Monthly Archives: September 2009

Do You Trust Your Gut Feeling?

We all have experienced this – making decisions based on gut feeling. It can be small or big things in your life, but at some point you cannot rationally tell why you chose to act the way you did – it was just a gut feeling. Or hunch. Or intuition. Call it whatever.

In game development (or game business), do you trust your instincts?

How much you trust them?

Have you tracked how successful your instincts have been? (Tracked rationally, not just on “gut feeling” way of tracking, but actually putting down stats…) I haven’t tracked things down, and now as I think of this, it’s quite hard to say how much my hunch plays role in me doing decisions.

I’d say that I’m the sort of guy who tries to be pretty objective (like that could ever be possible) – and rather than guess what works, I like to test it (or see if somebody else has tested it). But, every now and then I might get into a situation where I just gotta trust my instinct and do quick decisions based on what I see the best way. There might not be a good rationale, but it “just feels right”.

For example, today I wrote a blog post… but deleted it. My gut feeling was saying that it wasn’t the right time for that blog post. So, I deleted it. I can write about that topic later, but now wasn’t the day for it. Was it the right decision? Don’t know, but my hunch was telling me that it would have been the wrong decision to publish that post today.

How’s your hunch working for you? You ever listen to it? Or always?

Are We Evil? (Or Creative?)

In yesterday’s post about best feature, I commented how fun it was to smack your opponent outside the actual gameplay.

Then… several guys reported the same: how they enjoy outside gameplay stuff where you can pester your competitors.

Are we – as players – evil?

Are game designers/developers/producers evil… when they create things which we can use for stuff like this?

(Or are we all just creative? Or both?)

What’s The Best Game Feature You’ve Ever Experienced?

I have my favourite.

The feature is in NHL ’95 (the world’s best game by the way). In 2-player mode, when a period ends or when the referee blows in the whistle… the game clock stops.

But the players can still act for like 10 seconds or something (not in “play time”).

In that time (for example before the break between first and second period), you can tackle your opponents (and cannot get a penalty). One might think that tackling the player wouldn’t have any meaning, but the truth is… it has. A big meaning.

When me and my bros played NHL ’95, we were constantly trying to “mock” the guy. If you got tackled big time, the other could laugh or say something nasty (in a brotherly good way of course). It was okay, since we were pretty equal and knew what would happen if you got tackled or if the other guy scores or something.

So… when the periods ended, you could tackle. And the guy who tackled harder got “mental” grip on the other (and of course got the bragging rights – at least for so long until the other player did something better).

Hopefully this doesn’t too cruel… (because it never was) and we really loved playing that game. Over and over. Beating and competing against one another.

So – what’s the greatest feature you’ve ever experienced?

It’s Good That Ethics Still Have a Place In The World

I got some emails and comments about the ethics of getting paid to promote something via mailing list. Some people asked if it’s unethical thing to do?

I agree that I could have worded the thing better, but basically… here’s how the story goes.

Let’s suppose you subscribe to some mailing list. Let’s say it’s some game dev mailing list.

When you subscribe to the list, you are announced to get information about news, and products, and promotions and whatnot.

Then you start receiving the emails.

You might not realize, but the game dev mailing list owners get money to show ads and promote stuff in the list. The stuff that you’d hopefully like (since it should be targeted). And if you don’t like it… you can always unsubscribe from the list. All power is within your hands, and nobody else never gets your email (it’s solely only in the game dev mailing list database – as long as you choose it to be).

Now… what I was working on is just the same. Just switch “game dev” with “gamer stuff” and things are pretty equal.

Of course if you have a mailing list where you’ve promised to email only material that’s related for example “Japanese fighting games” and then suddenly start promoting “action race games” or “new game development kit” then of course you are breaking a promise you’ve made to your audience. (Even though some might like the kit news, what they really expected was a new Japanese fighting game).

Anyway.

It’s good that there’s ethics in this world… especially in dealing with emails. Everybody hates spam. Especially when there’s 2078 spam emails in your inbox.

What’s The Weirdest/Funniest AI Behavior You’ve Seen Your Game Doing?

I gotta tell this story.

Last night, I was programming one liners in the Dead Wake and I was just recently been putting bit a of zombie AI in there.

Well… 2 zombies appeared in the scene.

I thought they would attack me (the player character) as always, so that I could see some voice stuff in action.

Zombies totally ignored me and… they went towards the dog!
Zombs attacked the dog, who was just standing there.

But the best part is…

The dog totally like destroyed those zombies, and I could hear constant screaming by the zombies.
Two dead zombies was the result.

Totally accidental (since those zombies were supposed to attack me, not ignore me!) – but I did tweak the AI so that they would stop ignoring me…

Anything weird you’ve seen your game doing? Helpful enemies or something like that?

Good Signs

Yesterday, one guy somebody practically handing me money to pre-order my game (and it’s not mentioned anywhere hinted that you could pre-order it). This is even better what happened year ago (oh my dog – time sure travels fast).

Now just few more things to finish… (I wonder how long I can keep saying this phrase?)

Spirits of Metropolis Sales Stats

David Galindo from Vertigo Games shares the story about the development of one his games: Spirits of Metropolis. The game was developed during college. This post is written by David.

Game Title: Spirits of Metropolis

Developer: Vertigo Games

The Goal/Objective:
David: I had made about ten free games prior to Spirits of Metropolis. The first commercial game I made, ShellBlast, did relatively good. I decided to set my sights on the casual games market with an original take on the match-3 gem genre. My goal was to get it on casual portals and perhaps help fund my other games. While the game got great reviews and a lot of people seem to like it, I didn’t really come close to achieving what I wanted to do sales/traffic wise. But this is only my second commercial game, and I’m optimistic about the future.

Development time:
The game took about nine months to complete, on and off during college. In actual dev time it probably took about three-four full months.

Release date:
December 22nd, 2008

Total sales (units):
31 sales in total (including distribution sites like D2D, GamersGate, etc.). Nine sales were made in the first two months of release, with about two to three sales a month so far. About $430 made in total.

Price (USD):
Originally priced at $20, the game is now $12.95. The new price hasn’t really affected sales at all.

Other income:
Placed on Game Giveaway of the Day in July for a $300 compensation sum. While this was a nice amount of money to get as I was/am a bit low on funds, the piracy rate spiked immediately after the game was made available on the site due to the lack of DRM. I knew that risk before going into the deal, and while it does make me a bit mad, I don’t blame sales/profit from here on out on piracy at all. It happens.

Expenses:
I paid about $250 in total art/music costs. There were other expenses made for a previous commercial game, called ShellBlast, which I was able to use for Spirits.

Downloads/Conversion Rate:
The game has been downloaded around 850 times, not counting the times downloaded on other sites like YoYo Games (8,300+) which aren’t very good places to advertise premium games, as it’s a primarily free game/young gamer site. So you could look at it as either a 3.6% or 0.3% conversion rate. The game is also featured on other distribution sites like Direct2Drive and GamersGate, but has no demo/trial to download on those pages.

Marketing:
I think I really failed here. The first step was to try and get it on as many casual portals as possible, and out of the forty plus I emailed, only two replied. GamersGate was on board as I already had a game with them on the site, and Direct2Drive was interested and picked up the game as well. RealArcade didn’t want it, but actually responded to me in just a few days after the email with some tips and pointers on what I can do to maybe get picked up by them in the future. It made a huge impression on me, and I can’t praise RealArcade enough despite the rejection. They have some really fine people over there!

So once I realized that the casual portal plan wasn’t going to work…I didn’t have much of a backup plan. I had made a lot of games previous to this one that was definitely an indie/somewhat casual type vibe that had a good audience, but this game was made (now that I think about it) with no intended audience. It was a bit too complex for casual gamers and out of their sight with no casual portal deals, and was too casual/puzzle for the audience I already had. I was left with literally no audience to sell the game to.

The game did make its way around the indie websites, with a post from IndieGames.com, a few good reviews from puzzlelicious.com, and the demo going out to a few sites for download. A debut trailer was put up on GameTrailers.com with about 7,800 views, but again I mis-marketed the game and replaced the relaxed-vibe music with a more rock/alternative music track in the trailer to market to the non-casual GameTrailers crowd (it didn’t work too well going by the comments on the video page).
I also had an official website from the game, but I do regret doing that now- it is too far detached from my main website. Looking back, I would have rather integrated it more with my main website to get more exposure for my site as a whole…only 3,000+ viewed the main Spirits of Metropolis site since it launched eight months ago, which is only 3% of what my main site gets for the same amount of time.

Another big push was done by Direct2Drive for an $8 day sale, with a video/ad on the front indie games page. That resulted in three extra sales, much to the surprise of the guys at D2D. It’s a game that doesn’t really sell itself very well unless you play it, another one of my mistakes.
What I have been doing since then is releasing content DLC level packs for free on my blog. I have done four so far and plan to do six more before calling it a day, and if anything its showing people who haven’t bought the game and aren’t interested in it that I support all of my games as much as possible, which can hopefully lead to a bigger fanbase for future games.

Nowadays I’m gearing up with another person to launch an Xbox Indie Game in a few days, as well as a small indie game releasing for $2-4 soon, and that’s a lot more in my comfort zone. Tackling a casual game with limited experience and few resources wasn’t one of my smartest moves, not to mention that I could be doing a lot more to give the game more exposure. But, it is a huge learning experience.

David Galindo, Vertigo Games

If you want to get notified when new sales stats (and other goodies) are available, remember to subscribe to the game producer mailing list. It’s spam free and everybody likes it.

Are You Making Your Players Feel Special?

People like to feel special. I know I do. Here’s a story about being special.

I ordered Battlestar Galactica Pegasus Expansion (the board game) via Board Game Guru (excellent service, fast delivery, reasonable prices by the way). I got the game expansion here last Tuesday.

When I go check out the Fantasy Flight Games, I see that it says “Pegasus Expansion: sold out”. When I check out some other sites, it says “more coming in 30 days”. In some forums, some people commented bit angrily “HELLO SUPPLY, MEET DEMAND!”

I got my hands in the game when it happened to be available, and got it here in Finland before our 2 big board game distributors had them (Lautapelit & Fantasiapelit are the companies).

I wrote a review about the expansion in board game geek and commented that it’s worth getting… and I got some comments and even one message (from a Finnish dude) saying “hey, where did you get it so early?”.

I felt special. I felt like I belong to group of those who have Pegasus (and got it early) and not the group of those who want it, but cannot get it.

When games (or expansions) make the buyer feel like this, they can make huge amount of money.

Selling games isn’t just about “excellent game” (which of course is the core). People buy games for various reasons. They want to be part of something bigger. They want to be able to belong somewhere.

They want to be special.

Are you making your players feeling special?

IGF 2010 Is Coming, Who Is Submitting Their Games?

Anyone planning to complete their game and get it to Independent Games Festival? (submit your game to 2010 IGF here)

Here’s some key IGF Dates for the 2010 event

  • July 1st, 2009 (Submissions are Open)
  • November 1st, 2009 (Submission Deadline, Main Competition)
  • November 15th, 2009 (Submission Deadline, Student Competition)
  • January 4th, 2010 (Finalists Announced, Main Competition)
  • January 11th, 2010 (Finalists Announced, Student Competition)
  • March 9th-13th, 2010 (Game Developer’s Conference 2010)
  • March 9th-10th, 2010 (Indie Games Summit @ GDC)
  • March 11-13th, 2010 (IGF Pavilion @ GDC)
  • March 11th, 2010 (IGF Awards Ceremony (Winners Announced!))

Right now I’m on the “it depends” mode.

Those of you who have participated earlier, please share your thoughts on how was it. I have some friends who have got their games (and did pretty well too), and they are pretty much recommending this to people.

You going to participate? (Why? Why not?)

So, How Was Your Whine Free Week?

I presume all of you didn’t whine this week.

I told earlier something about my week, and here’s some highlights:

  • I whined about Finnish Javelin results when realized what was happening… (whining)
  • I whined about “naming conditions” to which guy replied “stop bitching” (really made my day)
  • At some point I got a letter from the tax man saying that he wants me to give them 2 000 euros (this time I didn’t whine, but was relieved and thought only 2000…)
  • Yesterday I whined about server being down for some time.
  • Don’t know if I whined something else. Maybe I did.
  • Just when I typed this, the monitor started blinking and I was like “shit, will this thing explode?”

Actually, quite small things – and not really about whining. More like some random thoughts.

So, how was your week? (Anyone interested about the prize?)