Been way too long since I posted… so here’s at least a quickie.
I had submitted a panel proposal to speak at last year’s FGS, but was turned down. The same proposal was submitted for this year, and was accepted. FGS was this past Sunday. I spoke, along with my friends Jared Riley of Hero Interactive, Dan Stradwick of Monster’s Den fame, and Alex Shen from Mochi Media. Moderated by John Cooney of Armor Games.
You can watch the hour-long panel here, thanks to Adobe. I make some interesting commentary.
Jared Riley, the main man behind Hero Interactive, was kind enough to give me a sneak preview of a 99% completed Bubble Tanks 3. The game features all of the exploration and tank destroying goodness of the 2 previous games while incorporating in the sexy editors from Arenas to allow for insane customization.
As Jared keeps telling me, and I agree, the best feature of BT3 is that every time you load the game up… you’ll be getting a new experience. BT3 won’t be a distribute-and-done game, oh no. The HI team will continue to create new content via Parts Packs that will add new bubbles, weapons, parts, enemies, etc. However, because this level of post-production development is time consuming, these parts packs will not be free. Expect about 1 a month, loaded with new content, for only $4.99 each.
To help promote tomorrow’s launch of the game on ArmorGames, Jared has given me 5 free parts packs to give away. You’ll need to do 2 things to win: 1) post a comment to this story today and 2) register an account at BubbleTanks. Do both of these, and you could be the proud owner of Bubble Tanks 3 Parts Pack 1 for FREE!
edit: winners are: domizcool, kranix, tardis, chimto, saiba. Congrats!
I received an email a few days ago asking me to fill out a survey about FGS, and what I filled in for the comments is pretty much what I am going to say here. I’ll only discuss those topics that I sat in on, which was all 3 developer story times that were in the dev room and all but 1 of the money panels (I also missed the NowBoarding storytime, but it was in direct competition with another story time). I did not hear anything about the 3 flash technologies that were discussed in the dev room.
Keynote: As stated in my previous post, we got to the keynote late, and only heard the last 10 minutes or so. However, I don’t understand the grandstanding of Jameson Huo (CEO of MochiMedia). I’ve said before that I have no idea how conferences generally work, but in my logical mind it seems appropriate for someone opening up a day of speakers to talk about the state of the industry, advances of the past year, hopes for the coming year… not to promote one’s own company and use it as a platform for announcing new services. People speaking are supposed to be imparting wisdom to assist those attending, not trying to boost their own bottom line (ok, everyone speaking is trying to boost their own bottom line… but it doesn’t have to be THAT obvious and in our faces).
AtomAtomic and Canabalt: I think I was pretty accurate with my statement in my previous rant from last month. Cool game, but no point/sense/need to have a 30 minute talk about how it was developed. It’s an incredibly simple game, and I think just about any successful game’s development story would have been quite similar, if not significantly more interesting.
History of Nitrome: Quite fascinating and entertaining, but I don’t know how helpful the talk was. I feel like their formula is fairly straight-forward… it just takes years of dedicated game development to get to the point that they’re at. Most developers could have taken a similar path as the Annals, they just didn’t have the drive or creative mindset to do so.
Next Gen Monetization: This panel was 4 guys who have microtransaction (MT) platforms trying to tell everyone why MTs are awesome, but that games need to be designed from the ground up to incorporate them; they can’t just be slapped on at the end. I certainly agree with what they said, but they pretty much covered everything they could say in about 5 minutes, then repeated themselves for another 55. The Social Gold guy barely spoke English (same with the moderator) and did not seem to add much at all to the panel. There was a question asked at the end of the panel that would have been quite worthwhile, except the douche who asked it was more interested in trying to be an asshole than actually asking something meaningful. He wanted to know why the 4 guys were only discussing MTs, when the topic of the panel was not “MTs in Flash Games,” it was “Next Gen Monetization.” Which is a perfectly valid question… and it stems from the selection committee either a) picking a bad topic or b) not picking a diversified enough group of people. I’ll go with B, given the group of people were all completely identical, just from different companies, although A could be accurate if all one wanted to do was change the name of the panel to match the people speaking.
Monetize Game Outside Sponsorship: So we got the money side of things from MT companies. Now we get the low and dirty from developers who all made a bunch of cash not getting their games sponsored… 3 through direct sale and 1 through MTs. Daniel James, while just as interesting as last year, didn’t really say anything new from last year (except the fascinating tidbit about Whirled losing 4+ million dollars). The Rocketbirds guy was a flat out terrible speaker, and probably detracted from the panel, having no idea what to say and admitting he had no idea what he was doing when monetizing his game. Colin Northway, after his plethora of comments and mockings last year, was rather refined when speaking. From talking with Andy Moore (Colin’s best friend, worked on Fantastic Contraption, and was the moderator of the panel) the night before over beers, I was informed that Colin had spoken about FC multiple times at conventions… my guess is he was a bit burnt out by it at this point. Overall, fairly interesting… you definitely can make way more money through this model, the game just needs to be really cool.
Sponsorship Panel: My proposed panel was so awesome that 2 of my speakers were stolen for this one. [/bitter]. Greg completely dominated this panel. Candystand was doomed from the start, because their member on the panel doesn’t even do sponsorships for them and she’d only been with the site for 4 months… my boy Dave Fahrer should have manned up and owned face on the panel. Joel Breton from Addicting Games seemed to be in his own little world during the panel, and apparently has a different opinion about his site’s sponsorship methods than that of every developer and other sponsor that I talked to (their speaker at last year’s FGS left the same impression). Lars is a cool guy, but he and Robin were toting the sugar-coated P.C. corporate verbage that nobody actually believes is truthful. And this is why Greg rocked it… he told the truth, bluntly. We’re all industry people, we’re all big kids, we all want to know the truth to make successful games as well as money… sugar coating sponsorships doesn’t help developers.
Boxhead: I’ll say the same thing I said directly to Sean Cooper about his talk… I didn’t understand 95% of it. But I’m not a developer, so it’s ok. The developers who I talked to about Sean’s talk (Jmtb, Gregory Weir, etc) all said that Sean is a genius. So I approve. However, it was also noted (and I agree) that he jumped around a lot, and didn’t really have a good flow from A to B in his talk. He also said something to me later in the day that I wasn’t sure if he was joking about or not (John said the same thing happened to him when talking to Sean); I’ll have to investigate more.
Zynga’s After Party: [rant]This started off strong… bus transportation from the conference to the bar. And it was all down hill from there. Let’s list the problems… 1) Extremely loud music is not conducive to networking. 2) Over 500 people at FGS this year, yet the bar is smaller than the 09 after party bar… could barely breathe, let alone move around. 3) Why, why, why, why, why did Zynga invite people from GDC to the party? Are they seriously that cheap that they can’t have 2 parties if they really want to host the FGS after party AND have a GDC party? It started off with all FGS people, but by about 8:00 it was filling in with old people in suits.[/rant]
So, I know this all comes across as pretty harsh… but this event is important to me and I’d like to see it be as awesome as possible. I also focused on the negative in this post, as I covered most of the positive things in the previous ones (networking, awesome people, etc). The event still needs to focus more on the games themselves, and less on profiting from them (I think we’re at the point where if we talk about monetization any more next year, it’ll just be a complete reiteration of this and last year’s talks). I think I have 1 more post’s worth of material, dealing with suggestions for FGS11.
Also, random note, I completely agree with something John said in his FGS10 blog post: it’s shocking how many social games are being developed in Flash; last year at the after party, I met all kinds of people doing random stuff in the industry… this year, almost every random person I talked to was working on a social game for Facebook.
Monday started with 7am polka. Not too bad of a way to start a day, all things considered. However, we apparently forgot to turn on the heat in the room… and I was a frozen Tassicle. I finally got out to bed around 7:40, showered, and we were off for some breakfast sandwiches at 8am.
Yummies consumed, we hailed a cab and reached FGS by about 8:45. Check in, free t-shirt and other goodies, and we quickly entered the main room to catch the end of Jameson’s (CEO of Mochi) opening remarks.
I’ll save my commentary about FGS for a 3rd post, and stick to narration for this post. For the 9:00 session, I went downstairs to the “dev room” and listened to stories about the making of Canabalt and how Nitrome went from barely being able to eat Ramen to having an office of 10 people. At 10, I went back upstairs for a panel on about microtransactions by owners of MTX platforms. The 11:00 hour was a “state of Adobe” presentation, and since that was highly technical and of no use to me, I used that time to network in the hallway. I talked to tons of people, including Zeebarf, Crazy Jay from MaxGames, John from CrazyMonkeyGames, Lars from King, and many, many others.
After that was lunch, which was some uber-fancy box lunch nonsense that made Simple Tass cry. I sat with ConArtist and his Aussie possie, and we chatted about a bunch of interesting stuff. Towards the end of lunch, I moved to the “Kongregate” table, and met AlisonClaire, Ducklette, and a few other newer staffers who I hadn’t met before; Greg Weir was also at the table and 2 gentlement from EA Games. My position as someone who never will be made a mod on Kong was affirmed many times over. My dreams are officially ruined. Lol.
The 2nd annual Mochis followed lunch, and some cool games won awards… including Sacred Seasons. Had Jamie told me that they won (winners knew ahead of time), I could have accepted the award for them. Given I’m a mod in the game and whatnot. Oh well. Also, Mechanarium has some crazy sexy art.
2:00 and 3:00 were 2 more panels about making money… one by devs who made craptons of money by not going the sponsorship route, and one by sponsors pleading for devs to get their games sponsored. Greg was one of the speakers on the sponsorhip panel (moderated by another one of my Polish panel members, Jared Riley… ) and totally kicked ass. 4:00 brought a short break, which was filled with more networking, mostly with Andrew Sega (who made Mytheria, amongst other things).
The final session I attended was by Sean Cooper, and made no sense to me… but many devs said it was brilliant. So I’ll assume it was. With the end of the summit was the start of the after party. Buses were provided to transport us from one location to the other, and I spent my time talking with a man named Lee from Adobe who either made Flash Player or updates it. Basically, he’s really cool and seemed to be interested in my little niche market.
1 paragraph summary of the after party: Zynga failed horriby at planning it. Full rant in FGS post. However, I did manage 2+ hours of hardcore networking, although I’m not sure how many of the people I talked with will actually have any benefit from working with me. Except Martine from Spil and the 2 fine Fins from Frosmo. Also, I “may” have changed Greg Weir’s opinion in regards to in-game walkthroughs. I am a master wordsmith!
Most of the cool people left the after party around 7 or 7:30, while I stayed til about 8:30. At which time, I joined the cool people 1 block over at what i’ll refer to as the after after party. This group included the guys from Armor, ConArtist, the Hero Interactive folks, Greg and Alison, John from CMG, Zeebarf and EntropicOrder, a random dev who made a bunch of games I’d never heard of… and then cameos by Sean Cooper, the Nitrome guys, the Thing-Thing guy, and a few others that I can’t recall. This party wound up breaking up around 12:30. At which point we walked home, slightly in the wrong direction because Greg and Alison suck at direction giving, set my alarm for 4:30, and fell asleep.
So I submitted a speaking proposal to FGS for a panel. I wanted to have a topic that would focus on game development, and not on ways to maximize profit. Last year’s panels and speakers seemed to almost entirely focus on making money, not touching on what makes the products worth paying for. A good game is going to result in profit. I thought about what I know and would be able to tell other people about, and game polish seemed like the most appropriate topic. With that in mind, I set to work on putting a panel together and hashing out a basic framework of what would be talked about.
To me, the most important thing was to get a solid panel, full of well known, experienced, respected, and diversified people. Naturally I would be on it, as it’s my panel. I reached out to Greg to speak from a sponsor’s perspective, and he readily agreed. Together, we chatted about who else we wanted to ask to join us. Jared Riley from Hero Interactive was my first choice, and Greg quickly agreed. Jared makes high quality games that are almost always highly polished. He is also someone that I talk to on at least a semi-regular basis. He quickly agreed, seeming really pumped at the topic and people involved. The 4th member was a longer road. We weren’t sure who we wanted, but we decided we wanted a 2nd developer. It took a bit to narrow it down, and we had one or two people who weren’t going to be at FGS this year… but we eventually brought Daniel Stradwick (garin) in. After that, I felt we had a perfect group… myself from a gamer perspective, Greg as a sponsor, Jared from his dev role running HI, and Daniel as a dev who works 6+ months on massive RPGs.
I named our panel, “Game Polish – Make Your Games Shine,” which I thought was a really catchy title… always an important thing. I also wrote up a catchy session description. However, what I’m guessing resulted in our panel being passed over is the lack of fully describing the benefit of the panel. It was something I had a hard time doing, as it just seems so obvious to me how beneficial this topic is… if you don’t make a game that has all the little things done well, it’s going to wind up pissing off too many users to the point where they stop playing it. I tried to put this into more business-like terms, but I didn’t really have much substance there. There was also an option to add a secondary abstract that was much longer, but I did not include one of these. I have a hard time putting my thoughts down well into writing, and when it’s something formal I tend to be curt.
My other fear is that I am the cause of my panel’s rejection. I’m not a sponsor, I’m not a developer… I’m just a gamer. I could see some of these people look at who I am on paper and think I’m not qualified to be speaking, or am not a big enough name to be on a panel. I really hope this is not the case. Besides the fact that I have the support and ear of many of the top portal owners and developers, I did also run the most popular casual flash game ever created for 3+ years. I may not fit inside that little box of sponsor-developer… but I damn well know what I’m talking about, I provide a completely different perspective on things than most industry people, and that seems like something that other people would benefit from.
Now I am anxiously waiting to see what the speaking topics will be at FGS. Hopefully looking at them I’ll see that my panel was outclassed. I will be very disappointed if this year’s topics all deal with profit and don’t have anything to do with game design. And I am disappointed in having my panel rejected… I was looking forward to having the opportunity to share my insight with everyone. Oh well… there’s always 2011.
Last March, I was fortunate enough to meet the entire Hero Interactive studio… Jared, Eric, and Steph. Cards were played, fun was had by all. Since then, I’ve done what I can to assist them on their games; my usual stuff… feedback, testing, walkthroughs. They seem to value my input and listen to my suggestions, which is always nice.
Today I was given the opportunity to test their long awaited BTTD. I’m not going to spoil anything or give much away… you’ll get to play it yourselves soon enough. But, what I really noticed was that I had very little to critique. It’s obvious right from the start how much work went into the game. Granted, they were able to learn from all the feedback from Pirate Defense… but actually doing it and doing it well is a feat worth praising.
What I will say is that the game is VERY hard. Like… VERY hard. At least for me. The easy levels are exactly that… easy. The medium levels aren’t hard either. But the difficulty jump on the hard levels is BAM. I spent a few hours messing around on a bunch of different hard levels, and beat exactly 1… imo, the easiest one (only hard until you figure out that specific level’s trick, something none of the other levels have). I’m hoping Jared will take some pity on me tomorrow and explain what I’m doing wrong to fail so miserably.
One note in my defense (read: an excuse)… I don’t juggle. If you watch my videos, you’ll notice every single TD video I have is no-juggle. The only times I’ve ever juggled is for The 100 on DTD and the 4-entrance spawn speed thing for DTD Pro, both of which were badge reqs that were 100% impossible to do without juggling. I will try something 100 times to try and do it without juggling (DTD Pro Scenario 23) before attempting it with juggling. I can juggle; I just abhor the micromanagement aspect of it… not to mention that I feel like I’m cheating every time I juggle.
So I don’t know how many vids you’ll be seeing from me on BTTD. I’d love to do them; I know Jared will feature them in-game and they’ll get a ton of views… I just don’t want to cop out and make juggling vids. Maybe he’ll appreciate my failures and accept my vids on easier levels… then take vids that other people make of the hardest levels with juggling and add those as well. It just really does feel like failure on my part, and that is not something I accept easily.