Studio 3; Make’n’Money

There are couple different ways that you can make money if you’re in game design, like many people who go into game development as a career, my dream and the main way I thought of making money in this career is directly selling my game directly to customers through avenues such as steam and itch.io. Another way to make through a similar transaction is to work for a company or business that pays you to work on a game that they then sell to the customer.

However there is another way money can be made through game development, and many would argue a more efficient way and low risk way to make money within the games industry is contracting. Contracting is when a company and or person hires you and/or your team to work on a specific game they may/may not have in mind already. If you want to make money in this way which is essentially selling the service of creating a game.  There is quite a few points in which this would differ from creating a game just for the point of creating and selling it.

  1. The first difference would be the amount of freedom you have over the project, when creating your own game you can choose how you want every aspect of your game to work, however when you are creating a game for a client the amount of freedom you have can change from client to client. With each different client wanting different levels on control over the direction of the game.
  2. Another difference between making your own game and making a game for a client, and that is the way that you will be making your money, for a project that you are just making to sell for the course of the project you won’t be making any money from it unless you have something like kickstarter, and you will start to make money from it once it is already released. However when it comes to working for a client the rate at which you get paid can very a lot depending on how the client and you organise things. But a popular approach is to have various different points throughout the course of working on the project called milestones in which you will hand over what you have so far and receive a payment, some of these milestones may be a prototype, alpha and beta.
  3. Another large difference is that when you make your own project you own everything you have worked on, however when working for a client you probably won’t own the work you did, as it will be handed over to the client. This would stunt your ability to make a sequel if you are interested in making one, as the client would have to approve making a sequel.

There are also a lot of ethical issues that can start to creep up when working for a client, even though they may be issues already could be there when developing games. But when working for a client they may ask you to implement these things which could be seen as unethical.  An example that could of come up in relation to the audio project FL0 that we have been working on recently. Would be that maybe teachers would want to know at what times the students are doing work, and is accessing and tracking the times when students are doing work. Which would be seen as an ethical issue, which my as a person on this project I would have to decide how to deal with those various different issues that may arise. And whether I should continue to work on the different projects  assuming the client is unbending in their wanting to get this “feature” in. And whether or not I could even legally stop working on the project depending on the contracts set up.

Not in relation to working with a client or not, but there are other different ethical issues that come up in relation to our project FL0, mainly which is the pricing of the product. Since our product is an educational tool it raises the question of should we charge for this product? and if so how much? Because if you are trying to sell a product that is meant to be used to help students to practice something that they may need to know for their degree is it ethically sound to charge a large amount if any at all for students to use this product. And on the other side of this argument, is it more ethical to charge more if you are selling the educational tool to a school or university as they would already have budgets that they can use to purchase the game. In the end, when thinking about myself personally I know how much money students do or more so don’t have and I would feel that it is inappropriate to charge students and amount over $10 as more then that some many not be able to afford. However if I was able to sell a large amount of keys to a university for them to use I would feel a lot more comfortable with that as universities inherently have an amount of money from enrolment fees etc.  That they can use to create budgets for purchasing different tools and other products.

Studio 3; Make’n’Money

Fl0; Postmortem

Over the past 12 weeks for studio 3 I have been working in a group of 4 designers, and 5 programmers in order to create a game that would help audio students learn the concepts of signal flow through a minimetro-esk puzzle game.

What went right?

Early Designing

The project started off fairly strong with a lot of designing/iterating on various different story boards. This was great because it allowed to see everyones  ideas on how they believe the good should work, which from there we could take different pieces of the different ideas and then work on combining them together to get the best result for the game.

Level Testing (Without a game.)

Due to various different issues when it came to creating the actual game, we had to be more creative when it came to testing. At the point in time when we it came to testing our levels, luckily Noah had been working on paper/card based version of our games called flominos which allowed us to be able vigorously test our levels whilst waiting for other things to be done.

Having both of these things in-placed helped greatly with an otherwise less the optimal project. Alowing us to make our design, both in game and with levels.

What could of gone better?

Project Management

The project management within this project could of gone better in a few ways, first of all the project management system that was in place was something very similar to that of the sprint methodology, working toward different milestones every week, with having a major milestone every few weeks or so. Examples of such phases include design complete, alpha and beta, which were all spaced within a few weeks of each other with milestones being scattered in between them. This style of project management was chosen because it allows us to be fairly flexible when it comes to the project as a whole because it allows milestones to be changed as the project moves along, accounting for various processes that take longer or are done quicker to be adjusted for. In addition to the sprint project methodology we were using a program called Hack N Plan in order to keep track of various different task, and dependencies, along with how many hours worth of work is being put into each task and how much work is left to do in terms of hours.

So far it sounds like it’s going well right? And at the start it was, however as the trimester went on things slowly got more and more slack/out of control when it came to project management. Not updating the milestones based on where we were or how behind things got. This was due to me personally as a project manager on this project not being able to fully focus on this projects management as I was also project managing for another subject, so that generally ended up taking priority.

Communication

Communication was diffidently not a strong point throughout the course of this project, especially when it came to communicating to the programmers what we needed to be done/fixed. There went a couple of weeks worth of classes where we were waiting to receive updated scripts ect. So that we could start to work more on editing/testing levels. However after a few new build things weren’t working. It came to the point where we resized that nothing was being done in the time that we needed it. So in order to solve this issue with the communication we got the programmers from the other room (we were in separate rooms) and all sat in the same room so that we were all aware of what the other group was working on and could more effectively work towards making a game.

 Testing

Because the game was behind where it was meant to be for a large portion of the project we weren’t able to test the game as regularly as was desired. Which ultimately lead to the project not being as far along as it could be. In the future to try and avoid not being able to test I will be placing a bigger importance on having something to be able to test regularly, as well as having clear goals for each play test of data that we wish to gather.

Conclusion

In conclusion though not much felt like it went over the course of the project at the end of the day the project was completed, and I learned a lot about working with two different “teams” on the same project and the various different challenges that come with that in terms of communication, and that if possible being in the same room working together can make a whole world of difference.

Fl0; Postmortem

Studio 3; Educational Games Research

The top game on the android store is Left vs Right brain training, which is another game very minimalist in style.

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Left vs Right sorts it’s many different mini games by sorting them into different categories which they are meant to help you get better at, such as awareness, precision, reasoning, patience, adaptability, and reflex.  This allows the player to be see which games are available and the different skills which they are hopping to improve with this games.

At the end of any mini game you are given brain tokens depending on the mini game and how difficult the game is. In addition to this the app will give the player a training scheme which a set of games that they recommend you to play that day, which is renewed everyday.

This could be help our game by taking inspiration from our game we can look at looking at some of the way they use these brain tokens as a rewards system to entice players to playing games, and getting better scores. Also looking at different ways we could work out what levels that the player should be up to. Possibly by looking at the speed they completed earlier levels.

Another popular learning  app on the play store is Infinite Japanese a tool to help learning Japanese.

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Infinite Japanese uses a star based scoring/level system to show you are going in your terms of your learning Japanese. In addition to that levels don’t unlock to be playable until you finish the previous level with at least one star rating. Much like how our current system for unlocking levels works. This allows the player to go back and replay levels, while seeing how they are getting better at these levels as well as showing tangible progression forward when compered to the earlier title Left vs Right.

Studio 3; Educational Games Research

Studio 3; Testing

Testing is a vital part of any game development process as it allows you to find out how people respond and interact with your game. As well as showing various different ways in which you can improve your game and make it more appealing to your audience. Unfortunately for us the project was behind schedule most of the time when it came to putting stuff into the actual program that we were working on. So as such a lot of the benefits we would of got from regular testing we missed out, not for a lack of trying.

Originally we had planned to test our game at various different stage over the course of the development, these being the alpha, beta, and “final” build.

The alpha would just be one level functionally complete which would mainly be looking at how the player interacts with the systems in place and how we could modify/change those systems to make them more intuitive or easy to use.  This test would be mainly aimed towards showing the people most closely involved with project such as the client and audio lecture and one of the students that we have been working closely with over the creation of the project. As they would already know a relatively large amount compered to other audio students/teachers. This would be useful to us when testing at this early phase as regardless of how rough the systems/interacts may be they would still be able to give useful feedback on the way the systems etc. could be improved or changed to better fit both what the client wants, and what the end user would want.

The next stage would be the beta stage in which we would have our 10 planned level completed an in the game at which point we would be testing those levels and seeing how how hard/easy they would are to complete. In order to test the difficultly of the levels we would be allowing different audio teachers/lectures to use our game. As the would diffidently already know how the problems we are providing them with would be solved on real sound desk, so we could see how easily it could be solved in relation to their experience and if any adjustments should be made in terms of both the content and also how each individual level would be laid out.

And our “final” testing would be after adjustments have been made to both the systems and levels have been made we would want a lot of people to be playing the game so that we can work towards making any final UX changes seeing if there are any smaller changes that can be made to various different ui elements and layouts. With this testing phase we will be getting both audio lectures/students to test our game from start to finish so they we can see how they interact with the “final” product, taking special notice of how they interact with the game. Where they look like they be lost or not sure of what to do next, so that we can look at ways to improve the game and make it more accessible to people.

However even though we weren’t able to do any formal testing using our game, we were able to do a lot of more informal testing of our levels due to Noahs flominios which were paper cards similar to dominoes which all connected in the same way the various parts in our game would connect creating a flow in the paper of where the signal is going. This allowed us to test our levels a lot better then previously as well as being able to show our “game,” or better put our games concept to people through this paper prototype/off shoot from our main game we were working on.

Studio 3; Testing

Studio 3; Choices

During this trimester at uni we were told to look into a design specialization, meaning a certain area within game design which we want to look into more, and learn more about. At first I was struggling to choose what I wanted to make my specialization since there are so many cool and unique aspects of game design to chose from.

However I am currently doing work with another project where I am creating/designing all the dialogue for the game. Meaning all the various different branching  paths of conversation and where they lead.  And I found it fairly enjoyable creating these paths and branches. So that’s what I decided to make my specialization. Which lead to making a twine game which I have now released called “Doing it for her.”  (You can play it in your browser if you wish to have a look at it.) The story focuses on a person who is becoming an adventure to “get money for his daughter,” I’ll let you play it in order to find out why that is in quotations.

So I started creating this twine knowing that I would have very little time to go in and create/write everything that I had in my head and put it into twine, while also demonstrating that I have experience writing/designing “branching” narrative.  In order to accomplish everything I set out to do I first of all, cut down on my story so I would actually have time to put a at least semi coherent story together, and secondly make the choices not really matter.

Now what do I mean by that?

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If you look at this very low res image of a bunch of circles, this is my twine game. Or at least a visualization of various different passages with in the game, and as you can see it’s fairly linear. With occasionally having different circles  branching out and around however they end all up at the same point.

Some may see this as not having “real choice,” or not being a branching narrative. To both of which I’d say “Well it is.” Though this “choice” may not be what many think of a traditional way choice in video games, it’s a lot more common then one might normally think, the biggest example of similar “choice” in video games, would be any telltale game. Where for the most part your choices ‘don’t effect major event, however the change small portions of the game, or how your character may react to different situations. But in the end you are still going through the 4 or so same main events per episode. And as for it being a “branching narrative I would also say that it is one. Even though it doesn’t branch of in again the traditional way some would view branching narrative it  does branch off at various sections, they just happen to branch back to the center at different points, eg. the picture below.

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While the narrative can link and go around in different directions, the only thing that is change is the information the player has and thus how they view the characters/story as a whole. Yet they still end up going the same way, which is how I setup all my choices so that I can have choices in the game, and have the player feel as if those choices matter. But yet also not need write 10k+ words.

Studio 3; Choices

Studio 3; Business Stuff

Earlier this week in studio 3 we started to look into more of the business end of the projects as they “should” be nearing completion soon. At which point we will have to start looking at how exactly we are going to sell our projects. And of course who can talk about business without having a business cat reference?

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With business cat out of the way time to talk about what we actually learned about when it comes to business.

First off we looked into contracts and how the rights retaining to a group project work, given that their are multiple people who worked on the project and have contributed there IP.

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Basically since we had all worked on the project together no one person could put the game up/distribute it/ make money off of it. Without coming to an agreement (signed a written contract)  with the rest of the group to show that we are approving of this person putting up our software/game, whatever up and then go onto how any money made from the distribution should be handled.

Another perk of giving this person (the agent) the rights to distribute the software is that they can now sign contracts with our collaborators to work out how much they will be payed and at what times.  And with the contracts drafted up and ready to be looked over/signed we also needed to look at the other aspect of business, how to actually make the money.

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In order to help start planning out the best way to make money from the software we are making we looked into a business model canvas.

 

Found Here

By going through the various different sections and answering the questions in relation to whatever the product is that you are looking to sell, it will help you to start looking at and thinking about who your customers are and how best to get their business and then keep it.

Personally I started to answer the boxes in short dot points. Focusing less on the big questions and more about getting something down on a page that will lead to further and more in depth thoughts.  After I had gone through and done some dot points on each of the boxes I created a new word document which had each of the sections as a major heading from which I want and expanded on my dot points including research.

For example when looking at the channels section of the above sheet I wrote a dot point that was just “conferences,” and “trade shows.” So taking those two dot points I started searching around for various different conferences and trade shows that would be related to the product which we are looking at selling. And from there I expanded it even more, looking into each of the conferences. Finding out when each takes place, how much it cost, where it is and also the opportunities that would come with attending the conference. Such as what kind of people will you meet at the conference, who would those people know? Can you get a booth? Will these people be looking to spend money? And how do the answer to these questions make the conference more or less worth going too.

Once you have gone through and done the same level on research into the various other sections of the canvas as well, you will start to get a much better understanding of how you should price your product/service. As well as what the customer may expect to happen over the course of/after the transaction has taken place. Keep in mind that not every customer may fit into the one(s) you have planned for through the canvas but it is much better to be able to plan out how you are going to deal with and cater to. Then to not have anything planned.

That is if you aren’t business cat.

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Studio 3; Business Stuff

Side Projects; Choosing the right tool

Over the holidays I decided that I wanted to try and make something different to what I have done before. So I deiced to work on a turn based rpg game. I started off by doing some research into different tools such as rpg maker and game maker. As well as tossing up if I want to make something from scratch. I started off by trying to make a turn based system in unity as I felt that the opportunities to create something that stands out more as I would be able to create essentially whatever I want to as long as I find out how to code it.

I started off by looking at different tutorials mainly a series by xOctoManx, on creating a turn based combat system in unity.

However after struggling trying to make this system and as I started to think of the complexly, I decided to started to look at changing what tool I was going to use to make my rpg. After looking at the various different pros/cons rpg maker and thinking of if I wanted to try using game maker, I decided to go for rpg maker. As the main downside to using rpg maker is that for the most part Rpg maker games have a very distinct look/feel to them , which can make it hard for a game to stand out without going over and above the norm.

Another concern when it came to rpg maker was that limited amount of  creative freedom when it came various different parts of of the project that I may want to change. However watching various different tips and trick for rpg maker and different ways to make an rpg maker game standout. I deiced that I would go with rpg maker, as it has all the systems I would have to create by myself already in there. As well as having many different content creators that make various different helpful videos to help learn the program and tips on how to create a better rpg as a whole. And a large amount of plugins that help to change various systems/functions that rpg maker may or may not be able to do.

And with what I was wanting to make the game on decided I started looking up more and more tutorials online, that would help me learn to use the tool. Mainly I started to watch SRDudes tutorials, as well as watching a cut scene tutorial by RPGdon. As I wanted to try and recreate the oblivion intro in a rpg maker setting.

So far I have been really enjoying trying to make a game using rpg maker mv, as I am getting further into using the tool I keep discovering more and more options that will help me to create a good rpg.

 

 

 

Side Projects; Choosing the right tool

Studio 3; Storyboarding

This week in studio 3 we started to get more and more into the designing of the game we are creating. However we are doing something different in term of the design process this time, rather then creating a HCD (High Concept Document), then moving onto a GDD (Game Design Document, and from there move onto a technical design document and then get to creating the game or prototype or whatever it is.

So we having been doing story boarding as a process for designing the game and getting feed back on said designs without putting time into making them in unity. Storyboarding  traditionally is used in the production of animations or motion pictures to pre-visualize a story scene by scene. In a similar vain we are using it to plan out our game, screen by screen.

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Starting with the made in unity screen when then move onto a main menu, there from which we would draw the screens for when the player clicks on play, settings or credits. 20170608_203646.jpg

In this case I had two other start at the same time so I cue cards for the other two ideas to start as well as I had know room for them to fit. (Though that may be hard to tell with the photo I took.)

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From there the process continues going, down the line of paper as if playing the game. Showing the various interactions that can happen. Then moving onto win/lose states and beyond.

I found there as been a large benefit from doing story boarding, as it allows us to each work on a singular idea and then get feedback on it very quickly, as well as being able to make changes to our ideas based on our feedback once again very quickly. However it has been strange following this design process as it feels as though we are not making progress in terms of documentation and designing the game through the documentation as that is what I am used to. And as such there is this lingering feeling that we are falling behind where we need to be.

However after picking one idea from the team and working together to make it even better over the course of next week. We will then be starting on the prototype, but until then. See You Space Cowboy….

Studio 3; Storyboarding

Studio 3; First Client Meeting

After doing the research in preparation for the meeting we wrote out a list of objectives which are different things we want to learn about during the meeting, such as more about the design problem, what level of students will be making use of this game, and a lot of other points. In order to get information on these various objects, we planned to start the meeting with a very broad question, that would get the client to answer a lot of questions we may want to ask without us having to ask a large amount of questions.  And we had this question and the objectives written down in our note books so that we would have a point of reference in case the meeting started to lull.

On the day of the meeting we made sure to be 30 minutes early to class in order to be ready and get the room set up for the meeting, including making sure that were we wanted to sit had a comfy enough chair, and checking the lighting of the room etc. Once that was done we waited in the room for some time, try to not let my nerves get the best of me. After a short while our client came up the stairs and we shook hands introduced ourselves, and let the meeting begin.

The meeting itself went fairly well, as we were able to get all the information we wanted to get fairly quickly. However since we got most of the information we wanted fairly quickly there were a few times through out the meeting were the conversation did start to lull as we were looking at our notes trying to think of questions we needed to ask and cover that we may not have.

One thing that really did surprise me though looking back it on it, it makes perfect sense. Is the client wanted know about us more, which when you think about makes sense. They want to know if we can turn out a product that they can be happy with, and that solves the problem. But at the time since we had be doing so much research into what the client might what and what we need to get from the client that we didn’t think of what the client may want to know, so it was interesting trying to think of what they might want to know, and is defiantly something to keep in mind for meetings with clients outside of uni in the future.

After the meeting was adjourned we went with our client to learn more of the domain knowledge behind the project. This was a good experience because not only did it allow us to get a better grasp of the project and what we are trying to do, it also allowed us to build rapport with the client and learn more about what he wanted from this project just by talking to him. And at the end of it all we organised another meeting with him so we could ask some follow up questions as well as bring up some design ideas and running them by him.

 

Studio 3; First Client Meeting

Studio 3; Client Meeting Prep

After a few weeks holiday from uni (and writing blogs.) I start the tri learning that for the entirety of studio 3 we will be in the one team working on the one project. And that the project will involve a real world client which is very different to what we have worked on so far through out my year and 1/3 at uni. The closest similar project being the audio video game I worked on last tri.

So we got split into teams and assigned rolls. From there we were given a short brief on what the design problem is, and who our client is. For my group we are going to be working with the audio department  coordinator, in order to create a game that will help tri 1, and 2 audio students to practice signal flow.  Which is were our client prep started.

Step 1. What is signal flow?

The first step for us was to find out what signal flow actually was and kinda how it works, so that we could start formulating  ideas and looking at more specific topics to research.  For those who don’t know what signal flow is, here is a short video explaining the basics. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-v75Mgh9dA

Basically signal flow is the path an audio signal takes from source to output.

For example the singer sings into a mic which then goes through the preamp which then gets sent to the eq, then compressor, then the output or the audio digital converter.

Once we understood what we could from looking at different online resources that come up when searching the internet for stuff about signal flow we moved on to research different sections to do with the design problem and our client meeting. Such as existing products, more info on the client, for info on soundboards, and some examples of what could go wrong if you mess up the signal flow order.

 

Of the above topics I was tasked with researching existing products, so I stared to look into other options students have if they wish to learn/practice signal flow.  And to cut a long researching session short I couldn’t find much in terms of products that exist to help people with signal flow, the products that do exist consist of multitudes of videos be that single videos or entire courses. Along with a few quizzes that test theoretical knowledge of signal flow. But nothing out there that can help practice in a similar way to working in a studio, like our game is setting out to do.  Since I couldn’t find any existing products along the line of what we are setting out to create, I decided to look at existing apps and games that have to do with following an order or line. As that is what the concept of signal flow remind me of, games such as Minimetro, Flight Control, and Lyne. Minimetro, is a game about moving shapes from the station they are at, and moving them to the station that matches their shape, using a set amount of paths and tunnels. This made me think of signal flow as how the people travel along the line. Which promoted me to look into Lyne as another game with a similar preference of matching lines to solve a puzzle.  Which lead onto flight control which is about drawing lines to get planes to dock at an airport.  These games/research came together to help form a small idea about what type of game we may want to make going into the client meeting.

Studio 3; Client Meeting Prep