InstantPlay Clones Come to the GMC’s Forefront

The growing popularity of InstantPlay clones, and the heated discussions surrounding them, has finally forced the GMC staff to take action. In the past few weeks a slew of InstantPlay-type plugins of wildly differing qualities have been promoted at the Game Maker Community. After several days of public fighting among rival developers and critics, longtime GMC mod KC LC hid all of the plugin topics and created a single topic with a notice explaining why they were removed and that the staff was discussing the issue internally. She said the reasons were “a general concern about security issues, errors, and the growing flame war among supporters.”

The worst offender in security issues, Revel Quick Play, had several proposed and working exploits demonstrated. The creator, Revel, seemed to largely ignore concerns and kept posting buggy new versions. Several members besides the Author (including Smarty and NakedPaulToast) called him out in this issue. Revel did not address the issues. This, along with other problems, prompted another member, Caniac, to declare that he would create his own rival plugin following the same flawed protocol handler model (despite much better existing alternatives). His solution never materialized, despite large amounts of promotion pre hoc.

After KC LC hid the topics and announced that a policy was being decided upon, an extremely vocal debate ensued in the topic between various plugin developers, critics, and members of the community at large. While there was near-universal agreement that a competitor to YYG’s InstantPlay was needed, many members expressed strong concerns about security. The general consensus among consumers was that they did not want a ‘collect-them-all’ approach with dozens of plugins. They wanted a simple plugin that would work outside of YoyoGame’s own website. As the topic degenerated into a large-scale flamewar, KC LC hid that topic as well and created another notification post today, this time in a pre-closed topic.

The staff have not yet published their official decision.

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Kongregate, YoYo Games’ big brother?

For many of the GM community, it has been a long-held belief that YoYo Games was pioneering something new, an opportunity for amateur game developers to get noticed and show case their games to a wide audience and community in true web 2.0 style.

It turns out in fact that a site called ‘Kongregate’ has been offering a very similar service since 2006. Although Kongregate does not allow submissions of Game Maker created games, the site itself is feature-packed and in many ways makes YYG look like the kid who hasn’t grown up yet.

Until one or the other starts running both types of games (flash and executables), I don’t forsee any major competitive battle-out between the two companies. But what I do see is an opportunity for the YoYo Games staff to take a look at what Kongregate is doing and ‘borrow’ some ideas to improve their current website.

Just to name a few of the features which I think are interesting
– The ability for users to embed/run their games from independent websites
– An integrated API to sync game high-scores with the website
– Ability for developers to make 50% on in-game ad revenue
– In game live chat between players

Thoughts?

Looking For Writers

It has come to our attention that the GMNews team is quite under-staffed and unable to maintain this site to the expectation of many of our readers. Therefore we have decided it is in the best interest of the community to seek out some new writers to cover all the latest GMNews headlines and news stories as they happen. This will hopefully both improve and enhance the quality of the GMNews blog over time while keeping readers up to date with the latest GM News from across the net.

This is a volunteer job; however there are certain ’employee benefits’ you may enjoy as a worker of Scorptek. For more information, please contact us.

Recommendations for applicants (guideline only, many of the items listed are not absolutely required):

Game Maker
– Is an experienced Game Maker user with an understanding of the key concepts of GML and other programming languages (not necessary)
– Is a long time member of various Game Maker communities – at the very minimum, the GMC and YoYo Games
– Has contacts or a personal network of Game Maker friends that can provide reliable news and information

Education
– Has a High school Diploma from an English speaking school and/or has obtained an average mark of B- or higher in all classes in the most recent semester/term)
– Obtained a B+ or higher average in either English or English Literature (in the most recent semester/term)
– Obtained a B+ or higher average in one or more of Journalism, Communication Technology, Creative Writing, Media or Multimedia studies (in the most recent semester/term)
– Is an Honour Roll (or equivalent) student and/or has won subject/merit award(s) and/or has received academic distinctions in one or more classes (not required)

Personality
– Enjoys writing and research
– Has enough free time to check for news updates across various websites on a regular basis
– Is opinionated, but able to write without bias if and when necessary or desired
– Enjoys a challenge

If you’re interested, please let us know by emailing jobs[at]scorptek[dot]net with a paragraph about yourself and any of the applicable information above. Thank you for your help in making GMNews the best source of Game Maker news.

Glog – Competition 03, Softwrap?

The previously inactive and almost dead official Glog has suddenly become the cool place to hang-out with updates and new posts nearly every week. Just three days ago Mark Overmars posted an article explaining methods of using Cyrillic characters and Hebrew, Arabic, Japanese, and Chinese fonts and symbols.

Today however, the Glog post announces the completion of the third YoYo Games competition. The competition, with a theme of ‘co-operation’ had more submissions than any of the previous two competitions held by the company. It’s now up to the site’s users to play and evaluate the 285 participating games to help determine the winner.

The announcement for Competition 04 is expected shortly although it is ot clear when, nor is it clear when the judging for the current competition will be finished.

As something completely separate to the Glog, we are conducting a small survey to evaluate the Softwrap registration system used in Game Maker and to gauge whether users are satisfied or dissatisfied with the system. Please discuss and indicate if your experience was positive or negative and if negative were you able to receive technical support or did you have to resort to other methods for registering your software.

ANYone who links to ANY site containing information about obtaining Game Maker ‘Pro’ without using the official Softwrap registration system will be banned from making future comments on GMNews.

YoYo Games – Serious Discussion

This morning I got an automated e-mail from Google Alerts, to inform me of an Open Letter to the YoYo Games staff.

Connor Wilkins (also known as Phoenix, Phoen, sh1fty, and Dr. Watz0n) has taken the time to openly express his opinion and criticism of the new Game Maker management with an Open Letter to the YoYo Games staff.

In the letter found on his blog, Connor points out three main problems with the way YoYo Games is conducting business. Firstly, he states, is the lack of a FireFox 3 Instant Play add-on, and with that the inability for users with the browser to play any games from the YoYo Games website. Considering Firefox now has a 20% market share, it is the feeling of many users that ignoring the 1 in 5 people who can’t access the games on the site is unacceptable.

Secondly, it is pointed out that there is a distinct lack of updates on the progress for Game Maker’s C++ runner conversion. The last official announcement concerning the C++ runner was made over a month ago on the YoYo Games glog, to indicate it was running smoothly and a BETA would be available by June. No beta has yet surfaced, nor has there been any further announcements about it to our knowledge.

Lastly, the letter discusses the Mac OSX port of Game Maker. YoYo Games first said a BETA was expected in March,  months later a glog post was made to indicate there was small problem with the port, but for the 40 odd days since then there has been no progress updates or indication of whether the problem was eventually fixed.

The main point of the letter is to make clear to the YoYo Games staff that they are not believed to be doing enough on their part to inform and keep users up to date with the internal going-ons of the company. There is growing criticism from many users regarding their lack of transparency in business decisions and activities. The letter hopes to show that if this continues, it will adversely affect their strong and large user-base.


[warning, the following paragraphs are in editorial style and contain strongly biased opinions
that are not necessarily shared by the rest of the community]

It is my personal opinion that YoYo Games should start to care for its software users as if they were large investors or shareholders in the company, and I can’t imagine shareholders would be satisfied with the team’s low level of transparency, and uncertainty of what the company plans next. It seems to me as though the staff in charge of business planning are not doing their job. To my knowledge, YoYo Games has not been able to meet a single deadline they’ve set (and it’s not to say there was pressure to rush things, these dates were of the company’s own choosing).

To my knowledge, the date for the YYG website launch was not met, the date for the Game Maker 7 release was not met, the date for Game Maker for mac (beta) was not met, the date for the C++ runner beta was not met, the date for the server changes and updates was not met, and even the due date for the last official competition had to be delayed. When you get to the point where every date you set actually means months later (for some), it is time to re-evaluate your business planning and start figuring out where you’ve gone wrong and how you can make sure it doesn’t happen again… and again…. and even again.

I also think that something definitely needs to be done in terms of customer service and support. I can’t tell you how many users complain to me and on the GMC forum that after contacting the YoYo Games staff several times over several weeks, they have not received a response at all. I myself have contacted YoYo Games twice this year, one time with URGENT priority. Neither of my support tickets were answered (the newest one being 22 days old), and I am a paying customer.

What is even more disconcerting is the fact that users who payed for site licenses (involving lots of $$$), and other products like the Game Maker CD shipment are also being ignored, and this is when a company starts to head in the direction of scamming, having people pay large sums and not providing the product or service they advertise.

What YoYo Games needs to do (in my opinion):
——————————————

1) Get a new software wrapper/registration system

Nothing good at all has come from Softwrap. Right from the beginning when Game Maker 7 was released, the company should have clued in when there were hundreds of reports from users unable to upgrade, unable to purchase, and unable to run the Game Maker software, that something needed to change.
Almost every day users are posting about Softwrap errors, and Softwrap related purchase problems on the GMC and due to the nature of the user-based forum are unable to receive help even though neither Softwrap nor YoYo Games responds to their support requests.
If I remember correctly, one of YoYo Games’ own staff members admittedly said that in retrospect they were not very satisfied with software wrapper’s performance.
In addition to these problems, using Softwrap immediately restricts use of the software to Windows 2000+ even though the software on its own can run on older Operating Systems.

2) Fix customer/technical support!

If this means taking away funds from Game Maker’s development so-be-it. At this point, it doesn’t seem to matter since there hasn’t been any public updates to the Game Maker software since the company first started out and all other developments seem to have halted/encountered problems that are apparently beyond their control.

What I would like to see is a live chat. All you need is one or two people dedicated to providing live support on weekdays (they could even work from home). This would make the world of a difference, and if you entrust these jobs with Game Maker users, I think you’ll find it’s likely they would be willing to work for free or minimal pay if it means making a difference and actually answering users questions and getting their problems solved.

I also think they should set-up some policies to get e-mail/support tickets answered after a certain amount of time (e.g. 48 hours) guaranteed whether or not they have the answer. Even if they are still looking for the answer, they can at least write back to give progress updates.

3) Be more transparent!

Don’t be shy! Open your business up!

At the start of YoYo Games, I seem to remember the company was constantly referring to the site as an online Web 2.0 social networking community. This implies that users of the community should have some level of control over how the website and community is run. From my perspective, YYG has fallen on deaf ears for most users suggestions. Some times YYG does make changes for the benefit of users, but these changes are often very low priority on the wish-list (e.g. turning on forum post counts)  and users would much rather that the time was better spent doing something that is actually meaningful.

Also, and more importantly, I think YYG needs to tell us what exactly it is the company is doing and planning in the future.

I don’t think many users appreciate the general comments indicating something is ‘coming along smoothly’ or is ‘progressing well’. We want the specifics, we want to know exactly what it is that is being worked on. If the C++ runner, is having problems translating over a specific Game Maker function, then let us know what that function is. For all anyone knows, the users could actually be of some help and get the show on the road a lot faster.

I think the Glog should have a goal of updating users ever week (Sandy, this should just take 15-20 minutes each week, not much to ask) with what exactly is going on. If you post an article on June 18 about the Firefox instant play and how you are working on the problem, by all means please tell us what has been done in the past four weeks to resolve the problem, or at least attempt to solve the problem. When you don’t keep us up to date, it is in our nature to assume nothing has been done, and this is just something else to cast a blind eye to.

Lastly, tell us what exactly the staff is doing. So far we’ve heard about several different people being part of the YoYo Games team and contributing to Game Maker, yet we are not really seeing the progress to back this up. In many ways, I think Game Maker would have had more updates by now if it was still a one man operation. I would like to know exactly how many people are actually working on each of these areas: customer service/support, general management, game maker updates and new feature additions, c++ runner development, mac OSX game maker port, PR & Investor & Business relations, etc.) and whether they’re dedicated to that one job or are trying to juggle several tasks leaving important goals on the back-burner.

4) Learn to plan!

Take a course in business planning and scheduling, and learn to make appropriate business planning that is actually realistic. There is no possible way that estimations for release dates should ever be several months off, obviously there is something seriously wrong here.

One of the first things you learn in planning is to make sure you account for unexpected delays. If you think you can finish something in two weeks, add at least a week on to that in your announcement. That way should anything go wrong it gives time to fix the problem, and if everything goes to plan, there is time left over to do testing and polishing.

Also learn to set reasonable smaller goals. Instead of having just 1 ultimate goal (e.g. “Get C++ Runner by July 31”), set several smaller milestones and split-up the runner into different key parts. This will give you a much better sense of progress and accomplishment and will allow you to better estimate the actual release date.

If YoYo Games were to just do 3 of these steps, I can guarantee the business would take a turn for the better, and I really hope they consider these suggestions seriously and with an open mind.

P.S. Excuse my long rant, I’ve been wanting to get this out of my system for a while.

Discussion: Game Genres

In this day and age you could say first person shooters and online role playing games have pretty much dominated the market for a good few years now. On the other hand, there are many games of different genres that have also become very successful.

  1. Do you think there is any particular genre that has an obvious advantage over others (i.e. can become popular very quickly not because of the game play or the quality, but rather the type of game it is)?
  2. In contrast, do you think any game despite it’s genre has a good chance of becoming popular and widespread so long as it is entertaining and has a good solid game play / decent quality?
  3. As a developer, when you decide to make a game, do you try to focus on making it part of a particular genre rather than follow your original idea? Do you ever mix Genres and be creative?

[Remember: Each comment you contribure to the discussion will increase your chances of winning the monthly prize give-away]