When I Started Making Games I Didn’t Expect I’d Pay Attention to Currency Exchange Rates…

We are working in an international gaming industry where buyers and sellers use different currencies (pounds, dollars, euros and others) and this brings quite delightful aspect into doing business. I’ve accepted different currencies when selling games, services, ads, and whatever stuff (I’m always welcoming money to come to me) and as I’ve done converting mainly from US dollars to euros, I’ve got a some kind of picture about the exchange rates.

Some time ago the US dollar rate was close to 1.50, but now it’s close to 1.40 (so, with 10 euros, you could get 14-15 US dollars depending on the day you exchange currency). It might not seem much, but when you count the numbers you start to notice that your income can change anything from 5-10% in quite short time (and more in longer period: couple of years ago the rate was close to 1.20). Multiply by 10, 100, 1 000, 10 000, 100 000 or more and you’ll see that 5-10% difference begins to make a decent amount of money.

From my perspective (as I’m usually exchanging from USD to EUR) the stronger the dollar, the more I’m benefiting. The weaker the dollar, the less I’m getting.

I didn’t realize that I would start to pay attention to dollar rates years ago, but this has changed. I’m not paying too much attention to it, but sometimes thought twice before doing exchanges when the rates were poor for me. After all, it’s difficult (close to impossible?) to predict how the exchange rates will develop, but you can make some analysis to take advantage of the current situation.

It’s pretty amazing how much game development can teach us. It goes way beyond “just games”.

Beginners Guide to Recording Game Videos and Showing Them on Your Website

This article shows you what tools I’ve used to create game videos, and how I’ve embedded them in my website. You’ll need couple of tools that are either free or inexpensive to get.

Recording videos
I’ve mentioned this earlier, but I’ll mention this again to make this guide as complete as possible. I use Fraps for recording game videos. Fraps is inexpensive and provides easy-to-use recording of your games. Fraps has everything you need for recording sound and video.

Editing your video
I actually haven’t done much video editing (and have survived pretty well without editing), and don’t know many of them but somebody mentioned Sony Vegas Movie Studio which might be handy. (If you have any more recommendations on video editing, please feel free to suggest)

I haven’t used Sony, so can’t personally recommend it – but it seems to be pretty feature rich tool. If you don’t need to edit your videos, then you can skip this phase and just move to the next step.

Converting AVI to MPG
Fraps records movies in .avi format, so it’s a good idea to compress them to MPG (I usually convert to MPG1 instead of MPG2 format to make sure it works as many place as possible). MPG videos are much smaller than AVI files, yet they can provide good quality. (Those who want to have HD quality videos need to find some other tutorial though… I’m not covering those here)

I tested a loads of different AVI-to-MPG tools and there were some free, some expensive and many, many crap ones. Finally I found WinAVI which does everything I need (and I only need to convert AVI to MPG). It’s inexpensive tool and worth checking out. I personally like the simplicity of the tool. It does what it’s supposed to do.

Update: Toni and Stoper recommended VirtualDUB – it’s free converter.

Uploading your video
I’ve used mainly YouTube to upload videos, but some other places worth checking are for example WeGame and Vimeo.

Showing videos on your website
Google YouTube API provides some tools that you can use to show videos on your website. Recently I discovered the Videobar which I’ve used in Dead Wake game website to show latest videos I’ve uploaded to YouTube. Basically I just used the wizard and wrote my YouTube username to “Youtube Channels:”, unchecked the “Most Viewed Videos” and the widget provided the code to use in my website.

If you have a WordPress blog, you can google for various plugins that help showing uploaded videos on your blog. I haven’t used those, but they seemed to look pretty easy way to publish videos.

Naturally you can embed videos (they give you code after you’ve uploaded videos) on your site using HTML. That’s very easy way to upload videos as well.

That’s it folks
This is how I’ve recorded and published videos, and even though there’s several steps I think overall it can be quite easy to get game videos on your website.

And gamers love seeing videos.

Dishwashing Lesson For Game Producers

I got reminded about the importance of doing things properly. I had done the dishes, just to spot couple of hours later that one of the pots was really dirty (and with food stains here and there). Normally I wash the cups and pots clean, but this time “I was too busy” to do it properly. In haste, I had done a poor job.

The end result?

Of course I had to do it again: I had to wash the pot again. It wasn’t done properly, so I needed to wash the pot again.

I believe this lesson applies well to the game development…

Azada: Ancient Magic Gives More Than What Was Expected

One of the most anticipated casual games Azada: Ancient Magic has been published and is finally available. The first impression of the game is amazing: the game art is stunning and the whole game so well polished.

Azada: Ancient Magic contains massive amount of different puzzles and problems to solve, and minigames to play (see also the video below to see the game in action).

What is interesting to notice (in terms of gameplay) that Azada: Ancient Magic brings more adventure elements in the game. In order to solve some puzzles, you need to use items. Those who have wondered if “adventure games” will ever make a comeback need to look no further… even though adventure games were ‘considered dead’, the adventure elements (like spotting stuff and using items) are still alive in many games.

Bottom line is that Azada: Ancient Magic is a well-done sequel that’s well worth checking out.

P.S. Those who want to get Azada: Ancient Magic as low as $6.99 – check out the Game Club

I’m So Grateful For Getting All Those Crazy Gamers to Help Me Out

When I started the Dead Wake zombie game development in ‘extreme programming’ style (by publishing a new release every 30-60 days or so) I had some thoughts what would happen.

Man, I certainly underestimated the impact of community.

I didn’t anticipate that the community would be so eager to build new stuff. Or… make videos and tutorials or give ideas and feedback. Right now there’s hundreds of members who have subscribed to the Dead Wake newsletter and hundreds of members discussing in the community forums.

These people are awesome.

When I ask feedback about something, I get loads of responses and arguments on how things should be done. When I ask people to give ideas, I get a massive list of features I couldn’t possible even think of.

When Dead Wake made it to PC Gamer, I got one member making a video:

When I asked information about animations, some guys went and started animating characters own their own. I never asked this, these people are just so eager to help me out.

When we hinted about promoting the game, one guy (Lto_thaG) made this:

It’s almost crazy! (in a good way)

I’m putting effort to bring a good game that these people enjoy, but I never anticipated that there would be so many Dead Wake ‘fans’ ready to help in different issues.

Building a gaming community around your game is a reward in itself.

Now I just need to make sure they didn’t see me calling them crazy…

Deadlines Are Not Evil

I discussed with one guy about project work and he brought an interesting point. He said he had a project that would take about a year to accomplish. In the beginning of the project he was bit worried that there didn’t seem to be specific dates set at all. This was bit stressful since he knew that there was one big deadline set (the one year timeline), but no deadlines for smaller goals or milestones. He wasn’t sure what to focus on next.

He discussed this with his project clients and finally at some point they managed to set a few milestone deadlines. Just merely attaching a specific date to an upcoming meeting was relief for this guy. He said it made his work more clear. Now he didn’t need to stumble forward, but he could organize his work so that he would first go towards the first deadline. After that he’d know when the second deadline and what it was all about. It brought clarity to set ‘what’ the next milestone is about and ‘when’ it is supposed to occur.

This isn’t always possible to do: deadlines can be missed, features might not make it to the milestone, something unexpected occurs, fixing one bug creates four new bugs…. anything can happen.

Even though deadlines can be tricky one, it doesn’t mean one shouldn’t use them. Deadlines can inspire people to meet the deadline. They can bring clarity. They can be helpful. Check out some famous quotes about deadlines, perhaps they’ll inspire you to think about the importance of deadlines:

“A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it’s better than no inspiration at all.”
-Rita Mae Brown

“They didn’t want it good, they wanted it Wednesday.”
Robert Heinlein

“The ultimate inspiration is the deadline.”
-Nolan Bushnell

And one of my personal favorites…

“I’ll need daily status reports on why you’re so behind.”
– Dilbert’s Boss

Deadlines aren’t necessary evil. It depends how you set them.

Is Spore a Game or a Toy?

Spore is coming to stores tomorrow (well not here in Finland, especially for the reason that supermarkets cannot be open on Sundays…) is in stores now (just saw it while went out) and I’m wondering what kind of game is it.

Check out their 60 seconds tv ad for starters:

I realize there’s all kinds of objectives, but I wonder if the game is more about creating different life forms than completing to objectives. In Black & White it was fun to just train the creature and play the game without necessarily focusing solely on the main objectives.

It looks really awesome and I have no trouble believing that it will be fun to play, but I wonder what Spore will be: a game or toy of some sort?

Or perhaps something in between?

Your thoughts?

72 Insiders Now (and ‘Launch’ of the Game Market Research Ebook)

Today we got a new member to Insiders. There’s now total of 72 Insider members: individuals, companies, indie game developers, people who work at AAA companies, game trainers and you name it. I remember when we started with the private forums (where first me and Mr. Phil talked alone :)), and now we’ve grown into having the press release service, tons of information and ebooks about game selling, members privately talking about marketing, traffic, development, and other good stuff.

I’ve just created a new ebook (4 pages: short and simple) for Insiders only and wanted to say a bit about game market research. It’s a game market research ebook and gives information about what game market research is (thus the name…) and how to actually a conduct a research. It contains some juicy tips on how big portals for example figure out games that sell well.

That’s for Insiders only.

Less sales pitch talk tomorrow.

P.S. Those of you who want to enjoy free goodies should get on the mailing list – there’s good free stuff there too.