Journal Entry, Week Six

MEMORANDUM

TO: Amelia Garripoli

FROM:Christopher Baker

RE: Best practices for small game development

DATE: May 11, 2016

The issue I want to discuss is what are the best practices for developing small game applications for portable devices like Android or Apple iPhone. The purpose of the memo is to is give some background into the research question I chose and to discuss 5 of the various results I have discovered thus far. In the end hopefully this will give you a more solid understanding of what the overall answer can look like when I am finished with the final analysis. Although I expect to come up with an answer it will still be up to me to interpret the data. Also I have about 100 sources already and I have yet to fully cover every section thoroughly enough in my final analysis rough draft.

Background

Project management plans are nothing new to businesses and there is already a substantial amount of information based on how to create good ones, many of which we learned about last quarter. I chose to discuss an emerging field and how they consistently operate, because it started out with a ton of failures and took awhile to narrow down the best way to do things. There have been no previous efforts to document this in a published format, because its just too new and there is no solid collected information on this subject. Also it appears that these companies tend to copy each other heavily and borrow heavily on the strong influence of gambling or addiction techniques which seems to be a big trend that alters how games are being made now. So in a way this is a far more unique field than just the general concept of having good project management skills or making a video game project plan, which has already been discussed before in detail.

Summarize the Study Methods, Limitations, and Results

I used the internet entirely to conduct my research, but it worked out great because I found almost all the information I could ever need on the subject, although it was a lot like having a big library where are all the information was there, but its all over the floor. My only real limitation I found when researching was I was unable to fill all the details about every company, for every section in my analysis, but I think in the end it won’t truly affect the interpretation of the results. I have gathered what I believe to be all the relevant material to the subject even if some of that material has some holes in it.

  1. Teams – First lets start of with the average team setup that I saw in my research. Most teams were small like 5 to 7 people and the largest I saw was only up to 15 people. The team positions were filled with a wide variety of skills, but if they were attached to a big company they were less varied and more focused on just singular positions like programming or graphic design. This due in part because they had an entire other team not involved with the game that handled advertising and marketing for them, which is in the context my research important to annotate.
  1. Structure – This was an interesting part of the research because the trend that almost every company followed was to have almost no oversight, with few if no deadlines at all and only like one boss if any at all. Even in the companies that had very strict draconian hierarchies as their regular  business model, as soon as they developed a project team for a small game they switched up their management style. Certain companies had no real team leaders they just had task masters that kept people on track, but didn’t really guide or order anything to be done. Teams seemed to work very fluidly and equally to add or finish their features and there might be a reason for this. Even the companies that tried to keep bosses/managers in control with updates or deadlines still gave their small game project teams tons of space for the creative process.
  1. Budgets – When I talk about budgets lets just be clear that I mean initial budgets as in version 1.0 start to finish budgets. Most of these games have continuous budgets, but for the purposes of research only the initial is important. Plenty of these budgets seemed to be in the $850,000 range and some went to the $1,500,000 range which is seems very high, but that is because some projects spent a ton of money on marketing and others spent almost next to nothing. The ones that did dump tons of money into marketing compared to the ones that didn’t seemed to be more successful and I would say if you were making your own game you need to include this in your initial budget if you want the game to be a success.
  1. Communication – The teams that I saw seemed to have very strong communication skills and because the company structures were more molecular than top-down on average they seemed to accomplish more much faster. Overall the basic idea I saw was to have no form of interference between each of the team mates, because the teams seemed to be completely separated from outside forces and had no restriction on what they could say, contribute, or remove from their projects. The teams were encouraged to trade ideas and overlap each others responsibilities as it was needed and agreed upon by the team members as a whole.
  1. Game Design – The game design strategies I saw on average were planned to be kept simple at all times. They wanted to create easily recognizable characters that were easy to remember, understand, and to avoid anything that looks confusing. The game designs seemed to be specifically focused on psychologically conditioning to trigger addiction behavior through micro transactions, collecting things, and stretching out the games to be impossible to “finish” without contributing money in some way. The games are targeted towards children which isn’t unusual since they are games, but this type of game design has been heavily modified/updated over time and processed to create a very powerful force for success.

Identify Implications of the Study Findings

Now we can discuss and interpret what the results could mean when developing our own project plan. In regards to team setup generally I never saw a large team and this might be due to large teams being inefficient in the process of making a smaller game. With structure I noticed that if your structure is very top down in a tiny group then it might lead to lots of micromanagement, very little work getting down and people at the bottom being burned out quickly. Budgets never went that high, because it was probably unnecessary to spend more than a million dollars on average to produce these games, so I agree that it probably wouldn’t be best to spend more than that unless marketing was involved. Communications seemed to be best when it was open and nothing interfering with the transfer of ideas between teammates. The implications of my study on the game design portion of the project seemed to take a darker turn and my interpretation of this data tells me that focusing on creating addicting elements in your design is critical to success. This  makes it feel like I’m saying “add nicotine to your food they’ll buy more of your food” and honestly I guess that’s exactly what I’m agreeing with.

Conclusion

Copying does not always equal success, because you could create the same project plan and apply that to a game about fluffy bunnies or one about zombies and you wont have the same results. That being said I still think that following these interpretations or implications would be a great way to create a successful game. So far I am implying that if you create a small team of 5 to 10 people, with a small budget, don’t have deadlines or multiple bosses, create open communication, and create strong elements of addiction you have a much higher chance of making a successful game.

 

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