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About
I'm an indie game developer for the past 5 years. I co-founded Berzerk Studio in 2008 I worked on games like Berzerk Ball, Sands of coliseum, Frantic Frigates and PeaceKeeper.

I never felt like we've shown enough of "backstage" stuff, so I created the show Indie Your Face. Expect to see art, animation, beer, sweat, code and blood. Also plaid... I like plaid.

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You just finished your game, finally ready to release it to the world. 
"Hey Internet! I spent months of work without salary to give you this!  Take it!" 
 
This is the kind of comments you get : 
"Your games sucks and I wish you cancer you moron F%!&"
 
So, let's talk about this.
 

TL;DR version !

 
 
Warning, this article is about Internet comments and therefore contains an excessive amount of foul language.
 
In Math, if you want to represent the probability of something happening, you get something called the "Bell curve", The closer you get to the average spot the more likely it is to happen. Well with Internet Comments, it's the other way around.  The closer you get to the extreme, the more likely it is to happen.  With comments like "Fu&!%ing Genius!" here, and "You guy are Hitler" there.  Fill the gaps in between and you get the whole spectrum of Internet comments.  In the middle of all this lies the constructive zone. That's where you get comments that you can actually use to improve your game.  I could make a whole episode just on How to deal with this, how to interpret feedback, but Andy Nguyen from PocketWatch games already made a 30 minutes talk at the last GDC on How to interpret feedback.  Check it out it's awesome.
 
 
So the left side is all about hate, and that's what I want to focus on. The "I want to break your soul side".  Because even if you receive more love than hate, this side will be the part that haunt you, that will get stuck in your head at night.
 
1. Never reply with hate. 
Ok that's the obvious one.  replying with hate is just stupid, it'll bounce right back at you.  But it will leave a trace on Internet that YOU said something mean to somebody else, and it WILL be used against you, maybe in 10 years from now. 
 
2. Devalue the insult.
The thing with those comments is that it hurt because you care. If you care, YOU are giving them power to hurt you. As ViHart on Youtube put it, "I have no power over you that you don't give me, and you have no power over me that I don't give you".  If Internet as the power to spew the meanest insults at your face, you have the power to visualize the comment as you want, you give it meaning.  If the comment hurt,  just imagine the worst pathetic jerk on the planet in your head, and say the comment with a stupid voice. You can check the image below for some inspiration. 
 
 
3. You are not alone
Something that helped me personally to devalue comments like that is when I realized I was not alone. Every single game developer gets it. And it's not only on games, every single creator that puts something on Internet gets it share.  Youtube, books,  articles, blo g, twitch, whatever! Look at that. 
 
Here's a little exercize you can do when you feel like shit after reading your comments : 
Pick your favorite game,  find the review section, sort it by "rating", go on the last page, open a beer, grab some popcorn and read. 
 
Rogue Legacy 
I've cleared all achievements of that games.  and I mean ALL OF THEM.  Beat all 2nd phase bosses and beat every single challenge that game through at me.  LOVED IT
Comment on Steam "this game lacks any essence of fun"
 
Super Meat Boy
Love the game, and more importantly, respect Edmund McMillen a lot. I agree with his thoughts and advice on game development and follow him since the Newgrounds days.
Comment on Steam: "i dont like boys im not gay"
Good to know, I guess?  What's funny though, is that 9 people find this review helpful. 9 people read that and say "This guy does have a point".
 
Braid
Like many other, Braid was an inspiration to become an Indie myself. It's a wonderful game, with a unique mechanic, well executed,  I passed it twice on xbox, did the challenge run and I loved it.
Comment on Steam: "wish i could go back in time and not play this crap"
 
Super Hexagon : One of my favorite game : The game is super simple,  it's challenging, the controls are super tight.  It's one of my inspiration for Just Shapes and Beats, the game I'm working on right now, and I challenge anyone to beat me at Super Hexagon.  
Comment on iOs : "The game is ugly, not challenging. Controls are really not accurate and lack imagination.  They spent more money to get downloads than develop the game. "
 
So my point : every games get it, even your favorite game that you wish you had made.  
 
Here's a list of the most comment feedback we receive.
The polite insult : 
"This game really sucks, no offense!"
 
There's the one that tries to insult you, but fail
"Awful. Next time you make a game, leave your ego out of the equation. 0/5"
O...k?
 
The difficulty unhappy : 
"This game is too haaaaaaaaard" and "This game is too easyyyyyyyyyy"
 
There's the ones where the guy clearly played your game for days but still says he hates it : 
"I absolutely can't recommend playing this game, it has not enough content 0/5 (339.5h hours on record)"
 
There's the "I will explain to you why everyone should hate this game in this following thesis." It's a big wall of text, marked with CAPITALS words here and there, usually starting with : 
"Let me start with what's good about the game"
Oh boy, I don't trust this, the shit-storm is coming up!
 
There's the hater who makes no sense : 
"This game is awful 5/5"
 
There's the lover who makes no sense : 
"Great game Loved it! 0/5"
 
There's the one that actually hurt you : 
"Why don't the artists working with BerzerkStudio move on to working on games that are actually fun? 0/5"
Ouch man...
 
The unforgiving:
"Epic music, awesome gameplay and feature, the game is fantastic... BUT I don't like the color of the shirt an npc is wearing so 0/5 sorry.
 
Those who don't ask, but demand : 
"Add this feature RIGHT NOW 0/5"
 
The blunt insult : 
"ahaha ur so IDIOT ! 0/5"
 
The guy who wants something clear : 
"no achievements 0/5 :)"
 
The guy who can't find the options screen: 
"no mute button 0/5 :)"
 

And then,  out of nowhere, sometime, you'll get comment so bad it's beautiful.  This is one of my favorite L
IT'S FUCKING GAME!!!
MY POWER AMAZING, BUT I LOSE!!!
FUCKING IDIOT.
You pay for this.
Ceya noob.

 
4. Deconstruct the comment.
Now, don't get me wrong.  Some comments and reviews are a good,  remember there's a constructive zone.  If for example, a lot of people tell you "No mute button 0/5" that might be because your options screen is not visible enough,  or that the music on the title screen is too loud or just boring.  You need to listen to your community and update the game accordingly.   When I say devalue the comment I mean don't let them hurt you.  Deconstruct the comment, get rid of the pile of shit the message was delivered in, but don't throw away the message itself. Its like those fortune cookie you know?  But instead of a cookie, its a steamy diaper,  what I'm telling you is extract the message and don't eat the diaper.
Alright? We clear?  cool.
 
5. Taking criticism is a skill on its own. 
Devaluing insults and building a shield against it is a skill, it's something you learn and practice,  If it still hurt you now, you'll get better at it.  As Zefrank said in his excellent video "Thoughts on the Creative Career" : The art of taking criticism is a craft on its own and it can take a whole lifetime to learn.
 
 
6. Focus on people who loves you.
Don't forget there's a lot of people who loves you.  I mean, maybe some stuff you do piss off people, but a lot more people will be disappointed if you stopped making stuff!  There will be a moment in your career where you'll receive so much love from one single fan that it will overshadow all hate comments you will receive.  
 
We recently got a fan who said that he was having so much fun playing our games that it made him forget about his chest pain from cancer. I was... speechless.  You know, sometimes I had this little monster in my head saying "Making video games is not helping people,  your work worth nothing, stop being selfish.". Well, thanks to this one single fan,  I have now got rid of that horrible thought.   He didn't want me to reveal his identity, but man, I was sincerely touched by the comment. It was by far the best moment of my entire career. I hope you go kick that cancer in the balls and get back on your feet. I wish you best luck. 
 
So remember there's a lot of people who loves you, think about them,  work for them.
 
7. Use your feelings to create something awesome.
 
I'm going to finish this article with a quote from Cliff Bleszinski on this very matter.  The way he said it is so awesome.
"The key is to absorb all of that hate into one big fireball of motivation inside of your belly and then pour all of that energy into your work until you can unleash one big giant motherfucking HADOKEN upon the community that wins awards and sells millions and then the haters will truly be eating a giant bushel of  dicks as you roll in a pile of money, acclaim, and community love."
 
Keep on making awesome stuff guys, I hope this will help you deal with random hate from Internet!
 
- Lachhh
 
Photo Photo Photo








Back from PAX Prime.  we've met a lot of game developers, got inspired, had an awesome time.  But you know, everything comes with a price! Our little trip to Seattle cost us about $4,000 for two people. 

That’s a lot of money for an Indie game developer! When you spend money like that, you got to be prepared to have a good impact over there.  Since other great developers gave me some advices, I thought I should do the same. So here are my tips and advices for showing up your game at event like PAX!  

TL;DR Version!

 

Here's the budget of our little trip to Seattle, roughly : 

- Plane tickets ($714.49 x2):  $1,428

- Insurance : $67.00

- Coaster give away $414 

- T-Shirts : $150

- Business cards : $100

- PAX Booth $1,442  

- Misc. (food, taxis, beer...) : $643 

Total $4.244

 

 

First thing first,  when you go to PAX, you got to channel the spirit of the peacock. 

 

...Wut?

Ok what the hell do I mean by that?  When you exhibit your game in events like PAX, your goal is to attract people, to get noticed. At first you'll feel strong in your booth, the name of your game appear on your screen, on your t-shirt, on your business cards.  You are surrounded with your brand in your little territory.  You feel awesome. Then you realize, you are surrounded by the big guys like Xbox, Super Smash Brothers, Sonic Boom, or even big indie like Monaco, Nuclear Throne, Behemoth, Super Meat Boy.  

You are not alone in there. 

So you got to find a way to stand out, to make your game appealing. That's where M.Peacock can help you out. So here’s a few tips to attract people at your booth.  

1 - Don’t leave the title screen up. When people are not playing your game, have a demo that plays itself. It’ll be much more appealing to watch than a static title screen.

In a nutshell : 

2. - Make your game not only fun to play, but more importantly, fun to watch. That is very important because people who are not playing will stick around longer.  Don't expect to have a crowd watching if only the guy playing is having fun. So ask yourself, is my game interesting to watch ? This will also help you get coverage from youtubers. If your game is boring to watch, don't expect YouTubers to talk about your game, not gonna happen.  

3 - Have a little sign with your elevator pitch on it.  When other people are playing, those who wait will get a glimpse of what's it's about.  Plus, after four days or explaining the same thing over and over, you’ll lose your voice, so the sign is very handy. 

4 - Dont be shy to make a different version of your game just for PAX.  People at PAX sees hundreds of games, you got to strike fast.  Peacock!  What we have shown at PAX is not what the game will only be in the end.  In the real game, I'd like to experiment with levels based on sad music. For example, one of my favorite song by Beethoven. I love classical music and I want to share it in the game,  but it's not very peacock friendly.  I won't put that in the PAX version because people over there just want to have quick fun. So instead,  the PAX version only have 4 levels, and they are stupidly hard and I throw players right in the action. 

Another example of this,  in Just Shapes and Beats any player can join the game at any moment,  even if the level is just about to finish.  When a new player join, I stop the gameplay and play an over the top kick-ass animation. We’re not sure if we want to keep that in the final version, but we definitely want to keep it in the Peacock version.  The point is, don't be shy to have 2 versions of your game, one just for PAX.


5 - If you can, think multiplayer. Two weeks before PAX, we had almost nothing. Just a little prototype I did for a game jam in 2 days.  We had to improve that a game that hundreds of people would see in two weeks.  So the first thing that came into my mind : Multiplayer.  I didn't even know if it would fit in the game or if it would be fun,  but I knew that if I could add multiplayer support in that game, we would increase our Peacock level for two reasons.  
Of course more players can play the game at the same time, but more importantly the players will be loud.  They will laugh, they will scream at each others which will attract other people around, increasing your peacock level.  

Now, I'm not telling that every single game should have multiplayer, some are not meant to be that way, like a puzzle game.  But I'm telling you to think "is there a way I could put a multiplayer mode?"  

Consider Super Mario.  For a long time they made multiplayer take turns, but then in Mario Galaxy, they allow a 2nd player just to stick around and interact with the background, collect little stars top help the first player while you’re waiting for your turn.. That's the kind of feature I'm talking about.  Maybe you can twist your mind to add a multiplayer support of some kind.  It's not necessary, but it does help your peacock level a lot. 


6- Bring headphones.  Having headphones was a great move for three reasons : 

  • Players were even louder. They screamed even more when something happened because they couldn't not hear themselves.  "HELP ME, I'M DEAD! HEEEELP!"
  • Players played more : It was harder to quit the game, they were inside the game, they couldn't hear anything else than the game, they were sucked in. 
  • More players agreed to play. Sometime, I could lure hesitant players in by offering them the headphones first, telling them the soundtrack was amazing.  Once they had the headphones on, I simply gave them the controller.  They were now playing and having fun. 

7- This is more about playtesting than peacocking but : don’t explain anything : Let the player learn by himself and spot the stuff that aren't clear.  I had an interview with Mike Suszek from Joystiq and he asked "Can you talk a little bit about what’s going on in this game before we start? ". I replied, "Nope." and gave him the controller. That helped me out to realize some mechanics were not clear enough. 

 

Those are the things we did right, but there's also :

 

Stuff we did wrong!
1 - For example, spending 2 weeks on a level editor instead of boosting the demo.  That was stupid.  I thought I would have some time to show the level editor at PAX, but nope! Not a single time.  I just told players that there was a level editor by showing them the button on the title screen and that was enough. That button could have led the player to a big dancing penis and nobody would have noticed. So yeah, wasting 2 weeks on the level editor was not a good idea. 

2- Players did not remember the name of the game after playing. It wasn't clear enough. We need to find a way to make it more clear. 

3-  At the end of a level, we show a screen to show the score, and people were going away at that moment because they forgot there was other levels.  Especially after seeing "Thanks for playing" What we should have done is to remove that screen entirely, make a transition with the title of the game and throw the players right back in the action.

To wrap this up,  here’s some peacock honorable mention I’ve noticed at PAX: 
   - Vlambeer gave cake to everybody to celebrate their 4th anniversary.  They got 4 monstruous cake for everybody coming by. Thanks for that btw!
   - Daniel Benmergui (Ernesto RPG) gave the right to put a sticker on the panel to sabotage his booth.  Simple, yet I was happy to leave my mark over there. 
- Vlambeer did a contest every hour, if the guy playing finished the game, everybody watching gets a key of the game for free.
   - I saw a guy with a huge pole with a sign that said "you're a twitch streamer?  I have a free cookie for you!"

I hope this was helpful!

Just Shapes and Beats : http://www.justshapesandbeats.com/









In my last post I wrote about 3 rules for Freemium game devs. Today I’d like to go over a couple of different types of MicroTransactions and get into the business side; to give some insights on how to optimize it or when you should use it.
 
TL;DR Version!





The Tip Jar Approach
 

It's the equivalent of the street performer passing the hat after a good show. While you are sure nobody will be angry by this type of MicroTransactions, it's not really effective as a revenue. Don't rely on this to pay your bills, just take a look at the numbers for the massive hit Space Team. However, Henry wrote on his blog that he did not made this game for money but made it to put his name on the radar. After multiple awards, and nearly 2 million downloads I think it's safe to say he succeeded :)! Congrats Henry!
 
One interesting approach is the one Bari Silvestre did for Pretentious game. The game uses the good old Demo -> Full game approach, but when you are about to complete the purchase, you have the option to either buy the game for a dollar or give a little more and support the studio (up to $5). Bari claims that simply doing this got him 30% more revenue. Why? The difference is that in Bari's game, your brain already agreed to pay for the whole game. When he asks for a little more, then what's another $2 to support the guy?

 
The big difference can be explained with the famous chocolate experiment by Dan Ariely:

In one of his experiments, Ariely set up a booth in a well-trafficked area. Passersby could purchase chocolates :
Hershey’s Kisses for $0.01 a piece or Lindt Truffles for $0.15 each. The majority of people who faced this offer chose the truffles. It was a fine deal considering the quality differences and the normal prices of both items. Ariely then set up another booth with the same two choices but lowered the price by one cent each, thus making the kisses free and the truffles cost $0.14 each.
This time, the vast majority of people selected the kisses instead of the truffles.
- Extract from Predictably Irrational

Basically, once your brain agrees to open your wallet, the price difference between $1 and $5 is much easier to accept.
 

- Demo -> Full :

If you go down that road, the biggest question you'll have to answer is "Where do I end the demo?". You need to cut the experience when the player wants more, without pissing him off, that's a really complicated challenge right there; It's not as easy as it seems. Gasketball did the demo -> full approach, but unfortunately didn't paid off: "Gasketball has succeeded well below what Solipskier did in it’s first few weeks. Only 0.67%.people buy the game in the end. "
Source : Penny Arcade, HookShotInc

If you put too much content in your demo, people won't bother buying the full version. That's what happened to us with Deep Sea Mahjong. We got great reviews, players opened the game 25 times in average, but they just played the Daily puzzle and left. They had enough with the free version, why would they buy the full version ?


If you can't find a nice way to split your game, just put a price on the whole thing and don't even release a demo. And you know what, if you don't release a demo, if might even a better solution!

Because :

1.You'll spend less. You have to make the demo, release and maintain it. Multiply the whole thing by the amount of targeted platforms. Lots of time and money spent.
2.On mobile, you won't compete against the big guys. The current trend in mobile gaming is on the Free to Play model. As all the big budgets are being spent to promote these free games, being put in the "Paid Games" section means you won't have to compete against their deep pockets for exposure.
3.A demo can be harmful to your sales. According to Jesse Schell, "releasing a game demo can cut your sales in half". Go watch his video for more details on this
 
 
 
- Expansion/ Additional content/More levels:
It’s essentially the same as the “demo-> full” route, the main difference is the game is designed to be updated, to have more content in the future. You know, when you see an interface like this:


When I started writing this article, I was under the impression that more game were selling [u]single-shot sets of levels[/u] out there (Level Pack 1: $0.99, Level Pack 2: $0.99, etc.). But I keep seeing games that are asking for a one-time purchase to unlock all levels AND future levels. As a player, I much prefer that approach, you pay one time and that's it; you get everything plus what's not even released yet. As a developer though, I'm wondering what's the difference between charging $0.99 per level, or charge $2.99 for all levels.
 
While I never experimented with that model myself, I did some research and what I found out is that for heavy-story based game, developers tend to charge per episodes. Games like Phoenix Wright, Ghost Tricks, Final Fantasy Dimensions, The wolf among us, Back to the future, etc. If the game has little to no story, like a puzzle game or an upgrade game, developers tend to charge once for everything AND future updates.
 
But hang on, if people only have to pay once, making new levels and updates won't give you more money right?
WRONG.
 
For every update you release, you'll get a boost in exposure, increasing your user base. You'll get media exposure, and a possible feature spot. You'll give a new life to your game and you can do that as often as you like. Updates, updates, updates. Developers of Badlands shared the impact of making updates at the last GDC



- Character Customization :
 
For single player games, that doesn't really work. The whole point of buying cosmetic changes is to show it to people, to brag about it, to be proud of it. It's the equivalent of jewelry. If you can't show it to anybody, it's pretty much useless. In multiplayer games on the other hand, that stuff works a lot and won't even change the game’s design at all. Games like Path Of Exile use that concept masterfully and are able to fund their development team solely from these cosmetic purchases.

The thing to remember here is you don't sell skins and costume, you sell reputation. You sell respect.
 
If you're working on a single player game, one thing you can do is to sell jokes. Just like the Mankini in Major Mayhem. In that case, you're not selling reputation, you're selling curiosity. "What the hell will it look like?"

 
That's all I got for today and I've only covered half of what I wanted to, more to come soon!








Hey!

While a lot of people simply hate the growing presence of microtransactions,  I'm trying to dissect this new tool and just started a new quest for understanding and taming the beast.  I believe that the use of MicroTransaction is still growing and is not going anywhere, and can actually be a good thing when done right.

In my last video, I said MicroTransactions are not good or bad, that it's more complex than that.

So today I I came up with 3 rules that I believe will help game developer out there to use MicroTransactions correctly and ethically.

TL;DR Version!



1: Player must enjoy the game without having to pay.
Make the game fun to people who don't pay, and offer a little extra to those who'd like to support you.  It's basicly the same tactic as http://www.patreon.com/ or ;https://subbable.com/.  If you're a true fan of Smooth McGroove's content he gives for free,  you can give him 15$ to hang out with him in a google Hang out session. A little extra for the fans.  But he doesn't stop his show in the middle to ask for money, just like a street performer don't stop his music in the middle of a song to ask for tips.

Even if your fans don't pay you in the end,  they will remind you, your fanbase will grow, they will talk about you, tell their friends, do promotion for you.  If they love you, they'll support you in some way.

2: MicroTransaction should NOT affect game balance.
Before I continue, I want to talk about something I hear too many times. "Game with Mtx are okay,  but they do not represent the purest form of game design".  First of all, that's just not true. Take a look at Space Team.  Game design is in no way tainted and the guy barely ask for money.  It's a pure game design gem, free to play with microtransactions.
Second, just stop saying that.  What you are doing is dragging everybody down to lift you up, saying to yourself that you're the elite of the group.  It's a classic artist to artist insult.
I won't drag your game down if you charge 5$. I don't go and say "Premium games are okay, but I prefer give happiness, for free!".  That would be stupid.  Don't drag everybody's games down, to lift yourself up.

Now to be fair, "The purest of game design" argument does have a point when crazy investor says stupid stuff like ”Just think of paying 99 cents just to get Mario to jump a little higher.”  

That's freaking scary!  Nobody wants that!  When done wrong, MicroTransaction can break the game experience, pretty badly.  But in the same way a musician can pollute his music by asking for money during his song.  That's why this rule is here.  To make sure the game experience is intact.  You need to avoid anything that creates a gap of power between payers and non-payers. The last thing you want is to piss off players that doesn't pay. So if you give special power-ups to people who pay, those who don't will feel less powerful, they'll say it's unfair, they will leave, decreasing your fans and supporters.

3: People need to fall in love with your game first.  
Too many time I've seen games where right off the first 5 minutes, it ask me if I want to pay for something.
Example :
- You open the game press start and then BAM ! UNLOCK THE FULL VERSION! Nobody.  NO-BO-DY will hit that button. We don't even know what the game is about.  You told me the game was free to try, so let me try it first!   Wait until there's a naturally break in the game, after let's say 10 minutes of play at least. Or show that screen only when the player re-open the game for the 2nd or a 3rd time.

Another example :
- You play a little, then you eventually die for the first time, because you are learning. It's normal to die. "Do you want to resurrect for 5 crystal?"  No I don't !  I don't even know what are the consequences of dying!  Do I lose score? Do I lose experience /gold ? Does even something happen?   It's already hard to learn your game, don't confuse me with stuff I need to ignore when I'm learning.  No I don't want to resurrect for 5 crystals.  Maybe later.  For now, I just want to mess around with your game.

Focus on giving the player a good time, make him happy first.  Think about a street performer. He's making music first, then he ask for money.

That's nothing new, just start looking for other exemple in life. You'll see that everywhere:
- They offer you a dessert after your meal.
- They offer you a t-shirt after that big roller coaster ride.
- At a museum, They make you leave by the souvenir shop.
- At then end of a rock concert, you can buy t-shirts.

These are all exemple of asking money when people are happy.

So let's recap :
1: Player must enjoy the game without having to pay.
2: MicroTransaction should NOT affect game balance.
3: People need to fall in love with your game first.  

Now, what I am not saying :
- Every game should have micro-transaction because that's the way the world should go.
Nope, I'm not saying that.  

If you don't want to mess with that big whole science that is MicroTransaction, just don't. As Rami Ismail said "Don't be shy to charge 3$".  

Marc (the artist behind Berzerk Ball) and I, are currently working on a project together. Something we don't want MicroTransactions in, because it just fit the game.

What I am saying that if you go that road, think about it during the game design, not at the end of the project.  Don't forget to make the game for people who don't pay.
Just like street performer make music for a lot of people who don't give them money, or the youtubers like SciShow, MinutePhysics or Smooth McGroove who give you free content, and gives a little extras to their fans.

Hope it helps!








Today I’m talking about Microtransactions.  Why some are using it and should it be considered good or bad.  Another beefy episode, I took me x4 more time than usual, and I only covered one third of what I wanted to say.  

Thanks to Juicy Beast, Toge Productions and Chris Jeff’s games!  You guys rock!









Today I’m going deeper into clean code.  Last episode I talked about “why”, today I’m talking about “how”.

It’s a beefier episode, but there was so much to say !