What Game Production Has Taught Me

Some parents might be questioning playing (and making of) video games. Parents might bring out reasons such as “you will lack social skills if you play too much games” or “you need to have physical activity instead of staring the computer screen” or “games have lots of violence, they are not good for youngsters” and so on. While I agree that there are negative sides in video games (like pretty much any activity if it takes too much attention), but I would also like to remind all the good sides what playing or making can teach you.

Here’s a short list what playing video games and making them has taught me:

  • Languages: My English skills wouldn’t be on the level that they are today if I hadn’t played computer games (I’m not praising my English skills, but you can rest assure my English would be worse if there were not video games. Big thanks goes to makers of Monkey Island series). I have learned English. I took a Chinese class (about 100 hours) and learned some basics which would also help me in Edoiki game, since it has eastern theme. Learning languages have also taught me about different cultures.
  • Math & Physics: Programming games has required me to learn various topics such as physics (just take a look at my free physics game for example, it did took some effort to deal with the gravity, three dimensions and so on). If I hadn’t programmed or played games, I would have not had so much interest to study these topics.
  • Business skills: Launching my company would not have happened if there were no video games, and while I’m just starting up I’ve already learned a great deal about how businesses work in the Internet.
  • Marketing: Even though I have studies in marketing, I must say that theory won’t beat practice. Both are needed and making games has been a great way to learn marketing in practise. Selling your games requires marketing, customer support and many other factors to come together – and much of the thanks from my part goes to making games.
  • People skills: This has been one of the most practical area I’ve learned when making and playing games. I’ve read more books than ever from various topics, and I’ve learned lessons such as that I really don’t need to be right. When I was younger, I needed to make 100% that I was right – and that the other was wrong. I needed to win, the other had to lose. While I liked debating in the past (and that really hasn’t gone anywhere), today I see that the need to be right is not such a good long-term strategy. While it might win me a debate, it might cost me a friend. And that’s bit pricey. I understand that as I earlier thought only lose-win situations, I see that usually there’s also the win-win alternative. There are lots of other examples which I’ve tried to bring up in the philosophy category. These articles contain much of what I’ve picked up from both making & playing games.

This is just a brief sample of what playing and making games has taught me, and I bet many of you readers could easily continue that list. Video games can be excellent tools for teaching complex subjects and an excellent way to simply have fun. And what more could you require from them anyway?

A Story on How to Kill the Trolls

This is a story about two adventurers, who were after a great treasure. You might spot something very familiar from this story, and feel free to comment it if you wish.

Once upon a time…

Two friends – a bold knight and a wise conjurer – were about to go on a treasure hunt. They had a map to the hidden treasure, which was buried deep in a dark forest. Many people had warned them by telling that it’s impossible to find that treasure from the forest, and the quest would be full of dangers. The two friends listened to other people’s advice, and learned from them. They filled their backpacks with food supplies, armed themselves and took a fine shovel with them. Together they headed to this dangerous journey.

After just a few days of traveling, the mighty knight heard strange voices. After listening for a while he realized that these were the sounds of trolls. Knight had his sword with him, and he felt no fear. He said to the conjurer that those trolls might be dangerous and that he thinks they would need to be stopped. The conjurer reminded that it’s true that trolls are one of the most dangerous monsters in the world, but it would take too much time and energy to kill those trolls. Besides, all the trolls couldn’t be eliminated anyway. There would always come more trolls even if they would manage to destroy these trolls.

“Rubbish!”, said the knight. “It’s our duty to destroy those evil monsters from this world. Otherwise they will catch some poor travelers.”

“Poor travelers?”, responded the conjurer. “There are no poor travelers here. Everybody who travels here is packed with wisdom and weapons – and enough common sense to stay away from those trolls.”

With little upset, the knight said: “Well, I’m going to go anyway. If you are afraid of trolls, so be it. I’m going to kill them and make the world a better place to live. Bye!” And so the knight left before conjurer managed to mumble: “Have you already forgotten where we were supposed to go? We were supposed to find the treasure, not waste our time on trolls that will only get more powerful when opposed. Killing the trolls doesn’t bring us any nearer to the treasure.”

And so the knight went away, and left conjurer to continue the quest alone.

Conjurer took a firm grip on a shovel, checked the path from his map and proceeded towards the goal: the treasure.

After two weeks travel, the conjurer finally found the place that was marked with a big X in the map. He started digging and found a bag full of diamonds. With smile on his face he turned back to go home.

Two more weeks passed, and conjurer came back to the place where the knight had left. By listening carefully he heard some shouting and noises: “Take that you filthy beast!” somebody shouted far away. That must have been the knight, thought the conjurer. “He has got so focused on the trolls, that he totally forgot where he was going. I might be a poor wizard since I cannot spell my name” he added, “but at least I’m wise enough to stay away from trolls. After all, the knight doesn’t realize that the more he fights with the trolls, the more training he is giving to the trolls. The trolls here are strong and big, for that reason. The smaller trolls – or goblins as they are called back home – are small and weak. That’s because we conjurers don’t let them train with us: we don’t fight with the goblins. Trolls would spend most of their time fighting with each others anyway, and if we give them our attention – you can rest assured they will be pleased.”

“That’s what the trolls want: attention. If we don’t give them that, they vanish.”, thought the rich conjurer and went back to home while leaving the knight to fight the never ending battle in the dark forest.

The End.

My Free eBook ‘Game Production Cookbook’ Available Now

I’ve written a short ebook (15 pages, with big font) named Game Production Cookbook. The ebook contains 10 recipes to speed up your game production. The free ebook is available for those who subscribe (or have already subscribed) into the newsletter.

If you want your copy, join the newsletter to get the free game production ebook. After confirming the subscription, you’ll get information on how to download that booklet. Those who join the newsletter will also get informed when new sales statistics or other special stuff is available. The newsletter contains special stuff that’s not available in the blog – and I won’t send many emails per month.

I won’t share your email with anyone, and you may easily unsubscribe by clicking a link in any email you get from me.

Game Production Lesson From Wayne Gretzky

“You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.”
– Wayne Gretzky, legendary ice hockey player

It’s obvious that in ice hockey you cannot score a goal unless you take a shot (if you don’t count those rare lucky breaks when the team scores by some incident, like other team traveling the puck accidentally in their own goal). Similarly there comes times in game production when you need to take action and stop planning too much. Don’t get me wrong, planning is needed. I’m simply saying that at some point you have to take action – and stop polishing your idea for now.

I’ve heard stories from many talented people telling me how they have great game ideas. They just need someone to actually do the game, and they are willing to give 50% of the profits to the other. They might spend years telling how they certainly would know how to create better games than big companies. If only they had the team (or resources or time or whatever), they would do it. Now they just have the big idea that’s waiting for execution. And that’s only thing what they end up having – an idea.

Unfortunately they aren’t following Gretzky’s piece of advice, they are failing to take action.

There comes the time when you need to take a shot, or you’ll end up missing the goal.

What to Do When Others Misinterpret Your Words

What should you do when a team member has not understand your task assignment? What do you do when somebody misinterprets your words? What to do when others are not doing what you meant?

The first reaction might be focusing on telling others what they would need to do. Some people might end up blaming others for not doing the job as it should have done.

Don’t do that.

If somebody misinterprets your words then it’s your job to articulate yourself better
The policy “If you are saying something, and others don’t get the message – then it must be on the receiving end” is a bad one. The first thing you might want to check is to make absolutely certain where the problem lies. Not for the reason to blame, but for the reason to solve the problem. As they say: unless you first locate the problem, you cannot fix it. Your team members might give you hints that will help you locate the problem. They might tell what you should have done, and you can use these clues to spot the problem.

If your focus on thinking what others should have done better, then you might be missing some obvious mistakes you are doing. Even if I first think that the other should have done a better job, I can think about my own behavior and see if there’s some improvements in my approach. Often I can spot some obvious flaws in my approach and can make the necessary adjustments.

Some practical examples:

  • If your sound artist is not doing the kind of music you want, then you can tell him what kind of music you want. You can also ask him to help you to help him. Ask him to tell you what he needs you to do, and then do that.
  • If your animator is not doing the kind of work you expect, then give samples to animations what you want to see. Heck, show examples using your own body. Wave your arms and jump if necessary. Again you can ask your artist to help you with it.
  • If the level designer cannot follow your plan, then you might want to check out your plan together and ask for specific details what’s wrong with it.
  • If the marketing department doesn’t get the idea on what’s the big idea, then go on and show examples on how other studios have marketed their product and describe and show how your product is different.

Do this
If you blame the other (or worse – don’t even say that aloud) you are kind of stuck. If others misinterpret your words as a leader, then it’s your job to take any necessary actions to make sure the message reaches the other end. Improve your own approach, involve the other party and ask specific questions regarding what’s not clear. Don’t focus on finding out whose fault it is. Make it a situation where both parties are focusing on finding the solution.

Last Chances to Convince Me To Buy Your Game…

The contest for the April is coming to end – and I’m still interested to hear recommendations for games to buy. For those of you who skipped this earlier, basically I want developers to convince me to buy their game. Contest details are available here and anybody (with a game to sell) can attend – for how many times you want. The contest will end in about a week, and I will be buying at least couple of games.

The winners will get $$$ (since I’m buying the game), but also publicity (since I will be telling the bought games in public here on this blog) which will naturally lead to more $$$ (as other blog readers naturally also want to buy these games).

Now, convince me to buy your game.

Witty Way to Use Bills to Market Your Products

I just received a phone bill. I must say I was pretty amazed to see the bill telling me “WIN TICKETS TO EUROVISION FINALS, Check out instructions in the back”. The tickets itself was not such a big deal, but the fact that they had put this information in the bill showed creativity.

I don’t recall seeing any other company promoting something (this time it was a contest – not something to buy) in the bill, and I believe you should be really careful when doing so. Promoting too much might make the bill complex, but in this case it worked well because the tickets were mentioned in the bill summary (and not for example in the payment details). Also the fact that the color was red, and everything else black made it stand out.

Quite a witty way to promote an event contest.

3 Mistakes to Avoid When Arranging Meetings

Don’t arrange a team meeting, when in reality you need to speak with one guy
Please don’t do this. If you have something to say that only one guy in the team needs to know, say that thing after the meeting or in some day. Programmers don’t really need to know how the UV map should be done, and modelers don’t really care to hear if that memory leak was fixed or not. Make sure you speak to the whole group when you arrange group meetings. Otherwise you might be wasting time, and basically boring your team.

Don’t make your team members travel if not necessary – use phone if possible
It’s horrible to see stories where workers were invited to a meeting where they had to travel 2 hours trip by train – just to realize that everything could have been said on the phone. Save traveling expenses. Save nerves. Consider having a phone meeting if you don’t really need to have a face-to-face meeting.

The argument “I like to have face-to-face meetings” is no excuse for telling things on the phone. It’s not what you like – it’s matter of productivity and what everybody likes. And not everybody likes to waste time on traveling when it’s not needed.

Don’t get people to read papers in the meeting – send those papers before the meeting
Don’t spend time on reading papers in the meeting… Getting everybody together can be sometimes really tricky and if you waste most of the time for reading papers then something is wrong. Reading can be done alone. Being together in a meeting must be used for talking about common issues, not on reading papers or documents that should have been read before.

Mars Miner – Bomberman Style Action/Arcade Game

RetroStyle Games has released a new version of their debut title: Mars Miner. I took a brief look at this game and came up with some ideas and suggestions, on what they could do to improve the product.

Mars Miner is bit difficult to categorize, as it has arcade, action and almost puzzle like elements. Whatever genre it fits, I especially liked the idea of bombing stuff like in Bomberman game. It’s simply fun. Besides doing good job implementing the bombing, the graphics are very well done.

Developer hints regarding the website:

  • I would reconsider different content for the website. Even though they might have several games in the future I think it would be a good idea to show Mars Miner right on the front page (and not just behind clicks). I think showing the game more, and putting less focus on the news might be a good idea.
  • I would also show full game info right away rather than ‘more info’ (because the ‘more info’ page doesn’t seem to have that much more information). This might not be such important, but just came to my mind.
  • This one is important: I would put download/buy buttons much more visible – I think they should be seen right away when somebody arrives on the website. Possibly in several places (like top menu and also on other parts of the website)

Developer hints regarding the game:

  • I liked the graphics very much, but the sound & music couldn’t meet the quality of graphics. Maybe some improvements there?
  • The ‘intro mini game’ added feeling in the game, but was perhaps bit boring. Not sure though if it makes sense to add anything on it though. Perhaps make it bit shorter and so that the plane couldn’t bear so much damage. (This is not so relevant)
  • I played only a few levels, but I could have kind of wished more variety (more different monsters) right from the beginning.

Last but not least, I’ve seen the comments for the first release and I think these guys have done a good job on “listening & polishing”. I’d say they are on good track, and can’t but wish them good luck.

If you are into ‘Bomberman meets arcade/action/puzzle’ kind of gaming, then download free Mars Miner demo.

Last Chances to Win a Game

I’ve received 75 responses to the short survey where somebody will win a game of their choice. The survey takes only a few minutes to finish. I’m aiming to see about 100 replies before I close the survey so act fast if you wish to participate and win a game – exact details about the lottery on the survey.

Update: I’ve received 100 responses and have closed the survey. Thanks everybody for your interest!