UPDATE: After writing this, I stumbled upon some really sad stuff. Seriously, I know I am naive, but I do expect something more from game developers, something much more, that generally does not imply any negativity whatsoever to anyone who played games. How do you calculate value, anyhow, especially in such a hard to quantify matter? Dear gamedevs, whatever you do, just remember that getting mad on your players brings you no benefit whatsoever, quite the contrary.
I am a firm believer that any feedback is good feedback, but today I took part in a conversation that reminded me how much a bad review can influence a game developer. Some of this talk revolved around Steam user reviews and playtime. When does a user have a right to claim a valid feedback, especially a negative one: when he played enough to have a sensible opinion, or when he played just a little and tossed the game away, expressing his frustration using the tools at hand?
I just need to lay down my ideas quickly down, because there have been some awesome articles written on the subject and I want to chip in with a few things.
1. Booth Costs
Each event varies in terms of booth costs. Some developers suggest to estimate some USD 4000 per event. But here’s what a little bit of research brings up:
- Develop: Brighton £395/sqm well detailed here
- GamesCom: 143 Euro/ sqm. They even have a booth cost calculator!
- Indie Megabooth/ Pax Prime/ EGX: USD 500 – USD 20000 depending on things
I know currency’s a pitch. But Google is great at conversions 😉
As a rule of thumb, the minimum you should consider is a 2×2 (Meters! Almost forgot to mention. European here). So you can end up with very inexpensive booths, but as mentioned in the articles I linked above, this cost is just one of many, if you plan to exhibit.
Pro Tip: Many conferences end up offering exclusive deals for indies and/ or for specially designated indie spaces. Continue reading
Rami really depressed me with his latest Control Conference talk. He made it exceedingly clear that most inexperienced gamedevs will fail. It hurt because it is so darn true. While perhaps the harshest, he is not the only one speaking up about these terrible facts. And that’s a super good thing, but I think there’s something missing from the picture.
The difference between me* and Rami is that he is doing business while I am making games. You know what Rami was not doing while giving this talk? He was not making games. He doesn’t make games for at least 100 days in a year, because he travels all around the world to give these talks. He does that because it’s good for business. And if by now you know the names Vlambeer, Super Crate Box, Ridiculous Fishing, Nuclear Throne – well, he is doing a great job! What am I doing to make the world aware of my team, game, mere existence?
According to Facebook, I am 90 years old and my birthday is on January 2nd. I’m a Really Cool Old Lady, I think, cause see, I’m into gamedev, desperately passionate about that thankyouverymuch, I am working, I love my job, I go to the gym and I actually lift kinda heavy stuff (not nearly as much as I wish though), I travel, I hike, I use Twitter and Facebook and Reddit and lots of other stuffs, I read Gamasutra daily, I was evangelising The Martian way before it was cool and in general, I try to learn stuff, be passionate, happy and hip, and those are all super cool things to do at an age when society has already discarded you a few times over. I really wish this will hold true when I will be 90
So the truth is, I am not really 90. I lied on Facebook, can you believe that? The problem is, because of that, not many people remember my birthday. And I most definitely forget about their birthdays, too – Sorry! Sometimes I forget even if Facebook lets me know! I’m an awful person. And sometimes, when it really IS my birthday, and some of my very best friends don’t conform to the shallow social rule of wishing me the very best, I get sad. I’m stupid, but I was raised in a world where birthdays matter, and I can shake the sadness quickly, but it’s not an entirely trivial effort. Continue reading
Ah, project management and planning! These words have been known to freak out a gamedev even more than the dreaded marketing. I mean, who wants to write down schedules and todo’s when you can design, code, make art instead? Developing games is all about passion, spontaneity, and we all know creativity is impossible to control, right? And this is all somewhat true if you make games as a hobby. If instead you actually mean to build a livelihood out of making games, that’s a different matter. And in that case, you’d better plan and manage your game, or else you set yourself up for failure.
Here’s a little secret though: project management and planning in game development is Fun and Highly Creative. It’s one of the most rewarding activities out there, but also one of bad history, bad fame and heavily underrated. You CAN be passionate about game planning, and it definitely requires a lot of ingenuity because, if you think creativity is hard to control, wait until you need to keep a team of creative, passionate gamedevs motivated and on track over large periods of time. And it is Fun because you don’t get stuck in one single role and one single mindset. You might not code, make art or design as much as you wish, but you are a crucial part of EVERYTHING involved in making your game, which grants you a wider, stronger perspective than anyone else in the team.
This being said, how DO you plan a game, exactly? And what does project management really means? Before we begin breaking down various methodologies and tools to do that, here’s some fundamental things to keep in mind: Continue reading
Here’s another failure. And a fresh write-up on a nasty truth. And a lot of talks about Xpocalypses. Yet despite all these sobering lessons and insights, many indie teams still carry on doing the very same mistakes everyone warns about. And I just don’t understand why.
In order to have a decent chance to sell a game enough to keep you going, you need to be business savy, you have to talk about your game as early, as elegantly and as much as possible and you must be original. Chocolate and peanut butter cookies don’t really work anymore. And no, your target group is NOT the 125 million people who use Steam, and it’s also not that fraction who plays [insert game similar to yours which sold very well here]. And it is also untrue that there are lots of investors out there just itching to fund your development time. Wake up!
The good news is, waking up is simple. Getting a game ready to launch is simple. Handling refactoring and feature creep may not be as simple, but is definitely not rocket science. The dreaded Marketing is not only simple, but should also provide a lot of fun, too! And you can do it; if anything, the new trend of disclosing apocalypses and failures happens just because there are many success stories to compare to. The trickiest part is staying motivated, but if you are wise enough to understand WHY you do it, this should be simple, too.
So here’s a few really simple things you must do, NOW. They’ve been told over and over again, but since they still don’t happen, I guess they need to be told again. Continue reading
I have a few dresses in my closet that I never wear. Every time I look at them, I feel guilty; they were not expensive dresses, and I bought them on sale, too. Yet I never wear them so those are money ill spent, wasted, and it infuriates me that I do this, when there’s people starving in the world, and when I am supposed to be wise and responsible with a resource I am working hard for. Those are money I could have used to buy… I dunno… games? 😀
According to an older report, there is a staggering amount of games that people own on Steam, but never even play once, and even more games that are played very little time. I hope for a renewed report to see how these numbers changed when Steam added refunds, but my guess is there’s still a large number of games out there on Steam, bought but not played, and not even refunded. Kinda like my dresses – probably obtained during the sales or in bundles, a trivial expense, but still useless, a waste of money. Continue reading
Do you ever think about how hard it is for a normal person who does not have a Steam account to play a game released on Steam?
I know that for many of us, not having a Steam account is something unimaginable, but despite the platform’s impressive number of users, which passed the 125 million mark in February, there’s still some many hundreds of millions to make up the 1.2 billion people who play games, a number that made the news in 2013 (and should now be bigger).
To play a game on Steam, you have to:
1. Go to the Steam website and Install the Steam client
2. After downloading the client, make a Steam account
3. Back and forth through your e-mail and back for Steam account verification
4. Get a confusing Store front page that you are not familiar with, and which is not tailored to you because you just started.
Now, you might be lucky to know the name of the game you want to play, in which case you need to spot the smallish search bar in the upper left screen, find the game, buy it, get accustomed to how you buy stuff on Steam which adds a few extra steps, redeem your key, go to your library, and download and play that game. That is the best case scenario. Think about a person who’s new on Steam, doesn’t really know the platform, and is just browsing for a game he might enjoy. I wouldn’t want to be that person…
Sebi and I had many attempts at making our games over the 13 years or so since we have a professional connection with the industry. The problem is that neither of us can really code or do art (though we frequently try to learn), and also that both of us have been kinda busy working, crunching, moving across half a Europe to find home and fulfil our gamedev dream. Furthermore, we both have extra passions; I like to write about gamedev, I read a lot, and Sebi is a professional photographer and has an incredible number of side passions. We also like to game some times – and always complain about the lack of time to play. And we are trying to adjust our lifestyle towards the better, so you can add gym, outdoors, roller blades, hiking and camping to the list, too. Oh, almost forgot. We also like to travel. And if I think 5 more minutes, I could probably triple the list.
So our beloved game ideas don’t get done. Maybe they will, someday, but the chance is higher that they will not. Which is why I am inaugurating this new category today, called Game Concepts, which will host every single game idea, design doc, concept art and whatever we made over all this time (that I can find or remember). Who knows… maybe somewhere, sometime, it will spark someone’s imagination. Or make us actually Do Stuff. Continue reading
Sebi wrote this. It’s a really good read, based on many of our evening conversations, and triggered by a great talk on photography which emphasised the fact that you need 18 to 20 impressions in order for a random stranger to recognize your name as a photographer. We both listened to that talk this morning, and that’s when it hit me: 18-20 impressions are an amazing number that can validate all the (frequently very diffuse) advice giving to game developers (and photographers, and writers, since we are at it) to market themselves early. As early as when the idea of a game (book, photography) actually hits them. Continue reading