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!

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