Tag Archives: Process

Designing for monetization from day one

As more mobile game developers move into the F2P space or integrate IAP into their premium game, a common set of problems occur around process (or lack thereof) when it comes to designing for monetization. Many game teams I talk to or work with in my role as a monetization design consultant are working in F2P begrudgingly. They distrust the business model and this sentiment bleeds through to the game’s implementation, limiting their chance for success.

In my opinion, the ideal game development process on a game with IAP will consider monetization from day one. Not only will the design of the game as a business be considered from the outset, but each member of the team will embrace the business model in their work. This does not mean starting your first discussion of the game with the question “how do we milk our players for all they are worth?” Instead, it means that each member of the team recognizes that success depends on a game that forges a long term relationship with the player and is unafraid to ask the player for money when appropriate.

This idyllic vision is at odds with what I tend to see out in the real world. In practice, there tends to be one person on the team responsible for the money side of game design. This person (be it product manager, producer, CEO or other) leads a frustrating life where she is constantly suggesting ways to improve the game only to be shot down by her teammates, or fighting to get a small part of her overall ideas implemented. This results in a compromised game where monetization elements are hidden from the player or overall lacking, and can result in the failure of an otherwise good game.
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Design Tutorial – How to write a feature brief

The simple truth of game development is that a finished game will never be all that you imagine it to be. Even the best managed game development processes result in a game that represents 5 to 10 percent of the initial ambition. Ideas are cheap, implementation is expensive and at a certain point games must be shipped. For instance, even if my team’s current game Enhanced Wars is a runaway success and we continuously improve it for the 3 years after launching, it will never be all that we want it to be.

Once upon a time, when I set out to design a game I would start by writing a lengthy document detailing every aspect of the game. Eventually I learned that these documents are largely a waste of effort. No one else would ever read a 75 to 100 page document and most of the initial concepts get changed dramatically in implementation. Nowadays when working on a game, I prescribe a method of managing the design process for all these features that is lightweight and flexible.
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Balancing your game with tuning reports

To call the Quarter Spiral team process centric would be a bit of an understatement. Two of the three team members have served as producers of software development teams. We love scrum methodology and have been doing weekly sprints with point tracking and post mortems since the first week of our existence. As our tiny team is spread out across two continents, rooting ourselves in process has been essential to maintaining development momentum and creating trust that each team member is pulling his weight.

This devotion to process can be extended to game design and, in this instance, tuning and balance. By nature, game balance is subjective. What feels “just right” for one team member or especially devoted forum goer may be frustratingly overpowered for another. I believe it is impossible to ever get tuning perfect; it can only ever be good enough and with enough feedback, continuously improved.
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6 process tips for virtual teams

Before Alex and I decided to start Quarter Spiral, we both spent a significant amount of time as Producers leading teams at BioWare. In the San Francisco studio, he led the platform technology team and I ran the game team. Although we both have creative backgrounds as designers (he graphics, me games) we both learned to love process. As a team leader, I put down the game design document and picked up the process as my tool of quality and control.

So the very first day Alex and I met to discuss our product vision, we opened up Pivotal Tracker and wrote stories in a backlog. The first full time day for Quarter Spiral, the three co-founders met on Skype for sprint planning. Before the second day was over, Alex and I had already held an ad hoc meeting to review the process we cobbled together; dissatisfied with some kludginess we began to make changes.

Quarter Spiral has been a virtual team from day one. Being virtual is key to keeping our burn rate low and working cohesively while spanning from the west coast of California to the northern tip of Germany. As such, a strong focus on process has been key to keeping our team humming as we build product. Along the way, we’ve picked up some tips and tricks that keep our virtual team strong.
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