Posts tagged games
Posts tagged games
Jovan Johson is an attorney with L.A. firm Johnson & Moo. Like Novy PR, Jovan specializes on helping indie and mobile developers grow their companies from one-man start-ups to successful studios with a global audience.
Stray Pixels asked Jovan a few questions about attorneys, contracts, working with foreign publishers and more. Let us know what you think in the comments!
1. When should indie studios seek out a lawyer?
Indies should probably seek legal counsel once they begin working with others, including artists, programmers, marketers, etc. This will help ensure the terms of their agreement are written clearly and structured properly.
For example, last year my partner and I met with a potential client who produced a song (which, of course, is a form of intellectual property) that turned out to be quite successful. Gross revenue was close to $460,000, costs and expenses were approximately $25,000. Under his arrangement with the recording artist the producer’s share should have been $160,000, give or take.
The producer’s first problem was that he drafted the contract he signed with the artist. The document he came up with was quite detailed but didn’t make any sense. I’m not saying that as an attorney. I’m saying that as someone who reads and writes English. Next, he involved himself with investor-partners who were attorneys. The producer didn’t have an attorney review this second deal either. At the end of the day, he’s probably going to wind up with nothing to show for his efforts. In fact, he may be in debt before the ordeal is over. If he would have retained counsel from the beginning, he would probably have $160,000 in his bank account right now.
Some people think they cannot afford a lawyer. If you’re doing business and want to succeed, you can’t afford not having a lawyer.
2. How are mobile deals structured nowadays? What is the publisher role, for example?
The publisher’s role is to promote the game and sell units. They should provide input on polishing the game and a base level of PR and marketing. For that they receive a percentage of revenue, which may seem high to some developers. However, it’s better to have part of a financially successful game than 100% of one that sells 200 copies.
Some publishers have relationships that help with key placements within the Android Market and App Store, but that will not show up as a contract term.
3. What should developers watch for before signing a contract?
It’s always important that both parties have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them. Warm and fuzzy feelings are nice but the content of the written contract is what matters.
Some common issues that developers need to understand before signing a deal are:
4. Can working with foreign capital or a foreign publisher affect the way a contract is drafted?
Absolutely. If you plan on dealing with a foreign publisher you may have an issue in terms of choice of law. If the publisher insists on their local law, it’s a good idea for the developer to hire an attorney who is familiar with those laws.
Any deal regarding capital gets complicated quickly because it may be a securities transaction. Most attorneys are NOT capable of reviewing these contracts. Get help immediately if you’re thinking about a deal with capital, especially if it’s foreign capital.
5. Tell us about yourself. Were you always a gamer? When did you decide to focus on indies?
I’ve actually been a gamer on-and-off. Of course, I can remember spending many hours playing Nintendo when I was in elementary school. Same thing throughout high school, college, and after law school. Let’s just say if I get into something, I’m really into that thing. It’s best that I stick to casual games.
One of my brightest friends released a couple of iOS games. He worked with a small team on a handshake deal. This made me wonder about others making games without business and legal assistance. I’ve had a great time working with all of my indie clients. That makes me feel like I’m on to something.
6. Where do you see the game industry in the next 10 years?
I think gaming may go the way of movie studios. That is, large game companies who are financially sound will focus on blockbusters. That leaves a big opening for the indies to produce most everything else.
I also think mobile games will continue eating away at the market share console games have enjoyed for so many years. Game engines like Unity allow for increasingly advanced mobile games. It’s astounding, really. Google and Apple release mobile operating systems at a break-neck pace and developers take advantage of that.
Another advantage mobile developers have is that very few people want to buy a new Sony / Microsoft / Nintendo console year-after-year, but statistics seem to indicate that many people will opt to buy a new iPhone annually.
7. Is there anything else you’d like to say to Novy PR’s clients and readers?
Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help. We answer emails and return phone calls. Kamal Moo, my partner, focuses on music and film law and has been around the block. We’re currently working with a fan-funded project, Angry Video Game Nerd The Movie. If you have a creative project in the works, there’s a good chance my firm can provide the attention and advice you need.
Having played 50 percent of the NES library via Dreamcast emulator (NesterDC SE), I finally admit: NES games were much superior to Master System ones. It hurts to say it but it’s true.
I reached that conclusion after realizing NES games often had incredible depth (similar to 16-bit titles), better music (after all, the sound chip on the Master System was terrible) and novel gameplay (i.e. Famicom titles).
Example: Journey to Silius (Sunsoft)
In contrast, Master System games would often be simplistic, short and not very ambitious. It was a system with superior graphics but tied down by conservative gameplay and toy-like music and sound effects.
The Genesis gave Sega a fighting chance because they learned a ton from Nintendo after getting savagely beaten in the U.S. market. But in the 8-bit wars, there was no comparison.
The original Master System with its curious case design:
TL;DR Sega fanboy admits NES had much better games than the Sega Master System — 21 years later
This is a report on PS3 ownership from an admitted Xbox 360 fanboy. In December 2010, we finally replaced our Blu-ray player with a future-proofed 320 GB PlayStation 3 Slim.
We could have bought a PlayStation 3 at launch. We didn’t. We could have got one in 2007, 2008 or 2009, but the PS3 “phat” was too big for our entertainment center. It was also expensive and didn’t have enough exclusive titles.
The PS3 “phat” with its iconic Spider-Man font
The Slim model changed all that. While not strictly affordable, it fit the exact same spot the Blu-ray player called “home.” It was quiet. And we knew from experience that DVD upscaling and Blu-ray playback would be more than adequate — superior to most standalone players out there.
Gaming on the PS3 is a mixed-bag. Exclusives will often look and sound GREAT. Cut-scenes in particular are definitely superior due to Blu-ray’s large storage capacity and less-aggressive compression schemes. On the other hand, “ported” games like Bayonetta are a mess. Unless a game is created specifically for the PS3, it will often be inferior to the same game on Xbox 360.
Screenshots & captions courtesy of Digital Foundry’s epic post Face-Off: Bayonetta
(I hear the problem is the PS3’s segmented memory, 256 MB for system & 256 MB for the GPU. The Xbox 360 has 512 MB of unified RAM + 10 MB embedded DRAM)
The DualShock 3 controller is more than adequate for fighting games and action-adventure titles like God of War 3. One of its strong suits for sure. It’s not as great for racing games and/or first-person shooters. Even the first Xbox’s controller is superior for those two genres.
Updates. OMG, PS3 updates are SLOW. I hate, absolutely hate to wait 50 minutes for an update. On the other hand, games on Xbox 360 update in seconds. I hear Microsoft uses a patented, byte-swapping technology while Sony downloads full executables (like a PC). Also, PS3 updates include add-on content, which is separate on Xbox 360. Still, updating PS3 games is a major pain.
Finally, multiplayer on PS3 is not even on the same class as MP on Xbox 360. There’s just not enough people using their PS3s for multiplayer gaming. The messaging/game invites functionality is also lacking, although I will admit Sony has come a long way since launch.
Media player (Blu-ray, DLNA)
In one word: excellent. Picture quality is well-above the Xbox 360 at 1080p. Xvid and divx files look stunning. Movies on Blu-ray are nothing short of a revelation.
We all agree that the PS3 is one of the fastest, most responsive Blu-ray players out there. It simply flies. Sound quality is also very impressive, even in standard-definition Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS.
(our Yamaha receiver doesn’t do HD audio — it’s from 2005)
The PS3 works great with our Windows 7 media server. It plays videos, MP3s and pictures via wi-fi with no stuttering. Other than a slight lag on MP3 files (skipping to the next track), it performs admirably. One of our favorite features is the Gaia visualizer built by Q-Games.
We are also big Netflix, Hulu Plus and Vudu fans. Netflix on PS3 spanks the Xbox 360 in every way (interface, picture & sound quality, subtitles).
Web browser (HTML, YouTube)
The Xbox 360 doesn’t offer a web browser, which I consider a major mistake on the part of Microsoft. The Wii offers a slow, limited browser with Flash 8 support.
The browser on the PS3 is far from perfect, but the hardware specs alone plus Flash 9 support make it a winner in my book. Text is sharp and easy to read; the DualShock 3 controller does an adequate job as a mouse. YouTube doesn’t work properly, but user-created solutions like PS3 YouTube make it more than usable and also enable 720p playback.
PS3 YouTube logo plus a couple “channels”
If you ever wanted an OK browser for your big-screen TV, this is it. To go one step above, you should pick a Google TV-enabled set or buy a set top box like Logitech’s Revue.
(rumors say that Sony will add Google TV functionality to PS3 soon)
For now, I still prefer gaming on Xbox 360. It just offers a better experience. In the media player & browser department, however, the PS3 is the clear winner. It has become our official media player at home.
If you’re on the fence between Xbox 360 & PS3, I’d recommend getting an Xbox for the games and a PS3 for everything else. Better yet, get both. PS3-exclusives like Gran Turismo 5, Uncharted 2 and Heavy Rain shouldn’t be missed.
How about you? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
If you’re into PR for games, go right ahead to Gamasutra for The 7 Deadly Sins of PR for Mobile Games.
And if you REALLY like it, please help me promote it via Tumblr, Twitter & Facebook :)
In that particular blog post, you’ll find images like this:
So go right ahead.
I am now the proud owner of a Samsung Vibrant, a Galaxy-S phone on T-Mobile. Thanks to an early upgrade, it’s replacing a G1 bought in November 2008, roughly a week after launch. This blog entry will go over the 1-week experience with the phone, both good and bad :)
The original T-Mobile G1, the world’s first Android phone:
I truly loved my G1. However, it was quickly moving into the “collectible” category — not a good place to be if you’re a smartphone! The Samsung Vibrant that replaced it:
My Vibrant was bought at launch - July 15, 2010. I was the very first to buy a Vibrant at that particular store (the one on Wilshire Blvd and 4th in Santa Monica). Incidentally, it was the same store where I bought my G1 in 2008. Here’s the picture taken by my salesperson, Daniel:
Samsung Vibrant top specs:
This phone is a beast. Super-fast, beautiful screen, killer gaming performance thanks to the late-gen GPU. Very light, too. On the other hand, the GPS is useless and badly in need of a firmware update. Avatar for free and built-in support for divx, xvid and DNLA doesn’t hurt either.
(source for pics: IntoMobile’s review of the Samsung Vibrant)
This was a major upgrade from someone coming from a G1. My G1 was a slug with its outdated 528 Mhz processor and 192 MB RAM. It had a whopping 256 MB of ROM, *total*, resulting in less than 200 MB for app storage. The ROM size was also responsible for the G1’s addiction to Android 1.6 :)
I LOVE the screen. Never seen anything more beautiful. Even direct sunlight doesn’t faze it. In general, the phone is a dream come true as far as gadgets go, especially if you’re an early adopter like me. Battery life is great, giving me well-over a day of use (contrary to what Engadget says). I actually think it’s feasible to go TWO days on a single charge.
At the same time, the issue with the GPS is a serious one. Even after the famed GPS fix, it still lost signal at least four times in a quick getaway to Ojai. My wife’s iPhone 3GS had a strong, stable GPS signal the whole time. I also ran into trouble with a media server app that slowed things to a crawl — and made me fear (and consider) a factory data reset.
The latter is the price we pay for freedom in Android: the risk of defective (or malicious) apps single-handedly crippling the phone. As devices become more powerful — keep in mind that the Vibrant is faster than an editing rig bought in 2000, a screaming PC in its own right — users will tend to push them harder and harder. We’ll install desktop-class apps — or something “really cool” we found on the web. This particular episode was the only time, ever, that I longed for Apple’s closed garden approach. Thankfully, I uninstalled the app, the operating system sorted itself out after a couple of reboots and the problem disappeared on its own.
In the end, I think the Galaxy-S line fully realizes the potential of the platform. My phone makes me immensely happy — way more than the G1. If this is where Android is going, I can’t imagine what a Gingerbread phone w/ 1 GB RAM and a dual-core CPU can do. Apple doesn’t stand a chance :)
How about you? Are you getting any of the Galaxy-S phones? Did you buy a Vibrant — or Captivate on AT&T? Are you waiting for the Fascinate (Verizon) or Epic 4G on Sprint? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
Before becoming an Android
fanboy advocate, I used to own a Sidekick II. In fact, it was my first smartphone. I loved it for several reasons:
Made by Sharp in Japan, the Sidekick II introduced me to smartphone-like features at a time when a cheap smartphone seemed like a distant dream. The anytime/anywhere rush of Wikipedia at my fingertips is still fresh in my memory; I can still remember the “thunk” sound from the screen snapping into place. I spent real money to get real apps and games for my Sidekick II — years before Steve Jobs dreamed of an App Store.
BEFORE THE SIDEKICK
I was a Nokia man once. I admired their reverence for a clean, logical interface. And the fact that those cell phones were built like tanks. Lost a trusty 8260 at gunpoint in the streets of São Paulo. Got another one the very next day.
After moving to the U.S. in 2004, I was naturally forced into a pre-paid plan and a boring clamshell phone built by LG or Samsung. Once I obtained a Social Security card through UCLA, I signed a contract and… Got into yet another clamshell phone. I seemed condemned to go from dumbphone to dumbphone. Until the Sidekick II, that is.
IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES, IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES
That Sidekick II helped me win countless verbal arguments while testing Call of Duty 3 (Spiderman vs. Batman, Werewolves vs. Vampires, take your pick). It let me play games at the doctor’s office — games in color with actual sound effects and music. It had a usable calendar and even took pictures in glorious VGA.
On the other hand, the little machine could NOT play MP3s (bummer!) or videos of any sort. The GPRS Internet was dog slow — not even mobile-optimized sites loaded quickly. Non-mobile sites would sometimes not load, period. Gizmodo, Engadget, Wired? In your dreams, baby.
But in all honesty, what was a Sidekick worth from 0 to 10? A solid, surprising 7. The Sidekick II exceeded my expectations and redefined what I could expect from a phone. However, I bought it late in the game — around mid 2005 — so it was obsolete in more ways than one by then. My fault, really, but I still paid dearly for it (again, in more ways than one).
SIDEKICK AND KIN, BROTHERS FROM ANOTHER MOTHER(?)
It’s hard to believe the Kin was built by the same guys behind the Sidekick. It actually had less features than its older sibling - now how did THAT happen? Both catered to same audience; while the Sidekick produced a series of hit phones, the Kin produced ads where hispters clumsily demonstrated what sexting is all about.
On the other hand, Android owes a lot to Danger (the talented folks behind the Sidekick’s operating system), so I owe a debt of gratitude to them as well. There would be no Android without Andy Rubin — and he learned the ropes while working at Danger. While Microsoft allegedly ran Danger to the ground, Android caught the ball and ran with it.
MY NAME IS LUIS LEVY AND I USED TO OWN A SIDEKICK II
Then I bought a phone with Windows Mobile 5. And then, after much suffering, I finally saw the light.
End of line.
It’s amazing how quickly Android evolved. Updating this post for June 2010 — it was originally written in Dec. 2009 — is actually a lot more work than I expected :)
Like in Stanley Kubrick’s classic, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, certain life-changing events cannot be stopped or ignored. You simply need to accept the fact that the world will eventually end thanks to a madman strapped to the back of a nuclear bomb.
You can’t ignore market-defining gadgets like Apple’s iPhone either. However, if the growing pains of iPhone game development are cramping your style, you still have a choice: Android. This blog will tell you why in 3 easy steps:
Without further ado, let’s now take a quick look at the origins – and development – of Android.
Congrats! It’s a robot
Android was born a Linux-based operating system and announced to the world Nov. 5, 2007 as core component of the Open Handset Alliance. Google’s idea was to supply a top-of-the-line OS for free in order to expand the reach and penetration of web-savvy smartphones.
After all, mobile Google searches = more ads = more $$$ in Google’s pockets.
The OS evolved quickly: from the messy, unpolished 1.0 release — 0.8 really — to Android 2.2, which includes features like official Apps2SD, wireless tethering and a 2X to 3X performance jump.
If you remember 2008, the first cell phone powered by Android was the HTC Dream, sold on the U.S. as the T-Mobile G1 (I own one, BTW. I call it a collectible, but it’s really obsolete by now). By October 2009, there were only four Android-powered phones in the U.S. Today, all major cell providers in the U.S. sell Android phones — even AT&T. We’re talking multiple models per carrier, high-end, mid range and low-end. Android is everywhere.
As of June 2010, Android is now seen as the lone adversary to Apple’s iPhone. A famed comScore survey has 17 percent of those currently in the market for a cell phone thinking Android, versus 20 percent for the iPhone. That’s an eye-opening number. Among tech connoisseurs, many see Microsoft quickly fading into obscurity with the obsolete Windows Mobile 6.5, Symbian stalling, RIM keeping their territory on the corporate side of things (and expanding to certain consumer segments) and Android going for Apple’s throat in no uncertain terms.
Despite the impressive growth, many fail to see Android as just another gaming platform, like the Nintendo DS and now, iOS4 (iPhone / iPod Touch) before it. If you see it as a platform, you’re taking the first steps to make the best of it – and maybe even make money.
If the iPhone is over-crowded and Apple’s approval process sucks, why not give Android the old college try?
iPhone: King of the World
The iPhone. It transformed the industry in a way just matched by the first Macintosh computer back in 1984. It dazzled techies all over the world at MacWorld 2007, when Steve Jobs himself made the now-classic pitch “an Internet communicator, an iPod and a phone.” A gorgeous cell phone simply (and aptly) named iPhone.
After the iPhone launch, nothing was ever the same in the mobile industry.
We all talk about the iPhone’s staggering library of more than 225,000 apps. It’s a big number and the reason why so many flock to the iPhone. Furthermore, Apple turned the iPhone into a successful gaming platform, reversing the trend seen in previous products (other than the ill-fated Pippin, the Apple II was the last “gaming friendly” Apple product).
Everyone and their uncle LOVES to buy games for their iPhone. It’s a convenient, fun process. And a profitable one as well: Apple has made billions on the iPhone’s surprising gaming capabilities. It helps that a powerful GPU is included in every iPhone 3GS/iPhone 4 and even iPhone/iPhone 3G are at-least 3D capable (in the 3 to 4 million polygons range). As Sony’s PSP Go flounders and the DS ages gracefully, millions of would-be gamers – casual gamers – and even the core crowd have flocked to Steve Job’s favorite offspring.
However, like everything in life, gaming on the iPhone has its dark side:
There’s no “quick fix” to any of these problems. Apple is rebuilding the App Store and iTunes, but can do little to “limit” new releases, other than vetoing bad games on technicalities. In regard to a physical keyboard, the iPhone will never have one: that’s just not the way Apple does things. Piracy can be combated with in-game downloads and DRM, but not all developers are willing to go this far.
As profitable and popular as the iPhone is, its flaws still mean death to hundreds of indie developers vying to make a living on high-quality iPhone games. It’s a tough place to be right now, with no clear solution in sight.
The Android Invasion Cometh
I mentioned before that my G1 aged quite suddenly due to Android’s furious evolution. It’s true; the 528 MHz processor & 192MB of RAM can barely keep pace with browsing the Internet, having Twidroid open in the background, the occasional podcast playing off DroidLive and a phone call. It freezes from time to time or simply hangs on the “Home Screen of Death” – when your icons take 10 seconds to suddenly – and magically – appear after hitting Home.
When all is said and done, I still like Android. I like the fact that any app can be installed on the phone, either from the web or from the Android Market. I like the trusting, Linux-like “you can do it” approach taken by Google on the OS’s design. Most of all, I like playing games on my phone.
But games are still not Android’s forte. Let’s remedy that:
Make games for Android before it’s too late
There are thousands of well-intentioned, free games on Android. Sadly, many of them are not very good. The OS’s saving grace are the many classic console emulators – paid emulators – embraced by those in need of a healthy dose of hardcore gaming.
The lack of quality games is my main argument for developers to embrace Android. Less competition. Did you hear that? Around 70,000 apps, total, instead of 250,000. Think of the possibilities.
Make sure your games run on T-Mobile’s handsets. They’ll be easier to buy and probably lead to better sales
Android detractors complain, with reason, that buying games on the OS is much harder than it should be. Google Checkout is cumbersome to the point that many simply never buy games, clearly no match for Apple’s seamless iTunes billing. Things are slowly changing, though: T-Mobile now allows sales to be added directly to each customer’s monthly bill. This is why app sales on T-Mobile handsets are about to explode – including those with next-gen phones like the Samsung Vibrant.
Start development NOW. Storage is a non-issue with Android 2.2
Another negative of Android development is the limited storage for games. Yes, we all know that having only 256MB for storage – like the Droid – is a joke near the iPhone’s 800MB-ish Myst port. We can all agree that’s a big flaw in the architecture of the entire system. Here’s why Google did it this way: they were afraid of piracy. They decided to prevent apps from being fully installed to the SD card to prevent users from doing the same thing they do on the iPhone. You can put most of your files – the large texture packages, sounds, etc – on the SD card but not the entire app. And you’ll suffer a performance penalty as well. Fear not, my friend: official Apps2SD functionality is now a reality with Froyo (Android 2.2). You should have started developing your game like, yesterday.
Approval on Android will make you sleep better at night
Google’s approval process is painless when compared to Apple. Even if you ignore all my other arguments, this one is a no-brainer.
3D kicks a** on Android
And finally, 3D performance. The GPU on next-generation Android phones (Motorola Droid X, Samsung Galaxy S) will have a similar (or superior, in some cases) performance envelope than the current GPU on the iPhone 3GS/iPhone 4. We’re talking more than 90 million polygons per second. We’re entering first-gen Xbox territory here with hardware antialiasing andOpenGL ES 2.0. You’ll be able to push the envelope like never before — in a cell phone no less.
It’s a tough world out there. I’m not suggesting ditching the iPhone. Nothing further from the truth – developers should embrace both.
Comment away :)