An archive of posts tagged business.

Outsourcing Artwork for Better Game Development

3 min read

Hi, my name is David Tolley and I’d like to share my many years ofexperience and extensive knowledge regarding successfully setting up,managing and working with art outsourcing teams for computer and videogames to throughout the world. Lot’s of practical experience indelivering a wide range of art assets into game and managing externalteams. Anyone new to (or interested in) the subject of outsourcingartwork for video game production should hopefully find what followsinteresting.

Marketing your video game is everyone’s job

1 min read

In a world of freelancers, contractors and small, tight developmentcommunities. Everyone is on the public face of their business andreputation.We are all constantly marketing something, be it our company orourselves in one shape or another. Everything we do matters - yourweb-site, your comments in forums, the clothes you wear. It's about themessage we convey in our appearance, our design, our gameplay, ourtechnology, our ethics and most importantly our interactions withothers. The sooner we realise this the better.

Opinion - Small businesses STOP USING AUTOMATED REPLIES!

1 min read

If there’s one thing I hate, it’s receiving an automated reply from asmall business, in particular one that’s supposed to connect with me asa person. OK, I’ll confess I’m having a rant about recruitment agencies,which is a pretty dangerous thing to do when you’re looking for work.I have a special hatred for ones that pretend to be from a person. Iknow you’re not there due to the nature and content of your email sothe “personal touch” is just lost. There’s no name, there’s nothing.Also, PLEASE don’t direct me to a web-site to fill in my details. Ifyou’re too busy to even bother to talk to me in the first place and findout about me then I know for definite you won’t “process” my CV in ameaningful way and you definitely won’t find me something that’srelevant.There’s one fundamental point, I know you only get paid when I find ajob! In the modern world I have many means of finding work but Irecognise that the recruitment role is important and can make a realdifference.My point is, there are recruiters out there who maintain the personaltouch and they succeed and get my vote every time.When I get back to recruiting, which I will, I will absolutely focus onthe agencies who I had the best experience with from both sides.Make it personal, make the candidate feel like you have their bestinterests at heart and you’re not just looking  for your next 10%.What’s your experience been like? Recommendations? Story to tell? Keepin touch.

Thought – Who will make the 1st carbon neutral game?

1 min read

Hmmm…. this could be a tough one to work out. Imagine all of the powerused; development hardware like PCs, food eaten, servers, travel forbusiness and commuting, air-conditioning, manufacturing of the discs,manuals the list goes on and on. Don’t forget everything at thepublisher too. A killer title like God Of War 3, Modern Warfare 2 orDead Redemption must have an astronomical footprint!Has anyone made a carbon neutral game? Wouldn’t that be a great USP foryour game? Who will be the 1st?

Weakest Link - Be A Better Game Developer

1 min read

![](/assets/FEATURE_YenYen_GlassCeiling.jpg)Has your business hit a glass ceiling?Most businesses are formed by a core set of individuals who cometogether at the beginning to make their collective dream come true butare they limiting your potential?Business roles arise and distil over time placing more specialiseddemands on your skills.  Operations Manager, Creative Director,Technical Director, Art Director, Finance Director, DevelopmentDirector, 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, theroles are typically allocated based on relative merit, e.g., the morecreative 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’spotential 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 thechain.The hard part is recognising that this is happening and doing somethingabout 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 pushthings along, maybe you're happy where you are?

Are you and your game unique?

1 min read

In a world of seemingly infinite choice of games and staff, how do youstand out? How can you differentiate your offering so that everyonewants it? How can you make it easier for people to find your needle in aglobal haystack? Why would someone employ you from a global talent poolof thousands of people?These are all things to consider if you’re going to be successful atwhat you do; communication, experience and knowledge can help guide yourway through this chaotic landscape and achieve your goals.

Avoiding Redundancy 2

2 min read

I very recently wrote a post entitled ‘Why Does Redundancy AlwaysHappen In GameDevelopment?’ that kinda hit the spot with a few people and I think it needs more context so I thought it worthwhile giving a separate update.It’s a tough topic to discuss and it always hasnegative connotations but it’s a fact of life and ignoring it and notbeing prepared is a bad thing.I can totally see how the provocative title and lack of context could have riled some people so here’s some context. Redundancy is obviously a real and horrible event that happens and it can be mitigated by properly running a business but it’s largely inevitable.My recent experience is based around running mid to large-scale teams of30-80 people across multiple projects and the level of commitment thatgoes with that. My focus is on quality, delivery and profitability ofall the work I do. The original post was intended to make people awareof the fact that if they do not consider what happens at the end of aproject and blindly go off on a creative whim then don’t be surprised ifyour business fails. This is obviously fine if you’re motives are purelyhobbyist and you never intended to be a business, or stay really smallanyway.Outside of the hobby developers making video games is an “industry”about making money, for which you need to “shift boxes”. As much as welike to think we’re being totally creative, most people in video gamesonly do this so they can pay their bills. After all, we all need to livesomewhere and pay for food for which we need money, that we get frommaking games, that people buy.It’s actually a “box shifting creative industry”, I completely supportthat as it’s ultimately creativity that sells games and the 2 areintrinsically linked. There is 1 more important criteria though, whichis quality. Quality sells games like hot cakes and there are manyfactors towards driving quality upwards. Oh, and marketing, goodmarketing will sell the most un-creative/poor quality things as I’m sureyou’ve witnessed. Oh and theaqueducts. :)During my career I have seen all the problems occur in business time andtime again from big businesses through to small businesses, I’veoccasionally been part of the mess and more frequently seen others getcaught up in the demise of a company. In pretty much all of these casesit’s been avoidable.Businesses, regardless of what they’re doing, need to be agile and ableto cope with the ebb and flow of the demands during the productionlifecycle. Smart use of outsourcing, freelance / contract staff in theright place and prove fruitful and help you’re business remain stableand able to weather the storm. I have strived to ensure that projectsand I run and businesses I’m involved with consider this and mitigatethe risk of redundancy where possible.Thankfully, redundancy always presents new opportunities and it’s timeto pick yourself up and get back on the horse. After all, what doesn’tkill you only makes you stronger.0bf3b211ae94473c89f5b05cc5f3cc23

Why Does Redundancy Always Happen In Game Development?

4 min read

It’s worth understanding why redundancies are a natural consequence foran independent studio when they finish a project.Firstly, it’s important to understand that the end of the project isalways the point when the team is the largest, QA come onboard, peopleare generally added to get the project delivered to a high enoughquality.So, what happens when the project ships? What do all of these people do?As much as we’d like to believe that 100% of the team have meaningfulwork, it’s not going to be the case. With the best will in the world a studio will plan follow-on revenuegenerating work but it’s incredibly rare that this work magicallydove-tails into utilising 100% of the available team, or even areasonable chunk of the team. Support work, patching and conceptingfuture projects may all soak up some people but all of this work isstill supported by the revenue of the game that’s now shipped and thecash flow has likely stopped.It’s quite common for studios to work for payments that are milestonebased and low margin so they can remain competitively priced and alsopay the wages but this money stops at the point of delivery. Some gamesare developed against an advance for royalties that usually means thegame was developed for almost no profit on the basis of a big upsideshould the royalties kick in. Publishers are generally not interested in paying for your team to idlearound between projects, they want to pay for the work only and eventhen it needs to be competitively priced.The danger is obviously the low and frequently negative profit marginsduring development that don’t provide a buffer to get the studio throughthe gaps between work.Imagine you’ve made a generous 15% net profit over the life of theproject and you haven’t spent any of this money on other things and it’sjust sitting in the bank. The obvious extension to this is that ifnothing changes you can remain open for 15% of the projects durationbefore your cash runs out and you’re bankrupt. So, if you’re projecttook 9 months to make, you’ve got enough money to fund you through a gapof 1 month. Using this example, if the team is reduced to 25% of itssize then the money will last 4 times longer for those that are stillresident.In reality, it’s not that straight forward because there’s a lot ofother factors coming into play and you’ve now got a big team in placeand a lot of mouths to feed so you’re commitment is high. No businessoperates in this way and net profit doesn’t go into the bank for a rainyday. It’s typically used to fund other opportunities to expand thebusiness such as paying for over promising / under delivering,concepting, attending conferences, preparing pitches, R&D and a load ofother things. Making people redundant also costs money too so it’s notsomething a business can enter into lightly.So, the natural conclusion is that a studio can’t operate by employing100% of the team 100% of the time and support that entireinfrastructure when there’s little or no money coming in. It’s simplynot going to work.The only sustainable way for single project independent studios to keepthis going is to operate on a Core+Contract basis where everyoneinvolved works on the understanding that the Core is a small set ofpeople that are central to the business and it’s buffered up withContract / Outsource work that is clearly only commissioned when it’sneeded. In this way everyone knows what their commitment is and there’sfewer surprises. The non-Core people are typically more expensive thanpermanent *but* it ultimately works out to be more cost effective onceyou factor in the recruit/redundancy/gap costs. The team shrinks back tothe Core in between projects.Sensible studios plan for all of these things and build their businesswith this in mind and also build in some contingency into their coststo enable them to burn some of their profits to keep a consistent teamrunning during the lean times. Larger studios can also mitigate this byhaving multiple projects and moving people between projects as thenatural ebb and flow of project demands occur.If you’re a work-for-hire/self-funded studio working for little profitwho employs 100% of your staff on a permanent basis then expectredundancies at the end of every project and or the businesscompletely failing.As the saying goes: Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail.As a business owner, think about this when you’re starting out as itcan make a real difference to the viability of your business. As a developer, look at the business you’re working in for thesigns of whether or not your likely to be around when the projectfinishes.

Can I Help You?

2 min read

I am frequently contacted by video game developers asking me for help ina couple of areas, some just want some feedback, some are asking me forfinancial investment to make their game a reality.Maybe your one of these people, or maybe you’d like some critique ofyour work?I’m currently looking for 1 other developer to mentor and devote somereal attention to, should this be you?I’m happy to say that in many cases I provide assistance and make adifference with their games and help re-direct them towards a moreprosperous future by providing them with not only advice on the gamesthemselves but also how to make them, what potential opportunities theyhave for revenue streams and even help them find a publisher. Basically,help out on which ever aspect of their game they need. The only bit Idon’t do is actually make it.In some cases my initial round of feedback can be hard to take as it’salways honest and open and what experience tells me you need to do tomake better games. It comes particularly hard when people start todefend their position, which is partly to be expected and communicationis always good. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t know the magic formula orI’d be making my own games but I do have a good insight into how to makethe most of what’s there.I liken some of my experiences to X-Factor / Dragons Den type offeedback where the singer/businessman is obviously presenting somethingreally bad but they just cannot see that it’s ultimately just not theright thing to be doing. They won’t listen and are adamant that theirthing is actually really good because their friends/family have toldthem so.Thankfully, most of my experiences have been entirely positive andpeople do listen to feedback and we work together on making a bettergame.I’d like to point out that I also get a good set of games that are trulygreat and demand some attention and are obviously destined for greatthings. It’s these that I particularly like getting engaged with as therelationship is typically rewarding for both parties.And sometimes, things are succesful despite everything telling you thecontrary. Critique?So, if you want to join the others and get honest, open feedback on yourgame, be it a design or work-in-progress, then simply contact me andI’ll see what I can do. Please don’t ask me to invest, because I’dinvest in my own games if I had the money. :D

Fellow Game Bloggers

1 min read

I’ve collected a list of all of the video game bloggers I’ve found sofar. These cover a broad range of topics include developers, producers,artists, designers, business and I’d wholly recommend adding them all toyour favourite RSS reader.A GreatBecoming…About everything and therestAvant GameBroken ToysComputer GamesDoolwind’s Game CodingBlogEating - AdrianCrookGame Producer BlogGame TycoonGameArchitect.NetGames BriefGames from WithingameslolHobbyGameDevMainly AboutGamesMeasuring Gameplay -articleOver00Plot is Gameplay’sBitchPsychochild’s BlogRaph’s WebsiteReality PanicRULES OF THE GAMESulka’s GameT=MachineThe DaedalusProjectThe ForgeWonder ArcadeWonderlandZen of Design

How I use Twitter

1 min read

(mobile post) There’s an interesting post over on about how Juusouses Twitter as part of his game blog that I wanted to emulate here.I use my @GameLinchpin Twitter feed largely to auto-post new articlesfrom this blog. This is done automatically when I hit publish so it’sthe best way to keep up-to-date. Simply followus and you’re all set.I also follow other people in the games industry, not companies, andjoin in chats there and also RT (re-tweet) anything I find interestingand relevant to game development. I also follow events such as #e3expo,#develop2010 and #gamescom and RT interesting items too.As Juuso says, you really need a client to use Twitter as the basic webservice really doesn’t scratch the surface of what’s possible. I use Tweetdeck on my iPhone, Home Mac and work PC as it’s by far thebest app. I use Twitterific on iPad as TD isn’t very good yet.If you’re starting out, start by following me then go through my listsand add people from there. Most people will follow you back and it’s agood way to kick start your Twitter addiction.Hashtags are pretty much like public chat channels, you simply follow ahash tag and you join the conversation. This can be an amazing way ofgetting involved in a community. I’ve met lots of people on thesechannels who I continue to chat with on a daily basis. Find a channel,add people for the channel as they’re obviously interested and engagedin that subject.I follow: #xblig - Xbox Live Independant Games #gamedev - general game development #iPhone - broad iPhone chat #leanstartup - small business bootstrappingEvent specific ones pop up too such as #gamescom #develop2010 #e3expoJoining Twitter was one of the best things I’ve done for. Long time andI’d consider it pretty much mandatory for game debs to keep up with arapidly changing industry.Which people and #hashtags do you follow?

Are you good enough to make 3D games?

1 min read

If you’re going to be looking to make 3D games, you’re going to need thebest programmers you can find, or strip your artwork down to nothing.I’m sure you’re familiar with the basictech: you wear glasses that control which eye sees the view from a slightly different angle giving the illusion of 3D.There is of course a massive technical consideration for 3D games, thatthey have 1/2 your frame rate as you’re now rendering twice as much asyou were before. (This is a gross assumption based on the fact thatyou’re render bound)Those beautiful silky games that did run at 60fps, drop a frame andyou’re now run at 30fps tops (2 frames at 60fps). There is no 50fps or40fps, it’s straight down to 30fps. The next jump down is 20fps (3frames at 60 fps) and it goes on from there but in less damaging leaps.I know from experience that it takes a lot of effort to hit 60fps andmost games only just scrape through as they try to balance content withframe rate so this jump is going to hit them hard. After all, why wasteempty frame time when you can make your game look even better.Optimising your game engine and balancing your content to hit therequired throughput is going to take some effort, and of course this iseffort your not spending on adding game content. It’s just a slog to getthrough.On top of these there’s the aesthetic game design to get through tomaximise the sensation of 3D and to avoid the problems it brings withit. The added sense of realism can amplify sensations of motion sicknessand it can all go wrong when that sense of illusion is shattered whenthe shark coming out of the screen at you clips the edge of the screenand your brain knows it’s fake.The 3D games I’ve played have been hit & miss and some haven’t made thetransition to 3D well and need to go back to the drawing board for someoptimisation and design improvements.There are some fantastic opportunities out there for 3D games and ittakes talent and expertise to make 3D game sing.Further ReadingHousemarque - SuperStardust HD at120fps The inspiringpost

Games As A Service: Do You Really Know What It Means?

5 min read

I was looking at the schedule for Develop Conference2010 ( @developconf2010 ) to see if there was anything I should pick up on regarding game production and development and I’ve spotted a couple of tasty things that I have experience so I thought I’d jump the gun and share a little before July comes along. Some of the content we’ve seen before from prior conferences and here’s what I’velearned:Games As AService: Do You Really Know What It Means? Online games have been around for a while now and we all know the keymantra “It’s a service, not a product.” Or do we? Very often, in thehaze of development, teams may lose their focus from this truth;especially as the concept of service is not that clearly defined tobegin with. As well as fleshing out the concept of Online GameService, this lecture will provide a practical overview on how itscomponents should be designed and integrated in the production cycleto form an optimal player experience.Well, I’ve done a lot of service related game ideas lately and here area fewideas:The game is just the startIn a nutshell, the players journey with your game starts before theyput the disk in the console, download it from PSN, XBox Live, Wii ordownload and install via Steam. Your audience already has an expectationbased on prior marketing, reviews and many other means of communicationthey’ve received up to this point. They’ve probably talked about it withtheir friends.It’s true to say that the game content delivered up to this point islargely fixed, it was probably made months ago before it went throughQA, format submission, mastering, distribution and sitting on theshelves in the store. Or at least some of that process if you’re totallyonline.So as a player, you’ve waited months, saved up, bought the game, you’veplayed it through. Now what? You’ve had a fantastic time and you needmore content now! If this were a book or a film then that would beit, you’d be waiting for the sequel at some point in the future,probably years away.Thankfully we are blessed with an opportunity to maximise everyone’senjoyment and if the developer and publisher are clever, then they’llhave a whole slew of things to keep you busy and invested in the game.Downloadable content such as levels, characters, vehicles, maps, wholenew features, tracks, music, new season data all keep the game fresh andalive and are all part of the service we offer.Why is this important?So, why not just package up your game and move onto something new? Well,I’m sure you’ve slogged your guts out and put a lot of sweat, blood andtears into making this the best game it can be and you hope youraudience appreciates it. Why not maximise all of this effort and keep itgoing for longer, after all you’ve written the tools, have experience ofhow to get things in the game and your team are probably producingpatches anyway to sort out those last-minute niggles.It’s almost trivial to make this content. I’d also guess that duringthe late parts of production from Alpha through to Master Approval thatyou’re creative team have been twiddling their thumbs whilst the bugsare ironed out. Making add-on content can be a fantastic way of focusingthe team, stopping them adding stuff to the version that’s shipping andallow them to expand and maximise the experience.All of these extras help create an attachment with your game and athirst for more content, it’s up to you if it’s free or paid for; whichis a whole other discussion.Bolting on upgrades and DLC also makes it harder to part company withthe game itself when it comes to trade-in time and you’ll see lowertrade in figures for games that actively promote a long-term connectionwith the game.The ultimate serviceThe ultimate service is user-generated content, which really bindsauthors and players to the game, giving them an emotional involvementand volume of content you’ll find hard to surpass as a developer. It’salso self-promoting as authors actively encourage their friends to divein a try the thing they’ve just made, either by demoing it locally orpointing them at it so they can play at home.You’ll find UGC authors in forums promoting their content and obviouslythe game is good too (which is why they’re making content for it). Allof this drives long-tail sales of your game. For these reasons, you’llrarely find a copy of LittleBigPlanet traded in.Integrate EarlyThese are all great ideas and you really need to plan these in early asI know from experience that retro-fitting the highly modularrequirements of supporting DLC into a hard-baked mess of legacy code isa nightmare and probably one that will just be a barrier to you evermaking it happen. I’m sure many of you will have had that sameexperience and wish to leave it long behind.From an architecture perspective, everything has to be dynamicallyqueried, validated and loaded into the game. You should treat your gameas a tool or framework into which everything plugs-in, nothing should behard-coded or you’re not going to be modular enough to cope with afuture of upgrades and DLC. How can you integrate another character(avatar) if you’re selection screen only supports 8 characters? You’llneed to design expansion into your game from day 1.Away from the gameThe ‘service’ can also expand out beyond the game experience itself andincorporate regular touch points such as social networks like Facebook,mobile phones running OS like Symbian (good luck!), iPhone, iPad,Android or Windows Mobile. Here are some examples of more extensivegame amplifiers: Browser games public league & competition systems In-game auction houses reflected onto the ‘net Training your game character online then playing them on console Clans, factions, guilds Managing your team for tonight’s game News feeds into the game and out againThe list goes on and on and I’m sure there’s some things you could addto the list too.SummaryThere’s a really easy way to remember this - “The game is just thestart”. It’s a mantra that suits every occasion and reallyencapsulates what “game as a service” means.We want to engage with game players for longer, enabling them to getbetter value from the games we make, after all they’re not cheap to makeor buy. Game players and developers have a symbiotic relationship andwe should nurture it over a long period of time for both our sakes.Further ReadingDevelop Conference 2010 -Evolve -ThomasBidaux will be covering this topicGabe Newell on ‘entertainment as aservice’ - DICE 2009

Spotlight - 5 Indie Games Developers

5 min read

The phrase ‘indie games’ often refers to games made by small independentdevelopers, who fund the game themselves and release it out into thewild but self-publishing. After all, they’re not bound to a publisherand therefore independent.I would also like to remind our readers that the vast majority of gamesyou buy are made by indie developers but they rarely get the credit theydeserve as their publishers mask their existence in the name ofpromoting their own brand.Here’s a list of 5 indie game developers, in no particular order, thatyou may have missed on your travels around the world through the likesof the XNA Creator community or PC developers in general. It’s hard todiscover PS3 indies as they’re often hidden behind closed doors but Itry.ThatGameCompanyJourneyThatGameCompany are making the transition from a small indie gamedeveloper and are in limbo as they only focus on PS3 titles at themoment. This is a hard path to tread but they appear to be staying trueto their indie roots and delivering emotion and passion in a smallbundle. The pioneers that brought you the award-winning PlayStation®Networktitles flOw & Flower® are back with another title that challengestraditional gaming conventions. With Journey, thatgamecompany (TGC)continues its tradition of delivering simple gameplay and accessiblecontrols in a rich interactive environment that invites players toexplore and experience emotional chords that are still uncommon invideo games. An exotic adventure with a more serious tone, Journey presents TGC’sunique vision of an online adventure experience. Awakening in anunknown world, the player walks, glides, and flies through a vast andawe-inspiring landscape, while discovering the history of an ancient,mysterious civilization along the way. Journey’s innovative approach to online play encourages players toexplore this environment with strangers who cross their path from timeto time. By traveling together, they can re-shape the experience –creating authentic moments they will remember and discuss with others.Holographic DreamsRaptorI came across these Polish indie guys recently and they really struck acord with me as they’re showing the core indietraits: passion, commitment and a desire for success. I believe currently have this running as a XNA game (a.k.a. XBox Independent Games), which showsthey’re commitment to delivering something beyond a simple browser game.Here’s an early video of a game they’re working on right now, take alook and don’t forget to give them feedback!Strawdog StudiosSpace ArkStrawdog Studios are an indie game developer that I’ve known for manyyears, they’re particularly interesting because they have a fantasticart style that runs through all of their games and they have thecreativity to come up with something new and exciting. I hold them inhigh regard and relish an opportunity to work with these talented indiedevelopers.Here’s their current offering for XBox Live Arcade - Space Ark What is Space Ark? It’s is a fun arcade/puzzle game with a hint of retro arcade flavour;inspired by classic arcade games of the late 80s, such as RainbowIsland, Bubble Bobble and Arkanoid. A wandering black hole has damaged a number of planets, rendering themuninhabitable. The occupants of the Space Ark (the Arkonauts – a teamof space traveling animals) are coming to repair the damaged worlds sothat their refugee inhabitants can return.Curve StudiosExplodemonWhat can I say about the guys at Curve? Jason, Graeme, Jonathan and theguys (apologies if I’ve missed anyone) are all legends in their own timeand I’ve had the great fortune to work with them recently.Along with the other guys on this list, they epitomise what’s greatabout indie game developers and I’ve regularly referenced them as one ofthe best developers in the UK because they love games, love makinggames, are great to be with, always deliver great work and take me outto S&M or the Brazilian Meat Factory when I visit. :) Plus, they owe mea few dinners at PingPong. :PHere’s a quick look at their latest titleExplodemon: Explodemon! is a 2.5D action platform game with an explosive maincharacter. Mixing classic platforming action - from classics such asMario and MegaMan - with the refined contemporary gameplay of Halo andHalf-Life 2, it brings old-school gameplay bang up to date. Comingfrom Curve’s deep-seated love of video game culture and history,Explodemon! is wrapped up as a loving homage to SNES-era Japaneseaction games. Explodemon! will release on PlayStation 3 on the PlayStation Networkin 2010.Shadegrown GamesPlanckI hooked up with these guys on twitter recently and I really liked thepotential of what they had on their web-site so I’ll be keeping a closeeye on these guys. You should check out their blog as the IGF judgesalso think they’re great. Planck is an upcoming music-based experiment which looks to play outin a similar fashion to Audiosurf, but with different core elements.Enemies litter your path, and destroying enough of them unlocks a newinstrument for the current song. The game doesn’t use your own music - rather, it pieces together aspecifically-created soundtrack in a Auditorium-esque manner. You canalso jump between sections of the track to mix different sounds andchange the music how you see fit. Looks mighty interesting. No release date or platform set as of yet.SummaryWell, I’ve enjoyed this round up of indie game developers and all oftheir indie cuteness. I hope you show them some appreciation by droppingby to give them your feedback on their web-sites and ‘official’ youtube,or even in our comments as I’m sure they’ll be reading.Is there someone you think should be in the spotlight? Let me know inthe comments.Further ReadingThatGameCompany - , twitter @thatgamecompany Holographic Dreams - , twitter@HoloDreams Strawdog Studios - Curve Studios - , twitter @curvestudios Shadegrown Games -, twitter@shadegrowngamesBonus: One Bit Beyond - Curve Studios Creative Director blog - Twitter @xnacommunity Twitter #xblig

Comment - Full Analysis of iPhone Economics - it is bad news. And then it gets worse

2 min read

I recently re-tweeted this article and I commented on the post butwanted to bring the discussion here to see what you think.Full Analysis of iPhone Economics - it is bad news. And then it gets worse piece openswith I promised toreturn with the full analysis of the iPhone App Store economicsanalysis, from every angle, with all data I have managed to find. Thisblog intends to paint the most accurate picture of the specificallyApple related iPhone App Store market economics - and lessons fromhere should apply to most other smart phone app stores as well. Theone final piece of the puzzle that had been missing, that wedesperately needed to ge the full, honest picture, was the Appleofficial revenue number, which we finally got a few days ago, at$1.43B total revenues generated over 2 years, and thus $1B paid todeveloper. Now we can do the full analysis. But first a few generalcomments.Here’s what Iwrote: It does make for interesting reading and I think there’s a few factorsthat mean iPad will improve the changes of indie games and majorpublishers alike. iPad enables the game authors to have 2 targetplatforms now, which must broaden their reach and increase sales,maybe not now but in the longer term this should improve as bothplatforms increase in volume. I really hope for game developers sake that the prices don’t drop toofar as people race to the bottom and try to compete on price as it’s aone-way trip and dangerous long-term game. Sadly, since the barrier todevelopment is so low we’re competing against cheap bedroom developersacross the globe so this is always going to be a problem. Market saturation is also a problem on iPhone, every new game/app is adrop in a massive ocean and it’s very difficult to gain awareness toget you promoted to peoples app store lists. It takes a concertedeffort to make it out of the pool and I know that there’s a lot ofgreat games that just get missed. After all, there’s a finite numberof people buying games and a seemingly infinite choice of games. So, I think iPad is a great opportunity for devs to make a bit moremargin but it’s not going to last long. As always, the gold rush willsoon run out of gold. Devs need to think of new ways to make money, 59p isn’t too far off‘free’ so it needs some thinking on how you’re going to make the leap.Godfinger is a good example (which is pretty much Mafia Wars bizmodel). I think we can draw parallels with the GB->GBA->DS->DSi->3DSprogression too, although the barrier to development is significantlyhigher than on iPhone. All in all, new platforms increase our audience, which should increasesales & revenue for little increase in dev costs.What do you think?

What’s your point of difference?

2 min read

Bear with me on this one…I’m currently sat watching a TV programme inthe UK called ‘Mary Queen Of Shops’, which is of particular interest because they’re focusing on a business I know near my house.The programme features Mary, who goes into a failing local businessand revamp it into something much more successful.Why am I writing about it? What on earth has it got to do with videogame development? I felt compelled to write something while theprogramme is still on airI can’t help but draw similes from thisprogram when comparing small indie games (local shops) and AAA budgetgames (supermarkets). The message here is that it’s absolutely pointlessfor the indies to try to be the big guys, you’ll never win them at agame that they control. You don’t have the budgets and backing they dobut it doesn’t mean you can’t be awesome.Find Your NicheWhat you have to do is find a niche, specialise, bring game playerssomething truly unique and special that whole teams of marketeers,producers, legal, financial people and a whole myriad of other peoplewon’t get behind because it’s not something they understand or doesn’tfit on an existing shelf.I love gameslike Godfingerand God Of War, I actually have more time for the former but I enjoy the spectacle of the latter.Indies - forget trying to emulate the big guys. Make something you’repassionate about as that always shows through in a game.Don’t Be BlinkeredDo you have a narrow-minded view of how your game works? Can you openyour eyes to criticism? Are you actually any good (I wrote aboutthis recently)?As I sit and watch these people on TV ignore the obvious truth and I canonly think about game developers I’ve met who are adamant that theirgame is awesome despite everyone telling them different. There’s only 1side that’s losing out here.Have an X StatementInterestingly, the programme has just show the tag line, by line, xstatement for the business. It’s a short statement that reallyencapsulates what you’re doing with your game, your business or even ifit’s what you as a person want to achieve.SummaryI started watching this series of programmes with local interest and Ihonestly think there’s something we can all learn for game developmentby watching the pain someone else goes through on our behalf.The trick is to think about what’s being said if applying it to your ownworld of game development.As Mary would say - “What’s your point of difference?”I would say, that we don’t need to end up naked covered in veg to besuccessful. :)Further ReadingBlog Post - Are YouUnique? Blog Post - Weakest Link – Be A Better GameDeveloper

How To Get The Most From Social Game Reviews

5 min read

In the second part of the series on Leveraging Social Media ToMaximise Your Game Sales, I’ll expand on the previousarticle and cover the topic ofuseful easily getting Real Feedback, which already exists and youdon’t need to do anything to make it happen!This article started out with the intent of covering quite a lot ofaspects but one particular point expanded out and warranted it’s ownarticle in theseries…scraping Amazon. The rest will have to wait for another article, read on…Pro Reviews - a tiny voiceIn recent years, review scores onmetacritic have really driven game development as we chase a high score through compelling game design, amazing visuals and killer content. It’s quite common to find incentives for the team or business attached to reaching a certain metacritic scoreHere’s an example from a game I worked on, notice the 107 reviewstaken into account.Does paying someone affect their opinion?It’s worth remembering that these reviews are largely written by paidprofessional journalists who get the games for free and have peoplebegging them for good scores. Launch parties, previews, gifts and othertricks can all influence the game. In the early days, I can rememberhaving a reviewer come around within 1 week of us starting a game whenthere was no game to play. Our artist mocked up some screenshots of thegame on the spot and the ‘reviewer’ disappeared with his floppy disk.In the next months magazine we got a rave 3-page review for our game anda 90% rating (for 3 screenshots)! The review was entirely fictional andit’s coloured my opinion on reviews ever since.Why did this happen? Well, review scores used to be influenced by howmuch advertising the publisher paid for in that particular magazine. Themore ads, the better the reviews, the more the sales, the moreads……and around it went.Hopefully this no longer happens but the most valuable feedback you cangain as a developer isn’t from reviewers, it’s from the people who wantyour game.But, there’s a bigger, more important voice to listen to who may tell adifferent storey, noticed the 1,112 votes taken into account, over10 times the amount of proviews:Scraping Amazon - the BIG VOICEAmazon is your friend ifyou want to discover what the world thinks about any product, peoplehopefully buy your game there and it’s not short of people wanting toshare their views on how good and bad your game is. These are usuallypeople who have paid money for your game and have a vested interested init’s success, they want your game to be good because they handed overhard earned cash for you to entertain them and you’d better do it! Thisis a key difference between looking on Amazon and reading commentselsewhere, there aren’t many other places where people who bought it,review it.####Bonus: Cultural Game ExpectationsIt’s really hard to get a true feeling from pro reviews as they’re allso hard to find and come in different formats and they don’t allow youto discover regional variations either, e.g., what did the Spanishpeople think, what did the Polish people think, did the Germans love it?Thankfully, Amazon is pretty much the same the world over and it’scommon 5-star rating system is easy to discover and understand even ifyou can’t read the language.Below are some examples for Heavy Rain(PS3), which I worked on recently and I chose it as an example as it is an easier title to understand because it’s single platform and came with some anticipated cultural issues depending on where it was released.As you can see, we favoured very well and got excellent review scoresand you can see subtle variations in the general acceptance byterritory. I probably picked a subtle example but the principal isthere. :)FranceGermanyUnited StatesJapanUnited KingdomPromoted ReviewersYou also get indirect feedback from people who don’t write comments asthey will often click a button just to say if they like a review or not,where in most cases that review reflects their own opinion. Again, thisis something unique to Amazon as the other review sites don’t allow youto promote someone else’s opinion if you don’t have the time to writeyour own.These ‘promoted reviews’ are the ones to listen to and you shouldconsider these as amplifiers of opinion. You may even want to contactwith these rare reviewers for some inside information and work with theclosely, at least you’ll have the opportunity to amplify your gain theirconnection with the audience as a trusted reviewer.iTunes FeedbackI wanted this article to stay focused on Amazon / Metacritic for now butI thought it worth dropping a note in about iTunes as I think we allrecognise that the built in 5 star ratings system is welcome and enablespeople to at least give some feedback.However, the vast majority of iPad / iPhone users interact on the phoneitself and here’s where it’s painfully limited, I can only give it 1 to5 stars overall. No support for arbitrary text feedback, no support forgiving some detail “Game play was great, graphics were bad”, “Graphicswere great, gameplay was bad”, “Level 15 is lovely, Level 20 is justkiller”.On the iPad / iPhone it also has an inherent flaw in when people areencouraged to give feedback. An example: I buy the game on my iPhone (no ratings system) I play the game on my iPhone I’ve finished with it / bored of it / need the space, so I removeit. I’m prompted to rate the app/game out of 5There’s the rub, I’m at the point where my relationship with the gamehas ended and I’m moving on and that’s the only time I get to givefeedback. I can only guess that this affects some of the ratings.I guess the flip-side is that if you’re still willing to give the game5* at this point, then it must be good!SummaryRight, back to the point. In the last few years game developers havebeen given direct access to our audience, to listen to them, react tothem and share our feelings about the creative work we put into ourgames.The bright, exciting people will take this up this and make a differencewith this new opportunity to make more rewarding experiences and bettergames for everyone.I’m always looking to learn new ways and opinions so fire away! Don’t beshy to drop in a comment. :)Further ReadingMinimum ViableProduct - anapproach to the development loop of publish, listen, act - repeat

How To Improve Your Video Game Pitch

4 min read

I’ve seen my game pitches in my time, and I’ve made quite a few myselfbut I’m continually amazed and just what some people think they’redoing.  Think about all those poor saps who’ve been sent to theslaughter on “X Factor” for our amusement when they totally and utterlyfail to deliver anything that a mother wouldn’t love.  Think about allthose sorry ideas you’ve seen on Dragon’s Den that are just pitiful. Butit doesn’t have to be this way…When I’ve been on the receiving end, it often feels like “X Factor”, theperson pitching stands up, stumbles to introduce themselves and thenproceeds to claim they’ve got the best thing you’ve ever seen, all theirfriends and colleagues have seen it and they’re passionate about it.It’s the next GTA, or God Of War, or Forza…and then….sitting on theedge of my seat I wait…out comes the pitch and the presentation to gowith it. I finally get to see something and oh dear, oh dear, it rarelylives up to the hype and expectations that the person pitching sets.The sad part is, some of the games are actually fundamentally good andit’s just that pitch itself and / or the person pitching is bad. Both ofthese are fixable or at least made a little bit easier.Here’s a few pointers to get you started X Statement. Produce a concise statement that sums up yourgame succinctly. It should capture the essence of what you’re gameis about and set realistic expectations. It’s difficult to do, andeven harder to do well, but the thought behind it will cause you toexplore what you’re really pitching. Who Am I? What Am I doing? Why do I care? These are things Iwant to know as a gamer, to check if this is something I want toplay. Ask yourself these questions to ensure that you’ve coveredthese key topics in your pitch. Would your mother understand it? When you’ve written your pitch,ask yourself if your mother would understand what you’re saying orshowing. This may seem silly but remember that the people you’repitching to have to understand your proposition in 15-20 minutes.They haven’t lived with every nuance of the design for months andknow everything you’re implying. It’s all about you. There are many case studies that show that alarge part of someone accepting the pitch is whether they like theperson (and team) pitching the idea. If you come across asunsure, incompetent, uncaring then why would you care should you getthe work? This can be a tough one to crack when you’ve taken thesame idea around lots of people but it’s very important to getright. Stay fresh or go home. Make every word and image count. Optimise the life out of yourpresentation when it’s ready to make sure you’re maximising yourpresentation time, communicating efficiently and clearly, notrepeating key statements and getting everything you want to say inthere. Keep it simple This is a little different to point 3, I’mreferring to the content itself. Your objective is to hook theperson and start a conversation about your pitch. Shy away fromgoing into uber detail that would scare someone off, keep numbers toa minimum, keep the text light on each page. Practise, practise, practice. I mean this. Really practice yourpitch, think about every word. The reason is that when it comes topresentation time you’ll know what you’re going to say, remembereverything you want to get across and also, critically, be moreconfident about what you’re doing.I would say that I have a pet hate, which is that the most common phraseI hear has to be  ”Pixar Style Animation” and it fills me with dread.There are 2reasons: Pixar communicates a style and ethos all of it’s own that goesdeeper than just it’s animation, it’s about how it makes you feel.There’s an emotion they’re you just can’t put into words, but it’sthere and it’s what makes it so good. More importantly you’ve set my expectations very high and I’mmore likely to be thinking “Prove It” or “I bet it isn’t” beforeI’ve seen anything. I’m instantly on the back foot and expectingfailure. What is the person trying to say in the 1st place?I’m allfor setting aspiration goals but you need to be able to prove them.Above all, do what you say you’re going to do.There are many similar phrases that you just simply have to be able toback up. Think about what expectations your setting and if they exist inthe real world before promising them. Would you fall for it?SummarySo, there it is, a few pointers on mostly what to avoid when preparingyour pitch and doing the presentation itself. Take your time, make sureyou’re ready, don’t rush and remember. To fail to prepare is to prepare to failIf you’re business depends on it, it’s worth the time and effort to getit right and get a professional to run through it with you! Shamelessselfplug.;)As always, if there’s something more you’d like to know, post a commentor contact me directly.###UPDATE:I’ve followed up with more information in ‘How To Improve YourPitch – Part 2‘Further Reading Presentation Zen - a blogdedicated to sharing the best presentation tips PresentationZen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery(Voices ThatMatter) -a great book that sets the basis for great presentations Presentation ZenDesign: Simple Design Principles and Techniques toEnhance Your Presentations (Voices ThatMatter) -a partner book that focuses ondesign

Avoiding Game Development Contract Pitfalls - Royalties

6 min read

![](/assets/soundexchangeartist.jpg)Here at @Gamelinchpin we like to clear some of the fog surrounding themore complex business of making games.Negotiating contracts can be tough, and there’s a lot to think about butdon’t let some of the most important elements slip you by. Getting theseright can make the difference between scraping by and living well andit’s not easy if you lack experience but we’re here to help.I’ll start by going through some common elements of royalty clauses.  ** ** I’d like to start out by saying always take professional legal advicebefore signing a contract, the information below is my opinion onlybased on experience.Is it worth it?YES! There’s a myth that it’s pretty much impossible to achieveroyalties on anything but the killer AAA multi-million selling items butI’ve seen many cases where the route to success is often in being awareof what options you have, and what to avoid too.Common PitfallsWhen thinking about royalties it’s important to really think about allof the different facets of the deal piece together as even the smallest,seemingly irrelevant clause, can mean the difference between makingmoney and losing out completely. Keeping all the different elementsbalanced is something that comes with experience.There are a few things to think about but mainly always think about therate you’re going to recoup the advance at and what you are recoupingagainst as misunderstanding these 2 elements alone can be the ultimatekiller.Recoup RateIn this section I’m assuming that we’re talking about a typical modelwhere the cash you’re given to make the game (Advance) is recovered,along with other costs, before you start getting any royalties on theprofit. This Advance Against Royalties is a common scenario but it canbe improved. Think of it as a debt you have to repay.Now, this bit involves a bit of maths to understand the implications ofso I’ll go slowly for you all. :)Now, typical royalty schemes employ 1 rate that applies through youragreement. In it’s simplest form the publisher takes the money it getsand allocates a portion of that cash to repay the loan they gave you tomake the game (Advance). When it’s paid back you get the remainder asroyalties.Lets look at a work example where the royalty rate is 10%, but thisobviously varies in real life.The thing to watch here is the portion of the cash they use to repayyour debt (Advance), if this were your royalty rate of 10%, they wouldneed to make 10 times that amount (100% divided by your royalty rate)before your advance is fully repaid and you get royalties.Now, there’s no reason why the recoup rate cannot be different to theroyalty rate. Lets imagine that you now have a recoup rate of 25% anda royalty rate of 10%. Now the publisher only needs to recoup 4 timesyour Advance before you start seeing royalties at 10%. This is a bigdifference and really compounds over time.In a typical contract, the 2 rates are balanced based on how thenegotiations with the 2 parties go. I have seen quite a wide variety ofvalues suchas: 20% recoup and 30% royalty 10% recoup and 10% royalty 75% recoup and 30% royalty 100% recoup and 5% royaltyI have even seen 1 extreme case where the Advance was written offand a low percentage royalty was paid. In this case the developer sawroyalties from day 0.It is also possible to gain an agreement on hard unit numbers too onceyou’ve worked out the nitty gritty of all of the parameters. E.g.,instead of recouping your Advance at some rate, you start on royaltiesonce your game has sold 100,000 units.If you can work this out upfront and get the actual number of unitsdown in your contract, then there’s no variance or disagreement lateron and quibbling over what is/isn’t recoupable against your advance.Net ReceiptsBefore I move on, I need to explain some of the core concepts. I’llassume you know the difference between Gross and Net but there’s a keyphrase typically used in contracts called “Net Receipts” that I’ll tryand explain.Net Receipts refers to actual bit of money left over aftereverything else has been taken out. This typically includesundefined, variable and uncapped expenses such as Marketing andRetention / Returns.Marketing budgets are incredibly hard to nail down as they typicaldepend on prevailing conditions & rates, maybe there’s a competingtitles that warrants more of a push for yours, maybe there’s someco-marketing deal being struck. The key here is to try and get as muchof this known at the start, there’s should be some value attributed herebut try and get this defined or at least try and cap the amount thatgoes against your royalties.Retention or Returns These terms refer to the amount of cash the publisher retains to copewith unsold or returned stock. This figure is used to reduce the amountyour royalties are calculated against. There’s not a lot you can doabout this but be aware that it’s lurking in the background.The rest of it should be self-explanatory but I’ll happily respond tofeedback if I’ve missed a key component.CurrencyThis is something that’s often over-looked in our world of globaldevelopment and is something to consider if you deal with a publisherthat holds it’s accounts outside of your territory. It’s worth notinghere that some big international companies may not have treasuries inyour native country so currency exchange will come into play.Also, the time between you agreeing the contract and you eventuallygetting paid some royalties can be a very long time and the financialmarket changes rapidly.There’s a couple of things to investigatehere: negotiate the fees in the currency that gives you the best deal, in some cases it may not be the one held by the publisher or you.Secondly, if the time frames and values are considerable then look intoForward Exchange Rates with your bank, where you can get them to agreeon a future exchange rate.What you Recoup againstI’ve explained some of the elements that can massively affect the amountyou recoup against. Recouping against undefined Net Receipts is a dangerous game andone you should seek to nail down what the specifics are as above. Beaware of everything you’re getting yourself into.I’d strongly advice always using a professional company like TCAssociates to exercise your right to audit the royalty accounts as pretty much every audit exposes inaccuracies in yourfavour, sometimes a few thousand and have been known to be millions.Other Areas to ConsiderOne other area to consider is how your royalties are recouped againstitems such as Bundle Deals and how they are affected by any potentialretail discounts such as ‘Platinum’ packs.How will your royalties be affected by different distribution modelssuch as online or retail?Will you be able to gain any royalties on sales of other items such asdownloadable content,  t-shirts, merchandising, social network apps,etc?What next?Next TimeIn this series I’ll be going exposing another common contract point suchas Developer Technology and Intellectual Property.If you’ve enjoyed this item, please join the conversation in thecomments, share this item with friends and subscribe to get thenext installment. I’m happy to answer any relevant questions you mayhave that are posted in the comments.Further ReadingEntertainment Law Handbook - Sarassin LLP business affairs consultancy for the interactive entertainment industry.

Getting the most out of E3 Expo 2010

5 min read

Well, it’s almost here, E3 Expo 2010 and it will be followed by manyother opportunities to get out there andnetwork: Game Connection,Develop, Gamescom, and if you’re lucky, Tokyo Game Show, etc.Over the years, I’ve attended my of these events as both someonepitching and someone listening to other peoples pitches and I have a fewtips to share.By now, you’ve obviously spent a lot of time, effort and moneycarefully preparing your pitch andpolished your presentation.You’ve no doubt booked a flight, hotel, got some spending money and needto feed yourself and probably some clients too. Your team have packedyou off with some good wishes and are waiting for you to let them knowhow it went. You may have family waiting on you too. All of this is amassive commitment and you’ve got a lot riding on it.Start with the least importantWhen scheduling your meetings, try an schedule your least important onesfirst; maybe even with some people that you’re not interested in.The reason is that it will give you some real-life experience ofpitching in the environment and enable you to debug you’re pitch andtweak if before you get to the big boys. This can be a good way ofweeding out problems with your demo, powerpoint deck, laptop, pointer,screen brightness too.You’ll also get feedback that you can incorporate into your pitch, maybethese are in the form of questions that you are asked that you can thenthink about a really good answer for.Pick your slotBe aware of the typical fluctuations in a persons attention span andlikely state.I’d hedge my bets on the best time being late morning, just beforelunch.Early mornings can fall foul of preceding heavy nights out partying orjetlag. Try and avoid these is possible. If you get time, take a peek atthe party schedule and avoid the day after.Afternoons are usually toughest, as people grow weary through thedraining aspect of running back-to-back meetings in hot, brightly litenvironments, battling against a lack of sleep and the onset of jetlag.Take OwnershipYou’ll be meeting lots of people and have a lot to remember, but, sowill the people you’re meeting and you need to make sure you’re at thetop of their pile when it comes to getting your game signed.Firstly, be clear and concise in what you say. Make everything count anddon’t expect anyone to remember everything you said.Assuming you’re pitch went well, you need to secure 2 things: Get Their Contact details. Make sure these are for the rightperson who you’ll be dealing with, who may be different to the personyou’re presenting to, which leads on to…2. How, when, where for you to follow up. Try and get thingspre-defined, “lets have a catchup call next Wednesday at 3pm” is betterthan “I’ll call you soon”. Aim to secure meeting dates too don’t letthese slip.Miss these two and you’ve just wasted your time, don’t rely on thelistener to chase you, you can bet your last dollar that there will beother people shouting louder than you and getting some attention.If you find that the listener won’t commit, then you can probably takeit as a sign they’re not interested and it’s time to move on. the squeaky wheel gets thegreaseDealing with rejectionWell, dealing with someone not being interested in your pitch cansometimes be hard but don’t take it personal. Try and find out why, thelistener will often be able to give you a good indication of what youneed to change before the next pitch. Take this as an opportunity toadapt your presentation for the next person you meet.There’s a lot of reasons they make not take up you’re offer and here’s acouple of non-obvious ones. Pitch Went Bad. Maybe you fluffed it, maybe you’re laptopbattery expired, maybe the listener got distracted with what they’rehaving for lunch. There’s no real answer here, sometimes it just doesn’tgo the way you wanted it.2. “we have similar titles in our portfolio” is a typical push off froma listener and most of the time it’s genuinely down to something thatalready exists or something they have in development elsewhere. There are rare occasions when they want to take your idea and make itthemselves, claiming this is something they had in production already.This can be something as big as the game, or something as small as agame mechanic. There’s nothing you can do about this except to expect it on rareoccasions. I’ve only seen this happen a handful of times across a 20yrcareer and it’s always heart wrenching to see.Do You HomeworkYou can be in a much strong position by doing your homework on thecompany and person you’re meeting beforehand. This will not only exposeany likely competition for your game but also enable you to come acrossas interested in them. All it takes is a bit of Google action to take care of it for the mostpart. People can be harder to find but I’d try[blippr]LinkedIn[/blippr] andMobyGames as a starting point.What next?I’ll repeat this here because it’s REALLY IMPORTANT!Always get confirmation on next steps, try and arrange a follow up call / meeting, GET THEIR CONTACT DETAILSPerpetual ImpressionAs a little aside, remember that every interaction will persist throughyour career as everyone moves around and over time the associateproducer you dismissed at a small publisher could end up being in chargeof acquisitions for a large international publisher later in your careerwhen you really need them. A buyer never forgetsWARNING: Don’t pitch if you’re unsure. It’s not worth it in the longrun.SummaryAttending one of these huge conventions is an exciting and importanttime, everyone always enjoys it and always has good stories to tell.Although some of those stories should never be repeated back home. ;)