Game Development Lessons You Can Learn From Game Dev Story

I wrote a post before about the unexpected things that I learned from video games. However, being in the game industry myself and a fan of Game Dev Story, I felt the urge to write a separate blog post for the game development lessons that you can get from the said game. For those of you who are not familiar with the game, it’s a simulation for building your own video game company. You start out with four employees, then by releasing games on different platforms you earn more profit and create more quality games and expand your company to hire more employees and even create your own game console. Throughout the game, you’ll have specific events like video game awards and conventions, which adds popularity for your company. It may not be 100% accurate or completely detailed, but it has covered a lot of essential parts of the processes involved in game development. Not interested yet? Well hopefully, after reading this post, you will be. By the way, just to clarify, I’m not an employee of Kairosoft, so I’m not writing this for promotional purposes. ūüôā

Source, Risks, and Rewards of Research

When the boost attempt fails… you get more bugs in your game¬† (Photo From: http://phwampfler.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/gamedevst11.jpg)

You can acquire research data from accepting contractual works (Photo from: http://oyster.ignimgs.com/mediawiki/apis.ign.com/game-dev-story/3/3a/Gamedev_01.jpg)

There’s a stat in the game called research data. This can be used to apply boosts to the different attributes of the game (namely fun, creativity, design, sound, and bugs) and increase the job level of your employees. Let’s put our focus for the boost attempt mechanic for a moment. This happens when one of your employees suddenly approach you and asks your permission to TRY to increase the points of a particular attribute of your game. You have the option to decline, which will make your employee sad or approve the proposal in which you will bet on him/her that he/she will be successful with her attempt. Prior to the start of the attempt, you will see the probability of success, which can be increased up to 80% using your research data. The starting percentage depends on the skill of your employee corresponding to the desired attribute to improve (e.g. Fun corresponds to Coding). There will be two possible outcomes for the attempt as you probably expected. If successful, it will add points to the chosen attribute which will increase the quality of the game. If the attempt fails, there will be more bugs, which means more time for debugging. In real game development, you’re dealing with budget and deadlines that may give a company some second thoughts on giving more time for research, but if you really want to release a good game, you just have to risk and do it. After all, even if it fails, it will still be a learning experience. This can also be applied for Game Dev Story. Research data can be acquired as you develop your game, debug your game, or get some contractual work. This means that all the bugs that you had in the development process will be converted to research data by the time you reach the debugging stage. Don’t be afraid to commit such mistakes or encounter difficult problems. After you solve it, you hold valuable information that can solve future problems that can be encountered by other projects of the company.

Importance of Human Capital

Training methods provide different combination of skill rewards (Photo From: http://img2.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20120819045314/kairosoft/images/e/ec/Training-GameDevStory.png)

In the game, the quality and pace of each game project, contractual work, or console development is determined by your team’s collective skill points. Higher skill points will result to faster development and higher attribute points for your completed game. Skill points are acquired by increasing the job level or by providing a training program for an employee. Each type of training aims for one or more skill type of the chosen employee. The training also consumes the power of the trainee. If he/she is already tired, then the training cannot proceed and that trainee will be done for the day. Each training costs money, and the more rewards you get from the training, most likely, the more expensive the price. This goes the same for real-life game development. You’ll spend some significant amount of funds if you want to give formal trainings to your developers, but with the right training programs, the investment will be worth it since they can come up with more brilliant ideas and perform a lot better with their tasks using the knowledge that they have acquired.

Short Contractual Jobs for Main IP Funding

You can do some contractual work for additional money and research data. (Photo From: http://oyster.ignimgs.com/mediawiki/apis.ign.com/game-dev-story/0/01/Gamedev_19.jpg)

During the early stages of the game, you’ll be needing a lot of funds for your game project, specially if you’re dealing with a genre that is harder to develop (e.g. Online RPG, Action, etc.). The game offers an option to accept a contractual job to earn more money and research data. Jobs range from creating a Background Music up to implementing a design tool. The job’s duration is significantly shorter compared to a complete game project and there’s a given deadline. Failing to meet that deadline will leave you with no pay and¬† affects your company’s reputation. In real-world game development, producing IP’s offer a lot of risks. Since you don’t have a client, most of the time, the funding will be pulled from the company’s own resources (unless you get a publisher but that may require you to involve them with the design process removing part of your control with the game’s design path). Getting outsourced jobs can serve as the company’s seed money prior to a new IP. This way, they don’t have to use up the internal funds plus the developers may possibly learn something useful with the given tasks. It’s a win-win situation. Just make sure that you’re dealing with the proper clients. Choosing the wrong ones will give you more problems than benefits. I’ve experienced that numerous times. XD

Murphy’s Law

There are occasional blackouts that may occur, decreasing your game’s attribute points (Photo From: http://oyster.ignimgs.com/mediawiki/apis.ign.com/game-dev-story/7/76/Gamedev_22.jpg)

Murphy’s Law states that if anything can go wrong… it will. In Game Dev story, there are random events that may affect your development process such as loss of power supply that will decrease the attribute points of your game or another company releasing a game that is similar to what you’re currently working on, affecting your game’s popularity. More risks are present in real game development, and it’s inevitable. You just have to be prepared if something happens and create a contingency plan beforehand, buffered schedule for instance. If the extra time was not used for the unexpected bad events, then you can use it for more research and other attempts for the game’s improvement or simply give your team members some more rest.

Being “In The Zone”

If the team gets a wave of inspiration, they will add more attribute points than their normal pace. (Photo From: http://www.edge-online.com/wp-content/uploads/edgeonline/oldfiles/TOP_62.jpg)

My former colleagues use this phrase a lot. It means, that you’re in a state where you have a rapid flow of ideas, and you have a clear vision of what you need to do with your task. Such state will bring you to really high focus to the point that you have zero awareness with your surroundings. In Game Dev Story, this can be represented by a team member who is on fire while in the middle of the development process. You’ll see an indicator on the additional attribute points that he/she had contributed during that state. A word of advice, in real-life software development, as much as possible, try not to interrupt a developer who is “in the zone” since it’s something that just comes by chance and such interruption may cut that state short.

There, by playing Game Dev Story, you’ll have a better grasp of what it’s like to work in the games industry. To be honest, this game made a good job on portraying the process in a fun way. Game development is hard, but if you’re really passionate about it, then you will survive… and you will succeed. For those of you who are afraid to start your dream of being a game developer, try to treat it like a game but be serious in learning the ways and executing the tasks. Good luck and have fun!¬†Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to my phone and resume my Game Dev Story session. (~^_^)~

 

Some Insights That I Unexpectedly Learned From Games and Gamers

Video Games are becoming more and more recognized as something beyond children’s past time. Studies have shown the benefits of gaming like improving cognitive abilities and decision-making. Though my primary reason is entertainment, I sometimes find myself gaining some new insights, which may or may not be intended to be conveyed from a game.¬† Here are some of the things that I learned while playing or watching other people’s gaming moments.

1) You have the capability to overcome the tightest situations as long as you don’t give up. (Daigo on Street Fighter III – Third Strike)

Daigo Umehara is a pro Street Fighter player who competes and wins on several prestigious tournaments. The video shown above proves his exceptional skill. In the footage, Daigo plays as Ken which is hanging by a thread with only one chip damage away from losing. However, the crowd goes wild when he was able to counter the entire super move sequence of Chun-Li unleashed by his opponent Justin Wong. I can’t imagine how I could pull off something like that if I was in that situation. The pressure from the crowd and anxiety from my opponent’s advantage will just drown my motivation to keep fighting. I realized that I have this mindset, even outside of my gaming life which is unhealthy. If I could emulate the tenacity and focus of Daigo, I can overcome more challenges no matter how tough it may be.

2) Passive income is important in earning more money. (Cookie Clicker)

Cookie Clicker is browser-based game where the main aim is to produce as fast and many as possible. You start off with producing a single cookie per click. Once you’ve earned enough number of cookies, you can use it to purchase structures, units, and items that will improve your cookie production.¬†We can make an analogy out of this by comparing the cookie (the currency of the game) to real-world money. We earn our money through our jobs, which focuses on our core skill. This corresponds to producing cookies through clicks (manual production). In the game, it will take some time to have a lot of cookies if you do things by mouse click alone, so you buy the stuff that will increase the pace of your production. This is the same with real-life wherein you have the choice to invest on some type of business or funds that will give you some passive income and in turn will significantly increase your financial resource. Maybe a thing to take note here is that the game doesn’t simulate any risks for purchasing the available items, but at least it’s a good motivation to utilize the resources that you have.

3) Game ideas are cheap until you put it into life. (Game Dev Story)

In game dev story, you’re in the shoes of a CEO of a startup game company. You develop games and make your company grow to hire more capable staff members. Improve the quality of your games to earn more sales and win awards. Part of the game’s mechanics is the possibility that the game you’re currently working is similar to a game that is released while your production is on-going. This will affect the sales of your game once its released. Anyone can easily speak about his/her own game ideas, but it’s probably not as unique as you thought it was and other developers are actually¬† working on it. So for those who really want to make their own games, take it seriously and study how it’s done or else your ideas will either be materialized by others, or it will just end up in a vapor trail.

4) Nothing can stop you to do what you really want to do. (Broly on Super Street Fighter IV)

When you can’t use your hands, you probably won’t choose to play video games as a hobby, but Broly (gamer tag) took it to the next level by joining fighting game tournaments for Street Fighter IV and Super Smash Bros. Melee. It never fails to amaze me how people with disabilities persevere to do things which may deem challenging to them and at some point perform better than those who are not physically challenged.

5) We can overcome our obstacles based on our perspective. (Echochrome)

Echochrome is a unique puzzle game where you shift the camera perspective to cover holes, join paths, or catch your character in mid-air to shift it to another place. The player will use these rules in order for his or her character to reach a goal point. Sometimes, the worries we have don’t actually exist. In order to avoid negative thoughts, we can change our perspective and focus on our goal. Just like in the game, the holes may represent our imaginary problems and changing the way we look at the situation may reveal that we can actually pass through and such problems were not there on the first place. Joining paths may pertain to finding a solution to get us closer to our goals. Most probably, the designer did not intend to send such message to the players, but I’m still glad I came up with something as deep as this insight out of a game.

Learning these things adds motivation for me to stay as a gamer and a game developer. As someone who is working in the game industry, I’m hoping that someday I can make a game that will touch other people’s lives or at the very least, give a lasting impact to players and make them ponder on something profound or significant. Until then… I’ll continue to enjoy my games. (~^_^)~