When Stuff Doesn’t Wokr, People Might Not Tell You About It

Some time ago I tried using ‘popup’ system for Newsletter subscription. I had changed the settings so that each visitor would see the popup only once.

Apparently there was something wrong, since some people got annoyed and stopped reading the blog feed (without me realizing this). I accidentally heard the feedback while asking something else at the Indiegamer boards. Thank god these guys let me knew about the issue there – otherwise it might have been long time before I would have realized this. Now I removed the popup (and will figure out some other way to put the newsletter in a prominent place).

When some stuff is wrong, people don’t necessarily let you know about it. Instead, they just might stop using it. It’s better not to assume. It’s better to ask around. Use forums or something, but get some feedback when trying new stuff.

By the way, it’s bit odd that the headline of this blog post accidentally got written like that…

Here’s Your (Free) Super Secret Game Producer Manual

I’m finalizing a Top Secret (short) manual where several top notch producers share some crucial info about the most important objectives game producer’s have. Harvard Bonin (formerly EA, Nowadays at Sony), Justin D’Onofrio (Freeverse), and possibly a few other AAA producers (I’ll list their names here when I’ve finished discussing with them) are sharing this info.

All you need to do is to subscribe to my mailing list, and I’ll send you the secret stuff as soon we finish the ebook (should be done within some days):

Mailing list

You can unsubscribe any time you want, by clicking a link in any email you get from me. Your email won’t be shared with anybody, and when you subscribe to my mailing list I’ll send you some good (free) ebooks to start with. I’m using the mailing list to give you good stuff you might be interested in (like once per month or something). You get good stuff. Your privacy is guaranteed. You can leave anytime if you want. All fair and square.

P.S. If you’ve already subscribed, you don’t need to do anything to get this manual.

21 Things That Will Help You Finish Your Game

From what I’ve experienced in my own game development, and from what I’ve seen in different boards, finishing a game can prove to be pretty difficult. Here’s my 21 recipes to aid if you want to finish your game (I’ve used all of them earlier, and currently using many of these. They do seem to work).

#1 – Get the tools you need
This might sound really basic, but I think it’s really important and worth mentioning. In order to finish your game, you gotta have the right tools. If you need some libraries, then get them. If you need to get some new software, get it. If you need a better mouse or drawing board, get them. If you need a better monitor, or new video cards, get them.

Get everything that you really need. (Reading How to create your first game might be useful too).

#2 – Simplify your design
This one is a big deal. Read carefully. I believe that we all have massive amount of ideas about what our game could be. In fact, I think there might not be a limit to all the features we might want to add. It’s easy to become a feature creep and keep adding and polishing new stuff over and over. (Don’t get me wrong: it’s okay to polish your game)

…but at some point you gotta think what is really important. What features are really worth developing.

If this means cutting some features or simplifying your design, then don’t be afraid to do that.

#3 – Have a deadline
Some companies publish games on basis ‘when it’s done’ and I presume that’s okay if you have unlimited funds. The rest of the world might need to think a bit about the financials too. If this means putting a deadline, then don’t be afraid to do so. I aim for a certain (unannounced) deadline in my own game development, and I might move it a bit to get some features (we’ll see) but still I have one.

It helps you to focus, when you have some sort of idea about the deadline. I’m not saying that it would necessarily need to be written in stone: you can always become more specific as the time passes and as you see how the development goes (for example, you could start your development by saying “comes out in year 2009″, then in March you could say “comes out Q3/2009″ and in July you can say “will be released on September 2009″).

#4 – Have several smaller milestones/deadlines
This one is a big thing too. It’s an excellent motivator to have smaller deadlines. In my own development I’ve used “a new release every couple of months (on average)” and while there’s certain problems with public development, I’ve noticed that it’s good way for motivation to have clear smaller milestones & deadlines, and not just one big deadline.

#5 – Stop fooling around
Okay, many developers do stupid stuff that has nothing to do with game project progress (been there, done that… and will probably do so in the future). That stuff won’t help you finish your game.

If you wanna finish your game, you gotta stop (or at least reduce) all sorts of unnecessary crap that you’ve piled for yourself.

I let you ponder more what I mean by this tip.

#6 – Get rid of the unimportant
If there’s some unimportant tasks, assignments, or “stuff” that’s blocking your development… then like get rid of it.

Okay?

#7- Figure out what’s taking loads of your time
Somebody or something is stealing your time.

I don’t know who or what it is (my blog perhaps?) but I’m certain you have something that steals your time. You probably already know where you waste time. It might be simple as email or tv.

Whatever it is, figure it out… and eliminate it (okay, don’t like kill anybody – just stay away from people who take your time).

Don’t forget to check out 100 ways to be more productive.

#8 – Stay in motion
This one is a biggie again – especially for those who do their game part time or as a hobby. You gotta stay in motion.

When you stop working on your game “for a moment”, you’ve stopped the motion. Getting back to moving will be harder. If you keep on working your game day after day (every day), you can rest assured that at some day it will be finished.

If on the other hand you take couple of weeks break from the game… you’ll lost your motivation and will find it much more difficult to continue on your project.

Keep taking steps – even small steps – forward all the time. That’s a crucial for finishing your game project.

#9 – Take screenshots
Taking screenshots and sharing them can be really motivating. By taking shots you can see your own progress and show them around. By having screenshots, you have visible stuff about your progress.

It’s important motivator, so take those shots (It’s also fun to watch afterward how your game looked some months ago).

10 – Use your screenshot as your desktop wallpaper
This one helps you focus on the main goal: if you see your game every day, you’ll remember to work on it. Feel free to change that wallpaper too every now and then (it’s bit dull to watch the same background for too long…)

#11 – Create a video
Another good way to motivate yourself. Create a video and put it online (here’s beginners guide to editing your game videos that’ll explain step-by-step what to do).

Similar to screenshots, it’s a great motivator to see your a video about your game.

#12 – Fix nasty bugs
Nasty bugs will grow bigger if you don’t squash them early. You will be more motivated to continue when you know that your code is good and has all the major bugs killed.

Code filled with bugs is a killer for motivation.

#13 – Don’t squash unimportant bugs
Some bugs are unimportant and might just disappear when you remove features or replace modules.

There’s no need to fix everything.

#14 – Stop having unimportant meetings
If there’s more than 1 people in your project, then you gotta listen to me.

Read these two blog posts: 7 golden guidelines for having meetings and 3 mistakes to avoid when you arrange meetings.

The best way is to avoid them. Yeh, it might be nice to have chit chat with other people, but very often you’ll be better off without the meetings.

Meetings are bit like nuclear power.

Use it, but wisely.

#15 – Have breaks
Finishing games require your energy, so take some breaks too. Some people think that they can work around 27 hours a day and still have time for family, friends, kids and other hobbies.

You need to relax. You need to have breaks.

You just kill yourself if you don’t have breaks.

#16 – Finish bit by bit
And I don’t mean those bits and bytes. I mean that you gotta finish in small pieces. You need to be able to split your work in parts and finish them one by one. There’s an old Chinese saying that I cannot remember right now, but I can assure you it was something about not trying leap too far, but rather take one step at a time.

#17 – Create a cool feature
I created a small feature in my Dead Wake game: when you reload your gun, the flashlight will move just like it was attached to the gun (well, it is attached to the gun). It’s an awesome feature (stole the idea from Left 4 Dead by the way). It has close to zero gameplay value but I’m so freaking proud of that feature.

Creating something cool (if you think it’s cool, and at least somebody agrees then you should be fine) can motivate you and help you finish your game. Just make sure you won’t end up creating useless features over and over…

#18 – Keep coding, building and testing your game
This one is a big thing. You actually need to code and create builds. You need to see that you are progressing. If you don’t see your own progress, if you never build your game and never test your game… you don’t know what’s going on.

Make sure you code, build and test your game. It’s one major thing that helps finishing your game project.

#19 – Ask feedback
It’s amazing how motivating it is to hear people saying “This is great, the first real playable game I’ve seen using this engine.” or “Great work! I love these types of games.”. Sure, there’s people who will say what’s wrong, bad, ugly and whatnot, but hey – we were given ear holes so that we could put our fingers in them.

It’s not like we need to accept everything that others are saying. If there’s positive feedback, be proud of it. It’s a good sign. It helps you finish your game.

#20 – Visualize your goal
I think it’s a good motivator to think and visualize how your game will look like in the end. Thinking the end result can help you motivate yourself, but also help you finish your game.

#21 – Just finish it…
Or ‘just do it’ like they say.

Hey, that’s the thing you just need to do.

Just finish it.

It’ll feel really cool after you’ve done that.

How will you feel after your game is finished?

Just think about it.

One Way to Stand Out From the Crowd

One of the key concepts they preach in the world of marketing is that you gotta have unique offering. You gotta stand out from the crowd. Seth Godin points out that in the cattle of brown cows, the purple one gets spotted. Have something unique, something different to what anybody else does.

Well, this one guy sure has figured out a way to stand out. (Can you spot him from that thread?)

Hint: his forum nickname is hddnobjcttmmngmntmtch3rlz…

That guy gets remembered.

New Indie Game Magazine Is Out

The new Indie Game Magazine is out. I just went through the process of buying a digital copy (that was easy & quick) and here’s a review about this magazine. For starters, I think they’ve done good job making this indie game magazine. The magazine is really nice (maybe the ‘indie factor’ affects me to some extent), and there were only a few little things in the layout of the book that I didn’t like (The front page font in issue #3 didn’t look as nice as for example the front page of issue #1)… and of course there could be always more content but overall I enjoyed reading it.

I think all the reviews were clear and it was nice see that they have several reviewers there (both male and female by the way). The editorial was pro-indie (well, what can you expect…?) and I think those full page ads looked actually quite professional (hint for you: it’s pretty easy to get your ad there).

It was quite thrilling to read indie game reviews from an indie-only magazine. The concept is new, and I think the magazine deserves all the support it can get (put the word out you folks with blogs).

Here’s some ideas on what I’d consider adding:

  • Subscription based buying could be more visible. Now it was hidden on some page on their site. I’d put a bloody big button near the banner (but maybe it’s just me :))
  • I’d consider rewording that RSS/newsletter subscription (compared to magazine subscription). Perhaps somebody confuses these two (other is free, other isn’t)
  • Get affiliates (at least for digital version, and offer 50-75% cut ‘for those who join early’): just think about offering developers free advertising space or cut of the payments if they promote the magazine. (Even 100% affiliate cut could work for first bought magazine).
  • Add pictures of reviewers. A tiny thing but gives more personal touch.
  • I don’t know if they’ve plans for this, but I’d add a small “news” section in the magazine. Something simple where indies could send news about their games (with one paragraph text or so).

Bottom line is that if you are a developer, then promote your games (you can do that for free by giving interview/content).

And if you are reading this post, then go and support indie gaming (like I did) in form of buying an indie gaming magazine. Check out the Indie Game Magazine.

Good stuff editors, keep it coming.

Dead Wake Version 0.7 Out (And Some Lessons Learned)

In fact, it’s been there for some days now (version 0.7.6), and since I didn’t mention it earlier, I mention it now. Those interested in seeing how the Dead Wake zombie game is progressing are welcomed to check out the newest demo.

Even though this version is rough and contains some crash bugs, I must say that I was very pleased to actually get that version done – and get it out. I’ve got some good feedback, people have found bugs that I’ve fixed, and overall I got some information about how it works.

I’ve also got reports on some compatibility issues – some of which already have been fixed. I’ve adjusted the possibility to change brightness (which is a big issue since you cannot play if it’s too dark) and made other configurable possibilities in the settings file.

It has also helped me to continue with the version 0.8.

Getting releases out (whether they be screenshots, videos or demos) is good for development.

Lesson Learned: Never Ask at Public Forums ‘How to Shoot And Damage Objects?’

I asked the question ‘How to Shoot And Damage Objects?’ in Leadwerks programming forums and of course people couldn’t resist being wiseguys… The first reply I got: “You can use Barrett .50 or Sako TRG-42 sniper rifles which kill in one shot.”

Thanks Lumooja for reminding me that you get what you ask for…

Okay, he also pointed out that “Another way would be to use a entitykey”, so it was all cool… and worth thanking.

Screen Brightness – What a Nasty Thing

Since the dawn of the Dead Wake development (heh), I’ve got some people saying that the game is way too DARK. Now finally, in the next version I’m bringing it a feature that allows changing the brightness. Hint for developers: that’s something almost every game should have: I remember playing Dune 2 with some crappy monitor that had brightness/gamma ratings in maximum values.. and it still was barely playable. I was amazed to see all the funky stuff that was in the game when we got a better monitor…

Anyway, to get a better picture on how dark screens people might have, I would need your help. I’d need you to check out the following pictures and tell me which of these are TOO DARK for your screen.

Simply make a comment in this blog entry and tell which pictures are too dark (as in “heck no I would play the game if it was that dark, I can barely see anything”). Let me know the number of any of these pictures that looks too dark (and too “unplayable”) to you.

Here’s the candidates:

Picture #1:

Picture #2:

Picture #3:

Picture #4: