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Tag: myself

The unpolished trend

In the last couple of years, my LinkedIn is filled with claims regarding community-driven / community-led games. The search for new business models to give more fresh air to one of the most fresh businesses in the World and attract investments often leads to something unusual.

It seems at first sight like an interesting path to take, because everything is fast. If you are lucky, you may get millions of downloads. This without having to face all the challenges that people that make real games struggle to deal with every day.

Yesterday I was watching a video with the new Supercell game, Floodrush.

I believe that Supercell is trying out the new features from Google. Their new beta program provides lots of tools for building up a community early. Please, look at the game.

Floodrush is an unpolished game, it’s too early to launch it. The goals aren’t exciting, the camera has issues, the controls aren’t intuitive and the portrait doesn’t feel like the right layout for a game based on curiosity and discovery. Supercell has probably fallen into the trap of launching something too early and seeing how it goes. To me, it is not the right strategy.

If something goes more or less well, your competitors will surely catch up with better solutions early. You are revealing the result of your research. If I look at the last Supercell releases it is clear that discovery and exploration are the next thing for them.

Game design is also a form of art

And as artists, we cannot put the audience first. The audience is the most important part of our job, and for that, they deserve something great, something final, something polished. If you try to do what they want you end up doing something average and mediocre.

As game designers, we have lots of tools to spot the weakest parts of our craft and improve them. But we need a clear vision and we need to deliver it in the best quality in order to find success.

Is the next trend just throwing things at people? I have seen this in hyper-casual gaming, I see this in hybrid-casual. I didn’t expect to see this from the masters of free-to-play.

Let’s be honest about talent

Talent in a certain specialty is something difficult to measure. It depends on a person’s natural aptitudes, but also and above all on the context in which they can be expressed.

Very often I read job offers to find “talent”. I am convinced that in most of them there is something empty behind them. Each of us has its own characteristics and abilities. As we face new challenges in new environments, these characteristics are sought and we learn new skills. If we are in the right place and have enough maturity, we could shine. Contribute a great deal to the task, project or mission that has been entrusted to us.

This does not mean that transported to a new context we will have the same performance. I have seen countless times people considered champions of a sports team fail to achieve the same results on a new team.

Is it perhaps that that person has no talent? Is it possible to forget the talent?

Certainly some characteristics can be compromised over time. Elite players will hardly be able to surprise fans beyond a certain age. In a new context, however, they will be able to offer other qualities.

It would be more intellectually honest to announce that we are looking for the person who knows how to move in contexts like ours. Making the effort of defining well that context, first. That way, no one can feel like they’re not talented, which is generally never the case.

Sentendo.agency

From today the domain sentendo.agency redirects to this blog. From today, I have decided that I will stop freelancing while also looking for a position in companies. I believe that company selection processes discard people like me. I will not leave that door opened anymore. Too much time wasted in false hopes of finding the best project ever. The best project ever in my case is myself.

Sentendo was the name of my first startup that failed to get the right results. Now I have more experience and another vision. Today I work with clients all over the world and I have found my balance.

In Italian, Sentendo means at the same time hearing and feeling. I really like this expression, I always have. I abandoned the project years ago, but after seeing that it still resonates I decided to go back on my steps.

My added value is that I put a lot of focus on fantasy and storytelling, the foundations of any great video game to me. In the sector where I work the most, which is games as a service, this fundamental perspective is very often lost. I have developed a method and tools over the years that allow me to effectively shift focus to these key steps. With real and measurable results.

I also intend to help educated people to enter the industry as juniors. I had an idea that I presented to a couple of realities and it seems that I can activate. At the moment I’m dedicating myself to making a 10-minute video game that won’t be sold anywhere. I hope to tell you more soon.

Gambling games learnings

Gambling games focus their designs on feedback and effects.

Each time the player presses that button:
– is spending some money
– is hoping to receive an award
– is expecting a show.

The game design of gambling games focuses on
1. visual effects: animations, particles, overlays, …
2. fonts: very important to see the numbers grow with monospace fonts
3. the sounds and lights of the machines.

Obviously, the heart of the game is the statistical system. However, what is learned from gambling applies to various games.

After having worked for some time in gambling, the Italian developer Luca Galante created a game that inherits a lot from the chip-eating machines. He builds a business around that and wins a BAFTA, beating the likes of God of War: Ragnarok. The game is Vampire Survivors, an indie hero with a gambling soul.

SEGA SAMMY HOLDINGS INC. is composed of various business branches. The main one, as far as I know, is pachinko games. A type of gambling game popular in Japan where balls are thrown into the playing space and can hit variable objectives, which can be converted into money thanks to a legislative vacuum.

Curiously, they recently acquired Rovio Entertainment Corporation, whose main service is a series of games where you shoot rounded birds with a slingshot aiming to hit goals and score points…

(I know it has nothing to do with the rational point of view of the business. But flying balls can be better understood by those dedicated to producing ball-launching machines, right?)

You learn a lot from gambling!

We as space of possibilities

The very fact of choosing to work in a specific sector exposes us to many possibilities.

The video game is one of the businesses where those who work are also customers of this type of product. This exposes you to so many things, some can hurt very much.

So how did I get past the 7-year lifespan average in this industry, then? Thinking about it, there is a mix of a few merits and many things that have been given to me. Things a person can’t control.

An important step is to think in the space of possibilities.

Something so dear to us designers is also present in our lives.
– if I’m developing a game there is a possibility of making a big hit. But there is also the possibility of failing to finish the game, or not getting enough profits.
– if I’m sending resumes around, there is a possibility of getting a job. But there is also the possibility of receiving a lot of rejections and not being able to get any fits for a while.

When anything happens it is because there was a possibility that it would happen.

Knowing this, instead of thinking of ourselves as characters in a story, we can look at ourselves as a field where stories happen.

What if we look at ourselves as a space of possibilities?

I am not a pawn, a knight, or a rook. I’m not even the queen.
Maybe I can start thinking I’m the game board, where various movements can happen in sequence.

Accept things as they are and, when a match ends (as it always does), just let another start. Always.

(Photo from 2007, my first GameCon fair in Naples. We were presenting a series of arcade games. I was scripting those games in Lua, on a Linux system. The one in the photo combined puzzle match with soccer)

Vision and values for an hypothetical team/company

I work as freelancer and consultant in this moment of my life. I also feel the need of building something mine, since the market right now is pretty average. More details in this video:

So I am fantasizing about building my own company or having my own team someday. Some wise man says that I should start from the vision, which is like the utopic preview of the World once my company has success.

The Vision of my hypothetic company

Well, that is my vision: our Players will remember our games forever.

Simple and clear. Somehow inspired by the Supercell vision: to create great games that as many people as possible play for years and that are remembered forever.

But without the “play for years” thing. I don’t think it matters anymore, I don’t believe that it’s possible with this average content storm we are living right now. Storm that is not going to end soon.

Plus, I do believe that looking for extreme growth is frustrating and leads to the creation of attention traps, not games.

The Values of my hypothetic company

Having said that, I would look for just game designers at my company. I mean, of course we would need artists, developers and so on. But I would always look for people with the special attention to the details that a good game should have to be unforgettable.

We are game designers

  • We love to reinvent the wheel
  • We make meaningful games
  • We look for the smallest viable audience
  • We want to be above the average
  • We are patient
  • We want to offer moments of fun

What are we not?

  • We are not copycats
  • We don’t want to create games for everyone
  • We never develop minimum viable products
  • We don’t want to be average
  • We don’t rush
  • We don’t want to trap people’s attention

Thank you, bad managers

This weekend I was sorting out some old notes and papers. I’m one of those game designers who print documents and read them aloud. I don’t know the science behind it, but it’s a method that works for me to find redaction issues in design documents.

Like many, I have participated in countless projects that have failed. There is one common problem in my case: bad leaders. However, I feel like I’ve learned a lot. Working on a game that is later canceled or unreleased is an experience that contains a little death. Especially for creative people, those who would have done it another way. People who are constantly learning about best practices. Who would actually like to put those practices into action. People who have to adapt to a direction that too often has nothing creative about it.

You enter a vicious circle, where you get stressed. Putting the documents in order, I realize that the journey counts for a lot anyway. I hope to get better final results in the next 10 years, but I believe that even working on a hopeless project is a great opportunity. I feel I have to thank all those who have granted it to me and believed in me.

On experience

A few days ago I posted an ode to determination and willpower that triggered a number of interesting reactions. Best of all, I had interesting discussions around the topic of professional experience. Two things happened:

  • A claim made by me that says “Willpower eats experience for breakfast” gave rise to bad interpretations.
  • A reading from a skeptical perspective by some dear friends in the industry distorted a bit the message.

Someone interpreted that I underestimate experience. Someone read that I said that willpower is everything and that you don’t need the experience to make great games. That is not the case. What I wanted to say was that we should never underestimate willpower, because willpower is a strong force that often led to creating great franchises. Of course, professional experience is key. But if you have the experience and no willpower, you will probably create a clone, a repetition of something you don’t like. I made a concrete example from the city where I live, Barcelona. A lot of big companies landed here and I know they tried to create new games. And nothing happened. They have the best talent in the World, but probably not enough willpower to make great things. That was my point.

Experience is the real quality needed for a better industry. Our industry will be better if we’ll include more people in it and make more games out of the true experience.

Professional experience is something that:

  • You wish you had when you look for your first job.
  • You are building, when you practice your job
  • You possess, when you have invested a lot of time doing your work.

The discussion will be geared toward game designers, but perhaps some concepts can be extended to other profiles.

When you want to have experience

A lot of people get to finish their studies and find themselves faced with a mountain to climb. We wish we had a job, but we find ourselves rejected for lack of experience. We seem to be in a vicious circle: I don’t have a job because I don’t have experience because I don’t have a job because…

How to get out of the circle? Well for me there are a few points to consider:

Do you have enough willpower to want to be a game designer?

In this case, you simply have to be a game designer. Sleep at least 8 hours a day, wake up rested, and think about what to do. Every single day work on a project, it can also be a personal project. When you have something finished, you have to make ordinary people try it. You will never learn real game design from game jams. Because in game jams there is the most important part missing: the player. You must be present at the session and record everything. Jot down what you have learned and iterate at least once. After iterating, publish everything on itch.io, for example. Put your work out!

Do you need a job for economic reasons?

Look for a job even if it is not in game design. The richest people I know started out doing jobs they didn’t like! Maybe you discover something else, what do you know?

When you’re getting experience

When you are getting the experience you will be junior, mid, or senior. Depending on your level of experience, you will have different challenges ahead of you.

When you are a junior your goal is to bring out that special something that made the miracle of getting a job to happen. Remember that you are not there solely because of your talent. You are there because of a number of issues that you do not control. The best way to repay this grace is to truly express yourself.

Recognize that you have been fortunate and start giving support to more experienced people. Learn from them by helping them. If you have an opinion, express it. If you have a contradiction, keep it to yourself. If your superior seems to know less than you do, that’s okay-it’s normal. It may depend on your inexperience or it may be true. Sacrifice yourself and do your job.

When you are mid, your challenge is to learn to be disciplined. In fact, very often being a mid means feeling like a senior who hasn’t made it yet. You are not a senior, you are mid! Fall in line, young man! Do your homework, participate in interesting discussions respectfully, and above all: study!

When you get home, don’t stand in front of the PlayStation streaming with friends who want followers. You are not a gamer, you are a game designer. You need to devour any book, podcast or YouTube video you can find. You need to start structuring your own method, your own special sauce! Don’t worry about Internet coaches talking about “work-life balance.” Your work is part of your life, and in your life there is work. Become the best you can be, instead. The balance will come later, after the right effort. You are here to build something great.

When you are a senior, you don’t need to be told what to do. If you have done well on your path, you will have your own more or less formalized method. You need to understand the business behind the project and give up your prejudices in the name of growth. Your manager will help you grow. You have to learn from this person. If you feel you have nothing to learn, dedicate yourself to the project. And if the project is going nowhere, move on: you are not a tree!

Don’t forget to expand your network of people a lot. I know you work long hours, so use your free time to get out and meet as many people as possible. If you can join a local community all the better. If you can teach somewhere I assure you it is a wonderful experience.

When you have experience

When you have a lot of experience you might even find yourself unemployed. We’re seeing that these days across the whole technology sector.

Many people will be looking for work, and your time will come to find it. Don’t lose sight of your mental and physical health and keep pressing on. You have always made it, and you will make it!

If, on the other hand, you are considering going it alone, I am an advisor and I suggest you give it a try. Unless you have a big business vision, don’t become an entrepreneur: become a freelancer. Remember the big difference:

  • Freelancers are like employees: they earn when they work.
  • Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, earn when they sleep! They earn from what they have built. And it’s hard to be on that side if you have never been.

And that’s it! đź™‚

Side projects are important

Every designer should have a side project to learn.

Every company should allow their designers to have it.

The reality is not always this. Very often we designers have side projects and keep them secret. Companies sometimes do not accept an employee’s chance for success and so block it.

Those that allow them will have better-trained professionals. There is no possible training that equals a project created with the purpose of learning.

Designers:

  • Be determined
  • Look after yourself
  • Focus on remaking old games adding something spicy
  • Try to overcome your need for validation
  • You are there to learn

Design and marketing chats

Yesterday I was at a conference dedicated to digital marketing for video games and apps. I met old friends and met new people.

I have noticed a specific trend at these events. When I talk to someone who works in marketing, the conversation usually veers a lot toward game design. Marketers in general want to know more.

When I meet a fellow designer, instead, the conversation turns more to the market and the challenges it faces.

Singular, but that’s how it is. It’s often easier to talk about your profession to someone who does something else.