Archive for the ‘Making a Living’ tag

Review of 2010

January 2011. Almost three hours after the third day of the year. What a nice time for a review. Problem is I don’t remember most of 2010. I have a bunch of random thoughts about this past year so better start with that…

Projects

Lot of stuff happened… Hajime finished and was sold, we worked on Warlords 2 and Async Racing with Ben Olding, we finished two major contracts and started a couple of other ones.

I must say that project wise I have split feelings. On one hand we did put a lot of stuff out. On the other hand most of our time was used with client IPs, which can be heaven or hell, but never our heaven or hell.

Couple of other small victories I reckon… not entirely relevant for the company has a whole.

Business

I don’t know the exact figures of 2010 yet, but I’m pretty much sure we grew more than 100%. This would mean that 2010 was the year of our stability. While this is somewhat true it is not that black and white. Right now my predictions are that we will match 2010 in the 1st quarter of 2011 and still I’m not happy. My biggest concern is related to passive income. We have not yet found a way to have a steady passive income and the rest simply has too many variables, plus taxes…

Yes, 2010 was good, but we are growing and in a very decisive year in VGS, so we need to really be less dependant of overall market… stuff…

VGS Most Valuable Player

I bet we are the only company in the world with more than two people where 50% of the people are named Pedro Santos. While none of ‘our’ Pedro Santos are in fact and legaly employees of Vortix, both of them have the same spirit of the three guys that started up Vortix: they put their effort into something and make it happen, which is a rare thing nowadays. In my opinion ‘The Pedros’ share the MVP place in 2010.

The Flash Game Space MVP

I really have to make this special note here… There’s this Ben guy better known has benologist. He bootstrapped something we know as Playtomic, which is pretty much awesome and that I won’t describe because you either know it or you should follow the link. When devs were bitching and whinning about blocked links he put pressure on portals and created Portal Blacklist.

And still managed to release games… no doubt, my personal choice for Flash Game Space MVP.

And one last word

Marco, my partner, friend and brother. You are one in a million mate. If we find the other 6000 that are like you, we’ll rule the world! Keep up the good work! :)

Posted: January 3rd, 2011
at 3:23am by Vlad

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Categories: The life of VGS

Comments: 2 comments


Rant about the approach to Flash games development

Hi, Marco here. This will be a long one!

I’ve been present in some discussions in the FGL chat about the whole Programmer VS Artist war, and it annoys me every single time.

The reason for this is that there seems to be a very amateur approach to game development in the flash community. The very simple act of dividing people into different parts makes it look like one side wants distance from the other.  The point is exactly to put TOGETHER the two or the three or as many parts needed to make a game.

This is of course an old habit from the old “one-man-show” format usually associated with flash development.

There’s obviously a lot of young developers who are just starting out, but there’s also some people that have been doing this for some years and have actually already sold some games. The insistence in this “war” will not only deprive some good developers from creating long lasting bonds with other developers, but it will also keep the production value of flash games very low.

One of the problems of this discussion is that its set to die at its birth. It’s always the “programmer” vs the “artist”, which I come to find that in most of the situations it stands for the “Coder+Idea owner” vs the “Graphics designer”. If we were to call people by their occupation it would put the discussion on a new light. Suddenly, the “artist” which is a generic figure, is now the guy that does the graphics. But the artist could also be the SoundFX guy or the Musician or even the Game designer. The same way the programmer could be the Coder, or the producer, or the Game designer as well. This will usually have people cheering for one of the sides because they understand the hard work it is to do one of the parts of the game, but they neglect to see the other part.

This also leads to the second problem with this discussion which due to a simple statistical fact, most people will assume “programmer = idea owner = game designer”. This is true for a big chunk of the reality, but it’s not a rule. It’s not an indicator. It’s a consequence of most programmers being able to do a complete game on their own without the need of external help. A programmer, who wants to be a game developer, will in most cases start developing on his own, and as he does, he comes up with ideas for other games, and when the time comes to collaborate, he will have a pocket full of ideas to use. This in itself will put the visual artist in a dependency position. He will work under the direction of the person whose idea it is. He’s just doing the art, while the programmer is doing the code AND the design. This however is not a RULE. It just happens to be like this frequently.

So again, people tend to overlook the fact that along with the production itself, either it be graphics or code, one person may also be accumulating the work of designing the game.

And this takes us to the third problem I tend to see in these discussions. The one I heard recently was “He never complained about how much money he got, he just started complaining after seeing how much the game sold for”.

I’ve worked on titles that have sold for quite a lot. I’m happy to say that whenever I work with Ben Olding, for instance, I know I’m going to get huge visibility, because he usually makes very popular games. He’s also known to sell his games for a very good amount. It would be ridiculous, not to say unethical, to be knocking on his door saying “Right, you made more money then I though you would make, where’s my share?”

The reason the game sold for a specific amount may not be even remotely related to the graphics. In the specific case of Ben, he usually has really awesome game ideas. And those turn into good sales.

The programmers reading this will probably think “yes cause a good idea will always be a good idea, even if the graphics are crap”. And I say “True, but aren’t the good graphics and good sound the difference between a really good game idea and a really good game?”.

But before you start thinking that I’m saying that an artist should set his price, get paid and let the game sell, I have to say one thing. I do believe graphics have a huge impact on sales. Graphics may not be the single most valuable feature of your game, but they will get you views. They will get interest both sponsors and players. And even if the player tries the game just once to realize its “just graphics” the sponsor has already made some money out of that. Sponsors know this, and even FGL has stated that you should put an effort into making better graphics for your game. They will sell for more. And artists should know this. They should know their work can have a huge impact on the figures a game sells for. But they should know this going in. Not wait for the game to sell and say you want a cut. If you want a cut, say it right away. Say you charge $$$ plus a cut. Say you will only take a cut, or say you want to get paid and not have to worry about if it sells or not. Some programmers won’t give you the option of a cut, so figure out how much you think your work is worth for the overall value of the game.

Now if you’re an artist on a collaborating format with a coder, then both are, in my view, worth the same cut as long as they both work at their best abilities. Maybe the graphics won’t be the best, or the game won’t have as many features or the sounds aren’t perfect as expected, but the point is that all the team did their best.

Programmers should realize that graphics can make a game a completely different experience, and game artists should know that there a good chance their creations need some code to actually turn into games. AND they should BOTH realize that the best creations come from collaboration, from sharing of knowledge and know-how and from being a development force.

Programmers will most of the time have the upper hand, because they can code. That means they can make games. Doesn’t mean they can make a good game.

I’ve seen mediocre programmers make huge sales, and I’ve seen people bored to death with amazing graphics. It’s not the graphics that make the game, it’s not the code either, and it’s not just the idea. It’s the game that makes the game.

So, on a final note, if you’re a developer, looking for people to work with you, be fair. Sure, it’s nice to get more money than the other person. But is it really worth it in the long run? How many people will want to work with you? How many times will you have to resort to inexperienced cheaper people, who will not be able to deliver content that is above par?

And I don’t mean just art. We’ve hired a programmer to make a game. He’s good. We want to work with him again. We have to make sure that all parts are satisfied.

In the game development community, there seems to be an ambient of symbiotic relation between the logic and the art. But I’ve never seen so much discussion about it as in flash community. Probably because most programmers have to pay for their art. Its like it’s a war. And as Sun Tzu said: “There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.”

Posted: October 20th, 2010
at 9:48pm by Marco

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Categories: Caught our Attention

Comments: 9 comments


Give your warm welcome to Pre

Last monday was an important day for us. While Marco and Pedro were working on the final systems of Hajime, I had a nice day with Pre.

Pre is a great coder and a great example of a entrepreneur. We met him and two friends of his when they launched Orion’s Belt, a MMO browser game. The game got some visibility and won a some accolades and it resulted in getting the three of them contracted by a company to proceed with the game development of version 2. Marco did the graphics for the game’s 2nd version already as a Vortix Games gig.

I think everyone felt that sooner or later something would happen that involved people from Vortix and Orion’s Belt. It just did. Pre decided to make a big change in his life and pursue his own goals and business and started a project with us that has nothing to do with anything that anyone has seen from us. It is highly inspirational and motivational to find people that embrace risk, just like me, Marco and Diogo did and go for it. It is even more motivational because what we are trying to achieve is the original plan that brought Vortix Games together in the first place.

So give your warm welcome to Pre and wish him and us luck for the project ahead of us.

Posted: October 6th, 2010
at 1:44pm by Vlad

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Categories: The life of VGS

Comments: 6 comments


Newgrounds: The flash mafias playground

Wow… what an harsh title… oh well…

I’m a fan of Newgrounds. The principle behind it, the motto “Everything, by Everyone” is absolutely brilliant from a creative and sharing person point of view and let’s face it, Newgrounds is simply different from the other portals. One of the most satisfying aspects of Newgrounds is that a author’s work is judged and commented by other authors… or at least that’s the idea…

Newgrounds due to its size and history packs a great deal of business also. If your game scores big on Newgrounds, it will probably spread easily and give you a nice change of getting some non-exclusive deals in case you are allowed to.

The problem with this is that the scoring system in Newgrounds is tricky. As many may know there are a lot of crews on Newgrounds. Most (I hope) are quite legit and base their presence on doing collabs. But there are a lot of crews (let’s just called them mafias) that simply exist to uprate votes of their members and downrate votes of other submissions. If you are “lucky” and low-life enough to be part of more than one of these mafias you can get a bunch of 5′s while other submissions get 0′s. This happens until the daily prizes are announced.

This issue is way more serious than developers might imagine. For starters, many portals base their selection on NG score so if your game is lost in the mess of down voting, you might have a setback because of it. Second,there are portals that base their choice for non-exclusives and the money they offer on your prizes and scores.

Your game can go from 4.1 to 3.1 in a couple of hours and loose a daily prize and exposure… shouldn’t that be extremely serious? I think it should. But don’t trust my word for it, read this thread: http://www.newgrounds.com/bbs/topic/1198036

This is happening for a long time. It’s been either subtle or amazingly obvious and many, many, many developers are not aware of it and there is no official voice that I am aware from Newgrounds, which is sad. Remarkably amazing games can escape this because they will be up voted almost instantly, but if you have “just a good game” against a submission from one of this mafias, your game is going down.

No excuses can explain the silence. It is not valid to say that it could happen on other portals because other portals have a higher ratio of non-authors so competition does not strike you that obviously. It is not valid to say that it is just how it works because that means the best and brightest can’t compete with untalented yet organized mobsters.

I want Newgrounds to be better and I want their system to be taken seriously. It’s pretty much the place where author’s matter the most, but this is seriously hurting all legit authors.

Posted: September 16th, 2010
at 11:30am by Vlad

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Categories: Caught our Attention

Comments: 8 comments


Business Model Activity: Conclusions

So after all the walls of text I just put up, what does this all mean? Let me start by saying that Vortix was not born to be a flash game development studio. It was born to be a game development studio. For the last two years we have focused on flash the same way we may focus on some other technology. We do what we have to do to develop games. That is what we want to do. But to be successful we need to be able to monetize it. It is pointless to create a commercial project if it isn’t to be commercial and no, you don’t have to sell your soul to do it.

To be successful we have made decisions. We developed our own activities:

1. Sponsorship and licensing because it is our current form of monetizing our core business and our core business is creating games.
2.  Collaboration projects as an low-risk extension of #1.
3. Contracts as a very-low-risk activity that would allow us quick and steady monetization.

Everything we did, was done with a purpose. There are a bunch of things you can do as a flash or game developer. Some devs operate portals, some devs create software that helps other devs, some devs have a day job, all is fair game, but doing things with a purpose allowed us to set goals and each goal that is achieved is a step forward into that purpose.

It boils down to this:

Do whatever you have to do to be able to do whatever you want to do.

Less than that it’s either a hobby or a bad model. What you need to ask yourself is:

1. What do you do best? Capitalize on that.
2. What do you want to do? Improve on that.

Never stop moving, choose what you have to do and choose what you want to. Be smart, create value, raise the bar, raise your worth.

To finish, keep in mind that you, like us, are probably small fish in a world of sharks. Here’s something worth reading: The Bootstrapper’s Bible. That should put it in a wonderful, motivating new perspective.

Posted: August 5th, 2010
at 10:55pm by Vlad

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Categories: Business

Comments: No comments


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