time fee”. That’s the first (bigger) MMO game I see using this type of pricing. In the future, I bet we’ll see different other pricing models depending on MMO game: anything from in-game ads to “buy items”.

LOTRO carries one more point that’s been discussed in the public: need to innovate. Some beta testers have criticized that the game is so “typical MMO” that lacks innovation. Some beta testers have said that the game is simply great and that they really love to really get immersed in the world of Tolkien. I don’t know how much there’s innovation, but I’m sure that as more and more MMO games are being developed, there’s need to make sure you have unique advantage over other games. In LOTRO’s case brand is one of the biggest advantages, and if they manage to develop the game in the right direction I’m quite sure they’ll do fine.

Fallout MMO brings another point in the discussion: MMO or not. Some Fallout fans have commented that they “enjoyed playing single player”, and didn’t want to encourage MMO development. Fallout is a strong game brand and I think there’s much potential for it in the MMO field, but there’s also the risk that they are coming late. Destructoid.com reported some interesting comments about Fallout MMO development. They pointed a document that stated Fallout MMO release date to be in year 2010. In 3-4 years the MMO business will be most certainly changed a lot, and I’m afraid they won’t make a hit game unless they create some unique twist in the massively multiplayer genre.

There’s another issue that MMO developers (or the business people, who call the shots whether to develop a game or not) need to take into account: increasing competition. While the market is growing (with the help of raising number of better Internet connections), there’s also growing number of MMO games. The more MMOs are being developed, the more intense the competition. Those late time adopters without unique ideas or established brands will get eaten.

I’ve now said what I think about the future of MMO games (indie opportunities, increased competition, need to be unique, new pricing structures) and would like to hear your comments. Do you have an opinion on MMO gaming? How will you see the future of MMO games, or how would you like to see them in the future?

Why PC Gaming Won’t Die

Because we have keyboards and mice.

At the moment there’s not a single console that would automatically come with a keyboard and a mouse. Console gamers have pads as their main control device (okay, Wii has Wiimote), or the console has control buttons integrated (like PSP).

I don’t think any hardcore real time strategist or a player that favours first person shooters would switch mouse and keyboard to pads. Mouse is simply such a great controlling device that it’s not easy to beat by consoles. Wiimote is perhaps closest competitor if you compare the default controlling devices – there’s hardly any other consoles that would come with mouse-like control device. Consoles aren’t meant for be played using keyboards (or mouse) and that gives a benefit for PCs.

Of course there are more factors that make up the whole picture (such as what customers are willing to pay, what big players such as EA do, how casual gaming market is developing and so on), but I think this small technological factor (mouse & keyboard) is not often included in the discussion. Mouse and keyboard (and of course indies) give PC such a benefit that’s not easy to overcome.

3 Questions to Improve Your Business

There are opportunities and lessons worth learning everywhere. Here are 3 very basic questions that you can ask yourself – and improve your business. You may also use the same formula for improving yourself as a person or your product. Just think about the 3 questions listed here:

  • Question #1: Ask yourself what company, service or product has made a tremendous impact on you? Can you remember some company that had a really impressive customer service? Is there some person whose advice and insight you really enjoy? Have you played some game that made you think “just one more turn”? Think of a product or service (or a company) that has really impressed you.
  • Question #2: Continue by asking yourself: What exactly made you feel like that? Why were you so impressed? What was the key reason that influenced you? List specific reasons why the experience was so wonderful and what contributed to the experience.
  • Question #3: How can you use that information to improve your own product?. By this third question I don’t mean that you’d necessarily need (or should) clone the service or product. I suggest thinking of the good elements or concepts and using them in some unique way. For example, bullet time (slowing time) in games is used successfully in some genres (such as first person shootes – FPS games) and maybe you could use that in other kind of games (like fighting games to help making defence better). Or perhaps you’ve seen some companies sending Christmas cards to their clients. Perhaps you could send Christmas cards to the players of your game? Maybe you found some really fun contest and can arrange a bit similar for your own product?

The third one might be the most difficult question to answer, but if you really start pondering that you’ll probably find the answer. Trying this is free, but the outcome can be tremendous.

The Reason Why You Should Print Your Passwords on Paper…

Just before I was about to publish a blog entry about business I saw A sad tale of technology dependence. Eric had a small accident with fingerprints and passwords: basically he decided to start using better passwords, immediately forgot one, used fingerprint sensor (without remembering his own password) to login and it worked well. Until he experienced a sliced index finger in the woodshop… which messed up the fingerprint sensor.

Looks like my previous post about printing your passwords on paper starts to make sense.