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Tag: ideas

First sparks

There is some magic in the very first idea that comes to your mind when you start any creative endeavor.

When you start working on something new, it can be a project but also simply a task, you have that first intuition. In my experience, that first spark is often the most important one.

Some of the best songs in music history have been written in a few hours, too. And with creativity in general, it often happens the same.

But of course, this is just my sensation, I have no metrics, no data, no information to back it up. I don’t know if there is a general rule, a thesis, behind this.

I like to appreciate the beauty of things and not everything has to be estimated, measured, controlled, or predicted.

Long live the first sparks. They come out of nowhere, but more often than not they are the best choice.

On sacrifice and duty

When you are an employee you are there because you can do the job. Also because you can make THAT specific job, you master certain pipelines according to your level of experience. Finally, you are there because you can work in a team.

When you build your own company, you are working on creating an environment that permits your employees to build a business.

When you are a freelancer, you have a 1-person business that helps clients (usually companies) solve specific problems.

The social media era, the dopamine times in which we live suggests us “not to work for other people’s dreams”. That’s a weird lens to use to see the World. We forget the importance of sacrifice and duty for our societies to prosper.

There are different sets of skills that you need according to what you want to do. It’s not easy for me to suggest “Hey, did you lose your job? You are an expert, why don’t you build your own company?”. The responsibilities you have to tackle are completely others, and your experience will probably give you also a lot of biases. And most importantly, you should focus on the business, not on the pipelines.

The odds for a specialist to be successful in a completely different field are higher than in building a business in the same sector. The games business is full of doctors who built successful companies.

Some game designers out there can help solve wicked problems, outside of games. At this moment we have quite a few of them. That’s my wish, honestly.

A forest

When I walk in a wood, I focus my attention on the path and stop to admire the trees. Some of them are like monuments, they grew a lot. Fantastic!

Then I discover maybe a little mushroom that has grown during the same night. That mushroom will last a few hours or a couple of days.

I don’t give too much attention to the little herbs, the underwood that’s everywhere. It’s common behavior, I think. Still, they are an important part of the view and the smell that I get from the experience.

The fact is that the big tree exists and it’s big thanks to the whole biome which permits that. It’s impossible and surreal to think in a forest made out only of trees with no herbs.

The underwood is fundamental to the ecosystem, it’s what permits the big trees to be big in the first place. And the underwood can grow up to a certain point, that’s a quality, not a limitation.

If we want more trees and a bigger forest, we should let the underwood spread more and not cut it off just because it’s not tall enough.

Dreaming of Switch 2

Nintendo said that during this fiscal year, they will announce Switch 2. As far as I remember, this is the first time that Nintendo has put a number on the previous one. That makes me think that they will not innovate that much, this time.

But maybe I am wrong, and I imagine which improvements Nintendo can bring to their business.

The first thing is that their controllers, influenced by the competitors I don’t know, got very complicated. We passed from the cross and two buttons to 2 sticks, a cross, 4 frontal buttons, 4 retro buttons. A simpler control system will make more people want the console.

What if my Switch 2 is also my mobile phone? I would buy that. A mobile smartphone capable of running WhatsApp, and LinkedIn and making my work that is also the console I can play with my daughter. A smartphone that I can plug on my projector and play bigger.

Being a smartphone, a camera can add AR features to games.

And maybe they could try to bring back the Gameboy printer why not?

GTM, Innovation and Marketing

I read a post from a VC firm looking for projects to fund. One of the points was “clear GTM strategy”. GTM stands for go-to-market. Experts claim that the next big company will figure a novel way of distributing games out. Distribution is part of go-to-market of course.

I am fascinated by this concept of the minimum viable audience, which is the minimum number of fans you need to serve to make your business viable.

Another concept I like a lot, better than agile IMHO, is the shape-up methodology, where you basically set up deadlines and deliver making the best you can in the fraction of time you decided.

Those would be part of my go-to-market strategy, for sure.

Innovation in mobile games

The playbook is not working anymore and Players are claiming innovation, too. For mobile games, there are elements from the world of apps that mobile games never adapted and I don’t know why.

The first is the infinite scrolling feed. Mobile games are still stuck in the world of Flash games somehow. We still use pop-ups as if we’re operating on the World Wide Web. In some cases, I spend precious minutes closing pop-ups at every session. Also, video ads have to be dismissed with the X in top right corner. It is incredibly slow and frustrating.

An infinite feed guarantees engagement and also ads and special offers can be put in it. Every game can become more streamlined, helping the Players do other things while playing.

The second element is the widgets. You know that things that are not app icons that appear on your smartphone. Why should I enter the game to see who attacked me or to collect a daily bonus?

A widget would also be a reminder that the game is there, why is nobody using it?

I think that one of the issues we have with innovation is that we are not making enough efforts to find ways of measure certain design elements and choices. Everything can be measured in certain fashion. But more often than not designers are in a company just creating content, not solving problems. The “everyone is a designer” reigns always in contexts led by product managers, and there’s nothing to do with that.

The company I dream of has that issue fixed. But, I know, I am a dreamer.

Distribution

Marketing has become not about the brand, but about the people behind it. If you see the last ad from Supercell or you read about the last successes on PC, you will clearly see that.

Is it possible to make that scalable? Probably, yes. I would start from there.

The head of marketing from Larian Studios declared that marketing is dead and everyone is angry at him. He expressed quite bad, but I understood what he wanted to say. The marketing is super important, more than ever. But the old fashion of doing marketing is gone.

Project Silinha: first concept

I have an idea for a videogame buzzing in my head since many months. It should be an adventure game in a solar punk setting where the Player moves on a skate and fights capoeira.

The name of the project is Silinha for now. Silinha is the family nickname of my wife and I want to dedicate the project to her. In fact, also the main character should be similar to her.

The story is inspired by 3%, a Netflix Brazilian series. But I want it to be solar punk, utopic, not post-apocalyptic.

I have started sketching out ideas and engaging with the Solar punk community on Reddit. This is my very first concept:

It’s ugly, I know, but I can see a lot of things in it. It’s not a good concept to share with a team, but it works for a solo project. I didn’t use AI to generate it, I looked actively for images (skaters, capoeira, solar punk) and made a collage in GIMP. I sketched on top to get the layout and then used plain colors to fill the shapes.

It’s bad, it’s ugly, but it’s mine and it’s my first attempt. So I am happy with it!

Happy 25 April, you all!

Today is a special day for the nation where I was born. 25 of April represents the Anniversary of Italy’s Liberation. It’s a national holiday that commemorates the culmination of the liberation of Italy from German occupation and the Italian civil war in the latter phase of World War II.

Today I want to dedicate a post to 3 Italians who are contributing to making a great industry. I want to share with you 3 talks that are available for free and online, that prove the Italian contribution to our fantastic micro-world where lots of people would work.

The first talk is by Riccardo Zacconi, who years ago founded King (nowadays part of Activision/Blizzard). I remember having seen this talk years ago and it made me dream about working for King.

The second talk is an interview with the solo-dev, creator of Vampire Survivors one of the top indie games of last year. Luca Galante created a simple game with lore that is not possible to understand if you’re not an Italian, but it’s SO FUNNY if you are. Clerici, Dommario, Rottin’Ghoul are all references to the Italian trash culture and irony.

The last talk is with Massimo Maietti, one of the creators of Monopoly GO! which is the last huge success in the video games industry. I like to recognize in this person something very Italian, the connection we always make with culture and history in everything we make.

What the 3 have in common?

  • They are all Italians
  • They all had to live out of Italy
  • They made success in Angloamerican environment (curiously the Angloamericans helped a lot during liberation)
  • They all came from gambling games, like me. I will always say it: gambling games can be bad to you, I respect that. But they put you in contact with something very innate in the human compulsion. It’s all about amigdala!

Use analogies to find new formulas

Videogames are sold online and physically to people. Some game is not sold, it’s given for free. Virtual good inside of the game are sold. Video games are fully into capitalism. And capitalism has many characteristics, one of them is that it repeats itself a lot.

You see constantly new trends appearing from nowhere, completely unexpected. And then the system copies, reproduces, re-skins. That’s because of the fundaments of capitalism. And there is nothing we can do about it. It is what it is, so let’s just enjoy and observe it.

Or maybe you want to build something disruptive, something new. In that case you better look from outside of the core of your business, games in this case. With analogies you can find something maybe in sports, or maybe in shoes business that can be applied to videogames.

It’s like repeating in the capitalistic way, but repeating something that out of our system. Something that can become new.

LinkedIn and the real World

This week I went to a fantastic event organized by GameBCN, a local video games incubator. They invited Anchor Point, a new NetEase studio that is opening doors in Barcelona. There was a talk on worldbuilding. I love narrative design, and the speaker was clear and inspiring.

I had the opportunity to meet my friends of the local games industry and, for the first time since years, I have noticed a clear disconnection between the world of LinkedIn and the real one. When I enjoyed LinkedIn the most, before and during pandemic, we didn’t have many tools to automatically create posts. LinkedIn has clearly suffered the process of enshittification that all social media have at some point.

Before it wasn’t like that. Before it was cool to meet in person the same people I met on LinkedIn and see that there were little difference. LinkedIn was a tool to facilitate connections, not followers.

People were worried, many of them are looking for a job or a project to work on. I am calm, honestly. When everyone is in the same situation, why worry at all? I can only focus on build my road, as I have always done.

Maybe it’s time to abandon LinkedIn, which is sad I have a good follow. I will start to use it differently, looking more for connections and less for reactions. Let’s see if the things improves…

Have fun out there, if you’re reading this!

Can effective teaching inspire narrative design?

I love to teach. Every time I am allowed to do it, I do it. It can be videogames, it can be Computer Science, or math. I love to put that seed inside of people. And I honestly think I am pretty good at that.

I was reading an article on effective teaching that appeared on The Guardian some while ago. I am doing it because I am taking a language course in Catalan and I believe that the teacher is really good. And I am asking why is that good to me. So I need also to make my mental model, as always. Designer professional deformation, I guess.

I am also taking a 3 week intensive course on narrative design with Kim McAskill these weeks. It’s very interesting, so my mind makes analogies and connections of course.

Telling stories

Although narrative design is different from storytelling, the purpose is always the same. It is actually the same as game design. Telling something, telling a story. If you want, we always want that. We always want to tell a story, our job and profession is one way of doing it.

And teaching is also telling a story, but you need your students to learn. In games you need your players to have fun. And having fun means, at the end of the day, to learn. That’s the spark of my idea on how to import things from teaching to improve narrative design.

Ideas for a better narrative design

I will grab the points describe in the article linked above and adapt them to narrative design. That is a branch of game design that puts in relationship the systems with the stories, creating settings, worlds, people, characters and the way of deliver them (dialogues, cutscenes, set pieces, and so on).

Narrative design is game design, and game design always creates narratives.

Let’s go:

  • Know your subject -> Have clear how Players can reach their goals: the most important quality of a teacher is, of course, to know what he’s teaching. The most important quality of a good narrative design is to know what the players need to reach their goals.
  • Praise can do more harm than good -> Giving too many rewards early make the Players skip some important step for learning. Players may feel frustrated later and quit, as well as students that may suppose that the teacher will be good with them.
  • Instruction matters -> Stories matter: the quality of teaching has impact on the students. The same is valid for a story. Games do not need a story, but games with a story may literally change lives.
  • Teacher beliefs count -> Designer beliefs count: there is something personal and unique in every teacher and designer. Our way of seeing how to teach or how to create fun influences the outcome. There is no best practice or rulebook, there are beliefs. It’s personal, it’s unique,
  • Think about student-teacher relationships -> Think about player – designer relationships: the interaction of the teacher with the students have a tremendous impact on the climate of the classroom. In a similar manner, designers especially in small realities have the opportunities to create relationships with students.
  • Manage behavior -> Manage behavior! Study the characteristics of your students and the data of your players to be more effective.