Sunday, April 24, 2016

Almost missed a cool game because of unsuccessful demo

Here I blog again. (Get the E-Type reference? :D)

I'm probably spoiled with hidden objects games whose demo versions are a "cut off" version of the game, giving you the taste of gameplay, getting you excited about what comes next, and then suggesting to get the full thing. You pay once to go on exploring the story.
Having from little to zero experience with games, I naively assumed all demos are that way, and almost missed a cool game.

Due to limited space on my laptop (yes, I play on MacBook Air since I'm traveling most of the time) and lack of time to play (common problem of people who work in gamedev!), decided to first check out the demo of one nightmare-themed game released back in 2014, but getting the buzz these days for some reason. I have a serious problem with nightmares IRL, and always pick the games that represent my real-life fears, be it nightmares or abandoned hospitals. :D

Anyway, playing the demo of the game left me with more "wtf" than "what's next"? First, I was confused about what exactly I need to do. Thought it's all my lack of experience, so went exploring everything around. I spent some time trying to make the words "fuck" and "puke" out of the building blocks. :D Awaited jump scares. Nothing. I started to get bored and was wondering what's the story I'm playing and what the goal is - it didn't look clear. Again, I assumed it's my lack of experience with games.

But it looked like the piece shown in the demo was pulled out of something bigger. Or the full game isn't fully developed yet?

All in all, I got the idea what the game feels like - the overall vibe, controls and mechanics, background sounds... Yes, something I would play. And it's good that I had read reviews beforehand. I'm getting the full game and maybe even trying to stream it if internet is good enough.

But what if not? What if I thought the whole thing is like that, not clear enough, not intuitively understandable and without a decent story? I doubt I'd buy it. I'd think it's been released before it's fully ready. ((

As an aspiring dev, I'm trying to use other people's mistakes to avoid my own. If I ever make that big thing I have in my sketch book, this is how I'm not doing the demo. Instead, the beginning of the story does give the feel of gameplay, mechanics and controls, and is able to help you understand whether you'd like to play the game - but also kinda forces you to buy the whole thing. In a good way. Even if you haven't read the reviews.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

How Neopets minigames work for a toddler and an old fart

I just realized I have been playing Neopets since 2002. O_O
I'm still on level 2 since I don't get to binge-play very often. When I do, it's usually when I'm having the hardest times, feeling too sick to work or do crafting, or just desperately need to change my activity for a while between work. I have been planning to repaint my Blue Wocky since then, but never earned enough NP. Back then I had no idea that many year after I will go to the USA and would be able to buy some real-life things related to the game.
My Blue Wocky. She's sad because hungry, will buy her some food when I'm done with this post.

Working with casual (and not-so-casual) games now, I started to see the Neopets mini games differently - applying the knowledge I got from people I work with, our speakers and numerous friends in the industry.

Firstly, I think their range of mini games (that you play to earn in-game currency - NeoPoints) represents most - if not all - classic casual game genres. 

Secondly - I keep wondering what's that thing that kept me engaged in 2002 and still does now? 

My all-time and recent faves in Neopets mini games



Chemistry For Beginners, the first game I tried in Neopets in 2002
Puzzles are still my fave part of the Neopets Games Room. The idea of this one, Chemistry For Beginners,  is memorizing the combination of elements, represented by those colorful stars, and assembling them into more advanced chemicals, avoiding creation of the explosive ones (introduced at higher levels of the game). 

The 2nd one I checked out and got addicted to - Meepit Juice Break
Meepit Juice Break is just another look on those pipe-matching games, where you need to rotate pipe elements in order to deliver juice to squirrel-like animals called Meepits. Each has a countdown timer, so if you fail to help them - they fall off the tree (and apparently die). I felt bad for killing an innocent Meepit just to make this screenshot. :(

Another of my faves is under the Action category, though I'd say it's closer to a puzzle... Maybe they meant that you need to run away from ice blocks that may fall on you, as well as Ice Wurms that guard the treasures and will chase you - but leave their stuff unattended!

I love the sounds in this game! Snowmuncher.
As the game description says, you guide Dieter the Polarchuck (that looks like a usual polar bear to me) who loves eating snow blocks and collects gems. However, eating snow makes him bloated, so he needs to eat the Bloat-B-Gone meds in order not to die. Eating the medicine results in a funny barfing sound, which was - I confess! - the initial reason why I liked this game. 

I admit that I have that stupid childish sense of humor that makes me laugh at poo and pee jokes, as well as enjoy the dumbest fart comedy movies you can find. Sex jokes and dark humor is also what I'm into. On the other hand - it's still easy to disgust me!

The Tyrannian Golf game, still a bit complicated for me since I have never played real-life golf, is categorized under Brain Busters - whatever that means. Coming back to poo and pee jokes - there is an option of a dung ball! XD And the "Load Userhole" option in the start menu sounds dirty to me. :D Sorry not sorry!

Apparently you can call nasty users "userholes"!

This game absorbs me a bit more than the others and doesn't work for a brief break between work articles/emails/calls. I'd say there's something enchanting about trying to plan the best route for the ball and get it into the right hole. (Damn it, it does sound dirty!) And the graphics add up to the vibes too, even though they aren't my favorite in the whole Neopets world. 
Not the highest level I have reached in this game, I just can't play it fast, as I said - it needs more focus and time.
I like it that the outcome depends on one's skills, and it's not like there are some pre-programmed results that just pop up when a certain set of actions has been performed. Which makes this game either meant for grown-ups or much older/patient kids, and this is awesome. 

This one, Ultimate Bullseye, initially became my favorite thanks to being simple in terms of rules and controls, and providing lots of NP. 
Easy to start, hard to master. Classic? It worked!
Even if I don't shoot accurately enough, like during the play session I did for the sake of this screenshot, I can still submit the score and get some NP. Like - I have 10 minutes between Skype meetings, and need to keep calm - I play a game of this and get some NP regardless how much I've scored. When I have more time, I can keep playing more and more, not submitting the score unless I have a certain number - it's where "I can do better than that!" kicks in. I hardly ever get bored replaying this game, again - because everything depends on my skill. 

I favorited all the abovementioned games (and some more) back in 2002 and have been enjoying since then. But Spinacles is a relatively recent favorite, and I think I play it most often. What is more, I like the game music. :) I usually have one of my playlists in the headphones when play Neopets, but with Spinacles I can even pause it. It is the case when music ehnances the gameplay, experience and immersion. 
Spinacles is where the visuals are exactly the way I like in Neopets
It's like one of those bubble-shooting x match 3 games, a bit more challenging that the still cute Faerie Bubbles that I enjoy for the art and not that much for gameplay. In Spinacles you shoot colorful bubbles on a rotating bunch of existing bubbles, match 3 or more of the same color - and they disappear. 
I like that you can try your luck if the bubble coming up is totally NOT what you want - shoot it into space and pray for it to bounce around and not stick to your bubbles pile. 
The power-ups here are both positive and negative: some can help, like gaining the necessary color to get rid of 3 bubbles, or exploding and killing all bubbles. The others add up a layer of bubbles, or turn random color - you can also try your luck shooting these out into space.  ))
So, this is skill+luck+strategy+immersion. 
And this is the art theme that I like most of all in the Neopets world. Yes, unlike the traditional darker/gothic look I'm into when it comes to games on my tablet and phone. Nevertheless, my neopet is still a feline Wocky. =^_^=

Wait. I lied. The smilies inside of the bubbles are replaced with cute skulls later in the game. :) 

What's the difference between what keeps me engaged now and what worked back in 2002?

2005, all 2002 pics have died with my old laptop.

2015, the old fart

I remember my main motivation in 2002 was earning NP to get the things I wanted, like buying a house for my neopet, furnishing it the way I like, and of course buying this: 
...I searched for "electric paint brush" - and nothing! Whaaat??? Did they discontinue the brushes???
Anyway, this is what I wanted to turn her in: 
An electric-colored Wocky

2002: Like A Job

Games felt like something that is not a bad way to earn money - just like a job you just don't hate, but don't love either, as I later realized. I was more excited about the opportunities you can explore and use when you have this money. It also feels like Neopets has shaped my initial attitude to working: if you need money, find something you don't hate to do and stick to it for a while until you have as much as you need for a certain purpose. This helped me a lot in some of the jobs that were not bad, yet not the dream job that I have now. :)

2016: Games To Get My Mind Off Things (I have a dream job IRL!)

It's 2016 now, I have a dream job and some experience with okay (but not so fun) jobs in the past. I still play Neopets, and it's mainly the mini games that I enjoy most of all. I am still happy to get NP for excelling in these games, but I put them in the bank and forget to collect daily interest. I wish I could do this automatically! I hardly ever spend NP on something else than food and toys for my pet, mostly because I don't have time for deep exploration and finding some other things for my wishlist - especially that I don't see the brushes available anymore. :( 

You can see the site's audience while registering. As far as I remember, you choose your age group in the beginning, and there's one for 0-3 years old, and up to 45+. However, you cannot sign up if you're under 13 years old - in this case you need to fax them a permission from parents. Was a pain to do from Ukraine about 10 years ago, so we registered my 6 years old cousin under his mom's name. Yea, looks like they didn't care much of third-world countries back then. :(

All in all, what is the magical thing that kept me addicted back then and still works now?

Fun fact: in 2002, when no one in Ukraine was even talking about wifi or mobile internet, I feared my pet would die while I'm on the summer break in the mountains for 3 months. So my dad drove me to the neighboring town that had an internet cafe just so that I could spend an hour or two playing Neopets. 

Due to the kids being the main target audience of the website, all its content is strictly moderated, including private messages. Not so cool for older people, but I am not there for communication anymore. By the way, one of our Casual Connect speakers in Tel Aviv, Shai Samet from Kidsafe, mentioned Neopets in his session, which resulted in a huge smile on my face - so he told more about how this site treats kids' safety online. 

In 2002 it was the only type of videogames that I liked. Also, the site was an opportunity to speak English with kids and teens - something I couldn't do here in Ukraine, though I did talk to dad's colleagues from the USA a lot. Back then I wasn't allowed to work legally (though I still did, standing in for the office secretary who was sick, or doing small translations or even envelopes stuffing). Neopets gave me that desired feeling of doing something relatively fun (playing games, possibly even super fun for other kids) and getting a reward I could use to get something I wanted. 
Each location has its own theme and vibe.


Neopets also featured the graphics that resembled those of the 90s Nickelodeon kids' shows I liked and still do - so I enjoyed the aesthetic side as well, and even tried to draw characters and items following the provided drawing tutorials. (An amazing idea for any game world!)

Talking of the graphics: with the overall style being consistent, different locations had a different vibe, color scheme and theme - appealing to kids with different tastes. Being just a few years away from becoming goth, I was into brighter and girlier locations, and still prefer them - I've got enough dark stuff in other games.
I mostly played in winter, so like Terror Mountain a lot.

And my all-time favorite place, Faerieland. 
What is more, unlike other game sites, this one didn't have invasive apps or nasty monetization tricks, so I didn't feel threatened. It also didn't force me to download anything - and I was playing from dad's work computer.  One of my worst fears in 2002 was accidentally downloading something wrong or harmful, or clicking something that would ask me for money. 

Now, in 2016, it's the zero negativity, fun and relaxing games with graphics I enjoy, as well as - still! - no annoying ads, - that keep me playing Neopets. It used to be a treat for me in 2002, now it's escape from the real world that is turning uglier and uglier. 

What is more, working in the games industry gave me a fresh wave of interest towards Neopets: now I play the mini games trying to see them from the design point of view, as well as examples of more or less "clean" samples of classic casual game genres. What makes me add the game to favorites? What kind of mood makes me choose this game or another? And, last but not least - what is that thing that gives a particular game the vibe that gets me excited? 

Working on my very 1st game, I'm aiming on it having the same kind of appeal Neopets mini games have. For now, sketching and checking out GameMaker tutorials (remember - I have zero experience with making games or programming!), I try to think - would I click to play this game if it was on Neopets? 



Thursday, March 6, 2014

Crimea doesn't hurt

May I be a shallow bitch for a long while?

I hate Crimea already, for giving me extra un-paid work at the job I hate, for taking away my hours of sleep, and for setting everything around (including myself) for a depressive mood.

It doesn't touch any of my feelings. I'm from the West.

For me Crimea has always been an overpriced dirty cheaply-glamorous resort for the post-soviet people who managed to grab money in the 90s. Mansions of poo-liticians and crowded beaches, full of fat aging sweaty bodies and spoiled screaming kids.

Yep, there is beautiful nature. But - pro-Russian people scare me to death, I wouldn't dare going there even in the peaceful times because I'm afraid of being insulted for speaking Ukrainian. Hey people, I am a nationalist terrorist! Fear me, I'm gonna eat your damn babies! >:))))

Crimea is so alien to me, that I feel nothing about it. It's not "dear" enough to fight for. Kyiv was worth that, even though I almost hate it too. But Crimea is too distant from the emotional and national point of view. All in all, they had been screaming "Russia! Russia!" for ages. Here you go, Russia is there! Happy?

The only thing that concerns me is the possibility of Russian invasion further. And again - because of that damn stupid Crimea.

I'm just mad. No other feelings.
I wanna sleep. Fuck Crimea.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Work moments: 1st piece in the show

Hands shaking. Kinda in court.
My news piece about the Munich Security Conference was the 1st one in the show. (Which means there's no extra time - while in other cases you still have a tiny gap of the newsreader's text and that 1st piece). 

We had all necessary stuff, except the critically important soundbite of our Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Also, the discussion on Ukraine was to start at 17:00 local time, which is 18:00 here in Kyiv. And the Minister started speaking at about 18:37. Close to the news show beginning at 18:45, isn't it? O___O

O___O - this is what I'm like at the moment. Because the Minister started talking on the topic when our anchorman just sat down on his chair in the studio. The editor said - it' ok, shoot it without the soundbite, just show as much of the minister in the video part, so that it would be clear who the information and statements are about.

Holy shit! The anchorman announced me A LOT in his text! He was all like "And here's M. (my real name), and she's observed everything really close in her news piece". OMG

It's over.
I'm going down to ask the editor if there was a call.
If yes - I'm doomed.

But I'm happy the day is over.

Friday, January 10, 2014

"Yo gangsta! Get ready to gang bang!" - the catchy moments of last year's L'viv Gamedev Conference

I'm planning to attend the Gamedev Conference in L'viv on January 25th again. Last year I was fascinated by the variety of people, experiences and approaches, which I didn't see at bigger events at that time. However, now I must admit that even big scary events are adopting this approach. :)
This is the "find-Orchid" game :D
Photo from the conference Facebook page
It happened so that I couldn't publish my article about the event last year. :( So I decided to post it now to give those hesitating ("to go, or not to go? …") friends an idea of what L'viv Gamedev Conference is like. :) 

WARNING: I was aiming on providing brief notes on each talk of the conference, just like we did at university lectures. 

The article IS boring. Sorry for that. 
Yes I fucked the pictures up this time. :(

Also, I might have fucked something up since was busy with doing a Twitter broadcast at the same time. 

So, let's go back into memories… ^_^
The conference didn't happen at night of course. :)
The pic is from the evening before when my cousin took me for a walk around the beautiful city. 
January 26th has been one of the coldest days of the month in Ukraine, and also the date of the L'viv Gamedev Conference 2013 organized by L'viv Startup Club, an organization that supports entrepreneurship in the city. It's known as “Ukraine's Silicon Valley” for the great number of skilled IT professionals. Though they usually work for outsource and usually don't think further than their main professional task.

What's new about Windows Mobile 8, legal trouble Ukrainians might face while getting money from foreign companies, trending genres, localization and support were discussed this time. 

Companies and professionals were sharing their personal experience of moving from beginners to significant players of the market, and the bravest developers presented their creations to the judges to hear all the truth about their app. 



The hottest issues of modern gamedev have been put together in a panel discussion in the end of the conference. And before the after-party.

Lecture 1:  Alexander Krakovetsky, CEO of DevRain Solutions


Windows Phone 8. Doesn't work with XNA, but MonoGame is there. Test an app to see how it works for real. The market isn't overheated, though Xbox Live is the only place to sell an app for more than $1,25.  

Alexander Krakovetsky, the CEO of DevRain Solutions and the author of wp7rocks.com and msug.vn.ua websites shed some light on Windows Mobile 8.  It's faster, supports multi-core devices and has better performance, but might mess up your apps for previous versions, so better test it on an emulator or a device itself and then adjust. For example, there might be trouble with resuming a game.

XNA framework is not supported in Windows 8, though it runs in quirks mode on Windows Phone 8. MonoGame, an open-source incarnation of XNA 4 Framework is there to help the issue. Among other advantages of the latter Alexander mentions cross-platform - MonoGame can save you from rewriting things from scratch. Another tip from the lecturer is to aim no higher than feature level 9 in DirectX if you work with Windows RT architecture. (Those devices are just not meant to support a level higher than 9_1) Notify users if their device doesn't support the app.

Submitting to the Windows Store, according to Alexander, is just 2 minutes at the website - you fill a questionnaire, the team looks at the information provided and makes a decision. The store also  requires a game package with metadata that includes your game's rating. 

Xbox Live games are the only games that can be sold for more than $1,25, but even the fact a game is there doesn't guarantee that it's cool. In the Ukrainian section among various fun apps there's also... the Constitution with about 7k downloads. 20-50 thousand downloads is not bad for a non-entertainment app, Krakovetsky commented.

The WP8 market is not overheated yet, it's possible for a company to grow faster than it does. A product is relatively easy to promote without funds, though devs should prepare for smaller income.  A Windows Phone developer gets approximately 3 times less than the one for iOS ($3000 every month against about $1000).

Lecture 2: Andriy Parkhomenko, lawyer of Juscutum firm.

How to receive your money from an App Store without getting caught by Ukrainian tax authorities.
 Andriy Parkhomenko from the Juscutum law firm specializes in IT legislation and copyright issues. He started the lecture from "a bit of negative stuff" - a statement that Ukraine is "a step forward and 2 steps backwards". 

Dealing with foreign companies you'll need tons of useless papers that are only needed by the Ukrainian side.
Ukraine has no laws to regulate working with App Store. If things ever get perfect, cash legally earned abroad should flow to Ukraine without any obstacles.

Receiving money through a bank is a headache for an individual — one will have to prove that's nothing else than royalty. According to Ukrainian legislation, individuals aren't allowed to do entrepreneurship. Registering as an entrepreneur might be an option, but has an annual income limit of UAH 3 million and up to 10% tax.

Good news: if you work with Apple, you only pay a tax in Ukraine, not twice. The money you get when someone else sells your app is not royalty, though if it's the AppStore you pass your rights too, it still counts as such.

Opening an account in a foreign bank isn't the best option as well. You'll need a license of the National Bank of Ukraine, they can refuse it for various reasons that makes it nearly impossible to have the paper. Once you fail — it will be succeed if you try again.

Going abroad and starting a company there also has the reverse side of proving things to the state - this time it's whether you're able to invest in a business abroad. Impossible! Because you've already invested in it if you started the business, that is - you violated Ukrainian legislation and will be unable to legalize further investments. 

Lecture 3. Pavlo Pivtoranis, game designer, Nravo.



Even if the game sucks, it will be played in Odnoklassniki. People want to read their tamagotchi.  The scary abbreviation of BBMMORPG. 

 Pavlo Pivtoranis is one of legends of Lviv's gamedev. He's been tutored by Contre Jour's Maksym Hryniv, has been making games for more than 5 years rising from support team member to an indie developer and leading game designer. Pavlo has currently settled at the Nravo company.

He started from some history shown as stages of human development:
The 70's - the era or arcade machines. No one thought of game designing, though monetization was already there through tokens.

The console era - Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, arcade machine games ported to handheld devices. 

A  page with text suddenly appeared among those bright retro ones. “Yes, this is a game!” - Pivtoranis explained.

The next era is that of interactive movies.  Cool, but not for long, because it wasn't comfortsable.

Stage 5 - game designers arrive! “Simple mechanics are for girls”, the developer added.

Then came the "QTE-apocalypse",  a step towards casual gaming. Handheld gaming devices and the infamous tamagotchis. “A telephone is a gaming platform, the fact that you can call from it is just a feature”.

"Odnoklassniki" is the biggest market for text MMOs: 140k DAU. A new game appears there every 3 days, and people play it even if it's crappy. Players are ready to read their tamagotchi - says Pavlo. Text games are good because players use imagination to create any interface they wish. If they come back for more than 10 times — they're most likely to pay.  

Lecture 4: Yevgen Galkin, Google

Social networks are getting overheated,  like Flash did before. Stats help detect bugs. Wanna grow fast? Start locally.

Yevgen Galkin works at Google Ukraine and manages IT advertising, he was talking on what one should know about their game.

Google's stats for apps is useful for improving your game. Like, the demographic statistics reveal a category of people who aren't good friends with tech. Tracking a user's way inside an app is good for improving levels that are less popular, and measuring time users stay on certain pages even helps detect bugs, like impossible tasks that make people quit the game after trying to solve them.

Yevgen suggests starting from a local market - it's a better way to start growing fast. For example, Japan which is rapidly increasing the number of downloads and already has a huge market on the App Store.

It's best to monetize through in-app purchases. It brings multiple payments, while purchasing a game users pay just once. . 

Lecture 5. Kyrylo Klimakov, Nravo.

Bigger communities - bigger trouble, game features used in unexpected ways. Stay away from the game process when solving problems.

Kyrylo Klimakov has been in app support for 13 years, and just 1 in games. He admits that they're completely different.

Types of games in terms of support:

Player vs Environment: games like Angry Birds, Stalker, Diablo -  playing within a virtual world, no communication between players);
Player vs Player: people against each other, like in online games; 
Team vs Team: teams try to beat each other using game features in a way different from their initial functions;
World vs World: all kinds of MMOs, bigger teams use features in even more unexpected ways, there's "a hive mind" and more chaos. 50% people come here for communication. 

Conclusion: it's not always possible to limit people's behavior with rules. 
Bigger community - bigger trouble. 

You can either choose admins inside the game from dedicated players (for a small reward or some virtual bonuses) or hire people, this is how you indirectly influence the community. Though solving problems should be done without intruding in the game process — otherwise one of clans might accuse you of being unfair.


Since in big online MMOs there are clans, solving problems right in the game might bring accusations of being unfair to this or that side. 

The next section was dedicated to “mini-lectures” and presentation of investors like Renatus from Ukraine and Satus from Poland as well as the Opera Mobile platform currently aimed on CIS and Asia.

Video conference: Tadgh Kelly, TechCrunch contributor.
The epic quote of #gdlviv. Is it worth developing for Windows Phone? No.


Tadgh Kelly admitted: the iOS market is overcrowded and just-making-games won't work. Users, he says, aren't big explorers and usually don't read more than the first 25 positions. Targeting audience and marketing are your saviors.
Mr.Kelly also recommends small companies to start from smaller markets — the chances to meet people's demands are higher. 

And here goes the most epic thing of the whole L'viv Gamedev Conference.
The Q&A time was announced. One of the questions was whether Windows Mobile is worth developing for. Due to an internet connection bug Tadgh must have heard it with a delay and not too clear, so just answered: “No”. The question was repeated, just about Windows Phone — and the expert's reply was just the same. Because he thinks the new Windows isn't ready yet.

I couldn't help making this meme.
And yes I adore Grumpy Cat! :P

Game presentations. Word games go digital and an outsource work approved by the client.
3 developer teams were showing their newest creations to the judges: Taras Tarasov, Pavlo Pivtoranis and Maksym Hryniv. And then listened to the naked truth.

After the event I approached the guy in the red jacket with a pen, a notebook and with shaking legs. Max Hryniv is the developer of my fave game Contre Jour, and I asked him for an autograph.
Specially for this event I made a jewelry set with Petite, the character of the game. I felt honored - Maxym took a photo  of it!!!

 “Svalka” by Serhiy Tyatin resembles the  popular Scrabble board game. The developer explains: decided not to risk too much and used a known idea, was aiming on creating a HTML app entirely with his own skills, without graphics and for Odnoklassniki, because even bad games are played there.
Monetization goes through purchasing additional features.

 The judges found the game exciting, but pointed out some major flaws: lack of notifications, the necessity of waiting of another player's move and compatibility issues with mobile devices.
Decision: has the right to live, yet needs more work.

“WordCube” is another word game by Yuri Rifyak and Andriy Kovalyov. They call it “an out-of-wedlock child of Draw Something and Scrabble”. A multiplayer freemium app with monetization through selling hints.
 
As far as I remember, this guy has EXCELLENT English, I was impressed!

“Pulls Track” by Semen Frish is a Match 3 Flash game made upon order of the OKKO petrol company. “If Flash runs bad on iOS, you just don't know how to write in it properly” - Semen said. He's currently making the app suitable for Windows 8.

The experts seemed a bit confused with an outsource project and suggested improving the design. “Eyes entertain users a lot”, said Maksym Hryniv. Eventually all agreed that the main goal in this case has been completed: the client is satisfied.

In the meantime I was tweeting the tastiest things being spoken out and discussed… iPad died, switched to the laptop… Now you know why I like having both. 


Mini-lecture: Vitaly Zasadnyy, mobile developer, co-founder of L'viv's Google Developers Group.


Push notifications increase retention, people like to buy funny sounds and Cyrillic characters turn into mojibake.

Features of web platforms (compared to native ones):
 More retention comes after push notifications ("Hey man, come back, you're being beaten!");
 Funny sounds - people often buy stuff because it makes sounds;
 Images are stored in the phone - less loading required;
 Unique features: pull to refresh, swipe to open previous page - "though it's not for Nokia".

 Tips and tricks:
Better don't use a custom user agent, apply custom headers instead. 
Reduce the size of apps, optimize graphics. 
Don't use Cyrillic letters, wrong encoding will turn them into mojibake, while 86% users speak English.

Lecture 6. Igor Polyakov, CEO of Team Fifty Seven, a Polish lozalization studio.

Texts and voiceovers: improve or destroy your game. "Yo gangsta! Get ready to gang bang!"


Linguistic QA is not the same as proofreading. It's not a check of translation, but a test of the text within a game. Even technically correct translation might not suit the mood of the game or characters.

Native speakers are best for localization: they find the shortest synonyms, a word might have 3 letters in one language and 16 in another. Matters when adjusting graphics and text. These people are better with dialects and punctuation peculiarities, like “Hi!” in English and “Salut !” in French with a space before the exclamation mark.

A translator should keep a glossary for each game to call same items with the same word, especially when following parts of an initial game are released. Users get pissed off when they have to look for “a coil” when there's actually “a nail”.

A good company has a portfolio of accomplished tasks, has access to the latest versions of dictionaries of terms, like those of Apple, Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony,  and knows what it's really like to make and publish a game: that a missed deadline means loss of money. Working with a reliable company is a single spending, anyway smaller than what you'd pay for a test to fail because of awkward localization.

Choose the outsourcer to localize your game wisely, because you pay only once if it's done properly. A test you'll fail because of awful localization will cost you more than working with a good studio. 

Some  bad and funny examples:
Bust-a-Groove: "Yo gangsta! Get ready to gang bang!"
Metroid: "Destroy the mother brain the mechanical life vein"
Zero Wing: "All your base are belong to us."

The most sophisticated localization is transcreation - adjusting the creative side of the game to another language. Requires people with a wider range of skills - creative and social. 


Lecture 7. Andriy Tabachin, CTO at Nravo.

How a developer becomes a publisher. Or at least how the Nravo company did it. 
 The Nravo company now creates, publishes and supports games.

It all started from a hobby based on a childhood dream to make games, Andriy confesses. They chose a promising yet empty market, made the "Vikings" game, then "Heroes" based on the previous product. After this the meni.mobi catalogue and studio appeared. 2 more games — and the guys got absorbed. Within a year became publishers and investors, and grew to 70 people in 4 offices in Chicago, Kyiv, Moscow and L'viv. 10 mobile web MMO games are ready for now. 

 Aside from uniting people who play together, a game should provide full communication capabilities. Sociality of a game starts from proper communication inside the developers' team. 

In the beginning Nravo had 2 successful projects, 2 new unknown ones, and a team of 20 people.
Becoming a publisher brings independence from other companies, the possibility of promoting your new games through other successful projects and controlling the number of daily registrations. 

Their portal time2play.mobi has a single user profile for all games, single currency, integration with social networks, a platform for working with partners and an external API to support others' games. 

A company grows through localizing existing projects, looking for partners and other publishers, marketing and analyzing results. Like it happened with Heroes on mobile Facebook. Nevertheless, not without a fail - the game didn't work with iOS. 

 Difficulties.  Finding people - L'viv is "an outsourcer's heaven" - professionals are good in completing tasks but have no idea of how to do other things, finding a programmer who is also a producer is extremely hard. Balancing and supporting ready projects — how it turns out depends on the audience you don't really know. There's lots of paperwork needed and legal issues arising while working with partners.
"Make your own projects, sell them yourself" - Andriy Tabachyn's advice to start-ups who want to be publishers when they grow up. 

Panel discussion: people began playing just as 2 apes sat down together, 9 of 10 won't complete the project, restroom games and where money is. 

4 experts sat down to discuss something that might sound too general: modern gamedev. 

Taras Tarasov who has been in the industry since 1999, founded several companies and is now known as a successful consultant for various start-ups and companies, Pavlo Pivtoranis - one of the legends of L'viv's gamedev, Nravo's CTO Andriy Tabachin and Maksym Hryniv, the indie developer famous for Contre Jour and Huje Tower. 

People who say they don't play games don't tell the truth - the game for them hasn't been developed yet, people have been playing since the day 2 apes sat down together.  - Taras Tarasov

9 out of 10 won't finish their product, 9 of those who manage this will earn nothing on it. - Maksym Hryniv

Talking about markets and which one has money, Maksym Hryniv who already got some success and reward said that "money is not where everyone is looking for". Not on Kickstarter either. One has nothing to do there without a recognizable name. Social market is already overheated, only Zynga survived. Same is about to happen to mobile. 

"Overheated [market] doesn't mean non-available", Taras argued. "Depends on how deep you dig". He added that failures usually happen because of people's personal features. Making good games and doing business is different. Being a programmer is good in business, though you need to know what to program.

"The game designer who doesn't want to become a producer is a bad one. Don't make a cool game", Pavlo Pivtoranis advices. 

 Augmented reality is a nice toy, but unlikely to last for long: people don't like wearing additional devices, and the majority is too lazy for running around. Those who need adventures will find enough in reality. 

If there are several games of a certain kind, why should people play yours? Picking up popular game mechanics will only work if you have a carefully considered strategy.  - Maksym Hryniv.


But things are not bad nowadays- Taras Tarasov concluded.  “that this is the wonderful time when you can try anything, and it's cheap”.

In the end of my trip I tried. A lot of things. Climbing a monument, for instance. XD