How Do You Know That Your Game Is Fun?

One guy posed a question to the producers of the round table (answers coming next week), and I thought the question was something that could be worth pondering by other people as well. He asked “How do you know that your game is fun?”

How do you know that your game is fun? I think it’s a tough question to answer, and here’s some ideas on how to spot a fun game. In my opinion, a game is fun when:

Your game is fun when you get excited about your game
At least sometimes this can be the case: if you get excited to add a new feature into your existing game or get really excited to develop it more, it’s a sign that your game is getting more fun. The excitment could translate into a fun. I realize that “having fun while developing the game” doesn’t mean a “fun game design”, but I think if developer isn’t excited about his game, why should anybody else?

Your game is fun when when you smile watching the characters walking on the screen or hear the music
Not sure if this is exactly a sign of fun, but I’ve noticed that when you experience some enjoyable moments in your game, and start to smile (and perhaps feel bit proud about yourself), you can tell that you’ve accomplished something. Something good.

Your game is fun when when you enjoy testing it
I think this can be one major sign. When you get to the point when you spend much time testing the game (instead of developing it further), you might have something really fun. When testing the game doesn’t feel painful, it’s a hint that the game indeed provides fun. If you can’t wait to get testing your game, it’s a sign that your game is fun. (Although don’t forget to continue your game development even when testing is fun…)

These were some ideas, and I’m sure there’s plenty of more.

What’s your take on this? How do you know when your game is fun?

Acting Like an Idiot Is Not Exactly a Good Way to Get Anywhere

It must be like 7-8 years since I last got upset over something work-related. Today, I unfortunately acted like an idiot.

I had a pretty heated conversation with one game developer and attacks were done back and forth. It was stupid, and definitely not a professional way to deal with issues. (I don’t have a clue what made me get into this verbal fight). At one point of the discussion I started using my brains, and stopped to think whadda heck is going on here? Why am I defending myself like this?

I’ve always told people that they don’t need to prove or defend themselves to anybody else. I really wondered how come I went into defensive mode. I seriously don’t understand this. The bottom line is that in life I do what I want in a way that’s hopefully as positive as possible, and if people don’t like what I’m doing then they don’t. It’s as simple as that. There’s no need to prove anything to anybody.

Anyway, I think I managed to positively contribute in the discussion in the end, and helped getting it back to the right track. I was still bit pissed off, but at least the war was over. I thanked him for his opinions and said he is experienced developer. I tried to find good points and admitted my own shortcomings in certain areas.

After saying bye, I started to think how I should treat with this person. I thought that if we’d talk more, we’d just run into more fights or somewhat negative attitudes. I wanted to make things right, because if we wouldn’t talk anymore it could leave a bad feeling about the incident.

I felt I was trapped: if I’d talk with him, it could probably lead into a new fight over something. If I would stop talking to him, I think there could be some bad feelings that would be harmful.

Then it struck to me…

If you act like an idiot, you can try make things okay by apologizing
I don’t know why I get into the fight in the first place, and I don’t know why I didn’t apologize earlier, but when I figured this out it all came clear to me. I would apologize my behavior, congratulate the other guy for his talent and wish him good luck.

And after that, I wouldn’t be seeking to discuss with him. In my opinion, there was fault in me, but I also think that our personalities or something might not match, so it’s perhaps better for both us to stay far away from each other.

By apologizing my behavior (and truly meaning it) I’m correcting things (hopefully), and I can move on. There’s no bad blood between us anymore (well, at least not on my side – of course I cannot be 100% certain what the other guy thinks) and there’s no reason for me to be defensive or prove something to him. End of story.

Man I feel like an idiot getting into stuff like this.

Piracy Helps Hardware Sales

About a year ago, I read an article about digital products and piracy. In the article, it was said that “kids like to buy MP3 players, but hate to buy music”. Basically, teenagers were willing to put 300 dollars for a device that plays music, but wouldn’t be willing to pay for the actual music. That should be free.

Today I saw an article that reinforces this view. While the article is about PC manufacturer’s attitude (according to the CEO who was interviewed), it still reminds us that people are more likely to pay hardware than software.

I suppose it can help hardware sales. If people know they get to play all the good games for free (illegally), then it can boost sales.

I don’t know whether PC manufacturers view piracy as hidden benefit or not, but in my opinion it’s not their problem to solve. We game developers could suggest alternative business models… or just keep making so bloody good games that people can’t wait to pay for them.

Random News…

My email inbox seems to get all kinds of fancy pieces of news… here’s some picks you might want to check out.

Cliff Harris interview on TB’s Show about Videogames Aug 25th (This is about piracy, and they will have podcast will be available on that site later. Remember to digg the article.)

Acclaim Games as US publisher for The Chronicles of Spellborn (They keep sending me these press releases…)

Multiverse MMO client gets an update (It’s pretty slick tool, I’ve watched their progress. Perhaps you should too…)

I’ll be getting a new computer tomorrow (and hopefully get it working too…)

Computer Sellers Are Sneaky Little Bastards

I’m getting a new computer (well, at least some new parts), and I had a budget of 500-600 euros. I needed a new mother board, processor, graphics card, harddrive, new OS and stuff like that.

When I went to the store and asked what I could get with this budget, the salesperson showed me list and started asking me “250, 500, 750 gigabytes? 2,5Ghz, 3,0Ghz…? 1, 2 or 4 gigs memory?” And so on. At some point I said that buying new computer parts goes always like this. No matter what budget you have, you will always spend more. If 500 gigabytes harddrive cost only 20 bucks more than 250, how can anybody refuse that offer?

I realized this, and I knew I would have no control over this. The seller wasn’t pushing or anything. He was merely showing me “9600 GT costs this… and if you want 9800 GT, then it costs this many euros more”. He didn’t need to persuade me into buying, my brain was already doing that at full speed. Sneaky little bastards! They shouldn’t have showed me those better parts (even when I asked).

I had no hope, and went home to ponder. It didn’t help anything, my brain tricked me into buying more and more. I ended up in a deal that cost 750 euros (but got a discount one one part, so the final price was 720 actually euros).

So, the bottom line was: my mind managed to buy me into using almost 50% more than I had originally planned.

Oh well… at least there’s something to learn.

The concept of selling computer parts is brilliant. If there’s a “Pretty Good Part” that costs 100, you can get “Fancy Better Part” for only adding 20 euros more. And if you really want power, the “Really Super Nice Part” costs only 20 more than “Fancy Better Part”. It works like a chimp.

The 20 euros difference feels small, but when there’s many parts, and many options to choose from… everything sums up into a bigger amount.

Sneaky.

Best Real Time Strategy Game You’ve Ever Played?

I think I have said this earlier: Lord of The Rings: Battle for Middle Earth (BME – the first product, not the sequel) is the best RTS game I’ve ever played. I like it more than old games like Dune 2, Warcraft 3. I like it more than old and new Command & Conquer games. There are several reasons why I like BME so much:

  • Unequal forces: I’m fan of unequal forces in all games. In Battle for Middle Earth there’s multiple factions that are all very different (yet, well enough balanced). Playing Mordor is totally different from playing Gondor.
  • Placement of buildings: In BME, there’s only a limited number of places where you can build something. This means you cannot get all the buildings you’d like. You have to choose whether to get stables… or perhaps something else. Limited options is a very fine game design in this game.
  • Lord of The Rings: Okay, I admit that Tolkien’s world is giving an extra bonus here (I buy all kinds of Tolkien stuff: DVDs, board games, video games, card games… no, I don’t wear hobbit clothes or anything like that).
  • Walls, and an opening gate!: You can open the castle/fortification gate. That might seem like a trivial thing, but I really like how it’s done. Now as I really think about this, it sounds pretty stupid… but I dunno, there’s something fun about having walls and opening the gate (hmm, I enjoyed opening a lego castle gate when I was a kid. I wonder if that has something to do with this gate issue). Maybe this is one of those “tiny details” that make a great game.
  • Massive (enough) battles: I’ve really enjoyed seeing a massive number of orc hordes rushing to the walls, and battling against each other. Sure, there are games with even more troops but BME has enough of them. And that’s a good thing.
  • Visuals and sounds: They’ve done a great job with the graphics, music and sounds. I really enjoy them in the game.
  • Multiplayer: I’m a multiplayer, I admit it. I’ve never played BME in single player mode, and will keep it that way. I just like the multiplayer experience.

What about you – what’s the best real time strategy game you’ve ever played? Care to share reasons why?

I’m Switching Mailing List Provider, and Here’s Why…

I’m changing my newsletter service from YMLP.com to Aweber, and one reader asked me why I did this. I think YMLP has been a great service and that it will work fine for many developers and I have nothing bad to say about them. The problem I had with YMLP was that I couldn’t set up several newsletters, without creating several accounts. I had to create different accounts for game producer and Dead Wake newsletters, and pay for them in 2 different occasions. If I had wanted to set up another mailing list, I would have needed to create a new account.

At one point I moved Dead Wake to Aweber, and now I’m processing to do the same for game producer newsletter. That solves the problem once and for all. The features of Aweber are something that I enjoy: the Aweber also allows sending pre-defined emails, which makes it easier to create material that can be automatically sent to new subscribers. I haven’t used that feature yet, but it’s something I need in the future.

I liked the fact that with Aweber, you can set up multiple accounts and send as many emails as you like. The user interface and clear tracking (among other features) are something I just enjoy in Aweber more (even though nowadays YMLP also provides tracking).

I think either solution is fine, but I just happened to pick Aweber since I like how it works and it can cover everything I need from a mailing list service.

Free Ebook: Guide to Advertising Your Game

(Yes, even if you have earlier subscribed to my mailing list you really, REALLY need to renew your mailing list subscription to get this ebook.)

I’ve just created a public version of the ebook “Ad Trap: Guide to Advertising Your Game”. It’s about 20 pages long and packed with useful information you should know when considering advertisement options for your game.

This (and other kind of good stuff) is available to those who join the “mailing list” (I probably should call it more like a ‘list of getting good stuff that’s not available to others’, since I really don’t send emails frequently. I only send emails when I actually have something really valuable to share). If you want to make sure you get a good return on where to advertise, you gotta read this ebook.

I take this for granted, but I say it anyway: I hate spam and your email won’t be given or sold to anybody. I never send spam. And, if you ever want to unsubscribe (even after getting all the good stuff that I occasionally send), you may do that by simply clicking a link in any email you get from me. I won’t send more than couple of emails every now and then – and I make sure it’s good stuff you wanna be aware of.

Check it out: Click here, and sign-up if you want the “Ad Trap” (and of course the “Game Production Cookbook” ebook which you’ll also get)

P.S. I’m changing the newsletter system, so those of you who want this new ebook, please (re)subscribe to this new list. Sorry for any possible inconvenience.

Why Cannot They Manufacture Headsets That Won’t Hurt Your Head?

Today I discovered a secret for finding a proper headset. Earlier I’ve bought cheap and expensive headsets, and there was always something bad in them. It didn’t matter how much I paid, there was always something bad about them.

Today I discovered that you actually need to break headset before they fit well.

I bought a headset for about $20. The headset is one of those Creative’s where you hurt your head when you try to wear it. It was pretty annoying, so I tried to “adjust” it.

That naturally lead me breaking it… (yeh, I was a bit annoyed) so now I have a headset “fixed” with tape (here’s a photo):


That whiteish-yellowish stuff on the right is the tape. And no, I’m not suggesting you go and break your headset. I’m going to get a new one. It’s just not nice to have video talks if you don’t have a proper headset…

The funny thing is, now it’s now longer hurting my head. Only my pride took a small hit by knowing that I’m actually wearing this thing.

Every cloud has a silver lining… but I think I’m going to get a new one.

P.S. I’d really appreciate if you could tip me, and tell me where to get a proper headset (and a mic) if you know one.