Game Think 2.0 - How Not To Make A Game by Brian Baglow

A reflective analysis of a talk made by Brian Baglow during Game Think 2.0 about how not to run a game studio.

Hey everyone,

So today I wanted to give my thoughts on a recent talk Brian Baglow gave during the Game Think 2.0 event at the University of Glasgow.

For those who don’t know Brian Baglow runs the Scottish Games Network, which is a company specifically made to bring game industry companies together to form better network connections, as well as holding the producer position in several game companies in the past.

Game Think is an annual event held in Glasgow with several guest speakers from education to professionals, discussing features of our industry and how we can help push forward any positive changes.

All that said let’s get into the talk Brian gave titled “How Not To Make A Game” during this presentation Brian lists 15 key things that any developer from multinational to a startup may just be doing wrong. I wanted to go through this presentation point by point and give my own personal views on the topic.

Before we get into that I want to point out that the numbers will be out of order. This is the way that Brian presented his list because he decided to reorder the importance of the list before attending the presentation. You can check out his full talk on YouTube at this link here:

Disclaimer out of the way let’s start with the obvious.

No.1 - You know what makes a good game

Brian uses Candy Crush to make his point here. Some people would say “No that’s an awful example of a game” but that is exactly Brian’s point. It is actually quite idiotic to assume that it is a bad game just because you have your grievances with it. However, check the downloads and the revenue generated from that game and then tell me it’s a bad game. It may not have great gameplay or an enthralling narrative, but it is still more successful than most games put onto the app store that you may think are great games but are in fact either not, or just poorly marketed, which leads me nicely onto…

No.6 Your job is to MAKE THE GAME
Some developers may come out of University expecting to just start up their own studio and start making games. Very wrong, there is in fact so much more to game development than a recent graduate may think; what will your incorporated status be, what’s your business plan, who will run the social media, what will your professional tone be like, how will you get your game noticed. These are all questions that need to be answered and like Brian said “it’s the poor sod who was at the bar getting the drinks when you decided you were a games company” who will be left with those tasks.

No. 13 Release = Success
These same recent graduate may also think that getting the game onto the market is all it takes. Once it’s there people will play it, the old “build it and they will come” arguement. Well sorry to tell you but you’re not Noah and “they” are not animals that will just walk onto your ship. You have to actively seek out your audience, you need to market your game via social media and really get the buzz out there. Talk to some game publications about your project before it comes out, try build up the hype then release with a flurry of blogs, tweets, instagrams covering as much of the internet as you can with your game.

No. 4 Grim acceptance of your business model
“Free to play is breaking the industry” this statement is said everywhere by almost all gamers, while game companies do nothing to change how the Free to play market is seen. Just because the paradigm exists doesn’t mean you have to stick to it. The game industry is about innovation so.. Innovate. Take us for example, we don’t like the current version of the “freemium” model so we have designed a method of monetisation with ads that are non-intrusive and microtransactions that are fair and not required to enjoy the experience. If you don’t like how something is, change it.

No.2 Thinking you’re a ‘game developer’
What are your skills - to develop games? No. You are a programmer, or an artist, or a musician, or a designer. These are skills that can be used in several jobs you just have to apply yourself in a different light. You can get contract work for your company that may be doing something outside game development, maybe website or app development. You should also pay attention to all aspects of your company; how is your website, social media presence or your own business network.

No. 3 Your choice of platform
You can choose a platform beyond the norm, if you must, but choose wisely. iOS may have the better market but it is also full of competition. Android may be cheaper to develop for but it also have a hefty piracy issue. Steam has it’s benefits but is even harder to be noticed, even with Greenlight.

No. 14 Game development is ‘different’
Can anyone tell the difference between a game development studio and a tech startup when looking at these images.

You can? Well that’s strange because they are both tech startups neither is a game studio. Both tech companies and game companies work is similar ways we both; dress casual, collaborate with team members, work in a tight office environment. So how exactly is the game industry different?

No. 7 Treating your audience as a single entity
As Brian says “if you have done any research into games at all you will be aware that there are many types of different players” you shouldn’t assume your entire market fits into a single entity; RPG players, social gamers. Strategic gamers. This isn’t how it works, it is better to create a wide margin of gamer types that may fit your project. Create personas of gamers and analyse what they may or may not like about your game.

No. 5 You know what your players want
No you don’t. This goes back to what the above statement says, there are no single groups and you don’t know better than the entire gamer marketplace. They know what they want, your job is to try find out what that is. The point Brian makes during this section is the lack of change with some pivotal points of the games industry like the “lives” system still exists in some modern games, even though it was only made to make people spend more during the arcade days. Why not innovate? Try something new to get the players attention.

No. 10 Your job ends when the game is released
HA! If only, not only do you need to worry about the marketing post release but also you never know how long a game will need to be supported. What if your game takes off and is still gaining users after 2,3 or 5 years? Are you still going to support it then?

No. 8 Ignoring analytics
I’m not wasting my time on this part, if you don’t check your analytics you are quite moronic. It gives you so much information on the game and helps you better the experience for everyone, including you. Like Brian says if you are not checking your analytics “you are not going to be around for long.”

No. 9 ignoring reality/evolution of the medium
Games industry changes over time and we should all be used to this now, adaptation is the pinnacle of our industry and we must change with the evolution or we will be left behind. I have heard “(insert innovation here) is killing the games industry” so many times in my life. The games industry is still here, and is in fact growing very quickly. Mobile isn’t killing it, VR isn’t killing it and the next innovation isn’t going to kill it either.

No. 11 you work in the games industry
No. “you work in the entertainment industry” as Brian says. You can work with people outside your industry and create projects that may be seen as “games” or may not. Take any opportunity to network with people in and out of the game industry as you never know who might need some app, game or website developed.

No. 12 If anyone find out about your game before it’s finished they’ll steal your idea and immediately pirate it
I’ll admit, Late Panda really suffered from this viewpoint for some time before we decided to start talking about Skorian Tales. We firmly believed that telling anyone about the project would make they steal it but like Brian says ”if your concept is good enough to be pirated then you are very lucky” game companies suffer from obscurity more than piracy, it is better to be noticed that sell your idea.

No. 15 Thinking about revenue streams, business models or sustainability makes you a sell out.
Unless you want to make games in your spare time in a garage for the rest of your life, this is stupid. All game studios will need some form of revenue to support themselves long into the next game and the next and the next. So you shouldn’t feel guilty for creating something that will generate revenue or thinking ahead while development. Any developer worth their salt will not tell you off for suggesting a new method of monetisation during the meeting.  

Before I finish off I want to mention a few things Brian said during the talk. Near the start he says that there were over 100 games companies in Scotland last year, now 25 are gone. This is most likely due to at least one of the above misunderstandings of the industry so don’t make the same mistakes. He also said “I’ve got about 15 minutes a week that i can sit down and relax and play something… where are the game companies that cater to that kind of market” to this I respond, keep your eye on Skorian Tales Brian. Finally the “Ironic Hat” joke, I wonder why that bugged me so much.

Brian finishes his talk with an elegant “all i'm begging you guys is to not get caught up in the status quo, and think that games are the way games are because that's where the games are.” You shouldn’t look at how the industry currently stands and think, yup I’ll just stick in that safety net. There is a reason we are a growing industry and it is in part thanks to the innovate our industry creates.

I know this was a long one, hope you stayed through the entire thing.

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Thanks for reading,

“Passion is the bridge between goals and accomplishment”- Jim Rohn


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