Beginners Guide to Larp: Choosing Structure

To the outside world the word ‘larp’ may seem like it means something very specific. Many regions have one primary larp which comes to define the entire concept for that region. These days many new players are finding games online, but still retain the notion that there is only one kind of LARP. Here’s a guide for new players who are looking to get in, but don’t know what the different kinds of larp are and which they should be looking for.

Continue reading “Beginners Guide to Larp: Choosing Structure”

Start-up Definitions

Your last vocabulary assignment was about Crowd Funding definitions. Now lets discuss a couple commonly misused words from the classic investment world.  And that really means that I’ve used these words incorrectly.  They means something specific.  By the way, these are not dictionary definitions…  But rather experiential definitions.

This round of funding comes from the goodness of peoples hearts.  You are given the money because people want to see you succeed, and maybe because you have good swag.

Angel Investor
People who believe in you, and have more money then the average person.  They are willing to give you 20,000 or 30,000 dollars (maybe more) to start something…  But they want ownership in return.  They could be new to the investment world and might have their own idea of how things should be done.  Or maybe they are an experienced executive from a company in the industry looking to branch out.

Venture Capitalist
Most people think of VC’s and Angel Investors as the same thing.  They are not.  Venture Capital firms are companies of people with charts, data, and information. They crunch real numbers about you’re likely-hood of success.  VC’s don’t invest unless the odds are in their favor.  Which makes their money harder to get.

Crowdfunding Definitions

Anyone else notice that I’m very interested in crowd funding games lately?  Yeah.  Fortunately I’m not hooked on spending money I don’t have funding them.  Some people have problems.  Over the next few weeks that should shift towards the funding on game companies.  Lets go over some terms, as I use them, to clarify things.

One of the two big crowd funding websites.  Notable because they allow some projects to complete without reaching a set goal.  Also they have fewer game design projects, and many more art projects.  Still a viable place to fund indie game development.

One of the two big crowd funding websites, notable because of the pass/fail programs.  Campaigns cannot chose an option that allows them to get whatever funds are completed, the campaigns must reach their goal.  This site is more popular among the indie and some mainstream game developers.

Open Crowd funding
A project which independently creates and runs it’s own crowd funding campaign, without using a service like Indiegogo or Kickstarter.  This is a rising trend among AAA game developers.

Equity Crowdfunding
The really neat kind of crowd funding, promised in the JOBS ACT.  Also called Accredited Crowd Funding because Accredited Investors will be able to provide money to start up companies, in exchange for ownership of the company.  They most likely will not get swag as well…  But we shall see.

Newbies guide to the 4 stages between an idea and selling a game.

This discussion is the Business Development side the 4 Stages of Game Design.  If you’ve been paying attention you’ll notice that ZoRTS gets referred to as a project a lot.  Have you ever wondered why that is?  There is a good reason for that, and it can help you think about your game project.  There will be some elaboration on these concepts in a future post which contains a free business plan for a computer game.

My Project Management Professor at Boston University one day told our class to make sure not to confuse a company with a product. This idea has been expressed here as a logical expression Game Idea != Product.  Many, many people especially gamers, confuse an idea, a plan, a project, and a company. This is completely understandable, they get excited about taking an idea and turning it into a business. It’s very important to understand the difference between them to preserve productivity, and to put your efforts into the correct thing at the correct time.  A big point that Scott MacMillian makes is that some projects can be created without starting a company.  Why go into $30,000 to $50,000 (or more) worth of dept when you would be completely happy just making the prototype?

  • Project: A plan for taking a set of ideas and turning them into a product (in this case a game).  Additionally the  process of taking that idea and actually doing something with it. The project would include starting with some kind of plan (referred to as Project Documentation) to create Game Design Document and then execute the plan to produce a prototype.  The documentation should also include a deadline, goals and a timeline.  You obviously cannot sell a Project to a consumer.  In the game design industry until you actually have an executable file that you can have another human sit down in front of and enjoy, you don’t have anything.  You simply have a collection of ideas written down.
  • Prototype: The output of the first project should be a playable prototype. Unless you are really ambitious, like the Dwarven Fortress folks, then your prototype will be a demonstration of the technical skills of the coders, and the basic ideas and game play you intend to elaborate on.  The DF prototype/alpha is way more than a technical demonstration, and they happen to be the exception that proves the rule.  For us mere mortals we want to make our prototypes demonstrate that we can deliver something that has some fun game play.
  • Computer game: (aka a product) the full release version of executable piece of software that someone can get some enjoyment out of.  We learn that there are multiple stages between Prototype and Full Release in a previous post.  For the big AAA titles there are years of production which include QA testing, Beta Testing, all kinds of polish.
  • Company: Once you have a product, something that generates revenue, something that the players can get their hands on, you finally can start a company.  Why wait this long?  Because on your first project, or first game you are bootstrapping.  Which means you have to pay out of pocket for the expenses the game incurs plus the expenses the company incurs.  The second you start a company, your expenses go through the roof.  People have to be compensated for working at a company.  Employee’s are much different than ‘volunteers’.

Go through these stages at your own pace.  And if you find one partcular stage that you don’t want to move past, don’t.  You could stay in the project space forever and still produce a game…  It may not be really great, but you wouldn’t incur the cost of incorporation.  If you really want to make a company, respect the stages that lead up to it, because you can save yourself a whole lot of money by making mistakes before incorporation.

For these reasons I try very hard to tell people that ZoRTS is a Project, and the result of that project will be a game prototype.  It is very tempting to tell people that I work on a computer game or that I have started a game company, but that just isn’t the truth.

4 Stages of Game Design

Some questions were raised in the post “Until you launch something, the time you spend is meaningless“, about the nature of computer game development.  There are many ways that you can develop a title, so these are not the only way that such stages can be defined.  This is in no way a complete list, but meant to provide basic awareness.  It will also form basic definitions for ideas that come in future posts.

Version 0 of the game. The goal of the first stage of game development is to create a working prototype.  Something that is playable and features some of the art and some of the graphics of the game.  While building the prototype you are looking for the fun, and designing the main game play loop.  For example the ZoRTS prototye is going to render some basic terrain.  Two types of buildings will be inserted into the terrain.  There will have two survivor units, and two zombie units.  This is much less than the full version of the game would contain.

Version 1.0 of a game.  You have revised the prototype to include as much content as you possibly can.  Even if unpolished and buggy code.  Even if the thing crashes some time.  All the intended functionality should be present and work at least some of the time.  The main game play loop should be evident and fun.

Version 2.0 of the game.  The vast majority of the bugs should be found and squashed.  New units could be added or old ones removed.  Game play should be tweeked and refined.  Numbers crunched for fairness and balance.  There should be some Quality Assurance people involved.

Players see this as a game with a title in a box on a shelf.  It should be working 99% of the time.  Some players may experience bugs, and things may need to be fixed, but the game should otherwise be stable.  It should be something that a customer is willing to purchase.

These stages outline the process of producing most AAA games, and I would assume many Indie games as well.  There may be different names, or some stages may be missing, but this is the progress that most games go through.