Game Development during COVID-19 situation

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Hello my friends!

Given the times ahead of all of us, we’ve decided to write a blog post about remote game development, something that in the next months (or years?) will be necessary for all studios. Our team has always worked succesfully in remote during the last 10 years, so probably we have a tip or 2 for you.

We hope that this post will be useful for all the teams that are approaching this new kind of internal reorganization. our team is rather small (composed by 7 developers: 2 programmers, 1 game designer, 1 sound designer, 1 2D artist and 2 3D modellers), but I think this method can be applied even to larger teams of 20 or more.

Here are the 10 suggestions for Smart Working in game development:

1) PERIODIC REMOTE MEETINGS:

Communication is obviously a must, and it’s something that has to be done in all forms: Email, Chat, Voice Chat and Video Chat are all essentials.
Here some of the best softwares that we use for this:

Skype (mainly for chatting and voice)
Discord (for chatting)
Zoom (for video conferences)
Slack (for chat with the whole team and team groups)

The project manager must ensure that everyone is updated on the game: is the key figure that must communicate continuously with everyone.

It’s important to communicate only the essentials during working hours in order not to make time wasted for every team member.
1 Voice chat with the whole team every 1 or 2 days is the right choice in order to keep everyone updated on the game project.

Teamwork Online: The ultimate guide to high performance remote teams

2) TASK TRACKING

the second most important thing is to keep track of everything that has been done by every team member. Depending on the team size I would suggest the following softwares:

Trello (for smaller teams from 2 to 10)
Jira (for larger teams from 10 to 50)
Monday (for large teams from 50 to 100)

The most important thing is to add deadlines other that tasks for every team member.
Also I would suggest to add dependencies in order to keep track of what is best to give priority to: you have to avoid the case in which a team member has to wait for another to complete his task.

Create A Board | Getting Started with Trello

3) USE OF REPOSITORY

The use of repository is something that needs to be done always and is useful so that every team member can access the project and add his assets.
Here some of the best softwares for this:

SourceTree

GitHub

Bitbucket

Perforce

We mainly use SourceTree, but since it’s not meant for game development, it sometime has problems due to conflicting branches and files size.
Probably with larger teams and projects, the best software to use is Perforce.

If a team member does not know how to use it well enough, or does not know the game engine, is always better to make him send his asset files to a specialized team member: he’ll be able to integrate with more efficiency the assets, without the risk to break the whole project.

Sourcetree | Free Git GUI for Mac and Windows

4) FREQUENT FEEDBACK

Frequent and clear feedback from team member supervisors are indeed important, and must continue throughout the whole day.
When working remotely, you do tend to work in a bit of a vacuum and it can feel like you have no idea whether you are doing a good job or not, unless you get lots of feedback.

Feedback can be provided directly with screens or mini videos that can help to understand what is the actual feedback referring to.

A useful software is Teamviewer, used to control directly a computer from another: we use it internally even when two programmers need to work on the same script file.

Bridging the Gap with Remote Team Collaboration | Cheesecake Labs

5) ORGANIZED DOCUMENTATION

Documentation is important to be clear and precise, you can’t afford to have docs that are not understandable by the whole team.
If this occurs, the project manager should improve the documentation or even rewrite it completely.

This includes both technical documentation, game design documentation and assets documentation.

The reality is that the single developer is going to make a lot of decisions in a vacuum without feedback most of the time, so having as much background as they can is necessary so that the decisions he takes are fairly good.
Be sure that everyone is using the same software for writing documentation (Word and OpenOffice are the most common ones) since passing files from one user to another could create problems.

Writing documentation through cloud services is probably the best way to avoid any kind of problem: we usually use Google Docs since it includes even sheets and files for presentations. Everyone can edit the same file online in real time.

HR Documentation: A Step-By-Step Guide - Insperity

6) RESPECT THE WORKING HOURS

It’s easy to be distracted when you work at home, but is fundamental not to lose time or even work outside working hours.

Since you have your laptop at every hour of the day, it’s possible that you’ll sometimes work extra hours, but we would recommend not to do this: a lot of scientific papers found out that working too much hours without the right balance will inevitably cause a long-term lowering of productivity.

At the same time is easy to lose concentration due to the household chores you have to do: you have to find a room in your house that is sufficiently isolated in order to avoid this.

Typing jobs! Work at home and get paid - create a side job and ...

7) KEEP MORALE HIGH

Be distracted is as easy as losing the morale for a team member.
Working remotely is never easy, so try not to be too pretentious with your team members: since you’re always distant, is easy to be offended or misunderstood.

You can try to use extra hours for external team activities like playing an online videogame! This can definitely improve team bonding.

Motivating Your Team: How to keep morale high | Udemy

8) KEEP TRACK OF YOUR GAME DESIGN DOCUMENT

You probably have a Game Design Document for your game, and everyone needs to follow it as much as possible.

One suggestion we have, is to write more than one GDD: in addition to the in-depth and long main document, other shorter and more concise docs needs to be written in order for every team member to easily access it.

The shorter docs could even be ad hoc for every team group (one for sound designers, one for 3D modelers etc).

Use always Google Docs so that everyone can easily access them without the need to download large files.

Professional Game Design Document by lhodgesdesign - issuu

9) MARKETING YOUR GAME

Don’t forget to continue to market your game!
Even if you can’t attend anymore to gaming events and conferences, this doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to reach millions of gamers.

Online social marketing is today probably the most efficient way to present your game to the public in relation to visibility and earnings.

Social media campaigns on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google Ads, Reddit and Linkedin are probably the most efficient ones.
So keeping your gamers updated and engaged on your games even in these difficult times is the key.

5 Tips for DIY Mobile Game Marketers - Chartboost

10) PERIODIC REAL LIFE MEETINGS

This is something that I would suggest in normal times, but of course is starting to be almost impossible to meet your team in real life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The real life meetings are essential and we think needs to be done at least one every two weeks:
This helps to focus on the game direction and even to strengthen team union.

If real life reunions are impossible, we would suggest to at least make a video conference call using Skype or Zoom.

Illustration Meeting by ziunnnlai on Dribbble

11) FIND THE BEST WORKPLACE

It wouldn’t be a game development guide if it didn’t have some extra content 🙂

One last suggestion is to find your best workplace at home: if you have a notebook, you can work almost everywhere and will be tempted to work in the most unimaginable places (on your sofa or the toilet for example), but we would suggest to find the place where you will have in the most correct posture.

Your back will thank!

work from home illustration by Sanket on Dribbble

Here you can find other useful articles about remote development:

Written by Jake Simpson:
Working Remotely: Yes, It Sounds Good, But How Do You Actually Do It?

Written by Robert DellaFave:
Working Remotely: Managing an Independent Game Development Team

Writte by Daniel Doan:
GameDev Thoughts: How To Manage A Remote Game Development Team

5 Years on Steam — Sales Analysis

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Hello my friends!
In this post I would like to talk about sales and marketing analysis on Steam during a period starting from 2014 to 2019.

I think a lot of game developers could benefit from this analysis to understand how the market has changed and if it’s really more difficult today to be able to sell your game to the mass.

Sales Chart Analysis

I’ll start by sharing this sales chart of all our games starting from June 2014 to September 2019 (5 years)

Orange is the number of copies sold, blue is the effective revenue in $

Woodle Tree Adventures has been our first game released in 2014. As you can see, even if there were few games on Steam (less than 4.000), the game didn’t sell a lot of copies during the first release days. (today there are 30.000 total games on Steam).

At that time the game has been approved with Greenlight, while today there is a faster way usingSteam Directto publish your game.

During 2015 we released a lot of other experimental games (The Deer, Heaven Island VR MMO, Heaven Forest VR MMO and more).
These games did perform nicely with thousands of copies sold during the first days, but it wasn’t constant through time, so in the long term didn’t continue to sell well as you can see from the sales chart.

In 2016 we released the sequel (Woodle Tree 2: Worlds) that did perform well, but not like the first game, probably due to many games released on the store too.

In 2017 the number of games on Steam tripled, so we feared that our new game would not perform well, but we were wrong.
In July 2017Suicide Guy has been released and during the first week the revenues surpassed the ones from all our past games combined.
As you can see from the chart, sales did not stop and continued thanks to the fact that we continued to update the game with new levels and improvements (for example Christmas and Halloween themes levels)

In 2018 we released a new chapter of the game called Suicide Guy: Sleepin’ Deeply that performed pretty well even though the games on Steam doubled once again (with almost 30.000 games total).
During these years we continued to expand and update our most successfull games: this helped to maintain sales constant through the time without releasing new games.

In 2019 we’re still updating our past games (Suicide Guy and its expansions) while working on new bigger projects. I’ll update the post when the new games will launch!

Has the Steam Market changed?

Yes of course, but I think is still possibile to sell well on this platform.
A key factor is to create an original game and continue to update it even after the release date.

You really need to keep the game up to date and keep asking players for feedbacks: this is an approach that we’re using right now even for our console games (Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox One).

This not only keeps the sales stable through time, but helps you create a more profound bound with your fans. (after all it thanks to them if we can keep making games!)

Considerations

As a final consideration I would like to say to all the developers to not be afraid by the numbers of games released every year on Steam.
I have read a lot of articles on various gaming websites alarming all the developers, but If you really have an original idea and have enough game development experience to create a full game from start to finish, then you just need to focus on your game only.

Of course is still possibile (as it was before) that a game does not sell well: afterall there are a ton of different variables that could make a game sell poorly, but you need to keep that as an experience for your next game.

Thanks for reading!
I’ll continue to udpate this post too, if you have feedbacks let me know at fabio@chubbypixel.com

Woodle Tree 2: Deluxe now available for Nintendo Switch! – And Upcoming Free DLC

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Hello my friends!
We’re glad to announce that Woodle Tree 2: Deluxe is now available for Nintendo Switch!
https://www.nintendo.co.uk/Games/Nintendo-Switch-download-software/Woodle-Tree-2-Deluxe-1607727.html

This is an improved version of the 2016 game released on Steam Only.
Moreover a new DLC is coming next week with a ton of new challenges and levels!

Stay tuned 🙂

Woodle Tree 2: Development Blog

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Hello!
In this post I would like to talk to you about our next project in development for
Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 “Woodle Tree 2: Deluxe”.

Provisory logo

This is actually a remake of a game released in 2016 on Steam called “Woodle Tree 2: Worlds” (link)

The game was pretty successful at his time with over 20.000 copies sold, but we were not able to include all the concepts and mechanics we wanted due to time and budget limit.

Woodle Tree 2: Deluxe first screenshot!


Thanks to the great success of other games we’ve release in last years (like Suicide Guy and more) we now have the budget to be able to create even a greater title!

We started the development of this new version in June 2018, trying to adapt the whole game to Nintendo Switch.
Since it’s an open world platformer, the effort has been huge considering the limited hardware and the fact that our target was to achieve 60 fps.

Here a glimps of the map of the whole game, comprehending over 9 levels + new different platforming areas:

Concept of the World map in Woodle Tree 2: Deluxe

The remake we’re trying to achieve will comprehend a total redesign with new levels, characters, new cutscenes, improved game mechanics and much more.

We really hope you’ll appreciate the effort!

We’ve already started to advertise the game with a huge feedback from fans https://www.reddit.com/r/nintendo/comments/aftp39/our_new_game_woodle_2_coming_to_nintendo_switch/

This is very useful since we’re still gathering feedback from players, and the game is far from finished.


The game will be released in 2019, I’ll soon update this post informing you on all the new things we’re adding to the game!

New Intro menu

Here meanwhile some cool concepts from new characters and items!