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Sunday, March 06, 2011 - Posts

GDC2011 Lessons learned in successfully marketing
Lessons learned in successfully marketing games on PSN/XBLA and pc digital; what worked and what didn't

James Brooksby

Good relationships with Microsoft and Sony
Working in partnerships with game funding, non work for hire

Office reflects Peter Pan syndrome

Building direct relationships with community and marketing and will continue to enhance through social networ portals and club building

Achieves marketing strategy through minimal internal resource and select contractors (low cost)

Burn Zombie Burn!
Time to build, 10 months, maximum 9 staff
Special deal with Sony, exclusivity in return for guaranteed revenue

Launch window activities
Launch party at major industry event, zombie actors and stickers
Pr round trip in us
Sony eblast
Sony blog
Sony website competition
Facebook advertising
Talking to everyone, including smaller sites as you never know
Post high score on YouTube, sent out 3d zombie models to top few

Continuing activities
Competition in USA to win holiday to Paris and Egypt (extra 4000 sales)
Ps home launch 34% increase in sales and virtual items for sale
Premium theme
Halloween party in ps home with extra virtual items
Sony Asia
In to Germany (was initially 18 rated and couldn't be sold there)
Strategy guide (first, digital)
Pc version (boxed and through steam)
Expansion pack (bzb in space)
- highly recommend DLC if your game can support it
More home items
Price fluctuation - half price
Bundle packs
Promote at Halloween
Playstation plus

Future activities
Japanese launch
Mac version
In a retail box
Toys and more...
Next expansion pack (zombie sushi)(in line with Japanese launch, but will be worldwide)
iPhone / smartphone version
More home items, price changes, bundles
Follow up;-)

Digital sales not good before thanksgiving, large game releases during that time frame

Sales spikes with each little marketing or added content
Huge spike in sales with playstation plus
spikes and pits, weekends vs weekdays
Don't look at your sales on Wednesday, wait until Sunday
Drop right before thanksgiving, back up before Christmas
About 50% attach rate on DLC

Launch party cost, total $8000
launch value
Great launch press coverage
Launch window sales 38,000
Strong industry positive feedback including from platforms

Conclusions, take aways
1st months number approximate 19% of lifetime
1st months approximate 14% of lifetime
Many suggest 1st month up to 40%
don't panic on weekdays
Promote on holidays
Play with price, especially on holidays
Except thanksgiving
Make DLC
Reach the world
Port, but don't be lazy with polish and attention
Virtual goods are great
Competitions work
Create good relationships with platform holders
Think about your release date
Be good with stats/ numbers
Spend money on PR and marketing
Talk to others who are doing it
Make a game the team cares about, and you will make a good game
Have a great team of enthusiasts
Understand the new world and pay attention to it, it changes all the time
Talk to everyone
Try stuff, experiment
Expand your franchise, I can't stop ;-)

Production cost about $700,000 - marketing cost about $90,000

Audience q&a
Price points vs dev costs, amount of content, etc

Easier to drop price, very difficult to raise it
Think hard about it, don't want to see everything trending downward

Qa - how to choose a PR company
Ask gaming mags who they like, ask other devs for recommendation
Look at your favorite game company and whom they used

Qa - value of facebook, twitter versus traditional channels

Storefront is biggest, beyond that it's difficult to work out value
Depends on your game and product, what do they like and use and target them
Balance cost versus common sense

--Tom Ogburn

posted Sunday, March 06, 2011 11:49 AM by TOgburn with 0 Comments

GDC2011 XBLIG success stories
Pre-Note: because it was brought up in a thread on  Yes, I was attempting to summarize and transcribe this as I was sitting there in the room.  I'm not the fastest typist, especially on an iPad's tiny keyboard, and it was kind of difficult keeping up when everyone kept switching back and forth.  I captured as much of the info as I could, and when they were talking too fast or over each other I tried to capture what I felt was most pertinent at the time.


XBLIG success stories - how to make the best of Microsoft's self-publishing service

Brandon Sheffield, Ian Stocker, James Silva, Nathan Fouts, Robert Boyd

Sitting left to right Brandon, Nathan, Robert, Ian, James

Ska studios,  3 people now
What time do you change from coffee to booze
Everyone shows up in basement and normal workday

Ian does it all
Wake up shower, coffee shop for 2-5 hours per day
Don't push too hard, crunch only at the end
Text file in project folder with list of tasks
All small, draw 1 sprite, reproduce this one bug
Break it down to useful starting points
Have a defined scope of what will and won't be in

Takes breaks, let your mind think and rest

Douglas Adams -love to set deadlines because like e sound of them whooshing bye
2 people
Was teacher working on games part time, now going full-time
Setting goals daily and weekly

Play with kids in morning, work 10  - 6 unless crunching
2 in office, work with others remotely and contracts

All full-time now

Brandon - how to get people into xblig store, marketing
Winter uprising

Many people don't do any marketing and rely on Microsoft's top list, new releases, etc
Games coming out every day
Have a websites, gives legitimacy to game and co
Have a trailer, give people something to see
Did winter uprising because there was a lot of anger in the community, it was hidden in menus
Got covered in a lot of big sites that now continue to review xblig

Don't blame Microsoft, this promo showed the opposite, microsoft moved it up in the dashboard and promoted

Put out a trailer, help yourself

No one picked up press release for I made a game

But it didn't hurt

Once people started playing, the press release gave people something to refer to

Do you all feel it is worth releasing on xblig as first game vs apple, android

And get in the community and on forums, it helps others and helps you
-explains peer review-

I get emails asking if I get paid in MS points
(no, and not with DLC either)

Talk to people, go to different forums, consumers like talking with devs and feel connected
We have to rely on word of mouth and being open with your audience

Twitter really helps too
XNA forums gives great feedback

Be good on the forums

Ratings, there's genre and letter, but really only separated is in ratings
Do you like them, how to get more people to submit them

I like ratings, doesn't sell a lot but it does help some

Top rated is full, really hard to get into it now
Point a friend at top rated

Don't need to be $1 to be in top rated, some higher priced there too
Pricing psychology can play into it
Will have to be $1 to be top selling until they add a top grossing

People may feel higher price is better, but like app store they just don't want to pay it
Do you feel you undercut yourself on zp2kx

Yeah, maybe

Now the list is pretty solidified, so james cant even beat himself
Would like to see a current top rated
Having difficulty getting back into top rated with their games

Any kind of deck or naming tricks you can use

I think 0 comes first

James, any tips for implementing multiplayer

Just follow the docs, easy compared to pc
Live implementation is easy
Would have to completely re-implement for pc and not worth it
Only big issue, you have to have many creators club accounts for testing
Has 4-5 accounts


Don't really like nag screens
Need to have good content in demo

Can't make games where you kill Nazis, we grew up on that

How about selling extra stuff like music alongside game on website

I have soundtrack via pay pal, sold a few
Even if you don't sell a lot, builds a brand

Makes you seem more serious about supporting and growing your game

A fan got I made a game with zombies in it in rock band, had more downloads than third eye blind

Audience q&a

Patches, sales versus other marketplaces

Patches are pretty easy, but cant do short term sales

Don't make bugs, but easy to get patches in, try not to introduce more
Follows standard peer review process

Does xblig count towards resume, getting into major industry

Absolutely, whether pc or xbox just get it done, it shows you care about your work and can finish

New types of lists, digg style

Would like to see them, recent top rated, definitely in favor

Average sales of single game at price points

All over the place and totally depends on your product
If you have something they can't get anywhere else, will do well, otherwise it needs to be really well done and different

What does panel think of using xna to leap from xbox to pc

Taking explosionade, doing much more with pc version to charge more
Have to deal with more hardware types, but not difficult

Talking about lists, if you have a large task how do you break it down

If you dont know how to do it, check forums, someone else has already done it

Break it down to tasks smaller than 1 day

I'll put it off until one day I wake up and say, I know how to do it

Have different types of tasks to move around through, programming, design, art so you don't get bored

Don't put off least favorite to the end, then you have to Domitian during crunch and double miserable

Robert, what made you switch from education, consider educational games

Wanted to make games as a kid, not making a lot, saw xna and started messing around
It would be cool to make educational games, but not sure how
Most make education first and not good games, need to make game and have education second because kids are smart and know when they are in school

What do you wish you had known before starting

When top downloads are going to crash

Make good tools before starting on game, will save a lot of time
Prepare plan before hand

Share your ideas, no one will rip it off, but will share good ideas to help make yours better

--Tom Ogburn

posted Sunday, March 06, 2011 11:44 AM by TOgburn with 0 Comments

GDC2011 10 lessons from 20 years as an entreprenuer
10 lessons from 20 years as an entrepreneur: a post-mortem
Don Daglow

Start with money stuff
Next strategy
How in the practicing of our craft we combine heart head courage and hope

Preparing to manage cash
When starting a team, when recruiting, when trying to get critical mass
Cash is king
Keep the nut small
Be nimble like Guerrillas in the hills, not in fortresses
No personal guarantees or second mortgages
Always be thinking - we are about to run out of cash, is this a good buy
Your life partner is more important than your company

Item 1
if it seems stupid but everyone else is spending that may still be stupid

Thinking through the issues
The publishing equation
-Publishing equals the sum of:
-Financing, development, test, distribution, marketing

Item 2
It's better to have 10% of something than 90% of nothing
A partner at 10% is better than a wholesaler at 20%

Item 3
Decide, don't accept
Who's in charge? How will things be resolved?
Cubes or doors?
Exit strategy?  What are the victory conditions?
Who owns how much?
Salary or equity?

item 4
Culture matters
1st 10 will define the first 100, then 1000
"warm bodies" strategy leads to a cold grave - they just help a failing project fail faster

Item 5
If you think you need to change course within a year, change in 6 months
If you think you can't change, the truth is: you can't not change
Change hurts, radical change hurts more, but is sometimes necessary

Building great games

Item 6
You can build something you'll love and treasure as a player
You can build something some one else will love
20 years later on a street in Philadelphia...what can you do every day so that 20 years from now someone will say to you: you made that game, I loved it and....

Item 7
Show off technology
Pursue an audience
Don't chase opportunities

item 8
My friend was going to leave e&g to come work on the game but...
I couldn't get funding
No one will want to hear a pitch from someone like me
I'm afraid of failing so I didn't start the game and blamed it on my friend
I'm afraid to ask for money
I'm afraid I'll be humiliated by publishers so I didn't pitch anything

Item 9
The legend of the dog that chased the car
And caught it
Be careful of what you're doing when you fully and totally commit

Dog chases car, car stops at stop sign, dog just barks, doesn't know what to do with it
Be careful what you want because you might just get it
Think about the 1 thing you are committed to? What would your team say?

Item 10
Do what you love

If you can't right now, think about what actions can I take to move me toward doing what I love?
Not necessarily doing it every minute of every day, but a single mindedness of what you love and pursuing that

--Tom Ogburn

posted Sunday, March 06, 2011 11:41 AM by TOgburn with 0 Comments

GDC2011 The Identity Bubble
The identity bubble -a design approach to character and story development
Matthias Worch

Writing for games is different than writing for any other media
Games are participatory, others are reflective - viewer vs player

Identity approaches
The character is a tool, a puppet, an object for the player to manipulate according to the rules of the game - rules of play

A sort of vehicle from which a world can be seen and otherwise experienced. This character both constrains us....

Identity range
Puppet.  -------    vehicle

The player willing becomes a schizophrenic and pushes part of their consciousness away to experience the game
Character vs player vs person (outside of games)
3 frames that each whisper and want their way

Double consciousness
Shared fantasy - Gary Alan Fine

Harvey Smiths identity fragments

Character -writer biggest concern
Literary pop or mythic archetype

Player - game designer biggest concern
Solving problems, completing tasks
Sense of skill level
Primal emotions

Sense of skill level
Sense of idealized self
Self as person with life demands

ludonarrative dissonance

Identity range
Ludonarrative parity --- complementary goals ---- mythic archetypes 
Portal, halo       --------    Fallout 3, COD4    ------- uncharted 2

Ludonarrative parity - character and player are aligned in goals, primal motivation, get to the end and kill glados
Highly story driven game

Char wants to find father, player wants to explore world
Need to match quests to final game goals
Puppet the player controls, but has it's own backstory
Scrapping and exploring
Ludonarrative harmony
May not care about char goals, but still follow it to some degree and are reminded of story goal by game

Games are essentially myth reinforcing activities... Players tend to choose the kinds of games that reaffirm their own personal beliefs - bob bates

mythic archetypes
Player sees qualities of themselves in the char and try to live it out
The journey is more important than the goal
Identity absorption
Like driving a car, we stay separate, but refer to it as ourselves  - oh my gosh, he almost hit me (not my car)
Highly scripted, cutscenes

Need to keep sending I pulses to keep player and character identity together, frequency changes based on game type and how tightly they are tied
Don't send mixed signals, if you are a robot, shouldn't need to eat

Creation ------- recall

The power of myth - Joseph Campbell
Save the cat goes to the movies. - Blake Snyder

--Tom Ogburn

posted Sunday, March 06, 2011 11:38 AM by TOgburn with 0 Comments

GDC2011 Scoping Success
Scoping Success
Rod Fergusson

How am I defining success?
More than just quality
More than just commercial
it's both, and
the team is happy

Iron triangle
Scope vs schedule vs resources

Really need a predictable schedule tone a success and to get there
Normally change, cut scope

Goal: Shipping the right product at the right time

Right product is quality
Consider team - size, tech, and process
Consider player industry expectations

Right time is timeliness
Consider window of opportunity
Consider marketing

Lack of maturity will cost you time
Team, tech, or process
Need knowledgeable people, established process to ship on time
Scope should reflect design process
-Epic is highly iterative, 33% buffer for gears 3
You will find work that needs to be done for quality

Scope should match quality expectations
-Epic prefers smaller and polished

Consider player/industry expectations
You can't scope in a vacuum
What is the state of the art for your type of game, what is the best of the best that you are competing against
What would be considered the minimum bar for entry
How can you easily exceed expectations

Managing expectations with scope
Look beyond version 1 to allow for focus on the core
Start with a very tight core that you can build on
Versioning allows you to react to
-player feedback
-industry trends
-competitive landscape
There comes a point of diminishing returns
Franchises are grown
Gears 3 > gears 1 + 5 more years of development

Consider window of opportunity
When's the best time to be on shelves
What is the competitive landscape
What else could be taking the players money (entertainment competition)
Are there other initiatives you could piggy back on

Consider marketing
Or why "it'll ship when it's done" doesn't work anymore
Marketing is a global, synchronized initiative
Publisher sales regions allocate their budgets and forecasts months in advance
Major store buyers are looking 180 days out for what's next
It can take 14 weeks to get into a store flyer


Have a fixed ship date mindset
The belief that the ship fate is both realistic and unchangeable
-date can change but must be justified
-date not actually fixed until very confident
Provides a clear goal for the team
Forces prioritization and creativity
Provides a decision making constraint 

Establish your pillars
Key areas of focus, what is the core of the game
May be an aggregate set of features
May be their own overall design goal
Empowers scoping decisions
Usually serves as great talking points for press
Candidates for back of box features

Cut early, cut often
Due to unknowns, teams tend to underestimate effort
Every feature takes polish time away from the other features
forget sunk cost, look at opportunity cost
Always keep test and support burden in mind
Test decisions against your pillars

It's all about the buffer
Realistic scope does not equal the collection of known tasks
Recognition that the future is uncertain
The longer the duration, the greater the uncertainty
The more uncertainty and risk, the more buffer
Polish time is not buffer time

Top down scheduling provides constraint
Bottom up estimating enables ownership
Group estimating creates accountability
Always track your actuals
Evidence based scheduling provides history
Find the right granularity

NiMBLe process
New, better, more, less
Prioritize things to add, do more of, or do less of

In conclusion
It takes more than just quality to be a successful game, it takes a window of opportunity and strong marketing support
Scope based on your team, on player/industry expectations and your ideal schedule
Realistic and constant scoping, along with buffer, allows you to keep a more predictable schedule
A predictable schedule allows you to hit your window of opportunity and receive the full benefit of marketing

Ship the right product at the right time

--Tom Ogburn

posted Sunday, March 06, 2011 11:36 AM by TOgburn with 0 Comments

GDC11 Green Light! Persuasion skills
Green light! Persuasion skills to put and keep your game in the fast lane
Dick Butterfield for soft copy plus other tips
It's showtime! Butterfield speaks on the power of persuasion - book

What is your nirvana?
A metacritic score, that you just got a pitch approved, ...
Important to keep to your own particular style

What are the skill sets that make great persuaders

The power bite - The elevator speech, very crisp, eloquent to get next meeting
Aspirational story, speak to peoples hearts and imaginations that makes them want to help you
Meeting prep, decks, paperwork
Navigating q&a, what skills to stay on message 

What makes great companies great?
Passion, twinkle in the eye - people buy people
Victor not victim, know you will be successful, know you will get the team and ship the product, think about it first, what will you do to succeed
Great detectives, find out their fear and tell them how you can overcome it, pay attention
-----Listening skills are important

The vision, how do people perceive you and the technology
Be student of your technology and industry
Be predictive, be the vision, an insight leader not just a follower
Be the person people go to

Reduce the firehouse of data to a short precise presentation
Embrace the rule of 3
-avoid laundry list persuasion, selling beyond the close
understand that they want fact based show me the money mind and their heart, speak to both
-be prepared and understand the context of the meeting, understand where and the people involved
Anticipate questions and have the answers
-have a structure to communication, like a narrative in a game or book, not necessarily a structure like a series of slides

Every time you pitch, first 30 seconds you have to capture their imagination or they will start thinking about other things or the meeting they just came from
Quickly get to promise of presentation, what will they get out of it
-you will believe x, you will see y
The roadmap, tell them how you will use their time
-I will show you how we will, I will show you...

---------Practice it--------- very important
Where do you need To go slower, how will will you do your transitions
If only short time, practice beginning and end, that's where you win and lose people

Develop your own winning style
Be an actor, use your voice and gestures and expressions to own the room and tell a story
Turn a question and answer session into a question and message session, bridge your answer into a message
Remain authentic and answer the question quickly, but work in your message
Know what your message is

power bite 
Start with conclusion, then  3 pieces of evidence, and what does it mean to them
Conclusion, evidence x 3, so what

Aspirational storytelling
Dare to paint a picture of the future
Don't make them all improvs, build a repertoire of them, write them, practice them

--Tom Ogburn

posted Sunday, March 06, 2011 11:32 AM by TOgburn with 0 Comments

GDC2011 This is your brain on game dev
This is your brain on game development

Many books, just a few with good science on psychology of happiness and productivity

Manage your mind for better results, 3 steps
Logic just part of picture
Manage stress
Work for happiness

----logic is just part of the picture
We focus too much on logic and prefrontal cortex, very small part of brain and tires
Small, logical prefrontal cortex can't multitasking. Multitasking drops iq by 10 points and increases errors, about 15 for men, 5 for women
Task switching expensive for computers, people too
Not really multitasking, fast task switching
Lessens ability to filter extraneous data, separate unimportant from important

Conscious thinking is limited resource, prioritize prioritization, keep it simple, and help with visuals and lists
Important-Do it when you are fresh, not necessarily first thing in morning

To get insights from some parts of brains, you have to quiet other parts, perhaps with mindfulness meditation
Insights come better when you are peaceful and happy

Conscious thinking is limited - prioritize prioritizing and don't multitask
Help your brain with visuals and lists
Insight comes when conscious thinking pauses

20 minutes to get into flow, 2 minutes to get out of it

-----manage stress
does not mean eliminating, need the right amount of "eustress" to be most effective
Low stress, boredom, depression - area of optimal stress challenge - high stress bell curve 
Fight, flight, freeze response is bad for brain function
We are wired to cooperate with each other, empathize
We are wired to view the world as "us" and "them"
The happier you are, the bigger your circle of "us"
Happier people are less socially biased
Label and reappraise (don't suppress) negative emotions to manage them
-if your opinion isn't heard you get more stressed about it, brain same way
Exercise eases stress and improves thinking

Excess stress is bad for brain function
Mitigate stress with reappraisal and relaxation
Exercise to manage stress & boost your brain

Doodling can help retain more, requires no thinking
Anything that can be automated and doesn't require conscious thought can help conscious thought

--work for happiness
Happier people are more productive, sociable, cooperative, creative, resilient, successful, and engaged
Happier are healthier and live longer
Widens the scope of attention
Increases behavior repertoires

Largely determined by set point, but also intentional behavior
50 genetic, 40 intentional, 10 circumstance

1 Flow toward goals
2 strive to maintain a positive Attitude
3 invest

Set goals that are important to you, measure progress toward those goals
Different brains have different strengths, learn and use yours
Michael Jordan didn't try to improve in baseball, did his strength at basketball
Spend time on strengths, not always focus on improving weaknesses
"strengths finder 2.0" "go put your strengths to work"  - books
Get into flow - pie graph
Get into challenge at right level for you and stay focused

Attitude is as important as it is cliche, nurture optimism and positivity
Write down positives, will make you happier
Best teams have positive to negative comments ratio of > 5:1
Tipping point is about 3:1
moves team from minimize risk to maximize reward
Feedback sandwich, positive comment, negative, positive
Too much is a bad thing, feels fake, > 20 to 1

Invest in people and relationships - It will boost your network, coping ability, and happiness
Happiness is contagious
Express gratitude, makes you and them happier
Happiness outside work will make you happier at work too
Exercise, smile, relax, meditate, focus on present

It takes knowledge, subtlety, and support, and persistance

--Tom Ogburn

posted Sunday, March 06, 2011 11:29 AM by TOgburn with 0 Comments

GDC2011 3Ds Max tips and tricks

Modeling with matchmover
 Shoot footage
 Convert to bmp, runs faster in Matchmover
 Load into matchmover
Camera becomes camera in max
Create model from 3d points
Project footage on model
Bake to object and texture

Shoot footage
Try to get good coverage, move around
Do not pan and tilt, do not use tripod
Need to see all angles for modeling and texturing
Avoid blur and artifacts, don't move too fast
Convert to image sequence, pick best frames, too many frames take a long time and many have duplicate data
3rd max-rendering-ram player- to convert to bmp image sequence

Automatic tracking
Good tracking to make camera but points are useless
Manual tracking, use auto camera but set points to make model from
Create axis and scale, etc, then export to a 3rd max script

Run matchmover tracker
In preferences make sure you have z axis set to up
CPU is very important to make this run fast
Hide tracking points
In point tracks add new group
Add new track
Place point, scroll to another frame and select same point, when it turns green it means it was able to track it
Create more track points
Yellow means not perfect, move it around or go to another frame and try
Pick which one will be origin
Pick at least 3 points on different axis so it can model it as 3d
Make as many points as you want, more is better model
Make points where architecture changes, different direction, different texture,etc because these will be used to make your model later
Pick 2 points that you know distance and set that, use u it of measure matching system prefs
Select all modeling points, except auto, and export

Open model script in max, sometimes causes error due to groups
Tip - always Delete groups and groups name sections before opening
Select all points
Maxscript editor and script change size to scale up to a realistic size
Grab a few points on a side-alt q to isolate
Start drawing planes and shapes, faces to make the object
Choose snap to pivot to snap to selected points instead of grid

Trick add your tools to a pane/ custom ribbon, then set a hotkey to make it appear

After model made for texture use a camera map
Find a good view of specific texture in camera view
Render to texture, auto unwrap

After texturing
Select all and then link to make 1 model
Then render to texture on a new channel, unwrapped and baked to move all textures to 1 map
Move channel 2 to channel 1 and then remove channel 2
Now it's ready to export to a game engine

Best to use for cubic, planar shapes
For cylindrical shapes, place points at top and bottom, then create a cylinder since it would be impossible to create enough tracking points to make a good circle

Can use multiple cameras and point of views for camera, but for modeling can only use 1 and is easiest with static object, eg a building

Substances = new several new types of texture assets in 2012
Contains diffuse, normal, texture, shader, ... Maps in 1 file
Easier to use in slate manager rather than classic
Can use animated texture, ex sliding door opening, instead of moving model
Can use to easily change color, ex leaves on a tree as season changes

--Tom Ogburn

posted Sunday, March 06, 2011 11:21 AM by TOgburn with 0 Comments

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