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Tiny Teams, Big Potential

Tiny Teams, Big Potential






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Tiny Teams, Big Potential Tiny Teams, Big Potential Presentation Transcript

  • Tiny Teams, Big Potential
    Creating Free-to-Play games for the mobile Internet
    SF IGDA - April 21st, 2010
    Matthew Roberts - Producer
    James Marr - Engineer
  • Founded Summer 2008
    “Next generation mobile”
    Developer and Publisher
    First games: mix of small, medium and large puzzle, adventure, action titles
    $0.99 -> $9.99
    Today: mix of small, medium and large puzzle, adventure and action titles
  • Why Mobile Games?
    Forget about what used to be unpleasant about mobile games
    Small Screens
    Arcane technical architectures
    Closed platforms, difficult carrier relationships
    Lo-fi audience expectations
    Costly network data plans
    Restrictions in general
  • Source: Morgan Stanley / Mary Meeker
  • New Mobile is not about phones, but rather Mobile Internet Devices
    Innovative hardware meets unprecedented connectivity
    Audience is growing quickly
    Estimate: 80 million total iPhone OS devices
    Mobile Safari: 64% of mobile browser traffic
    iPhone users - 5x data usage of Blackberry users
    27% of apps on App Store are Games or Entertainment
    Viable, exciting audience for making fun, connected games!
  • Behold, the rise of the Microstudio!
    HandCircus (Rolando + Rolando2)
    Stumptown Game Machine (Touch Pets Dogs)
    Miraphonic (Epic Pet Wars)
    Wonderland (Godfinger)
    Newtoy (We Rule)
    Ngmoco internal (Eliminate)
  • What is an ngmoco project team?
    Internal Teams or Partner studio teams
    Internal ngmoco resources attach to external studio teams for key competencies
    Production, engineering, design
    Shared groups across projects
    QA, IT / operations, Plus+
    Challenge is sharing resources and time
    Small – 4 to 5 people in core team, max
  • The Art of the Small Team
    Cross functional roles
    Quick iteration
    Work in software
    Simple pipelines
    Direct relationship with players
    No egos, Minimal bullshit
  • Use the Correct Tool
    Schedules are too short to reinvent wheel
    Build only what is necessary
    FOSS, licensed technology
    Need exceptional generalists to quickly evaluate options and select best tech
    Our engines and tools use:
    Cocos2D, Box2D, Quake3, Flash, Lua, Python, WebKit, PHP, etc
  • Game Engines
    No unified, company wide game engine
    Every game engine is “one off”
    Shared, isolated libraries like Fonts and Sounds
    External teams…
    Often bring their own tech
    Would have long spinup on unified engine
    Want to do things we haven’t thought of yet
    Disparate game types, developed in parallel, would require a large shared tech team
  • Star Defense vs. Rolando 2
  • Touch Pets vs. Eliminate
  • We Rule vs. Godfinger
  • Fun Prototypes
    More focus on “Feel” than on other platforms
    Sprint to first prototype to validate concept
    Iterate around the fun
    Start over if it sucks
    Schedule is short, so will ship prototype
    Pile on the hacks to make deadline
    Cleanup in patches to facilitate new features
  • Why Free, why Online?
    Why Free to play?
    Cast a wide net
    Reduce marketing expenses
    Combat Piracy
    “Premium” priced titles difficult to sustain popularity
  • Average paid app prices in Top 100
  • Free to play essentials
    Retaining an audience
    Need a durable core design with broad appeal
    Making money...
    Virtual goods
    Virtual “currency” or regulating statistic
    Try, then buy
    User to user referrals
    Reduce friction for users to tell others
  • Building the Servers
    Servers are as hard, if not harder, than client
    Engineers evenly divided
    Building a infrastructure to scale is hard, expensive and will break your heart
    Load testing tools are essential
    Well known FOOS platforms are a win
    Apache, Nginx, Munin, RoR, PHP, XMPP, etc.
    The cloud is your friend
    About 4X difference between peak and valley
  • Hardware Ownership vs. Cloud
  • Hardware Ownership vs. Cloud
    You Paid for 4.2 Machines
  • Hardware Ownership vs. Cloud
    You Paid for 2.6 Machines
    vs. 4.2 Machines if you owned it
  • Data Driven Platforms
    Small gameplay tweak = big usage change
    Price of items, recharge timers, etc.
    Long latency to update application binaries
    Everything configurable by the servers
    Build tools to manage the configuration
  • What we’ve learned about Free, Service-based Games
    Free to play games can be GOOD games
    Good monetization design requires exceptional creative thinking
    Cutting edge design thought is valuable, evolving specialty
    Live, free games change designer responsibilities, required skills
    Can extend the life of your product
    Audience demands it
    Audience will pay with right design
    Audience is (often) forgiving
  • Thanks!
    Matt Roberts
    James Marr