The Real Reason Behind Making Indie Games

I found from indiegamer the driving force for making indie games. And the real reason behind making indie games is to get a chance to hear stories like this one: An eight year old boy bought indie game Dylo’s World and with the help of his parents he started blogging about it.

He even produced (read: designed the concept and ‘hired workforce’ to do the sewing) a green Dylo creature that you can see on the left side pic.

Here are his comments about the outcome:

“It’s not perfect, though. I forgot to draw the tail. And his shirt is blue instead of white because we didn’t have any white fabric. But I still love him. He sleeps with me at night, and sometimes when the day breaks, I take him downstairs.”
-Aiden

I think this is a marvelous story (and congratulations to southwindsgames too). If you GameProducer.net readers have a few minutes to spare, stop by at the fan blog and say hello to this fine young man.

3 Reasons For Software Piracy

I have heard lots of arguments that defend piracy. Some people are convinced that there’s nothing wrong in software piracy. While I don’t agree with claims that suggest that one pirated copy would equal one sale lost, I think it’s developer’s right to decide how his work is used.

Anyway, here are some arguments I’ve heard to support piracy.

The “don’t make crap games” statement

Some people argue that “because developers make such a crappy games there’s piracy”. I agree that developers should focus on improving their games and improve the player’s experience about the game, but I still disagree that this should be the reason for copying games illegally. Developers – especially indies – need all the money they can to make better games, and if software piracy harms their sales they might be out of business before they get chance to finish those better games. It’s a tough business, even when it might not look like it for all players.

The “I just wanted to test the game to see how it looks like” claim

Many games developed today offer demo and trial versions where you can test the game for 30 days or 60 minutes or so. Since casual games are typically found from different portals, one could download the same game from different portals and play it for hours to see what the game looks and feels like.

Many games come with a money back guarantee. Some people say they were disappointed after buying the game and that’s the reason why they use pirate copies. I recommend checking the guarantee terms: some sites offer you to test their game for a month or even months, and if you don’t like the game – you get your money back. If there’s a money back guarantee, why not buy the game first, and ask your money back if you aren’t satisfied with the purchase.

The very common “I don’t have money to buy games” explanation…

…from people who owns a $1000 computer, spend $50 on clothes per month, drink beer using $50 per month, go to movies using $50 per month, talk in cellphones for $50 per month, spend $50 on gas per month… and has seven hundred other things where he spends his money. Yet – he says he cannot afford to buy computer games. Maybe one should take a look at where he spends money, and suddenly he might find money for buying games legally?

One claim is: “if the games would be half priced, I would buy them”. I must point out that many games are already half-priced. Casual games cost around $20. They are just as fun as some $50 games. If you check a local bargain bin, you can find couple of years old games for $10 or $20 – games that originally were $50 or so. There are half-priced games if you just look for them.

And if you really think you would buy a casual game for $10 but not for $20, then consider buying the game together with your friend. If one game for $20 is too much, then get a friend of yours (or 3-4 friends) and let everybody put $10 (or $5 or whatever) and buy the game together. Technically this is illegal, but if the another option is that you were going to get it for free (by ways of piracy), then I think this is much better option. I’ve done this to buy some games (not all, but some) when I was a kid: we gathered about 3 guys together and suddenly $50 game cost us only about $15-20 (the one who got the game package would pay more). I think for kids this is an okay option if you really cannot afford to buy (and also nice way to get games for those in countries with lower income). When I got older, I spent those full priced $20 or $50 for games and continue doing so.

Now you have no more reasons to continue using pirated copies, right?

Where Do You Store Your Passwords

Yesterday I started thinking more about backing up critical information and I realized my passwords are extremely critical to me. If for some reason I would lose all the passwords, it would mean a serious problem. To prevent this from happening I’ve decided to set up a more regular backup system for critical data.

Currently all my passwords are located in a simple text file on my computer. As an additional security measure I’m also going to print all my password and store them in a physical folder. I really recommend doing this, in case you don’t already store your password like that.

It takes only couple of minutes, so there’s not really a reason why not to do that.

Rise Above the Storm And You Will Find the Sunshine

“Rise above the storm and you will find the sunshine.”
-Mario Fernandez

Yesterday I wrote about the email problem – storm – that I experienced. Basically my emails were cleared due a power outage.

Today I saw first rays of sun in this situations. Here’s some of them:

  • Even though I didn’t manage to find the lost emails I can consider being lucky that I didn’t l lose more than few days of emails, nothing extremely critical didn’t happen.
  • Couple of people have already thanked me and said that they immediately made email backups. One guy said he had waited for couple weeks, and after seeing my post he took action. So, it looks like the post inspired other people to make backups. Maybe this means some other people don’t lose data.
  • I’m glad this email problem occurred now. What if I had removed the old posts from the other email program (luckily I didn’t) and only had an old backup. I’m glad this problem occurred now before I even finished moving. If it would have happened a week or month later, I might face a much bigger problem.
  • My post has generated discussion. Maybe the story will spread bit more and act as an example that things like this can happen.

Rise above the storm and you will find the sunshine. I think that’s well said.

Don’t Publish Blog Entries When You Are Really Angry

I’m about to break this rule, since Thunderbird (so it looks like) just decided to delete all my emails and email program settings – and Firefox helping add into mess by deleting all my bookmarks. I must admit that writing calmly at the moment is bit difficult, but I try to manage. The reason you shouldn’t write when you are pissed off is simple: it isn’t professional, and if it happens that you are wrong (barking the wrong tree) it might make you look foolish.

This morning I had my email program open (Thunderbird) when I experienced a power loss and computer was shut down instantly. I was bit in a rush, so I just decided to let it be. Now, after several hours I turned on computer and launched Thunderbird (no other programs, just Thunderbird) and I ended up staring “Email Wizard” and empty program. No data. No settings. Everything was gone.

With a help of my friend I managed to restore the bookmarks (which in the end wasn’t that big deal), and we’ll see what we can do about the emails. It was only few days before I decided to try making a switch from Thunderbird to Outlook. You bet I’m giving this another thought. I don’t think I will continue using a program that can delete all my emails when the system crashes…

I don’t know if it’s Microsoft’s fault or Mozilla’s fault (or my fault), but that really doesn’t matter. What matters is how the heck I’m going to find those emails again. I have backups, but they are few days old.

Lessons are: backup your emails, and and don’t write your blog when you are angry. I think I managed the second part quite well, it’s the first part I need to practise more.

Carnival of Game Production – Second Edition

It’s time for the second edition of carnival of game production. This time we have several articles about game production: lessons learned during the project, design, insight and also a special treat…

Carnival Articles

Joonas Laakso made a great post titled Wannabe game producer’s confessions. Joonas describes the experiences of a hobbyist team and gives some good and practical tips on game production.

Jay Barnson gives the absolute and final answer to the question: Should I Become An Indie Game Developer?. Refreshing insight.

Paul Eres published a practical article Principles of Playtesting. All seven lessons are worth checking, and the sixth tip should be fundamental part of every game project.

Vedran Klanac wrote a detailed entry about How they made Fire Flower game. Vedran shares some lessons they learned about development. There’s a section “butterflies on flowers” in the article – that contains a lesson about small details in games that can make a big impact. Good job.

Jochen De Schepper ponders technical options: To Flash Or Not To Flash?. With Flex builder Flash has become more viable option to game developers.

Nicholas Savery talks about The Free MMO Business Model, an Alternative to Pay-to-Play. I believe MMO games developers people should ponder about the alternatives, but draw final conclusions by testing their pricing and income model. Nevertheless, the article is a good reminder that there are alternative business models than only direct purchases.

Joris Pyl is taking a course on Digital Arts & Entertainment and wrote about the first lesson: Psychology in Games. Article is about the reward/punishment element in games.

Gianfranco Berardi ponders how would it been If Old Games Were Made Today?. Fine thinking, and be sure to read also the comments if you want to know what Bubble Bobble would have been like…

Special treat

Then in the end we have a ‘special treat’ by Petri Purho: The Truth About Game Development. This is not an article, but a 6th done-in-a-week-game and I believe it fits fell in the Carnival. Excellent fun.

That concludes the second Carnival edition. Big thanks again for all of you who sent articles, if your article didn’t make it to the Carnival you can still try next time. Remember to check out the Carnival of Game Production Headquarters where you can find some more information regarding what kind of articles we are after.

The next Carnival edition will be hosted here at GameProducer.net 15th of March. Please, feel free to use the submission page to send your articles.

Thanks for your time.

7 Ways to Prevent Piracy

Some people say that piracy cannot be stopped, and while there isn’t a practical solution on how to stop piracy 100%, there are some solutions that can help you at least reduce piracy. My personal opinion is that I would use some pretty good copy protection system and be done with it. But since piracy cannot be completely ignored, here are some ways to deal with it:

[1] Copy protection system

There are copy protection systems which you can use. They vary in features, and one widely used is SoftwarePassport (previously known as Armadillo). These cost something, but they’ll save time, nerves and money in a long run.

Small tip: If you choose to use this kind of anti-piracy options, make sure your copy protection doesn’t annoy customer.

[2] Separate demo and full version

This is another very fine way to copy protect your software: simply create separate versions of your product. Your demo version might contain only 30% of the assets, and when people purchase the full version you can give them the full 100% of the elements. It’s very practical and inexpensive way to copy protect your game.

[3] Online game features or online registration

If you have features that require Internet, you can use online copy protection for your product. One example could be that you wouldn’t send player server list unless user has sent a valid username and password to your game server. That way you couldn’t play the game illegally with others since you wouldn’t get their server information.

[4] Give discounts or lower the product price

I’m not really recommending this – just rather listing this one as a general way that might decrease piracy. I’m not even that convinced this one is really a solid answer to problems of piracy.

Some people say that this might help getting rid of some pirates. The problem with this approach is naturally that when you lower your price, you get less profits per sale. Then the problem continues: lowering your product price doesn’t not necessarily lead to increased sales.

[5] Give your product for free

Some people have done radical moves and are giving their product for free. These guys might use some different tactics (like these) to generate income while providing their product for no cost.

[6] Don’t give away your software source code

This might sound quite basic, but projects with multiple programmers carry a risk of shared source code. While I believe in open development, there is a risk that your source code gets stolen or leaked. If you keep your source code hidden, it means other people cannot get it – but then you face a problem regarding the product progress. I believe in open atmosphere and I focus on getting reliable people in the team, rather than focusing on protecting my code in case somebody isn’t reliable. Working with reliable guys has been better option rather than worrying piracy.

Nevertheless, you might need to consider this to protect your code.

[7] If your product ends up to some warez site, take legal actions

If your product ends up hacked and into some illegal site, contact the internet service provider of the warez site and tell them about the problem (not the warez people, but those who own and manage the servers physically). Since one email might get ignored, it’s useful to discuss about the warez site first in a forum. While 1 email might get ignored, 10 or 100 emails from different indies can help shutting down the illegal site.

I personally don’t ignore pirates, but I also won’t concentrate on fighting against piracy. The roots of the problem isn’t small income (since how the heck those pirates can afford to buy $1000 computers, but cannot spend $20 on some fine games), it’s the attitude.

That’s why I think you should perform some of the necessary elements (like copy protection system), and then focus on building a great service around a great product.

Can Indie Developers Build a Successful MMOG

I just found out about the Indie MMO Game Development Conference that takes place April 14th – 15th, 2007 at Minneapolis, MN, USA. I must say that I was impressed since I didn’t realize there wouldn’t even be such events like this. One of the featured speakers is Brian Green (aka Psychochild), so I bet there will be some informative sessions there.

IMGDC describes the conference in the following way:

The IMGDC is a much needed conference that is geared towards the ever-growing world of Massive Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) and the Indie developers who dream to cut themselves a piece of the MMO market pie. Designers and developers alike will find useful tracks and discussion groups at the conference. This conference is here to prove that Indie developers can and should be successful in the MMOG market.

I wrote in the past about MMORPG production and even answered to couple of questions about MMORPGs. I believe that tools such as Multiverse will help indies make MMO games, but there still lots of work to do. Presumably the conference will shed light on how to succeed in MMO production. We’ll see how the event goes in April.

The registration fees seemed quite decent (especially for the next couple of days, since the fees go up after 15th February). Here are their rates:

* Early Bird special rate: $49.99 until December 15th, 2006.
* Normal rate: $99.99 until February 15th, 2007
* Late registration rate: $149.99 starting February 16th, 2007.

You may register here.

If you wish to find out more about the event, there’s speaker bios and other information available at their website.

Looking Back: Articles and Resources From Year 2006

One fun things about writing a blog is that you get a chance to see what you’ve wrote in the past. I started browsing the archives and found some interesting posts. Here’s some that caught my eye:

Of course the ones that have always been reader favourites are:

  • Interviews – there are few talks with game professionals, and more will be seen in the future.
  • Sales statistics that describe how indie games can sell anything from $0 to $100,000 and more.

There’s some other elements I’d like to remind:

  • If you want to send some interesting stuff for me, consider using the carnival submission form. Next edition for Carnival of Game Production will be held on February 15th, so you have few days left to submit your article.
  • I’m also available if you’d like to contact me about business proposal or something else.
  • If you want to get reminded when new sales statistics or special features are available, subscribe to the GameProducer.net newsletter (see top right of this site).
  • Also don’t forget the RSS feed option that gets you blog posts in a handy way.

That’s it for today.

You Don’t Need Be Motivated to Work, You Need Work to Be Motivated

One of the funny facts I’ve noticed about motivation is that you don’t actually need to be motivated to start working. Sometimes you might have thoughts such as “I don’t feel like working now”, “I’ll do that tomorrow” or “I’ll wait until I’m motivated and start after that”. It’s like you might think that you first need to get motivated, and after that – you are ready to start working.

It’s exactly the opposite.

When you start working (whether you feel like it or not) you will notice a strange thing happening: as soon as you start working on with your goals, you’ll start to feel motivated. As you see the progress and finish task after task, you’ll feel even more motivated to continue. I believe this is true for almost any kind of work that’s at least somewhat important to you.

This is surely one of the best medicines for lack of motivation. For more tips on motivating yourself, see also the following articles have one computer free day every week and 14 ways to motivate yourself.