Thursday, December 17, 2009

Rocketbirds - great Flash game from Ratloop

Wow, I'm blown away by what Ratloop has been able to create using Flash. Rocketbirds is a very slick and stylized side scrolling action game with a sense of fun.

The control and movement I found a little clunky, as much a factor of it being a keyboard controlled action game as anything.

Check out the awesome intro.

I love the flavor and sense of fun and could absolutely see this expanding to consoles. Similar to how The Behemoth evolved Alien Hominid from an original Flash game.

Unlike Alien Hominid, they do charge for the game, though the first level is free. Check it out and if you like it, support them by buying the full game!

Ratloop are the same guys that created the innovative Mightier game that I wrote about before. I'm putting them on my short list of people to watch, this looks like a team with a bright future!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Indie Game - The Swapper

The Swapper is an indie game developed by FacePalm Games and entered into this years IGF.
The concept is a puzzle platformer where you progress by creating clones of yourself. Fire your weapon at an inaccessible platform and your clone is created. You now control the new version of yourself and leave the old one behind?

So what happens to your old self? Who is the real you at this point? In the gameplay trailer, there is a sequence where the player drops from a great height, and clones himself just before hitting the ground. The new clone lands gently to survive but the original character meets a gory death on impact.

This concept reminded me a lot of one of the movie (and novel) The Prestige, which I absolutely loved. I'm fascinated to see how Facepalm explores this theme when the game becomes available.

Facepalm Games has a blog with continued updates on the game.
Thanks to Kotaku for the original story.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Swimming Under Clouds - interesting upcoming indie game

Swimming Under Clouds IGF Gameplay Trailer from Yacine Salmi on Vimeo.

New indie game entered into the IGF. I'm always a sucker for beautiful hand painted art in games. Developed by Yacine Salmi from Piece of Pie Games out of Germany.

The artwork is created by Mikael Aguirre, who in another life as Orioto, is known for creating amazing high res 'screenshots' of old games updated in his hand painted style. I'd love to see an HD remake of Sonic done in this style!

Check out his work on deviant art.

I'm looking forward to playing this game.

It's been entered into the IGF. For more info you can visit their blog.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Some thoughts on Xbox Live Indie Games Channel

Jump! is a fun game I found on XBLA's indie games channel. This is a great little game that brings back fond memories of classic old platformers and reminded me of an old love, Manic Miner. Totally worth the 240 pts.

Did some digging and found its by a small french indie developer called Arkedo. Impressively, the game was developed in only a month. The 3 man team are promising to deliver a new game a month, in fact the next one is already out on XBLA called Swap!.

I'm surprised not to see Jump! on PC and they don't seem to be doing much to push it (its not even mentioned on their website). It's a shame as I get the sense that the Indie channel remains a bit of a dead zone for gamers content.

I would love to see the Indie channel on XBLA really take off and things seem to be trending in the right direction. User rating for games on XBLA is a good step to helping the quality games get noticed. Yet its still hard to see these games getting more traction without a more comprehensive user review and viral marketing system.

I'd love to be able to post real reviews of games and have them viewable from the Xbox dashboard. One way you could do this is in partnership with Amazon. Amazon sells product codes for XBLA games now and people have gone on there and posted user reviews. MS could propogate the dashboard with these reviews and this would drive consumers to be more active in discussing/sharing the games they like and dislike.

I think the XBLA platform is also crying out to bring over some of the aspects that have made social games on Facebook successful. Can you post messages from your XBLA game to facebook? You should be able to. Start to get your friends to notice your latest high score in Trials HD. I would prefer this to the constant barrage of farmville posts I currently get.

Perhaps now that Facebook has come to XBLA, we will start to see more crossover between these devices. Anything that can help give more tools to the independant developer. XBLA is a great platform still in its infancy I'd like to see it be a viable way to provide a financial way of life for developers like Arkedo to keep doing what they are doing!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Art of the Pitch - advice for indies

Digital Distribution Summit - Sandra Sdraulig Opening & David Edery Keynote from Digital Distribution Summit on Vimeo.

Highly recommend this keynote from my buddy David Edery on how to pitch your indie game for funding.

Of particular note from David;
  • Be able to describe your game in one sentence.
  • Identify your target audience (don't just say everyone)
  • Do your research, make sure you have sized your market and are pitching for the right budget (current XBLA budgets are sub $1M for example)
  • tailor your pitch for the organization
  • Try and identify gaps in the organizations portfolio and move quickly to fill it.
  • make sure a prototype or video sells gameplay, don't over focus on story, tech or art (I've been guilty of this myself.
David is a super smart dude and formerly XBox Worldwide Portfolio Planner and has great advice. You can read his blog for more thoughts on the digital eco-sphere.

Also, kudos to Twisted Pixel for giving David permission to share their pitch material for 'Splosion Man. The gameplay video in particular sells the game instantly and is a perfect example of the right way to pitch your game.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fig. 8: beautiful indie game

Check out this free little indie game called Fig. 8. It is the whole package.

Created by a collective from Iowa called Intuition Games.

Beautiful music and style, simple premise executed well. Control is simplicity itself but gets progressively more challenging in the environment.

I love the integration of the HUD and tutorial into the game map.
A very relaxing experience and perfect for unwinding at the end of the day!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lucidity launches this week!

Just a reminder to everyone that this Wednesday is the big day where you will be able to get your hands on Lucidity.
It launches on XBLA & Steam for (I think) the very reasonable price of $10!

Later today we will be answering some questions from people on the development of Lucidity over at LucasArts Workshop. If you haven't checked out the site I recommend it, as we continue to post stories on the development of Lucidity.

We thought it would be interesting to share as much about the development process as we could, in the spirit of sharing key learnings and challenges with anyone else developing small games or interested in doing so.

In the mean-time, a pretty cool hands-on preview over on WorthPlaying continues to help build the good buzz prior to launch. We've been getting a lot of good buzz about the visual style and the audio, but this one gets into the nuts and bolts of the gameplay as well.

Lucidity is a shockingly addictive game. The randomly generated nature of the items makes replaying stages exciting and interesting because there isn't a single set solution. Whether you're simply trying to reach the end of the stage or replaying to collect fireflies, the game encourages you to be creative and tricky

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Article on Reductive Design

Read a great article from Rodian Joubert today on Gamasutra called Minimised Game Design For Indies: Yes Or No?. (the article is a republish from this site)

This quote from the article by Anna Anthropy sums up the point well;
"contemporary game design is a victim of clutter," says Anthropy. "because the games industry is hit-driven (big budget games need to sell huge amounts just to recoup their costs), games are designed to be everything to everyone. unfortunately, the result is a game full of features which all tug in different directions, and which stretch the idea of the game thin beyond recognition ... they stretch an hour's worth of ideas over eighty hours of filler."
This reminds me of conversations we had about the Lucidity gameplay during early prototyping. We started expanding the core functionality of the game, adding a much wider range of different pieces and also power-ups. We decided in the end to strip it back because we felt that the additions really didn't add anything.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lucidity - Launch Trailer is live

The launch trailer has gone up on Gametrailers. I embedded this version that posted by BeastMode1100 on youtube. Alternatively you can watch it at gametrailers here.

The clip where Sofi pushes her grandmother over is one of my favorite moments.

We wanted to play around with the fact that we had 3D and 2D assets in the game 3D/2D and decided to have Sofi push the static card over to convey the drama of the moment when Sofi realizes all is not well in her fantasy dream.

IndieCade - Indie Games Conference in LA this weekend!

If you are in the LA area this weekend, I recommend you head over to Culver City to check out IndieCade!
This is a newish conference that started out as part of E3 but is stepping out to become its own thing.

Prices are very reasonable (from $20-$290) and there are some excellent speakers including Jenova Chen, Daniel Benmergui and Henry Jenkins, formerly of MIT now at USC. Come participate and support a conference that provides a platform for the awesome growing indie scene!

Get tickets here.

I am planning to head down Friday for the weekend so hope to see you there!

Monday, September 28, 2009


Love the look of and vibe of this puzzle/adventure game coming to PC/Mac on October 16th.

The developer is Amanita Design. I love this photo of the team from their site, they look like a fun group.

Visit the game's site here for more info.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Plant A Seed Watch it Grow - Innovation in a Recession

I listened to this great show on PBS about Innovation and how to succeed in a recession.

Great discussion that includes Robert Sutton, Stanford Professor and author of 'The No Asshole Rule'. I haven't read it but will be adding it to my amazon list.

This discussion reminded me of articles I have read about the importance of preserving innovation cultures in a recession, such as this one from Business Week.

Companies that get conservative, cut back on risk taking, will emerge from a recession in a weakened position. Recessions are the time when old paradigms break down and make way for new business models.

This is what I believe we are seeing in the games industry, where $60 games are starting to visibly lose ground to more affordable digital content.

Shadow Complex is a new IP for XBLA that sold over 200K units in its first week, I have heard talk its tracking to sell around 1M units, which sounds reasonable. Trials HD, another recent XBLA offering, sold 300k in the first month. These are great numbers for games that cost significantly less than boxed product to develop, with much smaller teams.

Then you have all the free to play social games such as Farmville and Pet Society, that are by all accounts raking in a lot of money via micro-transactions.

Contrast with EA's admission recently that they have been disappointed with sales of Madden 10, despite it being critically acclaimed and one of there consistent top sellers.

As well is being linked to the economy driving people to find lower cost outlets for their entertainment, I believe this is also strongly related to the move to 'affordability and convenience' that is offered by digital content (I wrote about this in a previous post).

My favorite quote from the PBS show. On how to protect a creative idea and nourish it so that it can truly flourish.

"You don't plant a seed in the ground and then dig it up every week to see how its doing".

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Lucidity - Destructoid coverage

I got asked a few questions about Lucidity over at Destructoid.

FTA: "One of the attractions of working on smaller games, is the level of creative freedom it affords you, to experiment and take risks that you might otherwise not be able to on a big budget game,” Nottingham told Destructoid.

“For Lucidity, we wanted to develop a unique art style that didn’t really feel like anything else and it was developed hand in hand with the story, so that one would complement the other. Jeff Sangalli (the art director) and I are both big believers in visual stylization and he was talking about wanting the game to feel like a pop-up book, using multi-planing and 2D cards to help achieve the affect,”.

Check out the full interview broken up into 3 links.

LucasArts tells us about Lucidity's unique look
Lucidity's art & music inspired each other
LucasArts talks Lucidity controls, concept

Monday, September 21, 2009

Early Braid - Tim Concept Art

Destructoid has posted some early concept art for Braid's protagonist, Tim. You can read their thoughts and view more art here. This art was created by Edmund McMillen (not David Hellman, who created the in-game art). You can see more examples of Ed's work on his blog.

I always geek out seeing the iterative process of developing art from concept to in-game.

If you keep an eye on LucasArts Workshop, we'll be posting our own concept art for Lucidity, including early looks at Sofi.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

TED talk on Motivation

Love this TED talk from Dan Pink on motivation.

He talks about how modern knowledge workers are more successful when motivated by things other than financial incentives.
The things that matter, he describes as
  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Purpose
I totally buy this. In fact its a strong part of the DNA of the team I work with at LucasArts. We have a very flat heirarchy that encourages autonomy. Because we are a small team we are constantly pushing people to stretch and be excellent in there craft. And we also all buy into a common purpose that puts the quality of the final product above individual achievements. I think its a strong reason why the team has stayed together for so long and loves working with each other.

To be clear, Dan is not saying financial is unimportant. It's important to get fair compensation for work, but after that threshold has been achieved, the autonomy, mastery and purpose are what is important. It's the age old corollary that money can't buy happiness.

Great read for any aspiring entrepreneurs or indie startups thinking about how to attract and retain talent.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lucidity - hands on previews

Some very kind preview words from IGN and Gamespot.

From the IGN Lucidity preview

"From what we've played so far, this is shaping up to be one of the prettiest and most unique XBLA releases of the year."

From the Gamespot Lucidity preview

"There's something about the 2D puzzle platformer genre that fosters creativity and artistic visuals, and Lucidity has both..."

I should also mention, the date has been confirmed. October 7th coming to XBLA and PC.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Lucidity - Opening and gameplay

First gameplay footage revealed.

Sofi and the enemies are 3D objects. Everything else (including the props in the cut scene) is made up of 2D flat cards. All the textures on the models were hand painted so they integrated with the look of the world.

You'll also notice the game transitions seamlessly from the cut scene to gameplay. The cut scenes were all done in engine to pull this off. A lot of work but we loved the result!

We'll be talking more about the development of this game, including behind the scenes stuff, over at LucasArts Workshop.

UPDATE: I've put my first post up on the Workshop which you can read here.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Announcing: Lucidity

Today LucasArts announced my latest game. I'm excited to finally be able to peel back the curtain on some of what I have been up to with my awesome team here at Lucas!

Check out the Press Release here

Gameplay footage and interview on gametrailers here

Also if you track LucasArts Workshop this is where we will be updating with more info as we get closer to launch.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

LucasArts Workshop

We launched a blog at LucasArts last week. I'll be posting on there as well as here. Keep watching the space! LucasArts Workshop

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Canabalt - cool Retro

My buddy Dom sent me a link to this cool browser game called Canabalt. Single button twitch gameplay from Adam Saltsman.

From the description on the Experimental Gameplay Project site.

I made Canabalt in 5 very long days (at least 60 hours) – 1 day at the start of the month, two days at PromJam, and then this weekend. Danny B made the music for it tonight. It follows the theme (loosely I am sure!) by using only one button to interact, and by using only 6 colors to display everything. Also, the gameplay and graphics are under 100kb, the other 3MB is all sound files.

I love the little 'storytelling' touches such as the events in the background that give you an epic sense of being part of a bigger narrative. Also cool little touches like breaking glass, birds flocking away that convey dynamic action. All in an 8 bit style package.

My high score so far is a very lame 1410 pts.

Check it out here!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

From USC to XBLA: The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom

"When a team believes in, and is passionate about a project, their enthusiasm manifests in the quality of the game"

This quote has lived with me since the beginning of the year, when I adopted it as a call to arms for the team I am working with at LucasArts.
It was written by Matt Korba, a student at USC, in his excellent postmortem about the making of The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom.

Now very cool to see the announcement on Gamasutra, that Winterbottom has been picked up to be published by 2K Games, with it slated for an XBLA release in early 2010. You can visit the new 'coming soon' website here.

I wish them all the best.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Times are Changing

Fantastic article in Wired this month called 'The Good Enuf Rvlutn'. It's about how Lo-Fi tech is taking over. From mp3s, to Hulu, to netbooks to Flip HD cameras, people are foregoing bleeding edge for cheap, convenient and super easy to use.

I believe more and more the games industry is going to have to shift towards this trend. There will always be the big budget titles for $60 based on known brands (IP like Star Wars, Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto) but I think big budget NEW IP is increasingly an endangered species.

This is great news!

In the race to the top, games cost $30-40M, teams are huge and the stakes are incredibly high. What chance the creative vision, when so much at stake, so many interests vested, and sales needing to be huge?

But now we have a new race to the bottom. Low costs, smaller dev teams, cheaper games.

Gamers are increasingly more comfortable with trading bleeding edge graphical quality for convenience, fun and originality at a fair price. These days, I play Shadow Complex, Battlefield 1943 and Trails HD on my XBox. These are games that cost in the $2-4M range, maybe even less and cost me $15 to buy.

With lower cost comes lower risk, so game creators have the opportunity to retain control and drive their unique vision. The last big budget game I played was Mirrors Edge. Although I enjoyed it, recently I have been loving Shadow Complex just as much. Great polished game in a small package. I get the sense with this summers crop of XBLA games that the small teams had FUN making them. That they were made out of a passion for the craft.

This is a great time to be creating new IP. This next decade for games could be what the 70s were for Hollywood, the time when fresh new ideas and young talent were able to break the mold of an entrenched system and deliver new content for an audience hungry for it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Insanely Twisted

Michel Gagne is someone that I'm going to be watching with interest.

Check out this awesomely beautiful trailer of his upcoming game Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet

Check his blog for more info on the game.

This is a direction for games that inspires me. Another example of games that break away from photo-real and push visual stylization.

This is an exciting time for contemporary artists with cool unique art styles. Just see the success of The Behemoth, and how much the identity of their games, such as Alien Hominid and Castle Crashers, is defined by the awesome artwork of Dan Paladin.

As digital distribution continues to break down the barriers between creator and consumer, the opportunity to make bold choices around the visual development of our games will only grow.

Coming out of hiding

I've been laying low for a while, heads down working on some cool new stuff that I'm super jazzed about. Will soon be able to talk about it.
What I can share is that I have been closely involved with LucasArts latest push into digital distribution.
We kicked this off with the release of Monkey Island:SE, that was developed by many of the talented people on my current team. The game was a true labor of love for many people at the studio and its been great to see the reception that it has got.

On a related note, check out my recent conversation with on how we kicked off digital distribution at LucasArts.

Interview with

Watch this space for more info soon!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Patronage for Game Developers

I was checking out Daniel Benmergui's interesting new indie game Today I Die and was curious to see the statement on his site saying "This game is ad-free thanks to an unusual individual". Poking around a bit I found this Gamasutra interview with Daniel that explains that his ability to release the game ad free was due to a financial benefactor.

This is an interesting development. Arts patronage has been around for ever but is now making its way into games!

Darius Kazemi, who conducted the interview with Daniel, has written an epic post on the subject of patronage, which I recommend if you are curious to read more.

And if you are interested, you can go here to invest in the development of Daniel Benmergui's next game!

Digging deeper into this idea of publicly funded games, I also found KickStarter.

Kickstarter is a site where anybody can post a project they are working and ask for funds to help them complete. Go there and invest in someone writing a novel, create an iphone app, producing a play or, developing a videogame. Greg Chukede is a small Indie shop called Caffeinated Games. He's looking for some additional funding to polish up his game called Farmlands, why not help him out and get a credit in his game?

The patronage model is something that seems well suited to small 'free to play' artistic projects created by a single person. Now I wonder... is this something that can scale to bigger game projects?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Scary Girl

Beautiful, awesome and inspiring. Check out Scary Girl.

Scarygirl Game Trailer from Touch My Pixel on Vimeo.

More games that push the boundaries of art in games like this please!

Check out the Scary Girl game site for more info on this game in development with artist Nathan Jurevicius. If you vibe off this and want to hear more about Nathan I found this pretty cool interview with him on CrownDozen.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

You Have to Burn the Rope

This week is GDC so its a great time to connect with people in the games industry and see what ideas are taking shape out in the larger diaspora.

I'm really excited about all the great work the IGF is doing in promoting independent game developers. These people are blazing a new path for games and what the purpose of games can be beyond just entertaining us. It's a sign of the maturity of our industry that we are starting to see people actively choosing the 'indie' path as an alternative to taking that big job at 'big games company (tm)'.

Thanks to my buddy Jens Andersson, I got to hang out with some cool indie cats at the show.
One was Kian Bashiri. Kian created 'You Have to Burn the Rope', he is a really cool super nice guy and you should check out his 'game' here.

You may not be sure if its a game or not but it certainly makes you think about its meaning.

For me, burning the rope challenges a common commercial videogame convention of interactive experiences devoid of real choice. This challenge is interesting in of itself, but what I find fascinating is that even without choice, the game is still a compelling 'fun' experience.

I think part of the reason for this is that 'burning the rope' has a deeper meaning. It has something to say. It got me thinking. So I emotionally connected to it.

Its exciting for me to see that interactive experiences are getting to a place where they don't just focus on being 'fun' but actually pose questions, challenge us to think about things. There's a place for this in all entertainment, literature, art, film....and increasingly videogames. Pretty cool!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Half Life 2 the movie

Check out this wicked cool Half-Life 2 short. User generated content from indie film makers/fans The Purchase Brothers

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Making Lots of Pots

Jeff Tunn is a co-Founder of Garage Games and writes a blog called Make it Big in Games, that has many excellent insights for budding and practising video game entrepreneurs.

I particularly dig his latest post titled "Putting your game on OS-X and Linux is not enough", where he talks about the benefits of releasing an initial prototype version of your game concept via free to play platforms to test it out.

In one step, our game is delivered on over half of the platforms I mentioned above. In addition, we now have a great looking calling card and, hopefully, data to back it up, to allow us to pitch the heavy client platforms. Instead of going to Microsoft with a demo or a pitch, we can go to them with data that says our game was played by 7MM people that loved it and are looking for the next version. If you think about it, that is how Flow, Line Rider, and even the Behemoth guys got onto the heavy client platforms, although I don’t think they were thinking about that when those games were originally created.

This game 'lite' release for free strategy allows you to gather feedback on your game, turn consumers into (free) focus testers, future purchasers and community evangelists by engaging them in the process of making your game.

Here's an old story from the book Art & Fear that I think is relevant to Jeff's point.

A ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing his class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the "quantity" group: fifty pound of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B", and so on. Those being graded on "quality", however, needed to produce only one pot - albeit a perfect one - to get an "A".

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

If you are making a small game, don't be precious about your 'idea' and get caught up on making that 'perfect' retail version. Get it in front of people, gather feedback and iterate!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Check out Knytt Stories

Check out Knytt Stories. A great little game my buddy Jens turned me on to. Created by Nicklas Nygren from Sweden.

I love the beautiful use of music and space to create a paced experience. The game resists the temptation to have 'action' at every turn. Simple game mechanics, simple graphics, simple execution, sometimes that's all a game needs to captivate a player's imagination.

There is also a game editor and active level creation scene. You can download additional user created levels here.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Creating - the Ed Catmull way

Ed Catmull is the man. As one of the founders of Pixar and a past Lucasfilm alum, he's pioneered the art of fostering creative innovation & culture.

He wrote an awesome article in the Harvard Business Review a few months ago, titled 'How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity' that I highly recommend if you can snag a copy. It's available here for $6.50.

If you don't want to stretch to the $6.50 then this article also on HBR covers some of the key points. One that particularly resonates for me is this -

Delegating power. Ed and his fellow executives give directors tremendous authority. At other studios, corporate executives micromanage by keeping tight control over production budgets and inserting themselves into creative decisions. Not at Pixar. Senior management sets budgetary and timeline boundaries for a production and then leave the director and his team alone.

Executives resist exercising creative authority even when it's thrust upon them. Take reviews of works in progress by "brain trusts" of directors at Pixar and Disney Animation. The rule is that all opinions are only advice that the director of the movie in question can use as he or she sees fit. Catmull, chief creative officer John Lasseter, and executive vice president of production Jim Morris often attend these sessions but insist that their views be treated the same way and refuse to let directors turn them into decision-makers.

Even when a director runs into deep trouble, Ed and the other executives refrain from personally taking control of the creative process. Instead, they might add someone to the team whom they think might help the director out of his bind. If nothing works, they'll change directors rather than fashion solutions themselves.

I absolutely passionately believe that this type of set up is critical. I was fortunate enough to attend a talk with Ed a few weeks ago and he also spoke to his personal leadership style in terms of his style of 'anti micro-management'.

He related a story of working with a new creative team. They presented a detailed plan with schedule and cost breakdown for their next project. He asked how many staff months they needed and they said 855. He told them (me paraphrasing from memory) "I'm going to give you one number, 985. That's how many staff months I'm giving you. I'm holding you to that and I don't need to see any other numbers from you, go make the feature.".

I love to see this level of trust put into the hands of the people responsible for their creative products. It's giving clear constraints and then stepping back and letting smart people figure out how to create something amazing within those constraints. This is inspirational leadership at work.

Here's an interview with Ed, at around the 2.45 mark he talks about the importance of trust in having the artists do the right thing.

In the talk I attended, he said something else very critical. Projects go south when people don't plan for change. You ALWAYS experience change in a projects life cycle. You should accept it, embrace it, and plan for it. This is why he gave that team the additional staff months, so they could plan for change and continue to iterate towards quality.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

How to Brainstorm

Brainstorming is a process that can bring energy, focus, empowerment and fun to a game development environment, yet I'm often surprised when I encounter a group think dynamic that is the exact opposite of those things.

I'm fascinated with new techniques/tools for brainstorming. We've recently started using mindmaps, and I love them. A great way to get a rapid flow of jumbled thoughts onto a whiteboard in an organized way that you can view and make good sense of.

However, tools are only as useful as the people in the rooms commitment to using them.

The single most important aspect of brainstorming that I have found to be true, is creating a safe environment & trust between participants. This means respect for everyone's ideas, no matter how 'bad' they might seem.

This is NOT the same as letting bad ideas live.

'Bad' ideas will die of natural causes at the exact moment they are meant to, but in the mean-time they may lead to an entirely new and awesome idea. That person who ventured a 'bad' idea may have an awesome idea just around the corner that needs to come out. The only really bad idea is one that never comes forward because someone kept quiet for fear of ridicule or judgement.

IDEO is the legendary design consultancy group founded by Tom Kelley, that has delivered these common 'rules'. Print out and display prominently!


(source is this article on greenbusinessinnovators)

1) Defer judgment

Don’t dismiss any ideas.

Any idea is a good idea, no matter how crazy.
Nothing can kill the spirit of a brainstorm quicker than judging ideas before they have a chance to gain legs.

2) Encourage wild ideas

Embrace the most out-of-the-box notions because they can be the key to solutions.
The whole point of brainstorming is coming up with new and creative ideas.

3) Build on the ideas of others

No “buts”, only “ands.”

Sometimes people say crazy and bizarre things, like “make it on Mars”, but there is some element of truth in it. When you build on the ideas of others, you might bring those crazy ideas back down to earth and make them real innovations.

4) Stay focused on the topic

Always keep the discussion on target.
Otherwise you can diverge beyond the scope of what you’re trying to design for.

5) One conversation at a time

No interrupting, no dismissing, no disrespect, no rudeness.
Let people have their say.

6) Be visual

Use yellow, red and blue markers to write on big 30-inch by 25-inch Post-its that are put on a wall.
Nothing gets an idea across faster than drawing it. Doesn’t matter how terrible of a sketcher you are.

7) Go for quantity

Aim for as many new ideas as possible. In a good session, up to 100 ideas are generated in 60 minutes.
Crank the ideas out quickly.

For more information on IDEO and how they innovate, check out The Art of Innovation on Amazon.