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Thread: Fame, Fortune, and a trip to the ER.

  1. #1
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    Default Fame, Fortune, and a trip to the ER.

    File Updated 12:50 AM Pacific, Oct 21st 2005
    I like to keep everyone updated on the comings and goings of my life. This is important, partially because it gives me a great outlet to vent frustration but mostly to tout my masterpiece.

    The IGC was successful: I officially now am backlogged on press releases into November (well into november)... only because I limit myself to one a day. This is despite my telling everyone attending Russel/Dan/Kelly/my talk on the fact this is the absolute worst time to do a release... which I suppose could be taken as "all the more reason to have a formal press release."

    Dave Astle prodded me about writing a new article though, and that is what this is about. I have completed what I believe to be the very best game development/marketing advice I can ever give. I put it on paper: I could easily turn it into 5 chapters of a book... and maybe I will someday. It is an informal paper and written as such, because it currently lacks research and supporting evidence.

    So, the rough draft for you all to enjoy is now here... possibly containing some typos and grammar errors. Don't bother telling me about them, I have someone formally editing it.

    In other news I ended up in the ER today. What was a small toothache two days ago has turned into required oral surgery. Current status: Doped up on pain meds for the next week before surgery...

    Yes... Pain and Fortune walk hand in hand...

    -Joe
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    Excellent job! It's great to see a marketer tackling some of the issues that elude most independent developers! I think that's the single most overlooked aspect of game design, and you hit it right on the head. Again, great job! And I hope your mouth feels better!

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    Great read. Nice work Joe.
    Mike Kasprzak | sykhronics entertainment | Blog | twitter | Ludum Dare
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    Yeah, a good read. I feel my W.I.P game uses 2 main motivations: Discovery and
    Goal based. There is a strong focus on these 2 already with anything else being "window dressing" (and minimal - maybe overtones of "competitive" but not strict).

    Not sure if that is an ideal mix but it seems to be along the right tracks if we are to follow your concept.

    This is despite my telling everyone attending Russel/Dan/Kelly/my talk on the fact this is the absolute worst time to do a release... which I suppose could be taken as "all the more reason to have a formal press release."
    I don't quite follow you here, do you mean worst time for You to do a press release (due to .. whatever) or worst time for the average indie dev to be releasing a game (oct/nov).

    I have my own qualms about releasing any games in the coming weeks due to the need for press releases to stay on game sites front pages as long as possible. gamers hell yesterday got updated over 4 times IIRC - the releases/updates are flying in ready for the festive season.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sharpfish
    I don't quite follow you here, do you mean worst time for You to do a press release (due to .. whatever) or worst time for the average indie dev to be releasing a game (oct/nov).
    The worst time, as per your example.

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    Default Exactly

    Exactly. This is the buzz time before christmas and it isn't going to stop UNTIL christmas. All the editors are slammed with requests and that wont stop until December (at which point new requests slow down because they already missed christmas deadlines... and of course magazines had them planned two weeks ago).

    An important edit is coming on this document and some clarification (and thanks to Mark F. for bringing it to my attention).

    I tried to get a little too much information into a small space and PART of this doument is talking about Motivating the players to play and the other is talking about getting SALES from that motivation.

    The use of retail and famous titles was talking about how they motivated you EARLY in the game to want to play more. This does not mean that they are games that would do well with a demo simply because they are using a very well done motivator... It has a lot more to do with how you EXPRESS that motivation to players that contributes to sales. That said I am going to re-work it and try to use indie titles that do both....

    Oh and I am now announcing that a book will be written on indie marketing. It may be QUITE some time before it is finished... so don't bust out your wallets yet. My goal is to have it written by next year... we shall see My goal is 150 pages of marketing know-how similar (but better fleshed out and written) to this article and many more leading from laying out the design to post-release marketing.

    The book idea will take a look at items ONLY from the marketing aspects, so don't expect me to talk about how to use a security wrapper but DO expect a brief segment on wrapping vs. full exe as it will impact sales... just an example.

    The entire book will be opinionated, so don't expect much notation in terms of where I get my facts. It will be a crash course in marketing in general though, covering things to help you visualize marketing; for instance horizontal vs. verticle niches, houses of quality, ect.

    I'm gonna be spending the next few weeks planning this sucker: So if there is a subject you think is a must have that I am likely to leave out e-mail me

    -Joe
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    It's a very good article.

    Another possible motivation factor might exist though, (not sure).

    I'm not sure how to best describe it... "problem-solving" satisfaction factor - not quite the same as goal motivation. Take for instance the game Bejewelled. There's no character development, no story, no discovery (unless you count getting new colored tiles), no competition, and really no goal. Various other puzzle games have this same factor although many of them incorporate it within a goal motivation framework (like finishing the current level in Zuma, or Aargon). Yet Bejellewed doesn't have any levels, so unless you count the goal as getting new colorered tiles to drop, which I have doubts about, no real goal exists.

    The sense of satisfaction that people get from overcoming obstacles in these games could be part of goal motivation, but what about the more pure form of this puzzle solving found in Bejewelled (no goal, just endless puzzle completion)? Original Tetris even without any levels (don't remember if it had them or not) also gives this same sense of satisfaction every time you use your brain and it results in something happening.. "popping" of blocks and tiles.

    Perhaps each and every "pop" is considered a goal, which in this case would make this motivation a goal motivation and not really a new type? But then this would parallel a fighting game were no winner is ever declared, and satisfaction must be had from just each kick and punch against your opponent.

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    Default Good point

    That is an interesting point. Persistant puzzles are rare, but there are successful ones. Even ones with levels don't quite match up to any specific goal.

    The article was aimed more at indie games than at casual games (if we want to slap lables on things). However; it SHOULD apply to all games. To be honest I am not sure how the match-3 games sell at all. I know my wife buys them , if I ask her why (which I have done) it is mostly as a way to excersize her mind.

    This would lead me to believe that a 6th "Self improvement" catagory could exist. You are motivated to make yourself better... but it could be considered a personal competition: A battle against yourself. I don't think I prefer that answer because the reality of it is Bejeweled is played to relax, and battling yourself is not relaxing but self improvement CAN be relaxing.

    To me... it just makes me frustrated and angry stupid little diamonds and rubies.

    Thanks for the feedback Cyo!
    -Joe
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    You're welcome Joe.

    I've thought about it some more and I think the key ingredient is something along the lines that "thought is rewarded".

    Puppies for play, get pleasure in doing what helps them survive, hence they enjoy chewing on stuffed animals; cat's enjoy playing with strings.

    Humans, on the other hand, get pleasure (play) via exercising both our bodies and mental cognition faculties. Playing basketball with friends (even if no competition is involved) is more pleasurable than just shooting hoops. The difference is that the mind is involved in generating and solving numerous problems. The more possibilities in strategies and tactics, the more enjoyment the mind has in figuring out the most successful one.

    If you look at most enjoyable games, they have this element. Though it can sometimes be related to a goal motivation, it is not the same in that it's not the elusive carrot stuck in front of the player. Instead, it frequently involves thought (sometimes via a subgoal created by the user) that helps them in some way in the game. For instance, trying to figure out how to reach a ledge up ahead in a platform game, or trying to figure out how to shore up one's defenses on the northern front to hold off a Mongol Invasion. These "thought exercises" can be simple and relaxing or more complex and hence more exciting to solve.

    Note that this use of thought doesn't just involve creating subgoals of goals and hence could be considered goal motivation. It is also frequently used in character development. Some games give you no choice in developing your character as you progress - I find this unenjoyable. The games that let you use your thought when doing character development - and rewards you well for doing so - I find far more enjoyable. For instance, Diablo, Heroes of Might & Magic, and Age of Wonders.

    Furthermore, this thought is also involved in tactics and strategy as well. Determining the best way to do recon in X-Con, figuring out in a split second how to avoid the swarm of enemy ships coming your way in a shooter, figuring out the best tech tree to pursue in Civilization based on your empire's current status and that of those near you. The point is, in order for it to be a thought exercise, multiple options must exist - ideally many many options, and options that required thought should reward the player more than the other options.

    I once played a role-playing game - forget it's name - but it was ported from a console. It had lovely story, lovely graphics and sense of discovery, great goal, character development... but there was absolutely no thought. During combat, your group was automatically positioned in the middle of the combat zone and could not move. The combat options were very few and extremely obvious - hence no tactics. Furthermore, whenever you gained a level your stats went up automatically - no choice was involved. I ended up abandoning this game because the other motivations were not strong enough to keep me playing with the thought element absent.

    I played other games where you had choices, yet either the good choice was extremely obvious or no real difference existed between good and bad choices. For instance, I played strategy games where terrain meant nothing (all units can easily cross all terrain and receives no pros and cons from it), and hence no strategies could be used to try to take them into account. Regardless, without the tactics/strategies then I was not having any fun.

    Another example of thought being not tied to a goal would be side rewards in a role-playing game where if you could use your brain to figure out some problem or puzzle and received a reward - completely optional so not part of the goal of the game.

    Games like Bejewelled I think strip away all the other motivations - goal, character development, etc.. and leave only the thought resulting in good action (or reward, even if it just means seeing gems pop) motivation.

    Successful role-playing games use this thought being rewarded ingredient - figuring out what gear to equip, how to develop your character, where to explore and when, etc.. Successful thought is rewarded with a more powerful character (character motivation) or discovery of new areas (discovery motivation).

    Recently, that game that was mentioned on this site.. "Motherload" where you excavate on Mars to get ores uses these thought rewards.. Not only do you have thought with regards to your upgrades, you also have thought as to where you tunnel - since you can't tunnel straight up - you have to use your prior tunnels - lots of thought can be involved in determining when and where to dig long and deep or shallow and wide. If you took that game, and made it so you could tunnel up, but kept everything else the same, I think you'd find the game had lost a lot of its appeal because you stripped away the thought element... you still have character development, etc....

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    very interesting read. I think there is possibly an area not covered, and that it 'atmosphere'. I play Battlefield 2 fairly competitively, but a big part of it for me is the atmosphere. If Im running along with a squad of teammates, covering each others backs as we advance, and hear an enemy helicopter thundering towards us, with squad mates yelling out for air support.... that is atmosphere. It feels like you are in a hollywood movie. I think thats an area of game design that works very well. Unfortunately, its usually associated with huge budgets and cutting edge game engines. I don't believe thats true, you can make an atmospheric text adventure.
    Anyway, just throwing in my 2 pennies.

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    Default Thinking Vs. Non-thinking

    Well Cyo,

    Every game engages some part of your brain. The question is which part and how much.

    I think what you are talking about is a different level of game design... getting more into what makes a game good vs. better as opposed to a more general "what makes people want to continue playing."

    A game that lacks a strong motivational factor is going to fail, in my mind. A game that has one is not promised to succeed though...

    The thinking vs. non-thinking is a matter of preference and target audience. Some games should be more thinking, some less. I loved Bridge Construction Set, which is a huge "Thinking" game, but I also loved Crimsonland, which really requires very little thought.

    The RPG you are talking about, I suspect, was Final Fantasy 1. 4 Classes in FF 1, combat was simplistic, stat gain was automatic, there were no decisions other than what to spend money on (which wasn't that hard a decision).

    It is also the most successful RPG series of all time.

    So we see that making these "rules" can only be considered guidelines to move new and old developers into the right frame of mind for shaping their game. It can't provide exact answers because there is always an exception out there waiting to bite you in the ... foot.

    -Joe
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    Default Atmosphere

    Much like thinking vs. non-thinking I believe atmosphere falls into a different level of game design entirely.

    The paper's goal is to give the most basic level of what makes someone continue playing the game with EXTREME emphasis on "from when they first pick it up."

    Atmosphere is one of these "polish" items I talked about in the opening paragraph. It is used to enhance one or more of the motivating factors, it (on its own) does not motivate them to continue...

    It really is like a tech tree- you start with these 5 or 6 items and then can move up a level and talk about "graphics" or "brain engagement" and then another level beyond that and talk about "atmosphere" or "community" ... or maybe that is the same level as graphics and level design. The reason I didn't tackle those higher functions was because I wanted to keep the paper short and it REALLY starts to get objective at that level.

    So it depends on how you want to tackle the problem: I'm suggesting bottom-up problem solving and the other posts may be hinting at a top-down approach.

    -Joe
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    Quote Originally Posted by terin
    To be honest I am not sure how the match-3 games sell at all. I know my wife buys them , if I ask her why (which I have done) it is mostly as a way to excersize her mind.
    I've got a theory on match-3 games. I've noticed a strong trend among match-3 lovers, and that is that they all are very organized people, sometimes obsessively so.* Targeting already existing "addictions," like organization, is an excellent way to leverage a player's experience to increase sales.

    But this brings up another issue. I think your paper is excluding a lot of the small-scale motivation that keeps a player playing for more than 10 seconds. There are several different layers of motivation that are necessary to keep a player interested. Much of the game is spent in between the motivations you mentioned. For example, leveling up happens only once every 30-60 minutes. The desire to level up isn't always strong enough to ask the player to patiently wait for 30-60 minutes. There must be something in the meantime to spark, and keep, the player's interest -- the combat system of an RPG, for example. Without these micro-level motivations, the macro-motivations are a lot weaker.

    Of course, since your paper is about leveraging motivation for sales, I guess you're leaving it up to the developer to decide how to construct the micro-motivations, since the developer is ultimately selling the macro-motivations in a try-before-you-buy title.


    *A lot of the people may have been extremely organized, but only if it was easy for them. For example, their house would be a wreck, but all the icons in the Start menu were perfectly sorted into categories.

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    Micro-motivations are often of a different variety than the macro ones as well.

    Macromotivations are sure-things that the player has to plan and invest time into getting.

    Often, the best micro-motivations are the ones that are a bit more like gambling.

    ie. Leveling up vs. breaking barrels in Diablo. The little mini-satisfaction of breaking barrels is heightened by the fact that you mihgt get something really good. Since leveling up takes longer and the player must plan for it, you dont want them to be disappointeed so you give them something significant that they knew they were getting.

    With an FPS, you have to look at it a little cockeyed to make this theory work, but it still does: killing each individual monster is like gambling (partly for the satisfaction of the kill) and also partly because it allows them to move to the next monster or next fight -- and they don't know what it's going to be like. Whereas generally finding new weapons or moving to new chapters in the story tends to be more predictably paced, something that the player CONSCIOUSLY looks forward to and puts effot into achieving.

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    Another way to look at the micro motivations is that the BASIC VEHICLE for the game MUST BE FUN. Is it fun to move your character around and swing your sword? Is it fun to pop bubbles? Is it fun to drive your car? Making the basic vehicle of the game fun is the best way to get someone interested in the game without having to have a cool story/concept/gameplay depth/ etc.

    The best example of this is Grand Theft Auto. Sure, the story, the characters, the open-ended gameplay are all fun. But you know what? The shooting sucks. The fighting sucks. Many of the missions are terribly frustrating.

    But we all get sucked in because the very act of moving about the world (driving a car in this case) is an absolute blast. In fact, it's the most fun part of the game. Radio blaring, driving on the wrong side of the street, jumping off hills and bridges onto the wrong side of the freeway. In GTA the most elemental part of the gameplay is also the most fun. That instantly draws in everyone who plays it.

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    Default Top-Down

    I still say that is a top-down approach. "Fun" is an arbitrary word... you can't just make something fun, there has to be a reason it is fun. Why is driving recklessly fun? Why is popping bubbles and breaking barrels fun? You are starting at the top "Breaking barrels is fun because..." rather than starting at the bottom with some want or need...

    It is just a difference of approach

    Breaking Barrels in Diablo is part of the "Discovery" motivation, which is the secondary motivator of Diablo. I break barrels to discover new items.

    Why do people drive cars in GTA? Most of the time it is to see how long they can go before they are killed (when they are not doing it as part of a mission). Im not sure that falls into my little thesis, but I am also not sure that GTA would have succeeded if that was all there was to the game. Sure the missions and combat isn't very good, but I think that is the reason people don't get real tired of it instantly. If it were just stealing cars and shooting pedestrians I believe its longevity would have been severely lessened (still probably fun for a bunch of hours).

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    I think that's the single most overlooked aspect of game design, and you hit it right on the head. Again, great job!
    The single most overlooked aspect of game design is finishing the game.

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    Default rofl

    Too true

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    Quote Originally Posted by terin
    Why do people drive cars in GTA? Most of the time it is to see how long they can go before they are killed (when they are not doing it as part of a mission). Im not sure that falls into my little thesis, but I am also not sure that GTA would have succeeded if that was all there was to the game. Sure the missions and combat isn't very good, but I think that is the reason people don't get real tired of it instantly. If it were just stealing cars and shooting pedestrians I believe its longevity would have been severely lessened (still probably fun for a bunch of hours).
    No, people drive cars in GTA because that's what you have to do to get around. But they managed to make that dull task fun, which is what I think is the most important aspect of the game!

    Of COURSE it wouldn't be fun if Diablo were just a game where you walked around swinging your sword and breaking barrels. But by making the smallest, most mundane, and most frequent task in the game satisfying in some small manner, they've taken a great weight off of the shoulders of the longer term tasks in terms of keeping the player interested.

    I would argue that this is a BOTTOM UP approach, not a top down: In that one of the primary elements of design is to figure out how to make the mundane and frequent tasks within a game FUN. Even if it's just making a goofy walk-cycle for your main character. All the depth and story and everything else don't have to be nearly as good if it's just fun to watch your little furry poofballs explode like they do in Chuzzle.

    Speaking of which, (and no offense to Mr Raptis) -- in terms of Match 3 I don't think Chuzzle is NEARLY as good as a game like Bejeweled. But the mundane element of the game is more satisfying, and so it still hooks people.

    Speaking of which (squared), one of the elements that I would put into the category of "mundane, frequent" gameply element is, ironically, the music. Music in a game is a usually passive experience. But if you can make the "down time" more enjoyable in a game through great music, that downtime won't be so bad. Yet another reason Chuzzle is so good.

    Of course, that said, I agree with your choices of motivational factors, but I also think that you are missing one, which is what I'm trying to get at. "The Experience" of the game, including the visual style, the atmosphere, and the basic interaction of the game can motivate a person to buy a game, and in some cases can be the most important aspect of a game. This category is why polish is so damn important. "The experience" motivates sales.
    Last edited by DrWilloughby; 10-21-2005 at 03:17 PM.

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    Sorry for the Dr. Willoughby spew over the last few days, but I'm crunching and I can't keep my mind on my work.

    The interesting thing about "the experience" as a motivating factor, in comparison to your other categories, is that all the other categories *drive* the player forwards -- which is really the argument for content restriction in shareware, whereas "the experience" is something that doesn't *drive* the player at all, they just soak it up, which is why we also have to have time limits on our products as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Cummings
    The single most overlooked aspect of game design is finishing the game.
    I can't agree with that. "Finishing the game" isn't an overlooked aspect of game design -- it's a mode of failure.


    @terin: I agree with DrWilloughby that micro-motivation is a bottom-up approach. However, micro-motivations are naturally developed after macro-motivations, in order to provide a vehicle for the player to get from one macro-motivation to another. I do agree that your paper shouldn't cover micro-motivation, because it is clearly beyond the scope of what you're trying to accomplish. However, if you do plan on writing a book, I hope you will consider both, as well as the full spectrum of motivations. Looking forward to it!

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrWilloughby
    Sorry for the Dr. Willoughby spew over the last few days, but I'm crunching and I can't keep my mind on my work.
    It's been an absolute pleasure to hear your thoughts on game design and the industry! I'm looking forward to hearing more from you.

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    I think Daniel and Andy touched on the fact that there are "layers" of motivation. There are small goals and larger goals within a goal oriented game (at least if it's a good game). It keeps "the carrot" dangling in front of them. (See also the comments in this thread on different levels of goals.) There are also levels of discovery, such as breaking a barrel to see what's inside (micro-discovery), or climbing over a tall mountain to see what's in the next valley (midsize-discovery), or finishing a set of levels (or world) to see what comes next (macro-discovery), etc. There are levels to competition, such as in a ladder tournament, where you start competing against the locals, and then work your way up to be matched with the national champion. There can be levels to story, and character development as well.

    Most of these motivational factors in your paper (with the exception of story) all relate to gameplay. And as important as gameplay is, there are still other factors that cause one to play, and then buy, a game. Though, I'm not sure exactly what you'd call them. Andy mentioned the term "experience". I might use the term "presentation"; it's basically the "eye-candy","ear-candy", or "polish" that a game has. I've seen comments to the effect, "I bought that game because it was just so cute!", or "that game has an awesome soundtrack!", so this can definitely be a motivating factor as well. Also, most bargain bin software is sold by the mere quality of the screenshots, box art, and game descriptions as that's all you have to go on. There isn't a demo to try out the gameplay and the overall experience, thus gameplay wasn't a factor in that purchase (although the screenshots and description may tell you that the gameplay is similar to another game you've played).

    Perhaps "theme" could be another one of these motivating factors. We've seen quite a few cases where people will buy the same game, but with a different theme. If theme wasn't a factor, why would they buy it again? Also theme may attract some and repel others, even if they like the basic gameplay mechanic. For instance, if someone likes FPSes, he might play a WWII themed FPS, but he might not play a horror themed FPS (if he hated zombies and such). A guy might not like a "flower pink themed" arkanoid clone, but might really get into a "space themed" one. A gal might like just the opposite. (Okay, I know that's generalizing/stereotyping, but I think you get the point. )

    Another one "genere"? You see this with movies especially, where someone is drawn to "action-adventure" movies, but avoids "dramas" or "romantic comedies".

    There might be others a well, but I think you've got a good start. It was a nice read. Good Luck with your book and I hope your teeth get feeling better.
    Last edited by Greg Squire; 10-21-2005 at 04:21 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Cummings
    The single most overlooked aspect of game design is finishing the game.
    LOL.

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