Articles

A collection of things I’ve written.

Weakest Link - Be A Better Game Developer

![](/assets/FEATURE_YenYen_GlassCeiling.jpg)

Has your business hit a glass ceiling?

Most businesses are formed by a core set of individuals who come together at the beginning to make their collective dream come true but are they limiting your potential?

Business roles arise and distil over time placing more specialised demands on your skills.  Operations Manager, Creative Director, Technical Director, Art Director, Finance Director, Development Director, Managing Director, Business Development, Human Resources, IT, Marketing etc. all grow in significance as your business grows.

In the early days one person will perform multiple roles at once, the roles are typically allocated based on relative merit, e.g., the more creative person takes on the creative roles such as creative director, the more logical person becomes the business manager. 

What happens later is that the business demands more than one person’s potential enables them to deliver and the business hits a glass ceiling. Your business can only be as strong as that of the weakest link in the chain.

The hard part is recognising that this is happening and doing something about it. Maybe there's a shift in roles to something more appropriate, maybe it's time to step aside and bring in someone who can really push things along, maybe you're happy where you are?

5 of my favourite Game Development Twitter Feeds list

![Twitter](/assets/t_logo-a.png)
Here at @GameFreelancing, we use Twitter to connect with the game freelancing community and really get to grips with what's going off from all aspects and distil it down into items our readers will find useful. We select the cream of gaming, developers, business and freelancing tweets and send them straight to you. [Follow us to keep up](http://twitter.com/gamefreelancing).
We've listed here the ones we've found the most interesting this week and definitely worth following. Don't forget to mention @GameFreelancing !
**1. @milkstone** - A great Spanish Independent Game Development studio that's launched it's new iPhone title this week and also produces some great tweets about being an independent developer. One to watch. [Follow @milkstone](http://twitter.com/milkstone) <http://www.milkstonestudios.com/>
**2. @ericries** - Eric is the originator of the phrase "Minimum Viable Product" and he also talks about starting a business in a 'lean' way, which always makes for an interesting read and something I'll be covering more about here on @GameFreelancing . [Follow @ericries](http://twitter.com/ericries) <http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/>
**3. @ThisIsSethsBlog** - the blog of popular author Seth Godin has his finger on the pulse of promotion and connecting with your audience thats appropriate in many ways, such as how to talk to your game audience, how expectations change, how marketing has changed. It's often a thought provoking and inspiring read. [Follow @ThisIsSethsBlog](http://twitter.com/ThisIsSethsBlog) <http://sethgodin.typepad.com/>
**4. @Michael_French** - Michael is on the bleeding edge of video game industry news as his position as the Editor-in-Chief of Video game industry news web-sites [Develop](http://www.develop-online.net/), [MCV](http://www.mcvuk.com/) and [CasualGaming.biz](http://www.casualgaming.biz/) means he often gives clues as to some breaking news well before it hits the press.

Follow @Michael_French

**5. @allvideogames** - Lester writes about gaming from an interesting perspective and often uncovers things that go missing from the more popular news feeds. As such, it's worth a follow. [@allvideogames](http://twitter.com/Michael_French)
I hope you find these useful and remember to connect with @GameFreelancing and [subscribe to keep in touch](http://blog.gamefreelancing.com/p/subscribe-to-game-freelancing.html).
Which twitter feeds do you think I should follow?

7 of my favourite Games Industry RSS Feeds

2 min read

I spend a lot of my time keeping in touch with what’s going off in the Games Industry and I thought it worthwhile sharing 7 of my favourite Games Industry RSS Feeds to keep you all up-to-date.

I personally subscribe to these via Google Reader, which I find to be an excellent way to keep everything in 1 place and really get the most out of my valuable time. I’d recommend taking this habit up if you haven’t already.

  1. Develop Online - This is a little bit of a cheat as Develop splits it’s feeds into 3

topics: regular, Blog and Feature so you can choose which is best for you. I tend to go for all 3 as it’s always a fantastic read and much of the content appears way ahead of it’s paper variant through the post. I like seeing people I know with their names up there and also spotting pictures of them too.

  1. GamesIndustry.Biz - This used to be my most visited UK-centric industry feed and it proudly sat at the top of my Google Reader list. It got bumped down my list because you now have to register to read full articles, which you don’t have to on other sites. It’s still great, just not as convenient as it used to be.
  2. Gamasutra - This was the game industry web-site a few years ago as it was pretty much the only one. In addition to it’s US based news feed, it’s packed full of useful articles, interviews and reviews of all things to do with game development.
  3. The iPhone Blog - in their own words “The #1 iPhone, iPad and iPod touch blog!”. Strong words but this is a useful little site that also sucks in other smartphone info too. I believe it’s important to always keep your eye on the periphery to make sure you don’t miss out on something.
  4. Escapist Magazine - pretty much the only popular games feed I read as it tends to have the most interesting articles, interviews and genuine reviews. I also regularly visit many of it’s sister sites.
  5. PlayStation.Blog (Europe) - A blog dedicated to all things specific to PlayStation in Europe, including specials, interviews, previews and sometimes limited Beta codes. Again, used to work for Sony Europe so I like to see the products coming through and the people I know doing well.
  6. XBox Engineering - This feed a little ‘tech thirst’ for me and it’s a great insight into some of the tech that MS publish to show ‘under the hood’ of their SDKs.

What about you? Do you have sites that you visit regularly? Have I missed a ‘must see’ site?

Let me know in the comments sections.

Finishing Your Video Game Production is Hard

Knackered RunnerEvery new project starts out exciting and fun. Then it gets harder and less fun, until it hits a low point-really hard, and not much fun at all. And then you find yourself asking if the goal is even worth the hassle.

Are you a finisher?

You’re probably at Alpha and the hard work really starts now, it’s time to stop tinkering, tweaking and adding features and it’s time to ship it. Remember, the later in the project you add a feature the more it costs and the riskier it is. Remember that feature that you added in Month 1? It’s been well and truly tested against everything else in the game, the new feature you added this morning is just waiting to explode. Post Alpha - resist change. Test it, fix it, balance it, polish it and you’re done. Save your ideas for the next one, it’ll be bigger and better anyway.

Send me a link to what you’re passionate about, your game, business or anything! I’d love to know what you’re working on.

Recommended Read - Small is the New Big - Seth Godin

For me, even though this book is a few years old the title of Seth's book "[Small is the New Big](http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0141030534?tag=gamedevelcons-21&camp=2902&creative=19466&linkCode=as4&creativeASIN=0141030534&adid=0R84FDVHR1W0QC4H58ME&)" sums up the changes that are happening throughout the Games Industry and the global economy where new, small companies are stealing the march on the bigger slumbering giants and making a real difference. This book is a collection of the best of Seth's blog posts that really capture the essence of what was going off in the world where people were people have more choice and ways to spend their time & money.
The series of short stories make this easily digestible and great for filling the odd moment or too.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading through the myriad of short stories in this book and I have learned a lot from it. It has changed my perspective on a lot of aspects of business and truly opened my eyes to how things should be in the 21st century. A highly recommended read. I'd suggest you also take a look at Seth's other work including his blog and other books. Visit Amazon via the link below to check out more details including synopsis, ratings and other reviews.

Are you and your game unique?

In a world of seemingly infinite choice of games and staff, how do you stand out? How can you differentiate your offering so that everyone wants it? How can you make it easier for people to find your needle in a global haystack? Why would someone employ you from a global talent pool of thousands of people?

These are all things to consider if you’re going to be successful at what you do; communication, experience and knowledge can help guide your way through this chaotic landscape and achieve your goals.

Building The Creative Business

6 min read


title: Building the Creative Business date: 2014-12-30 08:19:17

type: post

Building the Creative Business is a management course aimed at entrepreneurs operating within the creative industries. I attended at London Business Schoolwhere I learned about how to grow a business that is inherently complex and unpredictable due to the creative aspects involved. Ideas often don’t work, challenges arise in trying to sell an idea and implementing that idea is often fraught with problems.

Most new ventures fail within the first three years and most failures are related to poor management. The average life span of an entrepreneurial venture in this country is only 24 months. It’s at this point that a poorly conceived business strategy begins to ship water.  Building the Creative Business is an integrative programme that concentrates on the general management challenges facing founders and managers of creative businesses after the start-up.

The course asks the following questions

  • Is my vision realistic?
  • How am I actually going to do it?
  • Will it always be this hard?
  • Where are the great people going to come from to help me make it happen?
  • How will we recruit, reward, motivate and retain them?
  • Is our current team up to it? Am I?
  • How do we finance the business to take the opportunities?
  • Will the wheels fall off when I don’t control everything myself?
  • Am I building capital value or have I condemned myself to being a wage slave for life?

My Experience

There were 9 companies involved in each session, with two delegates attending from each one (the theory being that it needs two people to actually implement the changes, once you return to your business).

The idea is that it helps you to transform your business plan, and then to create an effective five-year growth strategy. It also teaches key business, leadership and financial skills to enable you to implement your new strategy. We discovered that we were still operating as if we were a group of friends rather than a business. Other than a small core team, no one was taking responsibility for anything, and there was a lot of confusion as a result. We started implementing a middle management structure. It will benefit everyone when it is in place, but the challenge is to keep our culture intact. How do you keep the feel of a buzzing game development team as you grow?

The next realisation was that, by creating a middle management structure, those managers could then run teams more effectively, which would free up the art, technical and design director to do more strategic work, and allow us to run a broader ‘pyramid’ structure, employing more graduates, and increasing our margins.

Course Content

The course itself focused on 3 key elements, each of which had it’s own dedicated multi-day course

  • People
  • Strategy
  • Finance

People

People is about ensuring the business has the right people in the right place with the right training and ensuring that the business has the right structure and culture to accommodate growth and ultimately build value.

Core Concepts

  • Our vision
  • Our resources & capabilities
  • Our leadership style & culture business

Finance

Finance is about ensuring that all of the base financial understanding is in place to capture and build profit and value in the business. Every business and it’s owners & investors need an exit strategy to maximise the profit for all stakeholders in the business

Core Concepts

  • People & process
  • Finance & control
  • Creating & capturing shareholder value

Strategy

Strategy is about choice: the choices that we make about our place in the market-place, and the choices that we make about building the resources that make a great position possible. We explored what factors govern the best choices that you can embed in your business plans, through tools and frameworks that you can apply and insights drawn from a range of sectors.

Core Concepts

  • Our markets
  • Our industry & competitors
  • Strategy & tactics business

I captured some more detailed notes on the areas we covered in this module

Business plan updates John Bates

What is Strategy? – Taking an external view Dominic Houlder

Strategy - Innovating to create value Dominic Houlder

Strategy – the challenge of strategic inertia Dominic Houlder

Getting to grips with the numbers – building your financial model John Bates & Oliver Rivers

Your Business Plan – next steps John Bates

Strategy - Understanding competitive forces in your environment Dominic Houlder

Strategy - Understanding competitive forces in your environment Dominic Houlder

Strategy – Managing your environment to capture value Dominic Houlder

Strategy - Your strategy Dominic Houlder

Demystifying accounts Oliver Rivers

Faculty

**Course Director** John Bates is Director of the Foundation for Entrepreneurial Management and Adjunct Professor of Entrepreneurship at London Business School. Over the last seven years, he has built up the school’s practical initiatives in developing entrepreneurial firms, including £12m of ‘pre-seed’ and ‘seed’ capital funds and various networks of entrepreneurs, advisors and investors associated with London Business School. John has been teaching and developing courses at London Business School since 1985, while also starting up and running two software-based businesses, a consultancy and a venture capital company associated with London Business School, Sussex Place Ventures Ltd.
**Organisational Behaviour** faculty Brian Willman is a Teaching Fellow in the Centre for Management Development at London Business School and is linked to the Faculty of Organisational Behaviour. Brian also runs his own business, People Dynamics, specialising in the development of leadership skills for managers in businesses facing change. Brian has worked with many businesses in the creative sector providing senior management development and consultancy services. He has worked with the marketing services agencies that are part of WPP Group and with editors and commercial managers at both EMAP and IPC. He has also worked with The Financial Times and The Guardian and is currently involved in a major change initiative driven by Sly Bailey at Trinity Mirror Group. Other clients include Polygram and the media buying group Aegis (Carat).
**Strategy faculty** Dominic Houlder is Adjunct Associate Professor in London Business School’s Strategic and International Management subject area, and Associate Dean for the Sloan Fellowship Programme. At London Business School, he lectures on strategy, values and corporate transformation across Masters Degree and Executive Education programmes, and won the School’s Distinguished Faculty Contribution Award for 2002 and Teaching Award for 2003. He has been a member of the teaching team on custom programmes for EMAP, Diageo and Electronic Arts, directs partner-level programmes for Pricewaterhouse Coopers, and led the Directors’ Forum, a learning-as-theatre experience to help develop non-executive directors on the boards of public companies. Dominic has also advised the Secretary of State and Permanent Secretary at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on strategic issues.
**Finance faculty** member Chris Higson is a Visiting Associate Professor of Accounting at London Business School, where he was formerly Chair of the Accounting Group and director of the School’s Financial Seminar for Senior Managers. He has degrees in philosophy and economics from University College London, and has a doctorate in finance from London Business School; he is also a chartered accountant and worked for Deloitte and Touche. Chris specialises in the financial performance and valuation of firms, in tax strategy and mergers. He appears regularly on radio and television as a commentator on these issues. His textbook (Business Finance, Oxford University Press) is in its second edition and he is shortly to publish a new book on financial statement analysis. Chris has been actively involved in launching and managing several start-ups in media and consulting. His experience in the creative industries includes Electronic Arts, Polygram, John Harris Partnership, Vivendi, Playlouder, and Apple.

Syncing with Apple iPhone without iTunes — and it actually works!

2 min read

Yesterday I’ve spent like 7 hours trying to upload music and videos to my iPhone. Nice going Apple, you put more effort into making the device impossible to work with, instead of solving known issues. Anyways, I finally did get it working, and it works really, really well. There were actually several methods I found to work, but only this one doesn’t freeze. The software is called IMTOO iPhone Computer Transfer.

Basically, what you do is connect your iPhone via USB and voila — the software sees your phone and automatically creates the music and video directories. There are couple of catches though.

 

First of all, the software isn’t free - the license costs $30. And although I did buy it, I got a refund for some reason the next morning.

Without the license, you are limited to 10 file transfers at a single time. You can manually add as many files as you like though, so if you don’t mind clicking the “remind me later” button after every action, you’re all set.

The other catch is that you have to create playlists, other than just stack all your media in the music/video folders. This is very important, as I was pissed off trying to get the iPod in the iPhone to work — because it crashed after I uploaded more than 20 songs. The iPod just turned off and took me to the desktop.

Other than that, it works really well.

The other methods I found working was MNPLight and iPhonebrowser.

The first one is a web-based app that is installed on your iPhone, and let’s you access the files on the Phone both through the Safari iPhone browser and your PC. Neat, huh? The bad thing is that when you add a playlist through MNPlight, it overrides your iTunes library (made by iTunes or IMTOO), and replaces it with the playlists you made through MNP. There is no option to combine the two — and that sucks.

The second one is a drag-and-drop file browser of the iPhone. Naturally, I thought that I would be able to find a conveniently placed Music folder, where I could drop all of my mp3’s. Fat chance. See the video where I show you exactly HOW bad Apple wants you to use iTunes to store music.

Here is a video on how iPhoneBrowser and MNPlight.

To sum it all up, here are the

Download IMTOO iPhone Transfer

Download MNPLIGHT Instructions for the iPhone

Download iPhonebrowser

What Clients Want

A potential client calls and wants a website, as a web developer you are more then happy to help. You show them your work, explain how your work is better then the rest and sell the person on the importance of Web Standards. Do you think that a client wants to hear all about Web Standards? Most likely they do not. They do want to here how you are going to make there website a success.

This does not mean that Web Standards are not important or that you should not follow them and yes you should tell your clients that you build websites using proper coding. But this is what they expect from a web developer, otherwise they would be trying to build a website on there own.

A web developer should be responsible for explaining to a potential client what it takes to make a website successful before they pay for your services. Many people still believe that all you have to do is build a website and visitors will show up at your door begging to buy your products. A web developer knows better and should make his novice clients aware of this. No client should think that a website will be a success without spending money on advertising. If you do not offer advertising or SEO optimization to your clients you should be prepared to recommend companies that do offer such services.

It is very important to remember that if a client’s website is a complete flop they will put some or all of the blame on you. Especially if you did not explain the pitfalls of owning and operating a website. On the other hand if you do promote there website or teach them the ins and outs of promoting a website they will be a satisfied customer. Most of my customers are referred to my company by existing clients and I truly believe this is because we do not just build a website for them but teach them what it takes to be an online success.

Performance and Development Review Template

Performance and Development reviews are an important aspect of everyone’s career where ever you happen to work. We needed to provide standardised reports that were kept in a staff members file. Here’s an example:


Performance and Development Review {align="center"} ---------------------------------- Name of person being reviewed: **Dave T. Producer** Reviewed by: Dave Manager & Sarah Manager Date: **11^th^ January 2028** ### Review Notes: *Discuss areas that were of note in the review. *Focus on relevant details related to their work* * *How has the staff member performed since the last review?* *Any changes in roles & responsibilities?* *Discuss at length the current roles & responsibilities including areas that have & haven't met expectations of both the person being reviewed and what is expected from the role.* *Discuss any boundaries inherent in the role such as managers & sub-ordinates* *Discuss interactions with other members of the business & stakeholders* *How is communication amongst peers, sub-ordinates, managers and all stakeholders?* *Discuss any feedback given from others.* *Discuss performance relative to grade.* ### **Development and Training** *Identify training that has already taken place and any that has been identified as being required. Include gaining experience over time and soft-skills such as communication & visibility, technical skills such as operating software, best practicse in roles & responsibilities.* *Training opportunities may arise within the business.* *Self-training such as reading, researching and discovering opportunities to improve. *   ### **SMART Objectives for the next period:** - **Specific** - Be precise about what you are going to achieve - **Measurable -** Quantify you objectives - **Achievable** - Are you attempting too much? - **Realistic** - Do you have the resource to make the objective happen (men, money, machines, materials, minutes)? - **Timed** - State when you will achieve the objective (within a month? By February 2010? **Have these objectives been met? (to be filled in at end of period)** ### Notes from review: *Provide a summary of everything that has been discussed & written previously including what next actions are required.* Signed:  _(Staff Member)                                            (Reviewer)  
  1. Reviewer to forward performance review form to the HR Department**
  2. The HR Department to forward copy of performance review form, together with a Feedback Sheet to member of staff for approval