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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Progress Report, Week Six

This week I finished my reading and evaluating portion of the project and it was a lot to go through, but I think I am where I need to be. I must admit I would like to read a little more, but I’m satisfied with what I have gathered so far so I won’t need to make any alterations to my plan. This means that next week I am drafting and finalizing my outline and if I feel like I have too much to talk about I’ll trim it down to a reasonable size. If I find I have too little then I’ll have to go back and read some more, but I think I won’t have that problem.

I didn’t have any new issues to overcome this week either or at least nothing new to talk about so that was a good thing. Last week though I had an issue of creating too many sections/topics and was worried that I wouldn’t be able to fit it all in one report without droning on. I managed to trim it down though without significantly changing the answer to my research question.

I was reading one interview about Rovio’s CEO Peter Vesterbacka and he did have some interesting points about marketing and how he treats his workers. Given the enormous success that the Angry Birds franchise has had he stresses that the biggest part of it was due in part to marketing and making it easy for people to remember you. Most of his ways of doing this seemed to be simple slogans and his approach was very similar to how Blizzard approached its marketing/design process as well.

He also mentioned that he hired and fired people constantly, which tells me the company is probably incredibly hard to work for and they demand a lot from their employees. That does give me some insight into how their team structure and time management went since they seem to value efficiency and high production value at all costs to the detriment of its employees. I will remember to talk about production environments like this in my final analysis since I think it is definitely worth mentioning if the company treats its workers poorly.

Source

Angry Birds Creator Peter Vesterbacka – http://searchcio.techtarget.com/opinion/Mobile-business-advice-from-Peter-Vesterbacka-of-Angry-Birds

Week 1 : Choose a Topic and Thesis (Done)

Week 2-4: Searching (Done)

Week 5-6: Reading/Evaluating (Done)

Week 7-8: Outlining/Drafting (In Progress)

Week 9: Final Draft/Presentation

Week 10: Wiki

 

Journal Entry, Week Five

After evaluating quite a few of my resources I found that a lot of them despite being from different companies, making entirely different games and across different devices all seemed to have very strong similarities to each other. The only time the information didn’t seem the same often was when it came to their company philosophies, but truthfully their interests seemed aligned, so they were useful for filling in parts that I didn’t understand from the other development plans.

Among the things that I compared was team sizes which were different but nothing larger than 15 some as small as 4, so pretty small by industry standards. The team compositions seemed to differ very wildly though, because large companies could use an entire other department to do their server maintenance or their advertising, whereas some teams had only the 4 members in the entire company. This meant they all had to be good at bunch of different jobs or hire out for work they couldn’t do. Although not a single project plan I read about mentioned using Agile, Kanban or any other waste management/efficiency style they did all have a way to prevent wasting their time.

Another feature they seemed to share was their communication plans, which was tied to very strong open communication with little to no oversight and in some cases no bosses keeping tabs on them. It was odd, because even in the big companies they took this approach even if their normal method was heavy deadlines with lots of oversight and interventions when they thought was necessary. After adding all this up I am coming to the conclusion that these companies probably all chose these routes, because it seems to be the most efficient way to conduct business. Its very similar to how they all chose to market, develop and design their games off the behavioral psychology that encourages addictive behaviors.

 

 

Lab Activity, Week Five

This week we had to create a Mind-Map of our research question to look at it from a different angle, organize findings, and trying to add/combine certain aspects if they are related. I used Mind-Mup to create mine and came up with this so far:

MindMap

I tend to organize my papers in a very systematic and old-school method with bulletin points, detailed explanations and very little pictures, very similar to the way professional research papers are written. I don’t know if I prefer to write this way because of college or because it looks professional to me. In class I liked using the Mind-Mup tool and after my meeting with the professor it got me thinking that I might present my final analysis in a different way with more graphs and pictures to present information, rather than the dry and somewhat tedious method I am used to doing. I mean the topic is about gaming project plans I should probably make it a  more fun and interesting paper than my usual work.

The only tools I can see myself using would be Visio possibly or Excel for the graphical work since I’m already familiar with both of those programs. If I manage to stumble on some other great way to present this mountain of information in a more concise and engaging way I’ll mention that in one of my future reports.This is good practice for my professional life since a lot of businesses tend to like more concentrated information sources like graphs or pictures to explain things, because people don’t like to read.

Either way I go for my final report the class was interesting enough to change my way of thinking this time around. Not only am I going to approach this evaluating period with a more concise idea of what I want to include, but I am also going to change my writing style and format as well.

Source –

Mind-Mup – https://www.mindmup.com/

Progress Report, Week Five

This week I found myself buried in tons of material to read about and although it feels like a lot to I am on track in my research journey. I managed to scan through at least 8 games so far of the 30 I chose to look at and I feel pretty good about what I am seeing. I do feel like I should have read more this week, but I was very busy with other work and I believe this puts me slightly behind where I would like to be in the evaluation process. This just means that next week I need to work harder to make up for the loss of time.

The major issue I ran into this week was centered around choosing the topics that are the most important, because a lot of categories fill up rather quickly when you have 30+ games to choose from. Which means  I need to either decrease the amount of games I will talk about or I will need to decrease the amount of sections to discuss since both of them multiply by each other and can make my paper extremely long. After consideration I decided that I will just decrease the amount of games to discuss rather than cut the sections down, because I feel like those topics are all important and fully answer my research question.

Next week I hope to finish my rough outline of the sections and games I am going to use in my final draft, because after reading through some development plans I realized I needed to add a few more things. I did find that the companies that made the most money like Hearthstone, Candy Crush and Clash of Clans tended to be free to play, but had ways to buy progress in the game itself. I find that particular aspect slightly disturbing since it seems to cater towards addictive personality traits and a buy-to-win attitude which I’ve always disliked as a gamer myself. I also noticed the larger companies tended to make the more popular games that made more money and the smaller companies tend to have less information available about their development process. I figured this has to do with the larger companies ability to aggressively advertise their games far more than smaller companies can. By next week I will have to cut down the amount of games I am going to use based on the companies that could answer all my topics the best. Also I have no idea how much of a factor this is, but a lot of these companies are owned by the same people. For instance Activision Blizzard owns King the makers of Candy Crush and this requires further evaluating to determine whether this matters to my research question or not.

Week 1 : Choose a Topic and Thesis (Done)
Week 2-4: Searching (Done)
Week 5-6: Reading/Evaluating (In Progress)
Week 7-8: Outlining/Drafting
Week 9: Final Draft/Presentation
Week 10: Wiki
Sources
Hearthstone Development –
King Company –