Archive for June, 2011

VSG Meetup in Pictures

A big thanks to all those who showed up to the VSG Meetup last night! Drinks were drunk, business cards were swapped, and the Vancouver game scene got a bit more connected. A big thanks to the Revel room for making a specialty drink: the Zuck my Pincus, and allowing us to trash the place.

If you missed the meetup, stay tuned to VSG as we have a ton of events coming down the pipe geared towards making Vancouver game-makers better at what they do.

Creating Emotional Attachments to Game Items

I designed a game in my spare time where users collect cards representing units, form decks with those cards, bring the decks into a battle, and buy more cards with proceeds. While designing it, I started thinking about how I can get the user to form an emotional attachment to some of the cards.

Games like Magic: the Gathering already have a few features that causes users to form emotional attachments- a very rare card has a greater value than the rest, therefore the user has more emotional investment in this card than the others in her deck. This is a fairly weak emotional attachment, but with a bit of work, you can create strong emotional attachments to in-game items.

For the game I described above, I wanted to tie the emotional attachment of a unit to the users interactions with it. Interactions such as the amount battles the card has been in, the amount of kills, deaths, raw damage, etc. I wanted to use these stats because emotional attachments are naturally formed by a persons experiences, so building mechanics that leverage this are naturally compelling.

How do we do it? As the units usage stats increases, you reward the unit. Not the user, the unit.

In my game, I rewarded the unit by giving it a unique identifier- in this case a better name. For example, a deck has five “Soldier” cards, and during gameplay one gets seventeen kills and is promoted to a “Hardened Solider”.

The progression from a common Solider card, to a unique Hardened card, is where the user forms the emotional attachment to the unit. The name anchors the memory of this play session to this specific unit. And now every time the user sees this special card, they remember how much fun it was in that game they played. Positive emotional attachment achieved.

But we’re not done.

If the user has a positive emotional attachment a particular unit, they are more likely to use it again. As they do, you start buffing the unit so that its’ real value- its’ attack, defense, etc. starts to reflect the users perceived value of the unit. If the unit crosses a certain threshold, immortalize the unit- make it a Hero, a Legend, a lasting positive experience with the game.

But you don’t make immortal immortal, as in can’t die. See, all things must die, unless you monetize.

If this unit dies, you present them with a one-time only screen of “revive for $2.00 worth of premium currency or else your favourite thing in the game dies”. Are you evil for doing this? Yes. Do you lose users at this point? Maybe, but if you buy $10.00 worth of premium currency right now you get an awesome rare care guaranteed.

This process of creating emotional attachment to in-game items puts to rest two questions: “How do game developers make money off their games?”, and “Can games make you cry?” Not only does it make your game more engaging, but it makes it more engaging over time. Forming real emotional attachment to a virtual item is not easy, but can be critical to having a successful game.

Good luck out there.

Startup Supernova: We Want Builders!

Entrepreneurs were abound at last night at the Startup Supernova Meetup. Held at the swag Mozilla Labs Vancouver; founders, hustlers, and hopefuls met to swap business cards, hear pitches, and learn all about how Growlab is the solution to tech startups in Vancouver.

The night started out with a crash course in the legal implications of having a startup, a lot of good information I’m sure was eye-opening to a lot of people- legal seems to always be an afterthought, although we learned it shouldn’t be.

Next came the pitches- the  rules were you have 3 minutes with slides to present your product/team/ideas, but at the last minute it was changed to 30 seconds and no slides- now we see who can hustle. Some deal aggregators, a note-sharing system peppered with rewards geared to college students, a data-encryption team looking for a CEO, even a condiment time-share initiative- the night did not lack for creative ideas and clever solutions.

Soon after Jason Bailey took the floor, first telling his favourite story that never gets old: how he saw opportunity with the SuperRewards platform, and was able to execute where bigger companies slogged through bureaucratic red tape. After fielding some questions with his trademark bluntness (hope that poor B. Comm grad got his drink), he launched into the biggest story for Vancouver Tech in a long time: Growlab.

We learned about the goal of Growlab, the overwhelming response in the few weeks of applications, the whip-smart investors that comprise the core of Growlab, and what it takes to be Growlab material- builders who have to build and can’t stop building. Most of Jason’s time was dedicated to the last part- Blasting MBA’s, big companies, and 6 month MVPs in favour of small teams with real products made now.

The night was wrapped up with some more Q&A, with Jason providing both the question (“Someone ask me why I denied their Growlab application”) and the answers (“Because it sucked!”)… Actually he answered honestly, denying applications due to not having enough experience in their product to be an asset to them, or questioning the business model of a team.

Jason’s presentation was half rant, half advertisement, and all informative. If you missed it, and are interested in seeing it yourself, he will be speaking again at the Vancouver Enterprise Forum this Friday at the Republic. The event is nearly full, but you may be able to reserve a spot here. If you have to opportunity to check it out, do it- it is the best place to meet the players and play the game.

Join Vancouver Social Games Executive Committee!

We’re looking to build an Executive Comitee

Vancouver Social Games was an initiative pioneered by Tayber Voyer.  His objective was simple, connect the local social games community.  After only a couple of months the results have been stupendous.

Between an active blog, packed meetups, jobs found, metrics shared and community built the response has been better than he could have hoped.

Since things are growing at such a pace Tayber asked Mack (me) and Andrew Gracie to step up and help drive the direction of the organization.  We’re both flattered- it’s not often you get offered the chance to guide a vision you believe in.  But we don’t want to do this alone.

We are taking Vancouver Social Games to the next level and need your help.  We are looking for two more people to step up and help us shape the future of the social games industry in Vancouver.

Anybody is welcome to apply to join the executive team.  Anybody at all. But there’s a couple things that will help you stand out:

  • An ability to get shit done. If you don’t understand what that means then you don’t have the ability.
  • A great network in the game space. (Console/Social/Mobile/etc. it’s all cool.)
  • A passion for games.
  • A passion for people.

It’s time to kick up a notch!

The community demands it.

We will provide.

Can you help?

Get at us:

When hard work is fun.

Digging Ditches is not fun

I just read Fire the Workaholics by David Heinemeier Hansson. The blog post focuses on critique this piece of advice from Jason Calcanis:

Fire people who are not workaholics. don’t love their work… come on folks, this is startup life, it’s not a game. don’t work at a startup if you’re not into it–go work at the post office or stabucks if you’re not into it you want balance in your life. For realz.

David goes on to say that in fact you should Fire the Workaholics rather than the non-workaholics. Both posts are from 2008 but still ring true. Here is DHH’s take on it:

Workaholics may well say that they enjoy those 14 hour days week after week, but despite their claims, working like that all month, all the time is not going to be sustainable. When the burnout crash comes, and it will, it’ll hit all the harder and according to Murphy at the least convenient time.

People who are workaholics are likely to attempt to fix problems by throwing sheer hours at the problem. If you’re dealing with people working with anything creatively that’s a deadbeat way to get great work done.

People who always work late makes the people who don’t feel inadequate for merely working reasonable hours. That’ll lead to guilt, misery, and poor morale. Worse, it’ll lead to ass-in-seat mentality where people will “stay late” out of obligation, but not really be productive.

If all you do is work, your value judgements are unlikely to be sound. Making good calls on “is it worth it?” is absolutely critical to great work. Missing out on life in general to put more hours in at the office screams “misguided values”.

DHH is always talking/writing about working smart not hard and in many ways he is right. People who like to work all the time do burn out and an atmosphere where people try to outwork each other in sheer number of hours is not something most workplaces should strive for. I’ve read Hansson’s writings on the subject before and there is always something about the idea that bugs me.

Mostly the problem is: I really like to work.

I love what I do and I spent the better part of my adult life not working (as a student) or digging ditches (paying for school). The opportunity for me to be working in a creative industry, doing something I enjoy is a blessing. It isn’t something to be taken lightly. I cherish that opportunity by working as hard as I can.

I may be a bit young and naive but I don’t think it matters how many hours you work if you love what you do. If every moment of your life is consumed by a desire to create and you enjoy being creative (in whatever capacity you work in)… maybe it’s is a good thing?

I don’t think anyone would argue it’s productive to be putting in hours just to be there and say you did it or to outwork the guy next to you. It’s just plain silly to think do that and it’s pretty transparent. But if you love what you do to the point of being consumed by it… maybe you are a bit obsessive, but you can still be a happy, well balanced person.

Just my two cents on working hard. Comment below and let me know if you agree/disagree. I’m going outside to enjoy the sun now.