Category Archives: games publishing

#Unity3d hardware usage + implications – Summer 2015

There’s tonnes of blogs out there, so I only talk about the bits that other people have missed, or were too polite or inexperienced to cover. Often that means I’m the one pointing out the flaws (most people don’t want to write bad things. Screw that; ignoring the bad points does you no favours!).

Sometimes I get to talk about the good bits that – sadly – few people have noticed. Here’s one of those.
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6 ways to massively improve the #unity3d AssetStore (for #gamedev’s)

Six months ago I tweeted a handful of obvious ways that you could make the Unity Asset Store greatly more profitable.

One of the Unity folk reached out to me, claimed that Unity was highly invested in improving this and asked for specific suggestions. So I wrote longer, detailed versions of each tweet and emailed them.

It’s been six months. No response. So … for Unity’s competitors, maybe looking to make/improve their own Asset Stores (or newcomers hoping to unseat the incumbents), here’s six obvious commercial improvements.

I’ve cut a few paragraphs I wrote to Unity about who I think their 3 main audiences are on the Asset Store; I included them as a “here are the assumptions I’m making” – I have no idea what their real audiences are. So I omitted that here.

NB: I’ve made the formatting webpage friendly, added some details, but this is essentially an info dump. I was too busy at the time to sugar-coat it – I figured that if Unity wanted to talk, I’d talk to them, and in person I’m really quite friendly and gentle. But at the time we were working 24/7 getting ready for a major exhibition, so this is a bit … terse.

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Promoting an Indie game: what should you link to?

Background

Every Saturday, thousands of indie / hobbyist game developers publish screenshots of their in-progress games. Unlike most forms of marketing, this is:

  • honest / genuinely representative (it’s actual content)
  • interesting (show’s the dev’s intentions)
  • exciting (pictures of games are usually more fun than words)

i.e. … it’s an amazing marketing tool.

But many game developers are screwing this up. A year ago, I posted a long list of advice, tips, and explanations – worth reading. But some devs are still misunderstanding / screwing this up. So, what should you do?

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Should freelancers in gamedev industry sign NDA’s?

I’m sure I’ve written about this before, but it’s come up again on Reddit, so here’s my thoughts…

IANAL, but … I have been offered more than 100 NDA’s, both as an individual and working in large companies (including a games publisher, and including a funding team).

I have signed fewer than 30 – and most of those were before I realised how “wrong” it is to sign an NDA.

These days, I only sign 1 in every 10 NDA’s sent my way – and yet I still end up working for, or doing business with, at least 50% of the people who initially “required” an NDA.

Often, people send me a bad, broken, poorly worded, typo-riddled NDA and I say “I’m not signing that. Fix it, get it down to 1.5 pages max, and I’ll reconsider” — and they usually don’t bother, they just tell me their “secrets” anyway. They didn’t really need or want the NDA!

Also: In most jurisdictions, an NDA can’t realistically be more than 2 pages, maybe 3 if it’s badly worded … if it’s more than 2 pages, you’re either in a niche industry (not games), or … it’s not an NDA, it’s a contract that’s pretending to be an NDA, perhaps for evil reasons. When someone sends me a 5-10 page NDA I say “send me a 1-2 page NDA. Don’t send me a secret employment contract”. AGain, they often simply carry on talking to me without NDA.

One large games company (100 staff) sent me (IIRC) a TWENTY TWO page NDA. Buried on page 17 was something like: “we own all converations with you, and at YOUR cost we can confiscate all hard-disks and storage belonging to you or your company if we have any suspicion you might be developing ideas similar to our own”.

(It specifically took ownership of any ideas similar – even if we’d never discussed them. It was disgusting.)

There are some exceptions to be aware of – but the company can easily explain + justify this to you. For instance, if the company is based on a patent, then in Europe they may be required to prove everyone is under NDA or risk invalidating the patent (not the same as USA, where you can talk about patents publically, IIRC).

TL;DR – many “NDA’s” are a scam. Refuse them without hesitation. Or question them, and discover the company didn’t really need it anyway. Most “decent” companies won’t care that you’re not under NDA; the obsession with NDA’s usually comes from the kind of dumb-ass employer that is a PITA to work for.

(to reiterate: IANAL. I’m happy giving advice, but legally you shouldn’t trust random strangers on the internet, and I take no responsibility for your actions ! :))

Indie Developers do an AMA…

A bunch of indie game devs (including various friends of mine) are doing an AMA right now on Reddit. Go have a look (and ask some questions) if interested.

I found the answers this question a bit depressing though, given that the audience has increased 100-fold in the last 2 decades. Sad that indie developers still find it almost exactly as hard today as they did in the 1990’s :(.

Unity crash: “type == kMetaAssetType && pathName.find (“library/metadata”) != 0″

Unity’s QA dept needs a smack up-side the head. If you get this bug, you’re a bit screwed – the only “fix” is to go into system settings and wipe Unity’s crud.

Error message:

type == kMetaAssetType && pathName.find (“library/metadata”) != 0

Thanks, Unity, that’s very human-readable and helpful. Not.

(appears to be an Assert written by a junior programmer – or a debug-only Assert that got left in the shipping version(!))\

Problem:

  1. Unity’s tech team wrote Unity 3 so that it would open projects BEFORE checking if there was a new version available
  2. Unity 4 is NOT backwards compatible; it corrupts projects so that they will NEVER load in Unity 3.x
  3. …also: Unity 3.5 will FATAL CRASH if it tries to open a Unity 4 project
  4. Unity (generally) is badly written and auto-opens the last project, even if you don’t want to, and EVEN IF ITS CORRUPT
  5. Unity (generally) DOESN’T BOTHER to offer any way of starting “safely”

Solution (OS X):

  1. Force-quit Unity (not only does it crash, but it hangs forever) – RMB on the icon, hold down alt/option, and the Force Quit option appears
  2. run Finder, go to (your user)/Library, aka “~/Library”. If you don’t know how, then do ONE OF the following (either works):
    • EITHER: Start at your username folder (it’s the parent folder of your Desktop folder, parent of your Documents folder, etc), un-break OS X (Apple ships it as broken-by-default): google for “enable see Library folder in Finder”, follow the instructions
    • OR: In Finder’s “Go” menu, select “Go to folder”, and type “~/Library”
      • Inside Library, find “Preferences” folder
      • Find *everything* that begins “com.unity3d.” and delete it (there are approx 20 files, of 2 different file types)
      • Re-start Unity, and it will open the default project
      • …And this time, Unity will offer to upgrade to Unity 4

UPDATE

For bonus points, the Unity 4 “upgrade” isn’t an upgrade: it’s a replacement. I expected it to download “the bits that have changed”. Nuh-uh. One gigabyte download! (try getting that in a hurry, when your project has suddenly imploded in front of you, because of the non-existent backwards-compatibility :( ).

Some idle thoughts…

I’ve seen similar behaviour before when writing very simple OS X apps. There’s some massive bugs in Apple’s code that have been around for 5+ years (and Apple shows no intention of fixing), which cause “startup actions” to happen in a semi-random order, depending on the NAME and NUMBER of recently-opened projects.

It takes very little testing to discover this. If it’s the problem with the Unity software, then Unity needs to seriously improve their testing on OS X – they should have discovered this easily.

But also … why on earth are they using the NSDocument loading system? Apple never finished writing the docs for it, they seem to have never finished implementing it (major bits of the API seem to be missing) – in general, OS X authors don’t seem to use it any more. Probably because it doesn’t work?

Reaction to CoH (City of Heroes) community, and NCsoft’s response

(background: after 8 years as one of the world’s mid-tier MMO games, City of Heroes (+ City of Villains) is being shut down. The community banded together to ask if they could take over running the world that meant so much to them; NCsoft (the publisher, and a company I used to work for) said: no)

“No means no”

NCsoft is basically saying: “Please. We love you, but … you just *don’t understand*. It’s more complex than you could possibly imagine!”

That’s not a dialogue; it reads like a “this conversation ends when I stop talking” monologue.

“Why on earth wouldn’t you say yes?”

Lots of people wondering that. Obviously, being a public company, no-one’s going to answer that in public. We can only guess. But hear’s a few (over the top) suggestions…

If the community succeeds … then THE FEAR IS: some Executive(s), somewhere, are going to look like bad (I’m not accusing; I’m just saying that in corporates I’ve worked at, this kind of *fear* is common). A lot of the work they do is guess-work. That’s fine, they’re paid to make the best decision they can, while never truly know if they made the right one.

But if a bunch of inexperienced, eager novices come along and offer to do it for free. And – the worst possible outcome – they succeed … that could make someone look really bad.

Another thing I’ve seen in corporate politics at this level is a lot of “horse-trading”. i.e. sacrificing one project (that someone else resents, or has been snubbed by) in return for that person helping out out with a problem on a separate project, that you’re trying to rescue.

Who (individually or collectively) made the decision, and what did they stand to gain or lose? (they are probably worried about / aiming for / trying to win … something bigger than this single game. c.f. my 2009 post on why NCsoft is so huge a company gains nothing from “profitable” games, they need “mega profitable” games)

“Software is software”

Ha!

Has anyone found out yet what format(s) the data is in? Imagine the most insane, unwieldy, incomprehensible, inconsistent, unusable format that bears no relationship *at all* to the game itself … and you’re probably half way there.

This game was written *8 years ago*.

Read the biographies of the people involved. Were they non-game developers … academics with decades of expertise in distributed systems and real-time transaction messaging? … or … were they a bunch of smart guys trying to catch up with the academic research in the space of months, just enough to build and ship a major new computer game? And … most importantly … to make it “fun” before they ran out of budget.

I’ve not yet found an MMO where the people who made it feel – with hindsight – they had any idea what they were doing at the start. When they started, of course, many of them thought they’d covered all the bases, and were “well prepared”. Everyone tries their best up-front (or fails completely); but everyone finds it much harder than expected.

What should we/they do?

Looking at it analytically and logically, I’d give the community a very high chance of failing dismally if they were given the game. But … the eagerness, the excitement, the sheer determination: I’d give them a small chance of succeeding despite everything. Simply because: when you see this much determination, it often wins out and overcomes the obstacles in its way.

So, I say: Go for it.

They know the game they’re trying to (re-)create. The difficulty is simple: whenever you try to re-create a game, the temptation is always there to “improve” it … and 99 times in 100, you find you slightly misunderstood what you were “improving”.

The real cost of game-consoles (inflation-adjusted)

35 years of game-consoles, and their original retail price, adjusted for inflation:

i.e. a (reasonably) direct comparison of how expensive they were at the time they were launched.

Some quick observations:

  • NeoGeo and 3DO/Jaguar were insanely expensive – and, of course, sold very poorly and went bye-bye.
  • Until the Wii and the GameCube … Nintendo’s NES and SNES, and Sega’s Master System – the best-selling consoles of the goldern-era – were almost the cheapest ever launched.
    • (I’ve long argued that hardware price is one of the biggest factors in the sucess of a console, so I’m biased and cheering for this ;))
    • PlayStation 2, which kept up the immense sales trend of PS1, was slightly cheaper, following the curve down. PS3 bucked it … and sales were disappointing.
    • This chart lists *only* the launch price, it doesn’t say anything about the deep price drops over the consoles’ lifetimes; “price” is the main thing a platform owner can change after launch (changing the hardware features / design is almost impossible)

    (Found via reddit, but no link to that bad person, because they linked the image without credit / citation. Grr!)

Jon Blow: “almost no certification process for iOS”. LOLz.

Jon just published an interesting letter about the current state of cert processes for game consoles / platforms.

There are some real problems with certification today. Unfortunately, Jon’s post doesn’t really touch upon them, and seems to go instead after the IMHO untrue and unhelpful claim that iOS is better for having “almost no certification”. No, really:

“The certification processes of all these platform holders were based on the idea that all these steps they test are absolutely necessary for software to run robustly, and that software robustness is super-important for the health of their platform and its perception by customers.

But, look at iOS. There is almost no certification process for iOS, so by the Microsoft/Sony/Nintendo theory, the apps should be crashing all the time, everyone should think of iOS as sucky, etc. But in fact this is not what is happening. There is no public outcry for more testing and robustness of iOS software.”

Personally, I’d say that iOS has a certification process of comparable length to console cert, given the comparitive size/complexity/many-years of development in the apps, and for a couple of years it was considerably nastier than TRC’s because *it had no documentation*.

(my first hand experience: I created and maintained a large site that documented the app rejections by Apple, and interviewed the developers on what got rejected, why, what happened after the rejection, etc.)

Even with the nightmare of never knowing what the rules were, there was a positive net effect: many apps were forced to resubmit until they hit a minimum barrier of quality. Again – I know this for a fact, I had many conversations and interviews with developers about this, often getting to read their conversations with Apple. Even today, there are many apps being rejected every week for failing on basic quality / functionality / crashing / etc.

For me, that rather undermines his argument. Which is a pity, because there ARE major problems with cert – on all platforms, Apple included – and we should be focussing on them. But it’s not the idea of cert that’s at fault, it’s either the choice of items (e.g. Sony, where some of the rules come from PlayStation 1 era and are barely relevant today) or it’s the poor implementation of the process (e.g. Apple until 2011), or it’s the big chunks of stuff that SHOULD be part of cert but isn’t (…everyone…).

AAA iPhone games more profitable than AAA Xbox/PlayStation games

Tim Sweeney, Epic Games (owners of Unreal Engine, and deelopers of AAA games on 360/PS3/iOS):

“The most profitable game we’ve ever made, in terms of man years invested versus revenue, is actually Infinity Blade. It’s more profitable than Gears of War.”

Touch Arcade has some terrible analysis (don’t listen to a word of it), but I quite liked their summary:

“Just let that sink in for a minute. Infinity Blade, an iOS exclusive title that has been priced anywhere between $5.99 and 99¢ over the years, is more profitable than a $60 AAA title that enjoyed all the glitz and glamor that comes along side a multi-million dollar game launch marketing blitz. We’re talking major network TV commercials, prime shelf space in nationwide retailers like Wal-Mart, and everything else …and Infinity Blade wins.”

…although *ouch* at that last 4 words, where they show some stunning foolishness. Console games make *more overall profit* than iOS games – Tim’s words clearly only covered the profit *margin* – making it very stupid to say “Infinity Blade wins”.

And we have to factor in (again, GAH! TouchArcade … do you really have so little idea what goes on in your own area of news?) that InfinityBlade *did indeed* get major TV exposure etc – it’s just that Epic didn’t provide it, Apple did.

What we really want to know is … what’s the ratio of profit margins between the two games – Gears of War 1/2 (their premier console AAA title), and Infiity Blade 1/2 (their premier iOS AAA title)?

My pure guess is that it’s a fairly small multiple – maybe only 1.2 x margin – so that if you have a LOT of money to invest, console is still a good target. Meanwhile, Epic will use this as justification that “everyone should license Unreal Engine v4 – because otherwise your dev costs are too high on console, compared to other platforms”

(as I hope we all realise … Epic stopped being “an independent game developer” many years ago; Epic in the 21st century is “a middleware company, that sometimes makes games on the side”)

Pearson doesn’t like people buying books; Amazon knows where you live (in a bad way)

Wow, Pearson has some strange ideas about commerce! To buy this popular textbook as an ebook, you have two choices, both conveniently linked from the front page of the author’s website:

  1. Go to Amazon. Buy it, in any country / price you want. Get it immediately. (unless this is your first purchase … see below)
  2. Go to Pearson. Not allowed to buy it, unless you’re American (especially funny given that Pearson was originally English, IIRC)
    1. Get taken to a page listing 100 random URLs, with bizarre domain-names, grouped by country.
    2. Guess which one (out of several for your country) is appropriate for you.
    3. Manually search for the product YOU’VE ALREADY SELECTED
    4. Get quoted a price that is MORE THAN TWICE AS MUCH for the IDENTICAL download

And publishers *still* complain that people use Amazon? Hmm…

Which means Amazon is able to get away with treating the consumer like crap – because it’s *still* less insulting and obstructive than what the original publisher is doing. If you haven’t already surrendered your private data – which is nothing to do with buying a book – to Amazon, you’ll be prevented from buying a book at this point. Here’s the screenshot:

And, yes, Amazon.co.uk ensures VERY carefully that I cannot buy this book, until I’ve gone through this process:

  1. I want to buy this eBook
  2. “No: you haven’t yet given our Secret Police full access to all your computer hardware”
  3. But … wait, what? … I want to give you MONEY for something you’re SELLING, and you’re telling me you want access to my hardware? What’s that got to do with the price of fish?
  4. “Not until you voluntarily destroy some of your civil rights. Your government wouldn’t let us do this, so … you know … we have to get you to do it ‘voluntarily’. LOLZ”
  5. WTF? Apple’s currently the defendant in a billions-of-dollars court case in USA for doing exactly this. Aren’t you even slightly worried?
  6. “It’s OK. We know that the book’s publisher is going to treat you so badly that even our bad behaviour is mild by comparison. Let me know when you’ve ponied-up your privacy, and I’ll let you serve me. That’s what we mean by “a service company”: it’s a company that you serve. Have a nice day! Yours, Amazon”

Net result: use someone else’s hardware, sacrifice it to Amazon, rip the evil DRM off there, and give Amazon less money in future (since there will only be a “fake” account on their system).

Treating consumers like idiots – in the age of Internet literacy – is a net loss … for all of us. And it continues to drive the younger generations further and further away from paying for stuff, and closer and closer towards pirating it.

When I think of media corporations today, this image comes powerfully to mind, from back when Swine Flu broke out. Guess which one sits on the board of directors of a corporation (I grant you, it’s not easy to be sure) :

Lvl 50 on Kongregate; how many games industry people say the same?

I’ve played many hundreds – probably over a thousand – games on Kongregate alone, now.

On top of all the thousands I’ve played on console, PC, flash, handheld, mobile, etc.

I feel pretty confident in analysing game mechanics, and success/fail reasons for given game-designs, based off my extensive experience.

I frequently use my knowledge to influence design decisions and programming decisions in the games I work on.

But how many people in the games industry can say the same?

Hmm.

(PS: many people claim to “have no time to play games – too busy working”; my view has always been: if you really care about the art and the craft of this industry, you’ll make the time. No question about it)

How much royalty/bonus for successful AAA video game?

Something like 90% of game developers NEVER get a royalty for their games, and almost as many never get a bonus.

But for the handful that work on titles where the studio negotiated a good deal (modulo the Publisher’s legal team using legal chicanery to make all royalties work out at “$0”) … it’s interesting to see what they get.

So, for Call of Duty, we have: Infinity Ward’s 2003 royalty deal with Activision.

NOTE: that doc *does not include* bonuses; it mentions them a few times, and says they’re taken out “before” the royalties. One of the publisher tricks is to award 100% of the profit to their own executives as “bonuses” – so that the external developer gets a royalties based off $0. You’d really want to see the bonuses doc too to check what the value of these royalties is…

Anyway, that aside, some headline points:

  • no upside limit (royalties aren’t “capped” – a sneaky practice I’ve seen publishers use before. A dev studio should NEVER accept a cap!)
  • NEW game series / IP created by the developer: developer gets 10% of net income (profit)
  • Sequels to the developer’s NEW games, or NEW games that re-use the developer’s game-engine, and NOT made by the developer: developer gets 2% of net income (profit)
  • Sequels made to the developer’s EXISTING games by the developer: developer gets 10-15% of net income (profit)
  • Sequels made to the developer’s EXISTING games and NOT made by the developer: developer gets 4% of net income (profit)

TCE iPhone Games by Indie (and mainstream) Game Professionals

TheChaosEngine – private forums hangout for games-industry professionals. There’s an epic thread on there where people post projects they / their team / their employer has published on iPhone. It’s currently 40 pages long, so I went through and pulled out the links to the iTunes pages for each game.

NB: these run the gamut from “my first iPhone app” to “large-team of developers working for multinational publisher”. Quality here will vary hugely – YMMV!

Also, interesting to note … these are listed in order of posting to the forums, so … as you go down the list, you’re seeing an evolution over time of personal/indie (and occasionally “big team / AAA”) games on the app store.

TCE games, in first-launched order (earliest first)

  1. http://toucharcade.com/2008/12/12/ivory-tiles-a-unique-iphone-puzzle-game/
  2. http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=298060143&mt=8
  3. http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=289208006&mt=8
  4. http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=303057162&mt=8
  5. http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=305889055&mt=8&s=143441
  6. http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=307740243&mt=8
  7. http://zenbound.com/itunes
  8. http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=307117698&mt=8
  9. http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=311115651&mt=8
  10. http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=318996099&mt=8&s=143441
  11. http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=317781445&mt=8
  12. http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=321510472&mt=8
  13. http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=323694495&mt=8
  14. http://bit.ly/ifistchaosengine
  15. http://appshopper.com/utilities/isundial-2
  16. http://bit.ly/qqq_iphone
  17. http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=333962577&mt=8
  18. http://itunes.com/app/Coretex
  19. http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=334682266&mt=8
  20. http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=334683021&mt=8
  21. http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=335955369&mt=8
  22. http://tinyurl.com/yc9bpr5
  23. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/revz/id352513901?mt=8
  24. http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/fm-2010/id352933624?mt=8
  25. http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/koan/id366816832?mt=8
  26. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tiki-towers/id298127125?mt=8
  27. http://ultrablast.net/
  28. http://bit.ly/aurifi_itunes
  29. http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/denki-blocks/id371685186?mt=8
  30. http://bit.ly/yatr_iphone
  31. http://bit.ly/qqq_worldfoot
  32. http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/gamebook-adventures-2-the/id375065935?mt=8
  33. http://itunes.apple.com/app/id356565414?mt=8
  34. http://itunes.apple.com/app/reckless-racing/id386234787?mt=8
  35. http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/tiltstorm/id392545121?mt=8
  36. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/awakening-the-dreamless-castle/id386161821?mt=8
  37. http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/gamebook-adventures-1-an-assassin/id352871101?mt=8
  38. http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/gamebook-adventures-4-revenant/id395652668?mt=8
  39. http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/cricket-captain-2010/id406333955?mt=8
  40. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pocket-frogs/id386644958?mt=8&partnerId=30&siteID=0JkCNyaaKoo
  41. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sky-burger/id311972587?mt=8&partnerId=30&siteID=0JkCNyaaKoo
  42. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/scoops-ice-cream-fun-for-everyone/id291591378?mt=8&partnerId=30&siteID=0JkCNyaaKoo
  43. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dizzypad-frog-jump-fun/id357104694?mt=8&partnerId=30&siteID=0JkCNyaaKoo
  44. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/textropolis/id301643671?mt=8&partnerId=30&siteID=0JkCNyaaKoo
  45. http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/kamicrazy/id299644692?mt=8
  46. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/bubble-dreams/id400309976?mt=8&ls=1
  47. http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/gamebook-adventures-5-catacombs/id422246290?mt=8
  48. http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/family-games/id417601428?mt=8
  49. http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/moving-day/id395714931?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4
  50. http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/to-fu-the-trials-of-chi/id436987555?mt=8
  51. http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/bashi-blocks/id441051678?mt=8
  52. http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/magnetic-billiards-blueprint/id432152950?mt=8
  53. http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/specky-mark-of-the-year/id458244379?mt=8
  54. http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/quarrel-deluxe/id453203047?mt=8
  55. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/death-at-fairing-point-a-dana/id445507820?mt=8
  56. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/lap-uranus/id447548601?ls=1&mt=8
  57. http://itunes.apple.com/app/cutesy-the-quest-unicorn/id463920538?mt=8
  58. http://itunes.apple.com/app/funpark-friends/id444438531?mt=8
  59. http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/myragdoll-3d/id444210353?mt=8
  60. http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/puzzler-world-2/id465620717?mt=8
  61. http://itunes.apple.com/app/shark-jug/id473563382
  62. http://itunes.apple.com/au/app/mini-motor-racing/id426860241?mt=8
  63. http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/grabatron/id481309065?mt=8
  64. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/leapin-frogs/id487318065?mt=8
  65. http://itunes.com/apps/gravityrocks
  66. http://itunes.apple.com/app/puzzle-bonsai/id491318778?mt=8
  67. http://bit.ly/lighthousegame
  68. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/my-coin-match/id472717295?mt=8
  69. http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/froad/id469021974?mt=8
  70. http://j.mp/EufloriaHD
  71. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/end-night-hd/id498102948?ls=1&mt=8
  72. http://smallgreenhill.com/ballonawall/index.php
  73. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/rune-raiders/id497702195?mt=8

Non-chronological

These posters didn’t provide a real iTunes link – I had to hunt it down on their websites – so they’re out of order:

  1. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/ax-raven-elite/id331999733?mt=8
  2. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/red-card-rampage/id388957922?mt=8
  3. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wordsnap-contraption/id412453514?mt=8&ls=1
  4. http://bit.ly/zSf5vc

Game Pitches – actual pitch docs from real games

http://www.gamepitches.com/ (just discovered this, via TCE):

The repository for video game pitches and design documents

This site serves to be a free resource to game designers offering them the web’s largest single collection of game design documents and game pitches.

It says “resource got game designers”, but … pitch documents are hugely valuable to anyone working on the business/funding side too. (there are two aspects to the site – design docs, and pitch docs).

There’s some good stuff on there – from the GTA design doc to Spider’s original concept doc. Note to fledgling designers: they’re impressively brief and succinct!

…and if you work for a studio or publisher, perhaps you could ask about getting some of your company’s old pitch/design docs put up online?

MS XBox Europe: man puts elbow in own ear

…or at least tries to, when Chris Lewis comes out with quotes like this:

“you can be very confident we seek to maximise our own advantage to ensure the playing field is even, and certainly plays to our advantage”

Wait, what? An “even playing field” is one which “plays to [Microsoft’s] advantage” ? Hmm. Talk about a crushing sense of self-entitlement…

“we just want what our consumers want from us.

If [developers don’t give us free stuff which we don’t pay for], Microsoft reserves the right to not allow the content to be released on Xbox 360”

Wait, what? Are you saying that what “our consumers want” is to be prevented from playing the games they want to play (“Microsoft … not allow the content to be released”)?

I’ve seen a lot of bullsh*t over the years from weak-willed Marketing department employees who feel that “not saying a bad word about their boss’s / employer’s incompetence and greed” is the right way to do a job, but … this is especially bad.

I think Chris needs a bit more practice at the technique of:

“say what the person you’re trying to brown-nose wants you to say, no matter how much it makes you look like a pathetic, stupid, snivelling idiot”

Indie games: how to reduce your sales, #53

There were a few games that came up in the 10 games you should have played session at GameCamp which I’d never heard of / played. One of these was SpaceChem – sounded interesting (the 5-second description was something like “great game which teaches you how to do real Chemistry”).

Someone else mentioned this game to me today, in passing, which reminded me to go check it out. I went to the website, looks vaguely interesting (although the site design is very ugly – normally a big FAIL in web-marketing – I’m happy to ignore that since I’m after a *game* here).

The only info I’m allowed to see about the game – no screenshots etc – is an embedded Flash video that’s taking ages to download, so long in fact that I gave up.

So I try to get the demo instead.

“requires mono”

Oh, FFS. Forget it. No, I’m not going to download 500MB (or however much it is these days) and endure extra debugging, manual configuration, etc just to install your game.

If this is a commercial operation (and it is, judging by their huge “buy now for $15” text), then it’s a waste of time to release a Mac version that’s any more complicated than “drag one icon to install”.

The Apple Mac Store is *live*, people! It’s even less hassle to buy things there (the “drag icon” bit is done for you automatically).

More generally, if you’re going to release games, don’t tie yourself to a 3rd-party platform that requires a large download and isn’t pre-installed by default on desktops.

“by running a spy network I am griefing”

If you’re an MMO designer, and you *still* don’t grok the griefer-mindset, or you somehow hope/believe that “one day, there will be no griefers”, then maybe this RPS interview with the always-fun-to-watch Goonswarm will help you:

MT: We are griefers. If nothing is going to happen then we’re going to try to find something that screams and bleeds and poke at it.

RPS: Griefing is something goons are known for doing, but now I’m talking to you it’s not something I can imagine you personally doing.

MT: Technically speaking, by running a spy network I am griefing.

RPS: But would you go out and aggravate other players for the Hell of it if you were a lower ranking member of Goonswarm?

MT: Well, most lower ranked Goons make their money by doing that. Scamming people is a very quick way of making money in Eve. Rather than making an honest buck, you take that buck from somebody else.

and, much further down, maybe this will help you see how griefers often serve just as positive and valuable a role as all your “preferred” player-types:

RPS: For my money, Eve might be the most fascinating game in existence today. But that doesn’t stop it from being interminably boring as well.

MT: Right. I mean most Eve players are stuck in high security space mining, and a lot of the core PvE in Eve has you sitting there are watching three grey bars slowly turn red.

Goonfleet is a socialist alliance. We give people ships so that rather than being forced to rat [fight low-powered AI NPCs] they can take part in PvP, we teach them how to scam so that they don’t have to mine, we teach them how to make ISK most effectively, we give them a lot of ISK and we reimburse their losses. This way they can focus on the fun aspects of the game, like griefing and warfare, so they’re not forced to endure derp-derp-ing around high sec.

If they play your game, you should be glad; if they grief, you should be asking yourself why – and if you’re a commercial operation, you should probably be asking:

“are they fixing a problem for us?

can we afford to leave them to it, part of our unpaid workforce?

and:

is it worth our time trying to fix the problem itself, or should we accept their help and move on down our never-ending list of pending fixes?”

The 10 Games You Should Have Played

This list is WRONG (and it’s on the Internet)

…and here’s your chance to challenge it.

This was written in a frantic half-hour with 30-odd people with many different ideas and suggestions. My role was to shepherd the opinions towards a concrete list of 10. There *was* a specific agenda/aim I had in mind – but I didn’t tell people that up-front, I wanted to let them go in whatever direction they wanted.

Now it’s done, I’m reaching out to everyone who cares about this stuff, and saying:

Come up with your own rules for a top-10, define it clearly, and share your list.

Blog it, link it back here, and we’ll see what people come up with. I’m expecting a lot of variation on the inclusion-criteria for a top-10, and (hopefully) as much variation on the games people choose / reject.

Other people’s top-10’s

The original top-10

May 2011 – GameCamp 4

A few weeks ago, London was host to the fourth GameCamp – a 1-day unConference devoted to games, game-design, and game-playing.

I wanted to give a talk, because that’s half the fun of an UnConference. I wanted to do something fun, interesting, and above-all *new*. What’s the point of giving a talk you could have given at a “normal” conference?

My Plan

I vaguely remembered that Darius had once run a session on “Indie games that haven’t had the attention they deserve” (or something like that), where he’d cherry-picked some great fun games that were relatively unknown in mainstream circles, and gave them a free boost of attention.

I didn’t feel confident to do that myself,but I knew there were plenty of people at GC4 who were much deeper into the fringe of games and game-design, and no doubt *they* knew what was out there, and had played it all.

So, one quick scribble later:

“10 Games you Should have played (but probably haven’t)”

Reality

I was afraid I’d get an audience turn up and expect me to do all the work, where I needed them brainstorming and providing the ideas themselves. I could see it easily being shaped by the (lack of) variety of the first few suggestions, so I set out to come up with a wide range to kick off.

With a full TEN MINUTES before the start, I roamed the hallways, looking for victims. I spotted a few familiar faces, game designers and writers I could corral, and asked them for a quick 3 “games people should have played”.

First response I got, courtesy of Adrian Hon: “Paintball”. Ah. Thanks, Adrian. You just exposed the flaw in my title. I never mentioned the words “video” or “computer”, although I’d assumed them.

Other interesting titles I was given in the hallway included: Civilization (the computer game, via Adrian), Journey to the End of the Night (via Holly Gramazio, I think), Tetris Attack (ditto)…some good variety to kick us off.

Those 10 games in full

We had a packed room, approx 20-30 people. I won’t detail the process, but in our 30 minute slot we managed a long list, with some brief explanation of the more obscure games, and then we voted on which ones should go to top-10. Fortunately, there were 10-12 games that were CLEARLY a lot more popular than the rest.

Here’s the full list (illegible with crossings-out)

And here’s the top-10, with their respective (approximate – I was counting fast!) votes:

  1. Tetris [*]
  2. Portal [*]
  3. SimCity [*]
  4. The Secret of Monkey Island (either/both) [11]
  5. Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (text adventure) [10]
  6. Mario Kart [10]
  7. Zelda (any/all) [10]
  8. Deus Ex [9]
  9. Day of the Tentacle [9]
  10. Populous [9]

[*] = so many I didn’t bother counting; more than 2/3 of the audience.