90% complete is done.

It’s really tempting, when making games as a hobby, to think that you can lavish time and attention on a design document, or the ‘perfect coding’ or the perfect art.  But that idea is a trap.  Anyone who has had an investor or built an operating budget for a company knows that even the smallest indie developer needs to be producing something.  Revenue has to come in.  If it doesn’t you can’t pay for food, desks, or development of your ideas.

Guy Kawasaki’s book “Rules for Revolutionaries” was required reading at BU, and definitely worth the time to read (it’s short).  Even if you have no great love of Apple Computers you can find advice to help you get your project done.  An incomplete project is simply a pile of ideas.  You cannot pay rent with ideas.  This book can help you turn ideas into revenue faster (assuming you have a well thought out idea to begin with).

The two rules that have stuck with me the longest, which have direct impact on game development “Don’t worry, be crappy” And “Churn, Baby, Churn”.  If you want to find out what that means, definitely pick up the book.  If your company is just barely getting by, it might be time to rethink your devotion to ‘perfection’ and try these two rules.

Some people might think means you are ‘just in it for the money’, but those people have never had employees wages to pay.  Nor understand the heavy responsibility of taking investment to make a company.  Any company, every company, runs ‘for the money’. Every indie developer wants to get money, but rarely because of greed.  They don’t have a choice, they have employees to pay.  But that doesn’t mean they have to sacrifice passion.  Quite the opposite, it requires passionate Revolution.

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Ichiro Abroad

If you haven’t had a chance to yet, pop over to this Gamasutra article and give it a read.  Some really great basic advice, subtle yet powerful.  Short post today due to high call volume in the call center.  The new full time gig is taking up a lot of time, and there may be a big announcement coming soon, which will take up all the rest of the time.  Also, if you just love Ichiro, here is his advice on going to GDC…  Even if you just go to the vicinity of GDC it might be worth it.

5 Great Ways to Find an Artist for your Game Project.

 For the ZoRTS project finding Artists seemed to be the biggest challenge.  There is just something about artists which makes them really hard to find.  Maybe there aren’t many out there at the moment.  Maybe Artists are looking in traditional media instead of game design.  Or maybe working on a project for no pay is not very appealing.  Regardless of the reason for a difficult search here are some of the strategies the ZoRTS project has used to find Concept Artists and Sprite Artists for The ZoRTS Project.

1.) Trade Shows/Conventions.  While attending Pax East 2011, I went to every panel for art.  Not to attend the panel, just to talk to the Artist lining up to listen. At a big convention you have an hour long wait for the room.  Two words: captive audience.  You can talk up your game, get business cards, or just chat with art folks.

2.) Art Schools.  One of those Pax East Attendees was a representative from an art school.  They are always looking for ‘internships’ and opportunities for their students.  They even have offices set up to help find projects that are looking for artists.  You may want to avoid the fine arts colleges, and go with ones that have game or programming curriculum…  But don’t limit yourself if you are located in a part of the country with only a few colleges.

3.) Go to Kongregate.com.  Many of the games there have art under a Creative Commons License that will allow you to use the art for free, as long as you mention the artist.  This pack of art may be all you need for a prototype, or it may be a place to start and build from.

4.) Build a website!  If you are laboring in secrecy there is no way you can get the word out about your game.  Polish those inbound marketing skills, or contract me to do it, grab some free Google webspace and start telling us about your game.  Use this to attract the attention of the artists that you need.

5.) Reddit!  Use the /r/gamedev, /r/indiegame or similar subreddit.  And there are other more appropriate boards there as well.

In fact this blog post was inspired by a reddit post.  Check it out here to find out if they have added any new and useful comments.  What ways have you used to look for artists to work on a game?  Any ‘war stories’ about trying to find that great artist?  Next week it’s finally here, 1 Free Business Plan for your computer game.  It was held back one week to tweak it and make sure it’s perfect!

thenewboston.com

As you know I’m a business guy.  Having been out of IT for 10 years, there is some rust on those old coding skills.  It has been suggested to me recently that learning Java would be a good idea.  Although  Java is not the best language for game design, it seemed like a good idea because Mojang is going to release the code for Minecraft at some point and allow people to mod the game.  Which is super exciting.  Also the more coding that I know the more help I can be to The ZoRTS Project as the project manager.  Even if we use QT or C++ to code the game with having a good understanding of the specifics of coding means better communication with my team.

We have a new coder interested in working on the Project, and he recommended thenewboston.com.  The website is so great that this special post was made to point you in Bucky’s direction.  I cannot recommend the site more.  They have some amazing tutorials on every major programming language.  The Java section starts with downloading the necessary programs and coding environments.  This is head and shoulders above other tutorials on youtube, where they assume you know that already or don’t think to provide assistance.  There are 87 basic Java videos, 27 intermediate Java videos, and then 30 Java game development videos!  That is just Java.  The site also offers C, C++, Visual Basic, Python, iPhone development.  Even better the website doesn’t seem overwhelming.  Really important for a newbie to coding.

To supplement Bucky’s wonderful website I have a couple books are on their way.  They shall get reviews once they have arrived and been read.  It’s tempting to post them as Amazon Affiliates now…  But it’s in better taste to plug them on a review instead of taking the lime light away from thenewboston.com.  So watch my blog for those reviews!

I would love to find a website that specifically targets people learning Java for Minecraft.  If you have any suggestions on ways to learn Java please, I would love for your to post them in comments section!  Thanks!

The Most Important First step in game design.

Just so that we get this out of the way right up front, I have never made a computer game before.  Fortunately I have made a game before (a LARP in fact, edited the 8th edition).  That puts me in the classification of Amateur.  If I ever get Zorts made, look here on this blog for a big post with lots of joy and wonderment.  I am on this step with everyone else.  My edge on this situation is my business degree from BU.

Most gamers at some point realize that they want to make a computer game.  Some game concept that they want to see, or some story that they want to tell.  You have some kind of an idea that to them makes a great game.  Hopefully you have 100 ideas, or better yet more.  Some spark of inspiration has hit and from that the beginnings of a computer game arise.  Assuming that you are an amateur, what do you do next?

Start talking about it.

Your first instinct is going to be fear that someone else is going to steal your idea.  While that may happen, it most likely won’t.  And there are many reasons why.  The best thing that you can do is get over the fear that your ideas are going to be stolen.  Especially in the design doc phase.  Start finding people that want to talk about making computer games.  You will find that 9 times out of 10 they are already making their own game.  But talk to them anyway.  Networking.  Get over the fear and create a web page for the project.  This advice was provided to me from Community Management/Marketing folks at Pax.  Yes I was one of the 12 people that went to a Community Management/Marketing panel at Pax.  And it was awesome.

Ultimately there is no right answer.  For the ZoRTS Project the game design doc came next.  What do you need next?  A game design doc?  A road map?  How about a Gantt Chart?  Stay tuned folks, more steps to follow!

"How to Think like Leonardo daVinci" by Michael Gelb

At the moment there are so many blog posts scheduled, that everyone gets a bonus post this week!  This post is inspired by 101 ways to draw more traffic to your siteIn case you don’t know The Traffic Blogger I highly recommend you check him out.  More then just blogging about blogging, he runs the incredible Just My Two Copper forum/post/community (marketing machine).  I’ve learned a lot from both of his ventures.

“98. Write about someone famous who has been dead for more than 200 years. Incorporate their story into a lesson about your niche.”

That line caused instantaneous inspiration.  Leonardo Da Vinci.  We know that he’s one of the smartest and most creative people that has ever lived.  Have there been people as smart, and as creative since or before?  Sure there have.  But we don’t know them because Leonardo was genius enough to write his thoughts and ideas down.  He kept a journal.

Years ago, while working at a bookstore, I found a book called “How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci”. The cliché “It changed my life” is true.  Although I would add “In a subtle but profound way”.  I have held onto this book for years because it contains great lessons learned by studying the life and genius of da Vinci.http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=thzopr-20&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0440508274&fc1=FFFBFB&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=A7A7A7&bc1=000000&bg1=060606&f=ifr

Keeping a journal is the piece of advice that is life altering.  Applying that advice to game design is brilliant.  Write down all your game design ideas; no matter how big or small.  All RPG character ideas, all LARP ideas, and CCG ideas.  Anything.  Once you have all these little ideas floating around in your journals, start to connect them together.

Another approach is to refine and collect those ideas in a new medium.  You might think that this blog is the original journal.  However it’s actually a refinement, a revision of that journal.  The ideas of this blog are culled out of ideas from journals.  Ideas combine and form, and become something new.  Like Alchemy.  😉

This method of taking notes and then refining them is a good way to study something.  The difference between knowledge and understanding is application.  If you can apply knowledge (data on something) in some way you gain understanding.  Start by writing down notes in a journal, and then rewriting those notes into something useful to someone else (or yourself later).  I feel that it’s important to have a hand written journal, and from that create a digital version.  Each format is a very different medium and that helps the brain process the knowledge into understanding.   

When younger I wrote angst ridden emotional junk about my current circumstances, thinking that a journal was a catalog of every emotional thing that happened mixed in with all the ideas.  Good journals are not diaries.  Avoid that temptation.  Years later you will want to throw that crap away.  Luckily I kept one diary full of angst and one journal full of ideas.  All the drawings and ideas had a much more positive emotional association years later then all the drama.  The diary got thrown out because it was too embarrassing to look at.

I should reread the book and write another book review to go with Inbound Marketing.