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The path to video game developer success is long and fraught with danger. It might be easy to have and idea but how do you take make that idea a reality. More than that, how do you make game design and development your life?
Developing video games requires knowledge of many different disciplines. Whilst you might be able to outsource certain aspects of the game build, such as game asset design and music composition, your first few games will require you to envisage, creatively direct, project manage and deliver all by yourself. Sadly, game creation is more than just having a game idea, coding the mechanics and then slapping on some lovely graphics… The modern day indie developer needs to manage the marketing and patiently test the final creation in order to secure some commercial success.
Outside of the game design and development process you may want to think about joining a game development team or established studio in order to gain valuable experience in the industry.
With SO many questions floating around, including those questions that you don’t know to ask yet, wouldn’t it be nice if some kind person or website put together a handy list of resources in an easy to read infographic that would act as an ultimate guide to lead you through the ferocious land of game development…
Thanks to the helpful people over at ‘Online Game Design Schools’ you now have such a document.Behold, Click here to read The Ultimate Online Guide to Video Game Design
It dawned on me recently whilst researching game design that there is a fundamental question that you should ask yourself when starting a game:
Am I making a game or a narrative driven fantasy simulation?
Before video games were around, a game was an activity with a set of rules than could be enjoyed again and again. From Tic Tac Toe to soccer they all have a fixed set of rules and can be played anywhere with almost anything. By this I mean that both the examples can be played on a beach, for example, as Tic Tac Toe can be drawn in the sand with a stick and soccer can use a beach ball and use sweaters as goal posts.
Popular video games such as Tetris and Angry Birds adhere to this pattern. Moles could easily replace the birds and the setting changed to a garden. The rules and enjoyment of the games would still be the same. Game developers need to decide right at the beginning whether or not they are making a game and if so, what are the rules, how is it enjoyed and can it be replicated no matter what the graphics, story and rewards.
A narrative based fantasy simulation sees the player assume a role in a story and the player must walk the protagonist through a series of events and/or confrontations until the narrative is complete. Whilst fun, these games are pretty linear and often are disposed of when complete similar to books.
One question that is asked when designing games is:
How is the game won or beaten?
For a narrative driven games this is easy, as it concludes when the story is complete. However, with Tetris, the game is never truly beaten. Success is achieved by beating previous scores. Games like chess can be mastered but never really beaten.
So when your next devising your next video game ask yourself if it’s a game or simulation and if the answer is a game then focus on the rules, the gameplay and how a player wins. If the later is true, focus on story, experience emotion and characters. Trying to mix the two from an early point might just lead to a game that has mediocre effort in both areas.
When it comes to children’s games, not many indie developers have such an extensive back catalog as Beansprites, a small team from California who have covered cafe culture to dentistry is their myriad of colorful games.1. What made you want to make games primarily for young children?
The decision to make apps for kids was something that just occurred organically – I’ve always been a fan of all genres of video games, and I especially loved light-hearted platformers such as Castle Of Illusion: Starring Mickey Mouse for Sega Genesis, that could easily qualify as a kiddie platformer.
I was also no stranger to playing games like “Putt Putt goes to the Moon” – which was a 2D point and click learning game for kids. I would experiment with all genres, but the kids app genre is always what appealed to me the most, and also where ideas came naturally.2. Do you approach children’s game design in a similar way to adult game design, or is the process different?
A majority of the applications you see in my portfolio are geared towards the very younger age group, probably starting at 3 and up. I approach game design in a similar way for the majority of my apps – encompassing a very intuitive user interface where even a 3 year old could pick up and play the game without any assistance from a parent or teacher. I’ve even had reviews where parents have stated it was easy for their kid to get started, and they didn’t require any help. That is my goal for the initial experience – of course, keeping them engaged for long periods, and having them come back to my app over and over is another very important goal in game design – especially for kids of a younger age bracket who tend to have much shorter attention spans than the older kids and “tween” crowd.3. What game style or type have you found to be most successful in your experience?
It’s difficult to pinpoint one genre, because it changes all the time depending on what consumers want to play – basically I study what is trending in the app store in terms of popularity and try to design an app with a twist, and add more unique features to that app that will make it stand out from the rest. In previous years, food apps have been very popular, but the focus has changed to other app genres, and adapting to that change is crucial to success.4. You charge a minimal amount for your games, why did you chose to avoid the free to play model?
For the paid model, 0.99 cents is the most I will charge for my apps given their content and genre – namely that they are geared towards kids – I’ve avoided the free to paid model for Nook & Amazon, but institute iAP for iOS – Each App Store is different in terms of what works, and I may institute a free to play model for Amazon and Nook in the future.5. Which platform do you prefer to make games for and why?
I enjoy working with all platforms – I always prefer iOS as I prefer their operating system, but Android is a market that is booming right now – I think it’s very important to consider all markets, even obscure ones that you think may not be successful.
One tip I have is if you’re making educational games for kids, go read up on some activity books you find in the kids section at Target, or Barnes & Noble – buy a few of those, and study those activities, and try implementing them into an app – there are endless possibilities for educational apps in the app store, and apple is always looking to feature new and innovative products! If you have a unique art style, that also helps – games from developers like Duck Duck Moose, and Toca Boca have a very unique art style, and branding that you would recognize immediately if seen on the app store.7. Which game has been your most successful to date and why do you think it was so popular?
One of my initial, and most successful games that propelled me into doing this as a full-time business was “Fairytale Preschool” – this was a very basic, kids educational app for iOS which featured activities like finding the right color bottle, counting games, memory matching etc. This one was featured by apple under New & Noteworthy, and reached the top 100 games on the app store. It also reached the top 5 position on the education category all by itself, without any marketing. Of course, fast forward 3 years later to present time, and this kind of app would never have achieved the success it did back then.8. What channels do you market your games on and which drives the best results?
I use Facebook, Twitter as the primary marketing outlets. There are also ad campaigns that you can run to drive installs to your apps, but they work better with free models for applications and games. Free App of the Day is another good example of marketing, but they charge a pretty penny for their services.9. Like many game designers, do you have a BIG game in you which you will eventually build?
We are currently working on a 2D adventure game which will be released by next year – that is the big game that I’ve always wanted to work on, and it’s the biggest, most daunting project I’ve ever worked on to date.10. What title(s) do you have in development at the moment?
At the moment, we are working on the 2D adventure game, full steam ahead! I also still make time for the kids apps, and if I see something trending, I will work on a piece for the app store. The holidays are coming up, so holiday themed apps are also in the works!
Finally, what would you say to your younger self when she first started creating games…
Be prepared for many sleepless nights, and long work hours! 🙂
For more information on Beansprites games and apps, please visithttp://www.beansprites.com
Like most mobile games developers, Unity have been closely following what important additions and changes the recently released iOS 7 update has made. One of the biggest and most exciting of Apple’s initiatives is the standardization of game controllers for iOS-based platforms. Unity are happy to reveal, in addition to several important bug fixes for Xcode 5 / iOS 7 (Build&Run, WebCamTexture and status bar), Apple Controller support is included with 4.2.2
This blog post (http://blogs.unity3d.com/2013/10/11/unity-4-2-2-brings-ios-game-controller-support/) answers most common questions this addition will raise and serve as a short tutorial on how to add support for iOS Game Controllers in Unity authored games.
Making games is hard, finishing games is near impossible. Indie developers know that bringing a game to market is fraught with so many hurdles that include time, technology and cost. Graphics tend to tug at the latter as hiring an artist to produce ALL the graphics from menu GUI to animated sprites can be expensive. So for some developers and studios a good option is to adopt a ‘simple graphics’ stance where the art style is kept purposely simplistic in order to keep down costs whilst giving the game a unique feel. There are so many indie games that cover a myriad of art styles but I just wanted to pick a handful that took a ‘less is more’ approach to their game graphics.
Limbo is the first game by Playdead and uses stylized silhouettes and a great use of lighting to create an eerie atmosphere. The game, which is a puzzle based platform game is all done in black and white tones, using lighting effects and minimal use of ambient sounds reminiscent of film noir. The nameless boy protagonist is in search of his missing sister and travels through the forest until he reaches a kind of ‘post-apocalyptic’ city. It’s very weird and the end is abrupt leaving you wondering if you actually won but the journey is a lot of fun.Dawn of the Ronin
Though still in development, this game has teased us with videos and images for a while now. Like Limbo, this side scrolling slice-em-up uses shadows and lighting effects to create an unusual style of game forcing the player to focus on gameplay instead of graphics.Airsupply
Created by Quantum Sheep this run and jump indie game is proud of its 1Bit graphic style and mixes the style of retro two color video games with the speed and achievements of a modern mobile game. This pick up and play game is a lot of fun is constantly being updated.Cannanbalt
What started originally as a flash game, has now been ported to multiple formats uses a very simple color palette and pixel style to create a fun infinite runner following the exploits of a suited hero as he escapes an alien invasion.Journey
That Game Company’s latest release is beautifully simple and follows a hooded figures journey to a light at the top of a mountain after ‘waking up’ in the middle of the desolate and baron desert. Being an online game it means that you can meet other players on their own journey to the mountain (only one at a time) and join forces on your mission.Related articles
This September 12th, gaming blogs from around the world will be celebrating another excellent year of gaming, speculating what joys the coming year (and generation) may hold and reminiscing on some of the industry’s finest hours. Because of this over-saturation of good news, we have decided to provide a bit of balance on this otherwise cheerful day by reminding you all of some of the gaming industry’s most embarrassing failures.
We aren’t talking just bad games either here folks. We are talking full scale security failures. Failures which burden gamers of both the casual and hardcore variety with at best a mild inconvenience and at worst the risk of losing their hard earned cash or even harder earned identity to black hat hackers. From Sony’s enormous PSN data security scandal to Square Enix’s tiny one, here we explore what happened, why it happened and what impact it had on gamers.
In 2011, a subsidiary of Square Enix called Eidos had the servers of its Dues Ex: Human Revolution website hacked. The culprit managed to extract 25,000 E-mail addresses which were likely sold onto e-mail spammers. This isn’t a particularly damaging leak by itself, as no password or financial information was leaked. The real damage was done to those who were looking for employment at the studio, 350 of whom had their CV stolen from the database. This is, obviously, much more serious as job hunters regularly include details of their home addresses, their current employer and other sensitive information as part of their CV which leaves them wide open to identity theft.Sony Playstation: The “Working Within a Week” Fiasco
At some point between April 17th and April 19th the Sony Playstation Network suffered a security breach which would eventually unfold to be one of the largest data scandals of all time. The account details of over 77 million people were accessed and unceremoniously stolen form Sony’s servers. These details included email addresses, passwords, physical addresses and, most shockingly, credit card details.
The repercussions of this were costly for Sony, who had to take insurance policies out on behalf of all 77 million users and pay fines totalling almost 400,000 dollars. The online gaming service was also offline for 24 days, much more than their seven day estimate, incurring costs of $171 million.Ubisoft: Multiple attacks
In July this year a Ubisoft website was hacked and user account information stolen from the servers. In an unfortunate bit of PR for Ubisoft, one of their most anticipated upcoming releases focuses on hacking as a major theme in both the plot and gameplay. The games title is Watchdogs, and on the development team there even sits a former executive from Kaspersky Lab making for some unfortunate juxtaposition that the media simply couldn’t resist. Combine this with another security breach attributed to Ubisoft’s U-Play software, which allowed cyber-criminals to install software directly into gamers computers. It paints a picture of Ubisoft as a company that are far more interested in making games about cyber-security than actually ensuring that their users are secure.
Players of online e-sport League of Legends had an unwelcome surprise last month when usernames and passwords for the games entire North American player base were illegally extracted from Riot servers. Riot are also currently investigating the possibility that 120,000 transaction records could have been lifted from their database as well, potentially containing hashed credit card data. This overshadows the recent good news the company passed on to its fans when the US visa bureau granted the games top level players professional athlete visas, officially recognising the game as a professional sport.Bethesda Game Studios: Hackers Added Insult to Injury
Bethesda studios, creators of series like Fallout and Skyrim, suffered an embarrassing data breach after their site and forum users information was compromised by hacking group ‘LulzSec’. Once Bethesda announced the leak, Lulzsec responded by issuing a statement of their own saying: “Bethesda, we broke into your site over two months ago. We’ve had all of your Brink (another Bethesda game) users for weeks. Please fix your junk, thanks!” The hacking group also demanded that they feature their signature top hat logo in one of their upcoming games, threatening that if they did not comply then they would leak their user database. The whole affair was pretty humiliating for a developer held in such high esteem by the gaming community. Lulzsec have since disbanded.Related articles
The most amazing thing that happened in the 21st century is the advent of user friendly interferences for consumer products whether it is for mobile phones, personal computers or other hand-held devices. Steve Jobs brought something amazing to this world by bringing the revolutionary mobile device the iPhone along with the iOS mobile platform. Following the trend, Google brought android mobile platform to meet the needs of everyday mobile computing. Consumers just loved it when iOS hit the market; it meant that users had complete control of their device. They were able to customize their device to any extent they wanted and later android came to the market and became the first popular open source mobile platform developers. Consumers all over the world entered into the next generation of tech. Developers all over the world started to explore the power of these mobile platforms and built hundreds and thousands of apps. University graduates with software degrees got the highest paid jobs all over and why? Because the newly launched mobile platforms have been popular like never before as compared to previous mobile platform namely the Symbian mobile platform.
With the advent of iOS and Android; developers were equally motivated as they now had the power to develop whatever came into their minds ranging from video players to shooting games, from PDF readers to angry birds; literally every vivid idea that came to developers which were not possible before finally came to reality. iOSand Android brought the most amazing features to the hands of a consumer that were never brought before; notably complete customization of mobile phones, apps market, themes and hundreds of other features. Did I just say apps market? Well, the amazing feature of these mobile platforms is the apps market. Imagine you were finally able to explore imaginations of millions of developers out there. You were finally able to use mobile phones for your daily needs with the invention of mobile apps. Developers were able to share their applications with just few simple clicks and you were able to download these applications in a few seconds and in just a couple of minutes you are using yet another mobile application to make a to do list for you. This is the amazingness of mobile platforms I was talking about earlier.
When it comes to mobile apps; one category that is highly popular among consumers are those interactive rich media mobile games.
Angry birds, Temple Run, Fruit Ninja and many other mobile games are bringing smiles to many mobile users. For consumers it’s fun to use such mobile games but for developers its a tough job to make a app and then advertise it to make sure it get overwhelming response from users so that all those sleepless nights put into building these mobile games is worthwhile.
Below is the list of the Top 5 mobile apps/games advertising platforms to get the most out of your game apps:AdMob
Admobscores highest on every list. Google premium advertising network for app developers should be the first platform when you choose to get your game app being heard. AdMob allows you to integrate your ad across iOS,Android as well as the Windows Phone platform making it the first choice of app developers to advertise their apps. Further, you are able to select from a wide range of ad formats available for mobile phones as well as tablets. Since its Google which is managing the platform you get to analyze your campaign from various viewpoints and you get a hold of advanced advertising tools available online.Millennial Media
Millennial Media is our second top choice after Admob. The platform uses intelligent tools to let you advertise your game apps around the word. The best thing from mMedia is that it allows you to grab your campaigns and ads from other advertising platforms too such as AdMob; that means you can utilize the power of the two platforms and make the most of your advertising campaign for your games app. Furthermore, you can target your ads based on location. Experts see it as the best combination for premium apps advertisement needs and monetization of your games apps.Adfonic
Adfonic is another top most choice for game app developers. The platform looks after all your advertisement needs. The amazing thing about Adfonic is the promise that 95% average fill rates on both iOS and Android.Chartboost
While all the other above mentioned platforms are holistically to advertise apps including games app too, Chartboost is our favorite platform because it talks all about gaming apps and promotes similar apps on its platform. If you ask me one which platform you should use to start your gaming app advertising I would suggest you to go for Chartboost. This amazingly powerful platform connects game developers all over the world. You can socialize with other developers and look out for cross-promotions along with direct deals. One great thing in Chartboost is that you only need 5 lines of code to get your gaming app ad online.Tapjoy
Why we brought Tapjoy into the list is because it offers you the power of a new phenomenon which they call incentivized download. You can advertise your gaming app to over 1 billion registered devices and over 77 million monthly active users. The best thing we found about Tapjoy is that you get sure short results i.e. for example if a user is playing a game that requires 10 more coins, to continue the game the user can buy it from the store or get the free coins needed by installing your app or viewing your gaming app advertisement (you can specify what you want users to do in-return to get more coins). This is an excellent platform for gaming apps advertisements.
Above all these, there are a few sure short guidelines for your games to get noticed. But before going into it that there is only one rule you need to remember in order to get heard. All the others are just fillers to your campaign; that is to make sure your content is engaging and for the right audience. Don’t ever use false marketing ways to get heard, good work is always appreciated though it may take more time at the start.Make sure your content is interactive (engaging games) Define your target market and design content accordingly (make sure you get insights on your target market before designing content) Start advertising your game app in your social circle, ask your friends and family to rate your application and write reviews on it. Make sure you have a hybrid marketing plan for your game app i.e. that includes social media as well as other paid advertisements on different popular apps. Make sure you enlist your games on various showcase forums so that other like-minded people can review your apps. Socialize within your developers circle, cross-promote each other games/applications to make the most out of your game apps.
After you have been working on a game for so long it is common to develop “blindness” to certain aspects. A good tip is to get a post it note and write that user experience is not only about how intuitive features in the user interface are, it is about the ENTIRE gaming experience as a whole (including game balancing, the retention and viral mechanics, even the graphics and ensuring that it goes with the theme of the overall game). Here are a few top tips from working in gaming:1. Let non gamers play it
Ask non-gaming/non-techy friends to have a play of the game and watch them play it. Write down anything that was too difficult or confused them. Try to avoid helping them straight away when they get stuck, but try to include a few cheats for you to input to get your player further in the game depending on how much of your game you want them to test.2. Get them to explain what they are doing
Ask your test players every so often why they are doing whatever it is that they are doing. The answers may surprise you. “Well I don’t want to enter that dungeon yet so I am just going to chop down bunch of trees first.” or “Completing that level is too much effort (probably a game balancing issue), so I’m just going to explore for a while” or “I do not know what to do so I’m not even going to bother paying attention to it or interacting with it.”3. Balance the goals
User experience design in video games isn’t just about captivating your players (but it’s a big part of it), it’s also about balancing the goals. The UI is where users invite their friends, spend money, and it’s through the UI that you can get people to come back – the user interface is perhaps one of the most important, if not THE most important way to meet/exceed your product goals. You want to create a enjoyable and fun gaming experience while also retaining players, increasing virality, and monetizing (if that is your thing). This is more ‘Product Management’, but every UX designer should understand some principles of product management (and every product manager should understand some principles of user experience design). Sometimes, to meet product goals, you have to compromise with delighting users. Your players will tell you one thing but do the complete opposite. Example: during testing, we had users complain that they hated how they had to spend 3 energies to chop down one tree. Their feedback to us was to get rid of it. If we got rid of it, it would severely disadvantage our balancing of the game. But guess what? Looking at their behavior, they still did it to advance in the game. You’ll only be able to measure this in an unreleased game if you do a couple of user tests. There are a few ways to do this, here are two:For bigger teams, get a good group of users (around 50 or so) to test your game while you’re developing it. Be sure to prepare surveys/questionaires to send them. If these are all power users, well, I’d take the results with a grain of salt, but you’ll have a good starting point in that the mechanics and features at least work for them. Try using a service like usertesting.com to test your game in front of completely new people that haven’t been exposed to any of your previous games. 4. Test features on existing games
Use existing games that are maturing as a testing ground. If you’re introducing a new mechanic/feature/balancing, scrap something quick together and release it in an existing game you have that’s maturing in its userbase. This is powerful in that you have real users interacting with the feature or mechanic or the game balance, and you can measure quantitatively rather than qualitatively. That being said, you should also keep confounding factors in mind (theme of the game could be totally different, and therefor it works…etc etc).5. Check out the Competition
See what the competition is doing – you might find that every so often, much larger games companies have a larger budget to test things against their users, so if it’s working for them, chances are, it’s something that works. You can use that as a starting point.6. Don’t reinvent the wheel
There is no point reinventing the wheel or get overly creative. If there’s a common convention for a certain feature or mechanic, stick with it. Chances are, it’s something your players are already used to and it’s something they understand, so seeing something completely different can confuse them or throw them off. For example: in social games, players are used to their neighbour/friends hud on the bottom and Quests on the side. This is a fairly common convention, and if you decided to have the quests on the bottom, and friends on the side, it could cause confusion and frustration.And remember
Making something simple is often harder than creating something complex. Don’t bury anything beyond two clicks – if you do, it’s probably something your users won’t take the time to find, or it’s something that’s not significant. And if it’s not significant, why have it in the first place? It’s just taking up server/bandwidth space.