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Finding an art style - GameDevElement episode #1

The very first episode of GameDevElement is now online!

This week's topic is about finding an art style for your game, and I get to chat with Tino van der Kraan from SassyBot Studio who shares his thoughts and experience.

Hit me up on Twitter and let me know what you think!

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Announcing GameDevElement

GameDevElement logo So…I'm starting a YouTube series called GameDevElement.

The series will feature weekly videos where I invite people in the industry to share their experiences and insights on different aspects of game development: something by game developers for game developers.

The concept behind these videos is to have developers recount their own experiences related to the process of developing and distributing a game. Each video will focus on one particular topic (for example deciding on an art style; or playtesting; or planning a distribution strategy) with the developer recounting what she has done, learned, and what her opinion is.

I am not trying to create instructional/how-to videos, not only because there are many of those around already, but particularly since I don't believe in a one-size-fits-all recipe. Every situation is different. I just want to make those nuances available so that people can take away the lessons which are valuable to them and apply those lessons to their own circumstances.

In this regard my role is not to interview, but rather to facilitate a conversational dialogue…to chat.

To start, I'm aiming for 5 – 10 minute long videos, featuring footage of the guest's games/projects with the conversation as audio. We'll see how that evolves over time, where I'd like to turn this into something a bit more reactive/interactive. But baby steps.

I hope that this will become a medium for people to benefit from having direct access to their peers who have been there before and want to share their first-hand experiences, be they successes or failures.

P.S. I hope you get the terrible homophone pun in GameDevElement. If you do, then allow me to engage in some self-mockery:Double facepalm

Introducing the Malta Unity User Group!

Malta Unity User Group logo

We are starting a local group for Unity users and developers to exchange ideas, share experiences and help each other create awesome games using Unity.

We are having our very first meet on Tuesday 2nd December at 6:30pm, and it is going to be a very special kick off event as we will be joined by Unity's own Andy Brammall, Alex McCredie and Andy Touch who will be telling us all about Unity 5!

We also have some great content lined up from local studios Pixie Software, 5¼ Games and Codemasters for a jam packed evening of game development goodness!

We shall be meeting at the Microsoft Innovation Center Malta at SkyParks in Luqa. The fine folks over there are generously hosting us at their premises.

More details to come soon!

The group is open to everyone! You don’t need to be a Unity expert to attend. Whether you are still a beginner or an experienced Unity user, come and join us.

The event is free, but please help us out and RSVP on Eventbrite or on the Facebook event page so we can get a better idea of numbers and prepare accordingly

18:30 Introduction
Alex McCredie - Unity Technologies
18:40 Unity 5
Andy Touch - Unity Technologies
19:20 - Break -
19:35 Unity 5
Andy Touch - Unity Technologies
20:15 - Break -
20:30 Making life easy through precompiler directives
Stephen Caruana - Pixie Software
20:45 Unity through a technical developer's lens
Alan Duca - 5¼ Games
21:00 Codemasters
21:15 We'll head off for some drinks and a chat

Survivorship bias

successStoriesEveryone loves a success story!

The internet is rife with inspirational stories of how people have beaten the odds and triumphed in their pursuits and endeavours. More often than not, such stories are presented to us in a manner which encourages us to see what these people did right in order for us to learn from their successes and hopefully replicate their positive results. The same holds true for articles which provide "tips and tricks" or advice from prominent individuals regarded to be experts in their field. We read these stories to draw inspiration, to increase our knowledge of the field, or perhaps simply as a morale booster to see us through tough times...a bookish pep-talk of sorts. While this could be beneficial, if we focus solely on these success stories, we run the risk of always looking at a one-sided picture, a half-truth.

The stark reality is that many, many stories are in fact, to some degree, failures. However nobody enjoys reading about how difficult it is to achieve our goals, or how many people have already tried and failed at doing exactly the same thing we are trying to do. Besides being a hit to our morale, we tend to think that since they must have done something wrong, they aren't the ones to learn from. So we look towards the celebrity figures as the sole source of wisdom.

However what we fail to realise is that failures probably offer us much more valuable information than the successes. By seeing where things went wrong, we learn how to avoid doing the same mistakes. I'm not saying that we should focus on the negative rather than the positive. That would simply be recreating the problem from an opposite perspective. One must have a healthy dose of both and look at all the available information.

Naturally the issue is much more complex than that, but the basic concept is that we must not blindly separate the winners from the losers or even fail to recognise that there are in fact losers in every scenario.

If you're not one to be deterred by lengthy articles, I strongly suggest you read David McRaney's article on Survivorship Bias. It's a very interesting read and extremely well written.

Whether you're trying to start a profitable business, pursuing academic studies or you are simply creating games for fun and are trying to understand what works and what doesn't, make sure you don't fall victim to survivorship bias.

The importance of finishing games

I've recently stumbled upon a blog post by Derek Yu* where he stresses the importance of finishing games you start and provides the below 15 (paraphrased) tips to help you do this, which he discusses in some detail:

Finishing a Game - Derek Yu
  1. Choose an idea with potential
  2. Start the game
  3. Don't re-invent the wheel
  4. Prototype
  5. Design fun core mechanics
  6. Work with like-minded people
  7. Prepare for repetititve tasks
  8. Use real events as hard deadlines
  9. Don't get stuck on details: move on then circle back
  10. Take care of your health
  11. Don't start over
  12. Stick to the plan
  13. Do away with unnecessary fluff
  14. If you fail, try with something smaller
  15. Polishing takes time
All of these points have been brought up and discussed time and time again by many people, and I'm sure most of you have heard them in some form or another. Regardless, I still encourage you to read his post. It's quite to the point and very well put. If anything it will serve as a refresher, and strengthen your resolve to finish your games.
Finish him! (Derek Yu's sketch)

* If you don't know who Derek Yu is, he's the guy who made Spelunky. If you don't know what Spelunky is, or haven't played it...I strongly recommend that you do.

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