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. (~^_^)~

 

One Game A Month? Challenge Accepted!

One of my goals for this year was to bring my (game) ideas to life. I’m now working for a video game company which is my dream job, but I love to develop on my own game ideas, so I join game jams and other contests as much as possible. My co-worker who is also dedicated in joining game jams alternatdev¬†introduced me to a site called onegameamonth. As the name suggests, your goal here is to make one game per month, so you must consider the time constraint when developing your own game. Make sure that you design your game to fit with the amount of spare time you have.

Rules

There are none, and that’s the beauty of it. The founder McFunkypants intended to make this a fun activity, and he sees no fun in policing each participant, so he decided to trust each of them (yep that includes me). You have complete freedom in choosing your own tools to develop your game and even the target platform. In fact, you’re not prohibited to venture outside the realm of video games. You can also create card games, pen and paper games, board games, whatever type of medium you prefer, as long as it can be identified as a game. Porting and sequels can also be considered as a new game, so if it makes it convenient for you, then you can choose this development path.

Ownership of the Game

You own the copyright of the game. You can sell it outside if you want or monetize it in any way you see possible. The games can be distributed outside the site. The entries may also come from your previous game jams like the one I made last Global Game Jam which served as my January entry.

User Profile

You need a twitter account to join the challenge. Your games will be posted, separated by month. The activity has its own gamification system such that each participant has a set of achievements fulfilled by specific user actions. The achievements range from a simple profile update to submitting games for several consecutive months. Your profile also has its own level, which increases by gathering experience points from achievements that you unlock. Isn’t that cool? (~^_^)~.¬† You can even post for other roles that you need for your game. If you’re lucky enough, someone from the community might offer his or her help.

Some of the achievements that are available as a participant

A User Profile in OneGameAMonth has a record of achievements fulfilled by completing some user actions and submitting your games.

 

To be honest, I’m having a hard time keeping up with the tight schedule. After all, I have a full-time job, a blog, and some contests to participate. However, the satisfaction of finishing a new game and the improvement it brings to my game development skills are enough to keep me motivted until my twelfth game.

The Challenges of Passion and Lifetime Aspirations

About a month ago, I was talking to my mom about joining the global game jam. After expressing my hope that somehow I could win the said contest, she responded with the question: “What else do you have to prove?”. I was caught off-guard that I just said, “I think you don’t understand” and she really admitted that I was right. She’s enigmatic with why I’m doing such things. She asks similar questions whenever I follow something that I want to do or when I want to learn a new skill. Don’t get me wrong. In the end, my parents usually support me on my final decision, though there are a lot of times, I’m being questioned about my priorities. So why did I made such decisions in my career path? Why do I continue to study a new skill? Why can’t I just focus on getting a high-paying job and buy all the stuff that I want? To be honest, I know getting rich will make me happy, but definitely not as happy as achieving my lifetime aspirations and doing what I love to do. I only have one life, and I want to make the most out of it rather than just having an abundant lifestyle…

A Dream Job

It has been my dream since high school to create a video game of my own. Back then, I had no idea how hard it is to make one. Right after I graduated from college, I applied for a game programmer job, but little did I know that they were requiring a game portfolio, something that I don’t have. That moment slapped me to reality, and I considered forgetting that dream and pursue a different track. The first company that I worked for has been good to me and I had a lot of fun working with the people there. They taught me a lot of things about software engineering and project management that are deemed useful, even in my current job. They even gave me the opportunity to work in Japan for three months (something I really dreamed of since I became a fan of Japanese media). I did well with the first path I chose, but then I reached the point where I ask myself the “what if’s”. What if I tried harder and¬† became a game developer? What if I made my own portfolio and showed it to other companies?

That’s when I resigned from my previous job to give my dream a second chance. It was a hard decision, but I’ll stay restless if I don’t make my paradigm shift. And so, I tried to apply for game development companies once again but this time, I passed all of the applications including a whole-day technical exam. That’s when I started living my dream job. Even though, I had a lot of development experience from my previous company, I still have a lot to learn when it comes to game dev. I’m enjoying the learning process nonetheless. I can’t say that everything went smoothly, but it’s part of every software engineering job. It didn’t take long to have my affirmation that I really love making games, and I want to stay in this industry. By the way, we recently released a game last November. You might want to check it out V(^_^).

I still have a lot of goals that I want reach in this field. More than being a game programmer, I want to give life to my game ideas and make a name in this industry. Sounds ambitious? Well sometimes, it’s part of following your passion. You don’t settle with mediocrity.

Beyond The Educated Skill

Working with a team is really good when it comes to game development, but sometimes, my renaissance soul keeps kicking me out of the box and urging me to learn new things and combining it with what I already know. I remembered one time when I was in the training for department leads, we were asked about our dreams. What I said was, “I want to be a one-man game development team”. And I’m really serious about it. I want to learn more about art, music, game design, and other aspects of game development. Back when I applied for my current company, I made a demo game on my own, from design to programming. The sound effects were not that special and the 3D models were not optimized at all, but for me, it pushed me a step closer to what I wanted to achieve. It’s not easy studying several fields, especially if it’s not part of your natural skill set or educational background. I’m not recommending you to do the same, but if you’re really itching to learn something new, then by all means, go forth and level up!

A Demo Game I Made on My Own: Word Panic Type K!

Does that mean that I want to go solo all the way when time permits? No, not at all. I still know my limitations, and some of my ideas are just too enormous to be done alone, in which case, I will find other talented people that are willing to collaborate. Besides, I want to learn more stuff from other game developers. I also want to help other designers to develop their game when I have some spare time. Just like in game jam, the output game is a valuable prize for itself.

Balancing Passion and Knowledge Aspiration with Sustenance and Financial Responsibilities

It’s a lot of fun doing what you really love to do, but that doesn’t mean that you will ignore your finances in turn. Remember that without proper sustenance, passion alone won’t survive, and you may end up broke and unable to continue your works. It will be a lot better if you plan how to convert your passion and interests into something that will improve your entire lifestyle. Moreover, if you have financial responsibilities, learn to compromise as necessary. If you’re one of the breadwinners in the family (like me), find a way that you’ll be able to earn enough out of your interests and passion. Learn to save money by treating it as a bill, making sure that you won’t run out of resources at any given time (just like in RTS games). Worst case, you have to postpone your goals until you have a steady cash flow. Just make sure you keep track of time while waiting for that moment, we’re not forever young, and it’s hard (though not impossible) to pursue your passion at an older age.

Well, I hope you readers are following your own passion and succeed in your respective fields. There’s nothing wrong if you’re really aiming for a better income, it’s practical and beneficial, but if there’s a way to get it while fueling your passion, won’t you grab the opportunity to do so?¬† Remember, you only live once, and you have one shot to reach your aspirations and live the life the way you want it to. (~^_^)~

Next Post: I need a breather from long posts so I’ll post my first entry for random quotes series V(-_-)V