I’m Back (And Just Spend An Hour Digging Through My Emails)

I’m back from the holiday trip (was nice to get away from this chair) and will do another trip next week. Today I started going through my emails and spent almost an hour deleting, replying and archiving emails (and there’s still some of them).

There were important posts and I still need to take some time to go through the rest, but I just started to ponder “is this really how we communicate”?

With the typical pill spam and whatnot, I also received posts promoting some gears and some guy asking me to partner with him for 6.5 million African something something.

Is this how we are forced to operate?

How much time is the whole world combined spending time deleting spam emails?

I Wonder Why They Try To Motivate People With These…

Some companies seem to try to reward workers by buying some crap to them. I read some article somewhere about saying how employees could play table tennis at the workplace. It was mentioned how motivated the workers will be when they have these sort of fun toys to play around.

I kind of disagree.

To me this sounds like “working feels horrible, so lets ease the pain with something else”. I think the focus should not be on purchasing tennis tables (or whatever stuff). Focus should be making working fun. If you feel great to be able to work and have really interesting tasks, you really don’t need external toys or rewards (they can be nice addition, but not really necessary). The work in itself is so rewarding that you’d hate to stop working. (Money is needed for practical purposes, but if the work is really rewarding, having a big salary isn’t all that important).

The main goal could be to create such environment where people feel privileged to work. Whenever somebody is thinking: “I even get paid to do this which is odd since this really doesn’t feel even work to me!” he is on the right path.

In my pretty humble opinion, I think teams should focus on making the work feel a reward in itself. Buying stuff to reward somebody should come after that.

Launching A Twitter Experiment To Find Out If Twitter Is Just Waste of Time… Or Could It Be Useful In Game Production

I have my twitter account where I have mainly posted automatically whenever a new blog post has been published. There seems to be loads of people using Twitter (I’ve picked some people to follow) and there’s talk about saying how “twitter isn’t waste of time” and I think it was Techcrunch who said that Twitter will replace RSS (I doubt it).

I want to find out if there’s something beneficial for using Twitter (taken into account the time spent)
Technically, Twitter is bit like a mIRC. It’s kind of like a public chat where you can pick who you will listen to. Then there’s some hash tags and replies and direct messages and that’s like the core of Twitter.

My experience with Twitter bases on like 2 hour usage so I realize that I might miss something… but on the other hand I feel I’m pretty quick learner for this sort of stuff so I make a bold move to do drastic conclusions. (I reserve the right to change my mind at the end of this experiment).

So, this is how I gonna check out if there’s anything for game producers
First, I will be using Twitter mainly via Tweetdeck. That’s a pretty sweet tool so go get it tiger. There’s others too, but this one will do fine for me.

My purpose is to find out how Twitter can be useful for game producers.

First thoughts before we go: is it a waste of time?
I’ve been spending some hours for Twitter and have some thoughts that of course are final truths – right?

Somebody argued that “Twitter is not waste of time – you are just using it wrong if it is”. I think that’s pretty rough statement and I’d say that Twitter can become a big waste of time if you (1) reply to people (soon you’ll end up replying everybody everywhere and are lost). It’s bit like “checking email” that can be troublesome.

It can also be a waste of time if you (2) follow loads of people. If you have like more than 7 guys to follow (some people seem that like five billion friends) you will be constantly flooded with messages. Okay depends on who you follow, but still… Twitter is cluttered with “went to shower to think about game”, “ate breakfast thinking about my game”, “thought about my game and went for a walk”, “gonna think about my game soon”.

Now, we could try to argue that Twitter isn’t about “somebody telling what they do”… but that’s like the thing what you get when you combine “bull” with “poo”. People are telling what they are doing. People are saying what websites they are visiting and what they are thinking and what books they are reading and what TV shows they are watching. If you can find people who don’t do that, please let me know.

So, overall I’d say that it’s pretty easy to get stuck on the “waste of time” cycle: if you Twitter about useless things (“gonna go to sleep soon”) then it wastes everybody’s time. It’s hard to say what is “useless” (because value is in the eye of the follower), but I’d think that a useful Twitter entry contains for example:

  • Links to somewhere useful resource (for example, if you’ve read a good book and link to the book)
  • Advice on specific issue

To be honest, not exactly sure if Twitter messages can have much long term value.

As for benefits, here’s couple of them:

  • Twitter can bring traffic. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you would need to use twitter, it might be enough if other people twitter about you.
    Any benefits?
  • Networking: of course you can network in relevant forums, exchange emails with interesting people. Chances are that if they care to send you twitter messages, they perhaps care to reply to your email too. Who knows. I think Twitter can be used for networking, but I’m not sure how good tool it really is for that – same thing can be done in other ways. You don’t need Twitter to network. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens with this as my experiment goes on.
  • Ask for advice: you can say “anybody knows about #game #design” and this message will be seen by those who are interested about designing games (in case they happen to follow such hash tags). It might be easier to seek advice on relevant forums, but I guess this way of finding info also works. Nothing new under the sun though.

Well, those are just some benefits I could think of. So far I haven’t seen any major things that would really make Twitter a truly useful tool for game producers… but we’ll see how this goes. I’m going to be 110% open minded about this and I’m will report back on how this stuff works for me.

And here we go
Anyway, I’m gonna start a twitter experiment, so feel free to follow me on Twitter to see how I’m doing (and by “follow” I don’t mean that you’d need to “become a follower”, I mean “feel free to check that page every now and then” to see what’s going on there).

Maybe something useful comes out of this.

BAT Files Rock (Info For Beginners)

I’ve been working on my Dead Wake zombie game and things are going really nicely. I think I need “bit more time” to finish things up, but so far all the new stuff is coming together pretty nicely.

While I was messing with the assets, I accidentally thought a nice way to automate copying & zipping stuff. (I know this is pretty beginner stuff, but you gotta start somewhere.) By using BAT files, one can do pretty neat stuff such as ZIP stuff (7zip), then REN (rename .zip to .pak), then use xcopy… and suddenly you can have asset upgrading all done automatically.

Explained this same stuff in this video: (after finding this awesome grain filter I just had to create this)


(That facial expression was purely accidental – nicely picked YouTube!)

BAT files are good for automating stuff.

Setting a Deadline Is Good (If You Ever Wanna Finish Your Game)

I’ve set myself a deadline to publish Dead Wake in approximately two weeks, and this morning I was pondering how good it is to have a set deadline. I’ve touched this subject earlier (check out for example these articles: establishing a deadline is pretty easy, deadlines are not evil and 21 things that will help you finish your game), and I think that deadlines can be a good, positive force that will help you accomplish more.

There’s couple of things where I perhaps wouldn’t use deadlines, or at least feel they aren’t so effective:

  • When setting some highly unsure point at very far from the future (“our game is completed in year 2015″ – who cares? Instead one could try break this deadline into series of deadlines)
  • When setting an impossible deadline, it serves no point (“our game will be published in 3 month with all these features – and much more than guys can handle – and we have these resources and won’t get any more help and we’ve already promised this to the press, so start working!”)

I seriously think that one of the practices that has helped me with the Dead Wake project has been establishing small approximately bi-monthly deadlines. Sometime I’ve missed the deadline, and sometimes there wasn’t everything I wanted – but it has still been a good motivator to have deadlines.

I know we all hated deadlines when in school we were forced to deliver essays at a set date… and I know it might seem that it would feel so good to go without a deadline, but I really think we gotta consider using deadlines. If somebody isn’t setting us deadlines, we should take action and set a deadline for ourselves.

Everybody knows we are lazy bastards, so it’s better to set us a deadline and start whipping ourselves a bit.

Early Rising Is Not a Fancy Thing (It’s Not Bad Either)

Jake and I exchanged couple of emails about ‘getting up early’ and this made me wonder how many of you are early risers. I get up around 7:00 – 8:00 every morning and go for 30+ minute walk. At some point in my life I was waking up around 11:00 and took a 30 minute walk to the university.

Now as I compare these habits, I can say that there’s no need for an alarm clock (my internal clock wakes me up when needed – whether it was 8 am or 11 am). I think I felt sometimes felt bit tired whether I was waking up 7 am or 11 am.

The biggest difference is that days seem to last bit longer and there’s more daylight when you get up early… but haven’t noticed much else. (Maybe that alone is okay reason to get up early). The biggest advantage of getting up late (and staying up late) for a Finnish guy is that you get to talk with the American folks (since the 10 hour whatnot time difference) – this can be good.

I don’t know if there’s studies up benefits of getting up early (there probably is), but in conclusion I’d say that in terms of game production it bears little meaning at what time I get up. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not sure there’s anything too fancy about getting up early. I don’t think there’s anything bad either. Pick the pattern that suits your style.

I know some of you guys are vampires, but I wonder how many early risers there is. Is it just me alone? Anybody else getting up early?

P.S. Naps are a king thing. A 15-30 minute nap around 3 pm is a great energy boost for me. I warmly recommend a brief siesta for every game producer.

Some Things One Gotta Do To Avoid Coding…

Gotta eat
Gotta watch the television
Gotta check email
Gotta take the dogs out
Gotta plan first
Gotta test something first
Gotta check out the forums
Gotta check email again
Gotta watch some online videos
Gotta make videos
Gotta take a nap
Gotta read Donald Duck
Gotta chat with somebody
Gotta check youtube
Gotta read something useless
Gotta think of all the alternatives first
Gotta tweak some irrelevant feature
Gotta take the garbage out
Gotta twitter
Gotta play some other video game
Gotta play my own game (instead of coding it)
Gotta check traffic stats
Gotta check face book
Gotta check sales stats
Gotta play board game
Gotta check the RSS feed
Gotta make a phone call
Gotta check email quickly again
Gotta write a blog post about what I gotta do…
Gotta hear what reasons you might have to avoid working on your game

The thing is… if you gotta do all this stuff instead of working on your game (I hope that’s not the case), then you might not be working on the right project. If working on your game doesn’t feel motivating, then why the hell do that?

We all can come up with excuses (that above list took couple of minutes to write), but I think that working on you game should be thrilling – it should be something you eagerly wait! It should be your vision and what you want. After all, wasn’t that what we all dreamed when we were (young) kids, right?

I realize that there might be some tasks that aren’t fun, but the good news are there’s (hopefully) only a few of them. What has helped me to deal with the nasty buggers is that I’ve tried to minimize the ugly tasks (or outsourced some of them) and try to remember the end result after getting those ugly tasks completed. I think of the feeling I’ll have when I’ve finished my project. And that keeps me thrilled over and over.

21 Things That Will Help You Finish Your Game

From what I’ve experienced in my own game development, and from what I’ve seen in different boards, finishing a game can prove to be pretty difficult. Here’s my 21 recipes to aid if you want to finish your game (I’ve used all of them earlier, and currently using many of these. They do seem to work).

#1 – Get the tools you need
This might sound really basic, but I think it’s really important and worth mentioning. In order to finish your game, you gotta have the right tools. If you need some libraries, then get them. If you need to get some new software, get it. If you need a better mouse or drawing board, get them. If you need a better monitor, or new video cards, get them.

Get everything that you really need. (Reading How to create your first game might be useful too).

#2 – Simplify your design
This one is a big deal. Read carefully. I believe that we all have massive amount of ideas about what our game could be. In fact, I think there might not be a limit to all the features we might want to add. It’s easy to become a feature creep and keep adding and polishing new stuff over and over. (Don’t get me wrong: it’s okay to polish your game)

…but at some point you gotta think what is really important. What features are really worth developing.

If this means cutting some features or simplifying your design, then don’t be afraid to do that.

#3 – Have a deadline
Some companies publish games on basis ‘when it’s done’ and I presume that’s okay if you have unlimited funds. The rest of the world might need to think a bit about the financials too. If this means putting a deadline, then don’t be afraid to do so. I aim for a certain (unannounced) deadline in my own game development, and I might move it a bit to get some features (we’ll see) but still I have one.

It helps you to focus, when you have some sort of idea about the deadline. I’m not saying that it would necessarily need to be written in stone: you can always become more specific as the time passes and as you see how the development goes (for example, you could start your development by saying “comes out in year 2009″, then in March you could say “comes out Q3/2009″ and in July you can say “will be released on September 2009″).

#4 – Have several smaller milestones/deadlines
This one is a big thing too. It’s an excellent motivator to have smaller deadlines. In my own development I’ve used “a new release every couple of months (on average)” and while there’s certain problems with public development, I’ve noticed that it’s good way for motivation to have clear smaller milestones & deadlines, and not just one big deadline.

#5 – Stop fooling around
Okay, many developers do stupid stuff that has nothing to do with game project progress (been there, done that… and will probably do so in the future). That stuff won’t help you finish your game.

If you wanna finish your game, you gotta stop (or at least reduce) all sorts of unnecessary crap that you’ve piled for yourself.

I let you ponder more what I mean by this tip.

#6 – Get rid of the unimportant
If there’s some unimportant tasks, assignments, or “stuff” that’s blocking your development… then like get rid of it.

Okay?

#7- Figure out what’s taking loads of your time
Somebody or something is stealing your time.

I don’t know who or what it is (my blog perhaps?) but I’m certain you have something that steals your time. You probably already know where you waste time. It might be simple as email or tv.

Whatever it is, figure it out… and eliminate it (okay, don’t like kill anybody – just stay away from people who take your time).

Don’t forget to check out 100 ways to be more productive.

#8 – Stay in motion
This one is a biggie again – especially for those who do their game part time or as a hobby. You gotta stay in motion.

When you stop working on your game “for a moment”, you’ve stopped the motion. Getting back to moving will be harder. If you keep on working your game day after day (every day), you can rest assured that at some day it will be finished.

If on the other hand you take couple of weeks break from the game… you’ll lost your motivation and will find it much more difficult to continue on your project.

Keep taking steps – even small steps – forward all the time. That’s a crucial for finishing your game project.

#9 – Take screenshots
Taking screenshots and sharing them can be really motivating. By taking shots you can see your own progress and show them around. By having screenshots, you have visible stuff about your progress.

It’s important motivator, so take those shots (It’s also fun to watch afterward how your game looked some months ago).

10 – Use your screenshot as your desktop wallpaper
This one helps you focus on the main goal: if you see your game every day, you’ll remember to work on it. Feel free to change that wallpaper too every now and then (it’s bit dull to watch the same background for too long…)

#11 – Create a video
Another good way to motivate yourself. Create a video and put it online (here’s beginners guide to editing your game videos that’ll explain step-by-step what to do).

Similar to screenshots, it’s a great motivator to see your a video about your game.

#12 – Fix nasty bugs
Nasty bugs will grow bigger if you don’t squash them early. You will be more motivated to continue when you know that your code is good and has all the major bugs killed.

Code filled with bugs is a killer for motivation.

#13 – Don’t squash unimportant bugs
Some bugs are unimportant and might just disappear when you remove features or replace modules.

There’s no need to fix everything.

#14 – Stop having unimportant meetings
If there’s more than 1 people in your project, then you gotta listen to me.

Read these two blog posts: 7 golden guidelines for having meetings and 3 mistakes to avoid when you arrange meetings.

The best way is to avoid them. Yeh, it might be nice to have chit chat with other people, but very often you’ll be better off without the meetings.

Meetings are bit like nuclear power.

Use it, but wisely.

#15 – Have breaks
Finishing games require your energy, so take some breaks too. Some people think that they can work around 27 hours a day and still have time for family, friends, kids and other hobbies.

You need to relax. You need to have breaks.

You just kill yourself if you don’t have breaks.

#16 – Finish bit by bit
And I don’t mean those bits and bytes. I mean that you gotta finish in small pieces. You need to be able to split your work in parts and finish them one by one. There’s an old Chinese saying that I cannot remember right now, but I can assure you it was something about not trying leap too far, but rather take one step at a time.

#17 – Create a cool feature
I created a small feature in my Dead Wake game: when you reload your gun, the flashlight will move just like it was attached to the gun (well, it is attached to the gun). It’s an awesome feature (stole the idea from Left 4 Dead by the way). It has close to zero gameplay value but I’m so freaking proud of that feature.

Creating something cool (if you think it’s cool, and at least somebody agrees then you should be fine) can motivate you and help you finish your game. Just make sure you won’t end up creating useless features over and over…

#18 – Keep coding, building and testing your game
This one is a big thing. You actually need to code and create builds. You need to see that you are progressing. If you don’t see your own progress, if you never build your game and never test your game… you don’t know what’s going on.

Make sure you code, build and test your game. It’s one major thing that helps finishing your game project.

#19 – Ask feedback
It’s amazing how motivating it is to hear people saying “This is great, the first real playable game I’ve seen using this engine.” or “Great work! I love these types of games.”. Sure, there’s people who will say what’s wrong, bad, ugly and whatnot, but hey – we were given ear holes so that we could put our fingers in them.

It’s not like we need to accept everything that others are saying. If there’s positive feedback, be proud of it. It’s a good sign. It helps you finish your game.

#20 – Visualize your goal
I think it’s a good motivator to think and visualize how your game will look like in the end. Thinking the end result can help you motivate yourself, but also help you finish your game.

#21 – Just finish it…
Or ‘just do it’ like they say.

Hey, that’s the thing you just need to do.

Just finish it.

It’ll feel really cool after you’ve done that.

How will you feel after your game is finished?

Just think about it.