Keeping All The Balls In The Air

One of the most important things producer’s need to deal with are the people. Today I got bit “bad news” since two of our artists are doing work for other projects as well. They get paid well for these tasks so it’s understandable for them to do other contract work. These type of stuff happens when you deal with people.

For me, this means couple of things:

  • Put in detail the rest of the graphical elements: I wasn’t expecting the level modeler taking other contract work at this point, so it’s crucial to list all the elements we need to finish the game. This will give us better picture about what we need from the artists.
  • Cut unnecessary features or elements: While I revise what’s need to be done, I’m also going to take a very close look at all the planned features and think tough what will be done. This will help getting the whole project finished sooner.
  • Communicate more: Both of the artist will still be working with our project, but I need to be sure that the guys share openly about their plans – and how much they can do for the project. By this, I hope to ensure that there won’t be surprises.

While currently it feels bit difficult to keep all the balls in the air simultaneously, I’ve learned from the past that the difficulties are where you really learn.

This is a place for growth – and place to take steps forward faster.

How to Stop Procrastinating

Procrastinating means the habit of delaying things over and over… until you realize that they should have been done yesterday. Whether it’s finishing something important to simply finishing something – there’s always reasons to procrastinate. There’s so many emails to be read, so good movies in television, always something else to do. You might feel tired… and you just think it “could be done tomorrow”.

That’s procrastinating. Everybody does that. Some more, some less.

Now, how do you stop procrastinating?

If you’ve read about some motivation tips, you might find some ideas to help you out. You might use desktop wallpapers, watch motivating videos, read motivating stories – anything goes. To some extent there are practical ideas that can be applied right away to make you more productive. For example, it’s useful to fill your workplace with the stuff that helps you feel good about your project.

It’s what inside that matters
But that’s good only to some extent. If you’ve put your external environment in shape, and still procrastinate – there’s one critical issue you might have missed: internal motivation.

The bottom line is: it’s the internal motivation that counts in the end. Sometimes the external motivators can help, but in the end it boils down to you. The question is not “how to motivate yourself” but to simply see if you are motivated to do something. If you aren’t motivated to program then perhaps you shouldn’t fight “against your nature”, but find an alternative solution.

Eliminate the “bad blood”
Get rid of the really ugly tasks. The tasks that are always hard for you to do. Get rid of those. If you don’t like programming, then accompany with somebody who likes to do that. If you hate marketing, then get somebody to help you. If you love modeling and texturing, but hate animating – then get somebody else to animate and concentrate on what you do best.

That’s how you stop procrastinating: not by motivating yourself, but by simply getting rid of those tasks that somebody else could do better. This leaves you more room to do the work that you are most qualified to handle.

There’s a fine line between quitting and getting some help. If there comes a day when you don’t feel like modeling, you might still get really motivated after you simply take action. That’s quite natural. It might happen to anyone. I don’t suggest quitting if you don’t feel absolutely inspired to take action every day. Instead, you can try having one computer-free day every week or boost your productivity in some other way. Don’t just quit if one day feels worse than they usually do.

The key is to channel your motivation to the right things.
If the work you do starts to feel painful day after day, without you seeing any inspiration – then I really recommend you to step back and reflect your situation for a moment. Think how you can get rid of the “bad blood” – nasty tasks – and figure out a way to do something you feel naturally motivated to do.

That’s how you stop procrastinating.

Do This When You Get Stuck

It’s pretty easy to get stuck with some issue, trying to get it solved in just one way. It’s easy to “know how things should be done” and try to solve the certain problem with the way you “know to work sooner or later”.

Solve the problem in some other way.
Let me give you a practical example. In the past week we’ve been dealing with Edoiki animations. Our new guy has done a great job, but we still need to deal with the export problem. Blitz3D – our main development platform – can use .b3d format for animations, but 3D Studio Max cannot export .b3d files. For that, you gotta have a certain plugin. There’s just one another problem: Max version 8 is pretty picky about plugins, and that plugin doesn’t work properly. I’ve seen .b3d animations being exported with Max, but for some reason they weren’t working for us. Instead of trying to export directly from Max we came up with an alternative solution.

We would export in .x format, because Blitz3D supports that. We thought the problem was solved just to realize that animations info was not working when Blitz3D loaded those .x files, and we went back to square one.

The next idea is to export in .x format, then import using Ultimate Unwrap3D – and export to .b3d using that software. We read from Blitz3D forums that this way you can get stuff done right, and I’m sure we will reach that point soon. (Although we have some joker cards in our pockets if this doesn’t work out: like using max version 6 instead of 8)

The point is: instead of just trying to make the plugin work, we decided to try alternative solutions. If one system doesn’t work and you get stuck – then just come up with another idea.

World of GameCraft

I have always liked reading about game production. When I was young, I read games magazines and read about game production. I was always waiting to see more stories about game development. I watched any game stuff from TV and naturally checked out Internet to see what’s going on.

One particular series I liked a lot was the making of Black & White in a Finnish game magazine Pelit. While there was some hype (such as the fact that trees didn’t transform the way they were promised) I liked reading those stories. They were interesting and gave some insight about making games.

At that time it was easy to wonder why game developers don’t take risks. I was also thinking that developers must be millionaires since some hit games sold millions.

I didn’t quite realize that it’s the publisher and investors who took the risks for AAA games. Million dollar budget games are not funded by couple of developers – they are funded by investors and publishers (not often by the development team, although it happens too). And these guys take the risk and make those millions if any. Developers get a salary – investors get the profits – if you allow me to simplify things a bit.

Naturally things are not that black and white, there are shades of gray as well. There are publishers who take risks (Battlefield 1942 for example was never believed to succeed only as a multiplayer game) and there are developers who may become rich (those who are wise/smart/experienced/lucky enough to keep their hit game’s intellectual property and develop a strong brand).

In the casual/indie game development, rules change a bit. There are some indies who have made great games over years, and there are several casual game developers whose games have become instant hits in the game portals. Sometimes these games are funded by the developers, sometimes by the portals (which are bit different to AAA publishers, since casual game budgets on average are smaller than million dollar AAA game budgets).

While I wish success to every developer out there, I must also point out that in the big World of Games it’s not just the Craft that matters. There are publishers and portals riding with us too.

How To Multiply Your Indie Game Budget With This Simple System

There’s one quite simple way to multiply your indie game budget 5 or tenfold (or even more) without actually doing anything about it. I’m talking about negotiating monthly payments for anything you purchase.

It’s quite simple. If some art resource costs you $200, you can ask the artist that you’d like to pay $50 per month for four months. If you need to hire a programmer to do a prototype, instead of paying $1500 you could pay him $300 per month until the full payments have been done.

Does it work with everybody?

Perhaps not, but that’s not the main thing. The main thing is that it works with some qualified people. If there are 3 great artists who could do art for you, then who cares if 2 out of 3 rejects your offer: as long as one good artist accepts your deal, you are doing fine. I’ve asked people to let me pay them in parts and actually everybody (who has done jobs over $100) has agreed to this system.

Since indie games are done in small budgets, paying few thousands for people might became a problem – but paying few hundreds per month is something indies most likely can do. $200 can turn into $2,000 and $500 into $5,000, $10,000 or more with this simple system.

One last note: it’s good to mention this payment structure in your job announcement. That way people can easily see what you expect from them.

Are You Happy With Your This Week’s Performance?

It’s easy to get lost in the jungle of tasks that need to be done. It’s easy just go through to do lists, never reflecting what you’ve really have done or planned. If this is the case with you now, then I’d like to pose some questions that might help you improve your performance:

Did you accomplish the tasks you planned this week?

I know it’s Friday, and you might still be at work – but for now: just check if you did what you planned. If you had planned tasks for the week, did you manage to finish all of them? Not partially, but completely. If you didn’t have goals at all for this week, then I suggest getting some.

In case you did everything you planned and are happy with your performance then I wish you good weekend. No much point reading any further (unless this week was just an exception to the rule: and usually you get done much less).

On the other hand, if you weren’t happy with your performance, then let’s ask another question:

What would you have done differently?

Take a minute and think about the stuff you did. Was there anything you could (or should) have done differently? How can you avoid making the same mistake next week? Were there some useless time wasters that got your attention when they shouldn’t have?

I’m quite happy with this week’s performance. I managed to finish several important tasks, but I’m not completely happy since there’s still 4 tasks I didn’t finish. On the other hand, I managed to accomplish couple of pretty good deals that I didn’t plan so in the end I’m pretty happy with my performance. If I look back, I think I actually wouldn’t do much anything differently: since the unexpected deals were good to finish. Perhaps I could have spent little less time on surfing what’s going on in the net, and simply take action to finish those last tasks. I know I will be online tomorrow and have planned to finish at least one of the unfinished tasks then.

By merely asking these two simple questions (“Are you happy with this week’s performance?” and “What would you have done differently?”) it’s possible to become more conscious about your actions – and do what really matters.

Avoid the possible mistakes you might have done this week and make sure you will be happy with your next week performance.

Skype Has Major Outage

My friend asked me today if “Skype was working for me”, and at that time it was. Some time later I noticed gray icon in my Windows taskbar: I was cut offline. My friend sent a private message via forums titled “arrgh” (rest of the message censored). Skype is experiencing a major outage.

It’s funny how it’s easy to forget all the good stuff that’s working in our lives – when suddenly they are cut off. Water, internet connection, electricity… they are all important for us, yet how many of us remembers that before they are taken away from us.

Skype is working on the problem and some hours ago they reported on their website that they expect the problem to be resolved within 12 to 24 hours. Good to hear, since there are millions of people who need to use their system.

How technologically dependent have we become?

Spammers Sure Have Something to Learn About Marketing

Here’s a spam I just received:

T’h,i*s g e_m is rea.lly m ovable!+!
T,h’i,s o,n+e is reall.y profit-‘able!!!
H,a_v.e y-o+u b*e’e-n wa*tchi ng t’h.i-s f*o+r t’h,e l+a-s t w+e,e’k ?
T a.k’e a l-o*o+k at it:
r_ecent n’e.w s relea-se*s s+e n.t ge*nerat’ing gro*wing inte._rest in C,Y-T,V
two lines removed
Curren’t P rice: $+.,4+9
4 t’h Straig-h_t d’a.y s we h_a,v.e s e*e.n t-h’i*s cl.imb. (,S e e Ya hoo Chart- -New N’e,w,s release )
T+h i+s o n’e h,a+s h a_d n-i*c e retu+rns f+o r inve*,stors o_v_e,r t’h’e su mmer, and
n o w s,hows to b egin a sec*ond w-a’v-e of re’turns.
K’e_e.p a e’y,e o+u_t ag-ain on Wed.nes,day A u.g 15..-..
T h,e retu+rn va lue f.r.o*m k+i,l-l is z.e,r*o if t_h-e s+ignal c+a+n be s,e’n+t success.ful ly.
If t h-e s*n a*p e_d’g+e is n o’t s e t_, t.h_e_n an appr_opria’te v_alue w+i l*l be gu-essed f_r’o*m t_h_e ha_ndle positi+ on.
Se vi opin*ios t-i-o*n ebl’a, in,formu m_i_n p*r i la a fero, c’x+u k ons.entite.
T’h-e f i l e hand-les f_o,r t h+e so,urce a,n-d des.ti+nation f_iles a r*e b.o_t.h asso ciated w.i-t_h t+h*e s_a+m’e p o,r+t’.
T h*e f’ilter gr_aph ma nage-r, on t_h’e othe+r ha nd, h+a,s a C,LSID a.n-d suppor,t*s s-everal full*y impleme’n*ted interf*aces*, as do plu_g-in distribu’tor s, a,r*e aggregate.*d by t+h-e filt_er grap-h mana.ger.

As I look at this… some questions pop to my mind:

  • e*e.n t-h’i* WHAT?
  • Whadda heck is this?
  • Do they really think that getting past spam blockers will mean somebody will read their email – AND solve their grammar puzzle? (Although I suppose some people do, that’s why they keep sending these…)

And last but not least:

  • Have these guys something to do with this spam?

Uh… seriously. What are these guys thinking?

Are You Ready For Christmas?

It’s true that summer holidays are just ended and schools started, but it won’t take long for the Xmas to arrive. And with December, arrives the business opportunities.

One great example is Xmas Bonus game. That game sold 165 copies in 9 days during the heated Christmas time. Gross profit (excluding portals) ended up close to $3,300 (which is pretty nice for 9 day sales!). After that, the sales went down for Xmas Bonus. Well targeted game with well done distribution – a good example on how to prepare for the Christmas.

It’s well known fact that people spend a lot in Christmas time and since it’s only about 4 months before the sales season I recommend you to think about how you are going to deal with it. Here’s some ideas:

  • Are you making a special game just for Christmas? (For example, “Serving Santa” game where player would deal gifts like food is served in Diner Dash?)
  • How about creating a special Xmas skin? (For many games just putting some santa claus and snowballs can go a long way)
  • Have you considered creating a free game? (such as “Christmas Sudoku” or “Santa’s Defense” – tower defense clone – for people to play?)
  • Or are you going to do nothing? (That’s an option too – but at least make sure it’s a conscious choice)

Since it’s 4 months away, you gotta act fast. The Christmas is coming – are you ready for it?