Develop Conference 2012 Day 2

July 15, 2012

Notes will be shorter this time because some of the sessions were more panel based and it’s not as easy to catch good notes without text on screen, in fact I decided to sit back and take it easy for the last few sessions, so there won’t be any notes for those.

All sessions (Aside from the opening keynote) were from the indie games dev track.

Thursday 12th July 2012
———- SESSION 1 ———- 10AM
Johnny Minkley interviews:
Patrick Buckland and Neil Barnden (Co-founders of Stainless Games)

mention of BBFC/news media free publicity
Originally wanted to do a mad max game but couldn’t get the license
decided to just go for it.

Were only able to buy back IP after Square took over Eidos.
Had to set up a corporation and use someones American bank account to use Kickstarter in the UK.

They’d blacked out a room in the company for about a month, almost no one even within the company new the room was being used to prepare the GDC announcement of them having the rights back for Carmageddon. Aim was to prevent news leaking out via someones facebook post or something.

Some people were reluctant to use kickstarter because the amazon payment system, this is one reason why they’ve since offered the paypal method since completing the kickstarter run.

“Bless the daily mail” “most controversial game of all time”

“The comedy is what saves Carma from being a nasty splatter-fest.”

In Brazil they announced the game was going to be banned “in one weeks time” which was fantastic for sales.

Kickstarter fitted in very well with their aim to connect more with the players/consumers.

Advice: Planning, they thought they had but were still semi-caught out by the amount of attention the kickstarter campaign brought in.

They loved how Tim Schafers campaign was up front and said it *could* be a complete failure but at least there’ll be video records of it.

It’s always going to be terrifying to start a game company, doesn’t matter when you start it.
———- SESSION 2 ———- 11:15AM
Indie Exposure: Tackling the Challenges
Alistair Aitcheson, founder Alistair Aitcheson Games

Why is exposure so difficult to get and the ways we can fix this

-Exposure is tough – 50% of time and effort
-Growing competition
-Harder to stumble upon new games
-New gatekeepers

Capitalise on your unique selling point
-Multiplayer & stealing
-Easy to explain
-Memorable at events

Be Remarkable, not just have a high quality product
-Sell in a sentence
-Encourage discussion
-Target enthusiasts

-Indies can/must take risks

Personal Touch (Uniquely indie)
-We don’t have to keep secrets or time announcements

Getting personal
-Expos, events, talks

-Long term connections
-Press, players, developers, tastemakers
-Involvement motivates

Working with the press
-Press wants to talk about indies
-Offer something that interests their readers
-Convey your cause

Pricing and business model
Offer something for nothing
-Validate quality before payment
-Easy to recommend (virality)

Free does not equal exposure
-Eyeball space qually competitive in free
-Featured/Top 100 still king

-Incentivise viral spread?
-Open web?

Strategies for exposure (recap)
-Leverage your identity/personality
-Smart use of platforms and free
-Offer something worth talking about


———- SESSION 3 ———- 11:45AM
Indie Essentials – Getting Support for your Game
James Marsden, founder of FuturLab

-Write your own success story
-Games press are the gate keepers
-Empathy wins when contacting the press
-Bank anything noteworthy
-Be useful
-Everything leads to everything else
When screenshots were first posted the game was slated, but when it went on to be shown on sites like Kotaku there were folks willing to defend it.

Showed a video of a chaps 31 attempts at a level in a game.

By luck they had a meeting with EA the next day and the virality of that video fed into the by chance meeting. Hired coconut dodge without even asking about sales on PSN.

Start promoting early
-More Time to build an audience
-More time for good ideas

Squeaky wheel gets the oil
-Try not to talk about when you’re struggling, talk about when you’ve done good things.
-Stay on peoples radar
-Be cheeky if necessary, can show confidence

Everything you do matters
-Be proactively nice

(Story about how sending out some free stickers to go on your console were sent out to folks who helped on the first game. Later, someone at one of the console companies was super super helpful because they were hoping to score a sticker for the new game being made)


———- SESSION 4 ———- 12:45
Beat the Post-Launch Blue: Your Game is Out, What Now?
Rob Davis, founder of Playniac

So your game is out, what now?
“Too late, you needed to think about this much sooner, it starts with your games name”

Think of what you own?
-Less than you think, ideas/mechanics cannot be owned
Mention of Sol LeWitt (1928-2007), who made images using algorithms but not in computers
-You own your IP, including the name, buy domains early on & appropriate account names like those for twitter, facebook, etc.

Possible platforms:
-Web/games portals
-Piracy is a platform, as long as you’re not selling units

-Free with adverts
-Free with in-app purchases

Lunching on Kongregate
-Good ratings early on
-Trible attitude in response to comments on the game. People would read a comment about the game, agree with it and then put a rating on the game with that comment in mind.

Discussion of making the game know when it’s pirated and making small changes to behaviour as a result, such as being more persistent in encouraging the user to buy in-app

-Good at capturing events
(Google analytics apparently just stops recording more events after the 500th, presumably because it’s designed for websites instead of games, which have fewer events per
play/usage session)
Selection of analytics tools:
-Google Analytics

36% of players return
42% minutes average playtime session
56% >10 minutes play per session
28% >30 minutes play per session

Promotion – it’s a busy room
-Be persistent with the press, make sure you send the right (and appropriate) information (to the right sites, don’t send stuff on a mobile game to a PC gaming only site like
rock paper shotgun)
-Online advertising
-Cross promotion between apps?
-Social media

Publishers – The big question
-They can sell it
-They can distribute it
-They can market it
-They can fund it
If you’re doing all/most of these yourself there’s no point. Need to be sure a publishing partner won’t be half heart in their support.

(Story about how sending out some free stickers to go on your console were sent out to folks who helped on the first game. Later, someone at one of the console companies was
super super helpful because they were hoping to score a sticker for the new game being made)


———- SESSION 5 ———- 13:30
Trials of a Graduate Start-Up Studio: The Challenges of Going it Alone as a Fresh Faced Developer and How to Combat Them
Me: (Who is ‘Them’?)

Split into 5 parts
Development, Team Communication, Finance, Marketing and Starting a Business

-Approach other developers (can give you everything from moral support to advice, to more practical help)
-Plan ahead
-Don’t give up
-Less documentation, more iteration

Team Communication
Team had some issues with members not being around when needed or in do-not-disturb mode
-Organise regular meetups
-Use digital filing systems
-Structured tasks (Basically a bit of project management)
-Consider house sharing, no need for an office then

-Self fund to get started
-Apply for as much funding as possible (Worst they can do is say no)
-Prepare yourself to pitch
-Plan how much money you need and your business model

“50% of my time is spent on marketing”
Social media, events like Develop, Game City
-Use all the social media channels you can
-Be open & talk about you, your game, your journey
-Involve with local dev community
-Don’t be afraid to talk to the games press

Starting a business
-Reach out for advice
-Make sure you have a clear business plan
-Put thought into your company name and logo
-Consider where you aim to go long term

Is this the right choice for your career?
Can you commit to see this through?
Do you possess the skills to make a game AND run a business?


———- SESSION 6 ———- 2PM
Pricing In-App Items and Currency: A Practical Guide
Kalvin Lyle, Full Moon Game Studios

FMGS kept changing monetization strategies due to conflicting stories about how to monetize.

Find the foundation
-Solid facts or requirements that cannot be changed and on which other decisions can be based.

Competing games (Reason for being noteworthy)
Temple Run (Free to play)
Jetpack Joyride (Well implemented store)
Draw Something (Err, missed why this was noteworthy)
Monster Island (Mechanics and skipping of hard parts)

Some ways of examing your game
-Minutes saved per dollar spent
-Minutes to purchase all items in the game
-Dollars to purchase all items

Very few appear to do shop design well
Button to store on end level screens (Commented on how one game was calling its story a “stash” and hadn’t realised for some time that it was an actual button you could press to go to a store)
Some markets are quite similar to America but have smaller user bases and could be used to test for problems in the design/monetization, or for player drop offs on (for example) level 4 and level 7.
If you release paid you can always go free to play later.


The last sessions I don’t write any notes for (but I’ve tried doing recordings on my MP3 player, haven’t looked to see how they came out yet though), for clarity, these were.


———- SESSION 7 ———- 2:30
Ways to Fund your Indie Game
Daniel Da Rocha (Toxic Games)
Adam Green (Assyria Games)
Dan Pinchbeck (Creative Director thechineseroom)
Henry Hoffman (Angry Mango Games)

———- SESSION 8 ———-
One Hour Tower
Panel: (Actually a session where the people below try to make a game in one hour, with Andrew Smith providing commentary and being a general entertainer by, for instance, fielding questions or managing to get a contact lens to pop out during the session, hehe)
Andrew Smith (Founder, Spilt Milk Studios Ltd)
Byron Atkinson-Jones (Xiotex Studios)
Gavin Harrison (Gavin Harrison Sounds)
James Harkins (Art Director, Big Pixel Studios)


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