Monthly Archives: February 2007

Why Some Games Take 21 Hours to Produce While Others Take 21 Months

I’ve been pondering this question, and it really amazes how much one can accomplish in just 21 hours. The box stacking mini game didn’t take much of my time, but I have poured unbelievable amount of hours to making of multiplayer game framework, mostly for Edoiki. Initially I planned that the Edoiki game would be produced in just few months, but then various events occured (such as lead programmer leaving the house, getting lots of new ideas, chancing the core network code and so on) which have delayed the project for over half a year already.

All the things haven’t necessarily been bad: even though completely re-coding the core network code did took time, there has been benefits as well. It’s now faster to try new things and the server-client architecture seems quite solid. Also, while the programmer left, it has given me chance to learn more coding. There are open issues in Edoiki development: at the moment I’m pondering publishing the game in Episodes. That way I might be able to cut down some features and actually get playing the game faster. This is one open issue, which will get answered soon. I want the game out. All these decisions will have an impact on the project progress.

It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in just few days. And even though a game would take 21 months to produce, it must be finished in small steps: doing 21 hours after 21 hours. If you keep taking baby steps one after another, eventually the game will be finished.

Worrying about how badly deadline was missed, or worrying about the “upcoming workload” is useless. It only gives you a bad feeling and doesn’t help progress. Instead, concentrate on what you can do and take those steps forward. One by one. That’s the only way to reach the place where you want to go: by taking action.

Do Your Homework When Dealing With Customers

I recently added another bank account to my PayPal account. I have successfully used the first account for ages, but for better accounting purposes I needed another one. I typed my bank account info in PayPal and tried sending some bucks. After 5 days or so I received a message saying that withdraw failed. I asked from PayPal about this and was surprised how swiftly they responded. It took maybe a day or so and the reply was very detailed, filled with all kinds of possible explanations. They said that PayPal doesn’t know exactly why the transfer failed since my bank didn’t give that information, but they did their best to guess. I was very pleased with their response even though it didn’t solve my problem. I decided to send them my bank account numbers (both old and new) and asked if there could be some problem with the new account number. I deleted the erroneous account as told.

Then the funny part started.

First I received email from some other guy (instead of the first person who was “assigned to help me personally”). He said that my email address didn’t match (since I had used different email than the one I’d informed to PayPal). I quickly send them another email using identical address with my PayPal email address.

The next email I received was some third person who said: “I have reviewed your account and I can see that you have added new bank account information correctly. It is my pleasure to assist you. Thank you for choosing PayPal.” Didn’t he even read my issue? I had deleted the erroneous account (as was suggested and mentioned in the ticket) and now this guy confirms that my bank account information in PayPal is correct. I bet it’s correct, since I’ve used that over a year already. I just wanted to add another bank account!

I replied him that it was nice to hear that, and asked if he could read the whole ticket text and deal with my issue now… PayPal is a great online payment solution, and their response time has been amazing (in this one case I’ve ever emailed them). Now I just need to hope their customer service – after the initial response – reaches the same level.

The meaning of customer service is to serve the customer

When you deal with customers, don’t make any assumptions about the problem without investigating any further. Do your homework. Help the customer with the real problem, don’t just assume you know what the issue might be all about. The first email from PayPal was very good one and the person really tried to suggest solutions to the problem. The following responses were just work done quickly as possible.

I’ll wait and see what happens next.

80 Percent of Companies Won’t Fail Within 5 Years

Have you heard the “fact” about entrepreneurs, it’s called: “Within 5 years, more than 80 percent of them will fail”. If you google for that sentence, you’ll find plenty of sources that keep mentioning this as a solid fact. Have you ever considered that it might not be true, or have you accepted that as “researched fact” since people keep telling “researches indicate so” and “everybody knows that”?

I wrote about questioning authority earlier, and I think the lessons in that post are worth keeping in mind. I was reading book called Entrepreneurial Marketing (by Bjerke and Holtman, 2002) I discovered quite interesting study results.

Let me quote the book Entrepreneurial Marketing. They talk about “exit rates” rather than “failure rates”, since a firm can exit an economy for all sorts of statistical reasons without actually failing. For instance, a firm that is acquired by another firm is normally counted as one ‘exit’. Bjerke and Holtman give some figures about the survival rate of start-up companies. I believe these figures come from USA, Japan, Australia, Hong Kong and Indonesia. Their rough indications were:

  • 20-30% of start-up companies will survive more than 8 years
  • 50 percent will survive about 5 years
  • 70 percent will survive 3 years
  • 85 percent will survive the first year

50 percent will survive about 5 years? What happened to the “well-known fact” that “80 percent of companies will fail within 5 years”?

If you think about the statement: “80 percent of companies will fail” you can see some problems with it. First of all: it says “companies”. That suggests it takes into account all the companies in the world, all the industries. If you think about that bit more, could you see that perhaps “florist companies”, “IT companies” and “car seller companies” might have a bit different survival rate? Or is it so that in all companies, there’s no difference in survival rates? I doubt that. You can also think about the “80%”. That’s quite a rough number. Basically one could think that what if the number is 75% or 85%. What does this tell us? There’s tens of millions small businesses in the world. A 10 percent unit difference in these numbers would mean millions start-up companies. That’s quite a big number to make rough statements about survival rates. Yet people still keep us telling how 80% of companies will fail after 5 years. Why?

Don’t believe facts just because some authority tells you about them

What I’m trying to say here is simply that we shouldn’t believe every single ‘fact’ right away. Some “well-known facts” might be rough statements that are far from being true. I would also like to say that it’s not really necessary to question everything all the time. Sometimes it’s pointless to argue about some statements, since sometimes it just makes things more difficult.

For example, I think there would be no point for me trying to convince anyone that “80 percent of companies will fail within 50 years” is not true (any more than I just did). I think that the meaning behind that statement is “most of the start-up companies won’t be here much longer than 5 years”. That’s possibly quite accurate statement. I don’t think there’s so much harm done by saying that statement. I see no point questioning it more than I just did.

I simply rest my case by saying that statements that aren’t backed up by research findings (with specific authors, documents etc.) are not necessarily correct. Even if they point to some research articles, the credibility of those documents might need to be verified to ensure that the information is correct.

80 percent of companies won’t fail within 5 years just because some authority says so.

Experimenting Plugins and Stuff

I have been tweaking the site a bit, and saw a nice wordpress digg plugin at shoemoney. Basically the plugin let’s you display a digg button near the story. At the time of writing I placed the plugin near the topic title. Logically it might be better to be in the end of the story: I suppose people will decide whether to dugg your story or not after they’ve read it. Anyway, I had a slight problem (the button didn’t seem to show even when some of my stories have been dugg earlier), but after digging couple of posts they seemed to work just fine. Here’s an example article It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice where you can see the button in action.

EDIT: Just a few minutes after experimenting the plugin I noticed that digg updated their tools yesterday. Now I have to think which one to use…

The other experiment that I made some Wednesday ago was putting the introduce yourself button in the site header links. I recently browsed what people have said and I realized that besides getting to know some of you readers, it is a fine place for contact people: so if you’d like to introduce yourself it would be nice if you could stick your website URL or email in the comment. That way I (and others in case you put website URL) might be able to contact you in case they want to make deal with you or something.

I’d also like to remind you about the second game production carnival. It will be held within a week, so feel free to submit your entries there.

I’m also going through one business idea in my mind, but haven’t yet found a real solution on how to pull it off properly. I’ll let you know in the future more about it.

EDIT II: Final tweakings for today. Added animated feedburner RSS feed button to top right corner, switched to digg’s tool and moved digg button in the end of the posts.

3 Tips Against Malicious Attacks

We detected an attempted malicious attack on the site and have decided to take the site offline to assess any impact. GameDev.net will be back online as soon as possible.

If you’ve visited Gamedev.net, you’ve probably noticed the above picture on their site. Every now and then you can see similar attacks in the net. I’m far from being a security expert, but here’s three practical tips I can give.

Make sure you have backups

If you haven’t done backups, or never heard about them, start using them. I wrote in the past a post with 7 rules of backups which gives some practical info about making them. Be sure to check out the post comments as well, there’s good (even better) tips in them. It’s a shame to hear stories “I completely lost weeks work” or “the darn auto save didn’t work, now I have to type everything again!”. Make a habit of having backups.

Change your password

When was the last time you changed the administration password for your most important site? Is the password for your biggest site easy one? The folks that keep telling us that we need to change passwords and keep them safe aren’t doing that just for fun. Make sure you have a proper password, just in case.

Upgrade your software

Software updates are not done just for fun. Make sure you have the latest security patches for the products you use. Read the release notes, and upgrade your software. News about security holes will be exploited faster than speed of light, so make sure your software won’t be the problem.

Bonus tip: reading about tips is useless. They will only help you if you take action. If you’ve read this far, I recommend thinking about if you can do at least one of the security measures right away.

Sims Video Game Helped Me to Write My Best English Essay Ever

Years and years ago when I was preparing for the final English language exam at the senior high school I took a quite different approach on learning. I had quite good English skills at that time, so it wasn’t that radical (but I wouldn’t recommend this to you unless you know English well). Instead of reading English text books or practising grammar I decide to play Sims game. I played several hours that day and got new stuff to my virtual house, got a virtual wife, virtual baby, virtual money and everything else you can see in Sims game. I didn’t like to play several characters in Sims so in the end the virtual wife went away and baby was “taken by authorities”. After that I continued playing with my virtual Sim, decorating the house and doing the stuff you can do in that game.

The next day was the exam day. I hadn’t read English books, but I had played quite a virtual life in the previous day. In the exam I had to answer to several questions and in the end there were topics you needed to use in one page (or something like that) long essay. I really must say that when I saw the exam papers I might have almost laughed. There were several topics, and one of them was: “Get married or stay single – problems and benefits” (can’t remember the exact topic, but you get the idea). Well, just the previous day I “had gone” though a “virtual life being single, married with a baby”. I wrote what happened in the game. I remember writing something about “when you have baby it takes time” (heck yeah, it was crying all the time in the game ;) and “you need to take care of it or it might be taken away”.

I had never got 90 out of 100 points from English essays. I think I had written solid 80 points (maybe 80-85 out of 100) in the past in English essays, but this time it was different. I wrote the best (well, at least highest points I’ve ever got) English paper in my life and got over 90 points out of 100 from that essay. So, thanks Sims game and game makers – playing your game helped me to write my best English essay ever.

And as I already mentioned – I don’t recommend you to just play games and ignore learning in other ways when you are preparing for exams. I had studied English as foreign language for over a decade and had passion for it: I read lots of books, played lots of games where English was spoken, and studied English with care in other ways for a long time.

Nevertheless, parents should understand that video games are not completely waste of time. There’s much one can learn from them.

The 3 Secrets on How to Use Discussion Forums to Get Customers

There’s three fundamental things to remember in getting customers from discussion forums and bulletin boards that are not operated by you.

The first secret: The forums you currently visit are not best sites to get customers

Let’s suppose you make games, and need to sell them. I bet – if you are like average Joe developer – you like to visit game development forums, and spend your time interacting on these forums. If you are an online entrepreneur, I suppose you like visiting forums where other fellow entrepreneurs hang out.

The problem with this approach is quite self-evident: those guys and girls are (most likely) not your target audience. If you are selling casual games, the best place is not casual game development forums. If you sell car parts, the best place to hang out is not the discussion forums where other car part sellers hang out. Fine, it’s true that some of those people might be interested in buying stuff, but most of them are doing exactly what you are doing: trying to sell their stuff, not buy stuff.

The second secret: Go to the forums where your potential customers are hanging out

That’s pretty clear after reading the first secret. The problem is – how to find those places where your potential customers are. One good resource is Big-boards.com. It’s a site that lists the biggest forums on the Internet. For example, if you are after gamers, you could start looking at the full list (not just the top 25 boards) and easily find proper forums such as GameBattles, Game Planet, GameSpot, Civ Fanatics and so on.

The third secret: do not spam

When you find proper forums, be extra careful when posting about your products and read the forum guidelines. Most forums don’t allow advertising your products directly, but they let you make intelligent (and long) replies to threads and let you attach a clickable signature link. Put a signature link and participate in the discussions. Sometimes you might be able to put your own product links when people are asking them, but even then you need to be careful not to violate the forum rules. Getting banned can happen fast.

When you find the right forums, and promote your products in the right manner – you’ll get new customers.

Blogs Roundup #6

It’s been while since I posted about other blogs, so I decided to take a look now. Here are some blogs pointing to GameProducer.net

That’s it. Don’t forget to check out the blog links in my site blogroll. You’ll find plenty of good resources from there.

How To Find Out What People Want

Over a month ago I posted a post regarding marketing research and tried to shed some light into doing one. While that post gives quite good guidelines on how to create a market reserach or a marketing research, I thought to write one more post with specific details on how to find out what people want.

There are many sites where you can see what people want, or what topics get lots of attention from the media. I’ve listed some specific sites below and explained shortly how I use them. You might know some or maybe even all, but I believe you might find some tips & hints how to benefit from using these sites.

What people want

43things.com – If you haven’t ever visited this site, do it now. I think this site is a great resource for anyone thinking about what people would like to get. Heck, you might even find ideas on what theme or game design you could integrate into your next project. In that site people basically write what they want. The more people want some specific things, the bigger the tag text in the page are. Remember to refresh the page to see new tags.

As I browse the page, I see big tags like “make new friends”, “be happy”, “travel the world”, “save money”. Do you have interest and experience into some of these topics? Like if you are one happy guy, then you might start thinking of establishing a site about being happy? Or perhaps you have good writing skills – and suitable background – so that you could even write a book about this subject? Or maybe you are really good at saving money. After you’ve picked a topic (that you really have genuine interest) you could take a look at other websites. By googling “save money” or “how to save money” you can get some picture about your competition.

Best selling games

Game-sales-charts.com – a fine site about top selling games at major gaming portals. There’s even a world map that displays best selling games in several portals at once. As you move your cursor you can get an idea on how well games sell. You can also see what areas have the most competition (if you are familiar with these games, and if you aren’t then go on and download those games), and can start thinking about unique ways to make yourself different.

Games sales statistics

GameProducer.net has listed games sales statistics. From these stats you can learn how these developers have marketed their game and see how well their games have sold. You can pick the best parts and create your own unique way on how to approach game production with sales in mind.

What’s popular

Have you checked the front pages of digg.com or technorati.com? At the time of writing iPhone and Wii seem to get lots of attention at digg and Vista at Technorati. These topics were technology centered, but you can see that Bush, MySpace, YouTube and other topics also get attention. If you have a website that needs content, you might want to check out what others are saying.

What’s happening

I have subscribed to several RSS feeds such as GamesIndustry.biz, GameSetWatch, BBC technology news – all these sites help me know what’s happening in the gaming and technology world. They help me know what information people are currently after. You might like to do the same: find sites that are relevant for you and subscribe to their RSS feeds.

I believe best way to gather information is to expand your current style: if you have always checked only Technorati top list and ignored other ways that’s fine, but perhaps you could use other ways as well? Maybe find couple of suitable RSS feeds where you could get more information? Or perhaps you can find some relevant information about the sales statistics. Maybe you can get ideas on what kind of solutions developers need by checking out those sales stats? It just might be that you can expand and improve your current way of gathering information and finding out what people really want and need.