It’s My Birthday Today (And The Dishwasher Lesson)

It’s 28th day and I’m 28 years old now. I thought to look back and see some lessons I’ve learned during this time. I know I’ve wrote a bit about game production in this blog during the last few years, so I’ll give some bit different thoughts & comments… mainly on something else than game development.

1981
It’s good to be born on a day when it’s a national ‘put the flags on those poles’ day. That way everytime it’s my birthday, they put flags on poles. Makes a good story, plus helps you remember when your birthday is.

1982
Cry baby.

1986
Getting your eye burnt from a broken lamp (or something) isn’t exactly a good idea.

Good lesson though.

(No, I don’t look like a zombie today (I think), and didn’t lose my eye or anything like. It was one of those child things that happens to boys when they run too fast or something, and then the wound heals at some point. I personally don’t remember the incident but I’ve seen pics where my eye/head was partially… well close to black.)

1987
It’s good to dream. I had this vision that “some day I’m able to write & speak English” (after listening to one young 6-year old Finnish boy speaking “American language”). I wanted to do that too.

1989
Those older big bullies are only as tough as you think they are.

1991
Coding is sooo cool. Commodore 64 had awesome graphics. Amazing toy.

1992
Pen & paper role playing games don’t equal to satan worshipping.

1995
Being a skinny tall guy rocks. Why give a rat’s ass about what others think about your appearance?

1996
There’s only two types of logic: “wrong” and “women’s”.

I had to do the dishes on one school class and I asked the (woman) teacher how hot the “soap water” in the left side sink needs to be? She said “as hot as possible”.

I did as was told, and after that I poured “clean water” in the right side sink (to wash that “soap water” away from the dishes) and asked “and how hot this needs to be?”

She replied: “even hotter”.

To this I replied: “but umm… if the water on the left is ‘as hot as possible’ how come the water on the right can be ‘hotter’”?

I never got a reply (and that question still puzzles me nowadays), but apparently that’s not the point. The Dishwashers Rule Is: do you want to be right, or do you want to get home the time when others are leaving since you smart ass will be staying late.

1998
Bridge (the card game) is not only for old ladies. It’s a bloody nice game, and beating those old ‘masters’ in a local tournament is awesome.

2000
“The Day of Peace” is a good day to get away from the army (we have mandatory at least 6 months military training here in Finland. It means mainly eating loads, doing what other people told you and then eat more). Makes a good story you can tell some day.

Like today.

2001
It’s all relative. Some people say that city (area) of 140 000 citizens (counting all the near towns too) is small… but moving from a town of 1 400 citizens to a city of 140 000 citizens makes a difference.

It’s good to have somebody to help you out in the new place where you are moving to.

2004
Getting married & being in marriage works fine if you just remember The Modified Dishwasher Rule: do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy? (same rule can be applied to workplaces & friends as well)

2005
Founding a company has a big meaning mentally. Even if it means just filing some papers, it also means a change in how your mind works.

2006 and later…
See here.

2008
As smart as I think I am, I’m still a human and I can be brainwashed to do stuff based on emotions. Yep, that’s true. I’m not invincible even though I think I am. Even though I “think the opposite” and “am independent” and “wise” and “smart” and “logical” and “sensible” and who knows whatever megalomaniac thoughts I have, I still do stupid stuff like: buy stuff that I have absolutely no use. I’m brainwashed and people are messing with my mind and making me do stuff they want… From this, I realize that to get people to do stuff you want, you gotta affect them on an emotional level.

Any game producer can try logically convince his teammates to do stuff – but if they aren’t emotionally convinced, it just won’t work. (And I’m not suggesting that you try manipulating anybody, that’s not a good long-term solution nor short-term solution and probably just backfires big time). I’m just trying to make a point here that whatever logic says, the real big decisions are made on an emotional level – and that game producers should be aware of this side and they should not focus too much on the logical level.

And no, I’m not going to use give you any logical reason why this is so, and I’m not going to try give you any logical arguments why this is so.

If you disagree me, that’s totally cool. I have no plans to argue about this: I’ve gone through the Dishwasher Rule. That’s enough experience for me.

2009
Amazing how the time flies when you are having fun.

Cheers everybody!

P.S. If you really want to get me a birthday present that’s totally cool. There’s plenty of room here in our flat for all kinds of stuff. Amazon wishlist stuff has books I could use and of course I’m open to offers via email in case you want to give me something. Not that I would beg or anything.

My Amazon.com Wish List

Skype Spam!

Now it happened. I just received my first Skype spam message. Somebody speaking Spanish (I think it was Spanish) sent me a few messages with loads of smilies. I was like… “whadda heck?”

I mean… how did they got my contact details? I know it’s public in the Skype database, but there’s like billion zillion contact details. What kind of spam bot they have that can dig the info, add me as their contact and send me series of messages.

Technically I’m sure it’s doable, but I wonder what Skype company is going to do to prevent this stuff.

Anyone else got attacked by Skype spammers?

The Top iPhone Game Development Resources For Beginners

This post is for myself. I wanted to get some information about how to do iPhone games and what resources I should read to get familiar with this stuff. After digging a long hole in the Internet I found some gold – so to speak.

Of course after finding this stuff for myself, I also made it available to you guys. In fact, you can also participate and share your own iPhone findings.

Here’s the list of resources you gotta check out if you want to know more about iPhone game development:

iPhone development tools:

  • Unity offers an iPhone development solution.
  • iTorque is a development tool by Garage Games.
  • Cocos 2D – framework for building 2D game (thanks Totty)
  • Oolong Engine – for 3D games (thanks shadhex)
  • ShiVa – iPhone development tool by Stone Trip (thanks Daniel)
  • iPhone Game Kit – “make your iPhone game in 24 hours” (thanks Nicol├ís)

iPhone blogs:

  • Tap Tap Tap iPhone blog – Haven’t checked it much, but seemed like a decent iPhone blog (with some sales numbers too) that might be worth bookmarking.
  • Shadhex blog, “mainly about iPhone programming”. It’s a new site but we’ll see if it grows larger

iPhone news, sites and nice (plus some not so nice) stories:

And here’s much more:

That’s it folks.

Feel free to share your own iPhone resources in the blog entry comments.

How Long Will That Take? (How to Figure Out What Estimations Really Mean)

One of the first elements I got really interested about project management and scheduling was estimations. I remember doing some university papers about estimations many, many years ago. For some reason I was really interested about(1) estimating how much time doing some stuff takes and (2) how much time it really took.

(Writing that down makes me feel little stupid now that I think of this…)

Anyway, estimations. I wrote earlier about using points in estimations, but points have a tiny flaw: developers might feel that they don’t know what a “point” really means. Because of that, it can be useful to use term “day” instead of a point. (Or a “development day”). Nothing changes, except you just call points as “day” (or “development days”)

I know some “agile gurus” will argue that this is bad behavior, but what I like to do is to try things in practice and see what happens. With points, there’s also problems – and one problem is that it might be difficult to really understand points and their relative sizes.

So, now we can use a “day” in our estimates. One team (of 8 guys) could have a following estimates:

  • Level big boss, 20 days
  • 3 new weapons, 10 days
  • Exploding barrel, 5 days
  • Minimap, 8 days

Total of 43 days.

Now, after one calendar month of work they end up finishing things in following times:

  • Level big boss, 55 days
  • 3 new weapons, 30 days
  • Exploding barrel, 9 days
  • Minimap, 22 days

Total of 116 days spent in these, and they are finished. Team has used 160 days in this one month (after taking account all the breaks, sick days and so on), so their velocity (or “how much stuff they can do per month”) is 43 (development) days – the estimated work amount. The next month they finish stuff worth 51 (development) days, and 47 the month after that.

Now, after a few months we can see this team of 8 guys (who work 160 days per month) can finish tasks worth close to 47 (development) days. We can also calculate that estimation of 1 day equals to 3.40 real days (taking into account everything extra goes to meetings, hiring, discussions, bug fixing and so on).

I won’t go into detail about how the estimations could be done (that’s a topic for some other blog posts), and won’t go into detail about the possible problems of this style (and how they can be solved) in this blog post, but the basic idea is that you keep estimating tasks (and make sure that the relative sizes are proper: you want to make sure that your estimations are in line with each others) and then track the “total amount of days the team members have done”.

From these numbers it gets easier to give estimates. From these figures you can see what estimations really mean in a long run. For this team, a 5 day task really means close to 17 days of work (taking into account everything) on average.

Random News (Couple of Cool Gaming Links)

I’m going through some of the links I’ve wanted to visit… and thought to share. Check out:

  • Great Indie games pack (5 super games for $10). Thanks Lamonte for the tip. Awesome games. Go buy them.
  • CamSpace brings Wii like interactivity to Flash gaming (I suppose it could work with other than Flash too… Pretty neat eh?)
  • Metacritic analysis If Metacritic stats interest you at all, this guy posted a few video reports you may find insightful. Included are comparisons of Metacritic to Gamerankings, & Gamestats, as well as exploring their weighting system. Specifically, how pervasive the weights are, point spreads, and some trend analysis from 2000 to 2008.

Enjoy.

P.S. The super secret game producer manual will be sent to the mailing list subscribers as soon as I get one thing confirmed from one of the producers. (And if you’ve subscribed to my mailing list earlier, you need to do nothing – I’ll email it to you asap).

Unwell Mel (Match-3 Games Can Climb Up On Charts)

Jake let me knew about his latest game, Unwell Mel. It has climbed the BFG charts and is now on 14th (+7 higher than yesterday I believe).

The game looks polished, has a funny theme and has ideas worth stealing (for example: there’s no map, instead you “cure” Mel as you complete levels). Good job on the game and hopefully the game climbs even higher in the top sellers list.

I hadn’t really paid too much attention to Match-3 type of games, but looks like they can still be pretty good sellers (that’s another thing worth considering for anybody who is into game making).

Take a look at the Unwell Mel.

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Quick Q&A Session With Cliff Harris (6-Figure Sales In Year 2008)

Cliff Harris from Positech was interviewed at the Anawiki few weeks ago (thanks guys for that). That interview made me think about asking a few more questions about the year 2008 (and more) from Cliff.

Here’s the interview:

Juuso: Your direct sales were about $200,000 in year 2008. Looking back 5 years, did you see this coming?
Cliff: 5 years ago I didn’t expect to be selling this many, but I didn’t expect to be so stupidly busy either, or work this many hours!

Juuso: And how many hours actually work weekly?
Cliff: I work probably 9-10 hours a day weekdays probably 60-65 hours a week.

Juuso: Do you have a role model or somebody who has really helped you to reach the success you enjoy today?
Cliff: Most of my role models have nothing to do with business. I just like people that are not only good at what they do, but so amazingly better than everyone else that they almost make you give up. That’s mostly musicians for me, like Jordan Rudess or Mike Portnoy. Also I’m a big fan of Derren Brown. Business wise, 2DBoy are doing exactly what I want to do, and Stardock are quite an inspiration too.

Juuso: Great to hear that. As you are a one man studio, have you considered hiring programmers or marketers or other people to work for you?
Cliff: I am considering getting programming help right now, but finding the right person will be very hard.

Juuso: (Heh, good luck!). Now, let’s move to the actual sales: What were your bestselling games in year 2008?
Cliff: Best seller of 2008 was Democracy 2. partly because it was an election year, and the new game that year wasn’t released until October.

Juuso: How much traffic your site gets monthly?
Cliff: I get about 120,000 page views and 50,000 visits a month

Juuso: How much you use your newsletter for marketing?
Cliff: I don’t use my newsletter much. I neglect it to be honest. I think it’s more helpful if you release a lot of games in a single year.

Juuso: What about your affiliate sales?
Cliff: My affiliate sales are no big, but I affiliate my games and sell other peoples mainly so that indies stick together and help each other out. It’s more of a social decision than a business one.

Juuso: Year 2009 started with a new ‘portal pricing’ – what do you think about that?
Cliff: I think lumping all games together in the same price is just lazy and silly and loses everyone money. Any developer making a game worth more than that price should have the price raised or quit that portal. This is what I’ve done.

Juuso: And what kind of indie games will sell in year 2009?
Cliff: In 2009 the games that sell will be original IPs. Stuff like World Of Goo or Aquaria, Mount’n’Blade or Dwarf Fortress.

Juuso: Thanks for this quick Q&A session.
Cliff: Thanks.

Remember to check out (and bookmark) Cliff’s blog at Positech website.

Putting a Deadline Is Not Impossible (It’s Pretty Easy Actually)

Lamonte pointed out that putting a deadline (or meeting the deadline) in reality is nearly impossible. Projects are late, so putting a deadline does no good.

I have a pretty confusing on this opinion. I totally agree and totally disagree with it.

First of all, I agree on this because often in the real world all the features are fixed: you simply need to do certain features and thus it’s practically impossible to set a deadline (and might be foolish to do so), instead the best you can do is to give a rough estimation about when the project could be complete.

On the other hand I disagree that it would be impossible to set a deadline and meet it.

I think in reality the deadlines are missed because managers/publishers/sales people/producers/you-name-it have promised certain features (and more), in certain time (or less) and that your project can use only certain amount of money (or hopefully less). Meeting the deadline is impossible because for some reason all the 3 elements: features (quality), deadline (time) and resources (money) are fixed – which can be impossible equation.

It’s bit like saying that:
- You need to go 100 meters in 5 seconds.

That’s practically impossible to reach I think. But, if we could agree to change those 100 meters to 10 meters, I’m sure we could do that. Or, if we could get 50 seconds to go those 100 meters – no problem. Or, if it’s not “me” who needs to do this, but instead we could get a brand new Ferrari that’s going full speed, going 100 meters in 5 seconds would be no problem.

According to this, having a fixed deadline is not impossible. It simply means that we might need to use more money (hire more people, get better equipment etc.) or that we reduce features (and have lower product quality).

Setting a deadline is more than possible if we decide to have one, in fact – I think it’s very easy: you just pick a date, and that’s it.

After that, it’s a matter of decisions. If we want to stick with that date, and if we agree that the certain date is the fixed piece, then the other elements (money and quality) will need to reflect this.

In my opinion, having a deadline is not impossible. It’s more like a choice.