Monthly Archives: August 2008

Ask Your Questions From the AAA Game Producers (This Chance Ends In 6 Days)

After a long pause, I’m preparing the next producer roundtable session and this time I wanted to get you guys and girls to participate in the process.

If you have a question to these producer, bring it on
Earlier we have got answers from the producers of EA, Sony, Bizarre Games, Stainless Games, Gas Powered Games, Red Storm Entertainment/Ubisoft, Relic Entertainment to name some of them. (And our doors are open to get more producers to join us)

If you have a question, simply throw a comment or email me your question. We’ll try to cover as many questions as possible.

The chance to ask questions ends within 6 days, so bring in the questions.

P.S. If you are a producer, and working on a gaming company, email me and we’ll get you in.

What Do You Think About iPhone Game Development?

I have been following (a bit) the iPhone game development, and it looks like Apple is doing a nice job getting more developers to use their tools. In the past interview, Bruce Everiss pointed out that iPhone could be a big thing (His exact words were: “The iPod Touch and iPhone will take off in a big way as gaming platforms.”).

You need to have a Mac to be able to develop applications for the iPhone (although there’s already 3rd party systems that help you in developing iPhone games – one perhaps the most known is Torque for the iPhone by GarageGames. Not sure if you can use this with PC, but nevertheless you will need Mac to use Apple’s tools). The touch pad and the “motion detector” (that knows in which position the iPhone is) are pretty sweet features to use in different type of games.

Apple has a store where they sell the applications (the store seems to be doing pretty well, if they launch news like this: iPhone App Store Downloads Top 10 Million in First Weekend), and more and more games and applications are published there.

Now I’d like to ask your opinion. What do you think about iPhone development? Will it take off? Is it a viable option for game developers?

Your thoughts?

Pretty Simple Way to Have Incredibly Effective Meetings

How come there’s so many project leaders who tend to have these huge meetings where everybody needs to participate and where there’s 700 topics in the agenda. No wonder the meetings are long, boring, and accomplish very little.

Here’s a simple secret: have only one objective for the meeting.

It might sound a bad idea, since there’s so much things that you need to accomplish. Well, I think it’s better to at least have one successful meeting -rather than a series of failures. If there’s so many things you need to accomplish, then the problem isn’t necessary the meeting. It’s something else. It’s something that lead your team to a situation where your meetings are huge, and accomplish very little or nothing. If that’s the situation, then taking a step towards to a method where meetings are simple and something is decided in an effective manner doesn’t sound so bad to me.

Give it a go. If it doesn’t work, then you can always revert back. Instead of creating agenda with loads of topics and many things to decide, have a meeting where there’s only one objective. After that objective is accomplished, the meeting is over. If you need to decide about technology tools, then have a meeting about that. Don’t even try to bring holidays, bonuses, gameplay design, business deals nor other ideas in the meeting.

Keep it short. Keep it simple.

Keep it focused.

How to Turn Piracy Into a Sales Machine

Software piracy is a hot topic: use it for your marketing
Cliff Harris has made an excellent marketing campaign for his game: he opens a can of worms and then uses it to generate publicity for his game. Here’s how he did it.

You cannot change anybody else, you can only change your own behavior
This is pretty simple principle in life that has worked to me. Whether it’s friends, relations, teamwork, bosses or piracy. It’s pretty much wasted effort to try to change others. Sure, you can try come up with motivational bonuses for your team members. You can try to threat them to work harder, but in the end it’s up to them to decide.

You cannot stop piracy, but you can use it to generate interest and promote your games.

So, how does piracy can bring more sales?
Cliff Harris is has developed Kudos 2 game – a sequel to his popular Kudos game (Kudos Rock Legend sales statistics here).

He crafted a nice marketing plan to get publicity for the game: (not actually sure if he knew what would happen, but I have a feeling that he did)

#1 – First he made a post about “I wanna hear from the pirates”
He wrote a post asking reasons why people pirate his games. He posted the article to various other places such as slashdot, penny arcade forums, digg , arstechnica and bnet.

#2 – That topic took fire
Talking about piracy is a hot topic. It’s something that generates interest. No matter what you say, there’s always somebody against it when it comes to piracy.

Cliff’s blog was flooded with traffic (at the time of writing, I think his blog got too much traffic and could not be reached).

#3 – Then the next step: answers and the game sales page
After the topic caught fire, the natural next step was to reveal the answers. Cliff posted a lengthy post with answers, and provided some links to Kudos 2. He was answering to the questions and saying that he will do some changes to Kudos 2, so that players would be more inclined to buy the game.

We’ll wait and see if that helped
His site got flooded with traffic, and I really hope they convert to sales.

I know that Cliff is really wanting to negotiate with the terrorists pirates, but I’m pretty sure he is also doing this to drive traffic to his site and get more sales.

I think the campaign concept is brilliant.

To help out Cliff, please digg his article.

Software Pirates Want to Legalize Drug Dealing

Yesterday’s post about piracy got some comments favoring different views here and also at indiegamer board.

I found it quite hilarious (and maybe bit sad) that people really think that preventing piracy is against “freedom of speech”. I mean, these pirates are sharing copyrighted material illegally. Banning pirate site means taking action to prevent this illegal action to happen.

Same logic could be used to make thievery, murders, drug dealing (you name it) legal. Let’s suppose that in your country, drug dealing is illegal. So, when people deal drugs, they are breaking the law.

To prevent drug dealing, countries have police forces to stop this.

To prevent games dealing, countries are banning sites to stop this.

If we think that “freedom of speech” has anything to do with “sharing games illegally”, then the next step is to legalize all sorts of drugs based on “freedom of speech”.

Duh.

An update:

Basically, I think that:
- “Stealing stuff” shouldn’t be allowed based on reasoning about “freedom of speech”
- “Drugs” shouldn’t be allowed based on reasoning about “freedom of speech”.
- “Murders” shouldn’t be allowed based on reasoning about “freedom of speech”.
- “Put your own example” shouldn’t be allowed based on reasoning about “freedom of speech”

The Pirate Bay says that censoring their site is act against freedom of speech.

I fail to see how sharing illegal content should be legalized based on freedom of speech.

I’m not saying that they wouldn’t have reasons why they’d want to have their site unbanned, but freedom of speech doesn’t belong in the list of reasons.

Pirate Ships Are Sinking… or Arrrrrrrrr They?

Jack Norton spotted a news item and posted it via Indiegamer.

(He quoted this from the Pirate Bay site)

Fascist state censors Pirate Bay

We’re quite used to fascist countries not allowing freedom of speech. A lot of smaller nations that have dictators decide to block our site since we can help spread information that could be harmful to the dictators.

This time it’s Italy. They suffer from a really bad background as one of the IFPIs was formed in Italy during the fascist years and now they have a fascist leader in the country, Silvio Berlusconi. Berlusconi is also the most powerful person in Italian media owning a lot of companies that compete with The Pirate Bay and he would like to stay that way – so one of his lackeys, Giancarlo Mancusi, ordered a shutdown of our domain name and IP in Italy to make it hard to not support Berlusconis empire.

We have had fights previously in Italy, recently with our successful art installation where we had to storm Fortezza in order to get our art done. And as usual, we won. We will also win this time.

We have already changed IP for the website – that makes it work for half the ISPs again. And we want you all to inform your italian friends to switch their DNS to OpenDNS so they can bypass their ISPs filters. This will also let them bypass the other filters installed by the Italian government, as a bonus.

And please, everybody should also contact their ISP and tell them that this is not OK and that the ISPs should appeal. We don’t want a censored internet! And the war starts here…

So, now they are finally starting to ban illegal sites?

That sounds pretty good, right? I mean. It’s the Internet, and it’s about pirates and developers getting their hard earned money.

Something tells me that this is going to backfire.

You know why?

Because now everybody is talking about this pirate site

Rockstar Games – for example – has made it an art form to get their games banned, and that’s why everybody knows about Grand Theft Auto series. The game got banned (or was rumoured to get banned) in several countries, and it generated huge press interest. No now wonder everybody was talking about their games – after all, they were declared almost like “illegal”.

Now this type of “War Against Pirates” articles will give these sites more publicity.

Won’t believe me?

Check this out.

I bet Pirate Bay traffic will skyrocket this in the following days.

Arrrrrr.

Look How to Use Adobe Air to Get More Sales

Tim, one of the developers of Now Boarding game, showed quite interesting phenomena. Tim mentions that they created a web version of their game which you can play online (you’ll need to install Adobe AIR – which is fast & sweet to do – when you first launch the game). I’m going to ask a permission to share accurate numbers, but nevertheless it seems pretty decent tactic and has worked for them.

Take a look at the game and see how well they’ve done it.

By the way: the team is now having a special discount for limited time (don’t know how long), so if you want to get a discounted version, check out the purchase page.

Are Game Portals Wanting Very Cutesy, Water-Downed Content?

I spotted an article Casual Gold Bust via Indiegamer. It’s a fine article, and one point mentioned by Eric Zimmerman got my eye:

“There was this promise that we could do small-scale games and we could try new forms of game play, but the portals want very cutesy, water-downed content.”

If you check out any major casual gaming portal today, you can see that there indeed are cute games and clones after another. Hidden object games for example follow very similar pattern. Sure, the graphics and story might be different in each game, but in the end they look very similar to each other.

But is it the portals to blame?

Well, yes and no.

Yes, in the sense that portals make the decisions what they publish. It’s up to them to choose the games that will appear to the public.

On the other hand, the answer is no.

In this consumer driven business of games, it’s up to the players to decide what they want to play. If people want to play hidden object games, then people want to play hidden object games.

Sure, portals could try something exotic (and they have – just take a look at Wik), but if those games don’t sell enough then you cannot continue testing something exotic for long.

I think Zimmerman’s comment is quite valid to some extend, but it’s worth adding that the customers play a major role in this equation. In the end, it’s up to players to decide what products they purchase.

The Man Who Makes No Mistakes Does Not Usually Make Anything

Theodore Roosevelt said that.

Joe seemed to be a “bit” pissed off over my yesterday’s post, and I found couple of things that he was suggesting:

1) Big Fish Games is giving Azada away for 99 cents because Azada 2 is coming (I didn’t realize Azada 2 is coming)

I found this piece of information valuable.

2) Whenever you don’t know something, you should fake it. Or keep silent.

This was the message I read between the lines (and I might be wrong). I have to disagree with the second part.

Here’s something Joe asked.

How can you not know that this is to prepare for Azada’s 2 upcoming release?

Everyone and their dogs know about this since they also did the same deal for MCF3 just before MCF4’s release.

Are you really that ignorant of the PC casual games market?

Hmm, I think this comments tells more about the person who asks the questions, rather than the one who answers them. Anyway, I shall answer to your questions.

The Henry Ford way of “being ignorant”
I’ll answer with a story. It’s a story about Henry Ford (the guy who came up with the idea of making cars). To put it shortly, Henry Ford (with no much education) was put in a situation where he was asked questions about loads of things. He was asked about mathematics, science, industry, cars, business and whatever the opponents came up with. His enemies were trying to make Ford look stupid in front of his audience. At some point Ford got tired about this interrogation and simply answered: “Look, just give me a phone and I’ll call my engineers, lawyers or one of my contacts to give you the answer. I have plenty of staff available who can answer to any of your questions, so that I can focus on building great cars.” The meeting ended there.

It’s good to hire smarter people than you.

I’m not to say that one should be ignorant. I think it’s worth learning more about your business or interest (I think Ford would agree on that). I think realizing that 99 cent sale is preparing for the next version is worth knowing for anybody in gaming business. I just want to remind that even if you don’t know everything, it’s not the end of the world. It’s simply time to learn more (sometimes the hard way).

Babies would never learn to walk if they wouldn’t try over and over (even when they make mistakes and fail)
I look it like this: This blog is interactive. It’s not like I’d try to “teach” the rest of you. Nope. It works two ways. Whenever I write something in my blog, you guys have been reminding me whenever I’m missing something. I think people can learn something from this blog, yet same time teach me. This is beneficial for both parties.

Oh, and thanks for letting me know about Azada 2. I had totally missed it. Seriously – I really appreciate this. (Thanks also to PillowTalker & jc for this piece of information).

There was one more question that I just have to answer.

Do you know how many people are laughing at you and this blog right now?

Unfortunately that’s something our schools sometimes teach us to be afraid. When you write English essays, you get punished for making mistakes (and not rewarded for getting things done write). Sometimes it feels like punish, punish, punish – and possibly shame. Okay, our school world is probably going to a better direction today, but still the situation can sometimes be like this: we are put in to shame if we don’t know something.

To be honest, I don’t really give a rats (bottom). It’s not like away from my life is somebody chooses to spend time laughing at me.

Let’s suppose there’s 1 person laughing at me and my blog.

How does that affect me?

Just a second… I try to think.

(silence)

Hmm. Nope. Not much. Of course it’s nice to know that somebody reads my blog.

Now, how about a half a million people? All laughing at me and this blog.

(silence)

Hmm… my first feeling is a sense of gratitude that half a million people actually took some time to check out my blog, but that’s pretty much it. It’s up to them on how to react.

I have chosen to write stuff in my blog. I do my best to provide information that others hopefully can use and benefit from. I’ve said it earlier that one should question authority – and everything I say in this blog. I mean, I write and do a loads of things. Sometimes (or possibly often) I can miss some information (like in yesterday’s post). Shit happens. I make loads of mistakes. I do my best not to repeat them (many times).

Does that mean that I should fake my knowledge or stop writing?

Here’s the deal:

If I wouldn’t have written the yesterday’s post (and if it weren’t for you readers), I wouldn’t have learned a lesson or two

Seriously.

I now have couple of more small lessons learned in my pocket. I now was pointed out about this marketing tactic. I also thought that there’s opportunities to learn everywhere. If I would worry what others think about me, I’d never have started this blog.

I’d probably never written a single blog entry.

I’d probably never networked with the game development experts I know today.

I’d probably be sitting silent in a corner and being afraid saying anything that might show that I don’t know something.

A person who is afraid of making mistakes is probably not doing anything.

In the end, I think people shouldn’t really care what others think about you. Naturally when somebody thanks me, I feel good about it. One guy said that thanks to my blog he got so inspired about gaming industry that today he got a job as an associate producer in one gaming company. That felt really good, and really motivated me. I can now think that my blog has positively affected on somebody’s life. Of course he made the decision to apply, and he had the necessary skills, but at least my blog was pushing him to the right direction and perhaps made him choose this path faster.

Whenever I see comments with loaded (negative) questions, I try to seek criticism and think if bad feedback contains something useful.

Joe, you had a good point. I think it might be useful for you to consider if there’s any way you could present your points in a bit more constructive manner.

But that’s up to you.

I continue making mistakes and missing points.