Monthly Archives: March 2007

GameProducer.net March-April Contest: Convince Me To Buy Your Video Game

Okay game developers, now it’s the time for a new contest where you need to convince me to buy your video game. Contest will end at the last day of April (or when I run out of money). You can use any measures you see appropriate: feel free to beg or ask nicely. Show demos or screenshots. Scream if you wish.

If you haven’t finished a game yet, feel free to try getting me to pre-order the game. I’m in such a mood that it just might work.

I promise to buy game or games from those who manage to convince me, and will mention those games after the contest ends. Naturally this is a good opportunity for anybody to promote their game, and you can mention as many games as you wish.

Then to make sure everybody understands: I’m not going to automatically buy every recommended game (although some of our readers might also be interested, so there’s no reason not to suggest a game). I probably end up buying couple of games. It depends how fun comments I see ;)

The contest starts now, so leave a convincing comment on this blog entry.

P.S. I own a pretty new PC / Windows XP, so I’d appreciate if your game would actually work on my computer… Also, please use full URLs when creating links (and make sure you have spaces, or the system won’t recognize your URL links)

And Then There Was… a House

It’s been a while since I’ve told about Edoiki progress, so here’s a new picture of a house for the Edoiki game. I’ve mentioned it several times to our artist, but I can’t but say that the house looks absolutely great in my eyes. I always thought only AAA games projects would have artists that can do stuff like this… and now I’m fortunate to see these talents in our team.

There have been some changes and major things going on (like team structure, milestone scheduling, etc.) which I have not mentioned yet – mainly because I want to wait to make sure I don’t announce things that won’t happen (hint: that last sentence contains a very valuable lesson). In the future I will tell more about our team, and our team members – so that those who contribute to the project actually get the credits they deserve.

Anyway, we are going to publish a public tech demo soon (“soon” here meaning some date between “time right now” and “hopefully before the next ice age”). There’s no official Edoiki newsletter yet, but those who want to get informed when the public tech demo is available (and when we start to offer beta tests) – feel free to subscribe to GameProducer.net newsletter. I will send GP related information (like interviews, sales stats) also in that newsletter, but eventually the tech demo will be announced there as well. The GP RSS feed is also available for those who prefer waiting for the announcement in that way.

In summary: Edoiki is progressing steadily, and we have a good drive going on.

Targeted Traffic – Banana Farm For Monkeys

Anyone who has heard marketing talk must have heard about “targeted traffic”. This article will explain in a very practical manner what targeted traffic is.

I believe it’s easier to describe by using concrete examples. Let’s suppose you own a banana farm selling bananas. All the buffalos, lions and chickens who run through your farm are part of the traffic. But they do not belong to your target traffic, since they won’t be bringing any benefits for you – most likely those buffalos will only ruin your land. This traffic is not targeted. Chickens, lions or buffalos will never buy your bananas.

Now, then the pack of monkeys arrive. That’s targeted traffic. These monkeys can actually buy bananas from you. They are interested in your product – these monkeys are the ones who should come to your banana farm. This is probably the most important to know when you advertise your product. It does little good to advertise your bananas to lions or chickens. Sure, there might be some lion that would mention the ad to monkeys – but that’s not quite likely. It’s much better option to advertise your bananas to those monkeys. It’s much better to advertise to 10 monkeys who might buy bananas from you, rather than advertise to 1000 buffalos who will never eat your bananas.

Non-targeted traffic focuses on quantity. Targeted traffic focuses on quality. Non-targeted traffic means lost money on ads. Targeted traffic means sales.

Interview With Brian “Psychochild” Green, Near Death Studios

GameProducer.net had a chance to have an interview with Brian “Psychochild” Green, Co-founder of Near Death Studios, Inc. and author of the psychochild blog.

GameProducer.net: Hi Brian and thanks for giving GameProducer.net a chance to have an interview with you. In the beginning I’d like to ask if you can give some background information about yourself and tell our readers how you ended up making games?

Brian Green: Well, I was always a game developer, I just didn’t know it. Growing up I had a fascination with games and got into computers mostly because of games. When I was in junior high school, I took a typing class. After getting done with a project, the teacher handed me a printout of a BASIC game to type in. After typing all that in, I got my first taste of debugging….

In college I played and worked on text MUDs. It wasn’t until someone came recruiting for a game company that I realized that you could make a living making games. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn much graphics programming, so I got a boring Dilbert-esque job after college. Working with a recruiter who sent my resume to 3DO, I got a position working on the classic online game Meridian 59.

The rest is, as they say, history.

GameProducer.net: Tell us more about what you’re doing these days.

Brian Green: I still maintain Meridian 59, but I’m taking less of an active role in the day-to-day operations. These days I am doing more consulting work, taking the lessons learned from Meridian 59 and helping other projects. I’m currently working on a long-term contract with a company in Germany to develop an online game. It’s a very exciting project that goes beyond the typical fantasy combat game.

I also maintain my professional blog at psychochild.org. I write primarily about game development, writing, and how bitter the industry can make you. I also have a weekly feature called the “Weekend Design Challenge” where people think of interesting responses to issue I pose to them.

GameProducer.net: The game was originally published in 1996 by the 3DO company. Near Death Studios, Inc bought the game in 2001 and relaunched the game commercially. What’s the story behind this?

Brian Green: I originally went to work on Meridian 59 in 1998. I came on the team a little more than a year after the game launched. Unfortunately, by that time most of the original developers had left and 3DO was maintaining the game as a minor cash cow. I was hired on because I was new to the industry and cheap to hire. :) I also had text MUD experience, so I knew a bit about online games.

In 2000 I left the company after being reassigned to a single-player game project, and in August of that year 3DO finally shut the game down because they had no more developers. I’m not afraid to admit that I cried that day.

In 2001 I formed a company with Rob “Q” Ellis II, one of the original designers on the game. He was persistent and wrote the mangers at 3DO asking them to acquire the game that had little use to them. They finally agreed, and in late 2001 we bought the rights to the game, about 1 year after it had shut down. We relaunched the commercially game in 2002. It took considerable work for our tiny team of 4 people to fix the game up, develop an infrastructure, and relaunch the game. We funded the entire thing out of pocket: I borrowed against credit cards and Rob borrowed money from his family. We didn’t receive much outside investment, just a few hundred dollars from enthusiastic fans to help us out.

The game is still running: meridian59.com

Our main motivation was to save the game from oblivion. We got the original development server from 3DO, and the hard drive in the machine died literally just as we got the last few vital source files from the drive. The game came very close to being lost to history.

We’re glad to have brought back the game so that people can take a look at the history of online games. Meridian 59 was never the largest game, but it did have an important place in history.

The company has made back its money and is modestly profitable these days. It won’t grow to take over the industry, unfortunately, but the game is self-sustaining at this point and will continue to exist as long as I have anything to say about it. :)

GameProducer.net: Meridian has been mentioned year after year when people talk about MMORPGs. What was the key to game’s success?

Brian Green: Persistence from the developers! It was really an amazing feat that a bunch of relatively inexperienced people put together an amazingly stable and robust game like Meridian 59. And, after we bought the game we did a lot of work to let people know the game came back. Of course, with our modest advertising budget we could not reach everyone, so people are still learning that the game is back.

I also think that the game is special because it does cater to relatively niche interests. The game is unapologetically PvP-focused, and this means that it’s not for everyone. But, the people that enjoy this type of gameplay tend to really enjoy Meridian 59′s unique balance of interesting character development, interesting gameplay, and fast action.

GameProducer.net: What do you think about the current MMO games? Are they just repeating old formulas? What will be the next ‘big thing’ in MMO game development?

Brian Green: MMOs were really just ahead of the cycle. Given the costs of making a “next gen” triple-A title, people are understandably cautious about what they make. So, you see a lot of sequels and clones of games that have already been proven to work. An MMO already cost tens of millions of dollars in the last generation, so you saw the cautious approaches that have given us the games we have today.

So, yes, they are just repeating the old formulas. However, this is the most profitable thing to do if you can afford it. But, fewer and fewer companies can afford a Blizzard-sized investment into such a project.

I think the future of online games is going to be indie, niche titles. Yes, we’ll always have the large games like WoW, but it’s entirely possible to be very profitable with only 30,000 users. If you look beyond the subscription-based model, you can make a lot of money off of an even smaller playerbase. I’d like to see more of these games that cater to more specific interests instead of spending tens of millions of dollars on bland games that try to be everything to everyone.

GameProducer.net: Next a question I hear some indies asking every now and then: Can one man (or woman) make his dream MMORPG?

Brian Green: One person? Probably not. There’s a chance a single person could make a text game, but it’s usually hard to get people excited about that type of game these days. But, there are still some hard-core fans out there of this type of game.

One person can still do a lot, however. I could see someone doing most of a game and then outsourcing a small part of the game. Or, you could have two or three people making a game together. With a very small team like this, it would be easier to do something off the wall at low cost.

GameProducer.net: Then deeper to game production. Since you’ve been making online games for quite a while, you must have tip or two to share. Can you tell us what has been the most challenging element in Meridian 59 production so far?

Brian Green: As part of a small team, one of the biggest challenges is wearing so many hats. I had to do design, programming, business, accounting, and some legal tasks to support the company.

I think in general it’s tough to be motivated about things outside of just making games when you work at a small company. When you work at a big company you are usually shielded from things such as taxes and benefits. But, when you own your own small company not knowing about taxes can literally ruin your company.

I actually helped to co-edit a book on business and legal issues in the game industry. It’s called Business & Legal Primer for Game Development.

GameProducer.net: What about the most rewarding event in the production?

Brian Green: The feeling you get when you realize that your game touches the lives of many other people. When we relaunched M59, I had someone tell me in the game (paraphrasing), “I started playing this game when I was 12. I’m 18 now and am glad it’s back.” It’s pretty profound when you realize that this person had been playing M59 for *one-third* of his life. You also hear about people who play with loved ones and people who met loved ones in the game. It’s truly one thing to pour your soul into a project and see it launch and grow, but it’s just really awesome once you realize that you’ve affected real people with your game.

GameProducer.net: Then we need to know the truth. Which game is better: World of Warcraft or Meridian 59?

Brian Green: It depends on what you want. :) Seriously, I haven’t found a better PvP experience than in Meridian 59. The way you can build your character in so many different ways and the way combat is so dynamic is amazing. It takes a lot of intellect and strategy to win against other people.

On the other hand, Meridian 59 can be pretty intense. Sometimes you just want to zone out in front of a game after a day of work. Meridian 59 is definitely not the game for that. In this case, playing WoW might be better.

I’ve worked up fairly high level characters in both games and enjoyed them for different reasons.

GameProducer.net: You will be featuring in the upcoming IMGD conference. Can you tell little bit about the event, and who should attend?

Brian Green: It’s a pretty neat conference that is focused on indie MMO developers. I’m one of the main speakers, in addition to Dr. Richard Bartle and Jack Emmert. There seems to be a good variety of people speaking at the conference.

My sessions will be on international opportunities. Meridian 59 enjoyed some success in Germany as well as the U.S., and I’ll talk a bit about what it took to take advantage of international opportunities on a technical, business, and legal level.

Obviously, everyone should attend! Well, perhaps people interested in making an indie MMO should be most interested in attending. It should be a great conference!

GameProducer.net: Before the last question, I’d like to ask about getting a job in the games industry. In your bio you say “Hey, people can get paid to make games!” What would be your advice on aspiring game developers? What would you suggest for those who want to break into games industry?

Brian Green: The first advice I tell people is, “Playing games is not making games.” Don’t expect that you’ll just sit around playing games all day. Even if you get a job doing that (a QA tester), it’s not what you expect.

Beyond that, set realistic goals. You are not going to design your own game for your first job, no matter how cool you think your ideas are. Even if you are the “lead designer”, there is usually someone that came up with the game idea that you have to implement.

Also, do whatever you can to stand out. Get a college degree, make a game demo or mod, learn all you can about game development, be ready to pay your dues. There are a lot of other people out there that want to do the same thing; you need to show that you are the better candidate.

The most important quality you can have is perseverance. Expect to hear “no” a lot. It can be disheartening, but keep at it. Keep improving and keep learning. Learn to network with game developers and people will get to know you.

Finally, you don’t have to break into the industry to make games. If you really have a burning desire to make games, you can do that on your own. Learn flash and make a game. Keep working at it and learn more. Maybe you’ll eventually land in the industry through your efforts. Maybe you’ll found your own cool indie game studio. Or, maybe you’ll just have a cool hobby after you get home from your Dilbert-esque job. :)

GameProducer.net: In the end: what are your TOP 5 tips and hints that every game producer in the world should know?

Brian Green: Being an indie developer at heart, I’ll speak directly to the indie producers out there.

1. Don’t underestimate the business and legal issues. When you’re an indie developer, you can’t ignore these aspects. There have been far too many developers that have had great ideas, but poor business sense; these developers never last as long as they should. This is the reason why I helped to co-edit the book on these issues. They aren’t sexy, but they keep you in business.

2. Find exceptional people. As an indie, especially one on a small budget, it can be hard to find great people to do everything that needs to be done. But, these people are out there and are vital for your success. We’ve been lucky to have some really great people work on Meridian 59 over the past few years. Most of them came from outside the game industry. And, once you find them, remember to help them grow their careers as well.

3. Always work on self-improvement. Learn new things. For the love of all that is holy, learn some project management techniques, too; we do a terrible job of this as an industry. I know as well as anyone that when you have so many responsibilities it is hard to do proper project management. But, this helps in the long run.

4. Learn how to network. Especially as an indie, you can get lost in your own little corner of the world working on your own game. Go to conferences and meet people with similar interests. Sign up for a social networking site like LinkedIn and get connected to other developers. The industry is all about who you know, so make sure you know a lot of people. Even if you own your own company and it becomes a million-dollar success story, you’ll still want to know people in order to find your next star developer.

5. Have fun! You can grow an ulcer, make terrible wages, and burn out before age 35 in any industry. We work in games, and we should have fun. No, making games isn’t playing games, but if you never have fun then you will have a hard time making fun games. Remember: if you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?

GameProducer.net: Thanks for the interview.

Brian Green: My pleasure! I love talking about games. :)

Google Gets Into In-Game Advertising

Google has confirmed it bought in-game advertising company AdScape Media, for an undisclosed sum. I’ve been talking about advertising and looking for opportunities in software piracy, and perhaps these opportunities might suit well for in-game advertising. Google is moving into in-game advertising, and it might be a sign about how the future might look like: more and more companies might be interested about product placement and ads in games. Even though this is a small deal – firecegamebiz.com reported analysts saying $20-30M deal – I still think it means something. I’m sure we will see more companies moving in the in-game ad business. Washington Post mentioned that Microsoft made a $200M in-game ad deal last year.

Some people criticize that in-game ads will make games less immersive. While I agree to some extent (like seeing Nike shoes being advertised in Edoiki is not something I imagine happening) I believe there are room for in-game ads. Sports games for example. I think it would be much more immersive to see players using real energy drinks and see real energy drink logos in the play field, rather than using fake logos and fake names. It is – in my opinion – almost the same as seeing Wayne Gretzky rather than Grayne Wetcky playing in the field. In some games these ads might fit very well – if done properly.

Movaya Launches Mobile Game Distribution Web Service

Via GameRelease.net.

Movaya, a mobile content distribution and services company, announced today the beta launch of Movaya PlugNPlayâ„¢, a mobile video game distribution service that allows any website, ecommerce site or blog to sell mobile games.

“Up until today, one of the biggest barriers holding back the sales of mobile games has been the relative lack of effective distribution channels,” says Scott Meyer, Senior VP, Americas, PlayerX. “Movaya PlugNPlay now makes it easy for anyone to sell mobile games, from major ecommerce sites all the way down to MySpace pages and blogs. That capability will put our products in front of more eyeballs than we can imagine.”

PlugNPlay is a web service that allows any website to set up a turn-key mobile game store in a matter of minutes. The service is an integrated solution that supports all aspects of ecommerce transactions for mobile game sales and distribution. PlugNPlay instantly provides relationships with mobile game publishers and cellular carriers so that anyone can seamlessly sell mobile games from any retail storefront, web site or blog. The new service also handles payment processing, customer care and reporting. Similar to an affiliate program, the website owner only needs to provide the store links; PlugNPlayâ„¢ does the rest.

Sounds pretty darn interesting opportunity for game studios in mobile/casual gaming business. For more information about the PlugNPlay, check out their website.

What Web 2.0 Really Means

Web 2.0 is such a popular new that you probably cannot hear people mentioning it now and then when they talk about the Internet. There is one small problem though… what Web 2.0 really means? It seems that even experts cannot agree on a clear definition.

Term Web 2.0 was originally used by O’Reilly and by Web 2.0 they try to describe design patterns and business models for the next generation of web software. They have faced criticism: Tim Berners-Lee for example says “nobody even knows what it means”. Read those articles for further information and decide yourself.

Examples of Web 2.0 are said to be blogs, flickr.com, YouTube.com and other services that use technologies such as AJAX and let users provide major part of the content. Critic is presented that all these sites represent what the Web should have been in the first place.

One of the problems with the Web 2.0 definition is that it seemingly don’t have one, but many people “know a web 2.0 site when they see one”. It’s bit similar problem as “casual games” have. “Casual games” is a loose definition (and some the descriptions could very well belong to AAA games – that are played “casually”) – but people know what a “casual game” is when they see one.

Whether there’s Web 2.0 or not, I think I’ll understand the phrase enough to spot what people mean. And when I don’t know what they mean, I can always ask clarifying questions. I don’t much care about the exact definition – and less about arguing over it.

What is important – in my opinion – is to understand Web 2.0 as a business opportunity and what it is doing for games. Kaneva is taking one approach, and using “aspects of Web 2.0″ in games. I previously mentioned David Perry going in the MMO vehicle – they are aiming to get 100,000 candidates for making one game. Outback Online is taking even more radical approach by letting users really create content for the game. Pjio is a gaming portal in beta phase using new technologies to bring fun. Great Games Experiment (or GGE) is a social site for game developers, producers, players, publishers and others (I also have my own account there) taking advantage of social aspects of Web 2.0.

I agree that there is no a 100% clear definition for Web 2.0, but there’s much less reasons for spending energy on debating whether Web 2.0 is a buzzword or not. What matters is how your company is benefiting from it. Web 2.0 elements – such as social sites, user generated content – are becoming more and more popular, and there are opportunities there.

It’s up to you to how you approach it: whether you ignore, benefit from or argue over it.

Games For Health – $30,000 Contest

The Games for Health Competition is a nationwide (US only) contest to promote the production of computer and video games that improve people’s health. Prizes will be awarded to entrants who develop game concepts or prototypes aimed at improving aspects of health and health care. The deadline for entry is April 1, 2007, with winners to be announced in June. Details on contest categories and rules may be found on the Games for Health Competition Web.

Entrants in the storyboard/treatment competition will submit a game concept that addresses a health issue or identifies a specific problem faced by an organization in the health care arena (such as training staff to counsel family members or raising awareness about bone marrow donations) and offers strategies for addressing the problem. A $5,000 prize is available to each of the winners in the student and organization storyboard categories.

Participants in the prototype competition must develop a working prototype of a health-related game in a playable form. The games may be about any health or health care topic and can help with training, health education, disease management, prevention or building general awareness and understanding. The winner in this category will receive $20,000.

Remember to read the rules if you consider applying to the contest. Good luck!

Blogs Roundup #7

Here’s some blogs and websites that have linked to GP and might be worth the trip:

Enjoy.