So, GDC Is Over… (What Happened There?)

The Game Developers Conference is over (I didn’t attend by the way) and their website contains good amount of stuff about what happened (stuff like IGF finalists). Gamasutra also offers good amount of GDC stories (really enjoyed Petri’s talk about Crayon Physics). If you guys have some good links/photos or something to share from GDC, feel free to throw them here.

…and if you attended, share your experience. How was the event this year?

How to Get In The Gaming Industry If You Have No Experience In This Field?

I got an email that really left me thinking how this could go. This email comes from a guy who wants to take the leap in the gaming industry. The question is here:

I am writing to you with the hope of learning a bit more about the game industry and how I may be able to find my way into it. I currently work on the trading floor of an energy company, where my responsibilities range from operations to trading. I have concrete plans to move out to the west coast by the end of this year and have spent a considerable period of time thinking about what direction I want to take my career. While I find finance interesting, I have come to greatly appreciate operations, project management and seeking efficiency in any business model. I feel that I would fit into the game industry in the role of producer, bringing business and management skills to a game company.

Unfortunately, with no connection to the game industry aside from being a fan and consumer of their products, and with no particular talents in design, art or programming, I am unsure at what door I might seek an entrance. I am hoping that you may be able to provide me with some insights about running your studio and the game industry as a whole that may help me on my search.

For starters, I wanna point out a web pages you might want to check out: How to get a JOB in the gaming industry. This page has a list of links to resources you might find useful.

Other than that, I’d say that my first answer is… I don’t know. I don’t know what would be the best strategy. What I’ve heard from companies, they usually require relevant experience from those who want to seek a game producer position (for example “has produced X number of games”). Usually this means that you’ve done some work in the field of gaming.

There’s no shortcuts to any place worth going, so to me it looks like the options are bit limited in this case. I suppose the best way to get a jump start would be to do something. If you haven’t got experience in making games, then can you find a team who has and help them build something good. Can you enter some gaming contents with your team to gain publicity and make contacts? Perhaps you could attend different gaming conferences and network there? Perhaps start writing a blog and into some other websites to gain publicity?

Maybe somebody else can give you a better answer, but I believe you simply need to get some experience in the field of gaming to get yourself better chances to find a suitable position.

Some Good Games Worth Checking Out

Here’s some goodies to check out today.

Mayhem Intergalactic
Genre: Turn-based arcade strategy

PlayDetective: Heartbreakers
Genre: Adventure, Detective, Casual, Simulation

Fishie Fishie
Genre: Arcade – A frantic one button arcade game

Penguins Arena
Genre: First Penguin Shooter

Deep Blue Sea
Genre: Puzzle / Match-3

Perfect Serenity
Genre: Survival Horror

Addictive Football
Genre: Sports

Rudi
Genre: Action (casual game)

Feyruna – Fairy Forest
Genre: Fantasy

Chasing Tortoise
Genre: Free Web Multiplayer Strategy game

Die in Pain Rest in Peace
Genre: Multiplayer car combat.

Spirit Fever
Genre: Persistent Browser Based, Sport Team Management

Pirate Quest
Genre: Adventure puzzle game

Donk: Samurai Duck
Genre: Puzzle/Action Platforming (2D)

Steam Iron: The Fallen
Genre: RTS (Mobile)

The Tuttles Mapcap Misadventures
Genre: Arcade adventure

Glupod
Genre: Multiplayer, online game

Golemizer
Genre: Free 2D steampunk MMORPG

Skolo’s Twisting Zone
Genre: Mobile game

Tomorrowland
Genre: Turn-based tactical gameplay (like Worms and Cannon Fodder)

What’s Red And Smells Like Blue Paint?

This is a simple marketing (and also game design) tactic: by presenting a riddle you can grab people’s attention. Chances are that you are reading this sentence mainly because you saw the title of this post and wondered what the answer is. This is about presenting a riddle. This tactic is about asking questions instead of giving answers right away. Riddles can be used in marketing: by asking the audience whether they want to know the secret of something is a fine way to generate interest.

(Of course balance is needed)

Lost tv series asks much more questions than it presents answers. The first season was awesome, but after that people started to get tired of not getting any further with things: more and more questions appeared. (I still watch the series by the way) So, like everything in life, balance is needed.

In game design this same system can be used: instead of telling user a story, you can let show a mystery that reveals slowly… (or perhaps turns into a bigger mystery at some point).

They say that curiosity killed the cat, but we humans don’t really care. We are curious creatures. We want to see mysteries – and also answers to them at some point.

And like the marketing courses suggest: give people what they want.

(Oh, almost forgot. The answer is: “red paint”.)

Future of Video Games? (OnLive)

I recently found this new concept of gaming: OnLive. Their idea is to have really darn good server computers where players with darn good internet connections can join and start playing. I’d guess the game is streamed (or something) to the user so the user requires no fancy hardware. I’ve heard about this concept some year back, and now OnLive is showing their system at the GDC. If somebody knows more, please let us know – I’d be really interested to know if this stuff really works.

Anyway, I think it’s a cool concept. Hopefully they’ll succeed with the idea.

How to Market (and Sell) Software Online

I’ve got this question from one of you readers:

I have software that I am trying to sell online. How can I market them?

A really, really short answer would be:

  1. Find out what stuff people wanna buy
  2. Learn to promote your product (also use press releases and check out how others are selling their products and learn from them)
  3. Sell the product (use something like Plimus for example to handle sales)

The practical marketing category has plenty of tips for promoting & selling your product. Check it out.

How To Trick Others To Work More

When I was something like 10-15 years old I spent time picking strawberries. There was some strawberry fields that needed workers and I spent some (darn hard) time picking those berries in some summers. The owner of the fields was one sneaky guy. Here’s how he tricked us to work more (and resent him).

Guarantee huge salary + bonuses right in the beginning…
This guy was saying that we would get we would get X*1.5 bucks per kilogram (in the last summer we actually got only X bucks per kilo, so it sounded like a really good deal – we would get like 50% more than last year). He said that the market is good and encouraged us to work hard (for short time as you’ll see soon).

…and then say that something went wrong, and that bonuses won’t be there…
Few days later the guy came and said: “Please listen to… it looks like I remembered the sum wrong. The actual salary is X per kilo. Hopefully you can understand old man for messing up the figures”. After working hard for several days (getting to the field like 5:00 am) that wasn’t such a pleasant news for us – but what you gonna do. Everybody was grunting but accepted this. After all, it was just spoken words…

…repeat the same trick the next year…
I didn’t encounter this same, but one of the co-workers said that “Well, that wasn’t a surprise – I knew this. He did the same last year, so I’ve used to this. Still, I need the money so I’m here”. Can you believe this? The guy did the same thing the very next year (and I bet he has done it over and over).

…and you can bet your white socks that people will resent you, and somebody will probably sue you at some point
I’m not sure how well the strawberry field is doing today (or how much the workers really wanna be there) but something tells me that this wasn’t such a good long-term strategy (nor not much of a short-term either) to get motivated workers. And I guess it only works with kids who don’t understand to get the stuff written on paper…

Soundsnap.com Review (Nice Site For Finding Sound Effects For Games)

I got approached by Soundsnap.com for a site review. I have been declining most of the review offers I’ve got for some time now, but since I knew Soundsnap from before I had no problem accepting their offer. Here’s my review for Soundsnap site.

Overview
Soundsnap is basically a site where anybody can download sound effects (and some music too) to use for example in their games. There is also the Upload option, but right now it seemed to be disabled as they are working on their pricing model. At the time of writing this post there is 100,000 sound effects available. The main idea of the site is to offer people to search, listen & download sound effects that are located in several categories. Sounds can be tagged and searched using a simple user interface.

(Kind of) an easy way to get sounds for your game…
I think that Soundsnap is okay tool for prototyping: you can find some sounds pretty quickly by simply using the search. The license permits use in commercial projects too, so if you are after some sort of user interface sounds or background music loops then I think it can work. To test the service, I tried to look for “zombie” sound and although there weren’t many zombie sounds (21), I managed to find what I was after pretty fast. (Although there was no additional zombie moans that I would have qualified)

…but it would be even better if they’d give you a playlist
I have tried Soundsnap in the past and thought the same thing as I think now. In my opinion, the problem with their system is that it takes quite a bit of time to dig through the sounds to find the effect you are after. Even though there’s samples & searches, it can still be bit slow to find what you want (unless you have really good search terms, and bit of luck). Of course if you have all the time in the world, then it’s no problem – but I personally started thinking about hiring somebody to fetch the sounds for me… Simply compare this with the situation when you’ve downloaded 500 SFX effects in your computer and put them in your playlist and start going through all the sounds: no need to click, just listen through everything and stop when you’ve found a good sound effect.

If Soundsnap could give some sort of playlist option, I think that alone could make it more user friendly and more easy to find what you are after.

Registration & free sounds
They have done registration really well: just type your username and email and you are pretty much done. Password is generated and arrives to your mailbox and you are ready to go download some sound effects. After you’ve registered, you receive 5 free downloads (per month) but if you need more, you need to upgrade to a premium account.

Funny forums
Maybe it’s just me, but I think it was pretty funny to read what kind of sound requests people had. For example, somebody had written: “looking for dum dum duummm” (heh). Nevertheless, there seemed to be some activity on the boards where members discuss everything related to sounds and Soundsnap.

License
Their license is good and clear. It simply says that you can use sounds in your games royalty free:

[You are free] to use the sounds in any music, film, video game, website etc. whether commercial or not, without paying addiotional royalties or other fees beyond the initial membership cost (if any)

That’s really cool (some sound sites can have really tricky licenses).

Bottom line
If you have been after some free/inexpensive sounds (and music) for your games, then I think it would make sense to bookmark soundsnap.com. I think it’s a fine site for game developers, and have nothing to complain (just wishing to see that playlist at some point).

Check it out.

I Did Something Strange Today (Bought Microsoft Stuff)

I bought Microsoft Office 2007. It was a strange feeling (considering that I was pirating everything that Microsoft offered before the year 2000). I’ve bought Windows XP, Windows Vista, and now I bought Office 2007.

I guess this means that I’m really past the “pirate everything” phase in my life, since in the past I’ve never bought any Microsoft software (besides the operating systems). I have only legal software in my computer, and this has been the case for some years now – but there was still something remarkable about actually purchasing Microsoft products.

Maybe it’s the fact that me and my imaginary friend have thought earlier (maybe unconsciously) that “Microsoft is the evil big company”… and thus buying their programs is almost as supporting satanic forces.

Well, now I bought their stuff. And felt pretty good about it.

Am I a lost soul now after supporting the “evil big corporation”? (Friend of mine commented: “Supporting a software monopoly should be as illegal as piratism”)