Tiny Teams, Big Potential


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  • Tiny Teams, Big Potential

    1. 1. Tiny Teams, Big Potential<br />Creating Free-to-Play games for the mobile Internet<br />SF IGDA - April 21st, 2010<br />Matthew Roberts - Producer<br />James Marr - Engineer<br />
    2. 2. Founded Summer 2008<br />“Next generation mobile”<br />Developer and Publisher <br />First games: mix of small, medium and large puzzle, adventure, action titles<br />$0.99 -> $9.99<br />Today: mix of small, medium and large puzzle, adventure and action titles<br />Free-to-Play<br />
    3. 3. Why Mobile Games?<br />Forget about what used to be unpleasant about mobile games<br />Small Screens<br />Arcane technical architectures<br />Closed platforms, difficult carrier relationships<br />Lo-fi audience expectations<br />Costly network data plans<br />Restrictions in general<br />
    4. 4. Source: Morgan Stanley / Mary Meeker<br />http://gigaom.com/2010/04/12/mary-meeker-mobile-internet-will-soon-overtake-fixed-internet/<br />
    5. 5. New Mobile is not about phones, but rather Mobile Internet Devices<br />Innovative hardware meets unprecedented connectivity<br />Audience is growing quickly<br />Estimate: 80 million total iPhone OS devices <br />Mobile Safari: 64% of mobile browser traffic<br />iPhone users - 5x data usage of Blackberry users<br />27% of apps on App Store are Games or Entertainment<br />Viable, exciting audience for making fun, connected games!<br />http://news.cnet.com/8301-13506_3-10362544-17.html<br />http://148apps.biz/app-store-metrics/?mpage=catcount<br />http://techcrunch.com/2010/04/20/apple-by-the-numbers-iphone-sales-more-than-double-mac-holds-up/<br />http://www.webdevelopersnotes.com/articles/mobile-web-browser-usage-statistics.php<br />
    6. 6. Behold, the rise of the Microstudio!<br />HandCircus (Rolando + Rolando2)<br />Stumptown Game Machine (Touch Pets Dogs)<br />Miraphonic (Epic Pet Wars)<br />Wonderland (Godfinger)<br />Newtoy (We Rule)<br />Ngmoco internal (Eliminate)<br />
    7. 7. What is an ngmoco project team?<br />Internal Teams or Partner studio teams<br />Internal ngmoco resources attach to external studio teams for key competencies<br />Production, engineering, design<br />Shared groups across projects<br />QA, IT / operations, Plus+<br />Challenge is sharing resources and time<br />Small – 4 to 5 people in core team, max<br />
    8. 8. The Art of the Small Team<br />Cross functional roles<br />Quick iteration<br />Work in software<br />Simple pipelines<br />FOSS<br />Outsourcing<br />Direct relationship with players<br />No egos, Minimal bullshit<br />
    9. 9. Use the Correct Tool<br />Schedules are too short to reinvent wheel<br />Build only what is necessary<br />FOSS, licensed technology<br />Need exceptional generalists to quickly evaluate options and select best tech<br />Our engines and tools use:<br />Cocos2D, Box2D, Quake3, Flash, Lua, Python, WebKit, PHP, etc<br />
    10. 10. Game Engines<br />No unified, company wide game engine<br />Every game engine is “one off”<br />Shared, isolated libraries like Fonts and Sounds<br />External teams…<br />Often bring their own tech<br />Would have long spinup on unified engine<br />Want to do things we haven’t thought of yet<br />Disparate game types, developed in parallel, would require a large shared tech team<br />
    11. 11. Star Defense vs. Rolando 2<br />
    12. 12. Touch Pets vs. Eliminate<br />
    13. 13. We Rule vs. Godfinger<br />
    14. 14. Fun Prototypes<br />More focus on “Feel” than on other platforms<br />Sprint to first prototype to validate concept<br />Iterate around the fun<br />Start over if it sucks<br />Schedule is short, so will ship prototype<br />Pile on the hacks to make deadline<br />Cleanup in patches to facilitate new features<br />
    15. 15. Why Free, why Online?<br />Why Free to play?<br />Cast a wide net<br />Reduce marketing expenses<br />Combat Piracy<br />“Premium” priced titles difficult to sustain popularity<br />
    16. 16. Average paid app prices in Top 100<br />
    17. 17. Free to play essentials<br />Retaining an audience<br />Need a durable core design with broad appeal<br />Making money...<br />Virtual goods<br />Virtual “currency” or regulating statistic<br />Try, then buy<br />Advertising<br />User to user referrals<br />Reduce friction for users to tell others<br />
    18. 18. Building the Servers<br />Servers are as hard, if not harder, than client<br />Engineers evenly divided<br />Building a infrastructure to scale is hard, expensive and will break your heart<br />Load testing tools are essential<br />Well known FOOS platforms are a win<br />Apache, Nginx, Munin, RoR, PHP, XMPP, etc.<br />The cloud is your friend<br />About 4X difference between peak and valley<br />
    19. 19. Hardware Ownership vs. Cloud<br />
    20. 20. Hardware Ownership vs. Cloud<br />You Paid for 4.2 Machines<br />
    21. 21. Hardware Ownership vs. Cloud<br />You Paid for 2.6 Machines<br />vs. 4.2 Machines if you owned it <br />
    22. 22. Data Driven Platforms<br />Small gameplay tweak = big usage change<br />Price of items, recharge timers, etc.<br />Long latency to update application binaries<br />Everything configurable by the servers<br />Build tools to manage the configuration<br />
    23. 23. What we’ve learned about Free, Service-based Games<br />Free to play games can be GOOD games<br />Good monetization design requires exceptional creative thinking<br />Cutting edge design thought is valuable, evolving specialty<br />Live, free games change designer responsibilities, required skills<br />Can extend the life of your product<br />Audience demands it<br />Audience will pay with right design<br />Audience is (often) forgiving<br />
    24. 24. Thanks!<br />Matt Roberts<br />matt@ngmoco.com<br />@matthewjroberts<br />James Marr<br />jmarr@ngmoco.com<br />