Noriyaka Kobayashi’s talk on GREE.

Quite a busy week for Verne.

Continuing where Verne left off for the Philippine Game Development Festival 2011, schedules were quite delayed by an hour. When Verne arrived at the theater to listen to Boomzap‘s Allen Simonsen’s keynote entitled “Find a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in life,’ it was already ending which meant the only thing Verne remembers as he entered the theater was the jump made from the stage to the ground. lol. Now that’s sad. Verne kinda figured that he was going to go to see Paraluman Cruz’s (Luna) – Boomzap Method Game Design Track beforehand to learn more about how they do things so…Verne just assumed maybe he’ll sit in lol.

Image representing GREE as depicted in CrunchBase

"Making the world a better place through the power of the internet."

Anyways, next up was GREE. Introduced was their Head of Business Development for the Asia Pacific Region, Noriyaka Kobayashi. His topic was about the current position of social and mobile game in Asia. Not a lot of people will hear about GREE – It’s actually a social networking service that’s purely devoted to mobile gaming, making money through the sale of virtual items. That concept sounds all too familiar. Personally Verne is not a fan of mobile gaming.

The talk consisted of a short graph indicating the growth of mobile users in the next year at the same time, it felt like an opportunity for introduction of the company to the developers who were present.

GREE is owned by Asia’s youngest billionaire (age 34) as declared by Forbes Magazine – Yoshikazu Tanaka, who claims that this started out as a hobby. Here’s a short video of his interview.

What’s Farmville? lol. Verne notices that Japanese never really think about the competition or maybe they’re just pretending not to.

In Japan alone, they have a 26 million subscriber base. With the acquisition of Openfeint, they intend to go global and expand to different markets,  establishing offices in strategic locations like Singapore, UK, and possibly considering Manila (who knows?). Openfeint has around 140 millions subscribers and GREE’s vision – which was repeated numerous times in the presentation – was to reach 1 billion subscribers.

Aside from developing thier own games, this gaming platform is tied up with Capcom, Konami, Sega, Taito, and Square Enix. Personally, their games are unheard of – save for EA’s FIFA 10 which was a recent collaboration – unless you reside in Japan.

During the presentation, Kobayashi somewhat compared GREE to Facebook and Zynga. Is this to directly compete with Facebook mobile? Hmm.

Strangely, no mention of DeNA‘s Mobage – the other social mobile giant that seems to be their direct competitor. DeNA’s buy-out of ngmoco is part of their quest of global expansion. Is their purchase of Openfeint – their response to this acquisition? Was tempted to raise his hand and ask that during the Q and A.

Here’s my link to the video.   Instead of giving you the lengthy 20 minute video (unless someone requests for it), Verne will let you read a few articles from TechCrunch.

GREE’s challenge to Zynga along with a preview of some of their games – http://techcrunch.com/2011/12/06/japans-gree-to-challenge-facebook-and-zynga-as-global-social-gaming-platform-in-2012/

The other competitor. DeNA’s Mobage – http://techcrunch.com/2011/07/27/dena-and-ngmoco-launch-mobile-social-gaming-platform-mobage-worldwide/

I guess a question that comes to mind would be “Their games are doing well enough in their own market. How would these same games fare out there and which developers will tap this platform?”

Reminds me of a story Verne heard once – that there was this developer from Bioware or some other game developer who came in to meet with some Japanese game company. When this developer came in, the Japanese employees were in awe but when him or his game was presented  to the CEO. CEO didn’t like or rejected the game – not really too familiar with what happened.

This for me is an example of how games from other countries tap each other’s markets. i.e. GREE games sold to the global market, or some developer trying to enter the Japanese market.

You may have a good game but if it doesn’t appeal or it’s not marketed properly to the Japanese or to another market.  That’s a need that has to be addressed. Both GREE and Mobage are making strides in terms of partnerships with  companies in other countries in order to cement their position moving forward. It’s going to be interesting to see how they can change the landscape in six months. So until then – all we can do is wait.  Part Four – wonder when I’m going to finish this.

Update: Facebook has recently acquired four mobile companies in anticipation of this move. Hohoho.

Verne

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Game Development for Small Teams – Philippine Game Development Festival ’11 Takeaways Part 2

The Second Track Verne went to was about “Game Development for Small Teams.” It consisted of a four man team from Nexus Pixels (nexuspixels.com) who created this game called “Pacifica Online.” Donnie Gianchand took the floor. These guys self-studied on their asses to get the game up. Pretty cool.

They introduced a number of Open Source software which literally cost them nothing. Blender (3D), Gimp (Graphics Software), Haxe (Programming Interface for Flash Clients) and my personal favorite. LMMS (a Digital Audio Workstation – there goes FL) – downloading each is around 20 MB. Not too shabby. The only amount they spent was probably their Security and Exchanges Commission Registration and probably hardware.

A list of the software they used to produce can be found here.

http://nexuspixels.com/about.php

To get data organized before starting the game, they “mindmap.” If you’re not too familiar what a mind map is, I’ll help you out with an article from Lifehacker.

http://lifehacker.com/398476/boost-your-brainstorming-session-with-mindmeister

In Nexus Pixels case, their main idea is to make a “game.”  Then you ask yourself and define the needs which would connect to your main idea.

What kind of game should it be?  a Shooter? an RPG?  Ok RPG, What kind of RPG would it be? an MMORPG?

What kind of story? Who makes it? Is it a love story? Is it done by a writer?

What kind of programmers/developers does it require? Flash? C++?

What kind of software would you be using?  2D ? 3D?

What kind of graphics and design are you going for? and so on and so forth until you figure out your game’s needs. Tweaking the game will follow afterwards.

—————————————————————————————————————————————-

To start a team for game development, you need the following:

- programming (tools and programmer)

- 2d/3d software (concept artist, 3d)

- music composition software (for background music and effects)

- design (preferably a designer who has played a lot of games)

- and probably a wide imagination with the ability to learn to innovate.

They incorporate ideas from other games as well as  games you play during your childhood like “Tag. (You’re it.)”  which is done in real time.

These guys are straying away from the norm by not charging on a subscription or an item mall basis. Their game monetization relies more on Google Adsense and Advertisers who’d like to advertise on their page/site.

According to them, their growth was based on the share of friends of friends in Facebook – which is something that Zynga does. 20,000 active users in a month. 600 online on a day.

Verne’s Verdict on Nexus Pixels: Verne heard about Gimp and Blender from a few designers Verne knows.  My eye sparkled though because Verne was not expecting to see a DAW for this whole day. Interesting point of view of doing things as a startup. I think they’re planning to cross-over platforms by enabling the game to be played on mobile. Currently, you can play the game on Android only if the mobile phone has Flash in it.

Edit: Here’s a short random video of their discussion.

This isn’t over. Verne will take a break from writing and he’s still got more to come.

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Emotional Engineering – Philippine Game Development Festival ’11 Takeaways Part 1

GDAP Festival 2011 Auditorium

5th Floor Theater at DLSU College of Saint Benilde. Image courtesy of GDAP (Facebook)

Verne was considering to study something related to game production next year and he needed a push to convince himself to do it. What do you know?  It came in the form of dinner. I just love discovering ideas out of nowhere.

The previous evening at Bon Chon, a graphic designer by the name of “Princess” informed that there was a game development festival that will be held at the College of Saint Benilde tomorrow. Verne decided he needed to kill time on Saturday and hence, walked in and got the all access pass.

Verne was fashionably late to listen to the first two keynotes but was just in time for the start of the Game Development and Design Tracks. Wasn’t really interested in listening to Generation Klik and Design Council of the Philippines anyways.

Four tracks at four different rooms start simultaneously. You got programming, game design, game art, and production. Verne chose to focus more on game design and production.

First on the list was Engineering Emotion – Weaving psychology into games – courtesy of Elendil Canete (@ravenwolfshin). He describes Emotional Engineering like this ~

- Emotional Engineering is a psychology, a life changing experience.

- What does a user feel when he plays the game? Does he feel as if he is the character himself? There needs to be a chemisty between the characters and the player – like an attachment of the player to the character.

- A game has to be remembered! – this opens avenues for a sequel.

The advantages of emotional engineering are:

- it’s cost effective

- provides a memorable experience – something vibrant and thought-invoking

- focuses on core gameplay – which is defined as the icing on a cake. Mario in Super Mario won’t be cool enough if he simply was Mario. That’s why you give him the ability to get powerups (like the mushroom, the star and the flower) to make the game more interesting.

- strong user feedback

Emotional Engineering applies to narrative, visuals, audio, and game mechanics. Spoilers included.

In terms of narrative, there needs to be a part of the game that is thought-invoking and a compelling conclusion to the tale.

Case Study: “Dead Space 2” – Ending.

In terms of game mechanics, you make the player commit to your game through rewards and consequences. Make them pick a choice.

Case Study: Irrational/2k’s “Bioshock”

In terms of visuals, they have to be breathtaking. The usage of colors. Character presentation where a person’s alignment changes. Orcs were given a good alignment in Warcraft 3 even though they’re usually represented as evil.

Case Study: Pandemic: The Saboteur

In terms of audio, sounds are needed to set the mood or convey emotion better.

Case Study: Konami‘s Silent Hill. Highlight: The Radio feature.

In a nutshell, Emotional Engineering in games would be – “The best games out there are those you can still feel – long after the console is off.”

Overall Winner : Metal Gear Solid 3 .

Verne’s verdict : Loved the insights, theories and the case studies. Verne can tell he does play a lot of games. A lot of recent ones that I need to catch up – probably through Youtube lol. He will now stop here because he feels sleepy. Part 2 coming in a few hours.

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Verne