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Month: August 2022

Show your impact

When you get an interview you can demonstrate your skills in three ways:

  1. Taking a test
  2. Showing a portfolio
  3. Demonstrate the impact of your work

Often, you are required to do more than one thing at the same time. In fact, many companies ask you to take a test. Before, they review your portfolio and later they ask you about the impactful initiatives you lead in your previous jobs.

Impact is, by far, the most interesting thing. Still it’s not really easy to understand the specific impact of your designs. Many times (too many times) your designs are strongly influenced by the context. It may be some specific software constraint or also the green light process at which every initiative is submitted.

Still it is very important to learn how to estimate the right impact of your work. In data driven contexts, like f2p for example, you should also accompain your reasonings with concrete KPIs increment (in % to not break any secrecy).

Lore and freedom

I am playing Horizon Forbidden West and everytime I meet a new character, the game invites me to hear minutes of dialogues. The story is intriguing and well written, but I cannot just walk away such as in Skyrim for instance, leaving the NPC speaking alone. Different design pillars, different approach to narrative.

Still, a great game. This forceful dialog creates somehow a connection with the lore of the game. So that a new intellectual property is reinforced.

I am also playing the classic Gothic. A game that says you NOTHING about what to do. A game from the past. You have to really strive to understand what to do, where to go and so on. I killed a man, today. I found him hidden in a mountain. I spoke with him and then I killed him. Why? The game gave me 40XP. There will be no consequences to my character.

And that fits into the game’s narrative of brutal freedom and high insecurity. So that I was the big fish eating the small fish, today. It fits. Gothic still has fans all over the World.

Humbleness and feedback

When someone asks me for a feedback for their game, I try to never give my opinion. In fact, I believe that working in games makes us liable of huge biases that come from experiences which are subjective.

I try to make them questions, instead. Try to understand really what’s behind their choices. Then I tell them what I would ask to playtesters to challenge their assumptions.

I believe that is the best way of giving feedback. From the other hand, the tendency is to say what one would do instead. And the worst is that then someone may follow blindly your advice. Applying that advice in their understanding, not what you said them in first place.

That is why it’s important be humble, somehow. Being humble is being completely honest. In order to be that, the right start is always a certain amount of questions.

Smiling Suns

I was talking on the phone with my mom, and she said: “your brother sent me yesterday photos from the beach. He was happy, he also put a Sun that smiles in the message.”

The “Sun that smiles” is her interpretation of the smiling emoji. I grew up typing ASCII symbols to create smileys. Then with MSN, those symbols were automatically translated to a smiley. In our interpretation, a smiley is a face, not a Sun. My mother, instead, had nothing to do with all of that. First time she saw a smiley was in WhatsApp. Her interpretation is a Sun, not a face. And she is right, is a yellow round circle with eyes and mouth. It is not a face, definitely! It is more a Sun.

Her meaning is more poetic than mine, too. A Sun that smiles, a Sun that cries. That is not the face that my brother wanted to show. There was a third entity in their conversation. It was an happy day at the beach, and the Sun smiles. I love it!

Sometimes the same happens to our games. The shapes we present to the Players have a meaning for us, developers. And then the game is out, everyone in the World will play it. Some of them will see a face smiling. Some other will see a Sun, instead. And that’s very powerful.

A VIP idea from Delta Airlines

Design games for the free-to-play mobile business is whale hunting. Unless you are a genious, like Bit Life developers, you will probably do the math. And doing the math, you will notice that you need high spenders to sustain your business.

Yesterday I saw this comment on a LinkedIn post:

Shoutout to Tom Hammond for this great idea.

I checked out the original Delta program and now I cannot understand why nobody is doing that.


Ana, a Slotomania player, is a Black Diamond level VIP client. She gets an ad from your Mobile Casino Game that promises her VIP level can be matched with a challenge.

  • Installs the game, logs in
  • A pop-up asks her if she already has VIP status in other games, she answers that she does and details that she is a Black Diamond in Slotomania
  • Within 12 hours, a person from Customer Support contacts Ana, asking for more information
  • Ana’s VIP level is matched with the game’s VIP level.


If someone has a high VIP level in another game, it is most likely a whale. It could be a whales acquisition strategy.

Failing at premises

Successful games are games that manage to meet the right audience willing to invest their money in them to get the kind of fun they expect. And that is nothing new, it’s game design 101. It’s the very first lesson you learn anywhere when you start designing games. You should design a game for some audience.

There are many ways of failing at this. Actually, the vast majority of games fail to deliver this exact point. Which is why video games are a very risky business.

The experience may help you avoid some mistake, and mine has a almost constant issue that I see: failing at premises.

In fact, a lot of times I hear sentences like:

We want to make a game like <CoolGameTitle> but more [casual|hardcore|midcore], just like <NewTrendyGameTitle>.

Senior VP of Product Ownementshipssss (or some fancy title like this)

I don’t know if the syntax I am using is completely clear, I guess it is not. But the truth is that when you want to change a playstyle from a specific audience, that almost for sure leads to disaster. Casual, midcore and hardcore to me are a way of describing the gameplay session time.

It is good that you take your references, but if you are willing to force a significant change in gameplay behavior you are on the wrong way. If you know that a specific successful game has that playtime, you should consider that seriously as a pillar and not as something to change. We can be misled to think that “making things simpler” means “shorter/longer gameplay sessions” and that is almost never the case.

Never say never of course, but that is in my experience one of the false premise that make a game lose the money and efforts you and your team invested in.

Try sell this idea

A lot of skilled entrepreneurs (skilled entrepreneur = very talented seller) are convincing investors with promises of huge returns on investments coming from concepts that, on the contrary, are demonstrating to be not so appealing to the people. I am talking about metaverse, web3, play-to-earn, gamified economies and so on.

The dream of creating the perfect mousetrap where people come from all over the World to watch ads and spend many hours per day will remain a dream. It comes, in my opinion, from a huge misunderstanding of how games as a service work.

The reality is that is becoming harder and harder to create the right experience for the people. Usually it comes with a great gameplay, usually is multiplatform and usually has no barrier to start. But, I mean, there are a lot of concepts to try out that may actually work. And nothing so fancy, something very simple.

Think in Among Us and its big success during the pandemic. Think in Bit Life, a game made just with text that breaks all the best practices of f2p.

Games like those cannot be proposed to investors, because one has to be honest. One should admit that we know very little things about the future of our industry. The things we know for sure are:

  • We need to create more value for the Players
  • We need to think in a vast geographies, not just rich countries
  • We need more talent to join the industry

Is it possible to really sell this idea to an investor? Is it really possible in an environment where too often we hear words like “growth” before of even write the first line of code?

Gran Turismo Café

Saturday I got a PS5. I am so happy you cannot imagine. I was chasing the opportunity since a whole lot and I found mine. It came with Granturismo 7, Horizon Forbidden West, Elden Ring (which scares me because I am very bad at those games) and a second gamepad.

I wasn’t playing Granturismo since its second edition, so that I lost its tracks. Seeing it in its 25th anniversary makes me proud. I was there when the first edition launched. I was there struggling a lot with patents and so on.

With the power and the controllers of PS5 now I can feel way more the cars. The simulation improved a lot. The game converted to a service. You race and complete challenges to earn credits. You use those credits to purchase cars and parts. If you are not patient, you can also purchase extra credits. The game is a service, every day there are novelties. It has a lot of functionalities, mechanics, features and game modes so that a Player may feel lost.

Menu Books and Compass

Using the italian café metaphor, a character named Luca will guide the Players with his menu books. A set of missions designed to drive the Players.

A yellow compass guides the Players to the game mode and section they have to go in order to complete the challenge.

  • The compass is on the map and on the top bar.
  • The top bar completes the information with a sentence

The Player gets content/story on challenge completion

and with a roulette ticket (gacha) which permit to get credits, cars and car parts

Roulette ticket have stars and an expiration date, so that the Players cannot store them and get the last things after some month (thing that happens in a lot of free to play games). They have to invest them.

I am reading a lot of complaints regarding the missions given by Luca at Gran Turismo Café. Sometimes it forces you to purchase upgrades for a car that is not interesting. Still, I notice than the next challenge is always related with the previous ones. The game is thoughtfully designed.

I believe that when the Players have the opportunity to spend real money to skip time and satisfy their impatience, they can be led to believe that everything is designed to grab their money. You should grind a lot in order to get the best cars. Best cars are worth millions of credits and from a single race you get 2-5k. You have to play a lot to be able of purchasing them. The missions that require you to spend those credits that you are saving in order to progress can be a pain in the arse.

Still I am loving this game and this system is a very neat references for games with a lot of mechanics. Now I want to buy a G29 wheel and test the real drive!

Your game may not sell if…

You are just making the game you would like to play.

You rarely speak with the Players of your competitors.

You already know what to copy, without knowing why it works (are you sure it really works?).

You feel confident that it will sell, without being backed by concrete data.

If you have a vocation

Many of us who start working in game development feel the urge of delivering something meaningful to Players from all over the World. We hear a call and we struggle in finding the right place to answer this call. We can humbly call this a vocation.

Do we understand all the components of our vocation for game design? It’s important if we want to find the right place to stay.

  • We are born with dowries. Natural virtues that have to be trained to be part of our talents.
  • We have talents, things we can do very well (sorry, I cannot find a better definition).
  • And then we are in circumstances. If Hussain Bolt were born in, let’s say, China in year 2 d.C., he would hardly have been an olimpic champion, right?

If we hear a call for game development, we should consider our dowries, our talents and the circumstances we are in!