Game Production Best Practices

Game Production Best Practices

Game Production Best Practices

Most Project Managers in the gaming industry vex about the projects schedule and its management. Game Producers, on the other hand, have a key responsibility that transcends that of the Project Manager and that is to communicate & champion the vision of the game to the team, clients & outside stakeholders. The role of Game Producers may vary from company to company, from the role of note takers in some to Project Managers in others. What I personally believe is that the main role of Game Producers is to bring the best out of creative people as well as manage delivery by making vision oriented project plans, among other responsibilities. The Game Producer needs to know how to harness the creativity brewing inside his team members while also ensuring compliance with the project plan. If there ever was a mantra to ace the role of a Game producer, I believe the following list would form its foundation.

  1. Communication: Communication is the basic need of any team/ organization. The process of communication is declared complete once the message has been received and understood by the recipient. Thus as a Game Producer, one must ensure that the message is simply understood by the recipient and clear doubts in case of a confusion or distortion. As a Game Manager one needs to drive home the vision of the project, no matter how many repetitions it takes.
  2. Own- The Concept, Plan & Project Vision: Game Producer is the one team depends on for a structured plan of action. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Thus, as a Game Producer, one should always plan each and every detail and this plan must be known and communicated by the producer to his team.
  3. Track & Verify: This can be quite simply summarized with the acronym ABCD- Always Be Collecting Data. Compare the actual progress to the planned progress to better manage expectations.
  4. Know your Pipelines: The roadmap of the project and the workflow pipelines must be at back of the mind of a Producer.
  5. Set the Rules: A team works best when they are clear about the vision. As a Game Producer, you must manage Daily Standups, inform the team about their Daily Tasks, review their progress on a day to day basis and have everyone update their task list daily before standups.
  6. Commit, then Deliver: The Game Producer’s role is to commit to the organization about the delivery of the Project, then work with the team to deliver on those commitments.
  7. Carry the Vision: As a Game Producer one must be completely aware about the vision of the product and should protect and promote that vision during the entire course of the production cycle.
  8. Be a Lifelong Learner: This may sound a bit philosophical and vague but it is really important to understand the power of knowledge. Staying up to date with field related news is the crux of any successful career. Reading books, news, taking similar role interviews, taking inputs from team are few ways you can stay ahead of the game.
  9. Be a servant to the team: For a Game Producer, his/her team is the most important thing. As their leader, the Game Producer must fulfill the needs of his/her team. A noble leader answers not to the trumpet calls of self promotion, but to the hushed whispers of necessity.
  10. Listen: Sometimes the best suggestions come from the unlikeliest of sources. A Game Producer must understand this and value and review every opinion with equal fervor.
Cross Platform Publishing : Part One

Cross Platform Publishing : Part One

In this 2 series blog, we will tell you what are the challenges faced during cross platform publishing of games and how we have addressed this. Let’s see what the challenges are.

Gaming industry has been evolving exponentially. It’s getting more exciting and more challenging day by day. One such challenge is ‘Cross Platform Publishing’.

In simple words ‘cross platform publishing’ is publishing your game across multiple OS, Stores, Devices and Platforms. It is an opportunity and threat in itself. If you know how to tackle this, you will reach more players and retain them for a longer period since you would have optimized your game for all of them. If you don’t publish your game across different platforms, you will lose out to your competitors.

The scenario becomes more complex when you want to reach players in India since internet penetration is low and the market is highly fragmented. Reaching players having low configuration hardware with low graphics resolution becomes more challenging.

Following are the pain points of mobile game developers when they want to go for cross platform publishing:

Create-Build ratio is 20:80

Developers today are focusing more on building the game than differentiating it. This is mainly due to the efforts involved in cross platform publishing. This makes them focus more on production aspects rather than focusing on core gameplay. You may successfully publish your game across different platforms but if the core gameplay is not good, players will leave your game too early affecting the retention rate adversely.

Multiple screen sizes and device configurations

Building a game for different screen sizes is another challenge faced by developers. They have to ensure that their game is compatible with devices having different configurations too. Optimising the game controls keeping all this in mind makes it more difficult.

OS specific functionalities

Functionalities differ with each OS and each OS has multiple versions. Even if you optimize your game for different OS, it is going to be a continuous process since new versions with updates will be released periodically. Each update may have a new feature which will affect your game. You have to test your game to identify the problems and then work on fixing it.

Porting Time

Game production time goes up significantly due to multiple porting requirements. Porting your game to different OS and stores will increase your production time thereby increasing your cost of production too. This cost is only going to increase since we will see many more stores, platforms, OS updates versions in future.

Iterative and repetitive work

Cross platform publishing involves lots of iterative and repetitive work which adds up to the production time and cost. While this can be reduced, it can’t be eliminated.

Never ending process

Game production is a never ending process. Continuous improvement and updates are a must if your game has to be successful and remain so. This means implementing these changes across multiple platforms and OS periodically.

In the next part we will show you how Nukebox Studios has overcome these pain points and the amazing results we have achieved from it.

Amit Hardi

Chief Gaming Officer – Nukebox Studios

Nukebox Studios is the Gaming Division of TechTreeIT

Nukebox Studios @ PGC Connects, Bangalore-2016

Nukebox Studios @ PGC Connects, Bangalore-2016

‘Pocket Gamer Connects’, a two day Global Mobile Games Conference, was recently held in Bangalore on the 21st and 22nd of April, 2016. The aim of the event was to educate developers about the latest trends in the industry and give the Indian gaming community international exposure, world-class knowledge and best practices from experts worldwide.

Developers had a unique opportunity to engage and interact with the who’s who of the sector including investors, publishers and government representatives through a combination of short-form lectures, practical advice dispensing and intensive networking.

Mr. Amit Hardi, Studio Director of Nukebox Studios, the gaming division of TechTree IT Systems Pvt Ltd., was one of the speakers at this event. He conducted a session on “Cross-Platform Publishing and Virtual Reality” which was well-received by all.

During his session, Amit highlighted some of the practices that enable Nukebox Studios to build high-quality games in a short span of time. This came as a revelation to most developers present at the conference. The norm of the industry is to spend 80% of the game production cycle on development and a mere 20% on differentiating the game. This according to Amit resulted in a longer product development cycle and a general lack of innovation. He suggested an increased focus on differentiating the game as opposed to the prevalent practice, in order to bring down the overall game production time.

He also spoke about the influence of Virtual Reality on the industry and emerging VR trends in different industries. He highlighted Monetization as one of the most challenging aspects of Virtual Reality, apart from the huge development cost.

Well, that’s not all, more details on “Cross-Platform Publishing” which will be covered in our subsequent blogs.

All in all, PGC connects was a great platform to synergize, experience and gain from industry best practices and we look forward to the next edition of the PGC connects.

So You want to make Games?

So You want to make Games?

To the Aspiring Game Maker,

Back when I was sitting in my college dorm room coding up my first games, I had no idea what I was getting into. It was beautiful, glorious even. When the rest of the students toiled away learning how to write enterprise code that will save people time and money, I wrote code that did the exact opposite. I wrote code that made companies bleed productivity. I wrote code that made people laugh, rage in anger, sit on the edge of their seats and twitch. I made the addictive digital equivalent of Meth.

I sent my builds to the best coders in my class with the note, “Go ahead and build that OS you’re working on. I’ll make darn thing fun.”

I was always ‘that guy’. Missing parties to sit in my dorm room and code. Skipping class because my lecturers gave me attendance to finish my games from home. Sitting in the college lab playing games and calling it research.

Somewhere down the line, reality hit me square in the face. Game production is not all fun and games.

College education is the best phase in a person’s life to make mistakes. You’re young enough to learn from them, bounce back and hit the grind again. Frankly, if you haven’t messed up big time at least once while in college, you’ve missed out on a grand opportunity. But once you’re out in the wild, reality has a way of slowly seeping into your brain and messing with your dreams.
So here I was, trying to make a living from my games. When reality hit me in the face, the following fell out…

  • I’ll be giving away my games for free to my players (Awesomesauce, where’s my lunch money going to come from?)
  • Players have millions of free games out there that they can play instead of yours.
  • I knew how to make games, but I didn’t know how to make revenue.

I could get hired at a studio and become a Game Engineer but then,

  • I don’t get to make the games I love to make.

And so I turned into one of those unpredictable creatures they call the ‘Indie Game Developer’. I thought I was done with the learning from mistakes part in college, but boy was I wrong. Here’s what I had to learn the hard way…

  • Fitting your big idea into a timeline and a budget is HARD and painful. You find yourself pacing around thinking what part of the awesome feature set you’d kill to let the rest of it survive and get released. It’s very much like a hostage situation where somebody is definitely going to die.
  • Murphy’s law is a very real factor when building games.
  • Things always take longer and cost more than planned, even if you keep this in mind while planning and costing.
  • If you do it right, you’ll probably hate playing your awesome game by the time you ship it. If you still enjoy playing it, it probably means either of two things…
    • You’ve not worked long and hard enough on it.
    • You’re a delusional narcissist.
  • Till you ship it, you’ve done nothing.
  • A late game is only late till it ships. A bad game is bad till the end of time. (Thanks for warning me about this Miyamoto-san. But I still had to learn it the hard way.)
  • Build only the best thing you can build. Repeat.
  • Never trust the publisher.
  • Never expect the player to do what you want him to do.
  • If there is a possibility of an exploit in your game, your players WILL find it.
    • They’ll also make a blog post about it and share it on social media.
    • They’ll not find it necessary to tell you about it.
  • If you can’t make revenue, you can’t make games. Not the other way around.
  • Always make your decisions based on data.
    • Relying completely on your gut feel and instinct will get you far if you’re heading towards failure. Here’s the thing, you need to use your instinct to develop the hypothesis, but you need data to validate them.
    • Surveys don’t generate usable data…
      • A lot of people can’t articulate what they want.
      • Some people just won’t tell you what they really want.
      • A lot of people don’t know what they want.
      • But they all really want it. Now.
    • Opinions are opinions.
  • You can never make a list that is actually fully exhaustive. That includes this one.
  • Don’t take advice from a stranger on the internet. That includes me.

That was my Indie phase. It was after I came to TechTree that I went from being an eccentric creative with no direction, to being a methodic and meticulous craftsman with a mission statement. Mark Skaggs, an industry leader credited with making legendary games like ‘FarmVille’ and ‘Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2’, once told me that he was just like me – the difference being just that he had made a lot more mistakes than I have and learnt from them.

Enough reading: Now go out there and make some mistakes.

Your friend, the domesticated Indie Developer,

P2P_Peter Pawan