Monthly Archives: January 2009

Only 12 Spots Left Now…

Just wanted to let you know that the fancy Insiders special offer is not going to be available for long. I’ve emailed about this offer in my newsletter, and few hundred people have read the email (and some of them are probably pondering whether to join) and few hundred more people will probably read it soon (and some of them will probably ponder whether to join).

This is one-time offer that won’t be available any more… there’s now 12 (if I counted right) spots left at the time of writing. If you’ve though about joining Insiders then now it would be a good time to save $100.

I’m bit biased to say this (you know, I’m the guy selling this service), but I honestly think that the service is way more worth than the current price (and if you’ve read any of the testimonials you’ll see that the guys who are already members agree on me with this. The cost of the service is only 5 or 6 sold copies in a year and for that you get the press release service, special resources about programming, game production, marketing, sales and much much more. Basically, it’s a good deal.

Google Apps For Game Producers (You’ve Tried?)

I recently visited the Google Apps site and realized that there’s very much stuff that game producers can use in their work. I’ve kind of overlooked the service, and merely briefly tested the calendar and gmail… but there’s more than those.

Gmail
Well, the obvious. Although recently I heard rumours that you could use your own domain when sending gmail. Worth checking out.

Google calendar
I had overlooked the ability to share and “schedule times” with people. I might want to use this for finding times for virtual meetings for example. Totally overlooked this one…

Google docs
How does “project planning & task assigning in a virtual team” sound to you?

I’ve overlooked these. Have you used the apps in game production? What’s your rating (1 out of 5 stars) for the apps? (I’m gonna test them at some point)

Insiders Special Offer: Boost Your Gaming Business (Act Before The Price Goes Up)

***NOTICE: The service is sold out for now, but feel free to get to the early bird list where I’ll inform when the service is back online.***

You don’t want to miss this chance… get publicity and boost your gaming business with the Insider membership (sweet deal inside). The Insiders service has 79 members at the time of writing. Now there’s room only for 21 18 no 16, uh, 13 more members before the price goes higher.

If you don’t know what the service is, then read this post and check more information at the nice Insiders sales pitch page.

Game press service and much more

I have seen developers spending hundred dollars for mere one press release distribution, and sometimes they work – sometimes they don’t. Indie studios don’t necessarily have the resources to send several press releases – until now. With GameRelease PR distribution tool you can get hundreds of journalists to see your story, and can distribute several stories per month.

You can use the tool to announce beta launches, major updates, game release, major business events – anything to help you get valuable traffic to your site and really create a marketing campaign for you. Getting in the news requires writing a fine press release, but with Insiders PR tool, you have more chances that your story gets picked in the news.

Basically, it can get your game to magazines like here (that’s our Highpiled game):

The service comes with several benefits:

  • Press release distribution service that helps you promote your own products. The PR service alone is well worth the price.
  • Various ebooks and practical tips ranging from marketing to sales to getting traffic to game production aid to programming tips and more.
  • Those who subscribe for the yearly fee, also get a product review in this blog (valued more than $300 by the way).

The service is being used with tens of other developers ranging from artists to programmers to game producers and so more.

Here’s some testimonials:

Bob Sterling, DX Studio:

The press release distribution service alone is worth more than the annual fee, so joining Insiders was an easy decision for us!

Aymes:

Many talented game developers gather here, and the ebooks and services provided make it very worthwhile.

Sebastien Larocque, Gaia Dream Creation:

The Insiders offers an affordable press release distribution service directly targeting the gaming industry. It is not comparable to other press release system. It also comes with many eBooks helping you to promote and develop your game business.

Robert Dowling, Pixelpickle Games:

From just one press release, distributed via Game producer.net’s services. Our game caught enough attention to be listed in most of the large online gaming sites and an interview published in a magazine. I’m looking forward to our next press release!

Maher F. Farag, Ancientsoft:

gameproducer.net is an amazing site, service and forum. It is worth every penny I spent on it and it was the best money I ever spent compared to many of its services (PR alone is more than enough). On another level the people here are professional, helpful and keeps you motivated to your target. Thanks everyone here especially Juuso for all the tips, helps, marketing and website promotion PDFs I can not give you the credit you deserve because at the end of the day and everyday you deserve more.

Masfonos, Taboo Builder:

It’s really no point to write all those same answers again so read above, it’s all true

Philip J. Ludington, Mr. Phil Games:

The thing I like about Insiders is participants are more open about their projects and problem because it isn’t broadcasted to the world. Besides there are so many fringe benefits, it is like Christmas comes four times a year.

Xavi Sánchez, Evolution Dreams Studio:

The press release service alone is more than you can expect for the money. But we think that the press release consultation is the most valuable service, as it is so hard to write a good PR focused on the important things.

Dex “DFX”, Reflective Layer:

One of the coolest things about Game Producer is its Press Release service. It announced my games on lots of gaming sites that I had trouble getting on on my own. Also the gaming business forum is another resource on Game Producer that helped me market my game.

Dave Williams, Gamertrainer.com, LLC:

Insider membership has been great for us – The press release service alone helped us nab a great interview with Techpin.com on our online video game lessons and some terrific feature articles on Techcrunch.com and Crispygamer.com. Not to mention all the great, well organized info for gaming start-ups. Juuso – thanks for the opportunity to work with your organization as well as all the personal advice and support – Gamertrainer.com is a huge fan!

Brian Meidell, The Game Equation:

The insider forums provide a noise-free environment for relevant discussion, and the press release service alone is easily worth the price.

So, basically people like it and the price is terrific. You agree with me on this, right? :)

The bottom line of my sales pitch is this:

  • The membership gives you a unique resource to learn about game production, and an unique opportunity to network with other like-minded people.
  • The service is created to help you get to the next level: to get more traffic, downloads, sales, and to help you make games more effectively.
  • By using the press release (and tips) you can get you back the money you’ve invested pretty easily. The service cost can be recouped with just only 5-6 sold copies of your game.

Need more sales?

Not a problem: simply ask around the private forums, read the ebooks and put some proven methods that will help you generate income from your work. It’s all there available for those who join.

You can save $100 by joining now

I’m raising the price to around $200 per year but for you the price is $100ish per year (or 10ish bucks per month) which equals to about 5 sold copies per year).

Think of it: with only the price of five sold copies, you’ve managed to cover the fee… and if $100 sounds too much you can choose the $9.97 monthly fee (that’s like a few less beers per month, or big hamburger meal or something else that sums up “close to nothing”)

This is the last chance to get the service for this this bargain price. When there’s 100 members, the price goes up.

This blog has tens of thousands of readers and there’s close to thousand email subscribers who are getting informed about this offer. I cannot guarantee that this offer is available for long. Only the next 21 18 16 actually now it’s 13 members get in for this price.

Join today

Take advantage of this one-time chance for discount, and click here to proceed to Order page.

Still need more info? Take a look at the Insiders page for more details.

If you have anything to ask about the membership, please feel free to ask me about the membership – I’m open to questions.

P.S. Even my dog looks amazed to see this sweet deal:

(I’m trying to be funny here you know, but I really honestly think the current price is way too low for the value the service offers – which is basically the message you can read from testimonials on this page too – and wanted to give you guys chance to exploit this offer before the price goes up. Aren’t I nice. Join today when there’s still spots to take)

P.P.S. Remember to forward me your paypal receipt and tell me your forum username, so I can activate the account (should happen within about 24 hours from the order)

P.P.P.S (Edit: Orders started coming in, now there’s not room for 21 but 18 more. I’ll be activating those accounts as soon as possible, and updating the figure as we go… EDIT 2: As I was writing that last sentence one more order came, so now we are down to 16 more spots… EDIT 3: Checking stats before going to sleep, now there’s only 13 spots left)

Leadwerks Engine Review (Great Tool For 3D Development)

Josh (the Leadwerks creator) gave me a free copy of his Leadwerks gaming engine. I normally don’t have much use for game engine licenses, but after hearing that Leadwerks is a BlitzMax compliant (basically offers a Blitz3D like syntax, and state of art 3D capabilities) I decided to give it a test run.

I was hooked. (And nowadays using it for 3D game development)

Brief overview
Before going deeper in the review, I must say that Leadwerks engine is 5 our of 5 star engine for indie/casual games development. You can use BlitzMax or C, C++ to program it (C# and Delphi are community supported). Leadwerks offers great rendering capabilities with cool looking shadows and lights.

I’m using Leadwerks with BlitzMax which let me write games for Windows. Anyone who has Blitz3D background will be delighted to see that the rendering syntax is very close to Blitz3D commands.

Video says more than thousand pictures, so check out the system.

I have been using Leadwerks for less than a few months, but I can warmly recommend the system to anybody who wants to create 3D games. Especially those who have used Blitz3D should immediately step into using Leadwerks.

The good, bad and ugly
There aren’t much things that I could say were ‘ugly’, but there are some good and bad points. Here’s my thoughts on these. On a good side:

  • Very easy syntax (very Blitz3D like)
  • Object-oriented: Blitz3D like syntax doesn’t mean that Leadwerks wasn’t about using object oriented coding practises. After all, it’s a framework that can be programmed using BlitzMax for example.
  • Beginner-friendly forums (there are members who are willing to help people)
  • Ready enough for creating 3D applications (as far as I’m concerned, it’s possible to create 3D game with the engine, without need to think “when certain features will be finished”)
  • Documentation is okay (I’d say it’s sufficient, and if you own Blitz3D, you can actually use Blitz3D online documentation too to some extent)
  • Tutorials (decent amount, enough to get you started)
  • Features: lighting, materials, shaders, ok asset management, decent art pipeline, physics, audio, terrain system)
  • Performance: it’s superb fast.
  • Frequent updates: the engine is getting patched in frequent basis.
  • Tools such as the Sandbox editor is great for example to artists
  • Price: at the time of writing it’s only $150 which in my opinion is dirt cheap compared to the deal you get (it could easily be $300 or $400 or even more). I don’t know, but my guess is that this price will go up at some point when Josh figures it out that he could be asking for higher price :)

I’ve mentioned that performance is fast, and here’s one small example that proves it. I was testing to have 200 different textured, shadowed zombies all animating in their own sequences (they are individually animated, even though on this video they are all in sync) and was able to see smooth FPS rates. My estimation is that when there’s particle effects, different materials and other game logic added we are still talking about at least 50-100 different zombie meshes to be seen on the screen simultaneously (and please notice that this is only on-screen, there can possibly be hundreds of more off-screen where they aren’t rendered). Here’s the video for you to check out:

Then some cons, since there’s always the dark side with everything:

  • Content pipeline requires a bit effort to get used to (only .GMF are supported, but exporters are provided to get models from various formats such as .3DS, .B3D and many many others)
  • The asset file sizes can grow big, since the asset mechanism uses file name to identifier meshes. For example, I have one zombie mesh in my Dead Wake game, but 10 different materials/textures. I could not paint different materials on different zombies meshes, but needed to first create separate files (zombie1.gmf, zombie2.gmf etc.) to be able to assign materials. This isn’t a big deal if you don’t need this type of system, but it means the file sizes can grow quite big.
  • Strict license: you should check out the terms before buying. Now there are some restrictions if you want to make your game moddable.
  • Attitude on the community forums: sometimes it feels that there’s some quite young developers with the Right Opinions… and sometimes it feels that it’s bit of “my way or highway” style of threads. I suppose this happens in any forums, and while the overall apperance is pretty positive I’d say there’s some negativity on the forums too.
  • Compatibility: Leadwerks requires Shader Model 3.0 which means that some older cards won’t work (according to Steam hardware survey we are roughly talking about range of “50-60% of computers can handle” it – roughly speaking, since there’s no direct data about SM 3.0. This figure is approximation at the time of writing. The good news of course is that this percentage gets better all the time)

Overall I’d say the none of these ‘bad sides’ are really that bad (well, except the compatibility if you were dreaming of creating 3D games for older computers). I’ve managed to deal with all of these in my project, so I’d say people should simply try the engine and see if it works for them. All engines have some problems, and to my thinking Leadwerks engine has no single major flaw.

Bottom line
This has been quite of praise for the Leadwerks engine, and that’s simply because I think the engine is very good option especially for indie developers (the price is low, the quality is very high) who want to create 3D games. Developers with Blitz3D background (like me) are pleasantly surprised to see such familiar syntax.

Beginner developers have a gentle learning curve in the game development (if you know BlitzMax, then you have no problems with Leadwerks) although I think it’s perhaps not ideal for starting development since there’s vectors and materials and other things that might confuse total newbies.

More advanced users find it a very good solution for a gaming engine solution that’s easily expanded (you can create your own networking lib for example, by using BlitzMax or C++) if you have the skills. The performance is excellent, so making a nice 3D game is no longer about tools, it’s about the guy using the tool.

I very much recommend Leadwerks engine for all game developers who have a bit of programming experience and wish to start making 3D games.

I Don’t Get This Big Fish Games Logic… (Their Employees Cannot Help Selling Their Games?)

Jake- a friend, business contact, and a guy I respect for his experience in the casual gaming industry – mentioned that he is no longer selling affiliate games on his site.

He recently moved to Big Fish Games working there making games (it’s bit similar as you would work indie style making games, except they pay you during the development…). In his contract it says that he cannot no longer promote affiliate games in his website due “anti-compete clause” in his contract. Jake had been using both Reflexive and Big Fish Games affiliate system.

In Jake’s post he says “…in order to work for Big Fish Games I’ve had to remove all affiliate games from my website. This is due to an anti-compete clause in my contract with BFG”

I understand the logic if it was only about getting rid of Reflexive games.

But I really wonder why Jake could not keep selling Big Fish Games?

  • How come it’s “competitive” if Jake sells Big Fish Games and gets % of profits?
  • If it’s competitive, then shouldn’t they stop the system so that all their affiliates would not be “competing” with them?
  • Why don’t Big Fish Games want their own employees to promote their company via affiliate system?
  • Are they planning to get rid of their sales teams who are getting profits for sale, so that they wouldn’t be competing with Big Fish Games?

Seriously, I don’t get this logic.

People sell BFG games, and get 25% profit.

Employees try sell BFG games, they are shown “anti-competitive” clause in the contract.

Sounds like… bit odd?

Maybe I’m missing something?

Is It Really Casual Clone Wars? (No, Not About Star Wars This Time)

In this week I’ve been browsing different casual games out of interest. I checked some games that were put to time management and hidden object. Downloaded and gave a test run.

Simply testing the demos made me think how is it possible that these games are so similar (and new games are coming out daily). Naturally there are gaps in how well polished the games are, but still if you look at the top 5 hidden objects game, you can see that the game mechanism (ranging from when they tell story, when you can click stuff, when you can get hints and so on) is almost identical. It’s almost like only the skin changes.

(Anybody remember the times when every hardcore gamer was saying how “first person shooters are clones”…)

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining or saying that this would be a bad thing. Casual games are getting bigger and bigger market, and people are buying those games. I’m simply wondering how this can be?

How is it possible that almost every new casual game looks very similar to one top selling game there already is? At some point everybody was doing 3-match games, then it was the time of Betty’s Beer Bar (Diner Dash) time management games. Now the hidden object games. And mix of these.

Is it really so that it’s all clone wars?

Or will somebody figure out another new “casual genre”, and then somebody else makes it bit better & sells big time.

I wonder how it’s come to this point, and what the next big innovation is.

Your thoughts?

When Did Syberia 2 Became a Casual Game?

Syberia II has been released and is now available at Big Fish Games. I remember testing Syberia’s first version when it was launched some years ago. I find it quite amazing that this adventure game is now published in a casual games portal.

Syberia 1 required quite a lot of time & effort to get you going anywhere. Syberia 2 is 1.16 GB big (quite a big size for a casual game!), but I suppose times change – and games gotta change too.

At some point I thought that adventure games will raise their heads through casual games… and maybe that’s what happening here.

Things are evolving.

Have You Ever Been Assigned to Do Useless Tasks? (Here’s How You Can Fight Back)

When team leads come to say that they need something. Then later they complain why the artist gave them something else (something that wasn’t what the lead want). Then they go and tell what needs to be changed and the artist asks “Why didn’t you say that in the first place?”, to which the team lead says “geesh, you didn’t ask!” and goes away. Then the grumpy artist thinks that “well, I would have asked if you bloody moron could have told me that there will be other changes as well…”

Hopefully that above situation isn’t too familiar to you.

Dogbert’s management book says to the managers that “If the worker cannot understand what you say then the fault must of course be in the receiving end”. That probably won’t help anything, but there is actually one thing the “worker” can do:

Keep asking ‘why?’
When somebody gives you a task it doesn’t hurt if you sometimes start asking a sequence of “why” questions. It can actually help the team lead (or client or whoever is giving the assignment) to figure out what they really want. They might be fixed on certain way of thinking, that they’ve forgotten why they really want the stuff they are asking.

Producer could say that he wants the 3D artist to make sure model has finger bones. By asking “why” (and not assuming that “it’s because he wants animated fingers”), he might tell you that “later when we assign objects like rings to the character, we can use the finger bone to locate the proper place”. Here artist could say that “we don’t need bones to locate the ring, we can use other technique” or he could say that “why don’t we simply paint a ring texture in proper location, that would work”, to which producer would say “oh… true… nevermind then”.

The key is to ask why they want something.

The answers can sometimes be very surprising.

Why Write ‘Remember to…’ In Reminder Notes?

Do you assign tasks to people? Task that say something like “Remember to do this and that”.

The funny thing is, that the note is already a reminder. There’s no need to write “Remember to”. If the note would say “Do this and that”, I think we’d have enough information to proceed.

I can’t figure out this. Why write “Remember to”?