vrijdag 18 januari 2013

I'm gonna miss the Nintendo DS


What a day it was today. I got out of bed at 6:00 am and quickly took the train to Doetichem to meet Ivo

at the Engine-software HQ. We talked the whole day about Nintendo development and Nintendo 3DS. I’m going to help them out with another retail Nintendo DS project which I’m really happy about… it’s probably the last chance I get to make something that ends up in retail and for once it’s not a bejeweled clone!

When I got home, I put in a pizza and opened a bag of Maltesers (M&M where already gone) and went straight into code-mode to finish up Color Commando.

These next few weeks are probably the last time I touch Nintendo DS development. It made me reflect on the past few years. It was awesome. I grew from homebrew into a legit official Nintendo developer and I dare to say we (everybody who helped) made some great games.

Actually.. I worked on a lot of stuff. I made 4 complete original games, I helped people with porting, I worked on some retail games (I even did one retail game all by myself!) and I collaborated with other indie developers.

I spend 16 hours coding for Nintendo DS today… and I still love it. I tell ya! I’m gonna miss that little machine!

Man, I can still remember opening my original GameBoy Classic and starting to hack it and make some small games for it. That was almost 17 years ago.. time flies!

And now, in a few weeks, I will be able to buy my own games at the local game store where I bought the my Gameboy Classic that started it all so many years ago. What an experience that is going to be!

zaterdag 12 januari 2013

Pirates did it!

Dreamrift is saying that publishers don’t want to publish original titles due to piracy…

Of course publishers say it’s piracy! It’s less embracing than having to say you don’t know how much longer the company will be around, that it can be over any game now.
This is the harsh reality since 2009/2010 when the financial crisis really hit home in Europe (consequently the time publishers starting to say piracy took off big time on the Nintendo DS).
Normally a publisher could loan from a bank and use the money to invest in new game projects. But thanks to the financial crisis, publisher aren’t able to loan anything from the bank (hell, some banks didn’t even exists anymore).
How can they fix this ?
Simple, all the publisher has to do is invest its own profit/earnings into new projects!
This plan goes perfectly well until one game flops and does not make enough profit (or even worse, loses money). Then they cannot invest into new projects, thus no new money comes in and the company goes bankrupt.
In other words; publishers are on extremely thin ice.
So how do you make sure a title makes a healthy profit ?
Not by publishing risky titles. This includes original IP’s or hardcore games. Because there is no way to tell for sure if this will sell well. And with the complete company on the line, they cannot afford it.
So how do we ensure a hit then ?
Well, by publishing game types or sequels of games we already know that will sell well. For example, most publisher had already published a number of casual titles on the Nintendo DS and PC market. They know the sale numbers of those games.
If you know the sale numbers you know how much income you have.
Now deduct from this the profit you need to make to pay the bills and be able to invest into a future project. And what’s left is exactly the amount of money that can be spend on marketing and development.
This is what we call a safe bet.
And now you know why Flipper isn’t standing between all the bejeweled clones in your local game store.

donderdag 3 januari 2013

Ace Mathician is GOTY 2012! Again!

Whoa! Talking about starting the new-year awesome: Ace Mathician is GOTY (Game Of The Year) over at nintendofansonline.co.uk (check the full article here). I’m super happy and super amazed since I had no clue that Ace was even making a change at winning it! So this comes as a total surprise!

Thanks everybody!

woensdag 2 januari 2013

Piracy to blame?

This blogpost is a response to the blog post about piracy written by Jools over at: http://joolswatsham.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/3ds-piracy.html

Jools writes about his fear of the 3DS getting hacked and how his game Dementium II sold around half as much as the first game (Dementium). Jools blames these poor sale figures solely on piracy.

Every time a developer brings up piracy it feels to me they are putting their heads in the sand. It’s such an easy scapegoat to point your finger at, especially without any factual proof. 

There are tons of other reasons that seem just as legit as piracy. For one, the game wasn’t as wildly available (at least I haven’t seen any copy on store shelves). Secondly, it came late into the Nintendo DS lifecycle opposed to the first game. At this point the Nintendo DS established itself as a casual gaming handheld, yet the game was aimed at a more mature and hardcore public.

This might also be the reason why the game wasn’t as wide spread as the first game. Shop owners might have been more inclined to put the latest puzzle games on their store shelf instead of a FPS game.

I notice this myself all the time. While I struggle to find a publisher willing to publish my own original titles as retail products, I have no trouble finding a publisher willing to put out yet another bejewelled clone (in fact, a bejewelled clone of mine is coming to stores this February).

The above mentioned problems are all speculation, but so is the claim of piracy.

Another point of interest might be the pricing of games. Especially in Europe (and this is interesting because he talks mainly about poor sales in Europe). An average game upon release costs between 40 and 50 euro over here. Now this is ‘expensive’ but doable where I live, in the Netherlands. Over here the minimum salary is around 1200 euro. However, the game prices stay the same even in countries that have a minimum salary of around 300 euro. 

How many games can be expected to sell in a country where the average game takes up around 16-20% of a family’s income? 

I also think it’s important to take a good look at the quality of games.

As it turns out Dementium II is a really good game. The people who played it (including me) all seem to really like it and the game got a lot of good reviews.

However, most of the Nintendo DS library of games consists out of horrible shovelware and quick cash-ins. Making it even worse by bearing a famous (kid) brand and getting ill-informed parents to hand over their hard-earned money only to see their kids toss the game away after 30 minutes of play.

This hurts the complete industry. Why? Because it is already a big gamble for them with famous kid brands they at least know from Saturday morning TV. So imagine how big the gamble feels like when they are holding Dementium II in their hands, a product they have never heard of, from a company they have never heard of. 

And how many times can a gamble go bad on them before they resort to other means of obtaining the products?  I’m not justifying piracy, but I can at least see where they are coming from.

The seal of quality means nothing. It only makes sure the game doesn’t lockup or mess-up the players system. It does nothing to prevent poor quality of game design or length versus price. My cousin once got a famous kid game that consisted out of 8 mini games that could all be played through within 30 minutes. You feel miserable if you spend money on such a product as a parent!

Jools goes on to claim that ‘If these hackers really want to mess with the guts of a 3DS, why not become legit developers for it and let the world enjoy their talents’.

I started programming and hacking on the original Gameboy Classic when I was around 11 years old. Most of the hackers/programmers are quite young. Should all those young people go and rent office spaces and buy equipment worth of thousands of dollars? Because that is what Nintendo requires of legit developers.

Most likely they cannot even produce a game good enough to publish, because before you can make good game you need to make a lot of bad ones. That’s how you learn the craft. I remember looking and trying to take a part Super Mario Land and learn a great deal from it. Like you said yourself; many of today’s great programmers used to be hackers back in the day.

So it seems only natural that many of the great programmers of the future are the hackers of today.
The world has changed, and it seems that Jools (but also Nintendo itself) are a bit disconnected. We live in an age where bedroom coders can create the most creative and awesome products all on their own. Not only that, but they are welcomed to do so by the hardware manufactures. In fact it is these hardware manufactures that provide the needed tools... for free!

You can look for this at the PC and smart phones. But even more close to home; like Microsoft and XNA for the Xbox. Or what about Playstation Mobile SDK? All free! and you can test your games with a normal retail PS Vita! 

Nintendo hasn’t changed a bit on this level, which is almost ironic since Nintendo is THE platform for unique and creative games, making it only seem natural to support indie development.

So instead of blaming piracy (which occurs on every platform) or blaming hackers for something we all did at one part of our lives, I would like to suggest that we take a hard good look at ourselves and our industry and try to improve.