Saturday, March 17, 2007

Caravel Games Interview...

Erik, from Caravel Games, talks about open source game development.

You can download the podcast here...

or listen to it here...

Feel free to send over any comments or feedback on ways to make the show better.

Also...Join the Indie Game Development Network ... there are going to be some interesting and very useful features we're going to be adding soon.

Take care,
Free Kids Games

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

GDC Session Summary for "How to Develop Social Networks As Part of Community Management"


Went to a really interesting talk about applying web 2.0 to online MMOs. Specifically, Rich Vogel talked about community design.

He mentioned these principles critical to community design...
1) Create social spaces for the players
2) Highlight player contributions in the game
3) Develop a viral presence on the web. For example, XBox Live created those profile cards that could be posted on people's blogs, etc. So it became viral.

These are some other interesting things to build community....
1) Develop social spaces (spaces for players, spaces for guilds, etc.)
2) Have a character builder so players can create/express an identity
3) Show off; allow players to express themselves
4) Build relationships
5) Facebook-like network out of game; profiler in game.
6) Highlight Player Contributions
7) Develop Viral Presence on the web. Use "Portable content" via widgets. Check out XFire and how they did this. Check out those XBox Live Character sheets.
8) Character Sheets
9) Quizzes
10) Portable Content (tickertape, in-game honors, etc.)...can wrap it up in a widget.

The Future....
1) Web will be the definitive content delivery platform
2) Community management will change how products are marketed
3) MMOs will become the next generation of brands

Friday, March 09, 2007

Quick Interview with Acclaim CEO Howard Marks...

Hey folks,

Sat in on a great presentation by Acclaim CEO Howard Marks about the future of MMOs. His presentation focused on the non-hardcore MMOs that are taking over the market. He cited many examples from Korea, China, and Japan. He also cited some of the other MMOs geared towards teens and kids like Runescape, ClubPenguin, etc.

Anyways, after the talk...I stuck around to ask him some questions. He thinks MMOs are the future. This is a summary of the conversation....

I asked him about whether MMOs are going to be "winner take all" the sense that there will only be one defining MMO for each category the way MySpace dominates the Social Networking scene.

He said that in Asia, that is not the case. In fact, folks get tired of MMOs quickly and move onto others. I asked him whether the Asian MMOs have "user generated content" like MySpace...and he said no. opinion is that it may be "winner take all" for MMO category segments...especially if users invest time to create content.

I then asked him about using MMOs for work. Things like Second Life and IBM are doing things where work takes place in the virtual environment. He wasn't as focused on that, but said it could happen. I brought up the "Google Maps Airplane" game and how there could be "Information MMOs" where folks collaborate and work on some information environment like Google Maps. He found that interesting, but seemed to be more focused on entertainment MMOs. I wanted to know if Acclaim was going to do work-based MMOs...and it doesn't seem like it.

Finally, I talked to him about business models. Mainly, the idea of physical-based products promoting the MMO. I mentioned some kids games online that give out candy with a that kids can go online to play the games. I asked him if physical-based promotion is worth it...especially for indie game developers since profit margins for physical goods are much lower.

He said that physical-based promotion can definitely work. He then talked about a deal Acclaim is doing with a shoes company. The shoe design will be in the MMO...and at the same time, there will be a physical shoe that looks the same...that folks can buy. That will help brand that the MMO becomes a lifestyle brand.

Finally, he also mentioned that this space of emerging MMOs is perfect for young folks looking for an opportunity in the game industry. Emerging MMOs seem like a great opportunity for indie game developers too...and most folks will find out that they are much easier and faster to make nowadays.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

GDC 2007, Indie Game Summit, Notes, Day 2...


Attended a great session by Russell Carroll of He talked about marketing indie games. Here's a summary...
He had 6 points for marketing an indie game....
1) You're throwing money away by not marketing
* Making Marketing Mojo
* Consider the market
* Create a press plan/checklist
A bunch of events to get folks interested in your game
Have releases of previews...because previews always viewed in a positive light
Folks read it in positive light and want it more when it gets released.

If the first press release you send for a game is *after* it is released, then you've done something wrong. You should be sending press releases throughout the development process to help gain exposure and to get the editors use to your name.

As a game magazine editor, he mentioned that the games that stick out are the ones that constantly send press he recognizes the name.

Suggestions for writing a press release:
*Do not hire someone to write a press release
* Write your own press release since you're passionate about what you're doing vs. other writers
*Look at how to communicate

When writing press releases, try to keep it...
simple, memorable, and an unexpected emotion-stirring story

Consider viral marketing as an option, but requires a horse (something that'll spread virally); viral marketing is tricky because for every person that directly hears/plays the game, more than one must hear about it from them.

Find players/users that have the ability to talk about the game.

2) You're throwing money away by...
Using a publisher

You don't need a publisher for digital distribution. In fact, you have more leverage if game sells well on your site first.

If game sells well on your own, portals will approach you

3) You're throwing money away because you're not using a publisher:
Use publishers when they can take you were you can't easily use them to get into retail.

4) You are throwing money away by not abusing the portals
You paid for the advertising already, don't throw it away
If on portals, start taking advantage of fact that on portal.

Consider the idea that every download of your game on a portal is an advertisement
You need traffic, portals have traffic, abuse it.

Steal their traffic...
Give the portal players an incentive to visit your site. Offer other items related to your game that they can't find on
Downloadable levels
Hint Books

Does your game encourage users to seek you out?

5) You're throwing money away by not advertising (don't let other people take your customers)

Targeting ads can help you reach your target market. Advertising without tracking is stupid

Advertising may be scary, but can use money generated afterwards.

6) Throwing money away by being a bonehead
* Don't burn bridges because never know who will help you in the future. Said that he kept things professional and helped him in the end because needed help of that person
in the future.

* Activities that will make you unsuccessful with indiegames....
a) Ranting
b) Raving
c) Ignorning everyone
d) Talking to everyone
e) Blaming
f) Hating
g) Working Alone

Activities that make you a successful company...
a) Team
b) People (be nice to the team)
c) Professional (be professional at all times)

Mentioned checking out

Take care,

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

GDC 2007, Indie Game Summit Notes, Day 2...

Hey folks,

We're going to do something different. I'm going to post notes from the GDC here. I've also noticed a couple "emerging" trends discussed amongst the casual/indie developers and will do a mini-tutorial on the topics.

In any is day one...
At the GDC checking out various indie game, casual game, and serious game sessions.

Attended a serious games session on doing MMOs. This applies to the indie scene because some of the indie/casual gaming sessions had the "big players" talking about their future strategies involving MMOs.

At this serious games MMO session, mentions some of the non-WOW (World of Warcraft) MMOs that do well online. This includes kid MMOs like,, and other types of MMOs like Habbo Hotel.

The important thing to take away from the session is the concept that making an MMO
is much easier now than before. For example, ClubPenguin is a simple flash MMO. It uses SmartFoxServer as the backend and flash for the client. It is important to note that there is a free version of SmartFoxServer for small MMOs.

I've used SmartFoxServer and it's well documented. The other main benefit of flash MMOs is that IT IS ACCESSIBLE THROUGH A BROWSER. There is no installation required so the casual gamer can easily enter an MMO (without all the hassle of installing, etc.).

I think this is a key feature. In an unpublished interview with Joe Lieberman, he mentioned the idea of an emerging new market of "casual MMOs" this a space that indie game developers may want to check out.

The next session attended was "Making an Indie MMO" by the Three Rings Founder, Daniel James.

Three Rings made the game "Puzzle Pirates."

In any case, he talks mainly about changing business models helping to increase revenues.

For example, Puzzle Pirates initially had a monthly subscription. They switched to a
micro-payments model...where a user makes micropayments for buying a hat or coat within the game.

This seems to add up and has raised revenue significantly.

There was a Q&A session and one of the folks asked about developing an MMO in Java vs. Flash. Puzzle Pirates was done in Java, their future MMOs may be done in flash.

Afterwards, I attended some Casual Games Summit sessions. Most of the stuff rehashes things indie game developers know. There were two interesting things mentioned...
a) MMOs could be an emerging trend
b) A lot of the casual games company see mobile games as very important to their strategy.

A person from PopCap mentioned that they use the web to get the game out and start the distrution process and then use mobile as another effective medium to generate revenues and gain exposure.

Finally, attended a session on "How to Start a Casual Games Company"...
the session had a few folks starting a game company. At the end, one of the PopCap representatives mentioned a list of potential business ideas they see as huge are some of them:
1) Creating a backend for business reporting and other issues that arise from the need for information interchange between developers and publishers. He said, there is a need for someone to be the "SAP for Casual Games."

2) There are huge needs for innovative ways to market Casual Games; new viral marketing ideas

3) A need for a company to do high-end contract work. For example, PopCap may make a game and need to port it to other platforms. They need someone that can do this well.

That's the end of Day 1. Will post notes from Day 2....

Take care,

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