Flash Truth

…about flash gamedev and business

5 Questions to Badim

I really hope you know Badim. He is the creator of the Elite Forces IP and a force to be reckoned and an example to be followed. He is well known for the stats he continuously updates on his site regarding the money made from flash games. He is the owner of Elite Games portal and a success story to be cheered and watched.

Taking the event of his first indie aniversary, I sent him an email asking if he could just answer 5 questions, which he did. So here goes a brand new category 5 Questions to… Badim.

You have just completed one year of Indie development with considerable success. What do you consider that success to be based on?

I think, because I`m making games that I like – and I like military games like Contra or Starcraft. Besides that I like to read what other people think about my games, and beside reading I like to improve them.

What’s your workflow at the moment? Do you work alone? Hire? or do you have a team?

I`m now developing five new games, few of them alone, one in a team of three, few others in team of two.

Elite Forces is your strongest IP. Do you have plans to develop other IPs or will you focus on EF?

Yes, indeed! Joe’s games are also doing very well. And I do not like to put all eggs in same basket. But one should have the focus and that is EF games for sure.

A lot of aspiring developers read your blog and dream of that kind of money. What’s the best advice you can give them?

Make games that you like, but for others. Listen, improve your games, improve your skill. Reward best feedback.

And finally your portal. Do you have plans for your portal or will it be secondary to games?

It will always be secondary after developing games, but I’m going to improve it anyway, and I’d like to achieve more with it.

Thanks to Badim for taking his time to answer these questions!

December 5, 2008 Posted by | 5 Questions To..., Monetizing, Portals | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Stop complaining, will ya…

This is more of a rant than a “good” post. I’m tired guys, really tired and this is why I’m ranting about. I’m tired of reading “developers” complaining their games don’t get any sponsors. Are you one of those developers? Here’s some news for you:

Your game probably sucks!

Not only that, but your over inflated game developer ego forbids you to see the obvious, which is the level of suck-o-meter your game can achieve. The most astonishing fact is that you don’t give a crap about your game, do you? If you actually gave a crap about your game, you’d take time to make it better, polish it, soften the rough edges. If you cared about the players that will play the game, you would strive to give them the best possible experience. If you cared about the portals from whom you want the money from, you would make the game fit, you would make the game feel and you would make the game breath.

But no… your biggest concern isn’t that the game is not good enough… your concern is that the game is not good enough to give you cash. Your concern is not that you should’ve contracted graphics and music. Your concern is not the game’s financial break-even, if you even know what that is. Your concern is that no one will offer you money for it.

You are not a developer, you are a whiner.

On the other hand, you may not be complaining about it. Maybe you know why you are not getting any money, but you don’t care that much… you do your games for fun, and let me tell you, that’s the most noble thing to do. Maybe you even say “Yeah, getting some sponsorship would be cool, but I’m ok with not getting any” and I really relate to that.

But if you want to make money, if you want to make a living out of this: make a good game, the best possible one you can do and you can invest in and stop complaining, will ya…

December 3, 2008 Posted by | Monetizing | , , , | 2 Comments

Contests or how to trick developers to work for free

Contests have been a big part of flash game development since… ever I guess. Back in the days where portals got all the cash and flash developers worked for the simple love of the (usually awful yet addictive) game that having contests was a way of pushing some coins to the developers.

Right now (and let me remind you that this is the end of 2008) a lot of developers look for ways of making money from their games. Either pocket change to buy the next console game or to make a living from their flash creations. This is simple economic evolution of business model. The portals attracted users and for that reason, money was generated. Along the way, portals shared their earnings through investments in sponsorship deals and later on licensing deals.

Contests haven’t followed this evolution. Contests still exist based on the fact that developers want fame and glory, not money. It’s fair to say that the prize is usually money, but it’s a contest, not a business decision. It’s ok to have contests for developers who do it for fun, as long as the developers understand that someone will be making a load of money at their expense.

I’m writting this because Mochi Ads and Arcade Town joint forces to put up a old-school contest. The winners of the contest get sponsorship deals from Arcade Town. Here’s why this is tricky…

1. To enter the contest the developer has to distribute the game using Mochi technology. By definition, a distributed game has no sponsorship or primary licensing value, so by entering the contest the developer hands over the possibility of getting a deal. Mochi Media on the other hand, has a bunch of games to distribute and Arcade Town has the exclusive right to sponsor the games, since no one else will want it.

2. To enter the contest the developer must use the tremendously bugged version control system from Mochi. The reason is simple: As soon as the winners are announced, to have access to the prize money, they have to brand the game with Arcade Town’s logos. Without the version control in place, the already distributed versions wouldn’t have Arcade Town’s branding, therefor this wouldn’t be interesting.

3. In the forums, where the discussion piles up, some Mochi’s employees use a sentence that really gets on my nerves: “You’ll have bragging rights if you win!” What these folks are saying is: it’s not important that you are potentially loosing money as long as you can brag about it.

The problem with contests is that it’s a way of getting the usual stuff (traffic) to the usual people (portals) with less money to the same guys (developers). Almost all contests are based on this: you have to brand to the contest holder or you cannot launch your game or you’ll loose any chance of a sponsorship deal. Contests are a way of tricking developers to work for free.

November 20, 2008 Posted by | General | , , , | Leave a comment

Time based vs Frame based

This topic pops up from time to time. Usualy because someone is having a hard time in getting his game flowing decently. Flash is so accessible that even the most obvious things done time and time again for more seasoned developers escapes the grasp of the vast majority of new developers.

“Stop the bla bla bla and get to business” says the little voice in my head! Ok! The problem is the use of ENTER_FRAME events. Games live off these events and those are used and abused without any care. Here are some rules to have your game running smoothly and frame rate independent.

Use only one ENTER_FRAME event

You should have only one ENTER_FRAME event. This should act as your game loop. If you have several events, you will have several game loops and not only this can be a CPU hog, but it can generate logic inconsistencies.

Having one game loop for ALL the game can be quite a challenge for a less experience developer, so I would adivse you to start with having one ENTER_FRAME event where it matters, for instance, on a movie clip that holds the levels, but your ambition should be to have one and only one game loop that holds a list of what it has to update.

Use delta times

Delta time is the difference between the last rendering and the current rendering. Write classes that take delta time into consideration. The main difference is that if you have a sprite that moves 5 pixels per frame, if the frame rate changes, so will the number of pixels the sprite moves per second. What you want to achieve is the exact opposite. Regardless of the frame rate, the sprite moves the a number of pixels per second.

Remember to remove your listeners

This is too easy to forget! When you don’t have the use for the events, remove the listeners! Even if you remove a movie clip from stage, the listeners will be active, thus bringing up the problem of multiple game loops and inconsistencies.

Hope this helps! Have fun!

November 18, 2008 Posted by | Technical | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Nonoba

One of the subjects I want to bring to this blog is a vision of the pros and cons of several portals. I considered several of them to start up this category, all pretty obvious, like Kongregate or Addicting Games, but I wanted something more… Nonoba provides that something more I was thinking.

“Why?” you ask… or don’t ask. First and foremost, Nonoba is a great site. It has the basic condiments of that make a modern gaming site: developer profiles, a ton of APIs, great social implementation, lots and lots of things to have both players and developers entertained for hours.

More, developers can make money from it. First and most obvious, Nonoba allows advertising, such as Mochi Ads or Game Jacket. Not that much traffic to make it an extraordinary portal to monetize from ads, but that’s always a good add-on for developers. Second, it holds weekly and monthly competitions, based on number of plays with some juicy prize money. Third, Nonoba has a micro-transaction API which allows players to win money from in-game features, like objects or extra content.

Sounds really juicy but… Don’t you hate when someone says “but” right after something really good is showed? What is the problem with Nonoba then? A developer can see Nonoba in two different ways.

The first is the typical one: you create a game, put up some APIs and hope to get some traffic. This is where the problem starts since most portals pay to have their APIs integrated and Nonoba does not. So, the developer has the trouble of putting their APIs up, testing it and hope the game does good enough to get some money from advertising. You don’t need a lot of math to see this is not worth the trouble most of the times.

The second route is to go for multiplayer and transaction APIs which Nonoba supports fully. First… the APIs are wonderful. Really easy, really good. But the problem with traffic stands again since you won’t be able to sponsor your game or even to distribute it because both APIs are heavily branded with Nonoba logos and worst, Nonoba register user buttons and so on. No portal is interested in having that kind of branding, therefor, the game will not be sponsored or even distributed, bringing the problem of traffic up again.

So… Nonoba is a terrific idea that will go really bad if they can’t build the traffic up. The only developers interested in doing some real work there will be the ones aiming for the prizes (some are really pros at this) or contracted ones, since the rest is almost pointless. Ok, there are developers doing it for fun, but most good developers are pros or getting close to it. All other developers will simply upload the games, hopefully get some hits and that’s it.

Good things: Technology, social aspects
Bad things: Over branding, no payment

November 1, 2008 Posted by | Portals | , , , , | 1 Comment

Towering Forever

Getting rid of all the money talk and getting back to what really matters: GAMES! OUTSTANDING GAMES! Allow me to introduce you to Towering Forever, an amazing and beautiful game by Pixelante Game Studios. I’ll say no more, just play it!

October 28, 2008 Posted by | Outstanding Games | , | 1 Comment

Is sponsorship doomed?

Just read the chat event with Jared from Hero Interactive at Flash Game License. In the middle of a lot of questions and answers, one thing popped up. He said that he believes the current sponsoring model will move more towards a licensing model.

A typical flash developer would probably think that this is a bad thing, since exclusive and primary deals are probably the highest paid deals around. Let’s see what this means from a pure business perspective.

Here’s the math, round low numbers for clarity.

With exclusive sponsorship = $100

Imagine that you get an offer of $100 for an exclusive sponsorship. What this means is that you will get $100 and that’s it, maybe some advertising if the sponsor allows it. Your game will be on 500 sites in a month, the sponsor will get all the juicy traffic and that’s about it.

With primary sponsorship = $150

Many developers opt, if they can, for a primary sponsorship. That usually brings a nice sponsorship deal for a lower price, let’s say $75 and the power for the developer to sell site-locked licenses. For calculations, let’s imagine that you would sell 3 site-locked licenses for $25, so that’s an extra $75. The game would go to the same 500 sites, maybe some more cents from advertising.

Pure licensing model = $500

Let’s start with the basic of this. The game would NOT be distributed in 500 sites. The game would be licensed to any site that paid for it. Imagine this: only 20 sites would have the game, but each would pay $25. This is $500 right there. You can argue that portals can do this right now if the game has a primary sponsorship, but they don’t. Why? Because they can have the games for free. The beauty of licensing is that the game is not really freely distributed, but licensed for use.

What’s the big picture?

Well, this could change things a lot. First and foremost, this could mean either the rise or fall of advertising networks as we know it. Rise because portals that couldn’t license games would have to accept advertising not matter what. Fall because the high traffic portals would simply close down any external advertising offer.

This would also benefit more the big developers over the small ones. There would be more money going for developers but the offer would be uneven.

But I see this as a possible change in the business model. A change that is necessary since the right money is not going to the right pockets right now.

October 28, 2008 Posted by | Monetizing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s happening to Mochi?

I have to say that it is with a heavy hear that I write this post. Why? Well, I really like Mochi Media. MochiAds are absolutely amazing, a breakthrough in terms of developer, publisher and advertiser offer. Add to that the value added services of leader boards, encryption and statistics, both through MochiAds for your revenue advertising needs or MochiBot for your overall statistics needs and you have a hell of a technical solution for whatever you want to do with your game.

But I fear that Mochi is starting to feel the pain from their own growth. Community is way too big and flooded by a lot of developers and portals not worried with quality but rather the quick buck and Mochi, which by definition wants to make money, opens their doors wide to them. Actually anyone can get into Mochi, it’s that easy, just create an account, log on and hope for those cents coming in your way.

Mochi recently partnered with Google in order to have Google Ads within MochiAds. While this is certainly good news since Mochi suffers from a severe problem of CPM in many non-English speaking countries, most developers won’t even notice it. There are too many developers there, so, too many games, so, the CPM has to be divided by all. Mochi staff acknowledges in their forums that there are a lot of unpaid impressions. This can only happen because there are too many games.

As CPM keeps getting lower and more developers join Mochi adding crappier and crappier games, the route to the continuous success seems to slip Mochi’s horizon. Developers, specifically the ones that bring a load of hits, will probably hit another service, looking for higher CPM and there’s some serious competition building up.

Mochi Media has the best technical offer, but developers didn’t go there for that, they went for the money and if there’s more money elsewhere, that’s where they’ll go, leaving Mochi with the newbies and the bad ones.

October 24, 2008 Posted by | Advertising Networks | , | Leave a comment

Developer versus Artist

A recurring discussion I’ve witnessed is the developer versus artist. It is one of the dumbest discussions that ever existed and it will be here forever. It does become more intense with flash game development. Why? Well, there aren’t many (if any) development or publishing deals. This means that unless the developer is established, he won’t have any budget for hiring. Therefor what the developer expects is that the artist agrees to a sponsorship/license split. That slipt is usually the start of all problems since it’s quite difficult to quantify how much did each side work in order to determine the split.

Let’s take a look at some common arguments used and make fun of it, ok? Ready?! Good!

Developers take longer to create the game than artists to create the assets!

The opposite of this setence also applies in case you are wondering. This argument is really a tug of war. But isn’t it dumb? Well, of course it is! It is not possible to assume what will take longer for every single developer, every single artist and every single game. Some games, for instance, a puzzle game, take way less art and the logic underneath it usually needs a lot of tweaking for a good result. On the other hand, an experienced coder can make a shooter in no time and have tons of assets.

I don’t have the money to pay for an artist!

Really, kid? Borrow it from your family, save some, don’t buy that console game (or the console really!) but don’t assume that the other guy needs to make you a favor because you don’t have money.

It’s my idea, I should have a bigger split!

Now… this makes some sense. Not because of the “idea” but because the creation of a game means someone wons the intelectual property of the game. BUT!… In that case you should pay the artist the intellectual property portion that is related to his work and considering how important that can be, you would do better NOT to have a split, but rather an upfront payment.

I only work if I receive full upfront payments!

Even if you were the last artist in the world, paying fully upfront is as bad as paying nothing upfront.

I don’t know how much my game is worth so I’m not for paying in advance!

This is really pointless! I’ll translate this to english: I have no idea what I’m doing, but I want to do it as big as possible and have someone else take the risks of make it grand.

… my own final thoughts …

I’ve been on both sides of the argument. I can understand that the developer thinks the artist isn’t rooting for it like him and I can see why an artist shouldn’t take the risk. The problem here is that both artists and developers are taking opposite sides and that’s never good for anyone. Both should understand the problems the other guy faces.

More important, both should understand they are on the same side: to make the best game possible.

Developers should really consider making an effort to get the right artist for the right job for the right budget.

October 23, 2008 Posted by | General | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Are you a greedy bastard?

I started this blog a couple of days ago with only one subject in my head: this one. Problem is I didn’t know how to write it without slapping the wrong people. And the wrong people in this case would be the guys behind Flash Game License.

Flash Game License

Flash Game License

So, before moving forward, let me start by saying that this post is not about FGL as a community, a service or a company. It’s not about the people that started it and maintain it. This post is about the wrong mindset that has been created by the possibility of quick cash… and do people love quick cash.

The outstanding success of FGL has made a large amount of developers join the FGL community. I don’t have numbers, but I believe that the growth was at a certain point exponential. The success of one developer brought two. The success of two brought four and so on. We have to understand that this success didn’t arrive by accident. What FGL allowed that was never seen before was to have a standard for both developers and portals. A standard place to show, a standard place to look, a standard set of information to use. The downside of it is that the huge developer community gathered arrived there with a purpose: get their games licensed and either you like it or not, that means they arrived there to make money.

As FGL grew bigger and moved more money, more sponsored games; the community grew eager of achieving the same goals of the more successful developers. At FGL and Mochi forums, questions were repeated ad-nausea. “How much is my game worth?” some asked, many times receiving an answer, from a developer, that finishes his post making the same question. This threads by developers for developers caused a constant feedback of false expectations because, truth be told, most games are worth $0.

Yep, that’s it… zero. Funny fact… many developers think every game is worth something and waste enormous amounts of time thinking more about money than about the product that will allow them to get money: the game itself.

So are you a game developer or a greedy bastard? The game developer in its essence is a hard working person. His next game is his most precious possession and he will strive to make it as perfect as it can possibly be. It’s that passion that creates something between good games and masterpieces.

A new breed of greedy bastards are now thinking day after day how much their 1 day game will profit. Game developers are spending one more day to achieve something grand. Money will smile to the developers.

October 17, 2008 Posted by | General | , , , , , | 4 Comments