Note: I might be critical of the documentation for Torque 3D in this article. There’s since been a new version released (About September) with vastly improved documentation. I mean, much much better.

Titled ‘A New World’ (Another World is already taken), the game was intended to be a gamified simulation of the challenges of setting up a new colony on another planet following a calamity on Earth. The player would juggle the resources requirements of supplying the colony against the demands of the colonists, attempting to keep the morale of the colony as high as possible whilst fending off the challenges presented by the environment.

The project was embarked upon as part of the requirements of a BA (Hons) Creative Computer Game Design degree, using Torque 3D/Torque Game Engine Advanced with a one person fulfilling all roles on the development of the project. This would inevitably turn out to be a mistake, there are few people multi-talented enough to do the art, design & programming of one project and though attempts were made to limit the scope of the project by avoiding real time gameplay or any form of intelligent artificial intelligence there would still be the challenging of actually implementing the core gameplay.

An initial design document was produced which detailed the buildings within the game and the main interface components. Including a building placement interface, and sub menus that would give the statistical conditions of the colony, gave a textual description of the conditions of the colony (in the form of a news service) and menus for controlling the minutae of running the colony such as factory production priorities.

The diagram above is an early summary of how factory production would lead from one resource or product into another and shows how complicated the game was despite the lack of real time elements to the gameplay. As an arts degree, the course wasn’t well setup for handling support of code heavy elements of a game project, with most students on the course using Unreal Engine 3 rather than Torque 3D which the lecturers were unable to provide much support for (Their focus being more on teaching asset creation for UE3), that said students using UE3 also experienced some difficulty as an eagerly awaited book on scripting in the engine continued to be delayed.

For the project, instructions were followed that created the basics for a top down game in which buildings could be placed (with a few modifications) and with camera movements appropriate for a Sim City style of game. Unfortunately, due to the challenges of working with Torque Script, the only working original code that was written was code that expanded on placement of buildings by snapping them to a 16×16 grid so that buildings (intentionally designed to be placeable as city blocks, for ease of implementation) and with further modification, buildings that were supposed to belch smoke would also have smoke emitters created alongside the placement of the correct buildings. The code written for snapping placement of buildings was first created in pseudocode, sense checked through Excel before implementing in the engine. Sadly, beyond this no further implementation occured on the code side due to difficulties working with Torque Script.

Buildings were modelled as fairly simple shapes in Maya and textured with GIMP (I was hoping there would be some teaching of Photoshop during the degree, but this didn’t happen, attempts to learn Photoshops basics on my own proved to be a challenge and in the end I found that using a tool called Texture maker in concert with GIMP allowed me to create textures sufficient to the goals of the project). Rather than just identifying the buildings by shape, it was decided to colour code the buildings which presented a challenge on its own as the colours chosen had to take into account people afflicted by colour blindness. The image below shows the colours chosen for the different buildings, plus how they would appear with different forms of colour blindness (the images created using a tool called Vis Check) with an additional blackened silhouette view to show differences in the shapes of buildings in addition to the colour scheme.

Within the game, the colony was originally envisioned as being fairly small, with buildings intended as being the same but there was considerable push from the lecturers to up the scale of buildings, that would’ve made sense for a city building game but the intent was to present a game where the player is trying to help merely a few hundred colonists survive tragedy rather than tens or hundreds of thousands of colonists. Feedback frequently focused on the visuals for the game, which, frankly, didn’t seem as important as the gameplay itself. The gamplay could and should have been prototyped in Excel in lieu of implementing in the game itself even if only for demonstration purposes.

The end result was frankly dissapointing and the cause was primarily due to placing too many roles on the shoulders of one person. There’s a reason why game projects (especially larger AAA titles) have people specialising in different roles, not just for organisational purposes, but because it’s far easier to find people who are passionate about a particular task or role (such as game design or art) than it is to find people who are passionate about doing every role altogether. The scope of the project was too large despite attempts to control it and the game design should have focused on game mechanics that could be more easily ‘faked’ for demonstration purposes than ones that really would require a full code implementation to make it into the game (at least in the absence of a team member who could focus on and be passionate about the programming side of the project).

As such, it’s difficult to know if a game like this could’ve been a success in the market place as the end result wasn’t sufficient for trying out on any prospective target market. The main goal was to provide a game in which the player could sit back and relax, without feeling the kinds of time pressure that might be experienced in high intensity war games but with a growing ‘casual’ (or part-time) gaming market, there must surely be room in the market for a game of this kind.

The first session of the day got its own post here:

https://larington.wordpress.com/2010/07/15/develop-conference-2010-day-tim-schafer-keynote/

Moving on…

SESSION 2:

Sex, Brawls, and Magic Duels: Console Game Design Beyond the Television Screen, Dajana Dimovska & Lau Korsgaard, Copenhagen Game Productions/Copenhagen Game Collective

Game collective is a non-profit organisation.
Trying to bring some of the interesting small games from the collective through Copenhagen Game Productions.

Talk about various party games, ask “Are these games truly social?”, notice how people are playing together but they’re all staring at the screen and what it’s telling them to do instead of looking at eachother.

“How do we make games more social?”

Dark Room Sex Game gets a mention (made a few years back at a game jam if I remember correctly), it’s a form of rhythm game where you don’t have any on screen elements and your supposed to build up a rhythm until climax.
(Did I just type that?) They do a demonstration of the game, I can’t imagine what the people in the next room think is going on.

By removing the visuals people are more likely to look at eachother (And laugh probably), note it’s a multiplayer game, though I guess there’s no reason you can’t play it with/against yourself.

“Make the players the center of attention”
The idea of Dark Room Sex game is to break down some social barriers.

Next game BUTTON, it goes back to screen usage, tries to get players to compete over pressing buttons (Who are allowed to cheat), giving instructions forces players to interact with eachother.

Tryl is a form of magic fighting game where you primarily look at eachother, casting magic spells.

“Making players look at eachother is really hard.” They’ll instinctively stand facing the screen instead of eachother, have to break down this convention.

Initially Wii devs often tried to build a neural network that tries to learn gestures (etc.) but it’s a huge problem because it might not recognise a 320 degree circle when it’s looking for a full 360 degree circle. Moved launching the spells themselves to a button.
Want to open up method of charging the spells so that people can show what kind of a wizard they are (How they stand and move as the spells are being charged).

Initially the goal was to stop people looking at the screen, the goal changed to make people look at each other (Similar goal, different emphasis).

“It’s really hard to sell a game that doesn’t have screenshots”

SESSION 3:

Fable III: Story, Cast & Simulation – Peter Molyneux, Lionhead Studios

Talking about some of the design challenges of Fable 3 (& other things)

The dream
To create a world that both core and casual gamers can play in, which of course means a bigger audience.
We need to challenge some of the preconceptions of design
We must make the world incredibily deep whilst being utterly accessible.
We must give players things they have never seen (I missed the last 2 parts of this slide to slow typing)

Fable 2 was an rpg which focuses on the player being a hero.
World with rich mythos
Dramatic entertaining story, choices, involves things you care about and makes you laugh

Design flaws in fable 2 – Not really concentrating on USPs, there were features that weren’t really used or used once.
(USPs morphing hero, every choice a consequence, accessibility, simulated world, humour.

Trying to do in fable 3
Get more to play
Make small steps to a revolution
Make players go WOW (The exclamation, not make players go play World of Warcraft)
Make sure people of all skills feel cool
Encourage people to use all of the games features
Make sure people remember the story

Analogy to car with 300 buttons, features that don’t get used.

Fable 3 – The Big Features
Drama – great cast (John Cleese, Zoe Wannamaker, Stephen Fry, Bernard Hill, more)
Accessibility – more one button combat
Sharing – great co-op
Become king

Fable 2 – Didn’t create a properly dramatic story, which they aim to do for the sequel, the big cast considered the starting point for this.
Mix in drama with what the player does.

Fable 3 – Want to expand co-op into more than just combat. You’ll be able to marry your co-op players?
“Why don’t we have an intimate moment whilst in Fable 3″…”A lot less messy frankly”

DRAMA THE MISSION
To make the story and game which people remember for the rest of their lives
-You need players to care
-Let players be who they want to be, but there must be consequences
-Have a clear and simple but dramatic narrative acted by a great cast

Simple story that can be more easily remembered, you’re going to overthrow a terrible king and become king yourself. People were forgetting the story of previous Fable games.

A story about you being a rebel and then king
Ability to have butler with responsive dialogue (simulation influenced by players progress, wealth, actions)
A world which comments and reacts to the player (All NPCs are driven by a simulation that is influenced by a group mind which watches the player).

Constantly measure alignment, good vs evil, cruel vs kind, rich vs poor, sacrifice vs greed.
Constantly reflecting player actions (Hero/heroine and dog morphing, dynamic NPC behaviour and dialogue, changing regions, story adaptation). World reflects the player.

Humour
Get a team together who know how to write great narrative, stage the whole script before game implementation, listen to the actors as they improvise, get great (and recognised) acting talent.

Accessibility: GUI
Remove all GUI clutter
Make all GUI elements highly context sensitive
Make the GUI an actual location, make the map living

Scrolling menus in previous games were bad design, an image of a sword won’t make the user excited. Nested scrolling menus awkward to use.

Wanted to replace map in Fable 2 & how you level up.

Accessibility: Combat
Simple (No, really simple), because we have made people feel stupid for too long.
Make the weapons morph.
Very very deep, because gamers want to feel great too.
Dynamic combat (3 one butons, swords, guns, magic. Tap, timed, held.

Access
Gentle start, teach mechanics in turn paced over entire game.
Remind player of mechanic if they forget.
Allow them to explore and experiment.

Demonstration of current Fable 3 build (Warned about bugs, etc.)

You can import the save game from Fable 2.
Mentor is a carefully designed character that will be assisting throughout the game (Based on Bernard Hill?).

Each character level has a metal gate through which you pass each time you level up, metaphor of journey to power. Fable 2 gives you these ‘seals’. Experience points replaced with a single more memorable number. Opening a gate is equivalent to going up a level. Each level gate has chests after it that you can also spend the gate/leveling crests on.

Fist of power, eh? Physical things will level up. Crafting weapons ‘through use’. There’s an increased emphasis on choice.

Spells system has changed ‘the most’ since last game.

A ‘bat cave’ has an element that appears to be a vista, but it’s all navigable.

They’ve done a Dead Space and moved all the descriptive UI elements into the world.
They’ve chosen not to cap charging up of magic, you can leave it charging up over night with the button held down with a coffee mug if you want.

Breadcrumb trail updates itself depending on what you’re doing, changing or fading in & out. Being sensitive to what the player wants to do.

Sanctuary is part of the story. Swapping in & out of the sanctuary is practically instant.

They’ve tried experiments in reducing loading times, unfortunately coping with persistence is a problem so loading times are still going to be present in game.

Player makes promises, some of them can change the world or people.

SESSION 4:

Enslaved to the Story: Ninja Theory meets Alex Garland

Use of performance captured and transferred into game with some corrections for blinking and other minor adjustments.

Aim of game is for you to feel like you’re ‘playing a movie’.

Informal meeting with Alex Garland just to get to know him. Alex more of a creative director than just a writer.

Writing the script
-Brainstorming
-Story overview
-Act 1 Script
-Act 1 design review

Stop!: Story and Gameplay are One.
Went through with design step by step and so on. Couldn’t separate design process from the writing.

-Paper design based on story
-script based on paper design
-Weekly grind for 2 months
Alex effectively became a level designer.

– Letting characters breathe
– Character consistency
– Once scene = One purpose
– Cut scenes for Drama, gameplay for exposition (An object can only be used in certain places, that’s gameplay)
– Clarity
(Dark blue text on black background, ugh)
Edit from 2 hours to 80 minutes
Result: Video edit put into levels

Got a professional video editor in for 3 weeks.

Adding Drama to Gameplay
-Cameras
-Lighting
-Art
-Animation
-Sound Design
-Robot Voice
-World Logic

Result: Level redesigns, video re-edits, Drama ? for whole game.
Taking camera away from the player doesn’t always break flow.

Actually building tension for fight sequences (sillhouettes of enemies, sounds) instead of just throwing enemies at the player.

Complete review:
-gameplay logic
-pacing
-atmosphere
-sound/music design
-final voice review
-playtest
Result: VO pickups, cutscene ADR(?), cutscene re-edits, never panic

Lessons
Game-complete is the starting point for story development!
Always ask why?
Clarity is the number 1 problem for gameplay & story
Don’t let designers work in isolation
It’s never ‘just a game’
Never break the suspension of disbelief at all costs.
It’s not too late (to make edits) until it’s gold: battle to the very end.
Dialogue is only a very small part of story.

SESSION 5:

Opening up player metrics to the community in Just Cause 2 – Jim Blackhurst & Mike Oldman, Square Enix Europe

(Description of game)
OTT stunts
Incredible player created set-pieces
Emergent play

CHAOS

Explosions to date
392,974,989 – Rising 3,000 per minute.

Gives players tools to create chaos.

Metrics – user data
214 pieces of data tracked including
player death by cause
enemy kills by weapon
vehicles driven
distance travelled
collectibles found
locations discovered
missions completed

Justcause.com
View stats online
Achievement stuff.
Used as part of community building
‘Heatmaps’

Milestones exclusive to the website

PS3 Only – Uploading videos to YouTube to share explosions.

button you can press to capture last 30 seconds of gameplay.

a new video every 9 minutes
863,000 videos to date
Hours played 3,231,487,734 (368891 years)

“Total chaos” 309,181,645,432

The how:

Acquire -> Analyse -> Apply
Capture->Compute->Consume

1. Metrics capture:

Software…
We have an online suite SDK
Allow steams to use a common interface  to the metrics system
The API handles the creation of the metric packet from in game triggers
Plenty of other SDK features

Metrics are captured by front end servers.
PS3 and PC metrics come in over internet
360 metrics come in via XLSP

What is a ‘metric’, an XML pakcet with a header and payload.

How did we do?
More than 13.5 billion metrics in database
7.8 billion are stats, 3.3 are player actions, rest are player deaths, highjackings, GUI actions, etc.

our database is approaching 2Tb in size (and is only text records)
113Gb of this game in just 3 days over Easter weekend.
“I’m not worried, we’ve got a 40Tb SataBeast for storage”.

2. Loading and analysis

The metrics are stored on front end servers as flat files.
Bespoke tool called ‘ed’ moves files from front end servers to analytics system
Ed invokes the microsoft bulk loader to load the XML into the MSSQL database.

Two different analytics systems in parallel
Online for fast response times for websites
Offline for BI reporting where retrieving data is not time critical
The online analysis performed on the raw data produces leaderboards, stat totals, favourite weapons and vehicles etc
Once loaded, raw XML files are sent to a backup store. The backup files can just be dropped back onto the front end servers should we need to repopulate a database.

How did we do?
Average ETL time from capture to cache is around 20 minutes
Currently running about 10 minutes
During easter weekend , at peak load, CtC time was about around 10 hours
There are usually less around 5 files on each server in the queue we have seen 12,000 files spread over the four servers during our peak load.

What did we learn?
Bulk loading massive amounts of data is v difficult and time consuming. XML has an overhead, we should have used flat text or CSV.
It’s a balance, the faster you bulk load, the more pressure you put on the analytics. It’s just moving the problem around.
Be careful with indexes, they can speed up data-out at the cost of data-in.
Don’t let your analytics tables grow too big. Truncate them often (every couple of hours) once data is safely in the cache.

3. Presenting to the web
Bringing metrics to the web poses some fundamental challenges.
Time critical, can’t wait for analysis when loading a web page.
Whoe owns what? Who are you? Where am I? Security! Managing identities with respect to privacy.
We have an identity management system called connect.
It provides authentication for website logins and stores mappings for the player’s console identities.
Does not store gamertags!

Through connect, a website user can link retrieve their metrics from the db, despite the metrics being associated with a console identity.
Now we know who you are, how do we get your metrics?
I hope your web devs speak MSSQL!
Ours did but it was a sub-optimal solution.
RPS server and oData server that means you can setup feeds without having to know about databases(?)

Takes 10 mins to perform the analytics process on a metric, how long do I have to wait for the web page to load?
Sub-second response times.
A rack of small, lighweight servers, running MSSQL express (free) host flat tables in memory.
The cache can be physically expanded with new servers quickly and chjeaply in response to capacity planning.
The analytics system refreshes the cache as fast as possible.

How well did it work?
Very well, cache never got anywhere near capacity, even at peak times.
Scary times at launch, we had no way of load testing ‘connect’.
Who needs sleep anyway?

Served more than 2.7 mil web pages, at least 1/2 million page views for metrics related pages alone.
The official JC2 forums is second only in traffic sourcing to google search, and the number one referring site.

Conclusions
It worked
Dealing with large datasets can get very difficult
Testing, testing and more testing
Don’t forget your obligations to third parties, and always respect your players data and privacy. This is data that belongs to your players.

Next time
We will be using this system in upcoming games to give value to the community, and reasons for coming back into the game.
Building on lessons from JC2 launch
JC2 was our load testing!
Adding a new layer into the web system, data consumption through Atom feeds.
Expose to twitter, facebook, others.

Q&A How you stop people hacking into the feed. Uses area of memory on PC OS that’s protected from access. That system wasn’t used. They do get obviously faked metrics. There’s a pirate copy with ONE ID and they can just block that ID. (Curiously there was one bus part of the drive every vehicle achievement that only the pirates had completed, the pirates had unlocked the bus. A patch is due to go in to correct the missing buses.)

The data they store is anonymous because it’s not attached to a real life identity. The only time they are tied is when you go to the website and ‘claim ownership’.

I’m going to post this now, because I can, thanks to the wireless network they’ve kindly got setup for the conference…

(Edit: There’s a more professional write up of the session here:

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/07/15/develop-10-schafer-on-future-new-games/ )

Tim Schafer – Double Fine
Successful, Creative, GSOH: Tim Schafer’s Personal

Talking about his last 20 years in the games industry.
Talks through some basic stuff, length of dev cycle, risk aversion, how hard it is to keep people together on one of those long projects.

Publishers described as unstable, like a big warehouse where the weather outside might be chaotic, but the weather inside isn’t necessarily safe either.

“Every game we’ve ever made has been cancelled … we still shipped because we’re stubborn.”

A lot of developers don’t get second chances, just as you’ve got your team together at the end of the first project (Worked out ineffecencies and team mismatches), there’s no project to sustain the company and the team disperses with the collapse of the company.

(Joking, sort of:) Use someone elses money when building a company. 😉

Amnesia fortnight project – Effectively taking 2 weeks off, splitting team into 4 groups and each group had to make a game in 2 weeks. 3 groups had leaders, other group had to self organise. Doing this turned out to be a big morale boost for the staff.

They did it again after Brutel Legend was released, then they got a phone call to say the publisher was cancelling BL2 “Done deal = its a deal and we’re done”

By this point they had 8 game prototypes that they could ship around to publishers (So they chose the 4 best).
All 4 games got signed. The company stopped being a cockroach and turned into a flat worm, they “tried to kill us and we split into 4 pieces”. Multiple publishers (different games with different publishers), gives the developer more stability, less chance of a change of management killing your only game & the company as a result.

More creative diversity in company, 4 games with different thematic elements rather than 1 game about heavy metal, more flexibility. In a 1 game studio every game defines you, but with 4 games that effect is softened. Don’t completely have to change your business plan when switching from a AAA rock game to a AAA kids game.

Shorter dev cycle. More games going on with faster dev cycles means you can ‘get in & out’ before anything can happen like management change(s). More post mortems, more opportunities to improve dev processes.

More opportunities: multiple projects = multiple leads, more room for staff to get promoted. Multiple projects can compete with eachother in a friendly way.

Make your bets on people not on ideas. The different project leads are somewhat following their interests, eg the lead artist on Brutal Legend leads a game with more of an artistic bent. Someone else might be doing something with more of a good gameplay focus. (Caveat, ideas are still important, but it’s the staff that realise the ideas and execute on them, no people, no game)

Doing smaller games after doing large games has it’s appeal, but they aren’t convinced they will always do small games from now on, they might do some small games and a medium/large game for instance.

Effectively the company was saved by its own creativity (In doing these 4 prototypes, which are easier to sell than just a design document because when pitching you can show the publisher what you’re aiming for with a prototype instead of merely telling them with a design doc).

Q&A

– Has heard of stories where companies with multiple projects sometimes rifts can develop, but it hasn’t happened at Double Fine thus far, the teams pulled together as part of the surviving the loss of the big project, also because they were all close together in a small building.

-Self publishing? If they can get some extra money they’d like to start self publishing. (Some games are downloadable, some are retail)

-Tims job has changed a little bit but fundamentally stayed somewhat the same, has ended up writing dialogue for all the projects.

-Adventure games used to be the only ones that had story, some elements common in adventure games still exist.
-Games where you don’t know what to do are ‘illegal’ now, which is a shame since that’s what adventure games were all about (& getting friends/family together to solve harder puzzles). Talks about how balancing difficulty of the puzzles is certainly a problem. Nicer if the game senses that you’re struggling and tries to keep you engaged with hints. The term ‘Confusion entertainment’ is used. Maybe it’s just out-dated, but could be that those of us in industry have to get through so many games that we don’t have time to play hard adventure games.

-Maybe because people talk up games they’ve completed more than those they haven’t, shorter games might be selling better.

-Interesting how both Dr Greg Zeschuk (Bioware) and Tim Schafer both have talks that relate to how moving away from AAA console titles might be wise. Schafer jokes Greg is just saying that in the hope he has less competition for AAA console titles.

This is the first of the 2 main days of the Develop Conference. All my notes were typed into the laptop today, so I’m going to be a lazy bum and just copy & paste it…You’ll probably notice the amount of notes for each session gets smaller as the day progresses.

Session 1:

Creative Game Development:
How we do it at BioWare (Dr Greg Zeschuk – GM, Bioware etc)

Making games is hard/
The environment for making games has only become more diff over time. The people in your group are the solution, but you need to unlock their potential.

This talk is largely about culture and making decisions consistent with you culture; this is one of our secret weapons.

(Defined culture from wiki)
(Listed a bunch of their early games and pointed out all of them combined was 1 modern warfare 2)

Secrets to success:
Gather a group of talented individuals
engage them with a worthy project
Support them in achieving the collective goals
don’t compromise the long term for short term gain

(Management should be supporting, not controlling.)

The challenge is putting this into practice, it’s not really a secret in itself.

Find people that fit your existing studio culture once it’s developed.
Know what the core values of your studio.

Structure, people, systems (policies, rules, etc.)
These elements build the culture which exists in an environment.

How do you change the culture? When you change the culture people will often change.
There’s a point where your culture might have changed enough that you need to re-evaluate where your company culture is.

BioWare’s Core Values – Quality in workplace, quality in products, entrepreneurship, all in a context of humility and integrity.

Workplace
Qual of work/life balance
engaged employees in a high performance workforce
best place for team oriented talent
-Primary benefit for employees

products
Deliver the best story driven games in the world
even products, community and a trusted brand
-Primary benefit for fans

Entrepreneurship
Achieving and exceeding our studio metric targets
financial success and profitability
creativity, quality, predictability, and productivity
The best financial investment in our industry
-Primary benefit for investors

All in a context of humility and integrity
Tricky to exp & understand. (I’d argue breeds respect between devs)

Cultural consistency

Balancing resources & time versus quality & scope.
Scope considered a problem (well, risk)

Bioware uses a matrix structure.

Everything affects culture! Be vigilant of anything that might damage or destroy your culture.

Joining EA was an interesting cultural challenge.
Merging cultures and building an interface between the companies was challenging, but rewarding.
It’s an onging exercise where both groups need to actively manage the relationship.

In forming our Austin studio we gained an entirely different set of experiences starting a new studio in a new location, the key point for us was finding the right local partners.

Bioware Mythic merge
Another new and different experience was adding a pre-existing studio to the BioWare family. Opportunity to see things from the other side of the table.

Building culture

1 – Take inventory on your culture – understand what you are and be honest!
If you’re a new start up, wait until (next step).
2 – Decide what kind of culture you want, there are a lot of options.
3 – Think about your structures and processes – are they consistent with your cultural goals?
4 – Start adjusting processes, policies and structures so they align with your cultural goals. Be aware that you may also need different people (Or to change people).
5 – Be vigilant and continually recheck how you’re doing.
Asking people what they think of the company is key.

Why bother?
Our primary thesis: happy and engaged game devs make better games.
If the team is happy they do better work.
There isn’t actually a “best culture” – it’s all about fit.
Good game devs are very mobile – they will select for teams that fit their disposition.
This is on reason why consistency is important. People like to pick a culture and stick with it.

There are a few things we’ve done over the years that worked out pretty well
-balanced needs of individuals and the group
Long term view rather than short term focus (never compromise)
Super-consistent (probably a bit boring as a result) – People like a familiar environment, changes should happen gradually.
Drive individual responsibility and autonomy
Require true teamwork (scrum is interesting in that regard)

Decision making
We use our core values to drive our decisions; they’re a valuable guide to ensure we’re culturally consistent.
-Assigning people based on project preference
-Picking projects based on team preference and passion
-Performance management with compassion
-Striving to always be the best investment

They go a little bit easy on performance management, don’t assume that if people perform badly it’s because they are bad workers. Helping some through rough patches and turning them into valuable staff members.

Doing the right thing! Setting the right goals.

A corollary to culture and values is setting the right goals
-the current development climate is simult dangerous and full of opportunity – it depends on your goals.
-If you’ve got the wrong goals, you’ll likely fail
-striving to do AAA console dev right now is the wrong goal for most developers.

-the market is getting increasingly hit driven, with greater competition than ever before
-the top of the retail market is still there, but the middle is gone
-It’s very wise to look at diff opportunities.

So what’s working?
Going direct to consumers rather than going to retail
-Retail still works, but not a panacea
-offline games less likely to succeed than online games
-online games come in all types of shapes and sizes, lots of opps
-diff typers of games provide lots of diff opps to create unique companies and cultures.

What have wqe done at BioWare?
-we’ve been exploring all diff kinds of games
-we’ve done a mass effet iPhone game, a facebook game and are exploring lots of other opps
-Why? because that’s the future
-We’ll continue to do AAA console but still exploring new opportunities

Different games = different teams = new cultures
-one of the cooler developments in recent years is the opportunity to do thigns differently
-smaller and more intimate teames are a real opportunity
-even better, these groups are making games at a sustainable scale
(missed content)

Overall this session has been about the importance of culture in game dev.

Started Scrum in Dragon Age and other teams (Eg Mass Effect noticed it was working for them).
They have guidelines for crunch to help manage it. But there’s still that emphasis on a good work/life balance.
Limits on amount per week. Sympathetic crunch (Crunching because other people are crunching) viewed as very harmful.

Session 1.5:

Ed Vaizey (Culture Minister)
Being covered by the Daily Politics Show.
(So far pretty much stated the obvious, info on gaming demographics, explosion of casual games)
Going on about taxation changes (the main corporation tax rate, etc.)
IP rules and research around tax being relaxed
NI – reduce cost of hiring and retaining staff
Support of R&D tax credits (Consultation relating to this in Autumn)
(This is pretty much what I was expecting – up to this point)

EIS scheme?

Technology Strategy Board (4 mil pounds into games related projects since 2k4)
NESTA – Announcing something on making original IP more easier to make

Attempting to provide additional support for games related start ups (Being run by Abertay Uni).
Talks up Skillset and the desire to see accreditation rise.

BBC News is here as well

Session 2:

The Future of Controller-Free gaming  – Nick Burton Natal Director, RARE
25 years of innovation/challenges. Sold over 100 million units (4mil a year, not bad).

Talks about how 360 controllers have lots of buttons (too many) and are a barrier to entry.
Prototyped some tech for a wand like device, also a few other prototypes.
Then started to hear rumours in Microsoft for some motion tracking ‘thing’ which didn’t have a name yet which became Natal, then Kinect.

“The rules changed…”
The way games are tested had to change
They had to make room in the office for motion games, lots of desk space and so on, not much open office space for the games. They found that people being able to gather around and watch someone playing with the tech helped to excite/inspire people working on it. Sports game chosen because it’s seen as something that anybody can play. Different people move in different ways. Which affects how people are able to play the game. The game needs to be able to percieve these differences so that the game can be balanced based on the limitations of some of the users.

They were having trouble with running mechanics in a football game, eventually they concluded that it would be better to take running away from the player, to make passing/kicking the focus and have AI move players around. By taking running away they made the game tested much better.

A lot of the things that are difficult/processor intensive to do on webcams is far easier to do on Kinect.

Session 3:

How to get great drama and performances in video games
-Georg Backer, Lionhead Studios (Audio associate producer)

1. Non Interactive vs interactive drama

Non
Passive (story telling) vs Active (story experiencing
Author has total control over execution vs Author shares control over execution with participators
Over time established languages to convey emotions/motivations vs still very young compared to books & films, no real established language yet.
Evoke passive emotions vs evoking active emotions
Immersion on a non-participational level vs immersion as participant is key
Return of investment earlier, simpler, passive vs return of investment later, harder, active, very different
Drama often because patterns & rule sets are broken vs video games & game mechanics are fundamentally based on rule sets and patterns.

2. Creating interactive immersive dramatic experiences, the short version.

The right approach
Drama, gameplay, drama, gameplay (Switching between interactive & non interactive)
Approaching drama – Understanding, deconstructing, adapting & (re)creating

Layers of coherent story experiencing
-Story & char design * writing
-Setting
-Art & Animation
-Audio (speech, sfx, music)
-Levels/Environment
-Game-Mechanics

Game mechanics – Fable 3 AI (gives hints on quests and other in world events going on in game), Fable 3 GUI ROOM (basically a 3D gui for higher level elements, changing clothes, teleporting to other locations, etc.)

2 – THe right people
All the usuals, including voice over director, consulting & out sourcing.
Staging drama & performance

Utilise all elements of a game (story, game mechanics, art, audio, writing) to ensure a cherent immersive exp that evokes emote and motivational connection to the player and fuel his desire to progress through the game.

The painful process of iteration, imagine ahead and don’t iterate to the left or to the right – iterate forward.

3 Casting and recording
Fable 3 dialogue recording
over 80 actors (English vers)
460000 recorded words, over 47 hours of final speech in the game, dedicated combat & vocal foley for most characters.

How to best approach casting
How to best work in the recording studio
Ensure the correct execution of different types of content
Importance of trust & flexibility

Try to get as much info available for the actors to look at, including concept art for characters, a working build of the game, design docs, etc.

Session 4:

The Edge Panel – Character Building: Avatars for a User Generated World
-Alex Wiltshire, Edge Online & panel

Alex Wiltshire – editor, edge website
Jorge Sanchez – Lead artist, Lionhead Studios
Jack Oakman – senior artist, RealTimeWorlds

Give players freedom to tell their own story, character. Ownership of something they care about rather than something they’re being told to care about. In APB it’s more about putting their own identity out towards other people.

Session 5:

Working with WiiWare: From student developers to swords and soldiers
Jasper Koning

It’s interesting to see how lacking the use of tools was at first, notepad, basically. Seems they learned a lot over a fairly short period of time and are taking those learnings forward in future projects. Particularly the idea that building decent tools early on will save the designers a huge amount of time.

SESSION 5:Why Mobile games will outperform console gaming: An overview of actual smartphone gaming and what’s next.

The sessions title had been changed to “Mobile becomes console”
(Fishlab founded 2004, Hamburg)

I think I can summarise this one into one or two paragraphs. The basic point being made is that it’s taking far less time for the graphical leaps on mobile phones to happen than it did for consoles. That combined with the massive sales of smart phone devices makes it an opportunity for making graphical games.

Not so sure about this myself, control issues are the main sticking point in my mind, but since I don’t own a smart phone I think it’s probably best I be honest that I may be wrong there. There’s probably plenty of opportunity to create great games there, but I’m not convinced that they could actually kill consoles, heck, consoles didn’t kill PC gaming, just displaced it.

SESSION 6: Round 2: Get ready for convergent gaming, Adam Boyes, Beefy Media

Round 1
Capcom had a number of firsts XLBA/PSN sim release, headset support, europe PSN content…

Capcom aimed to be faster than everyone else.
They (sorta) bullied XBLA limits by releasing on PSN first…
They pushed on the limits being imposed on them by the format holders.
The format holders wanted to push those limits but needed ammunition, capcom helped push on those barriers by giving format holders ammunition from which to do this.

They broke rules, how much the game should be charged at.

Listened to the consumers “other publishers pretend to do…”
Have senior staff talking to consumers as well as dev staff (why wasn’t x released on y)

It’s often necessary to fail into to learn & therefor succeed.

If you go halfway people will cry. ? – They rebuilt a game and didn’t rebuild everything in Super Puzzle Fighter.

“If you make a crappy looking game, it won’t sell that well.”

“If you build something with enough love and honor the original, people will like you.”

How flock got signed
Leipzig
3 playable prototypes, no meetings booked, just wandered halls knocking on doors. Asked for product acquisition. Showed 3 totally different games.

XBLA does not equal the people in the marketing for XBLA.
Age of booty released same time as Fable 2 which turned out to be a little bit of a mistake, but it still sold well.

They were surprised that people still wanted to play fighting games “People really, really LOVE to punch each other in the face”
“People love the 90s” and “People are worse at games then they were in the 80s”

Final Fight Double Impact – Double Impact “because it made it sound like it’s a sequel.”

SF2 HD Remix
Reached out for help to the community for music, rebalance.
Hit up friends that were fans – LPB, pinball, UNO, Bumberman, Uno.

ROUND 2
What is convergent gaming
It’s a combined experience across multiple screens.
Not a carbon copy on different platforms.

Some get the big idea – fable 2, pub games on XBLA. Toy soldiers and Xbox & XBLA games.
Others are trying to ‘get it’ – Msoft with XBLA & XBox But are missing all of the systems they don’t hold the rights too.
Convergent games are dynamic game experiences that compliment the way you play on the device.

Contribute to the ‘big picture’ (the other game).

Eg – Mass Effect 2, iPhone version unlocked just one piece of armour for MS2, missed opportunity. eg could’ve mined for minerals on your phone, ie whilst on train/bus to work.

Most publishers work with 4 separated departments not working together – retail, mobile, digital, online with use of outsourcing.
Best case scenario you have 6 different developers that different versions are outsourced to.

Inneficient.

You need mature management, thinking for the publisher so they don’t have to.
Bring developers together to work on the different versions so they can build the gameplay into eachothers games/releases.

Leverage content
Simultaneous release
Mature processes that can be trusted to achieve without interference from above.

Publishers aren’t going to change because they keep thinking from the inside out, the changes need to come from the outside -> in.

Session 7: How 100 users turned into a 100 million – a broswer game success story, Nils-Holger Henning, Bigpoint GmbH

Online is fastest growing space.

Browser games = lowest entrance barrier. No install or lengthy download (Well, not technically true, any online game has downloading & uploading, it’s just sufficiently hidden from the user).

Usage peak at lunch time.

A high growth, low competition area was pursued, so that ruled out hardcore games. Of course, the field is a lot more crowded now, so the low competition part of that doesn’t apply to the same degree anymore.

Apparently about 10% of your users will pay for convenience, convenience items that save them time. You should align the purchasing elements of the game with that 10% of users.

There are people who will pay $50k dollars for a fancy looking suit of armour.

A common mistake with webgames is not working out in advance how users will be driven to the game in the first place. It doesn’t matter how well you’ve designed your (shivers) ‘monetisation’ schemes, if there are no users to be sucked in by them.

Bigpoint now is so big that they claim they need games ‘from the outside’, there’s too much demand for content. It looks as though they’ve actually built up a massive network of companies they’ll provide content to, rather than being just a facebook company and they are moving towards more traditional games as well (Like a BattleStar Galactica themed space shooter).

Session 8: Gamification: How Games are Everywhere, David Helgason, Unity Technologies

Targetted low end as well as high end “especially important for something as broken as the web”
At least 1k unity games as iPhone apps.

Gamification 1

Gamification, noun,
1. use of game design outside of games, e.g. in product or user xp design
2 use of game tech in other fields

Neologism – shows up late 2009, organises lots of info.
Heavily covered this year.

(Look up SWOOPO ‘entertainment shopping’, described as evil & really more like gambling)
(Look up Scott Dodsons upcoming GDC online talk)

Gamification 2
Military training and simulation
Architects and product designers
Complez data and visualisation
medical visualisation
social spaces and interactions
Art, VJ-ing, experimental media, etc etc etc

‘The Perfect Storm’
First – programmers (8 million of them in the world?!)
Second – education (Very fast growing)
Third – Content creation (Specifically outside of the profession realm of tools like Maya)
Fourth – technology & community
-critical mass of knowledge creation
-forums, wikis, etc
-commercial extensions, services

Gamification 3?

Hi5, MySpace, Orkut becoming game sites
Google investing heavily in games
Every phone, TV and set top box manufacturer is rushing into the fray
Also media players, appliances, perhaps others.

Summary – 3 definitions of Gamification

“Use of game design outside of games, e.g. product or user experience design”
“Use of game technology in other fields”
“The process where games are a primary economic driver for new platforms and ecosystems.”

AAAAAND DONE.

So today I attended the Evolve day of Develop 2010 and I honestly wasn’t sure what I was going to take away from this. I haven’t exactly embraced the sorts of changes or games that the day was devoted to, but was pleasantly surprised by how much I felt was worth noting down.

SESSION 1 (KEYNOTE): Traditional Games Breaking into Social Networks – Louis Castle

He spends some time talking about how the Internet has disrupted traditional business’, we’re all pretty familiar with this so I probably needn’t go into details. The big example that comes to mind is those old encyclopedia books, massive great big collections that parents used to spend a small fortune on in order to pretend that their children would learn something by their mere existence. But then encyclopedias were released on CDs that were far cheaper, sure the content was probably less accurate or peer reviewed but cheap is cheap and suddenly that old business model of selling big books people often didn’t use seemingly dissapeared overnight (Yes, this is CDs/multimedia doing the disrupting here rather than the Internet).

Here’s what’s interesting though – the claim is made that “direct downloads fails to disrupt”. Why? Well, the process for buying goods is broken down:

Bricks & Mortar: Learn about product -> pay first -> wait -> sample

There’s exceptions here, I think, downloadable demo’s & reviews can assist, but not everyone tries demo releases (Assuming one is available) and there’s unfortunately a certain amount of distrust about reviews (that says more about the people reading the reviews than the reviews themselves in my opinion). Curiously, in theory direct downloads should solve this, but they don’t in practice, all it does is remove the go to the shops element of retail purchases – an improvement sure, but not much more. Anyone remember trying to play Half-Life 2 on Steam back when it was released? They tried something pretty clever there, you could play the game whilst it was still downloading content for later on in the game, but it didn’t quite work, for me at least, the game would pause to download an audio file or something it needed which broke the experience in all sorts of unpleasant ways.

Louis claims the future lies in something more like this:

Discover & Share -> Free -> Play

The idea core to this is that people can try the game, discover they like it and because it’s free they can evangelise the game to friends (etc) who can also try it. After this point though it gets a little bit sticky in a ‘how do we make money from this?’ sort of way. Louis is clear that he doesn’t believe he has the solution but is working towards it at least, he also alludes to something he’d hoped was announced by now, but it isn’t and thus cannot talk about it (NDAs suck).

Also key is the idea of having a thin client, I’ve kind of lost track of what that specifically refers to, but I think it went along the lines of not being a pain to use, anything you want to try should be easy & quick to do (including downloading the game), anything that delays the ‘try’ part of the equation will damage the parts after it.

Abstraction layers don’t work, virtual machines = poor performance.

Everytime you ask for a click on something online, you lose people. Even just a dialogue box with ‘ok’ on it will lose users. If your user is looking for a game, chances are they don’t want that game to be hard work (within reason).

(Personal note not explicitly stated, but inferred – Give customers things that make them WANT to pay for a game, the note was written whilst some chatter was going on about piracy and so on, Luois also mentioned he believes that large data storage devices being released for the consoles will lead to a surge in piracy on those platforms).

SESSION 2: 5 Things Big Publishers Don’t Understand About Small Games – Sean Murray, Hello Games (released Joe Danger)

Some pretty interesting stuff here from the outset, Sean explains that as a programmer, numbers are naturally his thing so he discusses his research into sales figures for small digital download games like Joe Danger. Naturally, as publishers generally embargo sales data on these sorts of games (On games generally as far as I can tell, unless it’s major bragging material – hey look at us, we sold 5 million copies of Generic Shooter 59, aren’t we great!) he went to pains to make clear there’s a little room for doubt, but that he’s done his best to filter out any figures he percieved as unreliable or dubious.

We’re actually given two sets of numbers, the first is the full set of his percieved reliable data which came out as 47% sell less than 25k units, 21% around 100k, 13% around 200k and 17% sell more than 200k units. He then makes clear that these numbers are being skewed by old IP re-releases and that with those factored out, the numbers come out as: 77% less than 25k units, 11% up to 100k, 12% up to 200k.

He briefly mentions the cost of developing this game could be (simplification alert) summed up as:

(beans & toast) x 4 developers x 365 days in a year x 2 years dev time

He later jokes that 4 people eating beans & toast in a small room together is probably going to be a bit, uh, whiffy, but you can see what he’s getting at, no extravagances, keep the dev costs as small/streamlined as possible so you’re more attractive to publishers with some spare change to spend on your project. Then with any luck, for your next game, you can be eating Tesco’ finest beans on toast for the next project.

There’s discussion of taking ownership of your work (editors note, that might be taking ownership of IP, I umm, forget). Remember that as a small studio of 4 people you can adapt far more than the big boys.

He talks about why he thinks publishers might be putting out lower quality titles than you might expect:

Publishers possibly not spotting good titles? Developer interference? Dev losing ownership (Perhaps by that he means having your precious taken away from you) and publishers overwhelming tiny studios (presumably with the processes that larger developers can sustain, particularly ones that have multiple projects on the go that can survive say, a change of management at a publisher that gets your project canned by default). He mentions the Uno effect, that for a time, after Uno managed to sell 1 mil units (Brief temptation to do an Austin Powers joke supressed) publishers were all about trying to do card based games. Just one problem, the success of Uno was skewed by it being given away free with one of the 360 SKU’ releases and gamepads don’t necessarily make for a good way of interacting with virtual cards.

The speaker makes clear that you should connect with grass roots, that when the market is small you should effectively sell your game one copy at a time, each sale is valuable. He mentioned how awful an experience game shows are for trying games, you’re stuck in a queue for the big releases and your so concious of the queue behind you (I’m British, I know ALL about queues and a small amount about pool cues) that you only get 5 minutes with the game before you’re throwing the controller down. Conversely, with the indie stalls around the edges, you can get 30 minutes with someone and really get to see and enjoy the game (if it’s fun, of course) and that’s pretty useful when you’re a small independent.

Risk everything! he says, downloadable games need word of mouth to thrive and playing safe is unlikely to generate word of mouth except possibly the negative kind (“Oh look, another shooter, we need more of those!”). You could argue that the idea behind I maed a game with Zombies in it was a silly risky idea that shouldn’t have caught on, but I, who only owns a PC & Wii (for the moment) have heard about it because it got evangelised by fellow students last year. Take risks – you’ll stand out amongst the competition that is scared to take risks.

He gives a comparison to skyscrapers (No, wait, this is clever), that publishers build big skyscrapers and because of the complexity you need really strong well thought out plans for how to build the skyscraper. The publishers want proof that you can build that skyscraper and if you don’t have the game yet then you’re reliant on the plans to get across to the publisher that you’ve mitigated any serious risks (like bad technology, process management, anything that could gets into unsung hero territory (I’m paraphrasing extensively now, be advised)). Conversely, the small indie houses aren’t run of the mill everyday things (you could probably argue that many building projects for houses are also large, plots of houses rather than a single house and something wacky for a single house has more chance of being taken on).

Joe Danger broke even on release day, it sold 50k units in the first week. Q&A revealed they paid for QA, localisation, certification & other things as well.

SESSION 3: Panel: Forget Dragon’s Den: What Venture Capital Really Means For You

First comment that came up, Dragons Den is a terrible show, it’s more about making innovators look bad and stupid and mock-worthy than about actually good investment. That’s not in my notes, I just liked that comment enough that it stuck in my brain.

Likes: Online mobile, equity, multiple distribution points.

The multiple distribution points thing came up in later sessions, take iPhones for an example, if you only make games for an iPhone and Apple decide they don’t like your app, your screwed. It’s a risk factor that should be minimised, solution? You should also be releasing on other phones, heck, maybe on non-mobile platforms too, if it increases the chances of earning lots of cash.

Dislikes – 1 game companies are considered a risk, so, like how they prefer a company that is making a game for several platforms, they’d like a company making several games as well (Hmm, you could think of it as say, Hello Games 4 man team, but three sets of them each making a different game together. They can colaborate with any large issues too). There’s also a dislike for long term developments, not so much because long dev times are inherently bad, but because it delays the return on the investment – the sooner you can get the first wave of users and start growing the product/business as part of the business/product plan, the better. I think this is covered by the phrase ‘traction’ if I’ve taken this session on board correctly.

There’s a like for a 4 to 10 times growth equity/return on investment (Sorry, I’m actually a little lost on that sentence).

Apparently you should never admit to owning a company car whilst talking to venture capitalists. Didn’t really elaborate on why, but I’d assume it suggests you’re more interested in style than in actually making a desirable product.

If you plan to have multiple waves of bringing in venture capital and you don’t meet the goals you set out following the first wave, you’ll have trouble getting further investment on the second wave.

They made it clear that being reliant on one company is unattractive to an investor. I’m tempted to reach for Apple as the obvious one with the iPhone, but it works in other ways, for example if you’ve outsourced your art and it comes back less than great, do you have anyone else lined up to pick up the pieces? (Sometimes outsource ‘test work’ is done by the outsourcers best staff, but the bulk of the work is done by other people who might not be as talented or have screwed up processes/pipeline).

If you can get traction/initial users without venture capital funding, do it, it’ll reflect well on you if you later need VC to fund growth.

It’s not necessarily all traction traction traction though, ‘cash’ is a route. With this, you need to be able to make clear that you’ve identified a major weakness, a broken system or perhaps a niche. And by solving that broken something you’ll generate cash in the process. Take MMORPGs for instance, lots of people were chasing those, what about other kinds of MMO?

They like social games, the reasoning being that the social interactions can lead to more people playing the game who are joining a community of like minded players of the game (etc). Basically, this reduces the risk of not getting good growth of players, of course, that won’t prevent a bad game from beind a bad game, just thought I’d throw that in.

Try to find VCs who are knowledgeable about the sector your in and read up on it, they might not fund your game themselves, but they might meet someone at a networking event looking for investing opportunities and could point them your way. Worth thinking about, eh?

SESSION 4: Games as a service: Do you realy know what it means? – Thomas Bidaux

This session was largely about how it’s sometimes overlooked that the game experience also exists outside the game. Is the installation of the game good for the experience?  So, for example, and I’m just throwing this out there, does the installer start playing music and you can’t turn it off, and it’s loading the music from the disc whilst the game is being installed from the disc and oops I’ve just broken the monitor from sheer rage (Ok, not really). It’s like phoning up tech support and being stuck in a line, that wait line is rage inducing, I feel a great deal of sympathy for call centre staff with long wait lines, because they must surely have to deal with much angrier customers than is otherwise necessary.

Back on topic, Thomas talks about definitions of a service and how it varies, he mentions how it involves account management (which should have easy account creation, remember the note above about how each click can lose you users?). So think of e-mail versus a username, an e-mail address which a person uses regularly, is far easier to remember than an account ‘name’ (Conversely, it might be less secure I suspect).

You should only ask for information you really need and if you can prefill information so the user only needs to correct it if wrong, that’s great. For instance, you can guess the users location by IP address, but still allow them to change it. Always allow the user to update their details if they need to do it as part of account control (etc).

If your user has to waste time on forms, maybe they should be rewarded for doing so.

If you decide to have trial accounts, be very careful about what limits they have when interacting with paid users, you don’t want the people getting in free to put off your paid customers, obviously.

He then goes onto localisation, good localisation isn’t much more expensive than bad, good localisation buys you a lot of good will with non-english speaking users (They might then evangelise the game for you, for instance I’ve seen MMOGs with a guilds for French, Russian, German, Polish, etc – It’s especially valuable in online games with repeat purchases like a subscription scheme or microtransactions).

You should design/code for localisation, integrated with the content creation process. Work with vendors sooner rather than later and localise everything – in world billboards, random signage, menus, etc. etc. etc. If the game allows for speaking French but it’s not supported in the account management screen, you might lose sales. The ultimate goal is user comfort regardless of the language – you don’t want anything in your game that stops the player enjoying the game.

Localisation can break the game, if you update a quest saying you need to kill 15 boars instead of 10 in English and no other language, you’re going to have a lot of confused non-English speakers banging on your forum doors.

Short on cash? Consider openning localisation to the community, bonus points of you reward them in-game for doing so. You need to be able to trust your players in order to do this though.

The more payment methods/systems you have, the better, I recently experienced lots of problems getting the hotel wireless billing system to work, it didn’t want to accept my credit cards by itself, I tried through paypal as the payment method, nope, eventually I walked over to a different hotel, bought two £10 pound vouchers and get one of them turned into a £20 week long voucher through the tech support. If they didn’t have the voucher method, I might not have bought wireless access at all. (I would also be clinically insane a day later).

The big caveat is that more payment methods is more choice, so you need to make sure the UI for doing so is as effecient and easy to use as possible. When the game is available in multiple regions, be aware of which payment method is most popular in each region, set the default payment method as being region specific and quietly fail to offer the most abused/exploited/defrauded payment method on a region by region basis.

Design can fight fraud.

Make sure you have good recovery systems for when things break (unintended/accidental) or are broken (intentionally).

Make sure you make payment systems easy to find. Personal note though, don’t be too eager, if I see a button to take me to a payment screen the moment I load up the game for the first time, before I’ve even started account registration, I might do a runner, I’ve done it before.

Also, if the player can buy/pay without exiting the game client, that’s ideal (Still offer standard web browser payment of course), basically, make it easy to pay.

Build good communication systems to allow users to interact with eachother easily. It’s surprising how often games don’t go far enough with this, I’ve played a game where it’s at its strongest when a group of people organise to meet up at a specific point in time but to advertise this event to my fellow guild/outfit mates, I have to spam the chat on occasion and hope that people remember (etc), what if someone logs into the game at different times than me, what if someone has a question about the event – can he get a hold of me to ask that question?

And finally, make it easy to patch. For instance, if it’s a game that’s had quite a few patches, maybe you could offer a catch up update that can be downloaded separately and it’s a cumulutive update that reduces the patch & repatch & repatch & repatch (& oh god kill me) time.

———

So, it’s just gone 11PM, I’m short on sleep so I’m gonna call it there, sorry.