Sunday, 15 December 2013

Business Thinking: how to value your small business

This entry is about how you can estimate the value of your small business in the context of a game or multimedia product centric production studio.

After 13 years, working in several capacities in different sized business, I’ve witnessed several start-ups fail in their infancy.

There’s many factors that come into play that determines the success or demise of any business, in this article, I will focus on one common & specific element that seems to cause many startups to halt their growth; and that’s ‘pipelines’ and ‘production process’.

Screenshot from Gamedev Tycoon (must play).

Several years ago, I’ve work in the capacity of unofficial CTO for a small business, the company had a lot of potential, full of promising ideas & a line-up of upcoming products.

At that time, .NET had just came out, promised by Microsoft as a “multi-platform” environment solution, we jumped on the bandwagon mostly because we targeting only Windows & Web at that moment.

The prototype phase of one of our first products was a success, I was able to build a solid & functional mock-up of our main product and deploy it on a Windows & Web environment with a minimum of porting issues.

.NET seemed to be a reliable framework to build our products on, even if the platform was still somewhat unproven, it gave us a good starting point.

The management was very happy and started getting new clients but I wasn’t inform of the deliveries & costs that were being communicated to our customers.
And of course, when production started, serious scheduling issues emerged.

Obviously, there was some communication mishaps between the management & technical team that brought about these issues.

But something more important and more subtle was actually causing a false perception of the management on the true value of the production capacity of the company;

In the management POV and within their limited technical understanding, they took the new emerging .NET framework as a total solution base for the entire pipeline & production process.

In their eyes and based on the successful prototyping phase, .NET was a solution that would make optimization, debugging & maintenance almost null as an expense.

And this was the ultimate error, you can’t value your production capacity based on one tool, framework or engine.

That’s why you should only estimate a companies potential once the production process, from conception to deployment and support as been established & proven.

But there’s exceptions to this, especially in the game industry, a small company can actual survive and even grow with rotten production processes & pipelines, if they have a highly markable IP and a lot of investment capital to patch up on the fly.

They will lose on the production but regain on sales.
But that reality is rare and I believe as a business men, this is a highly risky approach, especially in a saturated market.

Unity is starting to also become the holy grail of small business but a lot are learning the hard way that an standardized engine in itself won’t reduce & resolve optimization & debugging expenses.

But it as the advantage of giving an industry a common base and from that, makes it easier to find experienced knowledgeable resources & develop best practices that will reduce but not nullify costs.

I think one of the reasons that we have so much issues in the software industry with developing products at low-costs is that contrary to the manufacturing business, we don’t really deal with tangible physical elements & restraints.

And so everything seems possible until time rears it’s ugly head & kicks us back into reality.

Gamedev Tycoon 
Screenshot from Gamedev Tycoon.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Great level design and the artistic expression of mathematics

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Post-Mortem - Game Jams

I've recently participated in some recent Game Jams and after a very cool first experience at the Global GJ but I've noticed that my following GJs we're not as fun.

I've compiled a list of things that I could have done to maintain a better & more productive game jamming experience:

 1. Try to join a new team at very jam. This will give you a chance to meet new people, learn new skills and add variety to your experiences.

 2. Find people that have the same tastes & are into the same style of games as you. If you are in a team that's making a game you are not into because it's not your "thing" then it will start to feel like work very fast and you will have a lot of difficulty in contributing content significantly.

 3. If you are a generalist and not a specialist then try to avoid going into a team with specialists, you are never going to code as fast as someone that knows Unity or Flash like the back of his hand. Instead try to find other generalists or become a specialist for the weekend at whatever field you feel you can contribute in.

 4. Avoid the "serious" people at all costs! At first I thought Game Jams were like the Open Source scene from a while back, a bunch of "hippies" talking & making new tech without judgement and with a sheer will to share knowledge.

And I can say that from what I've saw, a lot Game Jams are NOT very friendly events, it's a competition! 

There's some very serious people at GJs and they will not hesitate to judge avoid them at all costs and so try to find the "long hair dudes" that just don't give a shit and want to make games!

But if you there for the thrill of competition then you should seek out the "serious" people but take in consideration that if you don't perform at they expectation then they will probably criticize you and target your reputation. And a lot of stuff can happen in 48 hours that are out of your control but can be perceived as a lack of skill so be very prepared.

 5. Make sure you are in shape for the jam. I've made the great mistake of participating at a Game Jam just after a series of long weeks of crunching at my day job & not having the energy to fully participate to the end. A 5-days of heavy crunch + a cold + a 48h weekend GJ is a very very bad combo, especially if your health is not up to the task.

In resume, making games is fun but it's not done in a vacuum, usually you will have to work with a team. And from experience, it's your teammates that will determine the quality of your experience not the tools, not the concept but the human interactions throughout the creative process.

So the only way you can "protect" your passion for game development from negative experiences, is to choose very wisely with who & how your participate in events like Game Jams and make sure there's compatibility at all levels.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Explaining Game Design

One thing I've been struggling with recently is how to explain to my family & friends what exactly I do for a living, being a level designer is a very abstract concept to someone that doesn't know how games are made.

But after mediating on the subject, I think have to come to able to explain it by this simple principle that a designer in the game industry main responsibility is crafting the player's experience, whatever it's by balancing systems or building layouts.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Global Game Jam 2013

Completed the Montreal Global Game Jam 2013 event successfully, it was an extremely interesting experience.

I will be posting a post-mortem at the end of the week but in meanwhile, you can try out our game at the following link:

  • W, A, S, D to move
  • E to pick up/drop hearts
  • Shift to run

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Player Expression

I highly recommend this talk, especially for anyone interested understanding the link between theatre & video games, especially if you consider that "play acting" & the concept of the player as a "performer" of the narrative shares a common bond.

IGDA-Montreal Nov12 FC3 from IGDA Montreal on Vimeo.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Montreal Game Jam 2013

I'll be participating in the Montreal Game Jam this year, this time in the board game category.

See you there ^_^