Archives For DAVID PERRY

Next ZX Spectrum

October 18, 2016 — 3 Comments

I’m really surprised to be typing that there’s going to be a new ZX Spectrum, it’s been FOREVER since my career really took off developing games for the original one.  My big break was the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (called the Hero Turtles in the UK), that gave me a #1 Hit and plenty of work followed.

It’s now a museum piece of hardware and so I must admit I’m excited to see this team making a new one, it’s a retro dream!  (Heck, it even looks cool!)

They have a surprise in the FAQ that it will run ZX81 games as well.  Are you kidding?

I just signed up for their newsletter…  Will be interesting to see it develop.

http://www.specnext.com/

 

 

 

Just had a fun chat with the guys at Lost Treasures of Gaming.

http://omgnexus.com/2016/01/episode-19-earthworm-jim/

 

Really quick interview with BBC America by James Bartlett.

http://www.bbcamerica.com/mind-the-gap/2015/11/12/david-perrys-10-tips-for-success/


Mention the name Earthworm Jim, and many people will disappear into digital nostalgia. It was just one of many legendary video games developed by Northern Irish-born David Perry, who has lived in California for over 20 years.

Born in Lisburn, County Down, he went to school in Belfast and became fascinated by computers—especially making video games—and after getting some early games published, Perry moved to England for a developing job, then got a further offer to move to California. It wasn’t L.A.: It was Irvine, and he ended up living down by the beach—something he recalled as “being like Baywatch!”

Perry admits that today he’s seen as a veteran in the business. “I’ve been through plenty of wars and survived! Some are tough, but I think I’ve learned a lot of lessons (the hard way) and ultimately that gives you confidence going forward.”

In 2012 his co-founded venture Gaikai—a company that was involved in cloud-based game streaming technology—was sold to Sony Computer Entertainment for £380 million ($578.3 million), and so BBCAmerica.com wanted to ask for his tips on success in America.

Hire great people.
“I call them ‘hurdle jumpers’—people that don’t waste time pointing at all the hurdles and telling you endlessly why they can’t move forward: They just jump the hurdles.”

Work on interesting and meaningful projects.
“There are too many opportunities to ‘wash the dishes,’ meaning you’ll work for two years and get very little thanks. Great projects are the bait for hiring great people, and working on them is much easier when they feel they are inventing the future or making a game with some new experience or idea.”

Don’t let people say no.
“In the 1990s I used to drive for three hours to sit in Hollywood meetings with people that didn’t have the power to say ‘Yes.’ Call me impatient, but when I get the feeling a meeting has no possibility of a ‘Yes,’ then I avoid them; your job is to get decision makers into the room.”

Some people HAVE to say no.
“Equally, be aware that it’s dangerous to say ‘Yes.’ There are a lot of people very safe and secure in their jobs, just as long as they don’t put their neck out, and ‘No’ doesn’t get you in trouble. This helps you think about your pitch…”

Don’t lose anyone on the pitch.
“When you pitch something, remember the pitch is for them, not you. It’s about them, for them, and dealing with their concerns. So, ask yourself at every moment: ‘Did I lose anyone?’ If you lose anyone, they can kill your deal the moment you leave the room, when you won’t be there to defend it.”

Do your homework.
“Read these books: don’t ask why, just do it. They are all forms of modern thinking and break you free from just doing things the way they’ve always been done.”

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
Yes! 50 secrets from the science of persuasion by Noah Goldstein, Steve J. Martin,Robert B. Cialdini
The Irresistible Offer by Mark Joyner
Start With Why by Simon Sinek
Hooked by Nir Eyal
Growth Hacker Marketing by Ryan Holiday

Don’t be greedy.
“A friend was offered $100 million for his company, but he decided to hold out for $300 million. The company went bankrupt and everyone lost their jobs. It was a disaster for everyone involved.”

Contribute your time.
“I’ve done countless hours helping schools, colleges, mentoring etc, and it’s some of the most rewarding work you’ll do. It’s inspiring, and you’ll be certain to meet raw talent; people that don’t know how amazing they are yet. You get to tell them!”

Attend conferences.
“I started to collect my conference badges, and now have hundreds on my wall. Why do conferences matter? You must never stop learning. You need to keep an eye on what everyone else is thinking, and you get to see in just a few days who are leading in any given space. Networking is key, so make sure you know who will be there, research them and meet them whatever it takes. Once you understand what audiences respond to, submit your own ideas as a potential speaker at conferences. They give you feedback, or maybe even a ‘Yes!’ Speaking is very valuable to your career, and a great example [of a conference for] the video game industry is the Game Developers Conference.”

Evolve.
“Think of the music industry, and how many amazing bands just disappear after one hit. It’s far too easy to get trapped in the one thing you do, so if you get the chance to evolve and learn in your industry, take it. Wear many hats, and see things from many perspectives; it makes you appreciate other people and what they do much more, and it will also create rapport when you meet new people. In my case, talking to a programmer is much easier if you’ve taken the time to learn how to program.”

As a glance at his website shows, Perry is always busy. But does he ever set aside time to play any of his old games?

“Not really. It’s like books; you write it, but you move on and don’t look back for a minute. I’ve worked on a lot of titles, and every now and again you get a No. 1 hit, and that changes everything. Then you are hungry for that experience again.”

Finally, Perry mentioned speaking on the phone to his mother in Northern Ireland that morning: “I said to her that there must be something in the water in America. I don’t know what it is, and maybe it’s just my optimism, but I believe that you can learn and do just about anything you put your mind to, as long as you start. I think that’s the meta-tip. I wanted to learn how to fly helicopters, but I procrastinated. I got an invite to try it and became a pilot later, but why didn’t I just start by myself? Why did I have to wait to be asked? Life is short, and these days I just start.”

I don’t have a copy yet, but just getting a glimpse it looks like Sam has hit it out of the park.

This kind of work is important as it’s recording some of the video game industry history in an incredibly high quality format.

More info here:

http://www.bitmapbooks.co.uk/products/sinclair-zx-spectrum-a-visual-compendium

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Had a fun time at Eureka Fest 2015.  They’ve posted an interview of my fireside chat on stage with Eureka Founder Peter Polydor.

The question that every game designer wants answered is: what does is take to make an addicting game?


FOUNDATION

There are just three essential elements that a game needs to begin, which can be found in the question below:

“While playing my game are the gamers having to use skill, risk, and strategy simultaneously during most of the gameplay?”

If the answer is “No” to any of the three, that’s your missing element.

Think about Tetris.  Think about Angry Birds.  Think about Call of Duty.  They are nothing alike, yet they share the same three key elements

So what do they really mean?

SKILL = You clearly get better with practice, meaning you feel and notice your improvement.  In ideal terms, you can see that you make more rapid progress every minute you play.  It’s a way to balance your gameplay so you could plot graphs to demonstrate the skill, learning, and improvement is really there.

RISK = You know you can get an advantage if you take a risk, and there are plenty of opportunities to take risks.  Great games let you get creative with your risk-taking. In every hit game, taking risks is fundamental to the gameplay itself.

STRATEGY = There’s more than one way to get through this, and you need to be able to make decisions and feel ownership when your strategy fails.  Great games have gamers immediately blaming themselves for failure and trying a “New Idea” – a strategy.  (That’s the addictive loop.)

Homework: If you have not played Tetris, Angry Birds or any other top selling games, I’d highly recommend you take the time. Getting a feel for the market and industry is essential, and without it, it’s like being in the movie business and never seeing Titanic or Avatar.  Experiencing (and studying) the best-selling games of all time is required homework for game designers.


SUPPORT

CHALLENGE & PROGRESS = Every moment of gameplay you know where you are in respect to your goal(s).  Some designers solve this with Mini-Maps or progress indicators, some have pointers to goals, some even tell you distance.  Great games let you know in advance what a win is to this challenge.  This matters, as it’s much more difficult to get out of your chair the closer you get to your goal.  If you have a challenge: “Go destroy that building”, and an overall goal of: “Win the battle”, then strategy can evolve from the challenge as maybe that building is useful to your strategy, but “You’ll win the war”.  The key point here is that you then need to know where you are in relation to the building, and where I am in relation to winning the war (every single moment).

BLAME = If you fail or die, you MUST not blame the game, and be clear that it is your fault.  The addictiveness dies immediately when you blame the game: “That guy appeared out of nowhere”, “Their bullets go through walls”, etc.  If the game seemingly cheated (and it might lead to frustration), you don’t care if I can explain why, it must be fixed.  When gamers blame your game, it will bleed the addictiveness right out.

RETRY = If you make it difficult to retry a new idea (meaning to try out a better strategy), like you get put too far back or you force them to watch the same movie clip again, you can massively damage addictiveness.  A truly addictive loop has no pain. Check out Tetris or Angry Birds: when you mess up, you try again immediately.

FEEDBACK = When the gamer does something good, let them know!  There should be audio/visual feedback when they are doing well.  Look at highly addictive games – Bejeweled or Candy Crush – a chain event is special and the game feels more excited when you are completing complex chains. Pinball machines are old now, but frankly, they were experts at feedback, as the game would get more and more excited the better you did, to the extreme with flashing lights, sound, even multiple balls and spinning objects. Think of the game itself as having a heartbeat, and its pulse gets more excited the better you do.  Lots of games have a little completion animation when you complete a level, but to be clear, feedback should be timely, not just at the end of the level.  Really addictive games have a bit of a mystery just how special the feedback can become, meaning the gamer can get a nice surprise when they do something rare as the game knows it!


EXTRAS

REVENGE = Revenge is a powerful emotion and your game can remind players of levels, enemies or even other players they need to concentrate on.   It’s tough to quit when you are alerted that a sworn enemy is approaching.  Many game design books only focus on “play with friends” and of course, I will mention it soon, but remember there are a lot more strangers out there (millions of times), so if I were you, I’d try to make strangers fun in your game.  Revenge is just one small example.

MORAL DECISIONS = Make gamers think about your game even when they are not playing by making them make moral decisions – a fantastic example of this is a game called Papers Please by Lucas Pope. Would you tell a white lie to save your family?   Would you keep a couple apart because of a stupid rule?  Would you let someone die even if it was just a 50% chance they would die?   If you make very important decisions, it’s tough not to want to see what happens next.

SOCIAL = Games can be more addictive if you know that you are incredibly close to either beating a friend or being in a position where they will need your help.   The question to ask yourself is “Can I make my game increase the social value of this gamer?”  Need an example?  Imagine this gamer has “Unobtanium, the most valuable entity in the galaxy” or “a spare pilot’s license” or they know a way through level 3 that can be shared with others: “Here’s the code to that door for the next 5 hours”.  If playing is clearly improving your social status, then you are more likely to fire up this game again.

URGENCY = Sales people know that the “Only available today” kind of marketing can cause impulse sales.  Ask yourself “What’s my impulse gameplay?”  What does the gamer know they should do right now before going to bed because the opportunity won’t be there tomorrow? As an example, if they don’t put out the fire in the burning building, it won’t be there tomorrow.  Really want to go to bed knowing the building you care about is burning down?  It’s just a dramatic example, but you get the idea: what needs dealing with right now?

MULTIPLAYER = I’ve personally seen gamers apologize when they had to stop playing a game because their friends were depending on them.   I’ve seen them type “I’m so sorry I’ve go to sleep, I’ve got a test tomorrow.”  This is a great sign that the presence of other people is making the game more addictive to the group.  So the question to ask yourself is “How am I getting other people to depend on me?”. Also, “How am I gaining an advantage as long as they are playing with me?”  A good example in casinos is the two-seated slot machine, if I win you win, and vice versa.  If you leave, I lose potential free wins!  Another example is when a player makes an important kill or win, the group shares in the spoils. So can you make it valuable to you personally when friends are engaged as well?

TIME ACCELERATORS = Imagine in your mind you can predict it will take an hour to complete your goal. That gives you the excuse to abort and think “I’ll just try again in the future when I get more time”.  So ask yourself, “What do I have in my game to make something that feels constant (meaning time) not be constant?”  A simple example is you are walking around but now you have the ability to drive, that changes everything, suddenly time is uncertain, you just know “This won’t take as long as I thought!”, and that’s when the addictive loop is boosted.  Another good example is experience boosters to get to the next status level: people want them so much they happily pay for them in free-to-play games.  Time is valuable and if you give people a chance to do things more efficiently right now, you have their full attention.  As a side note, if you want gamers to care about getting to the next level, just pre-gift them with something cool that they can’t use until they get there.  “Here are the keys to the tank… You need to be level 15 to drive it, you are currently level 14.5”.  It’s just yet another kind of fuel for the addictive loop.


In order to make a video game addictive, it needs skill, risk, strategy, progress, blame, retry, feedback, revenge, moral decisions, sociality, urgency, multiplayer, and ways for the player to accelerate.

However, if a game developer is to bypass one or more of these attributes, there is a single piece that often saves them.


THE SECRET SAUCE

The secret sauce to video games is humor, yes, even in serious games.  Humor is the most difficult thing to do, so it doesn’t have to be “laugh out loud”, but the gamer should feel amused.  I often ask if Angry Birds would be a hit if it was called “The Catapult Game” (without birds exploding etc.) If you can add any humor to your games, you immediately step away from your competitors, as it’s a lot easier not to try.  Humor entertains males and females, so you can double your audience when you entertain both.  Was Angry Birds or Tetris made for Males or Females?  Aha!.


I hope this helps in the discussion of addictive game development techniques. Using these simple elements can help a game to become the addictive success that it deserves to be.

Thanks Thomas Hughes for updating this post.

This post originated from DP’s Book on Game Design.  Available at Amazon.com

After getting the Eureka award, they asked if I’d make a few comments to camera upstairs.

Peter Polydor sent me a link to what I said.

Hopefully some of this stuff makes sense.