Software Promoters?

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Posts: 304
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Post: #31
It seems to be somewhat of an industry secret, but can you tell us how many registrations a Ambrosia hit gets? How many do you think if it was distributed solo? Unlike, say soundscan which gives you a feel for how many music-cd's are sold - there is no shareware equivalent. Kagi used to publish the top ten on their web page - but no longer. I can of course see the danger of this. If you sell too much - people might feel they dont have to register since you already have so many registrations. Too little - people might not try your wares since obviously those that had, didnt feel it was registration-worthy.

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Interesting. I don't recall offering a contract to anyone in recent memory that was turned down. Could you refresh my memory?
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this was more than a year ago - and to be honest it is possible that it was that he spoke with a developer friend that worked for you and asked what deal he got - which of course would make it 2nd hand confidentiality-agreement-breaking information. I cant find the email exchange - it was a while (and a number of computers) ago. I liked/trusted this person. He never gave me hard numbers - just that he thought it would be better to go it alone.

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In any event, yes, publishers of any kind do take a large cut
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I dont think my post was downplaying the role that shareware publishers play in producing/distributing wares. There is a lot more that just code/design that goes into a successful title. Im not minimizing that. Most authors dont want to be book publishers - most rock-stars dont want to be music publishers. Programming (I find) is rewarding - its like you have this puzzle to figure out. It would seem very rewarding to concentrate just on that - and leave all that other *stuff* to someone else.

Fine - the internet bubble has burst. Most of it was junk anyway. But while overhyped - the internet does change things for us. There is something to be said for wanting to be the next Ambrosia. Unlike, say, book publishing - there is minimal startup costs involved. You need a server and bandwidth (which you can rent from an ISP when you start out), Kagi or DigitalRiver or someone to take cards, and lots and lots and lots (and lots) of endless elbowgrease. You first games will sell nowhere near as well as if they were dirstributed by Ambrosia. But you are working on getting a reputation from the netizens for doing good work. Maybe your next title will get more downloads because people sort of remember that first title. Its massive amounts of sweat equity - with no guarantees. But - what do you want? Folks, do you want to sign your emails/posts 'el Presidente' and have that mean something? Personally Im not sure - I can imagine easily getting so swamped with the technical details of running a business that I dont focus on the code like the laser I need to be. But still...

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Being able to actually finish a project is a skill unto itself, and one that isn't easily learned without doing
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you aint kidding. In his case - he was (I thought) pretty far along. In my case I have a hard drive full of aborted projects that I thought were good ideas when I started. Im guessing this sounds very familiar to most people reading this.

I see a lot of posts here on idev along the lines of "Im making a game" (who of us isnt?) - "you should contribute artwork/code/design - I cant pay you but it will be good experience for you." The majority of these are going nowhere (Hooptie being the very happy exception) Having a geocities web-page or a yahoo-list doesnt make you a developer. Show me one project you have ever finished. You want art - fine - show artists your game alpha/beta with your placeholder coder art. You need code - fine - show programmers your design document. Otherwise - why join you - b/c you know enough html to put up a web page saying how kewl its going to be?

Build something first. Get people on your team 2nd. If you get people to join you (or work for you) - you are taking their time and skills. You now have a responsibility to make sure you finish what you started.

That said - so I am not a complete hypocrite - Im going to keep my big yap shut for a while and get back to programming.

Codemattic

PS - I was one of your beta testers for Maelstrom waaay back when the internet was but a gleam in TBL's eye. (I think I was listed as Mathias) It was fun - and I learned much about how projects progress and grow. And of course the importance of enlisting good artists and writers and testers.
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moki
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Post: #32
Quote:Originally posted by codemattic
It seems to be somewhat of an industry secret, but can you tell us how many registrations a Ambrosia hit gets? How many do you think if it was distributed solo?

Sorry, that information is private.

Another poster in this thread was right, in that if a product isn't marketed, supported, distributed, and reviewed widely and well, it isn't going to do well.

Quote:Originally posted by codemattic
this was more than a year ago - and to be honest it is possible that it was that he spoke with a developer friend that worked for you and asked what deal he got - which of course would make it 2nd hand confidentiality-agreement-breaking information. I cant find the email exchange - it was a while (and a number of computers) ago. I liked/trusted this person. He never gave me hard numbers - just that he thought it would be better to go it alone.

Many people who are inexperienced in the business make the same mistake; they say "What?? I'm only getting 20%?? Screw that, I'll do it all myself." Meanwhile the reality is that the support costs in terms of marketing, tech support, promotion, contact with reviewers, distribution, quality assurance, etc, etc. are significant -- and as I pointed out earlier, any time you spend doing these things is time spend away from your skill as a game developer.

Here's a simple analogy from my life right now. I just bought a new house, and I want it painted. Buying the supplies won't cost me much money, and I might say "Hell, I'm not paying someone $3,000 to paint my house when the paint is only $200!" However, I'm not a skilled painter, and there is more to it than a layman might imagine. Additionally, it would take me a lot of time to paint the house myself, and I can earn more money per hour at doing what I do well (developing/publishing) than painting my house. I paid to have it painted.

Much of this is hidden people who don't know how things really work -- they say "I'll write my game, throw it up on VersionTracker, and keep all my money -- screw the greedy publishers who want to take 80% of it!" This is understandable, but flawed thinking.

Quote:Originally posted by codemattic
involved. You need a server and bandwidth (which you can rent from an ISP when you start out), Kagi or DigitalRiver or someone to take cards, and lots and lots and lots (and lots) of endless elbowgrease. You first games will sell nowhere near as well as if they were dirstributed by Ambrosia. But you are working on getting a reputation from the netizens for doing good work. Maybe your next title will get more downloads because people sort of remember that first title. Its massive amounts of sweat equity - with no guarantees. But - what do you want? Folks, do you want to sign your emails/posts 'el Presidente' and have that mean something? Personally Im not sure - I can imagine easily getting so swamped with the technical details of running a business that I dont focus on the code like the laser I need to be. But still....

That's a personal choice. If you want to try to "go your own", then go for it. I think you may find, however (like most developers find) that they loathe to do the day to day work that needs to be done to build and maintain something like this. This is something that is hard to explain to someone who has it set in their mind, and has never been through the actual process. It is exceedingly difficult to work with people who are new to the industry, because they don't even know enough to know what they don't know -- if you get my meaning.

There's no reason you can't be an "el Presidente" of your own development company, and still work with a publisher. These infrastructure institutions exist because they are useful and needed, not just to siphon off cash from poor lowly developers.

I can tell you from my own personal experience that there are many times that I wish I were able to spend more time developing. Don't get me wrong, I love doing what I'm doing -- but I don't spend as much time coding as I'd like to, and it is hard to really perfect your skills unless you are immersed in it 24/7 for your job.

Quote:Originally posted by codemattic
you aint kidding. In his case - he was (I thought) pretty far along. In my case I have a hard drive full of aborted projects that I thought were good ideas when I started. Im guessing this sounds very familiar to most people reading this.

This is another thing an experience publisher can help you with -- they will make sure the product gets done. It's incredibly easy to get a product to 80% completion -- it is hard to finish a polished game. Someone with experience doing that, and the technical tools/skills to make it happen can be invaluable. "Management" is often derided as doing nothing useful, but this really isn't the case.

Some of the projects we've worked on very likely would never have shipped (or at least not in the polished form they did) without our direct involvement as a producer. But how do you quantify something like this? It is easy to say after the fact "Well, I could have done it without you" (and this is true in some cases, but definitely not all) -- but it may not be accurate.

Quote:Originally posted by codemattic
I see a lot of posts here on idev along the lines of "Im making a game" (who of us isnt?) - "you should contribute artwork/code/design - I cant pay you but it will be good experience for you." The majority of these are going nowhere (Hooptie being the very happy exception) Having a geocities web-page or a yahoo-list doesnt make you a developer. Show me one project you have ever finished. You want art - fine - show artists your game alpha/beta with your placeholder coder art. You need code - fine - show programmers your design document. Otherwise - why join you - b/c you know enough html to put up a web page saying how kewl its going to be?

Sure, most projects go nowhere -- but if you sign on with a publisher, they *will* go somewhere, you can count on it (unless the publisher realizes it is hopeless and decides to cut their losses -- which has only happened to us once, and given that person's track record after the fact, we're incredibly glad we didn't end up working with them).

Quote:Originally posted by codemattic
PS - I was one of your beta testers for Maelstrom waaay back when the internet was but a gleam in TBL's eye. (I think I was listed as Mathias) It was fun - and I learned much about how projects progress and grow. And of course the importance of enlisting good artists and writers and testers.

Ah, cool. Yeah, that was a fun project. At that point, I already had years of experience developing and shipping products (I started in high school), and someone had posted something online about it not being possible to do fast 256 color animation on the state of the art Macs at the time. I took it as a challenge, and it was a fun way to hone my 68K asm skills.

The source code to Maelstrom is incredible ugly, because the actual game itself is written almost 100% in assembler -- but it was extremely fast, and it was a case where without that technical base, the game itself wouldn't have turned out to be fun. It was written over the summer during my junior year in college (I went to school for photojournalism). Here's the asm source code to the core of the game; no rocket science at all, but a lot of time was spent tweaking the critical portions of the code to make sure it was fast enough:

http://janus.ambrosiasw.com/~andrew/MaelstromBlit.c

That was definitely one of the most enjoyable projects I've worked on -- but again, I had some experience already, and I was the "strong lead" that is needed to make a project succeed. The artists who worked on it were incredible at making artwork that for the time was better than anything else out there.

Ah, the days of my old 20mhz Mac IIsi....

http://www.apple-history.com/IIsi.html

That's right folks -- Maelstrom may not seem like much today, but I had to write it so that it would animate fast on a 20mhz processor with a 20mhz bus. How times have changed...
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moki
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Post: #33
One other thing real quick. You may think you've come up with a great game design -- and perhaps you have -- but it is also extremely useful to be working with someone who has experience in the industry, that can help you with the design.

They can tell you what is fun and what isn't -- this may seem obvious, but it actually is a skill that takes a significant amount of experience to be good at. Many people don't even know what they want; beta testers and users may think they know what they want, but they often don't. It takes talent and experience to be able to diagnose such things.

Here's a recent specific example. As you know, we just released a game called pop-pop. The author of the game did an incredible job taking an existing concept, and moving it far beyond "breakout" -- giving the game an enourmous amount of style of fun (he also did the artwork -- quite a talented fellow). However, in the original game, the paddle just moved side-to-side like the old breakout paddle did. This was OK, but didn't feel satisfying to me.

I suggest that the paddle should work like an air-hockey paddle -- you should be able to put English on the ball, by hitting it on the side, speeding it up by whacking it, or slowing it down by doing a "fade hit" on the ball. Not only did this make the game more fun, but it make it more tactile -- the gamer gets really physically into the game by thrusting and whacking at the ball.

When the game was in late beta, everything was looking good, but something else was bugging me. The the game was, when you sent bricks over to the other player, they appeared as solid black bricks, with one flashing brick. If you hit that one flashing brick in time, you sent *all* of the bricks back to the other player as solid bricks.

This made it really dangerous to send a lot of bricks over to the other player. It felt wrong. It felt like you were always playing defensively, trying not to send bricks over to the other player. You weren't attacking at all, you were playing scared. It also introduced an achilles heel into the game: it was pretty easy to win by clearing the screen if you got good at hitting this one brick, and it always felt cheap if you lost in that manner (which happened a lot).

OK, so I identified something I didn't like -- that is a skill in itself, but more importantly is being able to suggest a solution to the problem (which can only happen when the problem is fully identified and understood). I suggested that you had to hit each individual brick in order to send it back, and that any bricks you didn't kill would turn to solid bricks (two hits to get rid of). The latter part of this idea was nixed and never tried, because the author thought it would be too harsh -- but the former suggestion is how the game is now.

pop-pop very nearly shipped with the gameplay as I originally described; this is an example of what I mean by an experienced eye being a good thing. It isn't a statement about the author's skill at all -- but rather that no one can see everything, and having a critical set of experienced eyes looking at the game can be extroadinarily useful.

In terms of the technical side of things, we provided a number of libraries for use in pop-pop, including our cross-platform networking library. This in itself was useful, because it let the game author do what he does best (design good games) and not have to worry about the technical details of such low-level tools. Yes, there are "open source" alternatives to things like networking libraries, but many of them aren't that great, and unless you know a lot about networking, you don't know enough to know why they aren't that great. A catch-22 in a sense, because you're using the libraries because you don't want to have to deal with the details, but if you don't know those details, you won't understand why your networking performance sucks.

More important that the actual code libraries is the experience developing/debugging such things. It's one thing to use a networking library; it is another thing entirely to know how to use it effectively in high-latency environments such as an Internetworkable game. Having source code or a library is one thing; having intimate knowledge and experience about a complex thing like networking is another -- and this is a case where we were able to help make it all happen.

Somone with industry experience can also help by suggesting things like what features *need* to be present in a game for it to go over well. At a time when many developers were pissed off about Mac OS X, and everything new they had to learn, we were heavily recommending that any games being worked on in that timeframe were Mac OS X native. We knew that OS X was Apple's future, we knew that Carbonizing a game wasn't really that hard (even if the initial approach/learning curve was frustrating), and we knew that while only a small percentage of the Mac base had adopted Mac OS X, those were the active buyers/enthusiasts.

So we insisted on Mac OS X native versions, and in some cases this would not have happened withot our insistance (and indeed, we did the carbonization of one game in-house, because we deemed it that critical to have happen).

These are just a few specific examples of how working with someone else who has experience is incredibly useful -- something that may seem somewhat intangeable. Finally, don't discount the value of having a "management" team there that just makes sure work is getting done -- holding people accountable, asking for progress reports, making suggestions, and just generally producing the title to make sure it ships.

It is really hard to work on your own, especially after you've been doing it for a number of years. Having experienced people there as a sanity check, for guidance purposes, and to make sure the project is moving forward really can't be underestimated.
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moki
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Post: #34
(I didn't get to finish my thought, and this forum isn't letting me edit my message for some reason)

re: working on your own, what can often happen is you become closed to the input of others, your motivation gets sapped, and you may well end up going in the wrong direction in terms of over-engineering something, focusing on what isn't important, etc. Working with someone can mitigate these factors, especially when they are experienced at product development.

This says nothing about the talent of the people involved, but rather simply that it is much easier to learn from someone else's mistakes/experience than do make your own. Often developers are too close to a project to realize what they could be doing better, or what they should be focusing on.

Being open to the input of others in situations like this is incredibly important, assuming that input it useful.
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Posts: 145
Joined: 2002.06
Post: #35
Quote:Originally posted by Camacho
To the member who posted about their uDevGame entry. The contest offers a few options of licenses. Tis true that the "uDevGame License" is most strict, and along the lines of Doom code license. We don't require your finsihed game assets either, placer art is fine so that the project can at least compile. So what I am saying is, there is nothing holding you back from turning your uDevGame entry into a big hit after the contest.

The publisher might not want to publish a game where large amounts of the original code are available. If a publisher wants control over who develops content for their game, having existing code to read and utilize the package files would make developing an editor significantly easier. It could also lead to unauthorized (and prohibited by the license) clones of the final product. And certainly it would cause a few idiots to write very angry emails about them taking an opensource program, making a commercial version, and not releasing the source.

"He who breaks a thing to find out what it is, has left the path of wisdom."
- Gandalf the Gray-Hat

Bring Alistair Cooke's America to DVD!
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Founder
Posts: 1,139
Joined: 2002.04
Post: #36
Quote:The publisher might not want to publish a game where large amounts of the original code are available. If a publisher wants control over who develops content for their game, having existing code to read and utilize the package files would make developing an editor significantly easier. It could also lead to unauthorized (and prohibited by the license) clones of the final product. And certainly it would cause a few idiots to write very angry emails about them taking an opensource program, making a commercial version, and not releasing the source.
Oh, I didn't mean to imply that publishers would rush to make your game a hit. I only mentioned that entering uDevGame doesn't mean that development of your game must come to an end. I would like to see any game from uDevGame taken to the next step, in terms of polish, graphics, new gameplay ideas and so on. To me, entering (and winning) the contest is a good way to open future doors.

Back to working on the site. Sad

Carlos A. Camacho,
Founder
iDevGames
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griffin239
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Post: #37
FANTASTIC THREAD!
Thanks for getting into the trenches with Bayonette and Bloodied fists Moki...love to see misconceptions cleaned up.

I recently replied to a poster to the Apple dev lists that was gathering info for a report about a 4 year game dev curriculum at a university.
I pretty much in short told him much of what Moki has been saying here...that 4 years pressed into a game programming mold is useless and that colleges should take all the curriculums involved in the game dev process and bring them together so that each side can ad their input:
for instance the finance instructors/students could more easily approach that end than any artists or programmers would ever want to even look at. The programmers could tell the artist.."you have to many damned poly's" (you see these multimillion poly models in the dev school ads all the time)...etc and so on. Forcing people into classes that they have no intention of learning does no good..so there has to be a middle ground where all sides come together..psuedo corporations. Something the big game houses should invest in and charge for instead of letting zero industry experience instructors take all that green for "out of the book" curriculums.

Any product is a lot more than just putting the work into it.
You can make all the pizza you want..but you need to pay someone to deliver it! Having a web site doesn't guarantee people will go to it. True 99% of us would hate having to deal with the business end of things...My wife started a company in my name...once the tax forms started rolling in..I was sick..no income, no clients and tax forms to fill out??? No, thats not the life for me I have videos to make, levels to design, ideas to perpetuate! I shut that red tape despenser down as soon as I could.

Let someone else handle the B#llS---, I'm happy to be paid fairly for my effort and time. But trying to break my back alone...whats the by doing every detail of the industry whats pleasure in that?

When it comes to games, I'm much more happy pursuing the activity of game design than I am about any preconceptions of the outcome..especially about the eventual income or lack thereof.

What Moki says about going it alone is on the nails...in the long run you are going to be roadkill, and their are no Martyrs in game dev! As a developer...looking for work, you are more likely to get a job by having a game with a publishers name on it than telling a prospective employer "I made this game and noone ever played it! But my mom and dad say it ROCKS! Too bad my wife left me cause I never was too busy with the dev and business end of things. Did I mention Mom and dad think it ROCKS?"

Oh one more thing I mentioned to the poster to the dev list...and I want to see how many developers and maybe some publishers feel about this:
If I had $40K and was about to blow it on four years of game design school, wouldn't it be better to go offer a game company the money and get the training directly from the source??? Would any game company turn down an intern who is fronting $40,000???
I wish I had the money...I'd be a fixture at Freeverse today (they're local).

$40K is a small figure, 80% of american college students come out of school $80K in the hole..looking at entry level jobs.
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jonasbay
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Post: #38
Quote:(I didn't get to finish my thought, and this forum isn't letting me edit my message for some reason)


This was, because you weren't logged in when you wrote the posts. Wink
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Posts: 328
Joined: 2002.04
Post: #39
Inio, I just noticed your new avatar. Very coolthough I also liked the subtle, difficult to figure out one from before too (not that this isn't difficult to figure out too, if you don't notice your username...)

Griffin, good point. I wonder what a game developer would do if you offered to pay them $40k to teach you to make games with them. Probably blink alot and then shake your hand. That's what I'd do.
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