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100 Ways To Be More Productive

Every once in a while I heard people saying how busy they are, and how little time they have. There are busy managers, producers, leaders, entrepreneurs, workers. Everybody seems to be busy. I compiled a list of 100 items that can help you get more productive hours. Check this long list, and perhaps you’ll get some ideas on how to become more productive.

#1 – Less is more
Don’t get more and more work. Don’t think that you can finish “one more task” when you’ve already behind your deadline. Just pick the tasks that you really need to do, and don’t try to do more than it’s possible.

#2 – Desktop wallpaper
Get yourself a motivating wallpaper – something that reminds you what you should be doing.

#3 – Use pen & paper
I’ve never encountered a “blue screen” and never lost anything because pen & paper would stop functioning (well, once my dog eat some concepts but I assure you that doesn’t happen often). Use them more in your work.

#4 – Get rid of fancy, pocket sized, high-technology toys that are labeled to “save your time”
There’s some features fancy gadgets have that I don’t like much. Fancy gadgets jam, get lost, require skills, have too tiny buttons to name but a few things. Get rid of them. Any pocket-sized thing that has more colors than 2 (black and white preferrably) is probably a high-tech gadget you won’t need.

#5 – Watch television after finishing something
No tasks done, no watching television. That’s the rule of thumb that will save you more time than you need.

#6 – Outsource your email
Not perhaps the greatest idea for everybody, but you can save time by screening somebody to get through useless mail you get. Your assistant can also help you on routine tasks, thus saving your time for more productive matters. In today’s global world you can get yourself a virtual assistant to help you out.

#7 – Get proper spam protection
Junk mail eats your time. Certainly you can spend couple of bucks to get a good spam protection. Think it as a very good investments.

#8 – Remember what Treebeard the ent said
Treebeard said to the little hobbits: “Don’t be hasty”. That should be your motto too in case you plan to get something done.

#9 – Don’t do things half-way
If you intend to finish tasks, don’t think the right way to do that is to do “little bit everything”.

#10 – Don’t postpone decision making
I’ve seen too many people worrying making a bad decision. They think that they might make a mistake if they decide. Here’s the news: yeh, that might happen – so what? Just decide something, and if it doesn’t work out then you are free to decide something else in the future.

#11 – Don’t keep asking “Am I making the most of my time right now?”
You shouldn’t worry about that sort to stuff if you follow the next tip.

#12 – Use the new way to prioritize your work
It’s quite common that people prioritize their work by using letters “A-E” depending how important tasks are. Some use “1-5″ (or “green/yellow/red”) priorities. My suggestion is: don’t do that. Instead, compile a list. The topmost item is your first priority. When that’s done, move to the item next on the list. This will force you to see what’s the most important task right now.

#13 – breaks, breaks, breaks!
Go out if possible – fresh air is something you don’t breath inside buildings.

#14 – No coffee breaks
Skip the coffee, and teach your body to survive without this modern day drug.

#15 – Lock the room where you work
Keep dogs, rats, children and other family members away from your home office, that helps you stay focused on your work without interruptions. Improve the efficiency by listening to music loud enough.

Notice: You still need to ensure there’s somebody to watch what the kids do. After all, you don’t want to end your day and notice that your home has burned, do you?

#16 – Now as I think, that previous tip works also at typical offices too
Locking your co-workers from wasting your time sounds even better idea, don’t you agree?

#17 – Vacation!
After locking your family out you need to show that you still want to spend time with them too. A vacation is a great tool for that, not to mention you get to charge your batteries.

#18 – Let people call twice before answering
Most of the calls are time wasters anyway, right? If people have really important stuff to tell, I’m sure they can call you again.

Ignore this tip if the caller is a customer.

#19 – Just say no
Most people accept anything by default. Stop being responsible for everything and just say no. There’s no need to be rude, and make sure you look like somebody who does only the work that’s necessary. The goal is to do the work that’s important.

Combine this with the previous tip and you’ve reached a heck of a level in productivity.

#20 – Keep whiners far away
Whiners and complainers are such a disease that they can bring down any team’s motivation. Don’t let yourself be dragged into conversation with complainers.

#21 – Put a deadline
Deadlines aren’t the answer to every solution, but sometimes they might work very well. Try setting some deadlines for yourself and see how they work for you.

#22 – The beer reward (K18)
After completing some major milestone, reward yourself with something you enjoy. Anything from ice cream to beer is fine (kids should use pizza or soda instead).

#23 – Remember limits
The previous beer reward doesn’t mean you have a case of beer with you every time you go to work… but you can drink that one bottle after beating the tough deadline that you finished well.

#24 – Just do it
That’s where the bottom line eventually is: at some point you simply have to do those important tasks that help you get where you want. There’s really no shortcuts.

#25 – Guard the time on meetings
Somebody has to be the timekeeper, so it might be as well you. Make sure meetings start and end on time. If there’s not enough time, make sure you have less issues to discuss the next time.

#26 – Take the “Ultimate test on How Organized Are You”
It takes just a few seconds to finish and will tell if you need to get organized to save time.

#27 – Don’t launch your Internet browser before midday
That will save you half of the day to actually do something useful.

#28 – stop using Mac
Everybody knows that Mac (and Leopard) is something where you wait to see beautiful applications running slowly. Truly productive people use PC where speed is the essence, that’s something we all know.

#29 – Stop being so offended if somebody insults you using Mac
If you keep taking flame baits, then you really must realize it just wastes everybody’s time.

Remark: Please see also tip #98

#30 – Start outdoor activities
Walking outdoors, jogging, running – all these are good activities that help get you in better shape. Good health means more productive hours.

#31 – Test working only 4 hours per day
Try this for one week, and you’ll immediately see how you simply have to boost your productivity. Suddenly you might get anything from 25-50% more work done, yet spending less hours. Try it for one week, or just for couple of days to see how well this tactic can work.

#32 – Stop finding clues for motivation
If you aren’t motivated to work, then you aren’t doing the right work. Start doing more stuff that are naturally fun to do. Soon you’ll notice that you don’t need to do much to motivate yourself, now the motivation comes from inside.

#33 – Money rewards
Bonuses might work in some cases. Not perhaps long-term, but at least for shot term. Instead of buying that nice new television you’ve dreamed of, you could make it so that it’s a gift for you if you find ways to work more productive hours.

#34 – Don’t bring work to home
Keep your hours in around 40 (or less, see tip #31) and don’t bring more work to your home. If you think you have too big workload, then use the tip #19.

#35 – Do more than asked
The least motivated employees do the absolute minimum that’s required, and spend rest of their time whining. If that’s the case then you should get yourself busy schedule, and then do even more than what’s asked. This doesn’t mean that you should still do more hours than others (see the previous tip), it simply means that you do more productive hours – and cut the chit chat.

#36 – Stop doing annual performance reviews if…
… all you do is blame others and point where they did something wrong. If there’s one thing to learn from the dogs, it’s the fact that dogs do anything for treats – and same goes with people too.

#37 – Kill 80% of your RSS feeds
The 80% of your current RSS feeds are just waste of time. Get rid of them (or put them in such place where you cannot find them), and keep the top 20%.

#38 – Stop reading news
They are timewasters, and really won’t bring much to you. When was the last time you heard something useful from a news site?

#39 – Okay, you can keep reading one or two news sites
For some people news sites can be beneficial, but often they don’t boost your productivity. It’s okay to have one or two news sites, but make sure you have a clear idea and a good reason why you are reading those sites (“Because I’m used to reading them” is not a good reason.)

#40 – Begin with the End in Mind
This one I learned from the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Think about how you will feel after the work is done, and you can become more productive.

#41 – Stop watching sports
That’s something where you can put countless of hours. Wake up people. Golf is something where adult people hit tiny ball around a field, and get paid well. Is watching that really most productive ways to use your time?

#42 – Stop wasting other people’s time
Do unto others as you would expect they should do unto you. Stop wasting other people’s time by bothering them all the time. That way they’ll stop wasting you.

Maybe.

#43 – Be on time
The habit of being late from meetings (yes, it’s a habit you develop – along with the talent to come up with the excuses why you were late) is killer for everybody else. Being late from meetings means less time for efficient working as a group – and adds up towards the end of the day.

#44 – Don’t postpone small (and important) tasks
If some people ask you to do something that takes 1 minute your time (or 30 seconds or 3 minutes, or something very little) then don’t postpone doing that task. It takes more time to put that task on your future todo list than it is to do right now.

#45 – Get a faster Internet connection
If you spend couple of more bucks than you are currently paying for your Internet, then the sites you visit load faster. Your emails load faster. Your RSS feeds load faster. If Internet plays a big role in your work, then why not get a decent connection?

#46 – Don’t launch instant messaging software until end of the day
Or you can rest assured that people will try to keep you from doing any work.

#47 – Stop playing online games
As fun as they can be, they really don’t bring any productive hours.

#48 – Same goes with the online videos too
Like previous tip, online videos can waste lots of your time.

#49 – Get yourself an MP3 player
Getting an MP3 player and listening to information products (music doesn’t count) can help you learn something while doing some routine tasks (anything from cleaning your desktop to doing the dishes). Don’t go overboard with this though. The point is to listen audio when you are doing something simple tasks that require very little of your attention.

#50 – Reduce stress
Stress doesn’t bring you more productive hours, quite on the contrary. Meditate, relax, read a book about Zen and take it little easier.

#51 – Focus on the completed tasks
Don’t worry if you have a big list of tasks to do. The list won’t get any smaller by worrying. Instead, concentrate the completed tasks and think how much you’ve already achieved.

#52 – Take naps
If you can take a nap that lasts 30 minutes around 3 pm, you can bring more efficient hours in one day. Experiment what times and length of nap fits for you. For some people 15 minutes (or 45 minutes) can be a better choice.

#53 – Get rid of tasks you won’t do
There might be tasks that aren’t useful anymore, so get rid of them. Eliminate them from your task list right away.

#54 – Break your tasks into manageable action items
Some people schedule tasks such as “create a new product” or “write a book”. These should be listed as goals or objectives, not specific tasks. Make sure your tasks are small enough that you always have a clear idea about what to do.

#55 – Stop doubling or tripling your work estimates
Some people think that tasks are never done on time. Some people suggest to add 100% more buffer to your estimates. I recommend splitting the task into a smaller one. Doubling your estimates suggests that you are taking really wild guesses on how something goes – and might lead to planning to much work.

#56 – Plan (some of) your work outdoors
Best ideas don’t come in front of your computer screen. Go out, take your note pad with you and plan your work there.

#57 – Learn to type faster
Fast typers get more stuff written on computer.

#58 – Stop planning (at some point)
At some point you gotta stop planning and start doing. Planners are the worst procrastinators.

#59 – Start planning (if you’ve never done it before)
The previous tip applies if you are a guy who gets lots of ideas, but lack execution. Some people might benefit if only they would plan more of their work. Spending some time to plan your work is fine, but at some point you need to remember tip #58

#60 – Read less (useless stuff)
People who enjoy reading a lot might not realize how much time they are spending reading “strategical information” that has no practical use. If you think that reading seven hundred different productivity guides will make you more productive, think again. Just pick couple of good books and read less useless stuff.

#61 – Buy a proper computer
Spending an extra $500 or $1000 for a machine that is supposed to be fast every day is money well spent. Spend little more to get faster CPU and more memory. It will speed up loading times, and save your time.

Plus, you get to play nicer video games.

#62 – Don’t let the curiosity kill the cat
Okay, there are some interesting links you just have to click, but let’s face it. If you go to some stupid website just for curiosity, chances are you will waste your time.

Stop that.

#63 – Do more what’s important
Some people are busy doing as many things as possible. These guys are after a quantity. Doing lots of tasks that doesn’t get you to your goal is waste of time. Instead of doing more tasks, try do few – but important tasks.

#64 – Let go
Control. People want control. Some people want control so badly that they just need to do everything by themselves. Learning to delegate some tasks (and remembering tip #19 too) goes a long way.

#65 – Don’t buy cheap
I could have named this “don’t buy crap”, but I decided to use the word cheap. Let’s face it. If you are using your computer most of your working hours, then wouldn’t it make sense to buy decent hardware and software? Buy a proper printer that doesn’t jam papers. Get some good software, and don’t always go just what’s the cheapest option. Cheap and quality won’t often meet.

#66 – Think what’s useful for you
If you’ve read this far without breaks… then I really recommend you stop now for a few seconds. Is reading this list really something you can apply right away? Does these tips bring you any value? If you’ve got this far without getting anything, then I think it’s better stop reading. If you found the info valuable, then feel free to go on – or print this page for later use.

#67 – Avoid micro-managing
Some team leads have the tendency to micro manage their team members. Giving guidance is okay, watching every action not. Micromanaging means there’s at least one too many doing the task.

#68 – Say less
Say less, but with a meaning. There are people in meetings who seem to make sure their voice gets heard. What if you’d take the approach that you think before you say something. Not everything you are going to suggest is relevant, so you might as well say less.

#70 – Work from home
If possible, do some work from home. This can give you extra 30 minutes every day, that would otherwise be spent on getting to the workplace.

#71 – Plan your transportation
If you must go to your workplace, then consider alternatives for your current transportation. Perhaps a bus or a bicycle could be faster option that whatever you are currently using.

#72 – Don’t take long breaks
30 minutes or 60 minutes long breaks can easily kill productive hours. Have breaks, but don’t let them slip longer than necessary. Sometimes 5 or 15 minute breaks can be sufficient.

#73 – Make sure the room temperature is for humans
When it’s freezing cold, your fingers won’t work. When it’s too darn hot, your brain won’t work.

#74 – Automate routine work
If you have some routine work that you need to do every day, then you might want to consider automating those tasks.

#75 – Stop wasting time posting at irrelevant forums
Seriously, do you really have time to get as many posts as possible in irrelevant discussion forums? Go to places that give you something, and stop visiting some forums.

#76 – Learn to read faster
Skimming, checking only the index, skipping paragraphs. All these can save hours for you.

#77 – Ask for help
Some people are too stubborn to ask for help. You know what, sometimes asking might be worth it. After all, do you want to be stubborn or get things done? Don’t be afraid to ask help if you get stuck.

#78 – Set a process for doing stuff
There are certain routines, certain tasks that need can benefit from having a strict process they go through. For example, let’s suppose your team members are always asking you for help. Instead of making a habit telling everybody to ask you first, perhaps you could get people to (1) first check out the manuals, (2) then consult team leads and (3) after that consult you in case there’s a problem with the project.

#79 – The laziest people need to work hard
It’s quite tricky, but I’ve noticed that if you want to be really lazy – you gotta start working hard. If you want to be lazy and lie on your sofa when you want, you really need to start working hard now. Working hard now is like putting money in the bank: it pays interest. If you work hard now, you won’t need to work that hard later. If you are lazy now, rest assured you need to work for long.

#80 – Get automated 3rd newsletter system
I’ve seen entrepreneurs trying to set up their own newsletter sending systems. They spend ages finding proper solutions, when they could spend a few bucks and get a reliable third party system like aweber. No point wasting time programming something that can be so easily purchased.

#81 – Walk faster
Instead of walking slow, you can think about walking faster. If you save 5 minutes per day by walking bit faster, you would be saving 30 hours in one year.

Don’t try this if you drive a car. That just gets you speeding tickets and a big hospital bill.

#82 – You get what you choose to get
Let’s face it. If you have lots of stuff piling on your desktop – that’s because you’ve made such decisions in the past that created your current situation. If you are busy, then the only place to look is to a mirror. The good news is that since you created the current situation, you are free to create a new future where your workload is lighter and you have more time to do what’s important.

#83 – Buy a notepad
Instead of having thousand and one post-it notes, get yourself a notepad where you start putting important stuff. File in your computer hard drive is okay, but then you have the problem that you might not always have the computer at hand. Just make sure you don’t scatter all your todo notes all over your home or work. Put them in proper place where you can actually find them when needed.

#84 – Write things down
It consumes your energy if there are things that bug you. If there’s something “you need to remember”, then simply write it down. That way it stays on your notepad and your energy won’t be needed to remember the task.

#85 – Deal with the the ugly tasks first
There might be some tasks that might not be the most important for reaching your goals, but consume your energy just by existing. If there are some things you worry daily, then it impacts your productivity. It’s better to do these ugly tasks before they consume you too much. By getting these ugly tasks completed, you’ll get more energy to do other tasks.

#86 – Schedule for surprises
It’s easy to fill your calendar 100% with all kinds of tasks. Then something additional tasks come and mess up the week. To avoid this risk, consider leaving some breathing room in your calendar. You can always take additional tasks if time permits.

#87 – Focus in the results
Some people think that there are specific action steps that one must take to finish certain tasks. Some people pay too much attention on how something is done when in reality they should focus on the outcome. After all, who cares how cell phones work as long as you can make calls.

#88 – Daily and weekly focus
It’s easy to do two hours this, two hours that and two hours something else. One could think that it doesn’t matter if they do three different things, and spend 2 hours per day for three days. In reality, more will be achieved if each task gets 6 hours per day. Changing your attention from task to task daily (or sometimes even weekly – or monthly) has an overhead.

#89 – Make it simple
Complexity can waste your time. If finding your task is complex, you’ll lose time. If your todo list isn’t easily telling you what you need to do, it’s time lost.

#90 – Toilet is your friend
They are great places to read books. Sure, you need to make sure that the book pages don’t get dirty and all that but overall they make a great peaceful place to learn.

Besides, you never get into trouble even if you run out of toilet paper when you have a 300 pages long book with you…

#91 – Answer this question: where you want to go?
It’s pretty hard to get anywhere if you don’t even know where you want to go. Answering to this simple question will help you become more productive than ever: make it really clear you know where you are aiming.

#92 – Don’t get too excited
Getting a spike of motivation and doing something super productive for one week is not going to help you. Instead of trying to be fast runner you should become a long distance runner. You might go little slower, but that’s the way to get somewhere far. Fast runners get tired after 100 meters, and you are aiming for 10 miles.

#93 – Let your idea rest for a week
There are people who get excited (see tip #92) for something and then week later they don’t feel like motivated to continue. To solve this problem, resist the urge to start your fancy idea for one week. After the week is over – check out how motivated you are and think how good the idea feels now. If it still feels good, feel free to proceed.

#94 – Think “only these few steps to go”
If you are near the end, then a fine way to motivate yourself is to remind that there’s only very little work left – and you are almost there. Just think about this and remind yourself that the work is done in no time if you put your mind to it.

#95 – Learn, learn, learn
Some people go forward without thinking what they did in the past. If you stop and reflect a bit what you did last year or last month, you might get some ideas to boost your productivity in the future. Take some time to learn from the past, that will give you more productive hours in the future.

#96 – Just give it a go
Sometimes you might fear what might happen when you try something new. You might worry whether it turns out well or like you planned. Here’s the thing: just give it a go. Some people can come up with lots of excuses, and never try anything. Just try something new, and if it doesn’t work out – at least you’ve learned what isn’t working and are free to try something else.

#97 – Backup
Some people believe that making backups is an overhead, and requires too much effort. Well, do you have any idea how much effort it requires to get everything back if your computer hard drive crashes and wipes out everything you’ve got there?

#98 – Use what works for you
Apple users: I was really just kidding there on tip #28. The key is to use the tools that work for you. There are different people. Others prefer Mac, others prefer PC. Use what fits your needs.

#99 – Don’t use the force, Luke
There was once a time period where use of force was essential to survive. That was when the cave men existed. Today, the rules have changed a bit. If you try to force your own way – you are really just digging yourself a deep hole. A better idea is to be flexible and adapt in situations. Soft way can sometimes get people to work more effectively, so forget Star Wars.

#100 – Stop reading lists like these
You might be thinking that “now you have got some great tips”, but that does little good if you continue hunting more and more tips. The tips #24, #32 and #91 contain everything that you really need.

Feel free to give your own tips at the community forums.

GameProducer.net March-April Contest: Convince Me To Buy Your Video Game

Okay game developers, now it’s the time for a new contest where you need to convince me to buy your video game. Contest will end at the last day of April (or when I run out of money). You can use any measures you see appropriate: feel free to beg or ask nicely. Show demos or screenshots. Scream if you wish.

If you haven’t finished a game yet, feel free to try getting me to pre-order the game. I’m in such a mood that it just might work.

I promise to buy game or games from those who manage to convince me, and will mention those games after the contest ends. Naturally this is a good opportunity for anybody to promote their game, and you can mention as many games as you wish.

Then to make sure everybody understands: I’m not going to automatically buy every recommended game (although some of our readers might also be interested, so there’s no reason not to suggest a game). I probably end up buying couple of games. It depends how fun comments I see ;)

The contest starts now, so leave a convincing comment on this blog entry.

P.S. I own a pretty new PC / Windows XP, so I’d appreciate if your game would actually work on my computer… Also, please use full URLs when creating links (and make sure you have spaces, or the system won’t recognize your URL links)

Interview With Adrian Crook, Relic Entertainment

GameProducer.Net had a chance to talk with Adrian Crook (he is the one more in the left in that above image), game producer at Relic Entertainment. Relic has stunning games in their portfolio, for example: Homeworld, Company of Heroes and The Outfit. In this interview Adrian is sharing lots of insight about the production of The Outfit.

GameProducer.net: Hi Adrian. Thanks for giving GameProducer.net a chance to have an interview with you. First it would be nice to hear about your background. Can you tell us little bit about your career in the gaming industry?

Adrian Crook: Sure. In January of 1995 I was a 19 year old bartender at a Vancouver restaurant. A month later, I started in the QA department of EA Canada. I spent about a year in QA before I got on as a Producer on Reboot, a PS1 game that took about 2.5 years to complete and sold terribly. Afterward, I had an idea for a snowmobile racing game. So the core team from Reboot – me, Tristan Brett (great artist and former roommate) and Tom Heath (UK-based programmer) – developed a really great prototype and sold EA executives on doing it. A year later, we finished the game – Sled Storm (PS1) – and it went on to sell over 1 million units.

At that point, I’d been at EA for nearly five years and wanted to started my own business. So in 1999, me and a couple partners founded a company called Moderngroove Entertainment. We raised $3M in funding, took the company public on the NASDAQ and published a PS2 lifestyle product called Moderngroove: Ministry of Sound Edition. In 2001, the tech wreck happened and with it went my paper millionaire status. Moderngroove was the university schooling I never had – it even cost me about the same as an Ivy League education!

Since then, I’ve done a lot… consulting here and there (with the most interesting gig being working with a behavioural psychologist to turn his research into a game), producing games and original IP for Decode Entertainment, a TV production company, and producing advertising at McCann Erickson (3rd largest ad conglomerate in the world). One of the IPs I co-developed at Decode will air this year as a 22 episode TV series called Urban Vermin – becoming the only product I’ve ever earned royalties from!

But for the last three years I’ve been a Producer at Relic Entertainment, a THQ company located in Vancouver, BC. In that time, I’ve shipped The Outfit, a squad-based third person action/strategy game for the Xbox 360. Now I’m working on new concept development for Relic, putting my experience with original IP to use to ensure Relic has exciting new games in the pipe.

GameProducer.net: Why did you choose a career in gaming? What would you be if you were not a game producer?

Adrian Crook: When I was growing up, I thought I would be a cop like my dad. I also thought I’d be a writer. Or, depending on which movie I had just watched, I thought I’d be Indiana Jones or a Top Gun fighter pilot. Realistically though, if I wasn’t a game producer I would probably be doing something in interactive – i.e. web stuff. With the web, you can put something out there relatively quickly and iterate on it based on consumer feedback. I really like that. With games, you spend 2+ years developing something and if it isn’t absolutely perfect out of the gate, it dies on the shelf a couple of weeks later. I don’t like that so much. :)

GameProducer.net: You have worked for several companies, including 5 years at industry leader Electronic Arts, and are now working at Relic Entertainment. How is it like to be a game producer in big companies?

Adrian Crook: At a big company, it’s easier to get stuff done but it takes longer to do it. I remember at Moderngroove our PS2 dev kits blew up over the holiday period of 2000. Due to our ubermicro status with Sony, we couldn’t get replacements for over a month. THQ would have had those replacements much faster. But when it comes to getting a new project off the ground, at a smaller company it is obviously faster to do so than getting a project through the greenlight process at a larger company.

But speaking of Relic specifically, it’s great. Relic is a fantastic blend of small and big company – i.e. the flexibility of small with the stability of big.

GameProducer.net: Can you describe your “typical work day as a game producer” at Relic?

Adrian Crook: The lack of a “typical” day is probably what I like best about being a producer! It’s always different. Most days you’re trying to remove “blockers” – i.e. things that are preventing team members from making progress. Other duties include facilitating design decisions, pushing forward recruiting, making tradeoffs with your lead programmer, feeding assets to the marketing machine, talking to press, risk managing the schedule with your APs, playing the product, presenting to execs, and so on. Very engaging and fast-paced.

GameProducer.net: You were given the 2006 Canadian New Media Award, “Producer of the Year”. How do you feel about that and what does this award mean to you?

Adrian Crook: Individual awards are an odd thing in a team-driven business like ours. It’s really nice to be recognized because anyone who knows me also knows that I’m usually the last person to take credit for something! So it was a surprise to get the award.

GameProducer.net: You produced Relic Entertainment’s first console title: The Outfit. What were your responsibilities in that project?

Adrian Crook: As the Producer on a project at Relic, the leads and production team report to you. That doesn’t mean you become a power hungry meglomaniac, but it does mean that you’re ultimately responsible for ensuring the product meets the company’s goals. On a daily basis, I worked with the team, Relic management and THQ to ensure the project was coming in on time and on budget – which it did. To do that, I made decisions about the relative importance of certain features, the contents of trade show and press demos, the staffing and assignment of the team, the tradeoff between build and buy or internal development vs outsourcing, the design of the game, and so on. The team on The Outfit was around 100 people, so a big part of my job was also ensuring that everyone knew the plan.

GameProducer.net: The Outfit delivers explosive third person WWII combat through an epic, story driven campaign, complete with the freedom of total destruction. Total destruction is something that’s not seen in many games – how did you guys at Relic manage to make it happen, and were you happy with how it turned out?

Adrian Crook: The destruction aspect was very fun. Yup, I’m happy with how it turned out. As for how we made it happen, well we had to use a very complex destructible building system that ultimately stole memory from a lot of areas, as well as building many discrete destructible objects – so that everything you hit would blow up. The artists and programmers did a great job with destruction.

GameProducer.net: Did you – as a producer – get to design anything in the game? Did you give any ideas that ended up in the final game?

Adrian Crook: As a Producer, you have a hand in a lot of things. It’s tough to list out all the design areas I played a role in. The achievement/rewards system and the Destruction-on-Demand system (i.e. parachuting in items) were areas that I spent a bit more time on though. As much as I’m a creative guy who loves games, I realized that I had a great design team, led by Jeff Brown (ex-lead designer on Oddworld games), who were more than capable. On most days, the best thing I could do was stand back and provide feedback here and there.

GameProducer.net: What was the greatest lesson you learned from The Outfit production?

Adrian Crook: When you begin work on a project that’s already underway, always examine the inherited decisions and fight to change anything that you think will hurt the project. Although I did that on The Outfit, I could have done more of it.

GameProducer.net: What was the best experience in The Outfit production? Finishing the game must have been one great milestone, but were there some other situations that you remember?

Adrian Crook: The Outfit had to be one of the riskiest projects ever. It was a new engine, new team, original IP, launch window title and Relic’s first console project. For those reasons, every aspect of it is memorable. Every time we made progress despite the odds it was an incredible rush. Some big ones were our E3 demo, Leipzig demo, and the first time the game ran at 30fps. Incredibly, they happened in that order.

GameProducer.net: Here’s a question that aspiring game producers want answered: What would you recommend an enthuastic hobbyist gamer do to help them get job in the gaming industry? What should they do to become game producers?

Adrian Crook: I get asked this question all the time. You could go to a game school like Vancouver Film School, or work on a mod, or get a job in the production, QA or Balance departments of a developer or publisher. Or all of the above. Either way, you need to demonstrate a love of games and solid communication and organizational skills. Then you need to get noticed somehow… so taking any game industry job to start is a good thing. If you’re an awesome performer and vocal about your career goals, then you’ll likely end up where you want to be.

GameProducer.net: How would you describe a “great game producer”? What qualities and skills you need to become a great game producer? What kind of personality makes a great game producer?

Adrian Crook: I think you need to be a good listener and a confident, clear communicator – as well as possessing solid analytical skills, patience and follow-through (for those 2+ year long projects!), and integrity. You also need to be able to work in “interrupt mode”… meaning finding a way to get your work done in those tiny gaps of time where a teammate doesn’t need you. If you can’t do that, you’ll forever be working overtime to catch up.

GameProducer.net: The gaming industry is getting bigger and bigger. What’s your take on the future of gaming? How is the industry changing and what will happen in the next years to come?

Adrian Crook: The future of gaming is a lot more diverse and exciting than it is today. Big budget games have become so complex that they’ve left a lot of people behind, creating huge emerging markets for casual games on platforms like the web, XBLA, Wii, and mobile. Business models are also changing, with MMO models such as “free-to-play, pay-for-items” enabling real freedom of choice for the consumer, not a monthly subscription that ties you down. I’m very excited about where the industry headed, but I’m even more excited to be a gamer.

GameProducer.net: Then in the end I’d like to ask you to tell us your TOP 5 hints for game producers out there. What are the 5 tips that every game producer in the world should need to know?

Adrian Crook:

1) All you have is your reputation. Don’t burn bridges, don’t stab backs, treat everyone with the respect you’d want for yourself.
2) Push decisions down to the lowest possible level. Trust and empower the team to own their areas of the project.
3) Make sure your bottom line is well understood by the team. I.e. “At the very least, we need feature x to do y”.
4) Have fun. If you’re not laughing, you’re in the wrong line of work. If you need to be the court jester to bring some levity to your team, do it.
5) Play games and read books. And if you’re like me and don’t have a photographic memory, take notes on each and discuss whenever possible.

GameProducer.net: I warmly recommend GameProducer.net readers to visit Relic Entertainment’s and Adrian Crook’s website. Thanks for the interview Adrian.

Adrian Crook: Thank you too! I read GameProducer.net all the time, so thanks for the chance to participate!

The opinions expressed by Adrian Crook are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, plans or positions of Relic or THQ.

7 Ways to Prevent Piracy

Some people say that piracy cannot be stopped, and while there isn’t a practical solution on how to stop piracy 100%, there are some solutions that can help you at least reduce piracy. My personal opinion is that I would use some pretty good copy protection system and be done with it. But since piracy cannot be completely ignored, here are some ways to deal with it:

[1] Copy protection system

There are copy protection systems which you can use. They vary in features, and one widely used is SoftwarePassport (previously known as Armadillo). These cost something, but they’ll save time, nerves and money in a long run.

Small tip: If you choose to use this kind of anti-piracy options, make sure your copy protection doesn’t annoy customer.

[2] Separate demo and full version

This is another very fine way to copy protect your software: simply create separate versions of your product. Your demo version might contain only 30% of the assets, and when people purchase the full version you can give them the full 100% of the elements. It’s very practical and inexpensive way to copy protect your game.

[3] Online game features or online registration

If you have features that require Internet, you can use online copy protection for your product. One example could be that you wouldn’t send player server list unless user has sent a valid username and password to your game server. That way you couldn’t play the game illegally with others since you wouldn’t get their server information.

[4] Give discounts or lower the product price

I’m not really recommending this – just rather listing this one as a general way that might decrease piracy. I’m not even that convinced this one is really a solid answer to problems of piracy.

Some people say that this might help getting rid of some pirates. The problem with this approach is naturally that when you lower your price, you get less profits per sale. Then the problem continues: lowering your product price doesn’t not necessarily lead to increased sales.

[5] Give your product for free

Some people have done radical moves and are giving their product for free. These guys might use some different tactics (like these) to generate income while providing their product for no cost.

[6] Don’t give away your software source code

This might sound quite basic, but projects with multiple programmers carry a risk of shared source code. While I believe in open development, there is a risk that your source code gets stolen or leaked. If you keep your source code hidden, it means other people cannot get it – but then you face a problem regarding the product progress. I believe in open atmosphere and I focus on getting reliable people in the team, rather than focusing on protecting my code in case somebody isn’t reliable. Working with reliable guys has been better option rather than worrying piracy.

Nevertheless, you might need to consider this to protect your code.

[7] If your product ends up to some warez site, take legal actions

If your product ends up hacked and into some illegal site, contact the internet service provider of the warez site and tell them about the problem (not the warez people, but those who own and manage the servers physically). Since one email might get ignored, it’s useful to discuss about the warez site first in a forum. While 1 email might get ignored, 10 or 100 emails from different indies can help shutting down the illegal site.

I personally don’t ignore pirates, but I also won’t concentrate on fighting against piracy. The roots of the problem isn’t small income (since how the heck those pirates can afford to buy $1000 computers, but cannot spend $20 on some fine games), it’s the attitude.

That’s why I think you should perform some of the necessary elements (like copy protection system), and then focus on building a great service around a great product.

How To Find Out What People Want

Over a month ago I posted a post regarding marketing research and tried to shed some light into doing one. While that post gives quite good guidelines on how to create a market reserach or a marketing research, I thought to write one more post with specific details on how to find out what people want.

There are many sites where you can see what people want, or what topics get lots of attention from the media. I’ve listed some specific sites below and explained shortly how I use them. You might know some or maybe even all, but I believe you might find some tips & hints how to benefit from using these sites.

What people want

43things.com – If you haven’t ever visited this site, do it now. I think this site is a great resource for anyone thinking about what people would like to get. Heck, you might even find ideas on what theme or game design you could integrate into your next project. In that site people basically write what they want. The more people want some specific things, the bigger the tag text in the page are. Remember to refresh the page to see new tags.

As I browse the page, I see big tags like “make new friends”, “be happy”, “travel the world”, “save money”. Do you have interest and experience into some of these topics? Like if you are one happy guy, then you might start thinking of establishing a site about being happy? Or perhaps you have good writing skills – and suitable background – so that you could even write a book about this subject? Or maybe you are really good at saving money. After you’ve picked a topic (that you really have genuine interest) you could take a look at other websites. By googling “save money” or “how to save money” you can get some picture about your competition.

Best selling games

Game-sales-charts.com – a fine site about top selling games at major gaming portals. There’s even a world map that displays best selling games in several portals at once. As you move your cursor you can get an idea on how well games sell. You can also see what areas have the most competition (if you are familiar with these games, and if you aren’t then go on and download those games), and can start thinking about unique ways to make yourself different.

Games sales statistics

GameProducer.net has listed games sales statistics. From these stats you can learn how these developers have marketed their game and see how well their games have sold. You can pick the best parts and create your own unique way on how to approach game production with sales in mind.

What’s popular

Have you checked the front pages of digg.com or technorati.com? At the time of writing iPhone and Wii seem to get lots of attention at digg and Vista at Technorati. These topics were technology centered, but you can see that Bush, MySpace, YouTube and other topics also get attention. If you have a website that needs content, you might want to check out what others are saying.

What’s happening

I have subscribed to several RSS feeds such as GamesIndustry.biz, GameSetWatch, BBC technology news – all these sites help me know what’s happening in the gaming and technology world. They help me know what information people are currently after. You might like to do the same: find sites that are relevant for you and subscribe to their RSS feeds.

I believe best way to gather information is to expand your current style: if you have always checked only Technorati top list and ignored other ways that’s fine, but perhaps you could use other ways as well? Maybe find couple of suitable RSS feeds where you could get more information? Or perhaps you can find some relevant information about the sales statistics. Maybe you can get ideas on what kind of solutions developers need by checking out those sales stats? It just might be that you can expand and improve your current way of gathering information and finding out what people really want and need.

The Most Efficient Way to Get What You Want

Give, give, give

I cannot stress this enough, but there’s a simple fundamental rule in life: the more you give, the more you get. As I look years back now I realize how beneficial to me many things in the past have been – without me even knowing that. 5 years ago I didn’t have a clue that I would be writing this blog – or this post – but as I look back I notice how much helping others have helped me today.

The more I try to help others, the more benefits seem to come to me. The more I’ve helped people in the past, the more help I seem to get in the future.

I don’t believe in “tactical helping”: like helping some people, but not helping some other people in order to find the “best way to get” something for you. I think that kind of thinking is very time consuming as you try to figure out what is the best ‘return on investment’. In fact, it’s impossible to know how others will react. I prefer a simpler strategy: whenever I have the resources and knowledge to help somebody, I try to do that.

Marketing and sales follow the rule of giving

If you browse some marketing and sales forums, you often here people asking questions like “how to get more traffic?”, “how to get more sales?”, “how to get a better salary?” or “how to get a promotion?” These are good questions to ask, no problem with that, but I think a better approach would be concentrating on giving.

Instead of asking “how to get more traffic or sales” you could ask questions such as “How to give more value to people? How to improve my product better according to customer suggestions?” Instead of asking “How to get a better salary or promotion?” you could ask: “How can I make myself ten times or hundred times more valuable to the company? How can I improve my work and be hundred times more beneficial to the company?”.

When you find answers to these questions about “giving” the “get” part will naturally follow.

It’s Nice to Be Important, But It’s More Important to Be Nice

There are lots of different kind of people out there. You can see all around you people who think differently about titles. I’ve seen some publicly awarded game producers and leaders who “know” that they are important and make a big notes about their titles and achievements. I’ve also seen people who keep a very low profile (maybe even lower than they should!) and don’t give a rat’s (bottom) about titles.

Some educated people are also very keen to remind everybody about their achievements. While it’s nice to be important… I definitely think it’s much more important to be nice. Game producers who make a big note about their importance won’t go very far with their team if they think they are more important than the other team members. You have probably worked in a team who had a team leader – or someone with “higher rank” than you. If you think about those times, do you think you gave more respect to those who were “more important” than you (or made sure you knew that they “were more important”)? Or was it perhaps so that the leaders with fancy titles were okay – as long as they treated you and the rest of the team well?

Do you know what Dalai Llama responded when he was asked what he thought about people who spoke to him as “His Holiness The Dalai Lama”?

If you think about that for a moment. One of the most known religious figures in the world – how would he react when somebody spoke to him with such respect? I’m sure some religious figures would be proud. He didn’t. In fact, he laughed warmly. He didn’t make a big note about the title he had. Surely, others did – but when he spoke to others he concentrated on the “being nice” rather “being important”. He left titles away, and concentrated on relevant issues. Can you see what a big difference it makes in being respected? If he would keep saying and mentioning how holy he is, it might make him just another (religious) “leader” in the world.

I must add that it’s okay to tell what you have accomplished. It’s okay to be proud about your accomplishments. If you finish a game or demo or can help someone, that’s great and definitely something to be proud of. It’s okay to tell what you have done so that other people can get a better picture about you and your work. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t tell others what you have done, I’m simply saying that the moment you start to think that “being important” (or “more important than others”) is your goal then you are heading to wrong direction. It doesn’t matter if you call yourself “game producer” or not. What matters is what you do and how you treat others. If you treat others well in your team, and if you make games – you’ll see that it means nothing (in terms of importance) to call yourself a “game producer”. That is just a title which helps other people to know what you do. Nothing more, nothing less.

You can call yourself “game producer” if you wish, and that’s completely fine. It’s much easier to distinguish “car seller” from “game producer” if people have labels after their names. Similarly it’s much easier to talk to the right person if you can see “assistant game producer” or “executive game producer” next to people’s names.

Titles are fine as long as they serve a purpose – and their purpose is not about being more important than others.

Highpiled – Free Block Stacking Mini Game Made in 21 Hours

Download game via the website: Highpiled.com (See how the game name is so close to Hightailed…)

It’s been some months already when I looked into physics libraries for Blitz3D. I started making a small game prototype to test physics, and I ended up testing the physics with shadows and added some tiny details. Today I decided that I could “publish” this small mini game – or game prototype – to public. I made the game quite long time ago (and made a quick website for it today) so I cannot remember exactly how long it took to make the game. If I remember correctly I spent few hours on three different days in a row, and then spent some more hours testing particles (which now are not in the game), and then few hours to test stuff so the final “hours spent” number won’t probably go far away from the 21 hours.

The game music is done by Indiepath and art by FroGames. Physics wrapper JV-ODE wrapper made by DevCode.co.uk. Open physics engine website: ode.org. The shadows are done using Devil’s shadow system, which can be found somewhere at BlitzBasic community.

I’m probably going to publish my thoughts about this mini project some time in the future. Overall it was a fun way to test different libraries by making a small game using them.

Try to beat my score “17.1 meters”: play the game.

14 Ways to Motivate Yourself

There are some days when you simply don’t feel motivated to do anything. You might have all the time in the world to work on your game and you just don’t feel motivated enough to work. When that happens, you might need some tools to be productive. Here are 14 practical tips to increase your motivation:

#1 – Decide what you want

I believe this is one of the most important steps in motivating yourself: if you don’t know your goal, how can you motivate yourself to achieve anything? First decide what you want, and then set small goals or tasks so that you are absolutely sure you know what to do next.

#2 – Track your progress

Another important motivator: you must see your progress. Don’t just clean your todo list after you’ve completed a task, but rather mark each thing “done”. If you are making a game, start making a version history that shows all the small things you’ve done. Having a visible list of things you’ve done will help you see you how much you’ve achieved.

#3 – Motivation may come from challenges

Some people enjoy challenges: they want to make game in a week, or they want to make 20 new phone calls a day or they want to increase some part of their productivity by 10%. If you are like this, you might find motivation from setting deadlines or really challenging yourself to do better.

#4 – Get fresh ideas

When I presented Edoiki in the game design event I got lots of feedback and new ideas. Brainstorming or gathering feedback is excellent ways to get fresh ideas and boost your motivation.

#5 – Reward yourself

You like checking out forums, emails and blogs – right? Use that to reward yourself. Don’t let yourself use forums, email or read blogs unless you’ve coded 1 hour, added one more feature, killed one ugly bug, made that important phone call or whatever important you might need to do. If you stop doing unproductive but “fun” things after you’ve finished productive and important tasks, you’ll be more motivated to work.

#6 – Remind yourself about the feeling that motivated you

Can you remember the feeling you had when you got your first sale, or when you finally got all the important code pieces together and it worked? Remind yourself about the feeling you had when you had just finished something important and understand that after you’ve finished important tasks – you may feel the same.

#7 – Competition may motivate

Competition is another way to motivate. Set up a little competition among developers. Who kills most bugs this week? Or who gets their task list done fastest? Or who can make the coolest 3D model? Fun, little competition might increase motivation for some people.

#8 – Desktop wallpaper might motivate you

This is really simple motivating technique: just set a new computer desktop wallpaper to remind you about what you’d need to do. I currently have eastern themed wallpaper to motivate me programming Edoiki game. When we get new game art ready, I’ll update my wallpaper.

#9 – Use screensaver

Not as good motivator as desktop wallpaper, but could be considered anyway. Set a screensaver with a text reminder about your game project. Any time you see the text you might consider twice whether to sit on sofa or whether to program your game.

#10 – Listen to motivating music

Some people get very motivated by listening a music they enjoy. I don’t usually listen to anything specific when I’m coding but some people might find this tip useful.

#11 – Play test your game

Sometimes coding can get really boring. When debugging line after line and editing code gets too boring it might be a good idea to do some play testing. Play a few rounds your game and enjoy as much as you can. When you get the feeling “hey, this really IS a fun game” you know you are working on something great and might feel more motivated to continue finishing the project.

#12 – Use leverages

Some people have problems waking up in the morning. Even alarm clocks might not be able to help them wake up at 6:00 am – because it would be too early. Luckily we all can use leverages. If you can use something that will cause bigger problems, you will wake up 6:00. Maybe it’s money. If you would need to give 100 bucks to your co-workers every time you oversleep I doubt you’d do that many times. Or the leverage could be that you wouldn’t be allowed to use your computer unless you get up before 6:00 am. If that would be the case, I would be absolutely sure that it would be no big deal at all for you to wake up in time. You can use your co-workers, spouse or children to be “watchdogs” and make sure the consequences will be handled.

#13 – Ask “what if”

Here are two questions you might want to ask from yourself: “What will happen if you do? What will happen if you don’t?” What will happen if you do what you were supposed to do? If you finish one feature, you know you’ve taken a step further towards completion of the project. If you choose to “wait until you feel motivated” you won’t get anywhere. Simply thinking about the future might get you motivated.

#14 – Remind yourself why you are doing this

The first tip about goal setting is important, but it’s as much important to remind yourself why you are doing games – or whatever it is where you need motivation. When you start reminding yourself about the main reasons what made you start the project in the first place you’ll be more motivated to continue.

Use these tips or whatever works for you. We all are different, and are motivated by different factors. My own personal favourite is tip #8, and maybe it works for you too.

How To Create Games Incredibly Fast

Introduction to rapid game development

In the previous post I talked about the impact of user experience compared to telling or showing the product to user. I also mentioned a game mode we tested with the artist. The game mode was made in just few hours (after spending almost a year making the framework and learning multiplayer coding) – and I was really amazed how fast a new small game could be done.

One guy asked in the blog comments how to make a game in one hour. Making a game in one hour seems almost impossible, but there is a way to create games really fast: prototyping. It might not be possible to make small games in just one hour, but prototyping might help finding out fast what really works. I will give you some resources in the end of this post, but before that I’d like to share some of my opinions regarding rapid game development. Extreme programming is one methodology that can be applied very well in prototyping.

What’s special about rapid prototyping or extreme programming

If you want to create games fast then one of the key insight I can give is that you cannot plan and change plans forever. While I say that planning is essential in game production, I also believe that you really have to start working on the game as soon as possible. Creating a prototype in seven days is a great way to focus on production: it helps you make such a version of your game that helps you testing the core gameplay.

I’ve wrote in the previously mentioned article that it’s essential to plan your code. I highly suggest learning how other people are doing. Learning to make something else than a spaghetti code is a good start. Learning to name code variables properly is another good thing. Codinghorror.com (“.NET and human factors by Jeff Atwood”) has some fine examples that can help you avoid some mistakes. When you have reached the level where you know some pretty good coding practises I think it’s time to start programming or prototyping. I have spent months making the framework and now it is in such shape that I can prototype new game ideas in mere hours. Fast prototyping wouldn’t been possible earlier since I didn’t have the necessary knowledge on how multiplayer code should be done. I’m not claiming to be expert in multiplayer programming, but the fact I managed to code a rough prototype in less than a day makes me feel that I’m going in the right direction. There’s still parts that need some major optimization and some parts still missing, but so far things look good.

Extreme programming contains some principles that are good in prototyping: “make frequent small releases” and “leave optimization till last”. Both of these tips fit well for making prototypes or small games. I believe that making the core gameplay really fast – a prototype of a game – is a path to building games fast.

Additional resources for fast game prototyping

For additional resources, see the links below. Both websites are highly recommend for those interested in making and prototyping games fast:
Articles about rapid game prototyping
Experimental gameplay website

To find a proper tools for you, my favourite website recommendation is: DevMaster.net. It’s a site filled with different game engines and descriptions.

Some information about extreme programming can be found: here.