Tuesday, 27 September 2016

YouTube, we need you. Please stop being stupid!

youtube-heroes.jpg
I swear, Stephen and I started these blogs to document the development of our game Skorian Tales. Recently though, it seems like we’ve moved on to talk about broader subjects, like my commentary on the new iphone, or Stephen’s advice for starting your own Game Studio.


That said, this week I’d like to talk primarily about YouTube. If you’ve kept up with the news you’ll be aware that they’ve started to enforce their policies a little more, and that they’re introducing new systems of crowd-funded enforcement. This post isn’t going to be all doom and gloom though. I’d like to explore the positives and negatives about YouTube and what it means for the gaming industry as a whole.


Let's talk about Let’s Players

It might help to start with a little background information about how sites like YouTube and Twitch are connected to the games industry. If you’re pretty familiar with this industrial symbiosis you can skip this section.


Basically, over the past few years, there has grown a large community of Let’s Players. These people capture gameplay footage, add commentary, sometimes do a little video editing magic, and upload or stream the result to their audience, followers, fans, whatever. They can be incredibly influential, so much so, that they are referred to as “influencers” by digital marketing agencies.


Case and point, remember Flappy Bird? Do you know why it because so popular so quickly? The answer is Pewdiepie. He upload a video of himself playing the game. His Bro Army then did the rest of the work, spreading the game through word of mouth and pushing it past the tipping point until even your Mom was playing it.


Want another one? Okay. Do you think Minecraft would have gotten so popular if it wasn’t for the community of hundreds of Let’s Players uploading thousands of minecraft videos generating billions of views?


Heck, YouTube even created YouTube Gaming, a platform, unsurprisingly, dedicated to gaming.


youtube-gaming-logo-970-80.jpg


My point is that let’s players are a necessity for indie developers these days. They can ascend a game to global popularity quicker than any marketing campaign can.


What’s the problem?

There are a few things but basically, YouTube is messing everything up. It seems like the company is getting a lot of hate these days; I actually feel bad for adding to the negativity. I understand that they’re so large that it would be pretty expensive, if not almost impossible, to monitor the site effectively. More than 400 hours of video is apparently uploaded to YouTube every minute. Every goddamn minute! That’s a hell of a lot of video.

Advertiser-friendly content guidelines

Indie developers are notorious for having no money, we largely rely on word of mouth marketing to sell games. Let’s Players can enable advertisements on their videos to make money. They get paid by advertisers while we get free publicity for our games. The problem is that not all games are family friendly. You get games that use graphic imagery. You get games that are sexually suggestive. You get games that deal with controversial subjects. These games no longer have a place on YouTube according to their guidelines. That’s not entirely true actually, you can still make videos on these games, you just won’t get paid to do so. I can guarantee that this will limit the number of videos made on these games.

Youtube Heroes

Youtube recently announced their new system for moderating the site named YouTube Heroes. A good analogy would be that YouTube is a state that can’t put into effect it’s own police force due to certain impracticalities. Their solution is to give anybody a gun who want’s one and let them go police the state the way the individual sees fit. I can’t believe YouTube wouldn’t have even thought about how this system could be abused and misused before they released it to the public.


Imagine you’ve just started your own gaming channel and you’re gaining a small following. All of a sudden your videos are being taken down by the dozens and you don’t know why. Turns out a competitive channel has also been making videos and they’ve decided they don’t want the extra competition battling for views. They’re also a level 3 “hero” so they’ve just mass flagged your videos to silence you. You’re both relatively small channels so in the eyes on YouTube you’re too small to bother with, they’ve got complaints from larger channels to deal with first. The policy terms are so vague that you could be playing pretty much any game, bar Pikmin, and the flagging would be valid.


So what are we left with?

Potentially we’re left with only family friendly generic, possibly grayscale, games that only Pewdiepie can play... If he behaves himself. Obviously this is an appeal to extremes but, hopefully you get where I’m going with this. Each new change to policy or new system is damaging the YouTube gaming community. That’s bad for them and for indie developers, and in the long term, bad for YouTube it’s self.


pew.png


I don’t have all the answers here but I can think of a few ways we can improve the system a little. Starting with the advertiser friendly guidelines; make them way less vague and for fuck sake, let videos contain strong language. You have an age restricted option for videos so children don’t have to hear or see mature content.
Let your heroes positively affect others videos, not just negatively. If a video is flagged, don’t take it down until it’s been reviewed, keep it up and only take it down after a review, if appropriate. You know, innocent until proven guilty. If a hero sees a video they deem positively influential, allow them to add more weight to search results.


They’re just a few examples, I’m sure others, excluding YouTube, have thought of better, more thought out examples of how to improve the site and moderate the mass of content uploaded daily. Unfortunately YouTube has a monopoly over other video sites, so until a viable competitor comes to threaten them we’re all left playing to their rules. Hopefully they come to their senses soon though.


Hope you enjoyed that. You can follow Late Panda all over the internet


Ellie xx


“People who experience negative or stressful emotions on an ongoing basis are less healthy and live shorter lives” - Tony Robbins


Thursday, 22 September 2016

Want to start your own Game Studio?

Hi all,


So we were recently asked how we started Late Panda, and the difficulties in forming a company and team. So I thought I would talk a bit on that topic and perhaps you can learn from some of the mistakes that we have made in the past.

First of all I want to say that starting a game studio is much easier than you think. Even organising a team of developers can be very simple. You have to remember, the game industry is a fun place to work. Developing games is more than just a job, each member of a team loves doing the work they do so finding a team full of people is not the most difficult task.


So how do you round up a team then? Well you should start with your friends, if you went to College or University to study development you should have met other people interested in game development so ask them if they would like to start a project with you outside of College or University. After this step if you still require more team members when start an online search, create a free job listing ad. There are plenty of job sites out there and at least one will allow you to create a job listing for free. If you do this though you need to specify if the job you are advertising is unpaid or not!


This is exactly how we at Late Panda got our team, with Ellie and I meeting in University before sending out some applications via Indeed.co.uk for a character modeller and a music composer. For those who may be thinking “If I put out an advertisement saying they will not be paid no one will respond to that!” well, when we did exactly that for two positions we got over 200 applicants all local to Glasgow area. The people are out there you just have to look for them.


Once you have your team you can set up your company right? Wrong, you don’t NEED to legally setup your company at all. There are obviously benefits to setting up legally but there are SEVERAL negatives that you will be unaware of until you jump headfirst into it. For example every year British companies file their corporation tax with HMRC and if you miss the deadline because you are too busy developing your masterpiece then you have to pay a £200 fee for late charges and file it anyway.


My advice would be to not bother setting up a company at all and have personal contracts made up to have each member of the team agree that ownership of the content belongs to everyone or a “not legitimate” corporate entity. This obviously has its drawbacks, as this kind of agreement is not legally binding at all and a team member could leave taking upwards of two years of work with them. However, if you would prefer to deal with all the legal and accountancy work that is required for a legal corporation entity then yeah, go ahead but in hindsight we never would have.


Ok so you have your team, and your agreement or legal company status, now how do you make a game? Well this step should be obvious to you, just start making a game. You should have a game designer on board who will definitely have many ideas for projects so meet with the full team either in person or on Skype or whatever and talk through them and pick one. Then start development the framework for the basic mechanics while creating some concept art and then, well I shouldn’t need to walk you through step by step. Best advice I can give you is pick a “team leader” they don’t need to have creative control of the entire project but as long as they know everything that is going on they should be able to coordinate the team, make sure you obviously pick someone very organised.


Parua.png


So that is my advice on starting a studio, I know most of it seems obvious but that is because it is easier than you think, to give you context you may think that the UK only has one game company, Rockstar. But actually there are over 1,900 companies based all over the country with around 5 employees all working from their garage or small office development the next industry changing masterpiece. Why not be part of that community?


Thank you all for reading,


You can follow us all over the internet


Thanks for reading,

Stephen

“Dreamers dream dreams and rich people create plans and build bridges to their dreams”- Robert Kiyosaki

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Talking about the Apple event (iPhone 7 & Apple Watch Series 2)

Ellie here, as we all know, on the internet, all opinions are useless warranted...

It’s been about a week since Apple hosted their annual press event. I’ve taken the time to reflect and I’d like to share my highly sought-after opinions.

Apple Watch Series 2

I want to start with their watch because it’s the device I care least about. That’s not to say I don’t think the watch is good idea. I love the concept of smart watches; I’m just not their target audience. I live off junk food, hardly ever exercise, and don’t wear watches. Plus I’m Scottish so Siri hates me.



I believe the upgrades from the original watch are necessary. Having a brighter screen, built-in GPS, and water resistance are just common sense features. I bet people will still take off their watches when they go swimming though; It’s a habit. I never thought I’d see the day a watch needed a dual-core processor, but with watchOS 3 here we are. Hopefully it’ll be fast enough now so that ‘it just works’. There’s also a strange new de-stressing app that congratulates you if you complete a breathing exercise. It strikes me as kind of patronising but, It could just be me, I’m not usually one for zen.

I think my only real peeve with the Apple watch is the name; Apple Watch Series 1 and Apple Watch Series 2. A series is typically a set of sequences in linear or chronological order. This technically makes sense as their watches are going to improve over time i.e. a series of improvements. Still, I just think it’s a dumb naming convention and it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

iPhone 7

Here we go, the big reveal, the rumours were true, the predictable Jony Ive video starts playing. I’m so glad to hear that the iPhone 7s are rotationally 3D polished with a specialised compound removing imperfections and establishing a seamlessness between materials, producing a pristine mirror-like surface… He certainly has a way with words. Basically, it’s new and shiny.

The keynote continues as Phil Schiller intricately informs the audience of the 10 new major features available on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Now, I’m not the type of person who’s expecting companies like Apple to reinvent the wheel every 12 months, and I understand that sometimes you need to say fancy words in your marketing spiel, but come on Apple. The way Phil was talking about this thing made it sound like it was going to bring about the next era of technological advances, reverse climate change, and possibly bring about world peace. So, Here’s my take on the 10 new major features after removing the marketing gubble.

1. Design

Black is the new black.

2. Home button

It vibrates instead of clicks when you press it because it’s now a software button.

3. Water and dust resistance

They changed the glue that holds everything together so you can use your new phone 7 in the rain or on the toilet with less fear.

4. Camera

Now including more colours!
To be honest the camera updates are actually pretty cool, the new camera has optical image stabilisation, great for photographers with Parkinson's.

You can also take better photographs in the dark and the flicker sensor can adjust for artificial lighting. If you don’t know what this does I’ve left a link showing the effects of flickering artifacts in artificial lighting.

On the iPhone 7 pro you can now do 2x optical zoom where as before you only had digital zoom. Again, I’ve left a link explaining the differences between optical and digital zoom for those who might not know what this means.

5. Retina HD Display

Also including more colours.
Also also it’s brighter.

6. Speakers

Introducing something truly innovative; stereo speakers on a phone. There’s one at the top and one at the bottom. They sound great in landscape and portrait and audio will sound twice as loud. I’m paraphrasing here but this is pretty much what Phil Schiller said. Now moving swiftly on to the next major feature.

7. Earpods

Oh look, no Headphone Jack, Que up the memes and parodies.
apple-we-have-removed-the-audio-jack-on-the-upcoming-3688267.pngiphone-6-iphone-7-dani-old-no-z-no-7-tennessee-jennessee-3689045.pngiphone-6-iphone-7-https-t-co-vuozv1232u-3688273.png


8. Wireless

Oi! You there! Want to listen to your music and charge your phone at the same time? Buy these £120 wireless earphones sucka. Yeah you’ll look like a tool but screw it, you’re too rich to care what other people think.

9. Apple Pay

Now available in Japan!

10. Performance

Work it harder, make it better, do it faster, makes us stronger. More than ever, hour after, our work is never over!

Wrapping up

Tim Cook comes back, gives a summary of the event then welcomes Sia to the stage where she does some weird shit as we’ve all come to expect. I actually like Sia’s music but seriously, wtf is happening here?

NkwlA8.gif



I’ve skipped talking about things like the real-time collaboration in iWork because, let’s face it, most of us have been using real-time collab with Google drive for years.

I think I’ve efficiently summed up the event while injecting my opinions here and there, but, if you want to sit through two hours of a bunch of people desperately trying to hype-up customers to increase sales of their sub-par tech go ahead. Here’s a link to the Apple September Event 2016 on YouTube.

You can follow me all over the internet

I hope you enjoyed that,
Ellie xx

“Nothing proves performance like 400 flying monkeys” - Phil Schiller



Tuesday, 6 September 2016

The problem with over hype

In light of recent events I wanted to talk about game hype for a while.

It has been a problem with the industry ever since the beginning and very little is being done to combat it. There are extreme cases of over hyping such as WATCH_DOGS being advertised with significantly better graphical quality than it had upon release.

Which lead to videos like this


Ubisoft Montreal gave players the impression that WATCH_DOGS would create a new age of graphical quality in gaming however the released product was panned by players and critics due to not delivering on the graphics or the narrative that was promised. The game still sold very well due to the hype with most people believing it would deliver on those promises Ubisoft Montreal still got the profits they expected.

Now Ubisoft released a reveal trailer for WATCH_DOGS 2 which seemed to be following the same mistakes as WATCH_DOGS.



But they also released an early gameplay trailer which doesn’t over hype the game as much as the predecessor.



That said we will have to wait until the game is released before we know what will be in the game.

No Man’s Sky is the more recent example of over hype in the industry, with trailers showing graphical and gameplay features that are absent from the game. Critics and players have panned No Man’s Sky excessively since its release due to missing features, buggy content and lackluster gameplay from a game that has been in development for over 2 years.

Which lead to videos like this


What makes it all worse is the lack of communication from Hello Games. Since the release there have been few twitter updates and no public statements from anyone at Hello Games. Some may say they are working hard to add more features and improve the game but taking the time to make a short YouTube video answering the questions the players have could come a long way.

This all said neither WATCH_DOGS or No Man’s Sky are in no means bad games. Had they not been hyped as much as they were there may have been significantly less backlash against the games. That is the problem with over hype and under delivering, when a company creates trailers showing features or graphical quality that will not be in the final release it will always cause some kind of backlash. The greater the difference between what is shown in trailers and what is released the greater the fallout the company must deal with.

So what are the damages from over hype? Well players spend money on games that don’t give them the experience they thought, thinking the game to be a waste of money. While companies themselves get a damaged reputation with gamers refusing to buy games with the company's name on them.

So what can we do to stop over hype? It’s quite simple, we can’t. Like I said at the beginning of the blog over hype has been a problem since the beginning and people still fall for the false advertising and the “not in-game footage” lines believing the game will be as good as the trailers make it out to be. The only way to combat this problem is for companies to stop using these methods, but the likelihood of this is minor at best because false advertising sells copies of the game at an unprecedented rate.

Sorry to end the blog on a negative but this is the realivty of the games industry. Companies will continue to release misleading trailers and gameplay footage to get the players to purchase more copies of the game until the players themselves stop falling for the tricks.

Thank you all for reading,

You can follow us all over the internet

Thanks for reading,
Stephen

“One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you” - Jeff Bezos