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Tag: ideas

Things I cannot accept anymore

Many game companies after the first interview send you an assessment to complete. You have usually between 4 hours and 10 days available to complete the assessment. Some company gives you free time, as long as you complete it.

There was that TV show on Netflix called Vikings. Among the many storylines, there is one about a person who has a serious handicap. He manages to use his disadvantage to become the king.

I have never passed a single test. Every time I get these assessments my mind goes automatically in “you are working for free” mode. I sent the result of my assessment and someone (I imagine her with a bored face and a cup of horrible machine-made tea) skimmed my assessment. And of course, it was a no. My bad will meets with the bad will of the reviewer, what do you expect? That is one handicap I have. And I made it a strength in recent years!

I have developed and hired outstanding designers for companies. True talents. Within 3 hours with a dashboard and a laptop with a game engine running and a spreadsheet, I can run a complete interview. The people I have hired are still there, crushing it.

When I am on the other side, nowadays I want the same. You send me an assessment, I say you “give it to me”. Then I read it carefully and write down exactly what I should do to complete the exercises and a time and cost estimation. I send everything via email, it’s better than simply rejecting the task. Writing all of this down often takes me 2-3 hours.

Again, nobody pays me for that. And of course, it doesn’t work. Don’t follow my suggestion if you really want that job. I am in a different position nowadays. I am not “open to work”. I work as a game designer every single day, I just don’t let anyone decide if I have a job or not. I want to work with you if you want to work with me, simple as that.

Assessments are free to work that no one pays. They are made to filter people out. They do not consider diversity and they are made to exclude. Companies love to claim “diversity and inclusion”. Well, this is part of it.

I am quite happy as a freelancer, a “warrior without a king”. Still, I don’t close myself up to any opportunity. But I need to feel that the company wants me, not the other way around!

One game per year

We live around 75 years. We have 75 summers, around 80 travels (in my personal economical condition of course). The people we will meet are relatively few, the projects we can tackle too.

Imagine you start to work at 25 years, because you are born in the lucky side of the World. You have 40 years working. If a game takes 3-5 years, you can make around 8-14 games in your life. Game for companies, that may be successful or not.

Or you can go indie, maybe solo dev, going alone and try to publish one game per year. Small game, of course. In that case you can leave 20-30 good games (the first will surely be a disaster). That can be your legacy as a game designer.

The future of games

This weekend I was scrolling the infinite feed of LinkedIn and reading updates from many experts. I have to say that lately from one side there are lots of challenges. Many layoffs across the whole IT sector and people looking desperate. From the other, lots of experts are sharing their knowledge online. This is absolutely a good thing.

One of the main topic is about the future of games. Right now, it seems that everyone can make and publish a PC game very easily. But the cost of AAA games production is rising and the value perceived by the players is going down.

There is a demand/offer problem, too many games and it’s hard that the people notices you. To me, the solution should come by adopting a different perspective. Unless you have a strong IP, like Call of Duty, you cannot just make a game and sell it. You cannot afford to assume that people will come buy it. Nowadays, you should first get in touch with people, make them notice you. Then the people will eventually buy your things.

There is a trend among content creators, especially tech ones. They use Patreon to arrive to their audience. They build little by little. Play-to-earn crypto games were scam, but they were making something good: making contact with people super early. Of course, the focus there was money which is never something good to relate with entertainment. Still, I liked this very fact.

The key to me is in being able to create a strategy to go towards the people, the Players. Not the other way around. If you are making a game and then you will invest your money in marketing to spread the word, it’s very possible you join the rest of noise. It’s better to start build your player base right now, instead.

On finishing games

Every game creator I know, every company I worked for, always wants a thing: that the Players stay with them until the end of content.

On f2p games the more the game stays in the market the more this is hard to reach. For premium games, games with an ending, it can happen. Still, in most cases it doesn’t. The vast majority of people do not complete the games they purchase. And the trend is going worse as we have so many great games published every month.

The question I have is: is that important? One may think that if the Players complete a game then maybe they will buy its sequel. Another can say that if the Players stay until the end it’s because they loved the game.

Well, I think of me and it’s not always the case honestly. There are games I loved and that gave me tremendous emotions that I have never completed. The reason is not important here.

That’s why in game design we like to talk about the moment-to-moment. The important thing is that the Players enjoy stay in our game while they stay. It doesn’t really matter if they don’t complete the game. If we provided them enjoyment, engagement, challenge and motivation during that time that is where the real value of games is.

Be a professional

There was a time when companies decided if you were apt to join the games industry or not. That time is well gone.

I see a lot of messages on social networks, especially LinkedIn, by people looking for the next gig in a company. Someone is looking for the first job. Which is normal and good, LinkedIn was created exactly for that reason.

But, you cannot permit to stay at the border of the river waiting for your opportunity to pass. You have to be what you want to be first. Don’t just look for a job, do the job.

Many years ago it was impossible or very hard to do something without working for a company. Companies acted like a filter, they decided somehow you were worth or not. That is not the case anymore. You have all the material to do what you like to do. In case you have to pay the bills, there are nowadays alternatives to do that.

Be a professional first, then companies will look for you! It’s not the other way around anymore.

Paternity Leave

I had a baby and I am very happy. I love her so much and met her just 11 days ago. I am on paternity leave.

Being a freelancer, this does not exist fully. I will still support my projects and make new contacts. My intention is to design a game dedicated to her. I am already on it.

With other projects I learned that is better to keep things for me until I have something that I can share and can be interesting for people. Otherwise, my energies may go in wrong directions and I can lose steam.

Theme or mechanics first?

There are many approaches to game design, but the most common ones are two: “theme -> mechanics” and “mechanics -> theme”.

Sid Meyer is one of the most famous representatives of the “theme -> mechanics” approach. In that fashion, you start from a fantasy, an experience you want to offer to the Players. Then you describe all the mechanics needed to realize that fantasy. Mechanics should offer meaningful choices for the theme to be properly implemented.

Shigeru Miyamoto is a master of the other approach, mechanics -> theme. His games try to find the most engaging and fun mechanics with lots of possibilities. Those games offer surprising twists, using a Japanese technique inherited from drama: kishotenketsu. The mechanics define new in this way new themes. If you look at the most famous games, the theme sounds pretty crazy. It’s because it is defined by mechanics, not the other way around.

What about us? Should we choose one approach and go for it or look for a synthesis? That is up to you, to me the important thing is to be aware of our choice and not leave it to chance.

Game design with mandinga

There is a Brazilian word I learned by practicing Capoeira: mandinga.

Like many words from Brazilian Portuguese, its origin goes up to Africa. The original “mandingueiros” were Muslim literates who compared to other enslaved people knew how to read and write. That’s why they were considered like magicians, almost.

“Mandinga é fazer com pouco, muito!”. Old Capoeira masters speak these words: mandinga is to make a lot with a few things.

This knowledge from the history of our World can be adapted to game design, too:

  • When you have budget 10, it’s better to design a game for budget 3. Your team will thank you later. Explain mandinga to the voices telling you you are not being ambitious enough.
  • When you don’t have access to all the best talents in the World, remember that games like Counter-Strike, League of Legends, and Candy Crush Saga were not created by people with huge tracks.
  • It’s better to do one-two things very well than five-seven average. Remember that the value is in the IPs you create, not in the features you add.

Put a little bit of mandinga in your game design!

Prepare the soil

You can buy a plot of land and start planting crops. You may want to build some structure and make changes on the land. You start a new business. Then you may hire farmers to take care of your land and make it grow.

The same is valid for the game as a service business. Often the people who start a game are not the people who make it grow. Often you need a certain type of people to find something new, a new land. But then you may want expert farmers to make it grow.

It’s not that people cannot do both, it’s a matter of will. Creating a brand-new experience requires the ability to spot opportunities and connect the dots. Maintaining and making a game grow requires analytical skills, instead.

Someone says that one thing is to go 0-to-1, and another 1-to-1000.

If I would start a new games company

You have probably seen something like this:

I cannot say that is an universal rule, but it makes a lot of sense to me. So, if I would start a new games company without investors, I will definitely go for GOOD and CHEAP games.

  • FAST and GOOD are not cheap. So you need high investments for those. And I would prefer not having investors.
  • FAST and CHEAP are not good. And Players are looking for quality, for motivations to play, for the right gameplay case.
  • CHEAP and GOOD games are slow to make. But if you keep the scope controlled (cheap, remember) there is a lot of space for smaller games.