The Tigers of Asia

When I started in online games 1997 I realized this is going to be big. I had no idea how big, but I felt it as I was already hooked to online gaming.

When I experienced free to play the first time and learned it came from Asia I knew they were ahead of us. Luckily the Asian developers and publishers didn't know how to tackle our gamers at that time. There seemed to be a vast difference in play style and game style. I even made a talk about it on KGC, the Korean Game Developer Conference.

Some years later the Asian Tigers became giants, so large in fact that they own major shares in western gaming giants. The revenue they pull in just from their local market is so high that they can play money games in the west - exactly when we are shaken up by the console transition year.

I said years ago we should be prepared for the time when Asia understands our gaming market. Are we prepared? I doubt it. Maybe we should prepare for a time where most large and creative companies are owned by Asian online companies.


Largest player battle ever in Eve Online - I was there

So in case your games site hasn't told you yet: Yesterday on July 28th the largest player battle happened in Eve Online with over 4000 players participating.

Coverage of the Verge: http://www.theverge.com/2013/7/28/4565558/eve-online-biggest-space-battle-in-history

And the Mittani report: http://themittani.com/news/live-reports-battle-6vdt-cfc-victorious and an aftermath report of it of the same site: http://themittani.com/features/6vdt-cfc-battle-report.

We won. Our enemy, the TEST alliance, retreated to Delve, another area of the universe. Their retreat basically give us the region "Fountain" under control.

If you ask how it feels to be there let me explain: if you haven't done this kind of mass battle yet you will get frustrated, annoyed even. The reason is that the only way CCP can run such a battle is to slow down time. They call it TiDi which makes all actions slower than real time. In our case TiDi was so bad that all actions took 10x longer than normal. That doesn't sound much but imagine targeting a ship takes 3 minutes ... and shooting it up to 10 minutes. The whole game runs in slow motion in this one sector.

The advantage of such a TiDi is that the game doesn't lag or crash, it only slows down. If you are used to it and learn to cope with it its actually fun. I finished GoT season three while fighting in it. Yes that's how much time you have.

You might argue that this isn't fun but you need to know that Eve is not an action game, everything in Eve is slow so slowing it down even further to fight crash lags is no problem at all. Many players complain about it who never fought in these battles, but they work and you must work them because otherwise you can never defend against .... 3000 players invading your system you worked years for.

There will be a time when server architects know how to run 4000 players in one "arena". But so far there are still physical limits to overcome and Eve sets a record here.

Now that the news is spreading even the BBC covers it: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-23489293


Codes: Things some developers never learn

I am wondering why obvious best practices get ignored so often.

I am talking for example about serial numbers & codes. Whether it be windows serial numbers, Steam codes, Nintendo Club pins or codes from iTunes some of those are ignoring obvious solutions to common problems.

Lets take a look at a sample code:


Note that a lot of characters can't simply be identified. Is it a one, "L" or "i"? No one knows. The obvious solution? Do not use "L", "I" or 1's in your codes. Its as simple as that. Do not use "O" like in "Order" and zeros. (Feedback from readers: do not use S, Z, 5, and Q either). Even if your printer promises they can be distinguished at some print run its being ignored and your users can't.

And: ignore upper and lower case entries, treat input as identical. PLEASE.

Besides those obvious errors the entry of the codes in your input field can be optimized as well. Why in hell can't I copy/paste some serials with multiple code sections like above into an input field with 5 separate fields? Because it all pastes into the first field, ignoring the other 4. They don't carry over. Its not really hard to do.

Also: the last digits is a check sum. This check sum does NOT check the code server side for validation, it is to check client side if the USER did an error. Server side validation is always against a database so your codes can't be cloned.

It is not hard to do codes correct. So whenever you are involved in a project where codes are either for licensing, installation, or bonus codes please follow the simple rules above. It makes your live easier, less support tickets and less frustrated customers.

p.s.: A co worker pointed out rightly that the statements above might say that the serial number check sum client side is all you need. This is of course wrong, the check has to be made server side all the time. The check sum I meant is the user input check so at least the basic serial is correct and not gibberish. That can be client side. However exposing your check sum method in the client isn't wise either. Maybe we need two.


In Russia, Game Play YOU!

Remember even due to those limits here Russia presents the largest online game audience in Europe:

In Russia, Game Play YOU!


The App Store Problem

Developers complain that their game doesn't sell in the app store or doesn't have enough downloads and thus doesn't make enough revenue through their in app purchases.

There are problems getting visibility on the app store, its key to success. However the main problem I see isn't visibility - its boredom of the users looking at your app.

Let me give you one example: I am looking for good strategy games in my iPad and iPhone since months and can't find a lot. Most so called strategy games are Tower Defense games or variations of games already in the app store since years. There are exceptions like Autumn Dynasty or Ravenmark. But most other strategy titles can be put into 3 or 4 drawers or "me too" or clones of existing concepts. Boring.

The same is happening on many other genres. It seems that developers look whats selling and copy that concept - and then complain their game isn't selling. How lame is that. I can understand that licensed IP's for movies like Despicable Me simply copy a game concept (runners) and be good with it - but long term revenue is not happening on game types which exist in the app store since years.

Developer friends told me they are tired of the App Store. Its not as exiting as it used to be. But that's exactly whats happening. 90% of all games being published already exist.

That's exactly why indies have better success than commercial developers: they despise copying concepts.

So the first step for success on the iOS store is to make a big step away to all mass concepts like runners, tower defenses and match three games.


Game burnout

Its strange often. When you work in the games industry you play a lot of games. I mean a LOT. I think I played like 15.000 games in my life. Yes I mean different ones. The effect on this is that most games I play have similar mechanics or features than a game I played before.

This removes an important element of games: surprise & excitement. "This is cool" is missing often which makes me bored about most games. This isn't bad as I can spot the special things inside a game which are great very fast and easy. Generally it takes like 20 minutes and I can tell you how a game is constructed and how it will progress along. That's usually when I stop playing it.

Rarely a game* will bind me for hours, the most recent one was Dishonored. (*I mean single player games, MMO's are different). I started playing Tomb Raider and while it is an excellent game I was bored within minutes. I knew too many things they were doing including their quick time moments (did I tell you I hate the qt moment thingy which seem to be popular?. Don't get me wrong, Tomb Raider is an excellent game, but not for someone who played as much as I did.

So I am on a mission to find that one game which keeps me occupied for hours. Have suggestions? Let me know.

The whole thing is made worse with the fact that I love online games. As soon as I play a single player game I am missing people. Humans - which I can talk to, play with or against. This is so powerful that most single player games have a hard time to compete. I went as far as saying "Single player games will be niche in 5-10 years" in a talk back 2006 I think. Was I right? We'll see.

Btw people suggested Animal Crossing 3DS which I can really recommend to ANY age, in fact most people who I know love that game are beyond 30. So don't get fooled. Play that little gem! My 3DS was stolen by my daughter so I can't play right now :(


The Inner World

So my students (no, rather ex students) of the Film Academy Ludwigsburg achieve a #1 spot on Amazon Germany with their first adventure game "The Inner World".

The project started in a creative camp where the students had to design a universe. One team came up with an unusual setting where creatures lived inside our own existing world, kind of upside down world inside earth depending entirely on light.

The world then was used in my board game design workshop to create a very nice game which was rated pretty good. The students then used the world & board game foundation to create an adventure game concept, which they also used for their diploma.

So that one student came to his diploma review with the papers of his newly founded company Fizzbin, took his diploma and went off creating the adventure "The Inner World" mentioned above.

The game will be released shortly and it seems they get great coverage. Even the most famous youtuber Gronkh will feature it today.

I wish them all the best and many follow up titles!

German quote of the team after this blogpost went online: "WIr wurden ge-gronkhed und geteutet. GOIL."