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.

 

 

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 –

Lab Activity, Week Four

This week the lab activity was to find a librarian from Olympic College and discuss my research question  and determine if it needed refinement and if they could help me gather more sources with a better search methodology. The good part was after the meeting the librarian online they brought up some good points about how to search for material better like http://libguides.olympic.edu/index and searching through the article index and refining my search to find more applicable material.

After discussing how well my search methods were working I discovered that I had done a pretty good job so far. Direct source material is the best after all and I had found a lot to use already without any other help. They did say to use the library homepage a lot though, which to be honest was better at published works and a lot things I am finding that relate to my question are not published. The online librarian (named Renton Tech, Librarian Ell) helped me by slightly refining my search methodology, but he did point out some things I already knew like using Google Scholar. After using it I realized that most of the material was published works on game development and some of them did come from books that people from companies that made successful games published, but they seemed more focused on programming methods rather than project planning. It was interesting, but I guess not very helpful for what I want answered.

Overall the exercise was interesting and brought up some good points about how I could better look for material even though I thought it might be pointless to ask. Since I already had mostly what I needed I took their advice with a grain of salt, if it could help me I would apply it and if not don’t worry about it. I understand that under different circumstances or with a different research topic it might have proven useful to have their help early, but considering the nature of my research question it wasn’t very useful to me. I think if my  research question was more generalized rather than so specific the librarian could have been more useful.

Source –

Olympic College Library Search -http://libguides.olympic.edu/index

Journal Entry, Week Four

While researching this question my original strategy was very basic, follow what I learned last quarter in Project Management and create a guideline based on that. Overall it turned out to be a good strategy since many of these companies seemed to follow very similar pathways that I was already familiar with such as team composition and project planning. In the end I just retained my original plan and added to it as time went on to encompass the entirety of my question. So it eventually became comparing and contrasting what I am seeing in my research to what I already knew from experience or learned from the college.

All of this influenced my final criteria choices after I kept seeing the same information repeated across different companies with different projects and all with similar results. I concluded I was done with researching when I had looked at over 30 different company’s project plans in more detail and determined that they seemed related to each other or the difference between them became very unnoticeable. This forced me to look a little deeper and create more criteria to separate them from each other, which is why I included company philosophy and game design as criteria to discuss. Unlike big projects that tend to have lots of individual people to do every task some of these companies had to have people that were a jack of all trades and took on many different positions based on what was required to be successful. This led me to consider team composition professions as a criteria to analyze and also discuss if the larger company itself took care of entire sections of a project like advertising for instance.

Then after all that was done for my final criteria I decided to discuss what I call the bottom line, which includes total profits made and popularity based on ranking. Anyone that is in the business of making money has two surefire ways to measure success and I would be a poor researcher if I don’t recognize this, include it and at least discuss what it means to my question as a whole. Since just completing a project can be considered a success, but where it takes you when your done is what will really define it.

Progress Report, Week Four

This week I finished up the searching portion of my analysis process, because ever since I found Gamepedia it led me to an avalanche of useful sites containing all the data I could ask for on any successful game company’s project plans. This is exactly where I should be according to my research plan I introduced last week and I can say that I am very happy with my progress thus far. I have enough game companies to analyze thoroughly and categorize their development processes very well by the end of this projects timeline. I will still retain the idea that I might need to ask some other questions through emails or twitter, but I will determine that next week after I do some more reading and evaluating of all the data I now have and determine if I am missing anything critical. My window of opportunity to get those answers included if I get any, will close soon so I need to make a determination about that quickly.
The only issue I ran into this week was trying to determine which game companies I should use in my final analysis. I came to the conclusion that I will use the ones that
1) Can answer all my questions
2) Considered a commercial success
3) Rated high on cost of production to profit ratio
By running them through these 3 considerations I should easily come up with quite a few companies that can give me an in depth answer to my original research question.
This week all I did was searching and since it was my final planned week to do that I spent a lot of time making sure I have everything I will need for next week, which is just reading and evaluating all the information I gathered and determining whats useful. I really like to read about the big game companies that chose to make small game apps, because they are not used to the different approach needed and so they tend to give a lot of details about how they changed their operations around or what they had to do differently to still find success. I am glad that I included company/project philosophy as an analysis section, because many of these companies like to stress specific design criteria at all times. For instance Blizzard told its small game app developers to keep the layouts simple at all times and not create anything that looks like its cluttered or complicated which turn people off the game right away. I like these details because they are not something that was regularly discussed in my project management class, but I see them as important factors for success now.
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

Journal Entry, Week Three

I would like to discuss in short detail how I chose my research topic this quarter. I like to program small games in Java or Python and one day I want to take it more seriously and create something much bigger. Last quarter I chose to investigate how I would do this by creating my own personal project plan relating to this subject. I discovered a lot of things about what I was doing wrong and  how I would do it better. Now this quarter I chose to analyze the project plans from game apps developed by successful companies to further understand how I can be personally successful. I always want to learn about what I am doing wrong and how I can get better, so this is a perfect topic for me since it engages me.

In order to get good information about this topic I had to look at interviews, twitter accounts, company websites and game app development websites. They have all been really solid resources and I feel like I have a very good idea about how to organize my final paper. After going through them I have discovered new things that I didn’t know were that important, so its been great to validate things I learned from last quarter and see new ideas in action.

When choosing selection criteria for a subject that is constantly changing every year I have to be very careful about what I see as important, because what I believe to be true now might not be tomorrow. The selection criteria I chose was based on the things I learned from my project management class, factors that these companies saw as their success and also the most commonly reoccurring themes I picked up while evaluating these plans. By combining these ideas together I can see the full picture of success and draw very valid conclusions from all of it. In the end though I know that following none of these criteria could also result in a successful game, but research and reasoning dictates that the odds are more heavily in favor of following similar guidelines. Since there is no absolute truth about how to write a perfect project plan I will continue to change my mind and update my thinking when necessary as better criteria presents themselves.