Some Highlights From The Growing Game Producer Forums

I’ve been extremely delighted to see how much good discussions there are at the new game producer forums. There’s now over 300 members about two months after the launch.

Here’s some highlights from the forums:

How tight-lipped should we be?. Very nice thread about how openly one should develop their games.

How Do I Know (if I’m cut out to be a game producer). Another fine thread that has discussion about getting in the industry – and about knowing if one should take the path that leads inside the world of game production.

Free or Low Cost Technologies for Indie Games Development. Excellent thread that has plenty of links to resources you might use.

What do you do to motivate yourself? Fine insight for anyone after motivation.

Balancing Game Production and your day job – very enjoyable thread. Lots of comments and good thoughts about how to balance game production and your day job. Every busy part-time producer needs to read this thread.

Say hello to the world
What Video Game Have You Most Played In Your Life? has received quite many answers already. If you are want to share your story (or get some hints about what kind of games are really addictive), then check out the thread.

Last but not least I would like to mention the Introduce yourself sub-forum. It’s been really great to see the guys who have been reading my blog. It’s very interesting to see so many countries represented, and what kind of developers are reading the articles, and forming the community.

Don’t Base Your Project Decisions on Assumptions

Yesterday’s I posted a blog reply to question that was posed at the forums: How to deal with a slacker. Today I wanted to emphasize one important factor when making decisions: making assumptions might not be the best way to deal with things.

If you think that somebody hasn’t get stuff done, be absolutely certain that you have clear evidence about that.

And by “good evidence” I mean that you’ve specified what the guy should do, and then compare the results. The following type of assignments are quite good examples of “clear evidence”:

  • You’ve given assignment to a person to create a document that contains game requirements. The document never arrives.
  • You’ve given a written list of tasks that require person to create a list of graphics engines for the project. He has said to you that he will do that, but the list never comes.
  • You’ve asked the person to program part of the game (such as “basic AI where the computer will chase the player”), yet you don’t get to see any lines of code.

Here’s some examples of “bad evidence”.

  • You wanted (in your mind) that the guy would email the rest of the team – but he never did. Well guess what – perhaps the guy didn’t know that he was supposed to email them.
  • You asked the guy to “help you out” with the project, and aren’t happy with his performance. Well guess what – perhaps the guy has a different idea what “helping” means. Perhaps he thought it would help doing the game design, and you think it meant doing the project schedule.
  • You give a task (by email) but never get it confirmed. While it perhaps shouldn’t be your task to make sure everything is confirmed, you must be aware that the other guy might never received your assignment. If he hasn’t confirmed that he understood what he needs to do, then I wouldn’t assume that he is going to do much about it. Bottom line is: get things confirmed.

When you give assignments, you might want to consider these two factors:

  • You listed clear tasks or defined what “responsibility” really means in writing. By definition, it must be possible to say when the condition is met. Avoid situations where you can say that the task is “almost finished” or “maybe done”. You should be able to say that the task is either done or not.
  • Make sure that the other party confirms and understands what he is supposed to do. In army they asked us to repeat the commands – and there it worked pretty well. Sometimes you might require the other guy to tell that he knows what you expect from him.

Don’t assume that the other guy understands what you expect from him. Don’t base your decisions on assumptions.

How to Deal With a Slacker

A very good question was posed at the forums: how to deal with a slacker:

“I am a student enrolled in a game design degree program. About 7 months ago a very good friend of mine and myself took it upon ourselves to create a game concept. Things since then have progressed to the point where we have begun creating a demo for the game in which we could use to pitch the idea to potential publishers/developers.

Problem: We have a team of now 10 people comprised of artists, programmers, designers who all work very hard…and an individual brought on to assist in project management to support my friend and myself in managing the project and its time as well as its limited resources. However, the individual we recruited to assist in our project management has produced little results. The individual has now been on board for 5 of the 7 months and has never produced a single document, even though claiming that he has been working on “stuff”.

Long story short, It’s to the point where myself and some other project leads are ready to let him go from the project, however one of the project leads still has faith that our project manager will step up and start producing work and supporting the Project Leads.

Any suggestions on ways to “Motivate” him?”

Short Answer:
If you are sure that the guy cannot finish the tasks you give to him, then get rid of the slacker

That’s pretty much it. It doesn’t make sense to keep people who cannot finish anything in the team. I remember working with one guy who was constantly saying how many hours he has done for the project. When I tried to find out what exactly he had done – he couldn’t give me a proper answer. At some point he left the project, and that’s the last I’ve seen of him.

Often there’s emotional reasons why you might keep somebody in the project: you think it “feels bad to let somebody go”. There’s one thing to consider. Others will feel bad if you let the guy continue. You cannot put one slacker higher than others: you must also think the rest of the team.

I would also like to point out that one shouldn’t judge (or say that somebody is a slacker without clear “evidence”). A slacker constantly keeps saying that he will do something, but he never gets anything done. If you think you have a slacker in the team, then (before firing him) you might consider making it really clear for him what he needs to do. Perhaps you haven’t been clear enough for him to perform optimally – so don’t make the mistake to fire somebody based on what you feel. Make it clear that you have a project that must progress, and that he needs to help with the project (and give specific tasks) – or your paths must go to different direction.

Whatever you are going to do, make sure you don’t let one guy to ruin your project. Make sure people get the stuff done what you expect from them – and make darn sure they know what you expect from them.

Feel free to comment the slacker issue at the forums.

Another Amazing Factor About Giving Credits

You can accomplish much if you don’t care who gets the credit, but equally amazing it is what happens when you have the habit of giving credits to those who deserve it.

Consider the following example. Let’s suppose there’s 10 guys in a project, plus one project manager. 9 team members only concentrate making sure that everybody acknowledges what they’ve done. They make sure the project manager doesn’t steal their ideas – and can say that out loud in front of the project manager when needed. Let’s also suppose that while those 9 guys are busy making sure their accomplishments are noticed, they don’t have time to tell if others have done something. They simply ignore giving credits to everybody else but them.

Now, let’s suppose there’s the 1 guy who doesn’t care about the credits. He cares about getting the project done. He doesn’t care if others won’t congratulate him for accomplishments, yet he always remembers to give credit to others. He recognizes what others in the team have done, and what the project manager has done.

Who do you think the project manager really notices? The guys who always try to make sure they have been noticed, or the one guy who gives project manager ideas and is seen as a guy who helps others?

It Is Amazing What You Can Accomplish If You Do Not Care Who Gets the Credit

“You can accomplish anything, if you don’t care who gets the credits”.

I don’t know who originally said this, but I’m sure he doesn’t mind not staying anonymous.

Do you need to get credits for what you’ve done? It’s quite strange, but if you don’t – then you actually can accomplish much more than if you do.

Anyway, consider this. If you work for some boss, and let him use your ideas compared to somebody who always makes sure he must be acknowledged. The next time things get rough, your boss will prefer you (who give him ideas – and don’t care about the credits) over to the other guy (since he doesn’t give boss ideas). Putting others before yourself can be helpful for yourself.

That was a quite simple example – but that’s the way it can go. If you don’t care who gets the credits, you can accomplish much: and be remembered as a helpful guy.

Su Doku Live Sales Stats – $27,000 Income

Su Doku Live by DeadPixelGames has an interesting story. It’s their first game, and it sold around 50 copies directly on the Internet – yet made much more through publishing deal.

Title: Su Doku Live
Team size: 1 developer + 1 artist
Development time: 6 months (part time) + about 6 months to produce artwork

Price: $20
Direct sales: 50 (47 Mac, 3 Windows)
Sales income: $2000

Other income: $25,000 (exclusive publishing deal)

Production & contract costs: $14,000
– Blitzmax $80
– Google ads: $1000
– Banner ads at PC game sites: $200
– Dropped game project production costs: roughly $13,000

Profits: Around $13,000 ($27,000 – $14,000)

Developer comments:

“Su Doku Live” was my “plan b”. I had spent a year at another game. The project was dropped (could not get a publisher willing to buy me the license to market a networked “Settlers of catan” game), and it cost WAY over those 13,000 (that I ended up paying along with my two business partners).

I had to finish something, to actually release a game and prove to myself I could do it. So, I picked up a smaller project and saved the “game company”. At least I will have another go at it.

The lesson: making games is a lot of hard work, with loads of room for failure, things can go wrong, games may not get a publisher, etc. If “Su Doku Live” had not got into retail I am *certain* it would fail to pay the development expenses with just direct sales and my “game studio” (dead pixel games) would be dead by now.

Hopefully with the next games we will not end up paying for my lack of experience. I will start coding it soon. This is something I really love doing, so I must follow this dream, no matter the odds.

Very unique story – thanks Deadpixelgames for sharing this experience.

Are You As Motivated As The Penguin In This Video Clip?

It’s Monday, and a friend of mine showed me this video. It’s old one, but I hadn’t seen it before – and thought to share.

Strangely, whether you relate to this piece of movie or not actually tells quite a lot of your current job.

In some jobs the situation can be like this. There’s a difference between Mondays and Fridays.

Check this out:

That was pretty fun (at least when I first time watched it), and I think relating to this video can be a pretty good indicator whether you like your job or not. If you feel like the penguin in the video on Fridays, and move like that polar bear on Mondays, then ask yourself: are you working in your dream job? If you don’t like going to your current job, then do you have your dream job?

Every job (perhaps) has its ups and downs, but I personally think we all should be like that penguin – every day we work. We should be filled with energy every day we work. If you feel that you are just waiting for the weekend (and feel really tired on Friday), then wouldn’t it make sense to make a plan to be in a job where you enjoy working every day?

Are you really motivated to work? Do you feel energetic every day when you start working? If not, have you made any plans to change your situation?

Is There No Room For Books Anymore?

Recently I’ve been looking resources for C++ programming language and was (bit) amazed after talking with several programmers that I shouldn’t get a book. One guy said he gets everything in PDF format. I mentioned that I like to read printed material (or books), and that they are quite handy when in several places where you don’t have a computer. Trains, sofas (and toilet) to name just a few places…

I suppose the best way to learn something new is to get working on it. Doing something is good, but I still like to have a book or two at hand. I think theory and practice go side by side. I don’t like reading long texts from the computer screen – I prefer books. (And they also satisfy the collector in me: it’s nice to own books ;)). If I get an ebook, I like to print it and read that way.

Are forums, IRC channels, ebooks, and other digital material replacing books – or was this just some random incident. I like to read books, but what’s your opinion? Do we still needs books, or is it finally the time to replace them with digital alternatives?

Do You Set Limits?

The new game producer forums have been online for about a month and the membership count is now close to 300. There’s 20 banned users already. We are taking the rules seriously, and want to keep things civil. If somebody tries to just register to spam something (without reading rules – nor using common sense) he will be banned, and that’s it.

So far the strategy has worked fine and the discussion has been civil. I want to ensure that the forums are place for great discussion. I want quality over quantity.

And that’s why we have set limits. The rules are quite simple and rely on one major guideline: use your common sense. That goes far away. There’s alternative for whining. Instead of blaming for everybody, suggest a solution. master complainers are kept away.

We set limits in the very beginning. I know from experience that if you don’t set some limits right from the beginning, it will be much more difficult later. Anyone who has trained dogs (or has children) knows how difficult it can be to get the dog (or a child for that matter) to stop doing something he could have done earlier. If you allow dog to sleep on the sofa for two years, you’ll face lots of resistance if you try to change that rule when the dog is 3 years old. If you allow child to decide what he eats when he is 2 years old, rest assured you’ll face lots of resistance if you try to change that habit when the child is 6 years old.

See in the future, and set the limits according to what you want.

What Video Game Have You Most Played In Your Life?

Video game design is a tricky issue. There are so many player types in the world that it’s impossible to have a game that would please everybody. It’s not very likely to have a game in any genre that would please everybody. I started thinking what game has took the most hours from me and what kind of game design is required to keep me happy.

I’m absolute certain that I don’t remember every game I’ve played, but after I thought about this for a moment, I believe I’ve most played NHL ’95. It sounds bit strange to me now, since I don’t play many sports games nowadays – but, I realized there’s one element that kept me playing.

I played the game with other people. I played NHL ’95 with my brothers and we didn’t play the league mode much – usually we just played single matches and tried to beat each other (in the game naturally, although sometimes things might have got bit heated when a goal was scored…). I remember we had let the minutes run in real-time (so game time would be 20+20+20 minutes, not 5+5+5 minutes for example). We tried to win the other so that he couldn’t score. I believe even if the other guy was leading 5-0 something always happened and he was able to score one goal. It was a matter of “shame”: one couldn’t lose without scoring any goals. 5-0 wasn’t acceptable, 5-1 was. It would have been to “shameful” to get marked “being beaten by a brother without scoring” ;)

I believe that makes me some kind of “social player”. I enjoy playing with other people. Somehow the game doesn’t matter much, it’s the human opponent that makes things interesting for me. NHL ’95 did well on that: it gave a nice playing ground to challenge somebody.

What video game have you most played in your life?
What is the game that kept you starting the screen? What kind of player does that make you?