Casual Game File Sizes Sure Have Gone Up! (Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst)

I checked out system requirements for the new Big Fish Games product: Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst (which can be bought for as low as $6,99 – see info here). This game has low system requirements (Window, 800 Mhz, DX 7.0), but the file is is 290 megs (and about 90 megs for the demo).

I’m pretty sure Big Fish Games knows what they are doing here, so I suppose the “good old 20 meg file size limit” can be forgotten. If 90 meg demos are fine, and 290 megs full versions okay, I think we developers can stop worrying too much about the file sizes of downloadable games.

Mystery Case Files: Return to Ravenhearst looks pretty good, and if you want to get 50% discount on the price, please use coupon code RAVEN50 (available until 27th of December).

How Not to Sell Stuff

Today I got a phone call from some guy who was asking for the person who “is in charge for marketing” in my company. At that point my brain told me to click the red button to end the call, but of course I didn’t do that… the guy started saying that he just needs to update my information in their website catalog.

I managed to ask their site URL, and checked it (looked ok). Again I thought that there’s something fishy, but the guy just kept saying how he’ll just want to make sure the information is correct. He mentioned my company name, street address, phone number etc. and I said that all seemed to be correct. I even gave site URL, and finally… just before the was about to end the call he said. “We charge 40 euro for updates, have a nice…” – to which I interrupted by saying “I’m not going to pay that”.

His tone of voice changed a bit and he asked me “What, so you are going to stay outside this?”. I said “That’s right Watson” (okay, I didn’t say “Watson” but I now I hope I had). Then he started saying how they are getting “click tracking and whatnot and then he repeated if I really want to miss this opportunity”. I said “Yep, that’s correct” (I wish I had said “Yep, that’s correct grasshopper”).

Then he hang up (not sure if we said “bye”) to which I said “(poo)hole” out loud. (I wish I hadn’t…).

Anyway, I think there’s lessons here:

1) I actually think that this type of “hide the fee in the end” will increase their conversion rate. People who bother to take time to give their details feel like “I have wasted my time if I don’t pay this now” (I felt like “I have wasted my time, and am I about to waste my money too?”). I think it’s ugly tactic, but I could estimate that this works better than saying in the beginning “We have this 40 eur program, are you interested?”. Might work better in terms of conversion, but gives an ugly feeling. It’s almost like scamming people to buy.

2) I’m going to ask “are you trying to sell something?” whenever somebody calls me…

Switch To BlitzMax (and Leadwerks)

I’ve been using Blitz3D to develop the couple of newest Dead Wake versions, but recently decided to finally switch to BlitzMax (and Leadwerks). Since I have strong background in BASIC languages (started with C64 Basic, then QBasic, Visual Basic, Blitz 3D’s basic and now finally BlitzMax’s basic like syntax) this feels like a natural progression from me. I feel completely familiar with BlitzMax (which I could not say about C++ nor C#, although there are many similarities in BlitzMax). With Object Oriented programming support (to pretty good extent), BlitzMax feels like a good choice.

The couple of weeks I’ve spent learning the tools has given me idea about the tools and I must say that I should have listened to those people who mentioned this option earlier… Anyway, what’s done is done, and now I’m working on to get Dead Wake ported to BlitzMax. Basically this means also refactoring some existing code, dropping some things away and doing some new stuff.

I’m using Leadwerks game engine which is absolutely awesome (something that you really need to go and buy right away. It’s dirt cheap compared to stuff it has). I will do a lengthy review about the Leadwerks qualities in the nearly future, but basically it has almost everything I need for my Dead Wake zombie game and since I can program using BlitzMax, I feel like I’m home.

I did a small stress test to see how well it works. Here’s 200 separately animated zombies (even though they all animate the same frames), with lighting, shadows – and all plays smoothly. In terms of gameplay this is important, since after I get the physics, particles, scenery, AI, etc. in game, I expect to see about 50-100 simultaneously zombies on screen. I think there aren’t many zombie games (Dead Rising comes to my mind) that would have this many zombies simultaneously on screen. In terms of gameplay that’s an important factor. Here’s the clip:

I’m pleased with the result and feel good about taking this step forward into a more advanced tools that I can use well with my skills. Anybody looking into 3D game development engine and easy-to-use tools should check out BlitzMax and Leadwerks engine.

Thoughts After 3 Years And Thousand Blog Posts

Exactly three years (and 1000 blog posts) ago I wrote my first blog post ever. I had this idea about writing short, practical tips for game developers. Here’s what I wrote:

This is a blog about independent game development. This blog is for those who are just starting their indie career (and maybe sometimes for those industry veterans to remind them…). You’ll find information about how to start making games, how to market them, how to get more (or any) sales, how to design your game. And besides technological issues there’s also topics about personal growth which – as I see it – is very important for young and old entrepreneurs.

This is a blog about game development – from a game developer.

1000 posts later I feel like I’m obligated to say something smart here, but instead of trying too hard I’ll say how I feel. For starters, I think that statement made 3 years ago is still valid. Even though I’ve gone through a long way (at least I feel that I know bit more stuff I knew at that time) from where I was 3 years ago I still think those topics are important and in the heart of this blog. Sure, I’ve also made other plans and additions (ranging from sales stats, to setting up forums, to AAA producer round tables to interviews and more), but overall the blog theme still is going around the game development – and also about some personal traits and habits that producers can benefit from.

I’ll do my best to keep the ad stuff minimum, and do my best to publish more quality articles, and I’ll put as much effort as possible to get more sales statistics and write more about my experiences in game production also for the next 3 years.

Thanks everybody who has been reading this blog, and thanks everybody for your support and comments. All the good, bad and ugly feedback is always welcome. All this helps me keep motivated to write more, and write more about the right things. It’s so rewarding to get feedback saying how some of you have benefited from reading this blog, and it’s so good to get also bit “nastier” feedback since then I’ve know I’ve hit someones nerve ;)

Looking forward to seeing you here also in the future (which reminds me: subscribe to my newsletter so that you’ll remember to come back here…)

Amazing how the time runs so fast when you are having fun.

Are You Familiar With Clay Graphics…

Anthony Flack, one crazy (in a good way) indie game developer has been “animating” clay (yes, you read correctly: clay) graphics in his game. In his blog entry he mentions that this is indeed a clay-animated game. Which means that all the graphics in the game are made from real clay models – they are NOT CG renders made to look like clay. (I wonder how much time it has taken…)

Didn’t see that coming.

Take a look at that blog. The pics are awesome.

What Kind of 3D Models You’d Need? (Content Pack Under Construction)

Friend of mine (expert 3d artist in my opinion) said he’s going to prepare a model pack (3d characters) and I agreed to help him get some information about what sort of models & animations he could start doing.

The guy can do really slick looking 3d models & animations, so if you want to say your opinion about what kind of models the first pack should contain, please tell your suggestions. I already told him that I’d be after a “general 3d model” (and then of course several zombie textures ;)) and different type of movements and some animations.

So, what kind of 3d models (and animations/textures) you’d want? Fantasy? Modern? Sci-fi? World war style? Monsters? Humans? What kind of textures? Cute? Horror?

Here’s Robert’s reel from 2007 (also including work from 2008):

This Little Big Thing Is Getting On My Nerves

During the last weeks I’ve been checking out how BlitzMax works and done little bit of coding (setting up things to port my project to BlitzMax, that’s another story to which I won’t go in this blog post). There’s one tiny thing in BlitzMax that’s getting bit annoying.

The default editor uses Control+Arrow keyboard shortcuts in a really different way than one might expect. When you are editing some text and you press Control+Right Arrow in your keyboard, you’d expect that your cursor moves to the end of the next word. Instead of moving your cursor, BlitzMax IDE opens the next tabbed file there is. It didn’t take me more than 10-20 minutes to get annoyed about this “feature”.

I wonder why they wanted to torture me like this. What bad have I ever done to them? I can bear with all the bugs and delays, but ruining my IDE can’t be forgiven. (Well, luckily you can use other IDEs so you aren’t stuck with the default one – and besides, as far as I know, it might be even possible to change those keyboard shortcuts somehow.)

Funny how such a small thing can have such a big meaning. I suppose the lesson here is that one should follow certain existing & well-working guidelines when doing user interfaces.

On the good side: I really enjoy all the stuff that BlitzMax has – with my long Blitz3D background, moving into BMax looks so far really, really simple. And all the juicy Object Oriented stuff is there! Maybe I’ll forgive this tiny UI glitch after all…

My 2 Cents on Getting a Job As a Game Producer

I’ve been asked some insight on how to get a job as a game producer. While I have not worked as a producer in a “big gaming company”, I have discussed this topic with other producers, some guys have got inspiration through this blog (and got a producer job) and I’ve got job offers, also from a “big gaming company” so I think I can provide some insight on this matter.

I’m not going to say how to write your resume, but here’s some tips on getting a job.

Show rather than tell
I’ve been involved in recruiting processes and one thing that really catches my eye are “portfolios”. If you can show that you’ve finished games, involved in projects or done something relevant in gaming (like writing a programming blog) then show that to others. If you have done a game, show that (or a short video for example) and tell how you were involved in that project.

See how other producers have got their jobs
We had a lengthy interview about breaking in the industry and if you haven’t checked that (at least 3 times) it’s about time to do so. From that blog entry you’ll get pretty much all the crucial information about getting a job.

Ask for the job
One guy once emailed me how he got inspired about game production after reading this blog, and he said that this gave him the spark to ask for a job. Luckily, he got a job as an associate producer and enjoys every moment. Nobody is going to knock your door and offer you a job unless you actually do something.

Start a blog and write until your fingers bleed until you get a job offer
That’s how I did it (except that I actually continued writing since I never accepted a job…). I knew about game production much less 3 years ago than I know today, but that didn’t stop me from starting. I simply started writing (since I enjoy doing this), learnt helluva lot and slowly things started to move forward and lots of good stuff happened.

Word of warning though: no point doing anything that isn’t fun. If you don’t like writing about your project (and related stuff), then writing a blog does no good. Instead, you could start doing games on monthly basis (like Petri at Kloonigames whose got loads of success thanks at least partly to his experiments) and write blog entries about those games.

The key, I think, is to simply start taking steps towards your goal of getting a job. And keep doing that until you get your producer job.