The premium game model of development has a general cadence: pre-production, production, alpha, beta, and certification. There are variants of course, but that tends to be the gist of it. Alpha, beta, and cert are, of course, where we divert our attention from making features to the grueling task of fixing bugs. And, dear lord are those weeks painful. One house of cards to the next. But that’s just how it’s done, right? Yes that’s how it’s done. But it’s also incredibly inefficient. This model of delayed quality assurance means we fix bugs when it is maximally expensive to do so: at the end. After they’ve been buried under other bits of code that rely on those bugs being broken in exactly the way they are broken.
How can we wrap our heads around the chaos of game development? By understanding that the famous phrase “find the fun” implies something important: discovery. How do you manage the creative process? By acknowledging the latter word of the phrase: process. If you can understand how those terms related – and where they differ – you can appreciate something vital to effective production. That nothing we do in game development is completely devoid of process. And, if you can learn to separate the process from the discovery, then science becomes a weapon against the dark forces of development hell.
I will continue to tell anyone who will listen that Jim Collins’ Good to Great is the best business book I’ve ever read. Or, at least I will until I read something better. And in that wonderful tome, Collins’ presents a mantra: good is the enemy of great. His meaning: by being content with simply eeking along (being good), you will never take the steps necessary to be great. I totally agree with him, but I think there’s a corollary: perfection is the enemy of productivity.
This week’s post…is hosted elsewhere. I wrote a guest post for my new friends at Black Shell Media. The post, “If You Want to Lead, Know Your Values”, is about a topic near and dear to my heart. Values matter to any organization, no matter the size. They matter from a company culture standpoint, certainly. But they also matter operationally and strategically. The most successful companies in the world have well-defined corporate values. But what are their values and, more importantly, how should you pick your own? Click this link to read on!
In the corporate world, as a general rule, marketers and brand managers do not get involved in the creative aspects of advertising. Their job is to determine the strategy behind an ad campaign and then let the professional creatives do their thing. The job of the brand manager is to ensure that the ads are on strategy, but to leave the actual creation to the pros. Of course, as game developers, we are the creative pros. So that guiding principle just doesn’t sit right with me in the context of game development. Besides, I’d guess many or most indie studios probably can’t afford to hire professional creative agencies or trailer makers. So, to make the best use of the post, I’m going to walk through some of the important concepts behind ad creation. I’ll leave the decision as to who will craft the ad to you.
Everyone knows what advertisements are and why they are necessary to drive awareness. But making an effective ad is not as simple as just slapping some captured video into a YouTube upload and calling it a day. Your target audience is bombarded by ads all day, every-day. Your conscious mind spends much of its life practically bathing in them. So crafting a successful ad means assembling something that can cut through all of the noise and provide information that will stick. And the first step is determining a strategy for your ads.
Finance is hardly the most riveting topic, especially compared to video games. But, if you want to run an effective studio, you need to understand it. The implication of financial theory don’t just apply to your bank account. It should impact the calculus behind any strategic decisions. In this post, I talk about the “Law of One Price” and why it should give you pause before trying to imitate a successful game’s design.
Perception is reality, as the saying goes. Market positioning is the act of managing consumer perception of a product. This doesn’t mean misleading people or bending the facts. It means establishing and controlling the context in which you want your customers to consider your product. And effective positioning can make a world of difference between standing out from or getting lost in the crowd.
Once you’ve drilled down into your target segment and tested some of your assumptions, you now need to quantify whether that segment can be profitable. If you work for a major publisher, you have access to a professional marketing department that does this sort of thing for a living. But if you don’t, you’re not out of luck. You have an amazing tool at your disposal for free: Facebook.
Henry Ford once famously said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” More recently, Steve Jobs said “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” What these quotes are really getting at is the danger of interview-driven design. If you ask people what they want, they’ll just say “faster, better, cheaper.” And creating new products is YOUR job, not your customers’. It’s unreasonable to expect customers to tell you what products to make. Imagining completely new products is not their in their skillset.