Category Archives: Ask Game Producer

Do you have a game production related question you are not sure about? Feel free to contact me and ask your question. Sometimes questions can be answered within days, sometimes it might take more time.

Q&A: “How to Prevent People From Stealing My Work”

Short version: You don’t. (But don’t take my word for it, read here for example)

Longer version:
One of you readers sent me an email containing some questions about publishing. Here’s my opinions and thoughts:

I have some questions that have been giving me a head ache. I figured there is only two ways for me to distribute, not counting on getting into stores. One, download over the internet or Two, ship out a CD.

You can actually have downloadable version in the net, and additional CD shipping. Many ecommerce providers have CD option as well (check for example Plimus, eSellerate or BMTmicro and see what they have to offer).

General trend seems to be favoring digital distribution (via internet), rather than CD/DVD option, so my suggestion would be to go for internet distribution, and additionally have CD if you really want. I haven’t used CDs but somebody somewhere at some year said that it wasn’t big (or at all) addition to their sales to have CD. Don’t know what the situation is today for indies, but I’d guess most of the developers concentrate on the internet.

The first problem I see with both methods is Copy Protection. How can you stop someone from downloading your game for themselves, then giving someone else a copy of the game they paid for? That would cause you to lose out on Capital because person two got the game for free.

You cannot stop people from downloading your game for free no matter what you do if you bring it online. Even MMO games have been hacked so that there’s pirate servers floating somewhere, people playing for free.

You simply cannot do that.

What you can do is to start thinking whether you really lose capital, and try to change your thinking about piratism. Reading this gamasutra article can be a good starting point.

It’s a tricky thing, but in the end you really cannot prevent people from stealing your work.

Having some sort of DRM might be a good option for you, or it might do nothing good. Some vote yes for DRM, some vote no – both sides support their view with statistical data, so I guess it might depend on the game too.

Whatever you decide, you have to realize that somebody somewhere can hack your game and there’s not much you can do about it.

As for CDs or DVDS….copy protection methods cost a lot of money….money I don’t have right now. Not to mention, if sells go well….their could be an issue keeping up with the demand if I were to publish the title myself (too many CDs to ship out at one time).

If you need to ship “too many CDs” that’s a positive problem. And… simply not a problem if you use an ecommerce provider that handles CD shipping.

There’s this website call, www.Shareit.com. The company is an online publisher, but I really don’t trust them. For starters…they don’t answer emails. Secondly, are they even doing any business?

Shareit actually could be called ecommerce provider (who handles the online transactions) rather than a publisher (who would do marketing, promotion among other duties).

I’ve bought stuff via Shareit earlier, and I think I even got some affiliate payments from them at some point so I think they were okay. Not sure about the situation today, but I’d head over to forums (like indiegamer boards or gameproducer forums) and ask around. I personally think they are okay the last I’ve heard (but of course you are better of checking this on your own).

Can you or someone that knows about this kind of stuff point in in the right direction? Please…..I only get one shot at this so I want to do it right. If you can get me a list of Publishers that publish Interactive Entertainment Software over the net, you’ll have my gratitude. I’m leaning towards over the net downloads…but once again….the fear of someone making a copy for a friend is eating at me.

I presume by “publisher” you really mean an ecommerce provider (which handles online transactions). At some point I was using eSellerate (was good), then BMTmicro (was good) and latest being Plimus (good as well). So, check these out (there’s others too – just ask around for “ecommerce providers”) and simply pick one and go for that. You can always switch later if you want.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Market (and Sell) Software Online

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

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

A really, really short answer would be:

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

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

The First Steps To Starting Your Own Game Company And Making Games

One reader asked me:

I want to start my own company and make games. And there is the problem: I am using all my free time to learn about everything, I have lots of interests. And I can see, that making games is hard as hell :) I need graphic person (I cant find any around here) and I need people that would work on it as on their dream (I cant find anyone else but me).
So I am stuck with dream, with my will to invest everything in it, and with lack of people. I dont know what to do.

I’ll try to answer these questions. For the first challenge (having lots of interests), there is pretty much only one solution:

If you have too many interests, you need to drop something away.
I’m a sucker for doing everything and anything. I’m curious about how different stuff works. I have many interests, I watch all kinds of television shows and movies (ranging from Dr. Phil to Jurassic Park to Saw movies to Terence Hill movies to Gandhi documents to Jackie Chan cartoons to whatnot). I like to read quite a lot (anything from fiction books to all kinds of programming, business, marketing, project management etc. literacy). I have interest for pen & paper RPGs, I like playing consoles, PC, and so on. I jog and exercise regularly. The list goes on (and certainly doesn’t include all my activities and interests).

I suppose this is quite common for us people: we have many different interests. And at some point we gotta do a bit of prioritizing here. We gotta choose what we really want to do.

Eliminate or reduce the non-important.
That’s how I’ve done it. I realized that if I want to make games, it means that I will need to drop something away. Since reading is still much of my interest, and supports learning new stuff I’ve kept that on top of my interest list (in reality I simply just like reading, so that’s the real reason. My brain tries to give me a logical reason for why I read, even though the real reason is mainly emotional). Anyway, I’ve kept reading in my list. I’ve dropped the amount of time I spend watching television and movies (I still do that too). For example, I’ve dropped the time I spend playing games (recently I’ve played more than “normally”). These give me extra hours. Since physical exercises are good for health (and support not only game development but also life in general) I’ve kept those too.

Bottom line is: something must go. I’ve always suggested people considering if they could do less work (like for every 3 weeks, take 1 week off from work and develop your game that week). I suggest that you don’t try to “wear too many developer hats” (to some extent). If you are good at programming, I think it might not be very useful try to become an artist too. Instead, program a game using no art (or use content packs) and you can attract artists in your project if it’s fun to play (but lacks art). If you have a demo done, you have more chances convincing other people’s that you can finish a game.

Become more productive
An additional way to get more stuff done is to become more productive. I’ve written a lengthy blog post that has list of 100 tips to be more productive. That could be worth checking out.

What’s relevant knowledge
You also mentioned that you have quite a lot of experience in programming, and say that “making games is hard as hell”. In reality, making games can be quite simple. If I managed to write a piece of game using C64, I’m sure you can write a game. Perhaps you might be lacking the right tools. There’s loads of different game engines that can help you get moving. Engines like Leadwerks, Blitz 3D/Max/Basic, Game Maker, Torque Engines and more can be found via DevMaster.net

What if you lack people?
The simple truth is: nobody is going to create game for you. Idea is… merely an idea. Rest of the stuff (bringing that idea into reality) is the “hard” part. Techdojo wrote such an excellent forum thread about this subject, so I recommend you take a look at it: I’ve got this idea for a video game – what do I do next…

In addition, I recommend reading this blog entry: How to create your first game. It should give some tips as well.

And the company part…
Just set it up. Call some people and set the company up. Hardest part is not the paperwork, it’s the step making the call. Just do it.

Good luck and don’t give up.

Indie Life Wasn’t Supposed To Be Easy…

I got this post from one of you readers, and I think there’s valuable questions and ideas worth considering here. I’ll go the post step by step and answer as well as I can.

I know very well what constrains me, and do not know HOW to make it work – doubt there is a way btw…

Somebody has said that Where there’s a will there’s a way and I 100% agree with the statement. I do realize that some things don’t work for everybody all the time, so sometimes you need to stop wondering how to go through a dead end and simply turn back and find some other route. But often, there’s a way.

Let’s see if we can come up with a solution – but for starters, I think it’s hugely important to make sure you concentrate on thinking about the solution rather than thinking that there’s no way to make it work.

The problem is, the type of game I make is true RPGs… and big, thriving portals all says it’s not the kind of game that clicks to their target audience…

Yes, that’s a fact of life. Portals won’t sell certain kind of games, so it’s waste of time trying to sell them anything they don’t want. It’s bit like the story about banana farm for monkey.

so how can i rival Azada when Azada is so much promoted and I get nothing but my own site and a couple others?

A simplified answer is that “you can’t”. If you are doing an RPG game that portals don’t want (unless it’s a ‘casual RPG’…), then I don’t see how you could ‘compete with Azada‘.

The good news are, that you don’t need to.

When you are creating a game that cannot go through portals, then you gotta find some alternative routes. For starters, there’s sites such as Kongregate.com that can help promoting your game. You can simply approach different publishers and make deals with them. Reflexive is another good choice: they take indie games too.

Or, look what one Finnish game company did with their Shadowgrounds game: they have several purchase places (and they published through Meridian4).

Simply put: if you cannot go through portals, then use something else.

HOW can I make THIS work? Seems to me there is no answer, as I cannot force the portals to promote my stuff – if they dont want, they dont want…

You said something really important: you can’t force other people to promote your stuff. It’s the old saying about getting horses to drink: you can lead them to a river, but they’ll make up their own mind about drinking water.

If you think you are not going anywhere with your game (even after trying several publishers, like mentioned above), then at some point you gotta ask if you could change your approach. Perhaps it could make sense to do a market research where you’ll go through various stages to find out if there’s market for your game. If RPG genre isn’t getting you where you want, perhaps you can try something different (‘casual RPG’, ‘Puzzle RPG’, ‘Adventure RPG’,, Puzzle games and so on). Something that you might have better chances in getting to portals.

That was the hopeless message of the day… one of your writings says, “dont give up, business could start the month after”… how can you see it coming when the main actors of the indie scene clearly states they have no interest in the type of game you do…

There’s a chinese proverb that says: “The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it.” If you think it cannot be done, then you perhaps could get motivation from watching how others are doing it.

Our games should not try to please everybody on the planet all the time. If your game can please some audience, for some time – then you’ll done your part (and can reap the rewards).

If portals don’t want your game then you have (close to) two options:
1) Either you create a game that portals want
2) Or you try some other ways to promote your game.

Also remember that selling isn’t the only option for promoting and generating revenue. There’s plenty of practical marketing tips and business insight available that can help you getting ideas on how to get forward with your game.

If you really enjoy doing games, and really think you have a good game – then go forward. Find somebody who can help you. Ask from others who have done RPG games earlier. Ask in different forums. Make a plan and go boldly forward.

Make things happen.

Read This If You Are Not Sure on How to Promote Your Game

Every now and then I get an email something like here:

My question is, I dont know how to go about promoting this game or even how to let other sites and people know the game exists! We spent a year on making it and feel its top quality and want other gamers to be able to experience its fun.

If I enroll to insiders are there any schemes setup that will help me promote my product and make the internet game sites aware it exists?

Thanks for any tips or suggestions you might have.

My typical answer is something like this.

Check out marketing tips
The practical marketing category contains some tips that can help you to get coverage for your game. Some of the articles are written months ago, yet have practical information today.

Take a look at some sales tips
There’s plenty of articles about getting sales, so going through them might be worth your time. Just skimming the category headlines might give you an idea or two on how to increase your sales – so it just might be something that you need.

Set up a newsletter
It’s amazing how many developers don’t have a newsletter on their site, so that’s something to consider when you want to start promoting your game. The newsletter is a handy way to get people back to your website.

What comes to the Insider membership: that’s a twofold issue.

Does Insider membership help you to learn on how to promote your game? Yes, if you are willing to take some time to go through the material. I’ve tried to write everything in short way by giving the essentials (I don’t want to waste my time by writing more than would be necessary, and I don’t want you to waste your time by reading anything more than the essential information).

At the time of writing, the Insider have access to special resources that contain dozens of tips on what I’ve done to get tens of thousands of people to visit my websites. The press release distribution tool gives the chance to get in touch with the press.

I must point out that Insider membership alone won’t help you. You actually need to provide newsworthy items for the press. If you have a good story to tell, then promoting your game is easy.

There’s several benefits that comes with the Insiders membership, so go and take a look at it.

If you are not sure if the membership is for you, then please feel free to ask me.

8 More Game Producer Questions Answered

I was asked to some game producer questions earlier, and here are the rest of the questions and answers.

Question #8. What makes you tick?
Something like this.

Question #9. Who or what has been your greatest influence in the videogame industry?
Hmm… maybe it was the time when I discovered “C64 BASIC programming” book in the library.

Question #10. Do you see role of the producer changing in the future?
Yes, I’m sure it will change – although I cannot tell how it will change. Whatever happens, the important part is to embrace change.

Question #11. What advice would you give to an aspiring producer?
My top 2 tips would be:

1) Do what you have passion for.
2) Never give up.

See also game producer interviews – there’s plenty of information from many producers who have loads of experience in game production.

Question #12. What is your favorite videogame? And favorite that you have worked on?
Same answer to both questions: this one.

Seriously: the game project I’m currently working on has always been my favourite, and hopefully always will be.

Question #13. What makes a game producer tick?
Tough one… depends on the producer I think?

Question #14. Education, qualities, attributes or skills of a Producer
Check out breaking in the industry. It contains massive amount of information from AAA producers: it will tell you what kind of skills and qualities are necessary – and what kind of meaning education has.

Question #15. Top Producers in the game industry – your opinion
The ones who keep the team going forward. The ones working without making a big fuss about everything. The ones whose names we probably won’t even see.

7 Game Producer Questions That Need Answers

I received an email with several questions, and here’s the first 7 answers for those questions.

Question #1. How have producer roles changed over the last two decades?
According to Wikipedia, the first time “game producer” title was used in 1982. From the interviews and discussions with other producer, I’ve come to conclusion that “producer” means different things on different companies. The role definition lies somewhere between “manager” and “leader”. I believe the role is more likely to change between companies, than perhaps between time.

Question #2. The current fight over which titles to greenlight….?
Hard cold business decisions.

Question #3. What makes a good developer?
See what people smarter than me have answered. I think in my mind it boils down to getting stuff done.

Question #4. Who are famous producers in your opinion? Why?
I don’t think this is a matter of opinion – it’s matter of fame, and matter of defining producer. Any producer who has put his name in his games must be famous ;)

Question #5. Who is your favorite producer? Second favorite? Why?
I don’t play favorites, but if I have to choose, I’d pick “Me, me”. He is the guy I have to bear with every single day.

Question #6. What are some of the changes brought about by the marketplace in the way the production process takes shape?
This is extremely large question to answer. I can give you some changes that in my mind are changing the marketplace, but these are just examples.

First of all I think digital delivery (downloading games via Internet, without going to shops to buy games) is a huge thing. It will change the marketplace for good, and DRM (digital rights management) are playing a big role here: copy protection must be done so that it won’t annoy the player. Another thing is the raise of casual gaming. Naturally the console wars (PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii… and others) are changing the marketplace. For example, companies need to figure out which platforms to support, and whether to make games for consoles or not.

There are more reasons, and I let our community members to give more examples.

7. Why would game development teams fail without producers?
If by producer we mean “manager” or “leader”, then one could ask why teams would fail without leaders. This is pretty good question, and I think teams might survive without having a clear leader in the team. In theory, if the team members are all working towards the common goal – it might work. Leaders are there to keep the team together, help team members to make their work, resolve difficult situations… and somebody has to do that. It doesn’t mean that team would need a guy whose work title is “producer”, but naturally somebody needs to know where the game development should be going.

What Children Are Learning From Video Games?

I received a question about the effects of video games to children. I want to make very clear that my opinion does not base on academic research (or any facts for that matter) and is purely my opinion so take take this as a grain of salt.

Question:

What are the positive and negative effects of video games on kids

Answer:
I wanted to approach this question by thinking how kids generally might experience video games. I created two brief lists:

Positive effects
Here are some good sides about playing video games. Naturally some of these elements might apply also for older players.

  • Learn English – Video games can be especially good for those who don’t speak English as their native language. I have learned a lot about English language by playing different adventure games in the past.
  • Fun – Video games can be really fun, and can bring joy in life.
  • Social skills – While some parents might think that kids won’t learn social skills, I believe it can be quite different. Gathering friends or playing online with other people can sometimes be a fine way to get some social skills (and by all means I don’t think computer games should replace other type of socializing).
  • Math, physics (and other sciences) – Sometimes games can teach player math or physics (as an example, bridge building game comes to my mind).
  • Alphabetics and other “stuff you learn at school” – Some games can teach alphabetics, drawing skills and other stuff kids learn at schools. Games won’t replace teachers yet, but perhaps we’ll see that day in the future…
  • Problem solving skills – Many video games require some sort of problem solving skills (yes, some rely on guns, but there’s also different type of games that require puzzles to be solved).
  • Creativity – Many games challenge players to come up with creative ideas and strategies.

Negative effects:
Video games aren’t just for fun. There can be some negative effects that should be taken into consideration.

  • Sleep rhythm – I would assume that kids that play all nights might be pretty tired during the days. Parents should watch out how many hours kids stare that computer screen.
  • Money spent on games – Not necessarily a bad thing to spend some money on games, but hopefully kids doesn’t put all their allowances in games.
  • Lack of fresh air – Kids gotta play outdoors. Video console Wii might make bring boxing or golf in the house, but it won’t beat getting fresh air.
  • Game violence – Some games are violent and not suitable for kids. Similar to movies, I don’t think everything is suitable for kids.

I believe balance is needed here: in reasonable portions, video games can do a world good to kids. Excessive playing on the other hand can have negative impact.

Effects Of Violent Computer Games On Children

I received a question regarding violent computer games from one of you readers:

I am a 6th Form Media Studies student, investigating into the effects of computer games, particularly violent ones on children, and if the effects are different on boys to girls? I would very much appreciate an input from your view on this question and what you feel the effects are are on the different genders (boys and girls).

Before answering to this question I really must point out that this answer is only my opinion and I won’t even try to pretend that I’d know 100% how violent video games might affect on children – so don’t count on getting facts based on research. These are only my opinions and I deserve the right to be 100% wrong on this.

Let’s move on.

I don’t know if there’s any difference on the effects depending on gender. I believe both boys and girls can feel the effects of computer violence – perhaps some individuals differently than others, but in this matter I would put boys and girls in the same basket. I think – and that’s my guess alone – that violence in games has similar impact to boys and girls.

What I think today about violent games is very different from the thoughts I had when I was a teenager. As a teenager (and perhaps bit older too) I used to say “computer games don’t create violent behavior” and “computer games might be played by violent people – but that they were violent beforehand”. Today I have a bit different opinion.

I don’t think that playing violent video games would automatically create violence. I enjoyed playing Mortal Kombat and Doom and I think they had much impact on me. I read Dalai Lama’s and Gandhi’s texts and think they make lots of sense when it comes to non-violence. But in games… sometimes it’s fun to shoot some zombies.

While I don’t think violent video games automatically turn us into murderers, they might still teach us patterns on how to behave (mafia games might suggest that revenge is okay for example). In some (rare – I’d say) cases, some kids might really model violence they see in games.

I’m bit concerned what the violent games teach us. For example: when you play any strategy game and after you’ve killed “the terrorists” you see “victory”. Ask somebody who has really been on some war, and he’ll tell you that there are no winners in wars. Splitting world into “good guys” and “enemies” (or “terrorists”) is some sort of propaganda… and we buy that. The games teach us that “it’s okay to kill bad guys” – and I’m not sure if that’s such a good lesson. Are there truly “good” and “bad” guys, or could it be that “good guys” also happen to do “bad things”? And is it really a “victory” if you kill your enemy?

There are some games that use violence only for the sake of violence. I wrote about the violence in games in the past after I played Punisher game… and to be honest: I really think that type of violence isn’t suitable for children (not sure if that’s suitable for anyone now as I think about it). Basically in that game you shoot anything that moves and if somebody messes with you – then it’s your duty to kick their heads.

There has been research made on this topic, and I recommend checking out some academic research to get more detailed and informative insight on this matter (scholar.google.com and search for “violence in video games” could be a good starting point). I believe there you can find more factual statements based on actual research – instead of some blogger’s comments. :)

Bottom line. In my opinion, I think the game age ratings are there for a reason. Parents should check out those ratings and see what games their kids play. Not everything is suitable for children, and violent video games should be supervised like any other media.