Lesson I Learned About Negotiating With People

In negotiations I remind myself about my the bottom line and concentrate on making a win-win deal.

Some time ago I was after an animator again and got a proposal. I asked a price from him, and he made me a good offer. Since I wanted to increase my chances for getting the job done well (after failing twice for getting the animations) I decided to suggest a new deal for him. I was looking at the big picture – not the price tag. I told him that I would double his offer, if he does a good job. I agreed to pay him the dollar amount he suggested, and told him that if he does a good job I would double the payment.

The price is still good for me, but I bet this offer motivates the guy to do a good job. I think I could have haggled the price lower, but I’m after getting the animations done not to do false savings. I believe in a long run I will save time and now I made sure it’s a win-win deal for both of us. I also believe that the animator now has more motivation to finish the job so he can get his payment, and the bonus.

What Everybody In Your Team Wants

If we look at average people, most people want things such as “security”, “money”, “fame” among very many things. But here’s the problem: your team members are individuals, not average people. There’s no such person as “average person”. Sure, some of them probably will say they want “make great games” or “enough money to pay the bills”. That still doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be individuals who want different things.

As a producer, it’s your job to find out what motivates your team members. If one has need to see his ideas in the final game – then you’ve just found a great way to motivate that person: simply use some of his best ideas and implement them in the game. If one guy has need for fame, then showing his name in the credit list and mentioning him in public is great way to motivate that guy. I’m not saying this as a way to “trick” others to get them motivated. Trying to be cheap and cunning shows. I’m simply telling you that different people are motivated by different factors – and it’s your job to find the way to motivate everybody in the team. Sure, you can pick ideas on how to inspire your team members, but don’t just randomly try everything to everybody. Instead, treat people individually – and the way they’d like to be treated – and inspired.

E3 Expo Different From Now On

E3 Expo or Entertainment Expo is held in Santa Monica, California from July 11 to July 13. As of 2007, E3 will be invitation-only, meaning that instead of tens of thousands of people at E3 there will only be few thousands people attending. The change is done to give E3 more emphasize on business. To cater for the public, there’s also a separate conference called Entertainment for All Expo – an annual video game event. GameSpot is also covering E3, so you might want to check out their site too to get insight on what going on in the gaming business.

The Most Important Guideline to Remember In Negotiations and Sales Meetings

There’s one extremely important thing to remember in negotiations: your bottom line. The bottom line is the point below you simply won’t accept any offers. That’s something I always keep in mind when negotiating – always.

Some people go to meetings to accept everything in order to make a sale or close the deal. This leads to worse situations, and worse deals in the future as the old bad deals are eating space from future good deals. These guys think that “it’s better to have a poor deal than no deal at all.” That’s rubbish – it’s much better to be 100% open for good deals than fill 100% time with poor deals that eat all the space from good deals. And when the poor deal is closed, these guys are most likely are in a situation where they simply don’t have space for good deals – and the poor deals are eating them alive.

Here’s a concrete example. Some weeks ago I got a business offer where the money looked pretty high, but so was the amount of goods I would have needed to give. I took a calculator and did some math to find out that the offer I got was simply too small and I had to reject the offer. The guy told “this is the best I can give”, but I replied: “Here’s my bottom line. I’ve sold same goods to other people for much higher price, and this good price I give to you is very good for both of us. Anything less would be very bad for me, and this price is really good for you if you compare it to here and here. I want to make sure we both are happy with this.” The guy said a few more times that “the price is too high”, but I told him: “This is the best price you can get from me for this quantity – and it’s really good deal for you.”

The guy said he needed some days to think about it, and couple of days later he agreed with my price. And it was good for both of us. If I had accepted a poorer deal I would have been going below my bottom line, and that’s not acceptable. Even though the guy said that it was his best offer… somehow he managed to pay what I wanted.

Maybe it wasn’t his bottom line after all.

7 Plans for Getting Further With Your Game Idea

The earlier post showed 3 pitfalls to avoid when you have a game idea. In this post I suggest 7 different plans for what you can do with your game idea.

Plan #1 – Let it rest for 1-2 weeks
If your game idea is something really great, then you might consider letting the idea rest for a while. Take a week off (or so) and don’t give a single thought to your idea. If after one or two weeks you still think your grand idea is worth doing – then go ahead. By letting the idea rest for a while you’ll eliminate the possibility of getting a peak of inspiration that fades right away.

Plan #2 – Prototype it
I’ve suggested prototyping earlier, and I suggest it again. Prototyping basically means that you make a really simple mini-game that doesn’t necessarily have fancy graphics, but the core game idea is represented there. Prototyping can also be done using physical items (such as playing cards or dice) – you don’t necessarily have to prototype using computer. I also suggest checking out earlier post about how to create your first game – it will give you plenty of tips on how to get going with your game idea.

Plan #3 – Make a MOD
It just might be so that your game idea could be bring to life by doing a MOD. Modding basically means that you use some existing video game to program your game – and to meet the requirements of your game idea. There’s plenty of resources about modding in the Internet, so do a search for “modding games” and I’m sure you’ll find lots of information on how to create a MOD.

Plan #4 – Present it to publishers
If you think you have a hit game idea in your hands, and don’t want to prototype or make a MOD out of it then you can approach publishers. If you choose this route, then I suggest doing a proper business plan and a proper design document that will explain how well your game can sell and describe how great idea it is. You may approach big companies (ranging from JoWood to Big Fish Games) and simply ask them.

Plan #5 – Do a marketing research
If you think you have an unique idea, then getting some information about the market and competitors could be a good idea. You want to know if you really have an unique idea, and can proceed by doing a research. I’ve covered steps on doing a marketing research that should help you getting going.

Plan #6 – Submit your idea to idea contest
There are business plan idea contests arranged here and there. If you can, then you might want to make a business plan and send your idea to these contests. One example in Finland is Venture Cup where people are free to submit their ideas. Perhaps your country and city offers some similar place to submit.

Plan #7 – Create a pen & paper RPG
If you love design games rather than coding them, then you might want to try create a pen & paper RPG game. While they are different from video games, I still think there are something similar in the production process – and it might be fun.

Whatever plan you choose to take (or whether you want to try something else), the most important thing to remember is: to do something. Game ideas are worth zero unless you take action and actually do something to get the game from idea to a finished piece of art.

3 Pitfalls to Avoid When You Have a Grand Game Idea

Getting great game ideas is exciting, and the dream of getting the game done is even more exciting. There are some pitfalls to avoid though. Here’s three of them:

#1 – Don’t count on having an unique game idea
This is the first pitfall to avoid. Even if you think you have a great game idea that’s something never seen before… I can assure you that most likely somebody out there has got similar idea. I have had really weird (at least I thought they were like that) game ideas ranging from gathering rocks to piling boxes… just to see that there’s somebody doing game using similar concepts.

Truly unique ideas are extremely rare. Unique concepts that take ideas from other games are more typical, and I might suggest that unique ideas most likely fall to the latter category: somebody has done something similar earlier.

#2 – Don’t suggest giving 50% cut to somebody to program your game idea
This is something I’ve seen in the past and will most likely see in the future. This is also something how I thought it would work many, many years ago. The thing is: getting ideas is cheap. Executing them not. Trying to get others to work on your grand idea (and give them half of the sales) is simply something that’s not going to work.

#3 – Avoid doing nothing
The worst thing to do with a great game idea is to do nothing – or think that you can rest in a couch and somehow somebody out there will come and help you get the game done. Don’t count on that. You gotta take action – do whatever it takes to get that game done.

Instead of thinking your “unique idea” can be done by somebody else, you have do something. I have another post coming up soon. It will show you 7 things you can do with a great game idea.

7 Ways to Inspire Team Members

Motivating yourself is important, but equally important is to inspire and motivate your team members. Here are 7 ideas that you might want to try.

#1 – Show progress
Quite obvious one, but can be easily forgotten. Make sure you show progress and tell openly where your project is going. Even if programmers don’t know how to rig or animate, it will inspire them to see artists doing their magic. Keeping project visible and showing progress helps everybody.

#2 – Bring good news
This is a great motivator for everybody in the team. The fact that today I found an animator (finally) and announced it to other guys in the team will certainly be inspiring for them. Bring good news – it’s good for morale.

#3 – Show success stories
Successful people are hungry for success stories. Tell about other teams who have done a good job making and selling games and it will motivate your team members to do a good job. Tip: check out game sales statistics for detailed information about how much different games have sold and share them with your team.

#4 – Cash rewards
Pretty simple, yet efficient way to motivate. If you have a tight budget, you can still sometimes give additional bonuses and rewards for the whole team when a milestone is reached or a job well done.

#5 – Give credit
Give credit for those who deserve it: everybody likes to be famous and see their names in public. Make sure to let your team members share the fame. (I have promised to share more about our team members and will do that “soon”).

#6 – Use their design ideas
One of the most motivating things is to see your own work in the actual game. Not only code or art assets, but to see design ideas. (Be careful with this though: somebody might suggest pigs to be included in the game – see #10 point on that blog post).

#7 – Share your inspiration
If you are inspired to work, make sure it shows. Talk in inspiring and motivating way and it will be catched by others.

Your inspiration can spread like a virus.

More Producers Join the Round Table

The first and the second producer roundtables were very popular and there has been several new producers who have joined our ranks. Here’s the current list of producers who are contributing to these Q&A roundtables:

  • Harvard Bonin – recently left EA
  • Adrian Crook – Relic Entertainment
  • Craig Derrick – Lucas Arts
  • Robbie Edwards – Red Storm Entertainment / Ubisoft
  • Ben Gunstone – Stainless Games
  • Jeremy Lee – The Collective
  • Hendrik Lesser – ML Enterprises
  • Peter O’Brien – Bizarre Creations
  • Stuart Roch – Treyarch
  • Frank Rogan – Gas Powered Games

The next roundtable session will deal about censorship in games and is to be published in July.

Animator Wanted for Edoiki

I have a job offer for animators. Basically what I need is:

  • Somebody with decent animation skills (no need to be pro, although total beginner is not ok either)
  • Need to rig and animate 5 characters: 3 human characters (an assassin, a diplomat, a guard) and 2 animals (a pig and a raven)
  • There will be about 3-4 animations per character (such as: idle, walk/sneak, attack, death)
  • The exported animations should be in .3DS format, or alternatively in .B3D format (there’s a free pipeline to export .B3D files from 3D Studio Max)
  • Deadline: these animations should preferably be done in July 2007 (or in the beginning of August)
  • If you have previously worked as an animator at AAA studio, then our budget is probably not big enough for you. If on the other hand you don’t live in a high-income country and can meet the other requirements, then you most likely are somebody we looking for.

This is a paid position. We have a limited budget and preferably would like to pay the sum in parts (this can be negotiated). Alternatively, if you also have 3D modeling skills (so that you could do more besides animations for the game) then it could be possible to negotiate a place in the team – with royalties.

Animators – contact me
If you got interested, please contact me and send me an example animation you’ve created. Please include your rates in your proposal (and a link to your website if you got one).

The reason we need an animator
Our Edoiki game got some animations done by solving some tiny problems… just to realize that the animator was using ready made motion capture files from Studio Max. Basically this means that we cannot use those animations for legal reasons.

Now we need somebody to do the animations.

Update: We found an animator, so no this position is closed. Thanks everybody.

How to Dramatically Get More Time By Using This Simple Principle

Yesterday I was watching an old The Apprentice show where one guy got fired because he wasn’t accomplishing much and was simply talking too much (as mister Trump put it). Naturally I realize that the show is edited and scenes are cut, so it’s not possible to really know if the guy was helping the team or not. Whatever the case, the bottom line was that others thought that this guy couldn’t get to the point – and eventually he got fired.

Not sure if people usually get fired because they cannot get to the point, but I was a bit surprised to see this element to be so important for Trump. Getting to the point was so important that it cost a job for this guy. In the show, Trump said: “I keep meetings short and to the point. There’s so few hours in a day, and I want to accomplish as much as possible.”

Whether or not you like The Apprentice show (or pay attention to Donald Trump) I still think the lesson is important: don’t waste time, get to the point.

Having useless meetings or postponing decisions over and over are two examples of how you can waste time. I think if there’s a need to chat with somebody about business, then make darn sure you have an idea about what you need to accomplish. Having meetings to “discuss ideas” or “brainstorm together” are nice… but I’m not sure if these type of meetings really deserve much attention. If you need to “discuss ideas” – then be 100% clear on what you need to accomplish. What’s the goal of “discussing ideas”? Will you have another meeting to “discuss more ideas”? When will that end? Or will you make one meeting to “discuss ideas” and then decide whether to proceed after that initial meeting?

I was asked to travel to another city for a business meeting. Before I agreed to travel, I simply asked: could we deal it over a phone or skype? The guy said “sure”. After 15 minutes of talk we realized that there was no mutual benefits for discussing any further, so we simply thanked each other and ended the conversation. I could have spent 5 hours in a train to get back and forth for a 15 minutes talk, but I knew our first meeting could be handled via skype would be sufficient. I wanted to get to the point via phone, and not waste time. Simple as that.

Do you waste time… or do you get to the point?