Monthly Archives: June 2007

The Secret of Getting and Staying Motivated Every Day

While being motivated all the time might be tough, there is a way to go towards that ideal situation. In my opinion, being motivated boils down to these two simple things:

  • Doing more things that you love to do.
  • Getting rid of stuff you hate to do.

If you have passion for coding, then my guess is that you have no trouble starting programming day after day. It’s simply something you eagerly wait – something you’ve almost addicted to – thus you feel motivated. The greatest motivation is internal and comes from doing things you have burning desire to do. You can have some external motivating elements (like rewards and so on), but they can never beat the motivation that comes from inside.

If you keep doing the stuff you naturally like to do, and the work that gives you good feeling – you will be motivated no matter what.

The second part of the equation is to get rid of things you hate to do. If you don’t like writing tax reports, then hire a bookkeeper to do them. If you hate writing documents, then get somebody to write them. If you dislike doing reports – then automate them or figure out a way to get them done without you need to touch them. I’m not telling you to ignore important things. I’m simply suggesting getting rid of the work you feel somebody else could do better than you.

The internal desire to do things is the ultimate motivator: concentrate on that – and get somebody else to do other things for you.

Moderators Wanted For New Public Game Producer Forums

GameProducer.net Insiders contain private forums that are not available for public. Insiders have certain benefits such as access to the press release service for building marketing campaigns, access to special resources – and upcoming beta testing service (that will be announced in the future).

I’ve been asking opinions from Insiders regarding opening a public forum, while keeping private areas for Insiders. The feedback I received has been positive, and I will proceed further with the open forum. In a nutshell, the new game producer forum will be the place where game producers meet. And now I need a moderating team.

Here are some key points regarding the forums (and how it affects Insiders):

  • The place for game producers: whether AAA, casual or indie – this will be place for all of them.
  • Public access to some parts of the forums
  • Private “VIP lounge” that’s available only for Insiders (with additional perks that was mentioned earlier)
  • Blog comments will be disabled, and replaced by the forum (trackbacks will stay).
  • The forums will be opened in the future – date will be disclosed later.

I want to make this really clear that the new forums will expand the current game producer forums. Insiders will still have their private discussion places that won’t be touched in anyway.

Now to the WANTED part: moderators
The fact that the forums are for game producers gives it a bit different angle compared to for some other forums. I need support, and now I’m after for moderators. If you would be interested in being a moderator, get in touch with me. I have some requirements (and benefits too) for moderators:

  • Moderator needs to be active (I want people who will be able to actually do something)
  • Moderator needs to have to see the glass half-full (That’s the mindset I require: these forums will be about inspiring people, and there will be strict rules for spamming or rude behavior right from the beginning. Read: we will ban trolls.)
  • Moderator needs to have passion for games making (no need to be guru though – but somebody who enjoys games and making them)

That’s basically it. If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog, commented some of the posts and like spending time on forums, then you might be the right person.

This is non-paid position, but the moderators will get a free access to the VIP lounge (and all the Insider benefits). Bear in mind, that current Insiders can also apply for the position.

If you got interested, contact me.

Make Games For Nintendo Wii – Make WiiWare

I’ve said a few good words about Nintendo Wii in the past and mentioned how Wii seems like a really good platform for indies games. Wii games are simple and fun, not relying on fancy graphics. Doesn’t that sound exactly what casual and indie games are all about? Now Nintendo is coming up with a solution: >WiiWare.

Here’s WiiWare in a nutshell:

  • WiiWare is done using a game-creation service that will allow developers large and small to create new downloadable video game content for Nintendo Wii
  • Games are specifically built for Wii and sold via the Wii Shop Channel (for Wii Points currency)
  • Nintendo isn’t only seeking WiiWare from established publishers and developers
  • Nintendo is seeking from indie developers as well
  • Shorter, original, more creative games from small teams with big ideas
  • Adults Only titles like Manhunt 2 aren’t welcome (I told you that violence doesn’t sell – since it won’t get published…)
  • The first WiiWare titles from Nintendo and third-parties to become available in 2008

Now we’ll just wait to get those tools in our hands.

Do You Make This Mistake When Emailing People?

Lately I’ve been getting some emails that have started with an apologize. I’ve got emails where the first sentence has been something like these: “Sorry for mass emailing you…” or “Sorry to email you again, but…”

Sorry for emailing me something I wanted?

I really think that newsletter sending should NOT start by saying sorry. Not even if you send couple of emails in a row. Not sure if I’ve apologized sending several emails it in the past, but I’ll (hopefully) don’t do that in the future.

Basically, the reason why this kind phrase in emails is not good boils down to these two points:

  • If your newsletter (or email) has something valuable for the reader – why should you apologize it? If you bring me value – why should you feel sorry about that?
  • On the other hand, if your email is useless and doesn’t give me any value – then why the heck are you sending it?

Make sure your email has value, and send it. If you have nothing useful to say – then trash the email.

There’s no need to apologize when you provide valuable content.

Tiny Annoying Things Can Be Solved

Last week I mentioned some tiny problems we had with the character animations. I’m pleased to announce that those problems are now history, we finally have the animations:


Image from Edoiki game featuring white placeholders sticking from the character’s hand and spine…

Tiny things can be annoying – but I’m glad to see that the tiny problems can also be solved!

Bonus Tip For Smoother Moving

About a week ago, I published 7 tips for smooth moving and this week has been hectic – but now things start to be fine (read: my Internet connection is online). I will start going through the pile of emails and other “running issues” in the following days – so for everybody out there who has emailed me and haven’t heard anything from me: I was offline for some days (and auto-scheduled some blog entries). These couple of days reminded me about one bonus tip for making moving smooth: remember to set up auto-reply system to your email.

I forgot that one, but it would have made life easier for some people who have tried to get in touch with me.

Carnival of Game Production – Fourth Edition

It’s been some time since the last game production carnival – and now it’s time for fourth. This time we have various material ranging from interviews, developer guides to top free games.

Carnival Articles

Orange Brat sent me link to the Starving Developer’s Quickstart Guide. It’s a massive list 2D, 3D and other links and resources. Check it out.

Ben from BinaryJoy sent me the Wonderland Interview. There are some witty tips ranging from design to building community.

Jake has written a detailed article titled Do you set milestones? The article contains several tips on how to benefit from setting milestones.

Jason Poss sent me a link to a lengthy interview where they asked about his involvement with WOW: Burning Crusade. It Jason Poss contracted to arrange, orchestrate, and provide music preparation and music consulting services for video games, so it was nice to see a bit different kind of interview.

nabeel submitted an article about The one-step secret to Second Life’s PR success – pondering stories by customers.

Corvus has put online a lengthy document on Games and Storytelling. Anyone interested in the narrative side of games should take a look at it. (Here’s the direct download link to the PDF file)

Alex has a collection of highlights from the AIIDE ‘07 (Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment) conference, featuring the most cutting edge research in game AI.

Free geek sent me the list of Top 10 Free Online Games of All Time. Now you know what to do on summer…

Submit your articles

That concludes the Carnival edition. Thank people for sending articles. 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 – basically I want to see fun, inspiring, practical and positive stories that should be somehow related to game production. At least loosely.

The next edition will be hosted here at GameProducer.net in the following months – after I receive roughly 10 suitable stories. Please, feel free to use the submission page to send your articles.

Thanks for your time.

Sales Stats: Winter Tale – $10,000 Sales, 1 Month Development

Today we have a very interesting title that was launched on winter time (during the Christmas rush). What’s interesting, these guys developed the game only about 1 month – so for a game done in such short time these results were extraordinary.

Below you can find detailed information about the Winter Tale sales.

Title: Winter Tale – DownloadBuy

Developer: TenGames
Release date: December 2006
Team size: 2 developers and 1 musician
Time of development: about 1 month part time

Platform: Windows

SALES:
Sales from TenGames.net: 640
Price: USD 19.95
Total income from TenGames.net: $9600.0
Affiliate sales income: $345.0

Total income: $9945.00

Downloads: about 100 000 downloads (in four months)

Monthly sales
December: 347
January: 126
February: 90
March: 77

EXPENSES:
Music: $230
Hosting: $70
Press Release: $100

PROMOTION:

  • Submitting to shareware sites
  • Download.com
  • Press Release

Note on promotion

This game used Christmas rush and we all worked very hard for release this game in December.

Thanks Abramov at Ten Games for sharing this information!

Remember to subscribe to the newsletter to get notified when new sales statistics are available.

7 Deadly Management Sins

#1 – Dictatorship
“You are wrong, I’m right” attitude (or “it’s my way, or the highway”) is a deadly management sin. The guy who “leads” the team by dictatorship will soon be left alone with nobody to manage. Game producers and managers need to be ready to make tough decisions and tell how things will be done – but not always. Stubborn attitude leads to getting stuck – and nobody follows a dictator forever.

#2 – Lack of focus in production
Aimless game production or project work is another deadly sin: it leads to clueless work, that results to nothing. If there are huge number of open issues and possibilities then it might mean slowed progress as no decisions are being made. If the team is focussed on making progress through certain path, then it’s much more likely to get the project finished. Lacking clear focus and objectives are killing mistakes in game production.

#3 – Forgetting your team members when they’ve done a good job
Here’s a simple test for any manager out there. Simply answer yes or no in the following two questions.

Question number one:

“Have you noticed some poor work by your team members and required it to be re-done in your current project?”

Question number two:

“Have you given praise to your team members for some good work done within this month?”

If you answered “Yes” to both of the following questions, then you are in the right path. If you answered “Yes” only the first question – then you seriously should think about your current management style. Other combinations are possible, but the bottom line is: you have to make sure you keep certain level of quality, and make darn sure that you let your team members know when they’ve done a good job.

#4 – Not focusing on the outcome
Focus on results. That’s a simple piece of advice that’s so easy to forget. Sometimes there might be team members who like to do things on their way, and “not by the book”. As long as these team members produce the necessary results and don’t harm the team work, there’s no reason to require them to “work like everybody else”.

Some people insist that there must be certain working hours, but if somebody wants to take 1 hour nap during the day – that shouldn’t be a problem. If somebody would spend half day meditating, yet achieving twice as much as the rest of the team: there shouldn’t be any problem with this guy’s habits. As long as they are ethical, legal (you have to think your company), are align with the company values and vision (for example: there might be certain requirements for company image) then it shouldn’t be a problem.

I try to follow the guideline to let team members do almost whatever they want (notice the word “almost”) – as long as they get the job done. When I’m outsourcing some tasks, I really don’t care if they use voodoo dolls and prayers when they are coding: as long as the code is done as it was agreed, and as long as they produce good results – I couldn’t care less how it was done.

If focusing results works in outsourcing, why shouldn’t it work also work done in-house?

#5 – Getting nice people, instead of right people in the team
Another deadly sin: getting nice people instead of right people. I don’t put much focus on whether the team members should be friends or not (for the reason that was mentioned in the previous chapter), but I can assure you that “being nice” alone cannot be the factor when deciding who gets in the team.

Some project teams are almost build like that: everybody gets to join and the guideline is “we just have fun making games”. While that is a noble idea… I really don’t think it will be such a good long-term solution. Taking everybody who is “nice and interested about the project” doesn’t guarantee that you get the rights persons to do the right job.

Instead of “nice persons”, pick “nice persons who have the necessary skills to produce the results you want”.

#6 – Asking recommendations, and then ignoring them
I’ve mentioned this earlier, but I have to say this again as this is one sure-way methods to kill the team spirit. If you ask recommendations from your team members: then make 100% sure that you actually check out those recommendations and consider them.

If you’ve already decided what you are going to do – then there’s no point pretending anything else. Team members will be much more grateful for a leader who tells them what to do than for a leader who asks recommendations and then does whatever he had already decided.

#7 – Not taking into account team members’ personal life
There are situations in every people’s lives that might affect to the work. Sometimes these can be very sensitive issues, and if you don’t notice what’s going on in team members’ personal lives – then you might end up seeing somebody’s work performance going down, or somebody even leaving the team for no apparent reason. It’s a deadly sin to forget that there’s life outside work.

7 Lessons I Learned From Playing Baseball

I played baseball for over 10 years in the past and there are some lessons that are applicable also to game production and leadership.

#1 – Sometimes there are not so good days
I remember when I was about 15 years old and on one summer I was learning to hit the ball to pretty long distances. Our coach was pleased with this and we trained this “new trick” over and over before the upcoming match.

When the match started, I remember getting instructions from the coach to try hitting those long shots I took earlier when training. I didn’t manage to hit the ball long even once. The coach was patient and we both knew what I should do and kept trying. In the end I had several opportunities to try hitting the ball as long as possible, but couldn’t succeed no matter how hard I tried. It just wasn’t my day that day – and coach also understood that.

Some days just are like that – you cannot expect every day to be all glory.

#2 – Sometimes there are good days
Then on the other hand I remember playing one of the best matches sometime before I quit playing baseball. I was maybe 18 or 19 and remember that no matter what I tried to do – I succeeded. I remember I hit short distances and long distances, and everything I did happened the way I wanted. I even remember when I hit one poor ball and accidentally the ball flew in a good spot. Even when I “failed”, for some reason I was lucky and got it right.

I’ve noticed that this happens also in game production (and life in general): sometimes there are good days, and sometimes not so good days. Sometimes things just don’t go well, but you have to keep doing what you want and eventually at some day everything will go the right way.

#3 – Concentrate on your own game
This is something I learned from the matches: I don’t think we ever had the problem that we would had need to watch for the mistakes made by the opponent. Most of the time the problem was our own game: we had to concentrate on our own game and keep it simple.

I think checking out competition in games and in business is okay, but I also think focusing too much on the competition is not going to help you. Basically I think you gotta do a darn good job by yourself. Balance is needed in this.

#4 – Don’t shout at the judges
I think I’ve heard our team members shouting at judges and complaining about their decisions hundreds of times. What I don’t recall is that it would have helped even once: the judges who were shouted at turned even more stubborn – and it probably did more harm than good to complain.

I don’t see there’s much reason to shout or whine (in baseball, life, work – or anywhere). If you have something to tell, you can tell what you think about and that’s it. Getting somebody on your side is not going to happen by shouting at him – this will probably just reinforce the opposite view.

The way to get people to see your point-of-view, is to first look at the situation from their point-of-view. Agreeing on something, and then presenting your alternative ideas gently.

#5 – Too heavy baseball batt should be changed
When I was a kid, I remember I was hitting the ball with a too heavy baseball batt – and it sure didn’t go well. There was a simple solution to this problem: a lighter batt!

Similarly in game production you really have to ponder what kind of tools you really need. You don’t need to have the most complex, the most expensive production software. Sometimes switching to a lighter alternatives might make things easier.

Just because “everybody else is using complex tools” doesn’t mean you should too.

#6 – Roles are important
I usually was player number 2, which meant I usually needed to get the first player from base one to base two. I sort of “specialized” in this job, and it suited well for me. There were other guys who were doing something else.

When you think about game production, it’s no different: you have people doing different things. Some people might do art, some music, some code – some manage the project. Indies might be exception to this rule since they often are lone wolfs, but even indies might consider using specialized services (such as outsourced art).

In baseball it worked fine – and it also works in game production.

#7 – Hamburgers and chips – rewards – are good
Then the juiciest lesson: after matches we went to eat hamburgers and chips. Boy it was a pleasure to get some junk food after matches.

Don’t forget rewards: they play important role in game production. Rewards can be anything from hamburgers to trips to different countries. Reward yourself. Reward your team.

And for the record, it was Finnish baseball I played.