3 Practical Tips For Better Leadership

Be fair. I believe every game producer and team leader out there should be fair towards every team member. This means that everybody is treated the same way. If you let some people behave the way the want, you need to give this privilege to everybody in the team. If one guy can be late from meetings, then everybody can be late from meetings. If nobody is allowed to be late – that means nobody. If you require lots of work from team members, be sure that you don’t require more than you are willing to do. Being fair includes you and everybody else.

Show leadership using stick and carrot. Even though I really haven’t met one, I’ve heard that there are bosses that are concentrating on the stick part, and forgetting carrot: they only “punish” and never reward. Then there might be leaders who use only carrot – rewards – and never use any ways to punish people. They say that “stick is demotivating” or say that “using carrot is the best way to act”.

While I agree that rewards are the things that motivate, but that doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be consequences for critical parts in the project. For example, if some team member constantly mocks everybody else and disagrees with everything (just for sake of disagreeing) I would seriously consider dropping that team member out. Naturally every situation must be acted fairly, take into account what’s important and what damage this team member does and discuss things openly with him before taking any action – but leaving somebody out is sometimes the right thing to do.

Other forms of “punishment” could be that “those who are late from meetings buy donuts to whole team”. If some guy has been late several times, you might be surprised how miracleously there’s no more reasons like “traffic jams”, “alarm clock didn’t work” or “had to take children to school” – even the “laziest” guys get to meetings on time when they know they will get consequences. And it’s extremely important to be consistent with this: if you put the late-donut-policy in action, you must be 100% sure that this policy is followed – it’s your job to make that happen, every time.

Say what you think, honestly and intelligently. It’s good to express your thoughts and say what you really think. Some people go into extent that they bash anything that comes to their mouth and validate their actions by saying “it’s good to say honestly what you think”. I agree that it’s good to say honestly what you think, but there’s no reason to bash others. If somebody has done a poor job, it’s right – and producer’s responsibility – to say that. The way you say it is what matters. If you say “You did a shitty job, fix it” it has a quite different attitude that expressing “Your work has always been great quality, but this time I think this work could need some improvement. Overall the job is well done, but requires some improvement here and here – what do you think?”. I don’t mean that you should say “you’ve always done great job” if the guy really isn’t. There’s no need to lie about the work, but if the guy’s work has good parts you can mention that you like about those, and then you can express what needs improvement.

Being fair, use of rewards and consequences and communicating well are tools that can help you leading your team.

$113,160.53 Indie Games Sales

There is a very interesting discussion going on at indiegamer.com. One developer asked if it’s “Possible to reach annual income of $100.000 with indie development?”

Look what Cliff Harris brought to us. (Notice: these are not just one year sales)

The total income shows $113,160.53 – and that’s just Plimus sales, doesn’t include any other deals. “Took more than a year, sadly.”, Cliff added.

He has previously shared Democracy sales stats and also sales information for his other games: Asteroid miner and Starship Tycoon.

You can read his interview, where he gives some insight on game production.

Thanks for Cliff, for letting me use the image – and thanks for being inspiration for all of us. Now we have to wait for him to get us sales information for Kudos game.

Basic Marketing Plan For Indie Games

(This article has been originally published at GamaSutra on May 19, 2006)

Basic Marketing Plan For Indie Games

Introduction

A marketing plan might sound something awfully hard to do for a game developer, but to briefly put it: the marketing plan is your flightplan on how to get your game to your players. The contents of a marketing plan can be divided into several sections. A strategic plan or the company’s business plan will describe the company’s strategic objectives. The marketing plan will focus on those major objectives, and how to reach those goals.

You don’t have to have tens of pages long marketing plan that you will never use. It’s much better to have a short plan that you use. Use your computer’s desktop wallpaper or a one page printed plan where you put the marketing plan: goals, actions and notes. Then use and refine the plan.

Contents of a Marketing Plan

These sections of a marketing plan are listed below.
[1] Goals
[2] Distribution
[3] Product
[4] Promotion
[5] Website
[6] Demo
[7] Measurement
[8] Maintenance
[9] Refinement

1. Goals – Make Sure You Know Where You Are Heading

Goals define where you are going. In an indie marketing plan, you can start by choosing the goal for the desired income. Then, you continue by adding the goals for sales, downloads, conversion rate, and the price for your product. Let’s assume your goal is to make $50.000. The pricing of a game may depend on several variables. You might look at what others are using and settle for $19.95. Or you might try a bargain price and go with $9.95. Some people have used $29.95. Depending on your game, the company’s profile, target market, you might price your game differently. It’s worth noting that you might want to adjust the price later. Maybe you realize that $9.95 is too low and go with $15.95 and still get the same number of sales. But for starters, let’s assume you use $19.95 as the price of your game.

The eCommerce provider gets about 10% of each sale, so the actual profit for you per game would be about $18. To make $50.000 you would need about 2800 sales. If you assume that one out of hundred players purchase your game, then game’s conversion rate would be 1.0%. The rule of thumb could be that very targeted games receive higher conversion rates, up to 2%, 3% or even 5% while more generic games, or games with severe competition may receive a .1% – .5% conversion rate. That means about 1-5 sales per 1000 downloads. Let’s assume you try to get your game’s quality to such a level that you receive a 1.0% conversion rate. Now as you do some math you can see that to reach 2800 sales you would need 280.000 downloads for your game.


Edoiki Concept Art

A goal wouldn’t be a goal without an exact date. Have an exact date for the goal. Split the goal in smaller divisions: months, quarters or years – or something that suits you best.

Example marketing plan goals for Edoiki game

The goals for Edoiki are:

* Direct Sales goal: $50.000 (after eCommerce provider expenses)
* Other Sales goal: $50.000 (after publisher/distributor expenses)
* Total Sales: $100.000

Exact direct sales details:

* Initial price: $19.95
* Conversion rate goal: 1.0%
* Downloads goal: 280.000
* Units goal: 2.800
* Deadline: By the end of 2007

The quarterly download & sales goals for direct distribution:

* Q3-Q4/2006 – 600 units, 60.000 downloads
* Q1-Q2/2007 – 1100 units, 110.000 downloads
* Q3-Q4/2007 – 1100 units, 110.000 downloads

2. Distribution – Select the Right Channels For Your Game

There are several options for distributing your game. Indie and casual games tend to follow these main distribution channels:

* Direct website store
* Retail stores
* Portals
* Content delivery systems
* Publisher channels

Depending on your company’s strategy, your marketing plan might use more than one distribution methods. An easy choice for direct selling would be to set up a website and concentrate on optimizing your website.

If you have a casual game, you might consider casual game portals. Different portals have different requirements for games. Here are some of the most common portals: Big Fish Games, EA’s Pogo, Gamehouse, GameXtazy, GameZone, Playfirst, Real Arcade, Shockwave, Trygames, Yahoo Games. Include the portals you want to target in your marketing plan and check the top 10 bestsellers from each portal. After you have gone through the list, you have a better understanding on what kind of games portals want and how you can improve your product to meet their guidelines. Indies typically sell through portals or through their own website, but retail stores can be a valuable choice to consider. It is possible to contact retailers directly but in some cases, it can be very difficult or practically impossible. However, you can make it so that it’s easy for them to contact you. Set up your company website in such way that distributors can easily get touch with you. Arrange the distribution options by country or by some other region. If you want to contact some publishers, then go on and make a deal. There are publishers that can deal with the retail stores.

Besides retail stores and portals, there’s always the publisher opportunity. There are many indie game publishers that can get a deal for you: some of the popular ones are Garage Games, Indiepath and PopCap. All these companies provide different terms, and your marketing plan can change depending on the deals you make. If you commit yourself to creating an exclusive deal with some of the publishers, then you might not be allowed to sell the game through your website, thus making direct selling options unavailable. Besides pure publishers, there are also content delivery systems available. Valve’s Steam is perhaps the biggest example and could be appealing to indies.

Your marketing plan should tell you which channels you are going to use, and which ones you’ll ignore.

Edoiki distribution channels

Edoiki will be sold directly through Edoiki website. Besides the direct websites we’ll approach Mumbo Jumbo/United Developers and Tri Synergy to discuss retail channels. There are other retail opportunities: Dreamcatcher/The Adventure Company, Cylon Interactive, Merscom, MWR connected– some of them will be considered in the future, while some of them will be ignored.

We will also contact a few publishers for a non-exclusive deals. The first ones to target are Shrapnelgames, JoWood and Matrix Games. Edoiki will omit the casual game portals, as the game is targeting a different audience.

We’ll also approach Valve and discuss the distributing opportunity via Steam.

3. Product – Have Something to Sell

Offer a high-quality product that people want to purchase. If the conversion rate is very low, then it might suggest that your product simply doesn’t offer enough quality. Ask what players and other developers think about your product and refine the product until you start hearing that the only problem with your game is that “it’s too addictive”. Remember: the low conversion rate doesn’t necessarily indicate a bad product. Ask people: if you hear comments that say that your product is fine but the website or the demo are poor, then forget polishing the product and move on to the next step in the marketing plan.

Make sure your product offering is in sync with your distribution strategy. If you are aiming for the portals, make sure your game appeals the portals and their players. If you are using retailers to get hardcore gamers to play your game, you need to design your product for the retail store customers.

4. Promotion – Make People Aware of Your Game

The next step in the marketing plan is to choose how to get people information about your product. You need to make people aware of your game and either guide them to your website for more information, or to get them to download the game through various sources. How you make the offer depends on the market segments your company has targeted. There are different types of players, games and needs. “Casual gamers” have different playing habits than “hardcore gamers”. 6-year old kids play differently compared to 15- or 30-year old players. Females and males have different needs and wants for games. In Japan , they favor different kinds of games than in Germany . It’s your job to define the market segments, and decide which segment (or segments) you choose to target your marketing.

There are several ways to segment the consumer market. The four common marketing segmentation variable types are: geographic (most likely world region or country, but also cities), demographic (age, gender, education, religion, occupation, income, family size), psychographic (social class, lifestyle, personality) and behavioral (casual to heavy user, attitude towards service, loyalty towards company, awareness stage, attitude towards product, genre, favorite games). Also the technical aspects (speed of Internet connection, age of computer) could be included in the segmentation.

After you have chosen the segments, you position your marketing message. Positioning is arranging your whole market offering in a way that it distinguishes your product. If you position yourself as offering the lowest price for young strategy gamers then the market message is much different than if you try to get offer high-quality, non-violent games for very religious players.

After you have selected your target segments, you need to reach those audiences in different ways. Here’s a list of promotion efforts you might want to consider: major download sites, advertising, press releases, PAD services, magazine reviews, website reviews, news sites, other major websites, blogs, contests, nominations, affiliates, articles, forums, conferences, banner ads, text link ads, link exchanges and newsletters. There are also very creative options such as advertising banner in your own car back window or leaving demo CDs in busses – so use your imagination.

Depending on your distribution channel options, the promotion could be totally handled by the parties you are dealing with. If you sign a publishing deal, then you can expect the publisher to take care of the promotion.

Edoiki promotion efforts

Edoiki aims to please board gamers and non-casual gamers, players that are addicted to the online multiplayer game experience, and look for games where they can challenge their friends. These gamers don’t necessarily have a favorite genre, their main goals is to play with friends – as long as the game is good. They are over 20 and mostly male. Their income level is more than $10,000 yearly and they can spend $20 or $30 easily for entertainment now and then. Our players own a high-speed internet connection (256 KB or better) or at least a fast IDSN connection. Our players have at least basic understanding of the English language, they are interested in Japanese/Chinese mythology and know something about Eastern cultures.

Edoiki will use several promotion methods: Google Adwords targeted directly to board games, banner ads on multiplayer and similar online sites, multiplayer gaming forums, press releases, newsletter announcements, major review sites, article writing, community forums, PromoSoft PAD service, blogs, entering the Independent Games Festival.

5. The Website – Get Players to Download Your Game Demo

The indie game marketing plan lists what you will do for your website. Your website’s main purpose is to get people to download the demo of your game. That means your plan should include the steps you will take to enhance the website’s marketing capabilities. If your site gets visitors that visit only the first page and leave without downloading, then you need to refine your website. The other reason for your website to exist is to get people to purchase your game. Make sure user can access to purchase page within one or two mouse clicks.

Edoiki website

Edoiki website will use a virtual private server to handle traffic and make sure the system is online every hour of day. The website will present screenshots, player forums, contact information, company information and present clear and easily distinguishable download and purchase buttons. The website won’t use Javascript or font that would make it hard to use the site. The headline of the site will be tested and the game requirements, features and any other game-related hints & tips will be listed. The site graphics will be polished by the game artist.

The website traffic will be estimated and website specific goals (the rate of downloads) will be refined to meet the download goals after initial number of downloads are received.

6. The Demo – Get Players To Purchase Your Game

Your game demo has only one single goal: to close the deal, to get the player to purchase the game. It’s very important to have a good demo version of your game that fills its purpose. If the conversion rate – the rate of people who purchase the game after testing it – is low, then you might need to adjust your demo. Concentrate on following issues:

[1] Demo feature limitations: does the demo have limited features (like less units, levels, powers etc.) compared to the full version? Are you sure you are telling the player what he will get if he buys? Add nag screens to both beginning and the end of the demo. Use those screens to explain the limitations and benefits of purchasing the game.

[2] Demo time limitations: time limitation combined with feature limitations can be advantageous: offer 15 demo launches or 60 minutes of gameplay, or a 30-day period. Or try something in between.

[3] Guide the player to make the purchase: is it easy (within one or two mouse clicks) for player to purchase your game or enter to your game’s purchase page? If not, adjust the demo.

7. Measurement – Be Aware of What’s Going On

The only way to make sure you are flying in the right direction is to constantly check where you are heading: be sure to measure impacts of different modifications. If you decide to change the price, promotion or demo, be sure to measure the effects. Conduct an A/B split test for your game price: try both a $20 and a $30 price to see which one works better. Offer a money back guarantee and measure how it impacts sales. Do you get more sales with different demo limitations? Test it. Do the sales increase if you offer a better tutorial in game? Does it help to have nag screens in the beginning and in the end of the demo?

Be aware of where you are flying.

8. Maintenance – Make Sure The Passengers Are Happy

Your marketing plan involves maintenance: how are you going to deal with the customers and build such a relationship with your current customers that they come back and purchase from you again. Customer support could include FAQ lists, support databases, and automated emails. Your marketing plan should describe how you will maintain the relationship with your customers. Will you use support forums or outsource your customer support? Will you use customer relationship management (CRM) tools? Will there be an online chat available for those who purchase? Will you use blogs or newsletters to inform the players about your product updates?

Your marketing plan will tell you how you will deal with the relationship: it will tell you whether you let your publisher or portals handle customer support, or use all or some of the methods discussed earlier.

9. Refinement – Adjust Your Flight Plan

The last step in the marketing plan is to refine the plan. Go to step 1 and adjust your goals. If you think your conversion rate is dropping to .5% feel free to double the goal for download number. As you double your download number goal you know that you need to focus on more promotion rather than optimizing the demo, website or product. On the other hand, if you choose to refine the conversion rate, then you know that you should focus on the quality of your game, demo or website rather than promotion.

Conclusions

The indie game marketing plan describes the goals derived from a company’s strategic objectives. The main idea for the marketing plan is to describe the goals, decide the actions necessary to reach those goals, measure and eventually refine the plan as the production progresses.

Interview with 3DRealms CEO Scott Miller – Prey Game & Production Insight

Scott Miller is the CEO of game development studio 3DRealms. GameProducer.net interviewed him about game production and their upcoming game Prey. Prey has a serious dark story based on authentic Cherokee mythology. The PC and Xbox 360 demo are coming on June 22nd.

GameProducer.net: Before going to any other questions, tell us little bit about yourself. How did you get into games industry?

Scott Miller: While living in Australia, began writing computer games in 1975 on a Wang 2000 and have since written over 100 games, large and small, up until 1990, with over 20 commercially released on disk magazines such as I.B.Magazette and Softdisk (Big Blue Disk). During the mid-80′s I wrote professionally for several national gaming magazines, including COMPUTE!, as well as writing a weekly syndicated column for four years for The Dallas Morning News (titled “Video Vision” the first two years, then renamed “Computer Fun” for another two years). In the early 80′s also co-authored (with George Broussard) a book on beating arcade games.

In 1990 I quit my day job to focus on Apogee full-time. (Apogee had been a part-time business since late 1987.) Immediately recruited several key developers to join me as shareware game developers, including id Software (before they were id) and Todd Replogle (author of the first three Duke Nukem games). Also at this time turned Apogee into a partnership by teaming up with long-time friend and game maker, George Broussard.

For further information, see: my bio

GameProducer.net: You are the CEO of 3D Realms. What kind of job is that, and what’s your role in game development?

Scott Miller: It’s the best job you can imagine! All play all day! Okay, seriously… I generally handle all contact with our partners, including publishers, handling agreements, etc. I also handle a great deal of the marketing for our products, such as helping design retail boxes and advertisements. And, the best part of my work involves the creation of games, starting with story concepts, through design hooks, to final polishing.

GameProducer.net: As a CEO, your role is different from a game producer. Can you describe us a typical work day for you?

Scott Miller: I really don’t know what a game producer does. This is one of those terms we borrowed from Hollywood, yet a game producer doesn’t do what a movie producer does. It’s a term that has different meanings at different publishers, and even within development studios. So, I rarely use it myself, as its meaning is too blurry to have any real value.

GameProducer.net: It says on your website that Prey is developed by Humanhead and produced by 3DRealms, what exactly that means? What 3D Realms is doing Prey in production?

Scott Miller: Well, in this case we stay true to the Hollywood meaning of the word Producer. This means that we provide funding, and we oversee the project, and put together the right team to create the project (i.e. a developer and a publisher).

GameProducer.net: In one of the game journal entries you mention that SpiritWalking is one of the key features of the game, what kind of feature is that?

Scott Miller: Spirit walking is a gameplay feature rooted to true Native American methology, where a shaman of sufficient power can astral project himself beyond his physical self. This feature is one of the reason we selected a Cherokee protagonist, as the rich mythology of Cherokee culture lends itself to many such inherently credible gameplay hooks.

GameProducer.net: Prey production started at late 2001. When did 3D Realms started to work with Humanhead?

Scott Miller: Actually, Prey originally started within 3D Realms’ studio back in 1997, under the direction of Tom Hall, who soon left to help form Ion Storm, and then we brought in Paul Schuytema to replace him. We ceased worked on the project in 1999. We gave new life to the game in 2001 after buying back the publishing rights to Prey from Infogrames, and that’s when we decided to work with Human Head to bring the project to completion.

GameProducer.net: Prey is done for both Xbox and PC, using enhanced Doom 3 engine. What kind of impact this multi-platform development has had in production?

Scott Miller: Very little. The game was developed on the PC, and then easily translated to the Xbox 360. Venom studio is handling the translation with a great deal of skill, and in fact they’ve given the game a whole new super slick interface on the Xbox.

GameProducer.net: 3DRealms got praise from Remedy when they were doing their first cinematic action title Max Payne. Remedy said that it has been great to work with a publisher that gave no or little pressure about the deadlines. I heard the famous slogan “When it’s done” first time said by Remedy & 3D Realms. How do you approach this attitude nowadays? Do you have no deadlines at all? What it really means to you to publish a game “when it’s done”?

Scott Miller: Well, we have a simply philosophy that if you’re going to make a game, do it right. Another words, the game comes first. Most publishers do not see the value of this philosophy, and therefore the majority of their games are not hits. Also, since we retain ownership of our game brands, it is in our best interest to insure that our games are big hits, because not only do we like those fat royalty checks, we also like to see the valuation of our brands exceed 10′s of millions of dollars. In 2002 we (us and Remedy) sold the Max Payne brand for nearly $50 million, and that was after earning some $25 million in royalties. So, was it worth the 4.5 years to make Max Payne right?

GameProducer.net: One of the key factors of 3D Realms game production is independency. Can you tell us what independent game development means for a company like 3D Realms?

Scott Miller: I sort of answered this in the previous question. By being independent, we can make sure our games are done right, and that rewards us far more completely than a dozen half-way done right games. Also, by being independent, we can chose projects to pursue that have the correct story, character and gameplay hooks to insure their success. This is as important as anything to us, because without getting this part right, even superb execution and endless financing cannot bring success.

GameProducer.net: What do you think about indie (one or few person independent game companies) game development and production?

Scott Miller: This is exactly how my company got started, with me working along long nights in the 80′s, toiling in Turbo Pascal on an IBM PC with no hard drive. So, I always root for the small companies and independents. The trick is that they need to focus on smaller games, of course. The mobile market seems like a great market for indies, too.

GameProducer.net: Have you played indie games, and if so – do you have any favourites?

Scott Miller: I really haven’t played many at all. I spend most of my game time playing games that generally compete within my market.

GameProducer.net: You have written and spoken about the importance of intellectual properties (IPs). Can you tell us the 3 most important reasons why IPs are so important?

Scott Miller:
[1] If you own your own IP, you benefit from the growth in value from the IP.
[2] This in turns gives you clout in starting new projects.
[3] And sets you free from becoming a slave to publishers.

GameProducer.net: Many people and parents out there want people to get a good job from some big trusted corporation… and leave playing games for the young kids. Have you ever considered getting a so-called ‘real’ job?

Scott Miller: Heh heh! I used to have a so-called real job, which I quit in 1990 to pursue Apogee full-time. But until I quit, I always had real day jobs, then worked 8 hours more at home making games and finding ways to sell them online. It took me five years of endless long nights before I had finally gotten to the point were I could quit and devote all my time to Apogee — a very scary decision at that time. But, I’m a risk-taker at heart, and I never want to live a life where I look back and think, “If only I’d tried…”

GameProducer.net: In the end, I would like to ask for some hints and tips. Can you give your TOP 5 tips that you think every game developer or game producer should know?
Scott Miller:

  • Read: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, and think about these concepts apply to game concepts and design. This is the best tip I can give anyone.
  • Most games are released too soon, before they are truly polished to perfection. This kills sales.
  • Never become married to your ideas. Kill your ego and be willing to accept good ideas from any person or source. Always let the best idea win.

That’s all!

GameProducer.net: Big thanks to you Scott and 3D Realms for the interview. It’s great to to see busy professionals to answer questions from us indies. Good luck with the future projects.

How To Get People To Do What You Want

One of the challenges of game producers is to get people do what they are supposed to do. And on time. It might be true that it’s easier to get people to do what you want as long as you have money. You just give people money, and they do what you want. That’s partially true.

But, that’s definitely not the whole truth.

You cannot force anyone to do things for you. Even with money. If the person is not motivated – if he doesn’t want to do the job then even money won’t help. He might do a lousy job, or finish only partially if he doesn’t want to do something. The only way to get people to do something, is to get him want to do it.

There are much more other things people desire besides money. Here’s a short list of what people want. When you give people what they want, they are more willing to do what you want.

#1 – Money
As mentioned earlier: people want money. Some people want it more, some less. Everybody needs some amount of money to survive, so money can be one vehicle for motivation. Even small bonuses or upfront money can motivate people to work for a long period of time.

#2 – Trust
Team members want a game producer they can trust. If they think you are hiding something, making deals without telling them or keeping more money and royalties than was agreed then the trust is gone. And when the trust is gone, the game project progress stops and the fighting begins.

Be honest, open and trust your team members – that’s the way to build trust.

#3 – Listened
People want someone to listen to them. Don’t just hear them while they are talking. It’s important to listen what they are saying, comment and notice what their message is. If you ignore everything they are saying, then they start feeling that you are not interested. That leads them to be uninterested about your assignments. Why would they listen to you, if you don’t listen to them?

#4 – Involvement
Team members want to be part of the team. Don’t keep mentioning it’s ‘your project’, ‘your game idea’ or ‘your something’. Start speaking about ‘our project, ‘our game’, ‘our team members’. Have an attitude where you are the ‘king’ of the project and doing the hardest work. Start thinking how lucky you are actually having interested people in your team. When you get team members… be darn sure to let them – and others – know that you are doing the project together. Team members want to a have a solid team – and a feeling that they are part of the team.

#5 – Peace & Quiet
Even though people want to be part of a team, they also want work individually. In an indie project where people can be located all over the world this is not much of an issue, but in an office where interruptions can happen there is need for peace & quiet.

#6 – Recognition & Rewards
Team members want to hear that they’ve done a good job (when they’ve actually done a good job), they want their name to be mentioned in interviews, websites, credits… Don’t flatter people, that’s cheap. Give reward & recognition when you’ve think they’ve done a good job, but also let them hear if something is gone wrong. Group rewards can also be important for team members.

#7 – Titles
This is something that’s been a bit of a mystery to me, but people are keen to have a nice title. They want titles like ‘marketing coordinator’, ‘CEO’, ‘game producer’ or ‘lead designer’. I’m not saying you are like this. I’m not saying that marketing coordinators, CEO’s, game producers or lead designers are like this. I’m saying that some people are. Some people need to have a title for their jobs to feel important.

I see that this can be practical for communicating with other companies: if someone is looking for business deals they might want to talk to CEO, and when someone is looking for a job they might want to talk with the human resources. In this way it’s practical to have a title for external communication. But personally, I don’t think there’s need for titles in internal communication. But, I understand that some people want titles – and that’s fine with me. Just remember: people appreciate titles

#8 – Plan
Team members don’t want just automatically process everything that’s given to them. People want to plan their work, and work their plan. If you get people involved in the game planning – even in areas outside their responsibility – you are sure to get people motivated. The feeling of mutually planned goal is important.

#9 – Freedom
People want to freedom to choose the methods of working. You should focus on results, not the method. If you need a great looking 9000 polygon 3D orc model with a 512×512 .png texture in a .3DS format then say it. Don’t tell the artist to start using Milkshape & Gimp to do the model. Let him choose the way he wants to work – just make sure the results are okay.

#10 – Responsibility
People want to get responsibility, and they want to know the are important for the whole project. If you don’t give responsibility to your team members, they lose interest. They want to know that others are dependant on their work. They want you and other team members to know they are important for the project.

And keep in mind – everybody is different
We all have different wants and needs. It’s true that some people usually want some of the things mentioned (Rewards for example: everybody wants to know they’ve done a great job. You want that, I want that. Even humble people want to hear that they are humble – even though they don’t mention that… If you are honest with yourself, you feel good when somebody mentions about a job you’ve done well). Everybody is different: some people want more formal way of working, some people want informal. Some people like challenges, some people don’t. The secret of getting along with people is to think the project, tasks and assignments in their point of view. Find the unique needs of different persons. Be motivating, be inspiring, be professional and be happy. Find out what people want, and present the assignments in their way.

Sales Stats: Tribal Trouble – $60,000 Net Income


Title: Tribal Trouble
Developer: Oddlabs
Released: 1st April 2005
Team size: 4 full-time + 2 freelance
Time of development: 2� years (includes startup of the company, with many months spent on business
plans and other bureaucracy.)
Platforms: Windows, Mac, Linux
Links: Download / Buy

Sales
Price US $29.95
Direct online sales: 1500
….. Windows: 460 (31%)
….. Mac OS X: 680 (47%)
….. Linux: 160 (11%)
….. Undefined: 200 (11%)
Portal sales: 400
Danish box sales: 650
German box sales: (sorry, not allowed to say)

Downloads: 100,000 (initiated – from own server)
- Windows: 60,000
- Mac OS X: 25,000
- Linux: 15,000

Conversion rate: 1.5%
- Windows: 0.8%
- Mac OS X: 2.8%
- Linux: 1.1%

Net income: US $60,000 (roughly)

Expenses:
– Music/SFX/GFX: US $6000
– Servers: US $2000
– PR (press releases, gifts for PR competitions): US $600
– GDC (trip for 3 to San Jose + flyers and merchandice): US $4800

Tribal Trouble Developer Sune Nielsen added:

Of course there are a lot of other expenses, but none tied directly to Tribal
Trouble. These include hardware, software, rent and saleries (though they are
low :)), amounting to more than US $40,000. Our first fiscal report isn’t done
yet and I’m not the one working on it, so this is as close as I can get at
the moment.

Promotion:
- java.com
- press releases
- reviews
- banners
- IGF nomination

Sune:

We have gotten a lot of downloads by being on the front page of java.com, and on their games page. Other than that, the press releases and the many online and hard copy reviews have generated the remaining downloads. We tried out banners at a few sites, but they didn’t convert enough. The IGF nomination also gave us quite a lot of good publicity.

There has been no direct impact on sales/downloads from the GDC. This I have also heard from other IGF finalists. The GDC mainly gives an advantage in getting publisher and other business connections. The press coverage from the fact that we were nominated gave some peaks in sales. Especially when the danish Computer World online wrote about it.

Notes:
Sune:

In Germany, Austria and Switzerland, the game is published in retail by Halycon Media, at 29.95 EURO. Being from Denmark, we decided publish it there ourselves, and have had some success getting into the stores, but not all stores are willing to cut out the publisher/distributer links. The Danish box is sold for 299.95 DKK (just under US $50). By far the most copies have been sold to stores, but we have also sold a few from our website.

Creating Your Very Own Massively Multiplayer Online (Role Playing) Game

Creating a MMOG (or MMORPG) is a dream for many developers.

The biggest problems with MMO game development are pretty much the following:
- Time
- Money

Basically they are too large projects for individuals or small teams to handle. The need for solid network code and huge content is something which will take ages to complete. And those are just two aspects of programming. The need for servers, bandwidth, billing systems require money. These are simply something which small indies cannot afford. Small team making a MMORPG from scratch is waste of money and time.

Google can show us several (open source) MMORPGs that have been started, but I haven’t seen any finished indie MMORPGs
(If somebody can prove me wrong, please let me know.)

Edit #1: didn’t take many hours to prove that Dofus and A Tale In The Desert were created by indies… I should remember: there are always exceptions to the law. Thanks people!

Edit #2: Dofus had a million dollar budget. I doubt any indies can afford that – there’s most likely some invested money there…? I presume ATITD is the only one that has been developed and published by a self-funded company? Recently a person at GameDev mentioned “RuneScape” – which leads to the discussion about “what is the definition of Massively multiplayer online games”… Are MUDs considered MMO games as well? In any case – the MMO games made by indies are minority. There are lots of more unfinished mmorpg projects than actually finished games with massive amount of simultaneous players (exluding browser based) made by indies.

Luckily, there are alternatives.

Kaneva Game Platform
Recently I found a game development kit called Kaneva Game Platform. The main idea seemed very interesting. Kaneva let’s you create your own MMO game. The basic features & benefits are said to be:
- No fees, money is paid using royalties
- Editors to script your game
- Possibility to modify the engine using C++
- Kaneva hosts your game and handles billing

Unfortunately it seems that Kaneva uses 3D Studio Max (which licencing fees are way too high for indies) and secondly: the Kaneva crashed my Windows XP every time after 15 seconds. I really hope they get the game system stable. It looked interesting, the concept is nice – but the execution is not good. At least not yet.

Multiverse
Multiverse offers similar solution for indie game developers. They started offering their MMOG platform at the beginning of the December (2005) and their system is said to be:
- Make a complete Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) or virtual world for less money and in less time than you could have dreamed possible.
- Participate in the game industry’s most exciting frontier.
- Build the features that make your game unique, leveraging the expertise of the networking and infrastructure experts who helped build the web.
- Deliver your vision to a built-in market of players–without having to ask a publisher’s permission or give up your intellectual property.

And they have similar offering as Kaneva:
- There are no upfront costs. We only make money when you make money, and if you never charge a cent, you never have to pay us anything.

At the time of writing, Multiverse is in closed beta phase so I didn’t have the opportunity to test the system yet. The screenshots they provided looked quite similar to any MMOG out there.

I believe more and more MMOG options will be available for indie game developers in this year 2006. Keep your eyes open.