Month: April 2014

ECGC: A Freelancer’s Guide to Hustling Online

Posted on Updated on

ecgc-session

Freelancer’s Guide to Hustling Online, Professional development at the East Coast Gaming Convention (ECGC), 3/24/14

You can freelance in multiple genres, but the materials discuss here are primarily for writers. However, I stress that this can be applied to any freelancer. Freelancing is a trial by fire. If you want to be successful, research clients, research fleelance websites, and other freelancers. You should hustle online because sooo many clients are online, looking online, and you have Sooo many options to choose from online.

A freelancer:

  • Is a self-employed contractor
  • Can fire any client
  • Can establish their work style and work schedule
  • Can choose your projects
  • Is allowed to set your own wages

Keep excellent records of your earnings and expenses. You are legally responsible for your own taxes 4 times a year. Consider if you need to open a sole proprietor business or llc.

Research work-for-hire agreements. Read up on the law. Make sure you transfer rights to the client in the contract. You do have a contract prepared, right?

Experience lets you know how to manage your time. It will let you know what each job should entail, cost, etc. It will also give you confidence. Again, get records to know this, and review your records during down-time to establish a baseline for times and fees. If you’re inexperienced, build your portfolio. If you have completed work done under an NDA, just ask the owner of the rights if you can use it. Your samples are like free advertising for them and their products. Look for smaller jobs that you know you can do quickly (not cheaply!) to gain experience,

professional rates vs. Semiprofessional rates.
Sometimes its okay to earn semi-professional rates. Semi pro rates are less (1-4 cents per word). When choosing to take semiprofessional rates, understand and hold fast to the idea that these rates cannot be for something that takes little time, not full time, or even part time.

Passion is great and keeps you going, it lets you be better at what you do. However, many people will try to take advantage of that… They think: “you have passion- so what.”

“Passion” to clients means:

  • no experience.
  • I might lose my passion…
  • Don’t pay me much, I’m passionate.
  • Passion is an emotion, could be drama

Don’t ever use: Aspiring,  Student,  Amateur,  Looking for experience. Say what you are, and OWN IT. be confident. People are spending money. You are a writer, a game writer, a designer, a developer. Say it.

 

Things to consider while freelancing

Be professional.
Have a website where people an find you. It doesn’t have to be best ever, just show you can be professional looking. Make your online material is FANTASTIC! watermark your portfolio samples and convert them to PDF if you can. Specify what kind of work you do and have a veriety of samples that illustrate your range. Connect social media accounts, and destroy or distance yourself from accounts that might make you look unhinged. Promote your business where its appropriate, but do not spam sites or forum comments with your links

Profiles.
Explain what your value is, avoid problematic buzzwords. Talk about your experience. Proofread everything twice. Then do it again. Then get someone else to check it.

Rates.
People lowball because”

  • They need experience
  • They are trying to establish themselves
  • They don’t know what to charge
  • They can always raise it later.

Don’t lowball. Clients will equate your skill with the price you request. Lowballing makes it difficult to raise prices. Lowballers have rates online, and new clients will expect the old rate. repeat clients may not be able to meet the new rate. Lowballers ruin everyone’s cash flow- And clients end up having poor expectations.

So how do you set your rates?
Your rate can be based on education , previous work history, the current market rate, your work in field
Consider your living expenses: rent groceries, car payment, loans, debt
allindiewriters.com/freelance-hourly-rate-calculator

Thrive, not survive: Consider the following pricing sets
Writers guild of great britain 70-95 hour
Editorial freelancers copywriting 40-50 hour / 20-25/word
Search for: “How much should I charge pdf” online

Contracts and clauses
Have a work-for-hire contract. Specify the number of revisions. You can get templates online or hire a lawyer/ Note what the work entails, how to pay you and how much , how you will be credited, breakdown of milestones-dates of sending work, getting paid, when to receive feedback- a full description of deliverables, feedback options and payment. What you will be payed when work goes beyond the scope. Attach payment received to milestones because you need money in the process. Getting paid after first draft and each revision, for example.

Work-for-hire must assign the rights to someone else, so include “all rights will transfer to client upon final payment.” In your contract. This notes that any lack of payment will have you keeping the rights for the work produced.

Jobs longer than 1 week should have a retainer for your services- This retains time on your scheduling calendar. It identifies a serious client and protects you for non-payment. The client bleeds a little bit, sacrificing something to get the work.

Where to look online for work?

  • craigslist and similar sites
  • forums
  • freelance sites.

Freelance sites
Read the Terms of service (TOS), read the contract agreements, find out if you can you use your own contract? Know how to add your own agreements so they’re legally binding, know how jobs are awarded, find out how freelancers are paid through the platform, review the types of jobs posted. People will get away with things!! Send in your Bid with a proposal. Read everything about how the site works.

Finding jobs
People are looking to scam freelancers, and great clients too. Don’t try to compete on price. Get the price that’s right for you. They expect YOU to know the right rate and educate them. TRUST YOUR INTUITION. Don’t dismiss postings with a lack of information. Ignore clients who seem too demanding in their communications- if they seem like jerks in writing, they’re probably jerks. Determining amount of work needed and the budget. If the amount i laughable, dont bother. Review feedback client has given and received on freelance websites- are comments nasty or complementary? Do they show jobs uncompleted and what were the freelancer responses.

Contacting a client
Focus on: Your expertise as its relevant to the client job, thoughtful questions to engage client, give fee for job. Talk qualifications only if they relate to the job. Don’t go into detail, just give a taste. Send query letters if you want. show your interest in the project, your ability to identify the client/project need, encourage the client to respond/start a conversation.

Always include a preliminary fee. Give a breakdown of costs, talk about miletones, mention all rights will transfer upon final payment. Always be professional. Always send smaples. give them something to look at. Send relevant samples if you do have it. Write the proposal, send it, and then forget it. If you wait for responses, you’ll miss other opportunities.

Establish professional relationships.
Set boundaries. Set hours and meeting times, come to an agreement. Always be professional in communication and feedback. Don’t get blackmailed into good feedback on a job for less/no payment. Help clients understand what they need. Give advice, and don’t take over the project. If anything goes sour, you want the client to look like a chump, rather than you or equal faults. Ultimately, you are not the client, and its not about YOU. Its about them and their needs.

Advertisements

ECGC: Leadership – Leading Disciplines You Don’t Understand

Posted on Updated on

Leading disciplines you don't understand

Session entitled: Managing Disciplines You Don’t Understand, ECGC, 4/24/14. Professional development on leadership with Dustin Clingman. This session was principally for producers and anyone managing a multi-disciplined task force.

Leaders and leads are primarily the target for this talk. Clingman posed the question: “What shall we rant about?” asking leads and leaders what some of the major complaints about their jobs happen to be.

Major responses included:

  • Team members (or team as a whole) don’t do what they say  they will
  • They don’t follow through
  • They provide work that does not meet specs
  • They fail to communicate (problems, solutions, issues, or at all)
  • Excuses (there’s always an excuse)
  • They do not meet established schedules

Many team members do not understand that leaders and leads are on the spear’s tip to meet deadlines and produce quality work.

What is the role that we play as the lead? We have the ability to explain and understand the scope and intent of the project, goals, parameters, and the timeline. We have to make sure team is happy or healthy (preferably both).

In reverse, what are the staff saying about the leaders?

  • Producers suck.
  • Producers suck. (this is not a typo, these are the top 2 complaints)
  • Producers talk, and they don’t listen
  • Producers don’t defend us
  • We’re always being crunched
  • What do they do?
  • I’ve never worked with a good producer.

Where does that energy come from? Those commenters are not bad apples or poor designers or crybabies. Those responses are from qualified employees. Producers are middle managers- buffers and barriers between workers and the management team. Many producers take so much time managing and not enough time leading. So, I have renamed this discussion and professional development session:

 

LEADING DISCIPLINES YOU DONT UNDERSTAND

“Producer” is a term pulled from the movie-making and video industry. Perhaps because we see video games as elaborate and award-winning as movies. Real producers gather the money to make a film come to the screen, and then take an elaborate amount of the attention. So, we are not paying for the production costs, but maybe taking credit though.

Not all producers have experience with each and every discipline in the game industry. Just ask a developer. It can be said that the level of happiness for Developers is measures by the number of WTFs per minute. The important thing to remember here though, is that we are all different, and we are all the same. Many of us chosen to be leaders have little or no experience- and some of us no interest- in leading. If successful, we charge ahead from game to game, we don’t backfill or teach people how to be great leaders. There is little in the budget or time for leadership training, and most of us achieve training within the the community.

 

TESTING: BOON OR BUST?

Myers-Briggs and True Colors tests are good to point out blind spots in our views, and different needs for staff members based on emotional behavior. BLAME-CULTURES are the worst. Don’t take the test if you work in a blame culture location. People will lump together into hate groups and strike out or shun those who think differently. Bad information in these climates can be used to reinforce grouping behavior, and it will be painful in the end.

Most leaders are FORCED into the role. Some choose it. It is lonely being OF the people but at the spear’s tip, leading the group. As a leader, you need to recognize the personality and humanity of those under you. They will not think the same of you.   😦

The boss needs to know the people. Spend time investing in personal relationships, get to know them (that is their lives) outside of work, etc. Don’t be a buddy over a boss, but fraternize in limited amounts. This will pay big dividends. Once you can recognize their qualities and individuality, they are willing to work harder.

 

Give clear directions, and Grow a Spine

Decide a production methodology that works and then find a way to sell it to your management and team. “But, we’ve always done it this way” are the seven most dangerous words in business.

Grow a spine when either side fights back. If you’ve agreed on a path, take it- don’t let management above roll your team, and don’t let the team force you away from your path. Hold people accountable and support them. Spinelessness is not leadership. Negotiation and compromise ARE leadership. It is evil to be disengenuous to your team and crumble to the boss. Be swift, spare no souls who stand in the way. People are often afraid to tell the truth, especially if it is about failure, disagreement on keen points, or needing more than you initially planned. IF you tell the truth, you can return to the team as a hero

 

Protect the creative environment

Find out how your people like to work best, and enable that to happen. Get buy-in from the rest of the studio or at least your neighbors. Examples of this might include: quiet time from 2-5pm, low/high light, headphones

Keep YOUR personal life together

You can’t lead when you’re not in your right mind. All your hard work on relationships in your workplace can be ruined by a glib comment or two. Know how to keep things separated. If you’re the leader, you never get a pity party. EVER. There is a lot of stress in leadership, but you cannot let that affect your workplace

Get rid of troublemakers
If you have non-performing indvidual, do not balk about getting them on a performance plan. Mental anguish arises and team morale quickly declines when one person isn’t pulling their weight. Developers don’t like conflict, because that’s your job as a manager. Everyone would rather do more work than have to put up with someone dragging them down.

Don’t over-manage/be a control freak too often
If you come from another discipline, use it. Don’t ever argue over colors or words.

Learn how to play poker
For leaders, this is a must. Life itself is a game of incomplete information. How people behave or patterns they exhibit become their behaviors. How they play poker is how they think about life

Play to the strengths of the team
set them up for success at least on this project. FInd the path that works and speed things up. Some team members thrive under controlled crunch. Find out ow your team works best and then create those conditions.

DON’T BULLSHIT ANYONE OVER ANYTHING. EVER.
This will trivialize them. If you don’t know, ask them questions and make them teach you,

 

So leadership tactics formed easily in the first part of this discussion, but lets talk specifically about how to manage and lead disciplines if you are unfamiliar with the archetypes.

Managing the artists
Artists need space and they space out more than you like. Save them from themselves, get involved early and give good boundaries to your art requests. Be very specific about what you want to see, how many variations, how many ideas, etc. Rework drives them BONKERS, especially when this is preventable.

Managing engineers
When engineers explain their ideas and plans passionately, ask them to deconstruct this for the lay person. Don’t be afraid to ask them what the options are. Look to them as technical mentors and ask how you can learn more about a particular subject. Beware the coding zinger joke.

Managing designers
Designers want rules, but they are often tempted to break them. Give them Bite size work, and embrace the protypes! Support them, organizational chart pending. Understand that they exist to give order to the game. They are frequently Tauran, liking stability, sameness, comfort.

Managing sound designers
Audio guys want respect. Bring them into the process early so they can be part of the ideas and concept from the very beginning. People usually want to build the game THEN add the sound, like a movie. The more immersed the sound designers are, the better the product will be. Be very, very clear with your feedback.

 

Closing Thoughts

How can you get people to separate their ego from the end product? Well, you can’t. Leadership starts at the top. I never introduced a person as someone who works FOR me, but rather I introduced them as someone who works WITH me. If ego is trumped at the top, it will trickle down. Leadership should be humble, willing to do everything they ask others to do. Preferably the interview process will allow you to throw someone under the bus and tout themselves so you can get an idea of what they’ll be like in your organization, but good luck getting that to happen…

ECGC: Keynote Speaker Mary DeMarle of EIDOS

Posted on Updated on

ecgc-session

“The purpose of a story teller is not to tell you how to think but to give you questions too think upon.”
Brandon Sanderson the way of kings.

Can the story be art? Can Video Games tell meaningful story? These are bad questions to ask. The real questions should be: “HOW do we combine narrative and play to tell  the story? CAN we use the mechanics of gameplay to evoke emotions on a deep and meaningful level? How do we offer meaningful choices to our players?”

THE POWER OF GAMES
Players should explore and a well-crafted game should force us to make decisions and react or discover consequences, and confront the result of our decisions.

Artists use lies to tell the truth

Interactivity and the gameplay loop
nothing in game world happens without player interaction.

The four major ways in which our players advance through their games are by the same simple mechanics:

  1. Encounter a difficulty
  2. Acquire an ability
  3. Overcome a challenge
  4. Get a reward

The question is, “Will they get the reward?”

 

Step 1: Recognize that the mechanics of a story operate like a gameplay loop. Break the story into specific sequences of gamelplay within each level.

At this point in the conference, DeMarle showed us an excel sheet which broke down a level of Deus Ex Human Revolution. It did not stay up long  😦

The materials approached the story level in a manner similar to how a project managers breaks their projects down into tasks as part of the critical chain. The level required that 2 sequences be completed. Each sequence was broken into tasks, and each task was broken down into blocks of gameplay. Each block of gameplay included a difficulty, acquiring an ability, a challenge, and a reward.

Example Level: The Compound
Sequence: infiltrate the compound & secure the prototype.
Two items: Infiltration, Securing Prototype
5 blocks of gameplay for each item.
For each level, we introduce the tension, escalate it, reveal in a climax and resolve the situation with a twist!

A reader must have some point of contact with the story to make him feel at home in it, only then can they accept the wonder.

Step 2: Understand what your player can and cannot do

An important thing to keep in mind when creating your games is balancing ability vs Challenge. Too much challenge and game quickly becomes frustrating. Too much ability and the game quickly becomes boring. Challenges evoke fear. Ability evokes hope.

Engaging the player
Player time & energy spent playing a game is equal to the level of autonomy. Do they control their destiny?

Story vs. Autonomy
A great story allows both choice and deviation. A great example of this is the Witcher 2. That said, it is important to grasp and understand that autonomy is not freedom. Autonomy is being in control of choices, and endorsing the path you are on.

If the story isn’t about the hearer, they will not listen. If its isn’t about everyone, it will not last.

Stories take us on a journey and teach us about the human condition, the world, and ourselves. Stories which do not are flat, cheap, and unnecessary.

 

Step 3: focus the narrative on deeply personal and familiar events. Focus the story on the people, not the events.

Encourage autonomy in your games by offering choices! Choices should show players the emotions released and how their choices affect the other people. But, you cannot hide the choices. You are free to make the choice, but you are not free of the consequence of the choice. Reactions may not be what you expect, but they should at least make sense. Show the consequences, but do not judge the player because of it.

Half the art of storytelling is to keep a story free from explanation as one reproduces it or retells it. Showing consequences without judgement allows the player to get their own meanings from it.

One last thought, keep your choices clear of conflict by keeping like choices together. A great example of a failure in this regard is as follows:

“You are running out of time to capture the villain! Should you take the door on the right and save the life of the little girl, or take the door on the left and receive the repeating combat shotgun?”

This is a terrible choice. You are forcing your players to choose an emotional success (saving the child), or a tactical success (getting the repeating combat shotgun). Tactical players will choose the weapon because they want to WIN. Emotional gamers will save the child because they don’t want to see anyone die. This unbalances the game, because the player with the powerful gun breezes through the next few levels, while the rescuer has to fight tooth and nail until the end of the game.

Unless you want some players to complain, later in the game the rescuer needs to receive a powerful weapon to re-balance their odds. So, if both characters receive powerful weapons, the choice to rescue the girl was a wasted and unneeded choice, resulting in no difference between the paths. That choice should be removed or reworked. A better solution would be to choose between 2 characters, with one surviving and the other paying the ultimate price.

In the end- stories should take us on journeys, teach us, reveal things about us, and always keep us wanting more.

ECGC: What Makes You Think YOU Know What A Leader Is?

Posted on Updated on

So you think YOU know what makes a great leader?!?

Went to the East Coast Gaming Conference Session: What makes you think YOU know what a leader is? as presented by Keith Fuller

In this lecture, Keith Fuller talked about leadership and what some of the qualities of good leaders were, and what was the major roadblock in the industry as far as leadership goes. He began by letting us know what his expectations of us for the talk were: that we would care , that we would participate, and that we would focus.

Leaders set the expectations for those they lead. And a leader, by definition, is responsible for the behavior, tasks, work performance, and development of one or more people whom they manage. The Jetsons boss is NOT leadership.

Leaders watch the quality of your work, and put you where you’ll be best used. A good leader makes you want to show up! The best leaders are approachable, and knows you as a person!

Leaders should not be pulled from a hat. “working ok” is not the same as innovating and excelling. Work should be lead to be efficient, not a “churn and burn” prfoile, because time you are spending at work is not time with the ones you love.

Quality of leadership can be most accurately seen through employee engagement. When and employee cares and is engaged, they work harder. When they are disengaged, they cost you money and productivity.

Quality of work as measured by the happiness of the employee can be directly noted through 2 main objectives: Their relationship with their immediate supervisor, and their belief in senior leadership. More often than not, you don’t quit a company, you quit a boss.

Consider reading:  “First, break all the rules” by Buckingham and Coffman.

If stuck down into  two main points from these hundreds of interviews:

  1. First, treat each employee as a person- know things about them and care about them
  2. Secondly, Don’t make leadership the default career path- great skills do not always translate into leadership, not everyone wants to become a leader.

Communicate, Relate, and Motivate.

Consider reading: “12 – The elements of great managing” wagner and karter

Good leaders have consistently good social skills, are impactful, value people, and objectively improves the business- doing so by supporting the people (arguably the most important part [supporting the people] of the group)

Biggest obstacle to quality leadership: the idea and pat response “We’re good.” (you are fooling yourself). Poor leaders and organizations that sponsor poor leadership feel they have no need to focus on leadership or improving performance.

 

Here was a good exercise:

You will get points for your organization (0-5) based on the following questions, Yes or No, 1pt a piece:
—————————————–

  1. You’re asked to give feedback about lead?
  2. Does everyone get regular 1:1 meetings?
  3. Performance review more than 1/year?
  4. Specific training in leadership skills?
  5. Does lead ask “how can I help you?”

 

Are you willing to give your score and NAME your company out loud? Some were willing to give their score out loud (About half). However, when they were asked if they were will to give their company name, it dropped to 4 individuals.
Problem: you are not willing to discuss this and name this in public.

 

What makes you think you know what a leader is? People are more open and will talk about taking notes in meetings, but NOT about what makes a leader.

WHY? Well, this could be a reputation issue that stops you from getting hired in the future. Many people are worried that the proud nail gets knocked down. What if you are the leader? Are you prepared to self-identify as a bad leader or to ask for help? We should encourage people to ask questions! Getting up to complain on a Soap Box is a bad idea, a 1:1 meeting is the right way.

ECGC: Gamified Talent Management: Using RPG design to motivate employees and redefine work

Posted on Updated on

Gamification and Leadership

Today at ECGC (The East Coast Gaming Conference), I attending a leadership training seminar: Gamified Talent Management: Using RPG design to motivate employees and redefine work, a lecture by IBM guru Phaedra Boinodiris. This was really fantastic, and should fit nicely with the classroom gamification that I’d like to see in some of our flagging classes. Phaedra Boinodiris identified 4 major attributes of using gamification to find and motivate successful employees:

  1. Cognitive stability
  2. Cognitive complexity
  3. motor-impusivity
  4. establishes a baseline

She then demonstrated a game used for potential employees, a game in which the user built a structure with spots and lines to reach a given point. This could then be used with responsive software to determine some of the cognitive qualities of the individual to help with the onboarding process. She further showed some proprietary software (darnit!) which could be used to chart an individual’s current state and progress in a gamification environment: Nick’s portal environment result from data showing changes and adjustment over time.

Using their previous data as well as the results of the employee profile and reviews, a composite was created similarly to a character sheet– showing calculated mentor matches (along with that mentor employee’s contact information, job matches and suggested promotion track to achieve it, how that employee ranked against others in the industry, how that employee was perceived by their peers, how the current marketplace is embracing their recognized skillsets, an employee assessment, and list of training or certifications suggested for the employee.

Upon my request, Ms. Boinodiris would not reveal information about IBM’s proprietary software. 😦

Questions posed by the leaders using this software required the team to be evaluated as a group. Once all members had taken the assessment, a team could further be assessed, posing questions based upon the team performance in addition to the qualities shown by the team:

  • “To be good at my job, what paths need to be completed?”
  • “What training needs to be completed by our current team?”
  • “What training might need to be required of new or potential team members?”
  • “How many goals are being completed within the group?”
  • “What is it about the ‘class’ of employee that makes this optimal or in need to accomplish our team or individual goals?”

Based on results of these tests and questions, what kind of employees are they? Could you give them designations such as hunter, farmer, leader, etc.? After a class designation has been properly identified, can you change or adjust these designations to make your team the team you desire or the team numbers show is best suited for a particular task?

Once backed up with data, adjustments to your staff’s ‘class’ could be made by sending them ‘quests’ perhaps once per day or week. These quest tasks would slowly evolve the thinking of the team or team members, so that training is no longer siloed. For instance, you might recognize ‘Hunter’ employees as those who track down new, effective leads. ‘Farmers’ on the other hand, might be constantly revisiting old leads to grow new business in already fertile ground. You might assign hunters to revisit ‘old hunting grounds’ once a day and slowly evolve their systems. Farmers on the other hand, might strike out into leads on ‘newly forested areas’ where they can begin relationships and begin a new harvesting in new areas.

By removing the siloed training, you make continual training something that is both approachable and achievable. Also, it CAN become fun. However, you must find ways to provide tailored content to make sure your employees know what they need to do, or show them how they can improve.

It is vitally important to remember: As far as gamification goes, if you’re spending a majority of your time at the beginning determining what motivates your audience, you are doing it wrong.

When adding gamification to your school, workplace, etc, you must avoid the ‘chocolate covered brocoli’ – adding a small benefit to something which your population already hates. A badge alone will NOT motivate the students or employees anymore than covering something they don’t want with chocolate.

The Multiplayer Classroom by Sheldon Lee
The Multiplayer Classroom by Sheldon Lee

Consider reading The Multiplayer Classroom by Sheldon Lee. (I spoke with Sheldon Lee the author during a conference call last week. This was great timing!)

seriousgames_book
Serious Games for Business by Phaedra Boinodiris

Also consider reading Serious Games for Business by Phaedra Boinodiris

 

I felt this was a great presentation, and I learned a lot that I felt would be helpful in methods of leadership! Tell me what you think!

ECGC Keynote: Game Pitches (and Business Pitches) with Ken Rolston

Posted on Updated on

ecgc-session

The Keynote Speaker at the East Coast Gaming Conference on Wednesday, April 23rd was Ken Rolston, narrative designer, roleplaying designer, and all-around nice guy. His talk was almost entirely about setting up ways to pitch your game ideas, but it also nicely meshed with ideas for promoting business pitches. I’ll chime in along with his notes with leadership or business ideas as I related them.

To prepare us for the talk, Ken setup the following roadmap for his talk:

  1. Game pitches
  2. Premise
  3. Powerpoint
    ——-  Then a brief break  ———–
  4. Discovery
  5. Models
  6. Closet dramas

In setting us up for this journey, Ken notes that he always writes in his margins, and in fact he had the word “Landmarks” outside of the staging area of his powerpoint slides. The point of this, he noted, was that in any presentation, you should talk off the slides, not directly from them. Get the idea across, always imply MORE than what the screens say, and always communicate the full information, even if you have to create only small amount of information in your slides.

At this point, I’d like to highlight the fact that we’ve almost all been in a presentation where the teacher or businessman reads directly off the slide, as though we ourselves were incapable of doing so. What a waste of everyone’s time. Why take notes or even pay attention when you can skim or scan the information in a heartbeat? Show your skill and knowledge by using the  slide as a starting point, not as the entire journey.
Game ideas are the pitch that makes money. It tells us what will happen, what we need to do, the character and the environment’s relationship with users. The ideal approach is that when making your plan and your pitch, it should remain as useful to the end user as when it gets to the publishers.

In looking for new video game ideas for the first time, Ken noted that his ideas followed an original (also reads very naive) plan:

  1. Call for pitches from anyone interested on staff
  2. Receive a premise submission, and allow draft revisions
  3. Short list of operators would be allowed to create a powerpoint if their ideas didn’t suck
  4. Each selected operator would give their presentation
  5. The team would review and decide upon a few select (or just one) winner(s)
  6. Project(s) selected would receive pre-production comments

This did not happen in any way as expected. They were flooded with multiple ideas from staff members, many contributing more than one each. Word got out, and the public started contributing in wild numbers. There was simply no way to approach this in a refined format. Instead, with sooo many powerpoints selected, and so many different forms of premise submission, they were forced to do something fun. They created a “brown bag screening” in which company employees and anyone who submitted content could come and gauge all the submissions. It was an instant success! It has been a plan he’s followed several times after as well.

Premise Submission

What is a premise? Well, a premise is a 2-page executive summary and formal design checklist for your video game idea. When pitching a video game, the premise will be instrumental in getting your idea in front of the best people to get it made.

The premise document is so vitally important, that everyone interested needs to create a perfectly well-formed document. Isn’t it surprising that there is still no accepted format to make a premise document? Ken Rolston outlined the following items to include in your premise document.

What to include in your video game premise document when pitching a video game:

  1. Title of the game
  2. Describe an imaginative entry
  3. High concept of the game
  4. Who are you and what you are doing
  5. What kind of interface will there be/how will the interface be used
  6. Explanation of gameplay
  7. What the mood of the game will be like
  8. Target audience & suggested platform
  9. Finance model (how will it make money- its best if you know how this would be done)
  10. Emulation target (what other game is this like?)

I’d like at this point to note how closely this resembles a business pitch for a large business venture, a new business endeavour, or a new program at your college.

Your PowerPoint

Your PowerPoint document is a major step in getting your game published. You’ll be presenting your video game idea in its clearest, most visual format ever. Do your best to make this a fantastic affair.

What to consider before creating your video game powerpoint presentation

  1. Industry standard information
  2. Define your game by providing example imagery (doesn’t matter where you get it) that provides the mood
  3. Study existing PowerPoint presentations (find them online)
  4. Ken Rolston provided a starter template at the session- if you’re interested in finding it, please visit the ECGC website and watch the presentation. It should be available in November 2014
  5. Share evolving models between ideas
  6. Steal styles and tricks from others and existing powerpoints
  7. Thrive on art director love (learn to do things that aren’t about the words, like designing your own documents, layouts and graphics)
  8. Creating a powerpoint is easier than creating the premise document

 

A Practical Template for creating your video game powerpoint presentation

  1. Game title & evocative logo
  2. What is it? (what is your game about)
  3. Why should the viewer care (about the game, about the land, about the character)
  4. Who is the video game for (who is the main audience)
  5. List of game features (list these in bullet points)
  6. Fiction flow or progression (What happens in the opening, mid-game, and end game)
  7. Pictures including art and tone (suggest the tone of the game in every shot)

 

Discoveries on the Path to Enlightenment

When Ken went on to talk about developing a game, he pointed out an important lesson, or set of lessons found on the way to completion. The main lesson to take away is this: Make everything you feel is important into the game. Not everything will survive until the final cut, but starting with the most ideas will ensure that the best will bubble to the top.

Ken’s Suggestions for building the best gaming experience possible:

  • build 400%
  • archive 350%
  • develop all remaining into 100% awesome!!!

In short, build 4 times as much material, 4 times as much story, 4 times as much environments, 4 times as many items, etc. From this, trim out any extranneous material, any slow-moving materials, and unneeded storylines. When only the best of the best is left, expand, expound, improve, and increase this remaining 50% into 100% awesome materials.

unanticipated lessons and benefits: like surviving in the wilderness

Brown bag festival

  1. Test pitch on gamers- By inviting all the gamers, we were able to test the pitches on actual gamers
  2. Gauge trends- See how many game types are re-occuring trends in the minds of gamers
  3. Share process with studio- the whole staff gets to be involved and excited about the games
  4. Celebrate creativity- everyone presenting feels important
  5. Reward initiative and commitment- Those who are active staff members are rewarded for their efforts
  6. Public display of studio mission- the public gets to see your level of excitement and interest in fames

Literature is the sum of the text and the response of the reader!

so…

Final Word: Presenting to the money men

In the end, its all about the premise and powerpoint. But, having our materials presented to the entire staff generated the FAQ- questions which would be about what the executive WANTS to hear. And then you can answer those things. If you could promote to friends, and answer all FAQ they have in an effort to prepare the FAQ for executives, you’ll be gold. If you can answer 3 questions in a row, they know you’re smart, you’ve thought about the product and the process, and you’re a good bet..

The visionary genious must answer each and every question when presenting the materials. The presentation is a way to get executive and user questions, they are different even with studio folks. Have those 3 great answers to win

Last word: Ron Kelton suggests you always use the word “freshness” instead of innovation.