1000 People Have Got the Free Game Production Ebook

Today the number of newsletter subscribers passed 1000. I don’t know how many of the subscribers actually read the ebook, but hopefully it has been helpful to some of you.

If you haven’t already got the free ebook, then simply subscribe to the newsletter and you’ll get information on how to get the ebook via email. I send newsletters “now and then”, and they contain some special information that’s not available elsewhere. You also get informed when new sales stats (and other juicy stuff) is available at the gameproducer.net website.

You can unsubscribe by clicking a link on any email you get from me. Your privacy is guaranteed: I hate getting spam on my mailbox as much as you. I won’t share your details with anyone – period.

Expect The Unexpected

I’ve mentioned our issues with game animations a few times in the past, and to be honest: I didn’t except animations to cause us that much work in the project. I’m glad we’ve found a professional animator in the team, but there’s still problems to solve before characters are done.

In fact, now we have finally managed to export animations in the project – but there’s another problem. Now the animations work when run alone. When we combine two different set of animations to one character, it won’t work. We are checking out the Max hierarchy and trying to find out what might be causing the problem when the game engine loads the additional animations. Since two files aren’t working, next we are going to put all the character animations in one file – and let the engine splice them properly.

There are unexpected moments in game production, and while it’s almost impossible to know what might unexpected might happen – it’s good to expect that something won’t work as planned.

Expect the unexpected, and when that happens – find the solution.

7 Requirements For Becoming a Master Complainer

Master complainer skills aren’t something most of us aren’t born with. Luckily there are many people who can help you to become a professional complainer. These people aren’t hard to find. Simply check out some popular discussion forums, and I’m sure you’ll find some of them.

Here’s seven guidelines these Master Complainers follow almost every day:

#1 – Practise the art of whining
Whining is good. Whenever you heard anybody saying anything start pointing out irrelevant reasons why he is wrong. Whine until the other person starts to call you names. After that, continue whining.

#2 – Interrupt whenever possible
Every Master Complainer knows that you have to interrupt others to make sure your complains will be heard. Make sure to interrupt people often enough. Complain that the other person talks too much if nothing else work.

#3 – Ignore everybody’s talk
When he other party has finally said what he wanted (after being interrupted several times), ignore everything he just said and start complaining. This improves your status as the Master Complainer, and ensures that next time this person won’t waste your time.

#4 – Meetings are for meeting people
In meetings, complain about the agenda, complain about the place of meeting, complain that some people are late (rather than actually doing something to ensure that it won’t happen next time), complaing about something. Complain lack of time and money whenever somebody suggests something. After all, the reason for having meetings is to meet people and complain – not to decide anything important.

#5 – Focus on problems
Master complainers know that focusing on the problems makes sure everybody knows about them. If you spot something wrong (like an empty coffee mug on your table), make sure to bring this horrible incident to everybody. Complain the next two weeks and I’m sure the problem will be solved by somebody else. And if it insn’t, spend two more weeks complaining until somebody fixes it. After all, it’s not your job to clean other people’s mess (nor figure out solution for their problem) but make sure to bring the issue public.

#6 – Make sure to come up reasons why something couldn’t possibly work
Do this when somebody is suggesting a plan to solve a problem. Instead of focusing in the solution, try coming up with the reason why the plan cannot possibly work. Make sure to complain about every possible incident that could happen. If the plan is innovative and new, make sure to point out that’s not how you’ve worked in the past. If the plan is old, then complain and say that you should have a newer option.

#7 – Wait for things to go wrong and complain
This is something that really separates Master Complainers from others. When you are working in a project that doesn’t progress as you wish, complain as the time passes. When finally the project is finished – and hopefully not successful – start complaining by telling others “I told you that it wouldn’t work”. this will guarantee that your expertise will be noticed by others.

With these seven helpful guidelines, I’m sure anybody can become a Master Complainer. And – as we all know – it’s good for the project to make public every tiny little detail that is wrong. Especially if they can be pointed out over and over.

3 Simple Guidelines For Making Better Hardware Purchases

I got a brand new monitor yesterday. 20.1″ ViewSonic was bit more expensive than I had initially budgeted, but I’m happy with the purchase. The wide screen view is something I haven’t got used to (yet), but switching from CRT monitor to TFT one sure has improved my working conditions. My eyes like the sharp screen (at least I’m brainwashing myself to think that way – perhaps it’s true), and that’s one of the main reasons why I got the new screen.

I have some rules that I follow when I do purchases, and here’s three of them:

I consult people smarter than me
I check with some of my geek friends who know more about hardware than me, and also check out some magazine reviews before buying. I also hear the salesperson and compare his talk with what I’ve heard (it’s pretty easy to spot those who are more interested in selling rather than serving.) I also try the product at the shop if possible. By doing this I hope to get a better picture about what products are worth buying.

I don’t buy “bit more expensive version” over and over
It’s easy to spend $300 on some gadget, just to notice that with “only $50″ more I can get a bigger gadget. And with “only $1002 more a premium version of the bigger gadget. There’s no limit. That’s why I set up some budget, and try to stick with it. I simply set some limit. If I want a widget that costs $300, I don’t spend $450 because “it was such a good deal”.

I don’t buy cheap
Well, at least I try not to invest in cheap. Basically I don’t buy the most expensive gadgets, but definitely not the cheapest. While in some products it’s a matter of perceived value, it can be said that really cheap products come with less quality. Investing some extra often means better quality. In the end, cheap might end up costing more in terms of time and money. They might go broke and time is wasted with returns.

I don’t suggest that a higher price would automatically mean better quality. That’s something you can find out by asking for recommendations and learn by trying. I simply mean that getting the cheapest version isn’t necessarily a wise move. Sometimes it might be a good thing, but I tend to put some extra to ensure quality.

The new monitor costed bit more than I planned, but by simply thinking how important the quality of the monitor can be for my eyes – I have no doubt that it wasn’t a good purchase.

Technology Dependence Makes Us Paranoid

Remember when I mentioned briefly about being technologically dependent? Well, I sure was introduced to this phenomenon in a practical way. Yesterday our internet connection was extremely slow, and today it completely died for half a day.

It’s quite amazing to see how the internet service provider can control my work so much. I couldn’t read emails or communicate with my team members. I started wondering if any indie is using two different service providers: one as a backup connection in case the primary connection dies.

We are giving lots of power to others. Just think about webhosting service provider, internet connection providers, communication channels, phone operators. Think about your hardware that might crash, backups, software problems, firewalls, virus protection – you name it. What if some of them go out-of-order for good?

It’s sure easy to go paranoid these days…

What To Do If Your Boss Is a Tyrant

I heard one guy asking what he should do if the game producer he works with is a complete (nasty word)hole. The words he used suggested to me that he wasn’t exactly happy with his workplace or boss… I’ve heard other people telling that the managers and bosses in their work are tyrants. I’ve heard people saying that they hate working for such people. Then they ask, what should they do?

It’s easy to answer “well, quit your job then”. In the real world, everybody needs to get some food to the table, so quitting can be easier said than done instantly. I have some ideas and suggestions what I’d recommend. Bear in mind that these are my thoughts only. Don’t take a word I say and act right away. Instead, think if anything makes sense to you and then make your own mind.

Anyway, here are my tips for those who cannot quit their jobs at the moment:

#1 – Look in the mirror
Take a good look at your own actions. What you see in the mirror? Think about some recent situation that really annoyed you, and think what you could do to prevent that from happening again. If for example you are fed up with signing contracts and messing with the paper work (and blaming your boss for it), think if you can come up with an alternative solution. What if you could automate some of that paper work? Or perhaps you could batch that work? Perhaps you could suggest people a digital alternative for the paper work. First check your own behavior. It just might happen, that by merely changing your thinking from problems to solutions you might see the workplace in a very different light.

The key is to stop complaining, and doing whatever you can to improve the working conditions. When you’ve done absolutely everything you can, and still aren’t happy, proceed to the next idea.

#2 – Look at the boss
If you are 100% sure that there’s nothing you can do to improve the situation, then you should take a good look at your boss. Is he really such a poor boss, or is it just the external conditions that cause him to be such a pain in the (nasty word again)? What if your boss is just extremely busy (I’ve heard that can happen), and pours everything on your shoulders? Perhaps your boss would need to hire an assistant (considering suggesting that if possible) and problem might be solved.

Think if you can find a solution to help your boss.

Yes, even if this step sounds horrible, give it a chance.

#3 – Look at other job offers
If you have a horrible boss and crappy job, without any hope for the better – then make a plan to get a new job. Life is too short to be lived in a place that you don’t enjoy. If you cannot quit your job now, then make a plan for longer time and take the first obvious steps to reach your goals. Start searching for a new job. After all, if you managed to got your current job what would stop you from getting a better one? Take a 3-month goal (or any time line you prefer), perhaps start saving, and make your target to get that new job withing that time. If you can’t quit today, then perhaps you can sort your life so that you can get a new job in three or perhaps in six months.

I have to remind that these are only my suggestions, and you really shouldn’t believe what you hear from some random guy. Instead, I recommend finding out more information about this matter, and hearing other people before you make up your own mind.

Whatever you decide to do, I recommend doing your best at your current job. Make sure your goal is to enjoy at your workplace (whether it’s this or a new one). There’s no point working with a tyrant.

What Makes Your Game Special?

I would like to hear comments from you readers who are making games. I’d like you to tell us what makes your game special. If you could pick one thing that makes your game special, what would it be? How your game is different from the competition? Is it special at all?

The special design can be anything. It can be a new way of marketing (that’s one way to make the game special) or a new way of controlling the game. It can be very specially prepared smooth gaming experience: finding other players online easily for example. It can be scores or unique ranking system. It can be blood. It can be awards. It can be social aspects. Anything that’s unique goes.

If you haven’t put attention to this earlier, how about thinking about it now.

What makes your game special?

The Plain Truths About Finishing Your Game Project

Anyone browsing different game development forums can spot quite quickly threads where people ask whether to finish their game or not. They ask if they should switch to “something simple and quick”, and finish that. Often it’s easy to say that the code is too messy, or that other team members aren’t committed to it.

If you are doing your game and are bit unsure about whether to finish your game or not, I can give you some insight on the matter. Before you decide to quit your game project, here’s some things to consider.

If this isn’t your first unfinished project, don’t count on finishing the next one either
I’ve started numerous projects in the past. Over and over, thinking that I shall finish the next one… but for some reason there was always “better ideas” or “too messy code” that got in the way. I’ve done that too many times in the past. If you think you will quit your current project and make another game, it won’t get any easier. If you cannot finish what you started, what makes you think that would change with the next project?

The project won’t change your attitude.

Don’t freeze your project even if it’s too big
Even if you are making the world’s next MMORPG hit, that doesn’t mean you should start a new smaller project. While it can sometimes make sense to make a simpler project, there’s no reason why you couldn’t simplify your current project.

Cut features if necessary. Use only 1 character instead of 217. If 3D feels too much, get rid of the 3rd dimension. If you cannot get all the art you wanted, decide to use boxes and cones (with nice textures). Simply get rid of 96% of your ideas, and finish the 4%. I guarantee to you that it will make 100% much more sense than starting a new project.

Switching to “really simple project” won’t happen
If you have a “too big” project and cannot cut the game features, rest assured that the next project will expand too. Perhaps it starts as something really simple, but if your current project is darn big – then I can assure you that your next “simple” project will become darn big too.

Finishing a project – even a small one – is much more satisfying that stepping away from a big, unfinished project and starting a new one.

Set a Limit For Quality

One of the mistakes in game production I’ve done is to require excellent quality for all the tiny details. This has happened years ago, and hopefully I’ve learned from the past. While the habit of making things work perfect can be fine in certain situations (polishing the core gameplay for example), that doesn’t mean you should follow the same guideline everywhere.

Here’s a practical example: Our Edoiki game characters. First when the characters were textured it was good to remind that they won’t be seen very close, and making very tiny details in the texture simply is not a good idea. While it might be cool to have detailed Japanese symbols, it doesn’t make much sense since nobody is going to see them anyway. Same goes with the animations that are currently in progress. There’s no point perfecting how the chin (for example) needs to move since the game camera won’t see it anyway. Making certain small details in the animations simply would be waste of time – some of them are good, some of them might be waste of resources.

That’s where you need to set a limit for the quality. For some artists who demand to create perfect characters this might be a tough issue, but it’s the producer’s job to explain that they won’t be seen anyway (don’t count on them to believe this – some people will continue doing the work anyway explaining “but I *know* it’s there”).

Some professionals simply won’t accept low level of quality, but it’s the producer’s job to set the limits. Even if it seems “low quality” for the team member, it might mean “the best possible quality” for the project.

Set the limits for quality, and you’ll do a favor for your project.

What Do You Think About These “Business Truths”

I’ve been reading the book E-Myth Revisited and it’s pretty amazing to see so many “business truths” in a book that’s got so much good reviews and praise.

Here are some of the “truths” I’ve read from the book:

“Fact” #1: Within five years after launch, more than 80 percent of the US businesses will have failed.
It was quite amazing to see this “fact” in the second page. It was something that the author bases his ideas. And that’s pretty bad, because 80 percent of companies won’t fail within 5 years. Some merge to bigger companies, some business just survive. After hearing this “truth” in the beginning of the book, it was bit tough for me to orientate. I thought that if the author bases his book on false numbers, what else there is to believe?

I decided to ignore that fact, moved on and encountered the next “fact”.

“Fact” #2: Blue suits outsell brown suits
The author asks salespersons to wear 3 weeks brown suits and then 3 weeks blue suits, and he claims that blue suits outsell brown suits. He claims that “sales will go up during the second three-week period”. Well… I don’t buy it. I’m certain that if we took every possible sales situation and put people wearing blue or brown suits, blue suits wouldn’t differ that much. In some cases they probably could, not for every – or perhaps even close to that.

Just think about it. If you are hungry and go buy a hamburger, are you more likely to buy the hamburger from somebody who wears blue suit compared to somebody who wears a brown suit? I doubt it.

I believe that testing different combinations is important. I believe that in some situations blue suits might work better. Perhaps in some type of stores wearing hat versus not having a hat has an impact of sales. Which way, it’s not possible for me to say – but it might have impact. Small things can have impact, but they need to be tested.

But stating something like an absolute truth… is bit… unexpected. Which leads me to the last “business truth”.

“Fact” #3: Saying “Hi, have you been here before?” instead of “Hi, may I help you?” will increase sales by 10 to 16 percent
I don’t buy that. The author claims that if a salesperson asks from the customer: “Have you been here before” she can then continue (whether the customer says “yes” or “no”) by saying “Great, we have special program for new people/those who have shopped here before.” And that can lead to discussing more.

While I agree that it can be effective in certain situation, there’s a danger that the impact won’t last for a long. What if I go to that store 5 times per week. Every time some salesperson comes to ask me “Have you been here before?”. I would be like: “YES, YESTERDAY, THE DAY BEFORE, AND BEFORE THAT – AND YOU’VE ALWAYS ASKED ME THAT SAME QUESTION!”.

Or I wouldn’t go to the shop any more because I would know that the salesperson would try to hunt me every time I go there.

Which reminds me about a story from the past. I was very close to switch my phone operator years back. Every time we went to grocery store there was some phone company sales people handing us fliers. When we went to the store we got fliers. When we got back (and had hands full of bags) we got fliers. Over and over. I thought about purchasing a hat that would have said: “I’M THE CUSTOMER OF OPERATOR X” so the salespersons could read that and leave me a lone.

The point is… the sales can increase by 10 to 16 percent. Or they can increase 35. Or go down 2 percent. Who knows. What I do know that they won’t immediately increase 10 to 16 percent for every single store. In some stores it might have the opposite effect. It depends.

Bottom line
It’s true that certain type of behavior (even something seemingly irrelevant) might have a big impact on sales. Humans are emotional creatures, and make irrational purchases. There are many factors that influence our buying decisions, and those factors can be researched and experimented. I don’t think it’s such a good idea to believe these type of numbers, because frankly the results can vary a lot.

In the end, it’s a matter of researching and testing.

Enough from me. What’s your thoughts? Care to share some “business truths” you’ve heard of lately?