The Good Thing About Asking Feedback

The good thing in asking feedback is that it is a very efficient way to find out something you might haven’t realized.

Some time ago I asked feedback regarding game producer blog and got several answers.

I was really surprised to see so many people saying that lack of comments in the blog is not a good thing – and the forum commenting system should be more straightforward. People told me that they weren’t interested in registering to a new forum to be able to comment.

I agree that the system needs some improvement (in an ideal situation people could read forum comments also in the blog, and perhaps make anonymous comments). The bad thing about anonymous comments is spam, so some kind of brief registration would probably need to be done anyway.

I’m listening to the feedback (and if you have some ideas regarding improvements, feel free to mention them at the producer forums or contact me directly) and thinking how to improve the system. I have several ideas on what could be done (such as different updating database, using forums as the writing platform and so on).

Back to the key point of this entry. The best thing about feedback is that it can really tell you what people are thinking – and can show you that they are thinking something different from what you thought.

Thank you for the comments so far.

What’s Your Game Business Model?

Game business model for most indies is pretty simple (and simple is good in my books): make game that sells. That’s pretty straightforward idea regarding where the money comes.

In the past I wrote an article about being game developer versus game engine developer. (See also part 2).

While there’s nothing fundamentally wrong spending time coding the engine, I think it’s good to think a bit about the business model. Or in practical terms: it’s good to ask “where the money comes from?”

Making & selling games is good, but developers shouldn’t ignore the potential that might come with selling the engine (or parts of the code). Jake Birkett – who has is spending time programming & selling games – realized that he had done a nice BlitzMax Framework for easy game creation (he uses it by himself) and decided to start selling the framework to developers. There was a recent thread at the Blitzcoder forums where Jake mentioned he had crossed 100 sales ($60ish each) within about a year. $6,000 perhaps is not loads of money, but a great addition in my opinion. After all – if somebody has made a good framework (something that others can use) – then why not get some money from the engine sales as well.

Naturally it’s not a path that everybody should automatically take. Selling to developers means that you need to promote your software and handle customer support like when selling to players. That can be time consuming, so one needs to really think where the money comes from.

So, what’s your business model?
That’s what I want you to ask (if you haven’t asked this yet):

  • Are you going to rely only on game sales?
  • Or are you perhaps going to sell framework/engine/code to developers?
  • Or have you considered a mix of these two?

These aren’t the only alternatives, but definitely worth pondering. Who is your audience? Only gamers – or perhaps also fellow developers?

3DRT 15% Content Art Discount Only Available One More Day

3DRT is giving nice 15% discount on their 3D models. The coupon code is 151015. If you need art or plan to use some art in your game, then make sure to use this opportunity – the discount coupon they gave to me expires tomorrow (on 10th of October).

There were some questions asked at the game producer forums – so check the thread out in case you want to ask something about the offer.

You can get a huge variety of high quality 3d models for your games here.

Programming Practice That Might Kill Your Code

I was browsing various programming tutorials and saw the code that was technically okay but had problem with being bit difficult to read. I’m one of those coders who believe that there’s enough room in the hard drive to use bit longer variable names…

I probably wouldn’t have noticed this and wrote about it here, but since it was in a beginner’s tutorial – I believe it’s worth mentioning.

The code looked like this:

case KEY_W:
case KEY_S:
……core::vector3df v = node->getPosition();
……v.Y += event.KeyInput.Key == KEY_KEY_W ? 2.0f : -2.0f;
…return true;

Basically there’s nothing wrong with that code. It will check out whether somebody pressed key W or S down and moves a node according to the button pressed. Technically that code looks alright.

But practically there’s a fatal problem that should be avoided readability shouldn’t suffer.

The same code could probably be written something like this (or various alternatives where no “break” lines would be needed etc.):

case KEY_W:
…speed = 2.0f;
case KEY_S:
…speed = -2.0f;
core::vector3df unitPositionVector = unitNode->getPosition();
unitPositionVector.Y += speed;
return true;

The point is… in the first example, the line “v.Y += event.KeyInput.Key == KEY_KEY_W ? 2.0f : -2.0f;” isn’t very easy to read. Sure, one can get what it means after pondering a while – but in my opinion code should be easy to read. In terms of efficiency we don’t lose anything even if we don’t put all that stuff in one line (after all – it’s the rendering that usually takes time, not asking input from the player once).

But by simply telling what KEY_S and KEY_W do (they change the speed – and it’s pretty easy to spot in which direction) and by mentioning that the vector is moving an unit (or whatever) instead of “v” we can get a better picture pretty fast.

If one must decide between “making code as short as possible” compared to “making readable and easily understandable code”, the latter wins in my books in a heartbeat. Don’t let readability suffer – it may kill your code.

Feedback Request: Help Make Better has got some major improvements within a year. The Producer Roundtable has been very popular and appeared also at GamaSutra. The game developer interviews has also been well taken (I’ve got one more “coming soon”). The games sales statistics are one of the greatest features (in my opinion – and also according to some feedback I’ve got) in the blog.

I’ve written lots of game development articles and blog entries (close to 800 posts at the time of writing). The recently opened game producer forums already has over 200 members, and boards have been open for about a month now.

Give me your feedback
I want to make even better, and I would be very interested to hear what you readers would suggest. All feedback, whether it’s good, bad or ugly, is welcome. I would appreciate constructive ideas whether it’s about the site layout, grammar, appearance, content, newsletter or anything.

It would be great to hear what you’d like to hear more about, and what hasn’t been interesting.

I would also like to hear suggestions on what you would think about if would get more writers and would become more like a community site, instead of one man’s blog.

Bottom line:
As said – I’m very open to ideas and would really appreciate you taking time to share your insight. If you could decide – what would be like in the year 2008?

7 Game Design Elements That Can Make Game Fun

Why some games are fun, and why others are boring? These are questions that game developers must take into account in their game design. There are many elements that impact the fun factor – and here’s 7 game design elements that can help making a fun game.

#1 – Collecting stuff
Some (perhaps most) people are collecting something. Somebody likes collecting stamps, somebody music DVDs of certain bands, somebody movies, somebody games. We people like collecting stuff – and that’s one factor that makes many games fun. One reason why Diablo or World of Warcraft games are fun because you can collect stuff. Lots of stuff.

#2 – Personalizing stuff
Think Sims. There’s no aim in that game, yet one can spend ages just to decorate his house (not to mention how many hours those sequels and expansion packs can take) and make things look personal. Think World of Warcraft (or even Diablo) again – wasn’t it fun to make the character look personal?

#3 – Improving stuff
Whether it’s improving your character, weapons, city or anything – people like if they can improve stuff in game. If they can get Sword of Flames that gives them +3 damage instead of Sparkling Orc Hammer (+1 damage against green enemies) they will love it. Getting more money, getting more experience, getting more points – getting more improved stuff is what players are after.

#4 – Challenging stuff
Challenge in games is tricky issue. Sometimes it can make the gaming experience, and sometimes it might even kill the gaming experience. We people want to overcome challenges (otherwise game gets pretty boring), but finding the right challenge levels is sometimes pretty darn hard to do. One could think about having different difficulty levels… but that might be pretty dull system and might make it hard to find the right factors to adjust. One option – if you need to have different difficulties – is to have certain objectives that must be done (a car game example: getting to finish line) and then having optional goals for those who want a real challenge (for example: not crashing your car and driving through special routes). This is a tricky game design element: players want challenging, but not too difficult game.

#5 – Controlling stuff
Admit it: you want control in your life. You want to be in charge of what you do with your life, and you want to have control over certain things. Perhaps you want to control where you spend your spare time, or perhaps you want to control projects at work. Whatever it is – you want to have control over something. Similarly players want control (otherwise they’d be watching movies instead). They want to make sure the car goes left when they tell so. They want to command their units so that they actually follow player’s orders. They want to feel that they can control how the story goes by making different decisions. They want control. The more you give it (or a feeling of it) – the more fun game might be to some players.

#6 – Creating stuff
Some people are creators: they want to build and create stuff. They want to create anything from huge cities to smooth plumbing systems. They want to build the highest towers and finest cities. They want to create greatest restaurant or finest levels. People like to create – and if you give them tools for creating stuff they will like it.

#7 – Mysterious stuff
People love mysteries and secrets. Why Half-life game was praised for its story? One reason is that the story has mysterious men in black suits – who are these guys? What keeps players completing levels in Hitman? The game was fun, but in addition it the mystery behind the main character just had to be revealed. If you can bring some kind of secret or wrap a mystery around your story, some players will like it. They will crave for the answers.

Here’s What You Shouldn’t Do With Your Newsletter

I’m getting newsletters from one service (a name that I won’t mention). There’s some “tiny” problems with this service that makes me wonder what on earth were these guys thinking.

Problem #1: I didn’t opt for the newsletter
I didn’t ask to receive this email… yet some wise marketers seemingly took my email address and started sending me newsletters. One after another. They are game related news for hardcore gamers – but I’m spending more time making than playing game. I’m simply not their audience – nor have interest to publish their news that are only for hardcore gamers.

Problem #2: I’m getting the newsletter twice
Not only I’ve got one newsletter… but I’m getting duplicate letters since I seem to be on their list on two separate email accounts. They sure wanted to make sure I get their emails.

Problem #3: They have “unsubscribe” link
I tried to click the unsubscribe link they have in the bottom of each newsletter, just to notice the freaking link was not working. I couldn’t unsubscribe from my second address because “page was not found”. I tried clicking the unsubscribe link from the other email I got, and this time the link moved me to a web page that was online. Too bad on the page it said “your email address is NOT unsubscribed”.

“Is not unsubscribed”?

Whadda heck are these guys thinking?

3DRT Offers 15% Discount On Their Content Art Packs – Available Only 7 Days

3DRT is doing fantastic 3D art for indie games with indie-friendly prices. Now they’ve offered a nice discount for you Game Producer readers. By using coupon code: 151015 you can get 15% discount for any art pack you want from their site. (Full list of 3D models here).

Would you like to get some fantasy characters for your game? How about getting this handsome fellow to your game? Or perhaps you like trolls? How about trooper girls or city construction kit? See some example images below (more on 3DRT website) – and remember there’s plenty of more to see on their website.

They usually use 1 texture pattern for the whole models collection. Like in that fleet collection in image above.They also include variety of texture styles that gives hundreds of styles when number of textures multiplied by number of models.

Basically 3DRT offers high 3D art for indie games: quality mechs, puppies, fantasy monsters (such as orcs and goblins), space ships, industrial buildings, skeletons and many many other 3D models that come fully textured and animated.

They have a very indie-friendly prices, and great way to do business: They help you export their 3D models to custom formats. They want models to work perfectly in your game, and they’ll go the extra mile to ensure that you get 100% compatible resources, every time. All models are rigged, textured, and may contain several different animations – which you can preview on their website.

The coupon code is: 151015 and it will get you 15% discount on any purchases you make on their website. If you need art or plan to use some art in your game, then make sure to use this opportunity – the discount coupon they gave to me expires on 10th of October – so you have only 7 days left to take this offer.

You can get a huge variety of high quality 3d models for your games here.

Violence in Games Makes Us Murderers?

Violence in games – can it make murderers? I wrote an entry about what I think how violent games have impact on children. The violence thread at the forums and blog entry response got me thinking about that question.

The correct answer is not “yes”
Well… I think saying “yes” would be wrong answer. I don’t think violence in games alone will turn somebody into a murderer. But I’d like point out one crucial factor:

The correct answer is not “no” either
I think it’s not right to say that violence in games wouldn’t make us murderers. I think violence in games similarly as there are drops in the sea. If you would check each drop in the sea and ask “does this drop make the sea to be what it is” you would answer “no, no, no”… and “no”. Until all drops were counted – but even then there would be sea.

Violence in games is – in my opinion – simply one drop in the sea. Alone it perhaps isn’t enough to make us into murderers… but in addition to other factors (whether it’s negative influence from parents or friends, or television violence or whatever) it may have a negative influence to the big picture.

But there was another key word again: may do that. I say this might happen. Similarly I believe that for some individuals game violence can be a good stress releaser. Better shoot those zombies than neighbors – right?

Violence in games has impact on us. It alone won’t turn somebody into a murderer, but it definitely has an impact on how we perceive and behave in the world. To some people, violent games might have negative impact – while some other individuals might get positive feelings from the game violence.

Game violence is just one drop in the sea, and we all are different and react differently to it.

The Scruffs – Quality Hidden Object Game

I watched the video of The Scruffs game today. The video is less than two minutes long, and it gives you the idea how much effort the development team has put in the game. The graphics are stylish, there’s “mystery” for player to solve, they even have speech in the freaking hidden object game (sorry about the term).

I was pleased to see how well the game looks, and it reminded me about the two major factors that seem to be getting more and more attention from the developers (and portals).

First of all there are more high-quality games available. I’ve watched the evolution (or revolution…) of casual games since they were first introduced and I personally think we’ve come a long way from match-3 games (okay, not necessarily anything wrong with match-3 games – even I’ve been co-producing one). While the game ideas might be really simple (find hidden objects isn’t the top of the evolution if you ask me), but that’s fine. I have no problem with simple ideas. Sometimes the simplest ideas can be the greatest ideas.

Anyway – there are amazingly many very simple casual games that are truly polished. The Scruffs looks polished.

The second change has been the larger download sizes. Couple of years ago 20 megabytes seemed to be the “maximum recommended file size” but today you can see that games can easily take 50 megabytes (like The Scruffs) or even more. I suppose the Internet is getting faster – at least in the parts of the world that play casual games.

I don’t know what’s the next big genre in casual gaming world but my bet goes to tower defense type of games. Whatever it will be, I’m sure the quality of casual games is getting better, and file sizes getting larger.

Proceed to The Scruffs game download page.

(Small tip: for those who want to join the game club and get The Scruffs as low as $6.99, click here)