Jogging Is Good For Game Production

Since we have dogs it has been quite natural for me to walk with them every day. Two months ago we started jogging, and while I was in pretty good shape it certainly wasn’t a piece of cake to run a few miles. The first time I run like 30 minutes or so and was exhausted. After the first time – little by little – I got better at it. After two months now I can run faster, longer and my stamina has gone up so I don’t feel totally exhausted afterwards.

This reminds me about game production.

First there’s so much to learn and think about, but little by little you get better. Any project might seem like a big pile of stuff todo, but little by little it gets done. At some point you might feel like you want to stop and take a deep breath – but if you just keep running you feel absolutely great in the end. It feels really good to be able to run better day after another. Same goes with game production as you see progress.

That’s something what makes jogging fun: it takes effort to run the whole trip, but when you do that – you feel great.

Small achievements that build up are great way to motivate yourself. Jogging is a good way to get to better shape, and get energy for game production.

Game Design Tips From 5 Games I’ve Enjoyed

Here are five games that have impacted my game design.

#1 – Sims
Sims was one of the simulation games I enjoyed a lot. There’s a lot to learn from this game, and here’s one key game design lesson: players enjoy simulation games where there are humans in the game. Sims does a lot of things good – but in my mind, I believe one of the big reasons for why Sims is such a popular game is that you can easily relate to the characters in the game.

#2 – Battle For Middle Earth
Another game I’ve enjoyed playing a lot. There’s some game design lessons that can be applied (especially for RTS games). First tip is to use different units. I really love how they’ve done it. There’s different units that can be countered with other units. Each side has different weapons. Great license and innovation in the building structures are also worth remembering (you can’t build freely in the game, instead there’s only dozen of spots where you can build something – that’s pretty creative in my opinion).

#3 – Kudos
There’s great lesson in this indie game: 2D can beat 3D (not that it automatically will, but it can). Basically Kudos is “just” a game where you click buttons and new text appears and numbers change. Technically it doesn’t sound amazing, but the gameplay is simply superb – and 2D fits very well for the game style. You can find Kudos and other games from Positech website.

#4 – Sid Mayer’s Pirates (on Commodore 64)
In the C64 version I played the gameplay was so that if you sailed to the west it took you ages to get back to the east. The wind was so that sometimes you could go pretty fast north or south, but to east it always took ages. It practices some patience (since it took half an hour to get back to where you wanted) but I believe in terms of game design there’s a lesson: don’t bore your players with traveling. Another tip worth remembering (for any simulation game) is that trading stuff is fun: I really enjoyed buying different spices and guns from one city and then selling them in some other city.

#5 – Civilization
If Sims taught us that controlling a human character in games is fun, then Civilization sure shows that controlling a nation can be fan too. Civilization has lots of powerful game design elements that can be used: showing progress and rankings for example – it was nice to see how advanced civilization you had compared to others. Different ways to win the game was also pretty good idea: it was nice to win the game by having different goals.

What 100% Orange Juice Taught Me About Marketing

One morning I was watching figure “100%” in the side of an orange juice package. I started wondering why there’s 100% in the package. After all, the juice is made of juice concentrate. There’s water added, it’s not like it’s made 100% from oranges.

I came to conclusion that 100% in the package means absolutely nothing.

Nothing sensible anyway. Sure, you could think that there’s no apple or carrots in the juice so in that sense 100% of the fruits used are oranges – but basically that 100% figure is just sales talk.

I also remembered that when I was at store, I remember checking different juices and I remember thinking that 100% juice is good. I had no specific idea why it was good, but I suppose somehow my brain told me that “100% orange juice” is better than just “orange juice”. Now as I look back, I can see that the juices really don’t have difference. No added sugar or anything – the other just uses word “100%” to make me buy the darn juice.

Strange how you can generate different images by using different words – that’s something worth remembering when designing your product package.

9 Billion Dollar Lesson by Donald Trump

I read a couple of books carrying Mr. Trumps name: Trump 101: The Way to Success and How to get Rich (after becoming a fan of The Apprentice show I just had to get my hands on a few books of his). While I enjoyed some of the tips, there was one specific story that really hit me. In the book Trump 101, it’s revealed that at one point Trump was having major difficulties in his business. By major I mean that the guy had 9 billion dollars worth debt.

Think about that amount: $9,000,000,000.00 in debt. It’s almost impossible to even imagine that one person can ever achieve that amount of debt.

You would think that 9 billion dollar debt might sound like somebody is in a desperate situation. In the book it was said that Trump remembers seeing a beggar on a street and thinking “That beggar is 9 billion dollar richer than me”.

What did he do? Well, he talked with the bankers. He didn’t give up. He was determined to pay everything back. He started working even harder, and to make a long story short: now Mr. Trump has got up from the hole and doing better than ever.

Beating 9 billion dept requires determinant mind. If at some point you feel like you’ve got a problem, you might as well remember Trump’s example. Never give up and make your way. If somebody can manage to get rid of 9 billion dollar debts, then certainly whatever problem we face can be overcome too.

That’s a good lesson for any business.

PopCap Acquires Casual Game Companies

GamaSutra reported about a recent PopCap company purchase. PopCap acquired Retro64 – an indie/casual game company operated by Mike Boeh. PopCap didn’t stop there: GamesIndustry.biz news item talks about the acquisition of SpinTop by PopCap.

Making company acquisitions isn’t new thing in the world, but there hasn’t been much talk about casual game company acquisitions in the past. Bigger corporations are watching the casual game space closely, so I would think that there will be more this type of shopping in the future. Big portals want to extend (and keep) their market share by purchasing smaller studios. Maybe even bigger fishes will enter the pond.

This sounds good to me. It sounds like there’s growth in the marketplace.

PlayStation 3 Price Cut

I was partially right in my Wii blog post where I thought that Sony’s PlayStation 3 would face a price cut. I saw this at the BBC news. Sony introduced a price cut in US and adds more value for European buyers. In Europe gamers will get a “starter pack” at an unchanged price for the 60GB machine, with two games and two controllers included. Sony has said it would cut the US price of the 60GB PS3 by $100 making it cost $500. Sony also introduces a new 80GB version at the original price of $600. (Interestingly, in Finland PlayStation 3 – without the “starter pack” – costs 650-690 euros, which is $900-950 US dollars, over $400 more expensive than in the US).

In the BBC news article, there was some comments from customers who pondered the following issues (which are worth checking by anyone who wants to learn about price cuts and using different prices for different segments):

  • What if you ordered PlayStation 3 two weeks ago, will you get $100 back?
  • One guy said he won’t be interested in buying PlayStation 3 in the Europe since it costs half in the US
  • Those two games are good addition – but will they be something everybody wants?

I think Sony did a right decision to think about the price cut and “starter pack” – but seems like they might have listened bit more of what some customers are saying. While offering two games and two controllers is a nice addition, the price of the machine might still be too high in the Europe.

Now Sony will have to face with the US people who have already purchased the console – will people who bought PS3 week before the price cut get their money back? The two games (and controllers) are a good idea from Sony, but we’ll see if they are enough to beat Wii or Xbox in the Europe. After all, games are the biggest reason why people by gaming consoles. If the two games aren’t something most players want… then Sony has a problem.

Anyone thinking of reducing the price of his game (or product) has to think about these 2 questions:

  • How will your loyal customers – those who already purchased from you – feel about the price drop? How will you handle with them?
  • Would it be possible to add more value (in Sony’s case they try offering 2 games and 2 controllers with the machine) instead of a price cut?

We’ll see how it goes for Sony – and learn from their business decisions also in the future.

What To Do If You Don’t Feel Like Working Today?

What to do if you don’t feel like working today. Some people cure the problem by saying “I’ll do it tomorrow”. Unfortunately often it goes that these guys keep saying “I’ll do it tomorrow” over and over. Since they don’t feel like working today, they do something else. Like watch TV or checking cool blogs. They don’t see that reading blogs can be useless.

Then there are other type of people who work even they don’t feel motivated to work. These guys realize that you don’t need to be motivated to work, you need work to be motivated.

If you don’t feel like working today, then here’s some posts that you might find useful. Naturally it’s important not just to read them, but to actually apply them right away.

There is only one silver bullet to this problem: either you work, or don’t. You can try all kinds of schedules, plans, programs, books, training you want… but it all boils down to this: either you start doing something useful – or not.

Choice is yours.

Game Sales Charts Just Got Better

Game Sales Charts is a website offering Casual Games weekly top seller chart, the all time best sellers chart and many other sales charts for ‘casual’ games sold in major portals. Anyone interested in doing research on games sales should take a look at those charts (in addition to game sales statistics at GameProducer.net). Now there are new features at GameSalesCharts. Features such as find game, that helps you locating how certain game has done in sales. My own favorite feature is the World Map that shows top selling games on several different websites.

Check it out.

How to Create Your Own Game Portal

One reader asked me how to create a game portal?.

Answer:

Starting a game portal is relatively easy to do from technological point-of-view. Business-wise I don’t comment if it’s profitable area to enter, but here I present a guide for those who want to create their own portal. For starters, you could simply use game portals that already sell games and become their affiliate. Here are two examples that I’ve used:

  • Reflexive affiliate page. Reflexive offers 40% commission on every qualified sale and they let you customize games (good for branding them). Reflexive’s system is quite easy to set up and doesn’t require much work. Reflexive has (at the time of writing) almost 800 games to choose from and more coming.
  • Big Fish Games partner program. BFG offers 25% for each directed customer, but they also give you credit if you refer friends who refer friends (6.25% for 2nd tier). BFG offers several different possibilities. You can use your own game page to sell their games or you can even set up a complete portal. BFG is adding one new game each day, so there’s plenty of games under their wings.

There are pros and cons for these systems. I’ve used both and ended up using Big Fish Games – which has been okay for me. Some people I know are using Reflexive and have been pretty happy with them, so I guess it’s a matter of your own interest. I recommend checking out both and choosing the one you like better. (Naturally there are other portals available, so you might also want to check out those. These are the 2 portals I’ve used and have had experience.)

Other option is that you start working hard by getting people to publish games through your site. Then you have to set up the ecommerce store, deal with developer contracts among many other things. Basically you would need to do everything that’s included in self-publishing games – and handle other people’s games in addition.

Tip: By using tools such as OsaKit or IGLoader you can create web-versions of your games and give yourself an unique advantage compared to these big portals.

What about Flash game portals?
The reader who asked the question also wanted to know how to create a Flash game portal. I haven’t created a Flash game portal by myself so besides “ask developers to give you games” I have only one tip: there are websites where you can purchase a pack of Flash games to be displayed on your website. Some Flash portals make it possible to show their games on your website, so you might consider that as well.

Setting up a portal can be quite trivial (in terms of technology) if you use ready-made system, but if you really want to make a successful portal then there’s much more into it. You have to deal with all the aspects of publishing: everything from developer contracts to customer service – and it isn’t easy place to compete when world’s biggest gaming companies are entering in the same marketplace.

The Game Producer’s Business Plan

I’ve been given suggestions to “create a business plan”, “have vision” and “make SWOT analyses” among hundred other things they teach at schools. Some people have asked me about what “a proper business plan looks like”.

I’ve created business plans that had nice charts displaying profits and nice numbers showing sales forecasts and all that stuff. There was “company vision” and that stuff they ask you to write. I have written lengthy business plans for games in the past. While the plans looked nice, that’s pretty much as far as I got with them. They were nice, but they didn’t quite turn in like I wanted.

Then I decided to create a much shorter business plan. It looks pretty same as what I saw at South Park. There was an episode where The Underpants Gnomes had a three-phase business plan, consisting of:

  1. Collect underpants
  2. ???
  3. Profit!

While in the show it was a joke, I unconsciously decided to use a similar plan:

  1. Passion
  2. ???
  3. Profit!

I decided to do what I enjoy most: I decided to produce games and write about producing them. I decided to dream big and made a goal for having tens of thousands of people seeing my work (now I’m visioning hundreds of thousands seeing my work) and earn income doing this. I did some background research first before I started, but basically I just started working on what I enjoyed most.

I didn’t worry about how I would reach my goals. I didn’t know what I need to do to make profit, I just decided to do what I love and forgot the how part for now. I thought I would learn while as I go. I decided to do something every day and work on my goals.

That’s what I also suggest you to do: simply take a goal in the area of what you love to do, and start working on it. Sooner or later you’ll get good at it and will see profit if that’s what you aim. If you like designing games – then make your goal to make a living designing games. If you like programming, then set a goal to make a living programming games. Forget the “is it possible” or “how can I do that” for now, and simply take the first obvious step.

Set a goal, and every day take step to reach that goal.