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Casual Connect Seattle Part 1

By John Hattan | Published Aug 14 2008 12:11 PM in Event Coverage

games game casual ndash flash social story ldquo play
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Adobe Director

Allen Partridge – Product Evangelist for Adobe Director

Interestingly, even though Flash was never far from anyone's lips at Casual Connect, Adobe wasn't pushing Flash directly. Adobe's show-floor booth showed off Adobe's new Director 11, and the only
Adobe-backed presentation at the event was all about Flash Lite.


That being said, it was interesting to talk to Mr. Partridge to find out both what's been going on with Director as well as where Adobe's placing it in the market. It's a foregone conclusion that
2D animated content on the web is owned by Flash, but Director still has a place.


Director still has two strong technological advantages over Flash.


  1. 3D. Director has a well-established built-in 3D engine, and long-overdue update was included in version 11 that updates Director's 3D support to DirectX 9. In addition, Director contains a newphysics engine based on AGEIA PhysX.

  2. Extensibility. Director has an extensibility model called an Xtra, which is a bit like a DLL. Using an Xtra, you can extend Director's capabilities with native code without losing its streamingnature.

From a marketing standpoint, Director is concentrating its focus on two fronts.


  1. MMO content. Since Director-built content streams into browsers, is extensible, and supports 3D, Director is in a unique position to offer rich 3D massively-multiplayer environments. From SocioTown (which we covered here) to Sherwood Dungeon to Spine World, Director can make streaming content that rivals standalone offerings.

  2. ILS (formerly called Serious Games). Director's always existed in the interactive learning space, and it's still there. The 3D engine and ability to interface with custom hardware through the Xtrainterface makes Director a good candidate for interactive learning apps.

So the upshot is that Director is still around, it's no longer horribly out of date technology-wise, and it still has a place in the market that's useful for game developers.


The Drive for Gaming in 2008

John Agger – Senior Marketing Manager, Adobe Systems, Inc.

Flash Lite – Adobe's goal is to give content creators a method to move content across multiple devices. It happened with Postscript and PDF and Flash, and it's about to happen with
AIR. They can't officially say that AIR is moving into the mobile space, but he strongly hinted that AIR for mobile devices is on the drawing board. New development is being done with the mobile
device in mind from the start and as a priority rather than an afterthought.


Mobile device sales well outpace PC sales. Nokia boasts selling a million handsets per day.


Flash Lite exists as a standalone player, a browser plug-in, and as a “channel” that gives a mobile web-like experience (Verizon Dashboard).


Flash Lite was formerly a licensed product for handsets, but it's now free with the caveat that the handset OS's be opened up for downloadable player updates.


Qualcomm is now supporting Flash Lite's built-in UI.


Flash Lite version 3 is out now and compares with Flash 8 on the desktop. FLV support was the biggie for Flash Lite 3, thus allowing YouTube support as well as support for video on several popular
sites.


Why Flash Lite? It's a very rich environment. Developers have found that they can't get content as rich as Flash Lite via any other mobile display technology. There are currently over 500 million
Flash Lite licenses, and they're shooting for a billion by 2009, helped by the new free license model. And, of course, it's ubiquitous on the desktop with 98% browser penetration.


Verizon supports downloadable Flash Lite players for their phones. If someone buys Flash Lite content for a Verizon phone, the player downloads automatically if it's needed. Samsung and LG use
Flash Lite for their user interface.


The workflow is Adobe-centric. Draw up your prototypes in Photoshop or Fireworks. Develop in Flash professional. Test in Device Central. Device Central ships with most Adobe CS3 products now and
connects with them. It contains profiles of Flash-enabled mobile devices and simulates Flash as it would operate on the device, including degrading the performance so that the game on the desktop PC
will match that of the device.


Device Central also can compare device capabilities so you can figure out the balance between capability and audience-size for your game. It can also simulate hardware events (battery level,
signal strength) so you can test how your app reacts to those.


Flash for the iPhone is currently contingent on support from Apple. The iPhone is capable of running Flash, and Flash is currently running on devices with much lower performance than an
iPhone.


Distribution – Keep it in mind up front. Getting real-estate on a small handset is the biggest pain, especially in an online store that runs on the phone itself. Adobe is signed up with a
number of content aggregators around the world if your phone and service are capable of working with those.


Five Lessons for Building Successful Social Games

Kristian Segerstrale( CEO of Playfish)

Social network-hosted games – approached as an entirely different and new game platform.


Games paid for by advertising as well as a monetizing model – players buy in-game items.


1. Create, don't port – Facebook top-ten games are entirely new built-from-scratch games, not existing games moved to the platform. Games are intended to be more fun played in a group
than alone. Products and strategy should be from-scratch. Think of social networks as an entirely new platform.


The design is not portable, as the model is completely different from existing platforms.


95% of the market is viral, passed from user-to-user. Content has to distribute and promote itself.


2. Design inside-out – try to make objects around which people interact, not on the framework of the game itself. Don't try to draw people into the game, but into the social
framework. The depth of the product itself is not as important as the emotional depth of the social gameplay experience.


“who has the biggest brain” - set up as a game-show mechanic with your friends as the audience. Scores are expressed as little cartoon pictures and not just numbers.


“Bumper Stars” -- real-time score ladder. Game contains incentives to encourage viral distribution, although you must be careful not to run afoul of facebook policy.


“Friends for Sale” - very rudimentary looking game, but the metagame is the key here. You can buy and sell friends in a kind of virtual stock-market.


Games with interesting social mechanics trump games with superior game design.


3. Learn from your numbers - Test your intuition with actual numbers. Create processes that can deal with rapid interactive design and be ready to adjust your design to improve your
numbers. Basically this is a “because it can be done” argument. It is easy to improve gameplay of social network games on-the-fly, so do it.


Create a culture away from your game itself so you can tweak the focus. Collect all of the data you can and use it to change the character of your game on-the-fly to tune the experience.


4. Listen to your players – Facebook users are very good at providing feedback if you ask for it. They'll bury you in feedback if your game has a non-trivial number of users.


Choose who you listen to. If only a few people dislike something new, it might not be important in the grand scheme of the game.


5. Balance Monetization and Distribution Objectives – Monetizing is linked to distribution. In a viral market, your success is based on how active your players are, how they promote
your game, and your moneymaking scheme.


Test often and trust your numbers more than your most vocal players.


Target many different parts of the social spectrum, from hardcore players willing to pay a lot for high-end content to casual players willing to pay a few cents for a minor feature.


Conclusion


Social networks are different from all other game platforms. Assume nothing and learn something new every day.


To see Kristian's blog, head over to blog.playfish.com


Disaggregating the Casual Games Industry

Paul Thelen, Founder, Chairman and CSO, Big Fish Games

Mr. Thelen gave the opening keynote speech to a packed house. Harold Zeitz, who introduced Paul Thelen, mentioned the conference attendance this year has doubled from the first Casual Connect in
2006. Paul Thelen has been involved with the casual games industry (CGI) for quite some time. Prior to founding Big Fish Games in 2003, he wrote the business plan for RealArcade, which was the CGI's
first large scale Internet distribution service. Big Fish Games currently delivers more than one million downloads a day.


Big Fish Games in conjunction with the NPD Group presented the results of a new study of the casual games industry.


Mr. Thelen reminded us that traditionally, the games industry was geared towards retail sales in brick and mortar stores. As the games industry progressed, they mainly focused on the 18 to 34 male
market, which alienated an entire market.


Enter the Internet. The Internet has created the world's largest and most complex market. It is constantly changing with new types of games every day and a new genre of game being introduced every
month.


The study really looked at the psychographics of casual games. What makes someone play a game and make them want to come back. They had 2611 participants in the study and found that ninety percent
of the respondents have played casual games and two-thirds of those people have played games in the previous three months.


The Big Fish Games study really separated out the study participants into fine detail with a total of fourteen different segments. Of the fourteen different segments, twelve of them have been
identified as casual games.


The key finding of the study is the casual games market is diverging. It's basically lots of different business models now.


The study also discovered some contrarian findings .


  1. Myth number one: Gamers stick with one type of genre. Not true. The study found that players will play all types of games.
  2. Myth number two: Core gamers only play core games. The study found that 56 percent of heavy gamers have played casual games in the last three months.
  3. Myth number three: The games marketing opportunity is only with core games. The study found that the sales in the casual games industry is quickly approaching sales in the core gameindustry.
  4. Myth number four: Core gamers commit more time to game play. The study found that more people are spending more than 15 minutes a day playing games. Mr. Thelen then went into detail regarding thedifferent customer segments the study identified.
  • "Nancy Drew's" are essentially what the casual game industry identifies as their main customer - a middle aged woman who plays match 3 style casual games. The study, however, found that the NancyDrews only comprise 63 percent female. They read books, visit eBay, and 41 percent play heavy action games. The Nancy Drew's are also a good market for Spongebob type games because the parents willplay games with their kids.
  • "Heavy Action" gamers play shooters, racing, and games such as World of Warcraft. They're 73 percent male, 45 percent are between the ages of 18 to 34. Surprisingly, 56 percent of the Heavy Gamerwill dabble with Nancy Drew type games. This means that the casual games industry is not a "one size fits all" type of industry. The customers WILL move to different platforms.
  • "Old School" is essentially a family man or an empty nester.
  • "Spongebobs" are kids
  • "Whimsical" are people who like to play social games like Wii Sports.
  • "Frenetic's" are frat dude types who like to play running and jumping games.
  • "Clickers" are similar to Frenetic's, but are mostly females who play time management games.
  • "Tycoons" are people who like to spend time on games that allow them to create a world. These are teens/twenty-something's that play games like The Sims.
  • "King of Kong's" are middle aged men who play classic arcade games

Essentially, the study identified 14 different customer segments, 10 different business models, with 17 possible platforms. This means that a casual game company really needs to focus and
specialize.


Big Fish Games can help and will partner with your company. They focus in on transactional games that appeal to the Nancy Drew's, Old School, and Clicker types of customer segments.


A Storyteller's Notebook – Story Development in Casual Games

Kenny Shea Dinkin, VP & Creative Director of Playfirst. Former creative director at Broderbund/TLC

Part 1 – Telling your story


Playfirst - “story worlds” building story into casual games.


Two key methods of telling story, cut scenes (aka comics) and audio. The promise of casual games lies in presenting games to people who don't know that top-shelf game markets even exist.


“The Video Games Gap” - there's a major gap between Hollywood and Silicon Valley when it comes to games. Games in general suck at storytelling and have story that appears tacked on.
The question of “can a video game make you cry” still has not been adequately addressed.


Casual games offer an opportunity to solve the problem. The markets appeal more to women and older demographics who want stories that just don't involve naked elves.


Other media that integrated storytelling into the genre. It's good to look outside the genre (I.E. outside Star Wars). Musical theater is a good example. In the early 20th century,
musical theater consisted of opera, which was generally weak in story. Then vaudeville happened, which is musical theater for the masses. Vaudeville had lower budgets and quicker turnaround times so
it could experiment and react to changes better. Casual games could be like vaudeville – the catalyst to change in the industry, making games that have broad appeal but with deep story.


Characters have become important in game since 2007, with many games based on identifiable characters (mostly women). Characters still, by and large, suck. Women in aprons giving the thumbs-up
sign became ubiquitous. Mozart had a toolbox to create characters entirely with music. Do game developers have a similar toolbox?


2008, the question of “do I need a story or a character” has become moot. Characters are part of the toolbox.


Diner Dash has evolved into an entire story arc with spinoffs all built around “Diner Town”. The tapestry of intersecting characters and spinoffs have drawn users into the story.


Chocolatier is based on different phases around the same characters. Some games aren't based on the same mechanic as Chocolatier, but they're centered around the character.


  • Premise – what's your premise line? Find a single line that summarizes the entire premise of your story. All of the focus of the show centers around and is given direction by thepremise line. A good premise line can lead players to an aspirational fantasies that compel them.

  • Show don't tell – Avoid talking heads. Content should exist in the context of action.

  • Allow for closure, start deep – Make the story that the audience can come in and learn the back-story as the story goes. Don't just make it a beginning-to-story mechanic. Allow theaudience to fill in the blanks.

  • Immersion – Respect the fourth wall. Immerse the player in a world. Don't spend a lot of time in introductions to the player. If you can avoid talking directly to the player, do so.“Welcome Explorer”, shatters the illusion of the players being inside a story.

  • Foreshadow – Are you telling a story or conveying a list? Are things randomly contrived and presented for your own convenience?

  • Edit your crap – Can you cut your story in half, then in half again? Is your story too talky?

Part 2 – Telling your story with audio


Audio is your secret weapon for good storytelling. Music can tell a story. We tend to be visual thinkers first, but audio can be used to create an emotional connection with your content.


Music/Composition. The toolbox is symphonic scoring (strong music to underscore the mood, which we're trained to react to), melodic motifs (thematically defining your brand and drawing your player
in, but possibly distracting if not used properly), underscore (subtle music that's not distracting but still sets the mood), dynamic orchestrations (music must change when it gets monotonous or
annoying, don't be afraid of silence), context (is the music propelling the story or is it just music that you like to hear).


In Diner Dash, soundtracks are created in 6-15 second loops and are shuffled dynamically. This creates the illusion that time is collapsing (I.E. faster than real-time).


Does your audio track fit the context of play?


Does my audio track allow me to come up for air?


Am I building a soundtrack or a songtrack?


Do your instruments sound fake or cheesy (unless you're going for a cheesy retro feel)?


Sound Design and Sound Effects – Sound effects can tell you where you are and convey your game's mood. Your sound effects should be hyper-real and shouldn't necessarily be a realistic
representation of the sound itself.


Fairies and Dragons: A postmortem of creating the first digital Happy Meal

Brian Robbins – Executive producer Fuel Industries

Brian Robbins is the coauthor of the Casual Games SIG/Whitepaper available here.


Fairies and Dragons was the first “digital happy meal”.


Fairies & Dragons is an original property developed by Fuel and intended for boys & girls age 5-9. The marketing vision of the product was that it was designed for online play, TV, and toy
format. The company's boss already had a fairy based game in the “napkin sketch” stage, but it only appealed to girls, so they added a second “dragons” segment to appeal to
boys. The characters had to do a fairly delicate balancing act. The dragons had to be scary-looking but not so scary that kids would be frightened of them. The fairies had to be cartoony, but they
couldn't run afoul of Disney's entrenched fairy properties.


The original idea was to distribute the game on USB sticks because one of McDonalds' requirements is that the toy be playable in the restaurant, as a lot of the toys never make it out of the
restaurant. A toy-shaped USB stick was planned, but was eventually scrapped because the USB plug ran afoul of toy safety standards in some countries. Ultimately the game shipped on a CD in a custom
plastic case with a fairy or dragon perched on the hub.


Each game (fairy and dragon) included some desktop wallpaper and a couple of mini-games based on the character in your happy meal. One game was intended to be a far simpler “twitch”
game with a slightly deeper game for the other so that the games would appeal to a wider age range. Upon getting the go-ahead from McDonald's, they brought on a team of 2D and 3D designers, as it
would be a graphics-heavy product, and the quality of the visuals was a top priority for the team.


The presentation was light on technicals, but the games themselves were programmed in Flash, with Zinc and mProjector used to make the Flash games into standalone executables.


McDonalds targeted the games for an 8-week promotion (four fairies and four dragons). The theme was “bite size gaming”. 33% of McDonald's toys don't even make it out of the restaurant,
so it was a priority that the toys be playable outside of a computer. The games didn't need to have much replay value. The thinking was that the games would be considered successful if they could
entertain a five year-old for 15-20 minutes.


The games contained the most extensive audio production Fuel has ever done. The final TV spot used some of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra to get the proper fantasy mood.


McDonalds' focus-group testing was extensive. The toys were tested and ranked against previous Happy Meal toys and came in an all-time 11th place, which is pretty impressive given that
it was based on original IP and wasn't based on an entrenched entertainment product.


What went right


  • Focus groups and testing. McDonalds made sure that the product was solid and resonated well with kids

  • SVN and source code control. This was their first major product upon which Fuel did rigorous source control.

  • Automation – despite this being a Flash project, they put together a good automated build suite to automate the build process.

What went wrong


  • Cross platform issues. Flash wrappers are problematic on the Mac.

  • Testing was not started early enough.

  • Install choices and perception. People thought the program was invasive and was putting tendrils throughout your system when in truth all it did was change your desktop wallpaper. People didn'tknow how to change it back and were annoyed by it. In retrospect, they should only have changed the wallpaper while the game was running.

  • Language and locale issues. The games themselves were very easily localized because they contained no text. Coming up with a license agreement that works in all languages, though, was a majorpain.

The biggest success of the product was that it remained a Fuel-owned property after the McDonald's promotion. McDonald's wasn't interested in owning the Fairies & Dragons IP. They just wanted
control of the product for the duration of the promotion.


The slides used for the presentation will be available (hopefully soon) at www.dubane.com/cons/


Freak Your Game: Data-Driven Game Management for Dummies

Lisa Rutherford of Twofish

Twofish is a company that offers developers a way to easily fold in micro-transaction capability in their products. Lisa Rutherford, the Vice President of Strategy and Business Development for
Twofish, stresses that the monetization of virtual worlds with micro-transactions will require a new perspective on the importance of economic data. Developers of virtual worlds really need to
incorporate various different strategies when trying to monetize their products.


Economic infrastructure for on-line entertainment includes banking, supply chain and inventory. Virtual Economies don't take into account of all the back end that is required. Real economics is
much deeper and must be used as a basis for virtual economies. Supply and demand and price elasticity are very important issues to keep in mind while developing virtual economies. A developer must
meet user expectations as security and fidelity is assumed.


Furthermore, games are no longer products – they're services.


So what is a virtual world developer to do now that the game design meme has changed?


Collect data.


Collecting data allows analysis's to analyze the data and ask the right questions, which allows the site to learn what their players like to do, when they do it, and with whom.


Another aspect of micro-transaction based games is banking finance. Each player should be able to have full account histories. Questions the developer should be asking are
How is value into the account done?
Is it purchased or earned?
How is value out of an account spent?
Through a purchase or trade?
Who does the player spend the value with and on what?


Ms. Rutherford encouraged the audience to embrace micro-transactions as not just a business model. While a virtual world may have invisible inferred currencies, the transactions are still data and
very real.


Another item that is important to the virtual micro-transactional world is inventory control. A developer must track and control each item.


A benefit of collecting the data is that the site can adopt financial account policies. The site can, though data analysis, find out if the virtual economy is stagnating or highly has active
puddles of currency. Collecting data also allows the site to trace back monetary flows to understand who has the funds, where the funds are going, when and why. By understanding the aspects of how
the site is being used, then financial policies can be implemented. Such financial policies can be something that is designed to stimulate engagement and purchasing with bonuses or content. Real-time
data collecting and analyzing will help deter abuse and fraud by limiting velocities and permissions automatically by alerting for statistical anomalies. Users will find your loopholes. To combat
this, look for patterns and behaviors that deviate from norm.


Pokerstars 2X had players exploiting a loophole for upwards of two weeks before it was caught. If they had automatic alerting designed into their site, they would have caught this much
earlier.


Another item to consider is to add asset lifecycle management to the game. An example Ms. Rutherford used was how Edgeracers have tires that wear
out, so their value went down the more times they were used.


Price elasticity is also something to consider. When Edgeracers posted some loss leaders for new paint jobs and chrome, it lead to higher prices paid for accessories to match the new
skin. Major decorative diversity is important.


Collecting data also improves a developers ability for client profiling which is important to attract ad partners.


Dynamic Pricing Models GWABS Warfare games – buy stuff before game
Dynamic pricing model
scarcity


In conclusion, Ms. Rutherford said that data collecting was vital to virtual game worlds as it allows the developers to make versatile games that will allow the end user to enjoy the game more.
Virtual world developers who don't collect and analyze data are really missing out on big opportunities.


The Social Tidal Wave: The New Definition of Casual Gaming

Dave WILLIAMS SVP & GM of Nickelodeon Kids and Family Games Group Nickelodeon Kids

I must admit that I cheated a little prior to my interview with Dave Williams, the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Nickelodeon's Kids and Family Games Group. We brought our six year
old daughter to Seattle to try to fit in a little sightseeing, so I naturally asked her about her on-line experience with Nickelodeon. Currently, she is in the mysterious thrall of SpongeBob
Squarepants and loves everything associated with the well known cartoon. Her favorite games right now are the throwing style games and Potato Tic Tac Toe was awarded a definite six-year-old
seal of approval. “I like it when you throw the potato at Patrick,” SpongeBob's best friend who is a starfish. “He wobbles and falls down. That's funny.” There was also
another throwing game that involved a pickle that she liked and a driving game that had to have Patrick driving because, “he's the only one who knows how to drive in that cartoon.”


I guess that's the strength of the Nickelodeon game site, they already have a rich story world already in place with the content being driven by their television shows.


As a parent, I like the Nickelodeon site because it is safe for my daughter to go to. There's no way for her to click on an ad and be directed off the site. I also know that they are continually
updating and introducing new games that are definitely kid friendly.


Dave Williams presented the keynote on the second day of the conference and I learned that the Nickelodeon Kids and Family Games Group is much more than just Nickelodeon. The group recently has
been reorganized and Dave Williams is now the head of not only the Nickelodeon games division, Shockwave, and Addicting Games.


During Mr. William's key note speech, he pointed out that three years ago downloading games just started and the advertising model was just getting started. Furthermore, the industry was really
struggling with the definition of Casual Games.


Now, however, the industry is so large and promising that Nickelodeon is investing over 100 million dollars in the casual games industry. Currently, Nickelodeon is focusing a lot on games because
they feel there is more opportunity in the game industry than what has previously been seen in the past.


The major trends that Nickelodeon sees is the redefinition of the casual gamer, the surge of social gaming, the surge of social community, and most importantly the redefining way to see games as
media instead of just products.


The redefinition of the casual gamer requires the game development community to examine their audience. The casual game industry need to look beyond the traditional 35 year old female. They're
asking the standard questions: Who is playing casual games? What are they playing and why?


Through market research, Nickelodeon found that half of Internet users play games everyday, which means that there are untapped markets in the casual game industry.


They also looked at the different reasons people play games and the attitudes for why they play games on the Internet. The breakdown of demographics and gaming can be summed up in six different
categories.


  • Time Fillers 17% - Good way to kill time, relaxing.
    • 75 minutes 3x a week playing games.
    • Variety.
    • 61% female

  • Rechargers 14%– Gaming is a reward. Challenge refreshing


    • 92 min a day every other day.
    • 63% female 14%

  • Virtual Me 13% - escape – very social – create profiles, story lines, familiar characters, save scores and progress.


    • Even gender.
    • Teens, tweens & kids.

  • Gaming Enthusiasts 19% - go directly to games when they turn on computers.


    • 88 minutes every other day.
    • Familiar characters.
    • Social competitive.
    • Even gender

  • Guilty Pleasurists – 17% - blow off steam


    • 75 min 2x a week.
    • Free games & variety.
    • 66% female.
    • College & young adults.

  • Average Joes 19% - Gaming makes them feel cool and popular.


    • 80 min every other day.
    • Even Gender.
    • Kids, tweens, teens

The next major trend Nickelodeon is watching and gearing up for is in social games as this sector is accelerating. Consuming media and participating in social games is something that more people
are doing on the Internet. This year, Shockwave came out with a game that requires collaborative play with the deployment of Jigsaw
Party
. This game allows up to four players take turns to work on a jigsaw puzzle while chatting with each other.


Massive investment will propel the social games category forward as casual games become more about “us” than “me” for key demographic segments. But there is a definite
caution that comes with this investment. Casual social gamers don't want another social network and don't want to change social to a game portal. During my interview with Dave Williams, he elaborated
on this difference. An example of a social network game is one that will allow a young man to flirt with women. This player won't want their social network to be replaced by a game portal. On the
other side of the spectrum the best example is the previously mentioned Jigsaw Party. The social games will be more about connecting rather than playing and want the social interaction to enhance
game play. This segment is mostly made up of teens.


Addicting Games has a create-and-share game called Pencil Racer XL where kids spend hours creating tracks for a pencil racer monkey who
rides the tracks on a motorcycle. It allows the kids creative fun and community. The create-and-share genre has been so successful that several more create and play games will be deployed in the
fall.


Shockwave is also adding more community features and have found that more people have used the site with the addition of animated talking avatars, or Voki Avatars. Voki's will do text to speech
and many people are having fun playing with the new features.


The third trend Nickelodeon is focusing on is the definite shift of games to a media model versus a product model. The old model of game development includes writing a game, sell it, and move on
to next project. The new model is to follow television - A game can be seen as an episode and game characters can grow with the game.


As an experiment, they developed Carrie the Caregiver with the goal of writing an emotional level into the game that it would make a game player cry. Specifically, in Episode One, Carrie
takes care of babies in a daycare setting and watches them grow. The brand has worked well for Shockwave that Carrie the Caregiver just released Episode Three where she's a camp
councilor.


As a side note, a couple of weeks before we went to this conference, I was working on my computer in my home office when I had my six year old run up and ask to be logged onto Shockwave.com. I
later found out the whole reason why she wanted to go onto Shockwave is to specifically play Episode Three of the Carrie series as she had seen the game advertised on Nickelodeon while she was
watching SpongeBob.


There are deep online components with episodic games and Nickelodeon is even looking into the possibility of generating Webisodes for various titles. Another advantage to episodic games is that
sponsors have connected with the developed characters. Recently, Wal Mart has a tie-in advertising campaign with Carrie into a back to school promotion. Branding games this way also helps combating
the whole cloning of games issue, from a marketing standpoint.


In conclusion, Nickelodeon believes in the Casual Game Industry and feels that the three trends will drive the Casual Games industry for the next couple of years. They also feel that On-line
developers need more credit so they are going to produce an on-line games award show in 2009. “Addicting Games Awards” will run on Television. Nickelodeon, starting this year in the third
quarter, will be giving out quarterly cash bonus awards for developers who bring games to the Nickelodeon family of on-line games.


During my interview with Dave Williams, I asked him what his advice would be for a young upcoming programmer wanting to get into the Casual Games Industry. His advice is to learn Flash. As soon as
a young programmer has mastered that, to submit a game to the Addicting Games site. Currently, one of the more popular shooter games, "http://www.addictinggames.com/clearvision.html">Clear Vision, is actually authored by a 16 year old Swedish student.


Managing Remote Teams – Misunderstandings, Meanderings, and Melodramatics

David Nixon – Executive Producer – I-Play (publishing division of Oberon Media)

David's initial example was a game of “telephone” with the take-away being that messages are lost or confused while they pass from person to person. Keep your messages short and
manageable and difficult to misinterpret.


  • State things simply, avoid idiom and slang

  • Up-to-date, centralized written documentation

  • Dedicated time for frequent discussions, try to use real-time discussion when possible

  • Whenever possible, involve the appropriate “doers” (the people who actually are doing the work). Avoid intermediaries when possible.

The next example was of Piecemeal Communication (aka “Mad Libs”). This can happen because of a language barrier or the telephone effect. If your communication isn't working
properly.


  • Have an experienced producer on both ends involved in all communications.

  • Never underestimate the power of a picture or sketch, even a crude one, to convey a point or need clearly. If you're a rotten artist, look for existing pictures that communicate your point.

  • Ask your partners to confirm their understanding before moving forward.

  • Again, have a dedicated time allotted for frequent communication.

Managing time-travel (i.e. teams in different parts of the world). This can work to your advantage, as you'll often find benchmarks met as you wake up in the morning, but you must know how to best
manage this.


  • Know your time-zones and try to quickly translate times in your head

  • Get up early and/or stay up late.

  • Leave notes for the “next shift”. Tell them things that you learned in “your day” that might affect “their day”.

  • Again again, dedicate time for frequent communications.

I-Play uses Excel to manage schedules, SharePoint for document sharing, JIRA for bug-tracking, and lots and lots of email.


He finished with a language and Culture Quiz. . .


  • French employees have five weeks of paid vacation guaranteed by law and may not legally work more than 35 hours a week (although this is likely to change soon), so it's important to know when yourFrench employees are going on vacation.

  • “up” has 90+ definitions in Websters.

  • Korea has one of the most advanced telecommunication networks in the world.

  • Credit cards are not commonly used everywhere.

  • Eastern European employees commonly have access to a company car (I.e. a relationship with the taxi company)

  • In Spain, it is common to close down for three hours in the afternoon.

The take-away message was to understand your local culture and customs for your fellow developers.


  • Understand the culture gap.

  • Mentally recognize that daily life might be different in other places, and set about exploring those differences.

  • Learn to recognize and minimize slang and idiom in your own communication.

  • Visit your business partners' locations and spend some time there.

  • Dedicate time for frequent communications

As a “closing tip”, consistency matters – invest in your partners for the long-term and you'll find the dedication pays off in better and better results with each project.








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