What’s a Good Length For Game Projects?

How many months (or years…) should game projects take? I’m thinking of calendar months and motivation aspects, not just financials. The longer the project lasts, the more it costs and more chances for lack of motivation will be there. If getting from idea to release takes little time, then it’s just the opposite: you benefit financially and it’s also easier to keep yourself motivated.

What you feel is a good length for (indie or other) game projects? Why?

New Digg

Digg is doing an update – a pretty good one. What I understood is that you get to list cool stories that have been dugg by your buddies (be they digg friends or facebook pals or twitter folks).

Currently testing to put my RSS feed there to be digged automatically. And if you want to promote your blog, I recommend you do the same. Here’s my verification key: 0913f1b25e884624b21c268f5ad961db (feel free to ignore this, digg just seems to want this – you cannot do anything with this key. Sorry).

Update: Basically, to set this thing go to Go to “settings > import feed” and then type your RSS url in the (mine happened to be http://www.gameproducer.net/feed/). Then make a blog post or add comment with the verification key, and wait 1 or 2 days… mine just got verified.

Walk In the Shoes of An Artist (It’s An Eye-Opener)

During the last couple of weeks I’ve been more or less messing with drawing and sketching and pixeling and with other arty stuff. I must say that this has been quite an eye-opener to me. I have now much clearer idea on why concepts are needed, and why layers are so important in digital painting, how character anatomy is important, and many other small big things that come with art. I’ve also tried drawing using a pencil and scanning, or simply by drawing directly without a scanner.

The bottom line is this: doing art takes time and skill. There’s several moving pieces in this thing. Artists have different skills. Some do concept art. Some animate. Some do something else. Finding somebody to do all these* things (and actually to be good at it**), that’s like 8th wonder of the world or something – it takes tons of skills to become a good artist.

*Interestingly, that’s exactly what I’ve planned to do for The Infected game…

**…but luckily my game is not about having perfect art, but perfect gameplay. Sort of.

By simply walking a mile in artist’s shoes and doing what they do can help dramatically in understanding their point-of-view. (I suppose this works for every other position in the team, coders and composers and everybody else).

Recently draw this sketch (and I have more understanding why the artists talk about proper lights, shadows, limb sizes, poses, leg positions and anatomy and everything there is in doing these things). It lacks certain things (arms are different size, his right leg looks weird, both legs are short, cap in slightly wrong position and so on) so I probably need to re-do/change it to use it for concept. But… I’m learning, I’m learning…

Reference was taken from “100 ways to create fantasy figures” by Francis Tsai

Having pics sort of makes more fun blogs posts too. Right?

Test How Indie You Are (Version 1)

It’s quite difficult to define indie game developer, since there’s no black or white answers in saying who is a real indie, and who isn’t.

For this, I’ve prepared a test to determine how indie you are, and this is the version 1. You guys need to help me get version 2 online. The test consists of several statements. Answer either “yes” or “no” and count how many “yes” answers you get. This determines your score.

Version 1: How indie are you test
Notice: if you cannot see the test, please visit gameproducer.net to take the test.

  1. I do the gameplay design for my game
  2. I write the story for my game
  3. I do the game art by myself
  4. I do the game sounds by myself
  5. I do the music for my game
  6. I program my game code alone
  7. I’m in charge of my project
  8. I fund my game development by myself without external investors/publishers/3rd parties (spouse does not count as 3rd party)
  9. My game generates income mainly through my own website (not from 3rd party portal/distributor)

Your result:

(answer the questions and click the button to see your result)

In the test results, the programming is weighted 2 times more important than others, and if you have comments on this, feel free to mention. I’ve always felt that programming is the biggest task there is in completing the game. I’ve also left out any “project management” type of things, but kept the “I’m in charge/leading the project”. When working solo, you are in charge of the project. Maybe we have that in version 2, but now left this out.

I’m also thinking if purchasing art/music/sounds from common libraries should be okay. Now I’ve made it so that you need to do all that stuff on your own.

I also deliberately left “I’ve made my own engine” since I really believe indie game developers and (solo) engine developers are two totally different things. (Some game engine creation is most likely needed in any project, but I don’t think indies should think about creating their own rendering engines or that sort of stuff). Feel free to disagree with me.

If you have some things that should be added, please feel free to tell ‘em.

Bring any suggestions… and of course let us know your score.

What Building a Gate Taught Me About Game Development

Well, pretty much nothing, but at least this wooden black gate looks bloody awesome and keeps the dogs in the yard so gotta be happy about that.

Well, there was some things: my own estimate was 1 day for the gate and fence and all, but eventually the project day count rises to 3… so in that way the project schedule was similar to any game project estimate. This was mainly due needing to wait for the paint to dry in separate days, and of course the usual “it’s almost finished, just one more thing that I need to do” things that occurred. It’s worth adding that when you have a baby to take care in the house “things don’t always go as planned”.

Also: there’s always bugs that you cannot get rid of no matter what.

Here’s How I Use Twitter (All My Tweets Are Belong To You)

First, a gentle reminder: whenever I create a new blog post here, a tweet will be created in Twitter. Basically meaning: if you want to get notified about new blog posts, follow me.

It’s strange how things change. When I first started this whole twitter thing, I was like thinking “whadda hell is wrong in the world – people follow other people talking about useless shite”. In some extent it’s still worth thinking that (whenever you see tweets like “going to take a shower”, “took a shover”, “gotta eat something”, “ate something” and so on).

Here’s how I use Twitter:

  • I use Tweetdeck client. It (or some other client) is a must. Otherwise Twitter makes no sense. You absolutely definitely most positively need to have a client. Get one.
  • I do my best to think of the followers: When I do a tweet, I try (and usually do) think if the tweet is worth to do. Right now I feel that Twitter makes it almost too easy to spam people, so I’m thinking that’s it a good thing to try reduce the noise. Of course people have different interests, so naturally we cannot please everybody all the time. Anyways, I try post quality stuff there.
  • I announce new blog posts: whenever I write new stuff in my blog, an automatic tweet is sent. I use a wordpress plugin called Twitter Tools, which is simply excellent.
  • I also retweet some stuff I find interesting: Not so much, but something. Something I feel it’s worth re-sharing.
  • I tweet some fun/cool/interesting/crazy stuff that’s too little for blogging: I don’t do this so much, but if I see some fun pic or hear some cool stuff (or simply have an interesting dilemma), I just might create a tweet about it.
  • I follow bunch of industry people: I keep my follow list less than 100. I get all the news I need and will stay in touch with indie gaming scene.
  • I keep in touch with people: Twitter is easy thing to use for sending messages to people around the globe. It’s easy to create that tiny message and approach people. It’s good for networking.

Those are my main reasons for having a my Twitter account. You have some other “best practices” to add to this list? How you use Twitter?

And if you are not using Twitter, care to share why not?

How Come Conflict In Video Games So Often Means Shooting Brains Off From Anything That Moves?

Shooting. Combat. Kicking. Punching. Fights. Bombs. War. Violence. That’s how conflicts are created in video games so often.

And I’m not talking about zombie games here. I’m talking about games in general. One way or another, it’s so often that some form of violence that takes place in games in order to conflicts. Even Osmos is sort of combat where you need to eat other cells. In co-op games, there’s usually something that needs to be killed for progress to be made. (Sports games being sort of exception)

For my own project, I have done some progress in this area (but not necessarily enough…) as I intend to get different options for co-op. I’ve dotted down ideas ranging from “fixing/repairing objects”, “building (defenses)”, “fetching/moving objects (like fuel)”, “using objects” – desribed here in quite general terms and these will (most likely) bring some conflict, when there’s counter force (who can try sabotage repairs, hide objects, refuse to use them). Strangely, for some reason my mind is constantly about to suggest “yeh, repairs is nice… now, what about adding some shooting there?”

What is it in video games that makes us (well, at least me…) think violence when we intend to create conflict?

When Was The Last Time You Donated Some Money?

About close to 28 years of my life I’ve not donated money to software stuff. Within the last year, I’ve started giving small tips to people ($10). For example, recently I activated WP Super Cache and decided to donate to the chap. I saw some great stuff & got some great feedback from some people at couple of pixel forums and donated there too. I only put like 10 bucks or whatever – not a huge sum of money – but enough to make me (and quite possibly the other party too) feel good.

I feel I’m somehow supporting the whole gaming (and any related) industry by putting some donuts to work.

So, when was the last time you donated something to people (who are in this gaming industry doing good stuff)?

Is Pixel Art Practical For Game Development?

I’m spending time on learning doing pixel art. I actually have no plans to be a hardcore pixel artist and I’m willing to skip certain rules or guidelines if it helps make my stuff look nicer. For example, some guy said that image shouldn’t be scaled or that colors shouldn’t be changed using some program or automatic system.

Without taking stance on what is “real pixel art”, it is my plan to do stuff that looks good. The reason why I like pixel art is that it is helping me improve my own strengths. I have always liked drawing, but never got into painting or coloring stuff (especially with computer). I simply couldn’t get things to look how I wanted them to look when I tried smudging and whatnot.

With pixel art, it’s simpler… there’s only a few colors to work with.

Okay, that’s all cool and so on, but what about the practical aspect?
Yesterday I got so into doing this pixel stuff that I didn’t write a blog post. I did this arctic explorer instead:

Now, this is far from perfect and it didn’t quite turn out how I wanted (the snow on top was accidental, also the colors ended up being slightly different from what I planned and so on) but it’s one more piece of art done – and by doing pixel art one learns to do pixel art. And here’s the (quite) important part: how much time it took?

I suppose I could try count how much the actual time of drawing take time and come up with 1 or 2 hours or something like that, but in reality I think a more accurate estimate would be “yesterday evening”. Since that what it took. Okay, there was learning involved and things probably will get easier after I have more experience (bearing in mind this is like my 4th of 5th piece of pixel art), but it’s good to note that doing this art takes time.

So, if doing one frame takes like hour or two, and then 6 frames for one animation (that’s like half a day to day), 4-5 animations (week). And that’s one character. Add 50 objects, backgrounds, other characters… stuff. And you get the picture.

Point is: pixel art (like any art) takes time. If you are interested reading more about this aspect, check out Adam Saltsman’s excellent article on pixel art. It has several very good things.

So, what’s my opinion about this?
I like the retro (indie?) feeling pixel art gives you. I see it kind of like the very much opposite of nowadays AAA shader-whatnot screens. And I feel that’s a good thing. It’s like… totally opposite. I would expect some people to love it, and I somehow also feel that doing pixel art makes people think and expect something different.

For my personal situation, I’ve decided to try & learn this stuff. After I get to do some animation, some background stuff, and some objects… I will see if I’ve picked a too big cake to eat (bearing in mind that I want to submit something to IGF, which has deadline in October).

Pros & Cons
Advantages over pixel art, when I’m doing this myself:

  • No money needed for art, I’m using my time instead
  • I have 100% control over things and can communicate with the team artist now in pretty well (since I’m now the coder and the artist in my team)
  • Retro (indie) feel in art, that’s a cool bonus
  • It takes time to do, but with proper planning, not necessarily too much time

And the disadvantages (for me right now):

  • My own time needed for art, instead of using money
  • Might delay the project (not necessarily)
  • Still need to learn quite a bit: animating, lights

I’m sure that pixel art works excellent for mobile devices. I’m sure it can work fine for indie games. Adam Saltsman mentions in his article that scaling pixel art is tricky – you gotta stick to a resolution. I feel this to be very true, although of course you can try scaling the art so that you have 4 pixel dots instead of 1 pixel dots (true scaling, simply making things bigger without losing any details). It makes art more blocky, but I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily a bad thing. It depends.

Is this now too blocky? Imagine this animated…

I very much recommend checking out Adam’s article – it has tons of pros & cons explained in much greater detail on a general level. I’m focusing quite a bit on my current situation.

So, how to make the decision?

Or: what helped me decide

One most important thing is that I’m doing pixel art because it feels fun to do. In fact, I’ve “waited” years to get to draw something but I never quite got (took) the time to draw anything. Now I have purpose (my game project) so I’ve got my drawing pens back and sketching things now, and they come for a purpose. And it’s fun. Cool.

I’m very much keen to see some donuts after I get this game thing done, and right now I’m focusing on what is fun to do? With Dead Wake I was doing the project perhaps relying more on the rational side of my mind, but with my current project I’m perhaps trying to relax a bit more and go with the irrational side of things.

For example, when I’m thinking “should I do this pixel art for my game? What if it delays the project a lot?”

I have a simple answer: “So what? It’s fun to do”

I mean, the outcome of the project isn’t necessarily so important. It’s also the journey. And if I enjoy the journey, won’t the outcome also be enjoyable?

If I don’t enjoy the journey, won’t that mean that the results will most likely too be somewhat unpleasant?

Famous bottom line
So, I’m learning coloring and doing pixel art. I can see that this has impact on time needed for the project, but since this is fun – I’m fine with it. And of course I can always seek middle ground: I might outsource some art (just gotta make sure the artist can make stuff that fits in). And for IGF, it’s not important to have all the art assets done.

I would say many indie games can do just fine with pixel art. Also, doing the art on my own is cool since I do have some artistic skills and enjoy doing the stuff. Since it’s fun, there’s no really no reason not to do this.