Progress Report, Week Eight

This week I found myself with 20+ pages of a rough draft and realized that it’s not just too big its honestly out of order as well. I have just been reading from all the sources I gathered and plugging in information as I went along until I realized that it’s a huge mess, but the information is still relevant and interesting. As far as I can tell I am probably not where I need to be at this point on my research journey, but I feel very comfortable that I can finish my outline completely by next week.

I think the biggest issue I ran into this week was trying to decide which information should be in graph form and which should be written out or explained. Overcoming this problem will just take me some time to decide how big I want my paper to be and which topics I feel need explaining. It’s getting really complex and boiling it all down into something small and digestible, but still give a sound answer to my research question has been problematic. All that being said I still feel like I have a great outline in the works.

After going over my outline I realized some of my data seems extremely different from each source, like budgets for example and I’m not sure what that means. I guess that means that I shouldn’t try to interpret that type of data and I should just present the data to the reader, so I don’t make incorrect assumptions.

Next week is my final draft and I will need to work extremely hard to complete it since it’s also my due date. I want to work hard to make it interesting and fun to read, because other people in my class will be reading my work next week in class. The typical research analysis process doesn’t include bias, so no matter how much I like my research question I have to keep in mind that my opinions play no part in my interpretation of the data.

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Journal Entry, Week Seven

When I started this research analysis I already knew a little about both project planning and some game development practices, but I didn’t know small game development would be such a different animal. One thing I didn’t realize was that incredibly bad working environments can still breed successful games. I just assumed successful games would be the product of good teamwork and upper management practices and I found it odd that it even worked out at all. Some notions I held to be true before I started turned out to be accurate, like small teams work best and open communication is a strong part of the successful small game app model. Another notion I didn’t consider was how incredibly powerful and necessary marketing was to the success of so many of these companies.

There was one thing I never anticipated to see and that’s the amount of addictive features that the games are designed with intentionally. I know that they would never say they used people who specialize in behavioral psychology or that they focused their efforts on features that were morally questionable at best, but it was definitely evident in their project plans. This would explain part of their success, but it does make me slightly uncomfortable knowing that they employ these practices on unsuspecting children. My initial assumption that games are designed to be fun and the term addictive was always taken with a grain of salt, but ever since the smartphone came out, it has been decided that in order to be successful addiction was more important than game-play.

Oddly enough I never expected budgets to be so low, even from the high end gaming companies it only passed 1 million dollars a few times. Many of these games never even had one, because it was formed by a team of friends that relied on each other to complete the project. Lastly communication styles seemed to be exactly what I predicted, a majority of them used very little top down hierarchy structures, instead choosing a more molecular approach to team communication. Sharing of ideas frequently and little oversight was the highlights of most teams communication plans, but I figured that this area wouldn’t diverge much from most modern small programming teams since its just a better way to work in general. So far its been an interesting adventure with some things confirming what I already knew and others surprising me with refreshing insight into how these games come about.

Lab Activity, Week Seven

This week our lab activity was to discuss research collaboration and its benefits to both us and the world. I was not present for the lab this week, so I have to post my own personal reflection on the subject. Collaboration in research is extremely important to get big problems solved, because we live in a world where no one person no matter how intelligent or resourceful is capable of doing the necessary work on their own. When you come together to solve problems through collaborative research you can have a greater impact by bringing more skills to the table and having the insight or criticism can keep people on the right track.


In school right now we are collaborating on a research project about food technology and by having a small group dedicated to the same task, we bring our creativity and skills together to accomplish more much faster. We waste less time and have less risk because we share our knowledge and the work load to accomplish the tasks. This isn’t the first time I have had to collaborate like this in school and I doubt it will be the last time either since I am entering the business world and that is nothing but working with others.


I have seen the benefits of collaboration research in action both personally and in the scientific world through research papers and current technology. I can’t honestly see any negatives to this subject since its just so powerful, we wouldn’t have the world we live in now if it wasn’t for its consistent  use. It brings people together from multiple fields and professions to accomplish something they could have never done on their own. I guess you could argue that peoples different styles of research or investigation could clash with others, but that just means they need to adjust themselves personally and I don’t see it as a fault of research collaboration itself.

Progress Report, Week Seven

This week in my research journey I started outlining the draft portion of my research analysis and I think I have come a long way from where I started. I haven’t finished the entire rough draft yet, but I have generated all my topics within the paper and started mapping out where I want them to be and how I want to answer them. An example of my topics so far are schedule, game design, team setup, process improvement, and company structure. There are subtopics within those and I will be organizing some of them in graph form to make it all easier to digest. As long as I stay on this track I should be able to complete my outline on time with a solid answer.

 

I have not had any issues this week, its been going pretty well and its probably because I tackled all my major issues weeks ago. All I have to do now is compile it together which is difficult and extensive, but I wouldn’t call it an issue since its just a normal part of the process. I want to make sure that I am being thorough, so I will work until the very last moment to make sure I did all I could to answer my research question.

 

This is taking me such a long time, because I have to make sure most of the information is even available to use since not every company reveals their project plans so thoroughly. I figure that after evaluating all my sources I have realized that I won’t have enough from every company, so I will be using a combination of whatever I find to piece it together. I figure that as long as I mention what I found and what I couldn’t find anyone reading should be able to interpret the data for what it is and what it means.

 

After last week when I decided I need to cut down the amount of companies I was using I realized that some of the data I was cutting kind of felt important to answering the question and some just had very interesting information that related to success. So after reflection and spending some time on the outline I came to the conclusion that I should include as much as possible, even if I just put in the graph’s or only mention them one time.  I figure that I needed to be complete and that means including the unpleasant things like constant employee firing or manipulative practices, because the road to success is still success regardless of how that road was forged.

 

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 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.

 

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.