Yesterday I talked about Tim Langdell and his association with the IGDA. Of course, this isn’t the first time the IGDA has hit controversy over over a member of their board of directors, but, when a member of the board goes under fire, it’s expected that the IGDA will give some kind of response on the issue. Based on previous experience, and the fact that there are many members of varying opinions on the board, I was expecting exactly what we got. A very softball response to the issue. The synopsis of this post by the IGDA in my opinion says “we aren’t the courts, so we can’t say who is in the right. But we think IP protection is important”. Unfortunately, this misses the point. We know the IGDA is not the adjudicator of disputes, but it IS supposed to be a body that tries to represent the best interests of the independent developer community. Something is wrong if you are taking on board members like Tim Langdell, who has had a history of what many have described as “trademark trolling”. Even if this case is a matter for the courts, his position in the IGDA is worrisome at best. I don’t care for the IGDA to be the courts, I just want some semblance of responsibility when taking on board members in the first place.
Archive for May, 2009
I’m definitely getting tired of seeing the IGDA board of directors do things that I really don’t agree with, but this is getting ridiculous.
Tim Langdell, who is a board member of the IGDA, seems to have been for quite some time now using a trademark on the term “edge” to go after various projects by other companies. The most recent case being the pulling down of a popular and well made iPhone game called Edge. Of course, the word edge is a common English word, and to not only trademark it in association with entertainment, but to go after companies that use it to try and squeeze out licensing rights seems downright ridiculous to me. At some points this seems like a parody to me more than real news. This is a company who’s website posts about a new upcoming game called “Mirrors”, in which they put their company name in big block text below with tiny text that says “a new game from” so that it ends up looking like it’s EA’s titled game Mirror’s Edge instead. They seem to take pride in not creating, but licensing the term edge to movie titles and comics. It’s beyond astounding, and I don’t see why someone like this should be on the board of directors of a group that’s supposed to represent the fair treatment of independent developers with such exploitative practices.
Alright, I’ll admit, I do watch game-based TV shows. But that’s not quite what I wanted to talk about today. At least not directly. I was watching XPlay recently and they started talking about The Conduit. A FPS for the Wii with a bunch of different multiplayer modes. Sure there aren’t a lot of good FPS’ for the Wii, but overall a game like that doesn’t really catch my fancy… except the mention of what they called “Bounty Hunter” mode.
Bounty Hunter mode is, to put is simply, a cat and mouse game. It’s your job to hunt down a specific player who you get points for killing, while avoiding being killed by whoever has you as their target. This reminded me of an old Half-Life mod I used to play called The Ship, which had similar goals in a cruise ship, except there were other tasks you had to do to keep yourself from dying like drinking, peeing, and sleeping, along with not being allowed to be seen by the ship’s security while killing your target.
So, why bring up this old mechanic? It’s the designer in my head getting frustrated of course! The Ship was a lovely concept in my eyes. A game that could keep players on edge and have the players be creative and kniving to catch their prey. Played with the right people it could be quite an experience.
The problem was the “right people” were always hard to come by (if not impossible) on public servers, and the wrong people could easily ruin the fun of the mechanic. Although penalized for killing someone who wasn’t your target, the penalization was never enough to stop a player who wants to annoy everyone else. As a player you were punished for killing someone who was not your bounty or did not have you as their bounty, but if you ran into a griefer who attacked you without you being their bounty, it was a pain to deal with. Because the mechanic depended not only on the rule set built into the game, but also the assumption that teammates would also “behave” in an expected manner, the fun of the game would all too often be ruined, and turn into just yet another deathmatch. Ever play Team Fortress and notice some players aren’t trying to cap or even defend points, but are only interested in getting their kill counts up? Same deal, different scope.
It’s frustrating not only as a player, but as a designer to know that certain mechanics, although seemingly fun, would be incredibly difficult to keep fun in a public setting. So how could we get around this issue? Perhaps the answer isn’t always in changing the mechanic, but could be in looking for the right distribution channel. Because of social networking trends more internalized communities are forming that can be used to keep these experiences to groups that WOULD work to the rules, because all the players know each other on a more personal level. For example, Facebook has games where you play not with strangers, but with your own facebook friends. It’s like a built in matchmaking service, and for all I know, playing this mode in The Conduit may be fine, simply due to the fact that the Wii tends to focus on friend codes. As frustrating as the codes are, at least the experience you have in games will be with friends, and not griefers.
I don’t think I’ve talked about this much in the past, but one of the reasons I started posting more on Stegersaurus Games blog was because I think for independent game developers, building a community of fans is important. The best form of marketing for a game is for the game itself to have fans, whether those fans come after the game is released, or are looking forward to it coming out. Dedicated fans pass the word around and get news about the game to places that the developer may not be able to access themselves. As a solo indie I don’t have many resources to spend on traditional marketing. I do what I can, creatively speaking, but having people who visit this site and help to endorse my games really does help. So for that, I want to thank everyone who comes to this site, everyone who has posted a blurb or a video about Tank Strike, or even just community games in general. You all help to get the word out and help me and other indie developers to reach our goals and keep making great games.
Looking up Tank Strike today I ran across a lovely review of a few XBox community games on eurogamer, including of course a review of Tank Strike. It’s not just great to see my game getting a good review, but it’s good to see that more sites are starting to pay attention the XBox community games, because it makes us a more viable platform. From the start a lot of people have been saying that community games are largely ignored, but that trend seems to be starting to change. We’ve had a few harder-hitters on community games who have shown that developers can make a popular title for the service, albeit it’s still rare to release a game/application that pays off versus the time you’ve invested in it, but that’s applicable to other platforms as well. Not every iphone game is Flight Control after all. You need the right blend of marketing, gameplay, and polish to really do your games justice, and really take a good shot at this market. I’m currently working on my next project right now, and I do hope that I do it justice.
I was somewhat expecting this, but if you’ve been on XBLCG recently, you may have noticed that Tank Strike has fallen in popularity. Sad but true, it just couldn’t stay grasped onto it’s spot in the top 10! After about 2 weeks of decent sales, things are starting to slow down. I’m now going at about 20-25 purchases for the past few days as Tank Strike falls lower on the popular games list. Once it’s off that list, it probably will get little to no sales because it’s too hard to find games on XBLCG that aren’t featured in some way or another.
XBLCG definitely wasn’t a bad experience, it’s just… difficult. The top of the service is controlled by applications because of their uniqueness to the service. Even if an application isn’t necessarily selling well (low conversion rate) they tend to get a high download rate for trials for people who want to see something weird/different on their machines. More eyeballs, even with a low conversion rate, means more sales and more trials, which keeps these unique applications at the top.
In the end I suppose that these apps if they can stay at the top deserve their position, but it has had a polarizing effect on people. Some see XBLCG not as a place for new and innovative games, but a place where people put non-game applications, which may scare away people looking FOR games. It’s hard for a gamer to find something “good” in a game because the popular list doesn’t hold many games usually. There are some cheap gems in the mix of XBLCG, but they don’t tend to sit at the top of the service’s popularity charts, and thus are hard to find amongst a lot of less than stellar titles. At the same time, these apps offer something unique to XBox, because there are no disc-based games or xbox Live arcade games that replicate similar functionality, and their popularity may attract more people to XBLCG as a whole. Apps do well in part because they don’t NEED to compete with high-quality games from big studios. They have found a nieche that they fit into quite nicely, and finding that unique nieche is part of being a good businessman. As I’ve said before, you can’t compete with the AAA’s head on pound for pound, because they outweigh you and you’ll lose. Apps are here to stay on XBLCG and making the right one can be profitable. Game makers on XBLCG will just need to deal with that, one way or another.
Things are going well for Tank Strike. Even thought it has fallen off it’s starting point of being a “new release”, so far sales have still been reasonable and on some days I’m still pushing past 100 sales in a single day. This is because even if they can no longer find it in new releases, Tank Strike still pulls eyeballs by being in the “popular” section. That section is what keeps a longer sales tail for good games. In fact, on Friday I had found out that I passed a total of 1000 sales of Tank Strike! I know in the scope of all XBox users that may look small, but it’s really good to know that so many people have tried, and even bought my game, and it pushes me to make something even better next time.
Let’s hope this trend continues! Tell your friends Tank Strike’s better than buying coffee!
So, as I eluded to previously, I was on the Dead Pixel Live podcast yesterday. If you’d like to hear me, and my odd, undefinable “accent” the episode is now online and you can listen to it here. It’s my 30 minutes of “fame”. I also got hitched to a good episode, because later on the DPL crew also had an interview with Dan Hsu. Quite a busy night I ended up missing a IGDA meeting I had intended to attend!
Along with the podcast interview, there also another e-mail interview online at xblratings.
Tank Strike is still going strong, and if you’re on this blog and haven’t bought tried Tank Strike yet, well then what are you waiting for?
Did I mention I love when people talk about me online? Andrew Carlson from ExL Studios recently ran an e-mail interview with me about Tank Strike which you can read here, and I didn’t hold back ranting about myself. If you want the quick run-down of the most important parts I think I made… one is I don’t like how XBLCG’s game lifecycles aren’t long enough (when they fall off new games they often disappear into obscurity) and the other is I wish there were most podcasts by game developers.
Speaking of podcasts, if everything goes according to plan and I don’t get bumped to another day, I will be on the Dead Pixel Live podcast tomorrow between 7:30 and 8:00 PM EST. Keep yourself tuned in for that!
I’ve also started on my next project for XBLCG. It’s not set in stone yet, but I’ve spent the past few days going through various ideas I’ve come up with, and measuring up which ones have potential for a good game. I may even enter it into Dream Build Play this year. It’s surprisingly stressful to choose what game to make because there is such a variety I’ve gone through. Some games are very creative, but run the risk of myself being the only person who would know how to play them, while others walk the line of even being considered proper games! Fortunately I have lots of people that I can bounce ideas off of, even if it’s just to walk through the reasons I want to do a particular game for myself. It really helps me decide what games would play up to my strengths as a developer, and which have the most success in being picked up by others. I won’t be announcing what game I chose to do yet, but over time all will be revealed.
I’m happy to see all the coverage and talk about Tank Strike recently. It’s great to know that people are enjoying my game. Good conversion rates means happy players after all!
Again, not a long post today, but I’m really happy with the response I’m getting so far for the game. XNARoundup just featured Tank Strike in their weekly video podcast and I’m so happy for the recommendation from them.
If you’ve forgotten… my game’s the one with the explosions… not the Easter Bunnies. Though the bunny is eerily spastic.
If you’re wondering, I’m in total frantic chaos right now. Along with keeping up with all I need to do with Tank Strike now that it’s out for the big world to see, I’m STILL participating this weekend at the ToJam game-making event. Me and my partner for the event are unfortunately both quite busy, so we couldn’t invest as much as we wanted to into our game, but hopefully we’ll at least have something playable at the end of tomorrow… fingers crossed!