Experimental Game Dev Interviews
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  • Thomas talks about developing the IndiePub Audio Design Winner, Coma

    Posted on November 29th, 2010 IndieGamePod 1 comment

    Thomas talks about developing the IndiePub Audio Design Winner, Coma

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/gdco-coma.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

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  • The Challenges of Running a Game Studio in Mexico

    Posted on November 26th, 2010 IndieGamePod No comments

    Ricardo, CEO of Xibalba Studios, discusses the challenges and opportunities of running a game studio in Mexico.

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/cc-xibalba.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

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  • Using Kickstarter To Promote, Fund, and Develop Your Game…

    Posted on November 25th, 2010 IndieGamePod 1 comment

    Hey folks,

    In the last couple months, I’ve been hearing about a service called KickStarter…where you propose a project and then get people to fund it. You still keep 100% ownership.

    I went to the site and did a quick search for open game projects…here’s what I found…
    Here’s a game called “Eminent Domain: The Next Evolution Of Deck Building Games”

    This is not a computer game…it is a board game…and they got almost 700 people to sponsor them and raised almost $50,000…that’s pretty amazing considering that many board game designers I’ve talked to have complained about getting exposure. In fact, $50,000 seems to be more revenue than most indie computer games make…and they have not even released the game!

    They have awesome exposure and they have some loyal fans…who donated money for the game…and for the chance to fund a great game…I think that’s part of the fun for the folks donating…they get a game…but they also get to be part of the story…to help build a game…that sounds cool.

    Here’s another game being funded…it’s an iPhone game…and has already raised over $25,000…
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zarf/hadean-lands-interactive-fiction-for-the-iphone?ref=category

    This game is about interactive fiction. The guy has a dream to make text adventures…and he already does it. Now he’s gotten enough money to work on his iPhone game…and the 500 people that sponsored him are going to talk about this guy’s development. He’s getting paid to have people market the game for him!

    Btw, the developer/team gets to still keep 100% ownership of the game…even if a lot of folks donated money towards the cause.

    As smaller game developers work on marketing their games…they need to consider doing unique things like this…like posting their project on kickstarter.

    As small developers, do we need to reconsider the concept of how to market our game? Is it more than ads…is it now involving our audience in the development of the game…giving them some little piece of story/update they can check out every morning. I like to call this “Conversational Development”…where you are having a continuous and fun conversation about the game development with your current and future customers.

    Wolfire games seems to have done this well…where they got their whole game funded by pre-orders of the game! You can check out their interviews here…part 1 and part 2.

    Does gameplay even matter anymore? Sure, you have things like Bejeweled that have killer gameplay. But there seems to be an opening for new types of games…games that aren’t even fun…as long as you can sell customers on the hope and fun of helping to fund a dream game. The kickstarter donors are paying for a 6 month documentary of sorts…where they get daily updates on the developer’s progress.

    I consider this a new game design space…

    To succeed with these new types of games…a developer needs to the following…
    a) Recognize that the game is about 10% of the product…the other 90% is about entertaining the customers with the story of development. Being a comedian has more value than actual game design skill.
    a) Come up with a funny or interesting theme…something worth talking about…something that can serve as a conversation piece for your patrons.
    b) Be able to give gameplay/video updates each day or couple days…preferrably on a blog or YouTube…or some other place like Twitter
    c) Consciously and purposely make development dramatic. Being a poor project manager works best in this case…as the drama from poor project management makes the story of developing the game more interesting.

    You could get penalized for being too effective and efficient at game development. If you are too effective and efficient, you won’t be a fun story to your patrons…and they will lose interest in the game development process…and eventually the game.

    d) Having constant prototypes is good…it keeps your patrons engaged in the development story…while giving you feedback on the game

    Even if you don’t need the money for your game, it is a great way to get exposure at the moment…so who’s going
    to be the first indie to post their game up there…I’ll give the project a plug on the show ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • Free Kyiv Casual Connect Videos Online…

    Posted on November 24th, 2010 IndieGamePod No comments

    Hey folks,

    Casual Connect was nice enough to put the Kyiv Casual Connect Conference videos online…for free…you can check them out here…
    http://kyiv.casualconnect.org/content.html

    Enjoy ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • Spoon.net Discusses Their Indie Garage Program

    Posted on November 23rd, 2010 IndieGamePod No comments

    A discussion of Spoon.net tools for games as well as their Indie Garage program

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/cc-spoon.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

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  • Founder of Spiderweb Software Discusses Developing Role Playing Games

    Posted on November 20th, 2010 IndieGamePod 1 comment

    Jeff, president of Spiderweb Software, talks about developing fantasy role-playing games

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/cc-spiderweb.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

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  • Get Interviewed On The Show…

    Posted on November 18th, 2010 IndieGamePod No comments

    Hey folks,

    We’re looking to do more interviews with smaller game developers and teams…if you’re interested in talking about a game that you or your team has released, send an e-mail to support *** at *** indiegamepod *** dot *** com

    Also, if you have suggestions for devs to interview…send an e-mail with a link to their game/site…or add it to the comments below ๐Ÿ™‚

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  • Spicing Up Your Games With Awesome Audio Effects

    Posted on November 17th, 2010 IndieGamePod No comments

    Barry, from soundrangers.com, talks about using their online audio store to find solid sound effects for your games

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/cc-sound-rangers.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

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  • Guest Post: The Difficulty of Difficulty

    Posted on November 16th, 2010 IndieGamePod No comments

    Difficulty in games is a very confusing topic. All designers must know how difficult they want their game to be before the design process even begins. It decides what kind of audience you are shooting for. Casual vs Hardcore.

    Caual or Hardcore

    There is a major misconception that in order to please the most hardcore, the difficulty needs to be raised, shutting out a large part of the market. The alternative to this would be to make the game so easy that anyone can beat it. In fact, companies have been cheating lately. In Super Mario Galaxy 2, Nintendo allowed the player to skip over challenges the player deemed to difficult. NO! Bad designer.

    Cheating is the enemy of gaming. Allowing the player to cheat is the designers not doing their job. In school, some teachers are always “curving” test scores, getting rid of problems that most students missed (pretty much extra credit). This “curve” is the teacher acknowledging that the teaching was not good enough, and that the students should not be held accountable for it. If they are required to use these skills that haven’t counted, that they have not correctly learned, they are going to fail. In a video game, being able to skip challenges, which are designed to test your skills while teach/train your skills, leads to you missing out on important concepts and such, not to mention the terrible feeling the player has inside.

    Cheating

    The same goes for online walkthroughs – they ruin the satisfaction that the player is supposed to feel. Many skills are learned by trial and error, and the player may miss out on important things by just reading the solution to the challenge online. Although this is a very big pitfall of video game design, it is a very important signal.

    If a player absolutely cannot solve the challenge, to the point where they give up or look it up online, it is a signal that there is a gap in the learning curve. Something is not clicking, and the player is not able to draw on a skill or piece of knowledge that is required of him/her. How do we solve this? More challenges.

    Example: In Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, there was a small challenge that gave me trouble. Goal: get to floor below ground. Obstacle: the two holes one can use to get to bottom floor are covered in spider webs, making them impossible to go through. I tried everything I could think of – shooting my boomerang, arrows, and slingshot at the web. I tried shooting my boomerang from the torch on the wall to the web, hoping to burn it. I tried rolling onto the web, hoping my weight would break apart the web. Nothing worked.

    I didn’t want to do this, but I eventually had to – I looked at the walkthrough online. I am ashamed to say it, but there is a point where you become so frustrated with a challenge, that cheating is the only thing that can keep you engrossed in the game, as not doing so would lead to you not being able to play it anymore. The solution: pull out your lantern and roll onto the web – the fire will break open the web.

    For some reason then, I was frustrated with this solution. I did not understand why at the time, but I think I do now. In the game, they taught you that swinging your lantern (by shaking the remote) infront of a web in your way will break it. There were enough challenges here and there for the player to remember this throughout the game. In the entire portion of the game before this challenge, the player was never required to roll to solve a challenge, nor was the player required to use a lantern in a way besides shaking the remote in front of a web.

    So some people may have figured out, maybe right away, but there was not enough training beforehand to make that challenge reasonable for many. How could they have solved this? How about a couple challenges prior to this one that require rolling to complete the challenge. This doesn’t make the answer obvious, but it doesn’t take much away from the player who found the solution and felt awesome afterwards. It simply gives the player the complete skills they need to figure out the solution – it may be to much to ask from the player, figuring out both new skills and how you can use them to solve a new problem.

    Zelda web

    Much of these problems are found by just testing. Designers should find out which challenges are too difficult or broken, why they were too difficult (to the point where the player gave up, now completely unabsorbed, or looked up the answer, hurting his/her experience in the long run), and how to help this by training the player better beforehand.

    Challenge’s difficulty should arise from their problem solving, pattern recognition, and lateral thinking (amond others), with a given set of skills and tools to work with. Challenges should not arise from solving a problem with a skill that has not been well established yet (Twilight Princess example). Challenges should also not require the player to use a skill that has not been used in quite a while (people are forgetful).

    An example of this is seen in Half Life 2: Episode 2. Near the end, at Black Forest, the player was thrown into areas that required him/her to make use of the steam valves, which had not been utilized in quite a while. The designers through in a mini challenge before the real action started, requiring the player to get from one side of a pipe shooting out steam to the other. One cannot get through the steam, so the player would see the big red wheel, interact with it, and what do you know, the steam is shut off. Suddenly, the player has learned a lot about a certain skill, recalling from memory. Instead of the player having to figure out the corrollation between the wheel and steam and such during the heat of battle, he/she is taught it beforehand, making for a more pleasurable, and rewarding, challenge.

    half life 2 episode 2

    This example shows my point well, and leads me to another important point. Challenges should either be about solving a challenge or learning a new skill (with a very easy challenge, like the Half Life 2 example) – not both… usually. When a player is given a challenge, he/she is going to try to solve it, and usually, he/she will not figure out a new skill (a new use of a tool/asset), as he/she expects to be able to solve the challenge using only what he/she knows already – it is the way our brains work. A player could learn a skill if it is obvious (like turning the wheel to stop the steam), and these type of challenges tend to be very rewarding. These kind of challenges require the most testing (be prepared to change or throw them out).

    Now to finish my point – difficulty should not include only button mashing, quick timing, etc. The difficulty is reliant on using skills to complete challenges, with the occasional new skill introduced to open up new kinds of challenges. When you get a new tool in Zelda, you are given a VERY basic challenge to learn the basics of that skill. When given the hookshot, you are in a small room, and must shoot the hookshot at the red dot to get out of the room. Just like that, the player knows a new skill, and many challenges that require this skill can be thrown at him/her.

    The relative difficulty of the game, surprising to some, should remain about the same throughout the game (it does not get 10X harder – in may even be harder in the beginning). As you play through a well designed game, you get better and better at the skills it quizzes you on. You tackle new skills constantly, always improving on old concepts for new ways to tackle solutions. The absolute difficulty of a challenge at the end of the game is very hard – a brand new player would have a extremely (it is almost impossible) hard time with it. But, if the relative difficulty is about the same – a player playing the game all the way through that point will have about as hard of a time as he/she did solving a challenge from way back to level 3.

    portal challenge

    Designing a game’s series of challenges is very difficult – each challenge needs to reinforce skills, open the player’s mind to using skills in new ways, teach the player to combine certain skills, or learn entire new skills. The skills/knowledge a challenge requires must be well taught through previous challenges – the difficulty lies in using these tools (whether you use them in a different way, or in a more difficult way).

    The level of difficulty can be suitable to both the casual and hardcore audience, and still be wildly fun for both, if the learning curve and individual challenges are not broken.

    Dylan Woodbury lives with his family in Southern California. He runs http://dtwgames.com, a game design website that posts intriguing new articles every week, both beginnerโ€™s tutorials and theoretical ideas. He also has an interest in writing, and is planning his first novel. His primary goal is to change the world through video games.

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  • Using Social Gold To Raise Revenue In Your Online and Mobile Games

    Posted on November 14th, 2010 IndieGamePod No comments

    Michael, from Social Gold, talks about using virtual currency to monetize your online and mobile games

    You can download the podcast here…
    http://www.indiegamepod.com/podcasts/cc-social-gold.mp3

    Or listen to it here…

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