Monthly Archives: May 2007

Free Ebook – Blog Profits Blueprint

Yaro Starak, an internet entrepreneur from Australia, has just published an excellent (and free) blogging resource titled Blog Profits Blueprint. The 55 page ebook contains a massive amount of information about blogging, including strategies and tactics for efficient blogger. Anyone looking for inspiration and guidance for blogging, get this free guide.

Here are some parts he mentions about the resource:

The one vital skill that most bloggers lack, and how YOU can easily learn it.

Yaro’s “Pillar Method” for creating killer content that attracts links and sucks in waves of traffic for months or even years to come.

How he builds multiple, ongoing streams of blog traffic using Communication Channels

The exact methods he uses to make money from his blog.

Plus, access to a LIVE VIDEO that let’s you “look over Yaro’s shoulder” as he gives you a guided tour of exactly how he makes money from his blog – and how much!.

Yaro (besides being a nice chap) earns more than $5000 per month from his online businesses so he knows what he is talking about. The ebook is filled with information on how to get traffic to your blog, and how to use your blog to generate revenue. I recommend picking it up, in case you have a blog and would like to take it to the next level. Click here to get access to this free resource

I have affiliate links in this post, since the ebook is part of a Yaro’s blog mastermind course. You don’t need to sign up or pay anything to get the resource: the ebook is 100% free and doesn’t oblige you to anything.

Prepare for Storm and Thunder

Summer is slowly but unsteadily arriving to Finland, and the first Summer storms, thunder and lightning are right behind the corner. I have acknowledged that I should prepare for power outages and finally get a proper UPS (uninterruptible power supply) device.

I’m not a technical expert, but I can give a really short introduction to what UPS devices are. UPS are basically devices that are intended to supply power even when rest of the house electricity cuts. UPS might also protect computers from over-voltage or electric spikes.

Why UPS devices are important:

  • What if there’s a sudden over-voltage that damages burns your computer hard-drive? With a proper UPS you could be safe.
  • What if the electricity gets cut off in a middle of something important – and the work vanishes because of the power failure. With UPS you should be safe.

Basically: UPS can help you keep your computer safe and let you continue working even in case of a power interruption.

I haven’t purchased my own UPS device yet, but I have one pretty good guideline that buyers could perhaps remember: don’t buy a cheap UPS. I’ve heard horror stories from people buying cheap devices that actually couldn’t handle power failures. I would recommend googling for reviews or asking around friends in case they’ve got experience on UPS – in case you are going to get one.

Naturally, if you already own an UPS I’d be glad to hear your comments, experiences and recommendations for buying. Feel free to tell us if you have an UPS device, and if you’d recommend it.

Looking For a Top-Notch Music Composer for Your Game?

I promised in the past that I would introduce our Edoiki game team in greater detail. The rest of the team members will be presented in the future. Now, first I’m going to introduce you the guy who is doing all the sounds and music for the game: Jean-Marc Lederman.

If you need to get high-quality music and sounds (with a decent price) then contact Jean-Marc
Jean-Marc said to me that he is open for job opportunities, and I can personally recommend him: he has done a great job in the Edoiki game and he is a real professional to work with. He has written music for several best-selling titles such as Titanic Hidden Expedition, Atlantis Sky Patrol and Mystic Inn. (Work samples and testimonials are available at his website).

His past experience and work samples will tell a lot about the quality, but I would like to give some points I noticed working with him in the Edoiki project:

  • He is a professional: he behaves and talks like one – and the quality is what you can expect from a pro.
  • He thinks first, speaks later – doesn’t rush into things.
  • He has a sense of humor (I always remember his introduction, when he said: “I’m Jean-Marc and you can call me Jean-Marc” :)
  • He can accomplish things extremely fast. I’m quite used for delays in game production and was very amazed to see him putting together example quality background music in just 15 minutes!
  • Flexibility: We made a fair deal right in the beginning, and he showed flexibility from his part.
  • Creativity: He came up with creative ideas regarding the music, and I was pleased with the results.
  • Network: I told him that I was wondering if we could get Chinese or Japanese speech in the game – and he simply replied that he had contacts with whom he could do that. We haven’t put any voice acting in the game yet, but it was nice to find out that he knows people who can help us.

Jean-Marc looks for the following opportunity:

  • Any audio work for games that are okay
  • No mods
  • No “neat neat neat” (games with lots of “fuzzy animals” etc.)
  • Casual games are good (especially if original)
  • Most interested in doing AAA
  • Just ask him

If you happen to work in an AAA company or in a game studio that needs quality music with a decent price, then feel free to contact Jean-Marc.

How to Increase Sales by Allowing Customer Choose His Preferred Payment Methods

Some time ago, I randomly picked a winner among those who participated in a survey. The winner got to pick any game from Big Fish Games. He selected one game and I said I would get him the game.

After browsing some time, I realized that I couldn’t find a “buy as a gift” option from their website. I decided to buy the game “normally” and proceeded. I thought I would use PayPal to make the payment… just to see Big Fish Games (BFG) wasn’t accepting it. I chose to use credit card, made the payment and created a customer account.

After making the order I got clear emails telling me what do I need to do in order to play the game. I wasn’t sure how to get the game to other person, so I tried emailing him the customized link. That didn’t work, and we exchanged some emails trying to find a solution.

Finally I gave up trying to get files to work at his end, and I simply gave him my BFG account details and let him try to install the game (Naturally I made sure that my credit card information would not be available, so that no harm could be done). That worked, and the guy got his game (and I changed my password after he was done) and in the end all was well.

What Big Fish Games could do to improve their system
The two tiny issues bugged me. First of all, why there’s no PayPal option to make the payments? (Or did I miss it?) PayPal is quite widely used and the money on PayPal account is just right for doing purchases like these: no need to give credit card information for example.

And secondly: BFG is has millions and millions visitors on their website. I bet *somebody* would be interested to buy games as gifts for their friends or family members. Why aren’t they accepting these type of orders (or again: did I somehow messed up and missed it?). It’s quite understandable that smaller studios selling games directly don’t accept gift orders, but from one of the biggest casual game portals – that seems like a missed business opportunity.

It boils down to the same old marketing wisdom: giving customer the option to buy the way he prefers.

Update: Scurvy Lobster notified me that I missed the gift certificates, which reminds me that the next time I shall use browser’s “Find” functionality to search for “gift”. My mistake. Maybe they still could learn from Amazon.com who even asks “is this purchase going to be a gift” (would be good for customers like me :)

It’s Easy to Be Calm When Things Are All Okay…

It’s easy to stay calm and relaxed when things are going fine, but when things start getting messy it becomes bit more difficult to think positive.

I had one of those incidents today.

I was driving our car in the city this morning and was about to park the car. Suddenly, the transmission decided to make parking hard: the reverse gear did not work. Then the first gear did not work. Then the rest of the gears didn’t seem to work. Finally, only the 3rd gear worked. Suddenly, it became quite interesting to drive in a city with only 3rd gear to use.

I knew it would be like less than a mile to the place where I could get the car repair, so I decided to try going there. I used some shortcuts, prayed for green lights and went on…

…and I finally got there (after hoping for one woman to go fast right in front of my car, hoping that the city bus would not come true and really hoping that the red lights would switch fast)

What was interesting though, I did thought about some positive things but when I was staring at the red lights and trying to get the car going using just 3rd gear, I had some “what if the car breaks” kind of thoughts.

After I got to the station, I was glad and found several good things about this incident:

  • First of all, it was good that the car transmission broke now – and not on the summer when we might have been traveling somewhere around the country. Now the station was very near, so in this sense it was good.
  • Secondly, the car broke now and not some weeks in the future when we are moving to a new location.
  • Thirdly, I managed to get the car to the station without need to order a tow truck to pull my car to the station – and saved some bucks.

While there was light in the end of the tunnel, I must admit it wasn’t easy to think only positive in this incident. It’s easy to say others not to worry or “worrying doesn’t help anything” (like I use to do) – but it’s not always easy to follow that same piece of advice when things aren’t going well.

The Two Most Annoying Spams I’ve Ever Received

The second most annoying spam I received, had the following message body:

pingvin

Somebody sent me a word “pingvin”? Pingvin? What am I supposed to do with this? Reply with a word “polar bear”? Even pill and stock spam isn’t this annoying since at least then I know they are trying to get money from me. But, somebody sending me word “pingvin” – argh! :) What on Earth do you want me to do with this?

The other annoying spam had MY address in the “from” part, sent to MY address. Not just once, but several times. The message had the following content:

We can email your message to 7,500,000 people. [link to the website]

I bet you can, and I’m one of them!

Sigh.

Entrepreneurial hint: The guy who figures out how to stop spam will be a rich guy. Patent the algorithm or something that stops spam.

Digital Distribution is Growing

Earlier I wrote about the importance of doing DRM right in digital distribution. Today a BBC news item caught my eye: Valve’s Steam has grown to over 13 million active accounts. What’s Interesting: originally Steam was developed to update automatically Valve’s multiplayer games, but now has evolved into a used by many publishers and developers. It’s nice to see casual games such as Zuma sold next to Half Life 2.

Valve’s Steam seems like a good system, and with millions of users, it seems to be a good distribution channel for games. Growth of high-speed Internet connections are essential for the growth of online distribution, but I believe the digital rights management will go hand-to-hand with that. Some people I’ve talked with have mentioned that “Steam had problems” while others have praised their system easy and efficient for players.

Digital distribution of video games is growing. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have all started online services for downloading games onto consoles. Besides companies that distribute games, the company who comes up with the silver bullet to the problems of DRM will get rich.

Meanwhile, it’s nice to get more alternatives for distributing games. We all benefit from it.

Challenge #13: Your Best Tip for Better Game Production

While I’m still browsing some answers in the couple of previous challenges, preparing the game production discussion I would like to throw the ball to you and ask:

What would be your number one game production tip or piece of advice to others?
If you’d had only one piece of advice to give to others – what would it be?

It’s really darn hard to think about just ONE tip for game production. There’s so much to know, learn and experience that it’s really tough to say the BEST tip. After thinking about some alternatives, I believe my “ultimate” piece of advice would be: Focus on results.

I really think that focusing on the results will go a long way. Whether it’s hiring a new team member, picking the right engine, choosing game play elements, negotiating with others – always focus on results. And by results I don’t mean just money – there’s lots of more besides money. There’s long term team membership, there’s long term success in health, relationships, anything. There’s lots of different results. Don’t hire a team member who is just a nice guy, hire a guy who can produce good results and fits to the team. Don’t tell people how to do their job, just make sure they act legally and produce the results you want.

Focus on results. That’s my number one tip (today).

What’s your best piece of advice to others?

Alternative Way of Pricing a Product

I have written a lengthy post about product pricing in the past, but today many different commercials and product prices have got me thinking.

I believe that almost whatever you think about pricing doesn’t really matter. That’s quite a bold statement, but if you think about different things that people buy: couple of bucks for bottled water, $5ish for hamburger meal, $100 for a pair of shoes, $1000 and more to be able to watch more commercials from a thin box. Would you think that these prices were based on the costs? No, they were based on what people were willing to buy.

People are paying ridiculous sums for different goods, so why wouldn’t it be possible to price your product much higher than it currently is? If somebody is willing to spend $25 for a new movie, but cannot spend $10 for a webhosting – something is wrong.

That’s the reason why seller’s opinion about the price is not the most important factor. Naturally there are factors that affect in pricing (such as “industry standards” for certain products), but much more important factor is what the buyer is ultimately willing to spend. I think we should learn from other industries. Look at what kind of price tags cloth stores (for example) are using. Are they using only $10 or $20 prices? No. Besides low-end prices, there’s lots of stuff that costs more like hundreds of dollars. If a cloth store can put a $500 price tag for a coat, why couldn’t you put $500 price tag for your services? Or $5000 or more for that matter?

For individual games it’s tough to price more than $20, but as as Halo 3 taught, the game price can be much more than an average price – sometimes lots of more.

Think about it. Think about choosing a price that’s determined buy what the buyer is willing to pay – not what you think he is willing to pay. Think about different industries. Compare prices of hamburgers with the price of your product. Are they worth much more than couple of hamburgers?

If so, let it show in the price tag.

How to Create Your First Game – Recommended Resources

The post about making your first game already got thousands of visitors in just couple of days (Thanks Kotaku and others). As this issue seem to be in people’s interest, I decided to give a brief list of tools that you can use to create your own game.

Resources for beginners
If you are a beginner in making games, check out the following tools. They’ll help you to get started.

  • Game Maker – Haven’t personally used this, but many people seem to be recommending it to people, so here it is.
  • Multimedia Fusion – This was actually one of the first programming kits I purchased in the past. I really recommend checking Multimedia Fusion, it has lots of good features for beginners. I liked it in the past, and it provided an easy way into making games.
  • Dark Basic – Another good, pretty simple programming tool for creating your game.
  • Blitz3D/BlitzMax – Very nice products, easy BASIC like syntax (in Blitz3D, BlitzMax has more advanced stuff). I’m using Blitz3D and created protos and games like Highpiled using it.

For more experienced developers
Bit more advanced resources, but worth checking for anyone who wants to get deeper into making games:

  • Torque Game Engine Advanced – Engine especially for multiplayer game making. Many people like and recommend it. There’s a free demo which you can use to test it.
  • Ogre3D – Open source graphics engine, with lots of modifications and additions available.
  • Java Monkey Engine – Java based graphics engine with lots of features.
  • Multiverse – Creating a MMO (like MMORPG game). Not perhaps the easiest solution for first game development, but if you are into making your massively multiplayer games – then you might want to check this out.
  • DevMaster 3D engines list – Mentioned this earlier, but since it’s such a good place to find a game engine I couldn’t leave it away from this post.

Now, just pick your tools and start making your game.