The Decade in Games

Me @ the main floor

This article touches a talk I attended at Amsterdam White Nights 2020 conference. The talk is about statistics of the video games market in the past decade.

Numbers like these are often not available for starters in the industry because they require connections to acquire or a lot of money to get.
I Understand there are business reasons why numbers like these are often behind paywalls, but that way it is hard to get a picture of the opportunities in the game industry.

White Nights is a 2 days b2b event for game development related business to meet and do business. For more details on the White Nights conference and what it is (and not), I wrote this blog post.

The talk, ‘The decade in games’, is given by Oleg from the website Game World Observer and is all about trends and data in the last 10 years. There is a lot of data in this talk, almost all of is comes from Newzoo. Use the data to your advantage, but know that Newzoo has a lot more data and insights to share with you and they even have an Indi subscription coming up soon. And fav Game World Observer in your browser, if you didn’t have it already.

The total game market now is 49% for mobile, 30% console en 20% PC. From 2016 on China surpassed the US in having the biggest gaming economy. Google-play vs App-store market share is now 75% vs 25%, or 66% vs 33% if you look at spending. And if you look at distribution channels in general, last year AAA games like Borderlands 3 are doing 70% of their sales digital now.
Don’t be fooled by the looks of the PC market share: despite its low market share this sector is still the driving force behind most of the innovation taking place.

Interesting are the numbers of the top 10 sold games. It gives an insight in what the current market cap is for the biggest and baddest companies out there, so you know how relatively well you are doing as a small studio with smaller numbers.
Game units sold in the past 10 years ordered by the highest numbers, show the no 1 to no 10 doing from 180 million to 27 million units sold. Top 10 gross mobile games do 7 to 2 billion, top 10 downloads go from 2.5 billion to 300 million.

This was for sure the decade of gaming on mobile. The mobile platform did go trough a lot of changes: midcore, hyper casual, premium games, multiplayer, console-level graphics, AR games, synchronous multiplayer, hardcore shooters.
And there was the monetization evolution on mobile: from paid to freemium to free-to-play with IAP, going to subscription (VIP) and free-to-play with ads and now ending up on platform based subscription (on mobile platforms like google introduced recently). One thing to note: premium games are struggling as a model.

Digital distribution is the next subject. This decade has brought us a couple new marketplaces. The storefronts versus the first-party platforms. Steam, GoG, Humble Bundle, Itch.io and Epic as storefronts, accessible by studios from all sizes. The Microsoft Store, Origin, UPlay, Rockstar and Battle.net are the platforms with more stringent rules. All the platforms introduced subscriptions models in the last 10 years: UPlay (UPlay plus), Origin (access) and Microsoft (Game passes).

The speaker also touches on the Steam marketplace evolution as Steam being the market leader. And because of the much talked about Indiepocalypse, caused by Steam it’s policies. Steam is still busy transforming, with the latest addition being Steam Labs. Over the years the Steam platform has grown from 1000 titles in 2010 to 30000 titles now. But change is on the rise: the amount of new games added in 2019 is declining. A research ‘No more robots’ did when comparing 2018 sales on Steam with 2019 sales: games are selling for less now. The average price has gone down from 12 to 10, average sales down from 5000 to 1200, and average revenue from 30k to 16k.
However, the market for games that do over 1mln dollars is growing too. More people are failing, more are succeeding.

Another thing to mention: new genres that emerged this decade. The slides show nice pics from the games in their new genres. Looter shooter, Souls-like, Walking simulator, Survival, CCGS (collectable card games), Battle Royale, Clicker games, Auto battlers, (and MOBA –> added after a question from the audience).

Consoles this decade had 2 deliveries: the 7th generation and the 8th generation saw daylight. Currently PS4 is leading with 106mln units sold, Nintendo switch follow with 50mln and Xbox one has 41mln units sold. (So you know what the market shares are when you have the luxury to choose between those big platform/publishers)

And at last a quick review of cloud gaming. Playstation started it all with Playstation Now, Xbox is trying to catch up with project xCloud probably coupled to the Xbox game pass. Google (and other parties) are delivering cloud gaming. We are seeing more cross device sold games than ever. Are we going from hardware exclusive to ecosystem exclusive?

So, that’s the recap of the talk. I hope you can use it to make better informed decisions!

Jagex and Community decisions

This article is a summary of a talk I attended at Amsterdam White Nights 2020 conference.

White Nights is a 2 days b2b event for game development related business to meet and do business. For more details on the White Nights conference and what it is (and not), I wrote this blog post.

The announcement

Most developers and publishers claim to be “player-driven” and that “community is at their core” but few truly manage it. Jagex, the makers of the evergreen RuneScape franchise, have taken building and engaging with players to the next level, most recently bringing their PC MMOs to mobile. A 13 years veteran at Jagex, Neil will talk about how the studio has over time truly become player obsessed – the good, bad and ugly of doing so, and how you can successfully apply key learnings to your games.

The audience

I have moved to the green hall. In this room the atmosphere is bright with vivid green colors projected on the walls.

The talk

Neil is from Jagex, mainly known from Runescape. They are mainly based in Cambridge (UK) and have 400 people on their company. Player obsessed or community communication is a buzzword and a hype nowadays, but at Jagex practice these things for a long time already. They have a big community, 1 bln revenue, 240mln active users, 7 years average consumer lifetime, and 1.5mln people on social platforms.

At Jagex they identify a trend that is going on right now: publishers are de-risking. Games are seeing extended life-cycles. Players are putting down roots. Long time dedication is being rewarded. Gamers are playing fewer games, it its harder to get hold of players.
The main problem nowadays is product adoption. (He shows a nice picture of the Technology adoption life cycle.) Games have this this problem too. The part before the chasm is ‘relatively’ easy: just buy yourself into this part of the market with bribing of friends and relatives. But then comes the chasm to mass market. You need serious money to scale this large. But the risks are much bigger on that side of the chasm. this part of the market is a numbers game. You need to maximize ease of use and do large amounts of testing.
This picture identifiers a lot of the risk aversion we are seeing lately.

At Jagex they think you can overcome the chasm by being player obsessed. Player obsessed @ Jagex: amazing experiences by combining empathy with insights. Key ingredients: interpret needs, get rounded feedback from multiple resources, accept that there are a variety of play stiles within your game, address specific needs of your players (instead of generic) and verify these with testing.

Empowering players is hard to do right, but at Jagex they take this seriously. Players want to have visible impact on shaping the game. Runescape has seen 17 years of evolving. Back then the average players was another player than he/she is now. The average player now is a 22 year old US male. Things change over time of the game. But the world and the lives of the players themselves change too over the lifetime within that game. The key is to give players a voice: be able to listen and engage at scale. (Deep dives, dev stories, feature feedback, etc).

About that visible impact: Jagex implements player decision gates to allow players have real impact. The players can vote on content, where 75% of the votes need to be ‘yes’ before a decision is made. (FYI: The example showed 3 options per question: ‘Yes, no, skip’). The decision range from minor things like ‘what should a boss drop’ (reward) to big things like level scaling.
They have implemented over 2000 in-game updates this way over the past 7 years.

Celebrate your champions. In games that live as long as Runescape the games has been part of many lives for a long time. Award the developers and the community that have dedicated a portion of their life to your game. Give fan made stuff official support. (He shows an example of fan made Runescape-themed jewelry that is on sale now in the official store)

The benefits of player obsession. What does this focus bring you? Loyalty, lapse and return, advocacy, resilience. Resilience is needed for when markets shifts, at Jagex they have good results with their user-base being resilient.
An example is that they talk to players that left, and they think it is OK for players to leave. They accept that players come and go, but the thing is that a lot of these players get back after 8 months.

At Jagex they have a few activities you could too organize or support. Conventions, cosplay, game competition events (just for the sake of having content and a conversation with your community), player generated content all over the internet, merchandise, promote memes and other online visual/viral stuff.

The presentation has nearly come to an end. In conclusion. Offer amazing experiences by combining empathy with insight. Cross the chasm. Interpreted needs. Real empowerment. Lifestyle.

Questions of the audience

Q. Doesn’t this make you vulnerable to trolls?
A. Trolls are just very engaged and passionate. You can flip a saboteur to a champion more easily than someone in the middle.
A. How does this talk apply to an Indie?
Q. You have to scale down and just start interaction. You have to carry your product over the chasm.

This article was also posted on Tweakers as a reaction on them being sold.

Revenue expectations

How much income do I think my game dev will make me? To be honest: I will be glad if 2020 makes me 1000 euro.

In comparison. As some of you know I am a Freelance software developer for a max of 32 hours a week. My projection is this will get me roughly 75k in 2020, but that’s not what I can call my own because I need to deduct costs and taxes from that. After cost and taxes that would be 44k, but I can’t spend that all at once because I have to set aside quite a few thousands to manage risks and to pay back loans. It turns out this max 32-hours Freelance work is netting me slightly more than my previous job when I was employed by a company for 3300 euro a month.

Why all this numbers? Well, here are revenue numbers from other solo game developers. Thanks to a new movement more people are sharing the numbers, so a more realistic view can be achieved.

The first one: a mobile game with ads and in-game items. The numbers date oktober 2019. Made by a developer in his spare time besides working on a fulltime job as his first game, in 8 months. To me this really resonates because his journey, circumstances and revenue looks like mine during ‘Find the Gnome’. He had 800 downloads and a total revenue of $20 gross after a month. (Yes, twenty dollars) He had invested like $265 on accounts and stuff so he is on $-244 for this one. He had build up a YouTube following of 2000 subscribers, so that also a ‘revenue’ he got.
He is hoping for the so called ‘long tail’ to build up when he releases more games in the coming years and this will eventually provide him with enough income.

Here a bigger one from a guy that is doing this 7 years now, and this is his 8th game. The numbers date december 2019. He sold 3700 units on steam giving him $27k gross revenue in the first months, and $120k in the total lifetime. But after tax cut and steam revenue cut $50k is what he can take home (but he has yet to deduct his own costs from that). This guy has a a YouTube following of 112k subscribers. He worked 17 months on this game.

Here A guy on mobile games making them for years now, he has a lot of games with numbers in this talk but I cite the two most recent ones. November 2018: a free game with ads and in app purchases, in 5 weeks it made $2150 with IAP and $4550 with Ads, and in 7 months approximately $50k. March 2019: a premium (paid) game, in 5 weeks it made roughly $7000. This guy has made some major connections over the years and has developed a feeling for the mobile promotion system over the years that give him the required exposure to get these numbers.

Another guy, married and with 1 child, doing game dev in his spare time besides his job. (But I was relieved to know his background is from withing the game industry as a technical artist, because this guy definitely has the feeling.) He made the game in 18 months (or ~1000 hours), it did costs him $10k, had a revenue of $150k in one year, and was released in September 2017. He had quite some success getting exposure on Reddit, he knew how to get the right type of attention.

And then ‘Find the Gnome’, my game. Build in 7 months (or ~500 hours). Revenue over 2 years: $250. But that is before steam cuts, so I have got only one payment of $100 so far. It did cost me to setup steam for $100 so I’m at $0 now.

Another video, but this one is the inspiration of a lot of solo game developers (a few of the above mention this speak). In this video he describes a ‘long tail’, that is the idea that you just start making games and over time people get to know you for your type of games, you get better at building games, improve previous games, and all that resulting in steadily increasing profits from your own games. At the time of the talk he was busy for 11 years already, and had needed 6 years to build up some momentum. Disclaimer from my part: his success started in the long-gone golden years of indie on steam, so I don’t know how repeatable this is in the current market.

So, to wrap it all up: I will be creating a few games myself this year. And I hope they will get me some money, 1000 euro total would be a big win for me and a head start.
I too got inspired by the ‘long tail’ video a few years ago, and even I think that’s the way to go when doing solo game dev or indie dev.

My next release will be Gearful on the Google play store, somewhere around the 15th of March this year (a month from now on). The game is the idea of the GlobalGameJam but with 40 hours into polishing, and some Ads for the revenue. I think it will net $10.

Beyond survivor-ship bias

I waited long before entering the game dev scene. For a long time I thought “well, maybe I’m not ready yet” and then another year passed by. But over time I got inspired by success stories of little studios making a name for themselves.

There are a lot of inspiring stories out there, like ‘Indie Games: The movie’, Minecraft (1 person hit, sold for 2 billion, still nr 1 game after many years), Stardew Valley (1 developer) or the many other stories that are on YouTube.

I don’t want to spoil the fun, and get demotivated, by stories like ‘for that 1 person to succeed 1000 others are failing’. But I do like to look at those stories from multiple perspectives. Therefore I have collected a mix YouTube video’s for inspiration purpose and the down-to-earth calls.

The stories

An down-to-earth article (2018) on how to run a sustainable Indie studio:

And a 2019 follow up on this video, with a lot of helpful stuff for starting game dev business (aside from the realistic perspective they give on game dev):

The next video (2016) was the most inspiring one to me to get me started. To me the numbers is presented proved to me my model would work. My idea was that if you just start by working on necessary thing each day you will eventually build up something after some time:

I personally wanted to get a stable job after leaving school because I wanted to settle together with my wife. But even in 2010 a lot of people were hoping to hit big time themselves. A few tips for them (This one is from 2018):

Jenkins build with Unity3D

If you want to spend less time building and fixing bugs you want to setup a build/test pipeline for your Unity3D projects.

I did this with Jenkins because I like to start small. I know of services like Azure DevOps en Unity Cloud: they are fun to start with but very expensive if you continue using it. Azure is not suited for Unity3D because of the installation requirements, so Unity Cloud is the only go-to.

Or you use a local setup like I’m trying to create with Jenkins:

For more info on the Unity3D command line arguments: https://docs.unity3d.com/Manual/CommandLineArguments.html

This is the final build script I came up with:

// -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
// Assets/Editor/JenkinsBuild.cs
// -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
using UnityEngine;
using UnityEditor;
using System.Collections.Generic;
using UnityEditor.Build.Reporting;
 
// ------------------------------------------------------------------------
// https://docs.unity3d.com/Manual/CommandLineArguments.html
// ------------------------------------------------------------------------
public class JenkinsBuild {
 
    static string[] EnabledScenes = FindEnabledEditorScenes();
 
    // ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    // called from Jenkins
    // ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    public static void BuildMacOS()
    {
        var args = FindArgs();

        string fullPathAndName = args.targetDir + args.appName + ".app";
        BuildProject(EnabledScenes, fullPathAndName, BuildTargetGroup.Standalone, BuildTarget.StandaloneOSX, BuildOptions.None);
    }

    // ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    // called from Jenkins
    // ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    public static void BuildWindows64()
    {
        var args = FindArgs();

        string fullPathAndName = args.targetDir + args.appName;
        BuildProject(EnabledScenes, fullPathAndName, BuildTargetGroup.Standalone, BuildTarget.StandaloneWindows64, BuildOptions.None);
    }

    // ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    // called from Jenkins
    // ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    public static void BuildLinux()
    {
        var args = FindArgs();

        string fullPathAndName = args.targetDir + args.appName;
        BuildProject(EnabledScenes, fullPathAndName, BuildTargetGroup.Standalone, BuildTarget.StandaloneLinux64, BuildOptions.None);
    }

    private static Args FindArgs()
    {
        var returnValue = new Args();

        // find: -executeMethod
        //   +1: JenkinsBuild.BuildMacOS
        //   +2: FindTheGnome
        //   +3: D:\Jenkins\Builds\Find the Gnome\47\output
        string[] args = System.Environment.GetCommandLineArgs();
        var execMethodArgPos = -1;
        bool allArgsFound = false;
        for (int i = 0; i < args.Length; i++)
        {
            if (args[i] == "-executeMethod")
            {
                execMethodArgPos = i;
            }
            var realPos = execMethodArgPos == -1 ? -1 : i - execMethodArgPos - 2;
            if (realPos < 0)
                continue;

            if (realPos == 0)
                returnValue.appName = args[i];
            if (realPos == 1)
            {
                returnValue.targetDir = args[i];
                if (!returnValue.targetDir.EndsWith(System.IO.Path.DirectorySeparatorChar + ""))
                    returnValue.targetDir += System.IO.Path.DirectorySeparatorChar;

                allArgsFound = true;
            }
        }

        if (!allArgsFound)
            System.Console.WriteLine("[JenkinsBuild] Incorrect Parameters for -executeMethod Format: -executeMethod JenkinsBuild.BuildWindows64 <app name> <output dir>");

        return returnValue;
    }


    // ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    // ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    private static string[] FindEnabledEditorScenes(){
 
        List<string> EditorScenes = new List<string>();
        foreach (EditorBuildSettingsScene scene in EditorBuildSettings.scenes)
            if (scene.enabled)
                EditorScenes.Add(scene.path);

        return EditorScenes.ToArray();
    }
 
    // ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    // e.g. BuildTargetGroup.Standalone, BuildTarget.StandaloneOSX
    // ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    private static void BuildProject(string[] scenes, string targetDir, BuildTargetGroup buildTargetGroup, BuildTarget buildTarget, BuildOptions buildOptions)
    {
        System.Console.WriteLine("[JenkinsBuild] Building:" + targetDir + " buildTargetGroup:" + buildTargetGroup.ToString() + " buildTarget:" + buildTarget.ToString());
 
        // https://docs.unity3d.com/ScriptReference/EditorUserBuildSettings.SwitchActiveBuildTarget.html
        bool switchResult = EditorUserBuildSettings.SwitchActiveBuildTarget(buildTargetGroup, buildTarget);
        if (switchResult)
        {
            System.Console.WriteLine("[JenkinsBuild] Successfully changed Build Target to: " + buildTarget.ToString());
        }
        else
        {
            System.Console.WriteLine("[JenkinsBuild] Unable to change Build Target to: " + buildTarget.ToString() + " Exiting...");
            return;
        }
 
        // https://docs.unity3d.com/ScriptReference/BuildPipeline.BuildPlayer.html
        BuildReport buildReport = BuildPipeline.BuildPlayer(scenes, targetDir, buildTarget, buildOptions);
        BuildSummary buildSummary = buildReport.summary;
        if (buildSummary.result == BuildResult.Succeeded)
        {
            System.Console.WriteLine("[JenkinsBuild] Build Success: Time:" + buildSummary.totalTime + " Size:" + buildSummary.totalSize + " bytes");
        }
        else
        {
            System.Console.WriteLine("[JenkinsBuild] Build Failed: Time:" + buildSummary.totalTime + " Total Errors:" + buildSummary.totalErrors);
        }
    }

    private class Args
    {
        public string appName = "AppName";
        public string targetDir = "~/Desktop";
    }
}

I had a lot of help following the article from https://smashriot.com/unity-build-automation-with-jenkins/ but their instructions where a bit lacking for me. The Unity3D build script they provided was too hard-coded to be usable for me.

GlobalGameJam 2020

I attended the 2020 globalgamejam.org gamejam hosted by BUas in Breda, Netherlands. On our location over 200 jammers did a hackaton-alike attempt at creating novel games.

Together with two other jammers, Tom and Ben, I constructed the game ‘gearful’ during the 48 hours gamejam. Check out this brief video for the gameplay:

Gameplay of Gearful

The theme of the gamejam this year was ‘repair’. So our game is about repairing a machine. It is a puzzle game were you align gears and remove obstacles to rotate the ending gear.

The game features 9 levels with increasing difficulty. There are 3 gear sizes. Some puzzles require interaction from multiple angles to solve it. you can interact with gears or with sliding bars (that block the gears). And the whole game is physics based.
It is a 3D game. You can rotate freely around the puzzle. The games comes with a background music.
It is made using Unity and a lot of freeware assets.

We did have fun building the game, a good team interaction and accomplished quite well what we aimed for at the start. For me that’s all I wanted so I really enjoyed this jam.

For Tom you can find more of his works over at https://auroriax.com/ and https://auroriax.itch.io/.
The official Jam site with this submission is https://globalgamejam.org/2020/games/project-gearful-8.

The game felt like it is a promising prototype, so who knows what this game eventually will become…

Attending Amsterdam White Nights 2020

I am an Indie developer and I want to spend my resources wisely. I couldn’t find that much detail on what to expect on Amsterdam White Nights. So here is my 2020 take on the Amsterdam White Nights Conference.

TLDR: nice event, good talks, not that great for a starting or small Indie unless you are into mobile and have a released game already (or the talks feature subjects you are really interested in like I was).

White Nights

White Nights is a 2 days b2b event for game development related business to meet and do business. They are held throughout the year and settle down in Amsterdam, Barcelona and St. Petersburg.

If you look at their site you see it is a conference, a trade fair and a business network event. The normal entry fee is 350 euro’s, but if you are an Indie developer you can beg to get it down to 150, and that’s excluding traveling and stay costs (and the 2 days spend not earning money).

The main event is 2 days from 10:00 to 18:00, and there is a pre party (mainly networking), after party (mainly networking) and on the 2 main event days you can attend to an evening networking event. Depending on your ticket you can or cannot attend certain parties.

During the day the trade fair is situated on the main floor. In and around the main floor are meeting spots, and they have a website facilitating you getting in touch with others in those meeting spots. Also during the day there is food and there are drinks, and they organize events all-day so you have another opportunity to meet.

On my visit of 2020 in Amsterdam they had a lot of talks prepared during the 2 day main event, divided over 3 rooms. Most of the talks were 30 minute talks and some 60 minutes. And they were tightly scheduled, most of the talks being in parallel in the 3 rooms.

During the day and evening there were a lot of moments especially designed to get to talk to other attendees.
A major percentage of those attendees had titles that hinted on being developers in their daily work, followed by salesmen of all kinds. Only a few press like people. And definitely no consumers (as this is a b2b event).

What’s for sale?

This was the first time I attended, so I didn’t know what to expect. It is also the first b2b game dev event I ever attended to. I did read a few reviews on forehand of people mentioning ‘it is a real b2b event and one of the best in the Eurasia region’.
Well, I don’t have that much to compare to. The stand floor was roughly 50% game devs showing their games (mainly Indie), 10% game devs showing their b2b production capabilities, and 40% publishers. And the attendees were definitely all into game dev in some ways, as I could read from their job titles on their cards.

I don’t know if this conference is a good representation of the Eurasia game dev industry. But what I do know is that it is organized by a Russian company and a lot of the business on display looks to be of Russian and Asian origin. Further more, it is heavily mobile focused.

And there were talks. The main reason I attended this conference.
The talks I attended to where of good quality. The audience was a bit dull on questions (that includes me :P), but that didn’t withhold the speakers to deliver refreshing insights.

One thing I did skip was the possibility to get to meet other parties. During the day and evening there were a lot of moments especially designed to get to talk to other attendees. From what I heard of the people I spoke to, the conference was effective in facilitating talks and doing business (If the kind of people you seek was on display or attending the event).

So?

So, it is a real b2b event. And a big one, no doubt about that.

Worth your time? I don’t know… If you are in Europe, are into mobile and seeking for investments to accelerate the growth of your mobile audiences… then yes you have to be here.
From what I heard a lot of the businesses on display this year only wanted to invest in published games with (a bit of) track-record. So definitely no seed funding…

And the event isn’t that focused on the Indie side. Yes a lot of developers are showcasing their games. But you don’t get b2c exposure here (duh!), and not that much press neither. To me it seems events like this are worthwhile for the long run because you can connect here with people that can make things possible down the road sometime.
So keep this in mind when you want to determine if it is worthwhile going to this event…

Was it worth my own time? I enjoyed being there. Nice food, nice people, good talks. And it was definitely worth my time because of the many insightful talks I attended to.

GameFeelings is official now

As of 1 January 2020 GameFeelings is an official Dutch registered company. I, Erik de Roos, have quite my job to give GameFeelings dedicated time.

This website has had an overhaul to support the new course for GameFeelings. The main products are: experiments/academic research, games (from experiments), blog posts (about the experiments/research)

The main product is ‘game production’ and I want to continue doing experiments with games like Find the Gnome. But I want to focus more on the ‘helping others find efficient game production techniques’ so I am going to add joined academic research on ‘game production’ to the list of products.

If you are wondering, GameFeelings is part of my brand ‘Erik de Roos Software‘. That is because I can’t make a living of GameFeelings alone. Currently most of my time goes to freelance work in business software development.

Time flies, how to sustain the fun

I am planning on adding a big update to Find the Gnome for over a year now. But life isn’t letting me, so I’m going to cheat.

The promise

The idea was simple: bring out Find the Gnome, and then add continues updates to it. Increasing (or maintaining) it’s value.

I had invested a lot of free time in Find the Gnome, so some other projects had to wait. Maintaining my house was one of the urgent projects that needed my time, so I made the promise to first fix my house and then continue on Find the Gnome.

Reality Kicking in

The reality is there are always things that need my time and attention. I don’t have that much spare time at hands because of other choices I made in life.

I’m a husband and father, and I want to dedicate a portion of my life to them. Plus I have to get a steady income for them and supply them with good housing and education. That’s already more that 40 hours/week of work and focus.

All my private and professional projects take way longer then anticipated, due to less focus and free time available than I foresaw. I hear from other fathers of young children that this is but a phase of life, and you have to accept it and just wait for better times to come.

For me another thing is on the line: I want to get into game development. I’m currently a software developer consultant in business software, so I need experience in the field of game development to be able to switch.
Combine all things said earlier, and you can imagine I’m having a hard time realizing my dreams.

Time well spend

So I’m currently looking for cheats, and this is what I did find already:

  • It is in our heads things get a meaning. This is and must be the fundamentals to build your business on. Sustainable business profit can’t be achieved without motivation. And in this self-motivation is the key, because all other forms of motivation are unstable to build reliable on.
    Why is this relevant? I came to realize my motivation is mostly based on what others think or what I ‘think’ other think. And those thoughts hunt me and deprive me of my joy in creating things. Like the thought that bringing out an update to Find the Gnome has a deadline. But goals like that don’t expire. You could argue that business wise it probably already expired 3 months after release, but lets be honest: a large portion of professional business objectives need passion and dedication and aren’t that profitable. Life has to be lived, and we need work to feel empowered and to have a meaning. Meaning is something we give to things, this is not something mathematically or scientifically connected to work. So when I think: ‘this update makes me proud’, it makes me proud. (It just isn’t a way to make money for a living though 😛 )
  • Experiences can be gathered from a lot more sources than ‘professionally building games’. That is because tasks have two types of experience in it: the most obvious is the act of executing the task, this will get better and easier over time. And if you don’t do the specific task, your at a standstill. But the other one is way more subtle, and often overlooked when talked about experience: thinking on the task at hand. That thinking is often called ‘seniority’, but I think that is too simplistic. And I like to add that different tasks seems to need different ‘thinking spaces‘.
    Improvements to these thinking spaces seem to be more time related than action related, hence the ‘seniority’ often attributed. But there is more to it: these thinking spaces are only improved by self-reflection in combination with peer pressure. You need time to give certain thoughts way, but you can speed up the process immensely by adding peer pressure that is regulated by a healthy doses of self esteem combined with self-reflection.
    Why is this relevant? I can’t make time to focus on designs for a big update. But I can spend a few minutes to make a custom map for my favorite game, and on the way I learn from the community to improve my level-building-think-space (probably faster then when developing own tools first and having a small audience). I can’t spend hours to design and decorate large systems, but I can spend minutes decorating my house in real life or combining new outfits and talk about it with my wife, improving my design-think-space (and learn to appreciate my wife more in the process :P).

Continues updates (or: after-launch support)

A big con against using Agile with Continues Deployment in gamedev is for me the question: ‘is it feasible as a business model’? Because at the end of the day the amount of work put into continues updates must be profitable to run a business.

This is an article in the ‘Research’ category where I dive into a subject on game production.

The case at hand

I am currently thinking a lot about how to continue in developing Find the Gnome, but a lot more ‘Agile’ and User-centered.

I am a professional software developer doing Agile/DevOps/Google design sprints/CI&CD/Metrics driven development/what-else, and I think this is one of my strong points that I should emphasis while developing games. (See my other blogs for more on these subjects)

Recently a Youtube of GDC 2019 caught my attention (thanks google suggestions!) It is a case study from Nick Popovich (Monomi Park), explaining his success. These are the points he made:

  • Keep your game essential (refine on it). And aim these essentials to provide an experience that is able to sell over time.
  • It is all about concurrent players (online, or offline) that are using your game. By using it they are advertising it (through conscious or unconscious updates to friends that they are liking this game)
  • It revolves around a continues game update cycle that keep the ‘concurrent users’ train going (and accelerating, if possible).

His points align very well with my Agile approach to gamedev I want to take.

The cons

However, I spotted some flaws already on my experiment. For me these flaws aren’t that of an issue, but time will tell.

  • Nick Popovich is making money using this approach, but will others? Or was he just lucky?
  • You can’t just keep updating games, you will run out of money eventually. Or, on the contrary, you can’t just stop updating your game if you had just 1 bad month. In this talk the motivation behind the decisions sounds a lot like voodoo magic: the cause and causality of things aren’t analyzed well.
    A start could be in the Q&A part of the YouTube (https://youtu.be/DTvBgmNL-p0?t=3533) where Nick Popovich gives a rough guide on how he uses sales data to space out content updates. I think the ‘something’-like-a-service business model (through all kind of business) are in a maturing stage right now, and more guides on this subject are going to hit the markets in the coming years.

Next

Well, see it for yourself in this YouTube vid and decide if it is worth trying.