Game Development Games Linux Game Development Marketing/Business

New Linux Gaming Link

Somewhere this past week I came across the Linux Gamer Guide Wiki.

I set this site up to help people be aware that there ARE linux gamers.. and gaming on a linux platform is a CHOICE!.. now… to add stuff.

I’ve been trying to get the site out more in the public..if you find any of these HOWTOs useful please give ’em a link 🙂

I didn’t post the link originally because the site was very new, but now it seems to be taking shape. I think it can be a great resource along with The Linux Game Tome and other sites.

Game Development Games Marketing/Business

Why Good Games Don’t Sell Well

This past weekend, I had a chance to play Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. My girlfriend’s cousin owned the game. I’ve been wanting to play this game for quite some time, and I finally did for a couple of hours. From the beginning, I could see why people loved this game. Just doing acrobatic moves without much effort was really cool.

I talked with my girlfriend’s cousin about how the game was a lot of fun and that I can’t believe no one bought it. He mentioned that his friends generally felt that the game looked like a “ripoff of Aladdin” and so they wouldn’t even give the game a try. Too bad for them…and unfortunately, too bad for the developers.

Over at Zen of Design, there is a post called Viewpoints on Why Great Games Don’t Sell. It cites a forum post on Idle Forums and a post by Scott Miller about the games Psychonauts and Ico. Both games are supposed to be amazing, and yet they had terrible sales.

While playing PoP:SoT, I did find that the jumping puzzles could have gotten frustrating. I wanted to fight off a group of opponents with flourish instead of jumping across pits at the right moment to avoid a buzz saw. On the other hand, running along walls and leaping from pillar to pillar was kind of fun in its own right. Apparently Ico and Psychonauts also had jumping puzzles.

Scott Miller provides a few of his own reasons for why a good game can fail, but I think part of the problem was the lack of marketing. I saw an ad in PC Gamer about Psychonauts. It didn’t immediately appeal to me and I still can’t tell you what the game is about. The review, on the other hand, made it sound kind of cool. I guess I didn’t read it very thoroughly though. And Ico was mentioned many times in the “Difficult Questions About Videogames” book, but I still don’t know anything about it. Of course, I don’t have a PS2, so I wouldn’t have played it anyway.

I suppose Miller could be right about the “kid’s game” idea. After all, Prince of Persia: Warrior Within was made darker and sexier than SoT, and it sold a lot better. But perception is a marketing problem. Obviously, Psychonauts looks childish, but I’m sure marketing could have figured out a way to convey the game itself rather than the idea that it is just a kid’s game.

Now, blaming it all on marketing is a cop-out, and I don’t believe it was the sole problem with these games. But I’m sure more could have been done to prevent this problem. Play testing is important. Are you telling me that no focus groups are arranged to figure out first impressions on games as well? “Based just on this ad, what can you tell me about the game? How do you think it would play? Would you buy it?” Tailor your ads based on the feedback you receive here.

Also, do something about the jumping puzzles and similarly tedious gameplay mechanics. It could be that no one really enjoys them. SoT at least made them interesting and fun for the few hours I got to play.

Game Development Personal Development

Ten Minute Method

Months ago, I found that I was very productive. I would knock things off of all sorts of lists and get so much accomplished it was scary.

For a month or two, I’ve been coasting. I started tracking my lists again, and I’ve seen an immediate improvement. But for larger projects, I find they will stay on my lists for a long time.

While it is an old post, The Ten-Minute Method at the not-often-updated NinjaBee Dance blog is exactly what I needed. It is basically a variation on an idea that I’ve read elsewhere: time boxing.

The Ten Minute Method is this:

Work on the project every day, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. Every single day, no matter what, but you only need to commit to 10 minutes. You can always find 10 minutes, right? Maybe just before you go to bed, or just before you plunk down in front of the television.

The actual work you do can be anything. If you’re working on art, just sketch something. Clean something up. Go looking for reference. If you’re programming, just look through code for a while. Read some documentation. Comment old modules. Make lists of things to do later. Easy stuff, right?

Sure, it’s easy! I think it is sometimes easier to make an excuse than to do real work. “I can’t write code. I’m not at my desk, and I don’t have an hour to dedicate.” “I don’t have the time to write up a prototype.” “Blah blah time blah blah resources blah blah.”

Again, I’ve heard of time boxing before. I’ve even found it useful. But I can sometimes forget useful tools and have to be reminded. I just have to find a way to make sure I remember this technique. 10 minutes a day isn’t too much to ask, and I know I can dedicate it. I just have to remember to do so.

Game Development Marketing/Business

Outsourcing Artwork for Game Development

I’ve always been able to draw well. Give me a pencil and a piece of paper, and I can probably draw a fairly accurate portrait. Of course, art isn’t my concentration when it comes to game development. I can draw, but I’m terrible with tools like Blender and the Gimp. I’m a programmer. And programmer art is what I make when making a game.

Programmer art isn’t good enough for professional quality games, so I plan on outsourcing my artwork. Jon Jones recently wrote an appropriate article: Outsourcing Art: Ten Steps to Success.

I think it is really informative, but I think it also shows a disconnect between artists and game developers. While I don’t have much personal experience with game development, I’ve heard and read enough about the way games evolve during development. It isn’t always possible to plan out all of your art asset needs. Communication is definitely key, as Jones points out, although I think he places too much of the blame on game developers when relationships have gone sour due to poor communication. Both parties are involved in communication, so if one failed to communicate, the other failed to communicate as well.


LinkedIn for Networking

David St. Lawrence of Ripples had posted about the importance of networking. He mentioned an online tool called LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is basically a way to network with others. You might have a list of people you know, but LinkedIn allows you to keep those contacts in an easy to use yet formal way. On top of that, you can meet others through the people you know.

LinkedIn uses the concept of connections. If I know you, we can make a formal connection between each other on the site. So let’s say that I make a connection with the CEO of a game company, and you are interested in meeting that CEO for a business proposition. If you know me, you can send a message to the CEO through me, and I will forward the message on for you. Naturally, if I don’t know you or don’t think it would be good to pass the info on, I won’t. But connections are made quickly, and you can grow your personal network to discuss business opportunities, gain expertise, or just keep contact with old coworkers.

I’ve long known that I needed to discuss game development with a mentor or two. I’ve just signed up, but I’ve already made contact with a few Chicago-area game developers that I didn’t know before. It’s still early to say, but LinkedIn might be one of those tools that you can’t live without. The Beta Subscription is currently free, and I think the people behind LinkedIn are trying to figure out how much to charge in the future or if they should use advertising. Part of subscribing for free is to fill out a survey to help them decide.

Games Politics/Government

Why I Think The Game Industry is Quiet

I read Seth Godin’s post Stuck (with a bump on the head). Apparently there is a study that found child seats are no more effective than seatbelts for children.

Yet Americans spend millions on car seats every year. In some cities, it is against the law to strap a child in with a seatbelt. In the mind of millions of people, child seats are safer, so they’re willing to spend that much on laws and products. Logically, these efforts are not well spent, yet people do it anyway.

I think that example can explain why the game industry is quiet when it comes to laws like the ones passed in Illinois. The laws try to ban the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors. No similar laws are being passed to ban the sale of violent or sexually explicit DVDs or movie tickets even though such sales happen, and in the case of DVDs, can happen more often.

Apparently there are studies that show that most video game purchases are made or approved by parents. Yet politicians and media will go in a frenzy about the need to “protect our children” and then pass laws that ban the sale of games to children. Now, if most children get their games through their parents, how are they being protected by a law that prevents the sale of the game directly to them? They aren’t, but politicians and parents can feel good and pretend that they’ve made a difference.

And I think that the video game industry in general knows that these laws won’t make one difference in their ability to sell games. I haven’t heard an outcry, and the IGDA made an effort only after the laws passed one of the two parts of the Illinois Congress. Maybe people feel that these laws are helping. After all, children shouldn’t be playing games with an M or A rating, so they shouldn’t be able to buy them. It makes sense. Of course, how much sense does it really make when you can point out that children aren’t buying the games in the first place! Once again, all the studies that the Illinois governor has used point out that minors CAN buy the games. It doesn’t tell you whether or not that they do. And those same studies point out that those same minors CAN buy DVDs at a much higher rate of success than games. Shouldn’t we protect our children by also banning the sale of violent or sexually explicit DVDs to children?

No, because people seem to understand that just because a child CAN buy DVDs it doesn’t mean that they DO. But there is no public outcry over children watching these movies. Not all movies are for children, after all, and the public knows this fact. At the same time, these people can’t get over the fact that not all games are for children either. It is a lot easier to assume that children are buying excessively violent games on an epidemic scale and that such purchases need to be stopped. It is a lot easier to assume because it is easier to believe that these laws are actually helping than to do something that actually helps.

And the game industry doesn’t need to worry because it knows the laws are ineffective. EA won’t lose out on sales since it knows that the people who make the purchases aren’t affected by these laws.

Geek / Technical General

Anti-spam Measures Taken

I recently talked about the huge amount of trackback and comment spam I’ve been receiving. I’ve added a WordPress plugin called Bot Check to prevent comment spam by requiring readers to enter a code from a random image in order to get comments submitted.

Trackback spam, on the other hand, might have to go through another plugin, if it exists. The Mod_Rewrite Trackback Spam Blocker would be great, but it isn’t compatible with WP1.2, which is what I am running.


Learning Kyra: Some Tidbits of Info

The Learning Kyra series to date:

  1. Learning Kyra
  2. Learning More Kyra
  3. Learning Kyra: Attack of the Clones
  4. Learning Kyra: Tiles and Z-Ordering
  5. Learning Kyra: Hit Detection

I’ve spent some time just reading through the documentation for SDL and Kyra. I’ve also tried to pick up what I can at Kyra’s forums on SourceForge.

For instance, GlDynArray has been removed from the library for the next update. I can substitute std::vector<> though, which for all intents and purposes means very little has changed except for a redirection/abstraction. For now, I need to use it when doing hit detection, but I shouldn’t rely on it for my own code.

I was thinking about the need for more complex animations and Actions for an individual sprite. For example, a sprite may have a standing animation. When you press the space bar, an attack animation should run, but I might not want it to loop over and over. Was I going to have to keep track of how many frames of animation there were for a given Action in order to make sure it doesn’t loop?

Nope! Turns out that Kyra’s KrSprite class has functions for determining the number of frames for an animation and for getting the current frame. Now I can do something like the following:

if ( theSprite->Frame() >= numFrames )
// then the ATTACKING animation is over and should change state

I also found that a sprite can clone itself. In my June GID, I had these fuzzy creatures multiplying, but I loaded in a resource from a file and created a sprite from the resource. I originally thought that I could optimize it by storing the resource to be used later, but I could further optimize by just using the Clone() function to create a new sprite. I could also use GetResource to get a pointer to the resource used by an existing sprite if I really needed it.

I want to work on some code to test what I’ve learned to see how well it works. I can get something substantial completed this week.

Game Development Games Geek / Technical

Keeping Up With Games

I was in Ohio over the weekend, and I just caught up with my email. I saw the trailer for Age of Empires 3. I thought AoE2 was pretty fun, but 3 looks amazing. And not just the graphics. It looks like the gameplay will be different from the “you attack, the attack does X amount of damage”. For example, it seems like ships will lose masts depending on where they were hit. Then again, it was a video and I may have just assumed that it wasn’t pre-animated damage.

Civilization 4 is also looking great. I am still guilty of not playing Civ3 yet. What I would love to see is a sequel to Colonization though.

I have two games to review for Game Tunnel, so it isn’t all AAA mainstream titles. There are a number of indie games I want to check out as well, including Oasis and Trash. Unfortunately there isn’t much available for Gnu/Linux, although Nexuiz recently hit 1.0 and so should be more stable now, DROD seems to be fun, and Neverwinter Nights looks to be a better value than ever before.

I’m also missing out on console games. The new Kirby game seems to be great fun, and Katamari Damacy‘s sequel is almost here. I haven’t played either game.

But what I plan on doing is setting a regular schedule to play the games I do have. Final Fantasy VII, Civilization 3, and others have been sitting here and have never been installed. I really must do something about this situation.

Personal Development

A Nice Walk

I finally had a chance to weigh myself on a scale and found that I was 185 lbs. That’s 5 lbs heavier than I was when I last visited a doctor who told me to try to get back to 150. My watch has been feeling a bit tight lately.

So one day this past week, I took a walk for about an hour. I was half expecting to get winded 20 minutes into it, but the walk was great. I also came up with game ideas while walking. Bonus!

Steve Chandler mentions that walking exercises the mind since your arms and legs are cross-patterned. When you take walks, it actually helps develop your mind’s ability to think creatively. Chandler will take walks when faced with difficult problems and claims that he always thinks of a solution by the time he finishes.

It’s a bit sad that an hour of just walking was more exercise than I’ve gotten in some time. I plan on making walks a regular habit. Besides wanting to be healthy in general, I like the idea of being more productive because I won’t need as much sleep. I’ll sleep better and more efficiently. Also, the more oxygen getting to my brain, the better I’ll be able to think, especially over long periods of time.

Hopefully I’ll lose some weight, but I’m more interested in being as athletic as I was in high school. I suppose I would have to join a soccer team. I can’t wait.