Color in games: An in-depth look at one of game design’s most useful tools

Excellent, detailed and well researched article on the use of color in games. Well worth a read!

Link: Gamasutra: Herman Tulleken’s Blog – Color in games: An in-depth look at one of game design’s most useful tools

How Dark Souls concept art may have deep ties to its environmental design

This is a fascinating analysis of Dark Souls’ environment concept art, concept art’s purpose, and even some cool art history. Art leads and art directors will certainly like this. :)

Link: Gamasutra: Ario Barzan’s Blog – How Dark Souls concept art may have deep ties to its environmental design

smArtist Tech 2015 Year End Review

Hi all! As the year 2015 draws to a close, I decided to look back at the last year to see what tools and tech I still use on a daily basis to continue my happy life as a location-independent freelancer. I spent the last year contracted by Epic Games to build up the Unreal Engine Marketplace into an efficient and sustainable business, and I did it while working remotely from New York City three weeks out of the month. Being able to prove that I can be available, responsive, and always connected was crucial.

For a quick recap, here’s a speech I gave at the External Development Summit in 2014 where I laid out the fundamentals of the tech and tools I use to work remotely and securely:

Being a tech geek, I constantly experiment with new and better ways of tackling my day-to-day responsibilities and put out fires as they arise. Sometimes I’ll overestimate the utility of a particular app or set of hardware, and other times I’ll underestimate the importance of always having [x] on hand. Based on using the hell out of these on a daily basis for the last year, this is a list of the tech and tools I used to the job done most effectively in 2015!

HARDWARE!

Primary PC: 15.4″ Macbook Pro with Retina display.

05244140-photo-macbook-pro-retina

I love this machine. Since I have to be portable, I can’t use a desktop PC as my primary, and that suits me well because this is a beast. Two tips that made owning this vastly more convenient:

  1. Buy a second power adapter, and keep it permanently plugged into your primary working space. Keep the other one in your go-bag. This makes it a LOT easier to pack up and head out in a hurry without having to re-fold and re-wrap all the cables.
  2. Buy a Kuzy brand laptop cover. It fits snugly, it looks great, and it protects the surface. I actually have two cases, one of which I put stickers on. I swap the top lid when I’m either traveling across borders, or want to have a more professional-looking device for client meetings.

Using the Macbook Pro also has the added benefit of not needing to use Windows 10, which is a horrific privacy nightmare I won’t touch with a ten foot pole.

Primary mobile device: Motorola Nexus 6 64gb.

MOTO-NEXUS-HERO-CARD-540w0ftz8d8

Best phone I’ve ever used. It’s slightly too large to use one-handed, but it’s the perfect size for two-handed use, fast typing, and a large clear screen. When I’m using it, I feel like I have a universal communicator in my hands that can do anything. It’s a fantastic device. If you get one, I recommend finding the smallest case possible, because my first case for it made it unwieldy and bulky. This is the case I currently use.

Secondary mobile device: Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5.

main_visual

Absolutely amazing tablet, beautiful screen, impossibly thin, and works well with my Microsoft Wedge Keyboard to have basically an instant laptop. I strongly recommend the MoKo brand tablet cases. They offer excellent protection, and can also easily fold into different positions to prop the tablet up so it can stand on its own at various viewing angles. The case is half the reason I love the tablet. Between this, my Nexus 6, and my 15″ Macbook Pro, I feel like I have the perfect spread of form factors from small to large.

ACCESSORIES!

  • For transferring files on a flash drive to or from a mobile device, the Sony MicroVault drives are pretty awesome. One end is micro-USB and the other end is regular USB. Fast and easy. Not as fun as simply using BitTorrent Sync, but it saves you from needing to install an app to quickly share files in person.
  • For charging your devices on the go, I use the LimeFuel Blast 15600mAh USB charger. It can charge my mobile device 3 or 4 times on a single charge, it can charge multiple devices at once, and it’s a very cool thing to have if you’re at a conference or out with friends and someone needs juice. Remember to bring the Lightning adapter!
  • For audio, the best earbud set with a microphone I’ve found is the Sony MDRXB50AP Extra Bass Earbud Headset. Music sounds great, I can always hear people on conference calls clearly, the microphone has reasonable noise cancellation and has never caused an issue. They’re durable, easy to throw in a bag and retrieve without breaking them, and they prevent me from needing to switch to a proper headset if I have a sudden conference call and need to be on the line. I’ve had these since May and so far, they’ve survived my possession longer than any other set.
  • When I need a mousepad, I’ve always got my 3M Precise Mouse Pad in my go-bag. It’s thin, has a grippy surface on the bottom to stay on the table and in my bag, and is always handy when I’m working on a glass table (like now) and want to use a mouse. Yes, I know there are mice that work on any surface, but I’m still very happy with my trusty Logitech M305 and haven’t needed to upgrade.

APPS!

For communicating online, it’s all about Hangouts.

hangouts-logo

I’ve yet to find a communication tool or IM app that can match Google Hangouts’ ease of use and seamlessness across devices. I’m constantly switching between my phone and my laptop, and occasionally my tablet, and being able to effortlessly continue the conversation and maintain the history (extremely important) is a lifesaver. I’ve tried iMessage, Adium, Pidgin, and others, but nothing can beat the simplicity of Hangouts. It’s especially powerful if your client\employer uses Google Apps so that everyone is accustomed to working within the ecosystem already. It’s easy to hop on a voice chat, paste files\images, link people to content in Google Drive, share links directly to a contact on mobile, and easily add people to a group conversation for quick troubleshooting of issues.

That being said, my primary criticisms of Hangouts are:

  1. Searching for a name on your contact list searches ALL of Google+ by default before looking through your contacts, and even then it sometimes can’t find it. It’s infuriating, completely nonsensical behavior.
  2. Its tab management for multiple conversations is very clunky. When I’m working I’m frequently in 5 – 10 conversations at once, many of which are ongoing group conversations, and keeping track of that can get tricky. To fix this, I highly recommend checking out Common Hangouts, which creates a really nice iMessage-style tabbed layout for all your conversations.

I strongly prefer Hangouts to Skype, which is messy, unreliable bloatware. I have frequent issues with low call quality, dropped calls, broken contact syncing between web and mobile, not receiving messages or calls, IMs getting stuck trying to perpetually send, and heavy memory and cache usage on mobile. It’s a mess and gets worse over time. If it wasn’t a professional necessity to maintain it and take calls via Skype, I’d uninstall it and never look back.

For typing on my phone, Fleksy has become my favorite keyboard.

fleksy_logo_black

I’ve found that even great keyboards like Swype still slow me down when all I want is responsiveness to my finger-pecking and ease of switching between words. It’s highly customizable and very fast to learn, and I recommend giving it a shot. However, whatever you do, don’t connect it to your Gmail account when it offers. It’s ostensibly to give it the chance to scan through every email you’ve ever sent to learn your vocabulary and typing style, but really, it’s a terrible idea letting any third party app access your Google account for any reason.

For a powerful unified notification center that makes using multiple devices a breeze, use Pushbullet!

pushbulletlogo-resized

Pushbullet is pretty amazing, and I’ve grown increasingly fond of it over time. In short, it connects all your devices so you can easily send files or text to any of all of them, mirror phone notifications on your PC, have a shared clipboard across all your devices (select and copy text on mobile, paste on PC), and generally make sure important data gets routed to you no matter what device you’re currently using. Quickly sending links or files from my phone to my PC is something I do frequently, for example. No need to email files to myself or drop them in Dropbox or Google Drive when I can Share it from my phone and immediately bring it to the foreground on any of my other devices. If those devices are off, then the links I send open up as soon as they’re powered back on. Nothing gets lost.

Not only that, but it connects with IFTTT, my favorite task automation tool, to connect to other services so you can be immediately notified of… well, basically anything. Pushbullet + IFTTT is slowly becoming an all-in-one, customizable notification center that’s seamless across all of my devices. Here are some examples of handy Pushbullet + IFTTT recipes:

IFTTT Recipe: Push My Trello Tasks connects trello to pushbullet

IFTTT Recipe: If the forecast calls for rain tomorrow get a push notification connects weather to pushbullet

IFTTT Recipe: If my package's shipping status changes, then send me a note connects boxoh-package-tracking to pushbullet

IFTTT Recipe: Recurring reminder to take your vitamins/medicine every day at a certain time connects date-time to pushbullet

IFTTT Recipe: When markets close, then send me the closing price of a specific stock connects stocks to pushbullet

For jotting down quick notes, I prefer Google Keep.

Google-Keep-Featured

I’ve tried for years to find a place for EverNote in my workflow, but it just doesn’t work for me. I usually do long-form writing in a text editor (I’m using Sublime Text right now), and I’m more comfortable there. If I’m on my phone, I’m probably not writing something long-form, and I really just want to write something down quickly so I can remember it later. For this, I use the Google Keep widget on my phone so I’m always one swipe and a tap away from rapid note-taking that’s instantly synced to the cloud. I’ve ultimately found this to be faster and more legible than keeping a pen and notebook on my person at all times like I used to.

For reading news, it’s gotta be Feedly.

signup-feedly-logo

Ever since Google Reader was shut down, I’ve switched over to using Feedly for all my news consumption. I spend enormous amounts of time reading news about game dev and technology, and Feedly is incredibly slick and easy to use both on web and mobile. It integrates cleanly with tools like Pocket and Buffer, it makes sharing content or saving it for later very easy, and it’s simply the best there is at what it does. Give it a shot! Also, here are some nifty IFTTT recipes that work with Feedly:

IFTTT Recipe: Save your feedly saved articles to a Google Drive spreadsheet connects feedly to google-drive

IFTTT Recipe: Add feedly subscriptions to google drive spreadsheet connects feedly to google-drive

IFTTT Recipe: Add a random #Wikipedia article to #Feedly every day to increase my knowledge connects date-time to feedly

For simple paintovers and documenting process, Skitch has long been a favorite of mine.

The tools it offers — drawing lines and arrows and boxes, adding text, highlighting, pixellation for sensitive details, etc — are very simple, but can be used to great effect if you need to quickly make a point or demonstrate process. When I was managing outsourcing on Just Cause 3, I used it extensively for process documentation for both internal and external teams. For another example, here’s a quick how-to guide I created using Skitch on preventing your Facebook friends from sharing your data without your consent:

It’s not exactly pretty, but it’s also easy to understand and took me less than two minutes. And it works great on mobile devices, too!

For two-factor authentication, use Authy.

authy-facebook

It works anywhere Google Authenticator does, and it has the benefit of letting you back up your two-factor authentication codes and switch between devices if necessary. It would suck enormously if you lost your phone and all your 2FA codes were lost to you forever, wouldn’t it? Dump Google Authenticator and grab Authy. And if you haven’t set up two-factor authentication on your apps yet, go to twofactorauth.org and start now. It’s literally the bare minimum you can do to keep yourself and your personal information safe online in the event of a data or password breach for any of the sites you visit. You don’t have to be targeted to be a victim.

For more information on this and how to take one-time steps to secure yourself online, have a look at my GamerGate Survival Guide. At the very least, follow steps 1 and 2, which should be mandatory for anyone using the internet today.

For reading saved articles on the go, use Pocket!

logo-pocket

When I was still working for Avalanche Studios and commuting into Manhattan, I used to spend my entire commute reading articles I’d saved in Pocket. Since there’s no internet access on the subway, having offline reading material was a lifesaver. Anytime I wanted to have something to read on my commute, I’d click on the browser bookmarklet to automatically save for offline reading on my phone, then I’d be ready to go. Even better, it has IFTTT support, which lets you do a lot of really cool things, the simplest of which is connecting an RSS feed you like to Pocket so you’ll automatically have interesting things you care about waiting for you to read. Here are some more example recipes:

IFTTT Recipe: Save in Pocket the popular articles from your favorite NYTimes section connects the-new-york-times to pocket

IFTTT Recipe: Store Pocket Articles to Evernote connects pocket to evernote

IFTTT Recipe: Everyday at 08:00 AM, add a random How Stuff Works Article to my Pocket connects date-time to pocket

IFTTT Recipe: Add saved Reddit posts to Pocket connects reddit to pocket

One additional bonus of using IFTTT and Pocket together that’s slightly more advanced is setting up IFTTT triggers to recognize tags you create in Pocket. For example, if I read an article about a cool tool I want to try out, I’d tag it with “tools” and an IFTTT action would look for that keyword, then automatically add a new line with its information onto an ongoing spreadsheet I maintain of tools to try out. Another tag-based trigger would be tagging my assistant’s name, which would send her an email with the content of the Pocket article I was reading.

Best of all, these tags can be added while offline, and when your device finds a cellular signal again, it syncs to the server and all the actions you set up immediately start working. This is especially cool because most apps that require some sort of internet connection force you into an offline read-only mode where you basically can’t work, but Pocket and IFTTT neatly circumvent that. It’s pretty awesome if you frequently enter and exit spaces with no internet access, such as a train or an airplane.

SERVICES!

I’ve switched my cellular phone plan from AT&T to Google’s Project Fi.

ProjectFi

Project Fi is a prepaid phone carrier offering by Google. It uses T-Mobile and Sprint for mobile data, switching intelligently between the two depending on whichever is fastest. Calls are automatically routed over wifi whenever possible, voice calls and texting is unlimited, and mobile data starts at 1gb\mo for $10, and whatever data you don’t use is refunded at the end of the month. The net effect is that I’m paying $40\mo now for what used to cost me $85\mo with AT&T. It’s fast, reliable, and I get to use the fantastic Motorola Nexus 6, which is the best phone I’ve ever used.

Even better, I’m writing this article in Mexico right now, and I get the same texting and data rates that I do in the US. It’s still only in a limited rollout and the phone compatibility list is very short, but coverage and support are growing steadily. I’ve been using it since July or so, and recently cancelled my service with AT&T and I’ve been very pleased with the service, the phone, and their customer support when I needed it. Go Google!

That’s the latest!

Aside from what’s mentioned above, the rest of my kit from the video linked above is pretty much the same as before. I’ll be putting together a guide in the near future on security basics for freelancers securing their clients’ content, as well as a few other fun experiments. Thanks for reading! For now, I’m going back to my vacation in Mexico. See you next year!

Make Your Own Way: The Rise of Indie Content Developers

Hi all! I just gave the keynote speech at Gameacon, and here’s the full text of the speech.

Click here to see the slides in Google Slides.

Summary:

With development tools and game engines becoming cheaper and freer and the rise of engine-specific content marketplaces, an entirely new type of career is emerging: a self-sustaining, independent content developer that creates standalone products for sale to developers across the world for use in their projects. Whether it’s art, audio, code, scripting, or some combination thereof, Jon shares his tips, tricks, and insights as the Content Curator of the Unreal Engine Marketplace to help you know how to decide what to create, what product design means in this context, various techniques for marketing your products, how to be a developer’s developer, and tips on how you can turn this into a self-sustaining career.

Introduction

Over the last few years, online marketplaces for content created by developers for developers have emerged as an increasingly viable option for independent game developers to prototype and develop their projects. This saves them thousands of dollars commissioning work from other developers, and thousands of hours learning new peripheral skills simply to execute on their ideas. Inspiration strikes quickly and ultimately it’s about the end product, and having a reasonably-priced solution to a problem that’s well-documented and well-supported can be a lifesaver when you’re fleshing out your ideas.

From sellsword to selling swords

Over the last few years, many developers have started selling content that they develop for fun and turned it into a lucrative sideline. It’s a dramatic shift away from making money as either a full-time employee or a work-for-hire contractor. Selling components of a game as a product instead of a service is a very exciting and different way to develop games. Many of them have actually become so successful at it that they’ve been able to leave their fulltime jobs and live on the income they generate.

What do I want to sell?

What’s your skillset? Artist, designer, scripter, coder, musician, or some blend thereof? Let’s start there.

Your junk drawer isn’t hot product

First, toss aside any idea that you can take old content you have laying around and can quickly flip it for cash. That’s the wrong mindset. Rummaging through your junk drawer to make a quick buck only fulfills your needs. And don’t think you can just crank out something simple in a single weekend and sell that. Your best chance for succeeding in this is developing content that fulfills the needs of other game developers. Being a developer yourself will give you some valuable insights into that, but you’re developing products for a large-scale audience, and that must always be kept in mind.

Focus on your strengths

Start from a position of strength. Learning a completely new skillset in order to enter a market where people have drastically more experience than you is going to be a frustrating uphill battle. To keep yourself motivated and encouraged enough to see this through, focus on creating something using your strongest skillset, with the creative challenge being “how do I design this to save time for a large audience?”

Is there a market for this?

People purchase content based on their passions and ambitions and the things that inspire and influence them. When they shop for content, they think of the pieces they need to assemble into the type of product they want. By and large, the most popular type of product I’ve seen overall are specially-designed prototype kits to fit game types, like RTS, RPG, FPS, tower defense, endless runner, etc. People tend to think of the type of game they want to develop first, so this is the first thing they look for to help them get started. After that is typically when they look for art and audio. With regards to the size of these markets, you would be surprised at how large they are and how lucrative it can be for an independent content developer that’s very good at what they do.

Popular themes and trends

Earlier this year there was a big spike in Minecraft-style crafting and construction games, survival games, horror, and zombies all tied into the hot property of the moment, offset by 2 – 8 weeks or however long it took to complete the content once the content creators were inspired. People would create things like a series of props likely to be used in survival games, a Blueprint-based crafting system that could be used for either Minecraft or survival games, horror-themed audio packs, modular zombies, etc. They’d analyze the games, reduce them to modular components, then design them to be easily dropped in and fit together to mix and match.

Pick a niche

Pick your genre, theme, style, and platform. You can’t be all things to all people. If you’re not sure where to start, look at what the top selling games are in the last year, and what the biggest upcoming games are going to be based on the amount of press coverage they get. Here’s a sampling of games:

  1. Fallout 4. First-person RPG, realistic post-apocalyptic, next-gen platforms.
  2. Madden NFL 16. Sports, realistic, next-gen platforms.
  3. Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. First person shooter, realistic war game, next-gen platforms.
  4. Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Third person RPG, stylized\cartoony fantasy, Nintendo console.
  5. Halo 5: Guardians. First person shooter, realistic sci-fi, next-gen platform.
  6. Gran Turismo. Third person racing game, realistic, next-gen platform.
  7. Super Smash Brothers Brawl. 3D fighting game\brawler, cartoony, Nintendo console.
  8. World of Warcraft. Third-person RPG, cartoony fantasy, PC.
  9. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Third-person RPG, semi-realistic fantasy, next-gen consoles.
  10. Minecraft. First person world-builder, cartoony retro, current-gen consoles and PC.

Select your audience

This is a reasonable spread of the art styles and types of games that move a lot of units. These are the kinds of games that get the most attention from people at a broad level. These games set broad trends that people are likely to emulate on their own projects. However, most of these are gigantic AAA productions, and the type of developers that are going to purchase content are going to be smaller teams without AAA budgets. It’s important to factor that in, and stay in touch with what’s going on in the indie game dev community. Keep an eye on those trends, ebbs, and flows.

Keep an eye on geek culture

It’s also well worthwhile to tune into other forms of media and geeky culture. Is there a major movie, TV, or comic book release coming in the next few months? Something big, like an Aliens sequel, a new Avengers movie, the new season of Daredevil, the TV adaptation of Preacher, or really any other influential, beloved property that’s going to land in the coming months. Even science can be exciting and drive sales. When I was running the Unreal Engine Marketplace, I saw a massive spike in space-themed content of all types after NASA started showing off the high-res closeup photographs of Pluto. Tying in your product to something reminiscent of that need or that ties into it meaningfully could be a good way to drive interest and sales. Follow indie game dev websites, see what’s popular, see what people are building, and analyze your competition to see how well that need is being filled.

Where do I sell it?

It depends on the market you’re targeting and the game engine you’re building. Here are a few of the markets:

  1. Unreal Engine Marketplace
  2. Unity Asset Store
  3. TurboSquid
  4. CGTrader
  5. Design Connected
  6. Gumroad

They all have their strengths and weaknesses. Naturally, I recommend the Unreal Engine Marketplace because I helped build it, but you may prefer asset stores with a larger content base or that specialize with different engines or types of art, such as architectural visualization. Shop around, see what appeals to you, check in with their communities to see how they are, and familiarize yourself.

How do I build it?

After you’ve picked a market and a niche to fill, spend time thinking about not only how end users are going to ultimately use your content to build their games, but also how it can fit together with other pieces of content. Something I spent some time on at Epic was pairing certain packs together that complemented each other and could be pulled together into a full game. For example, this is a set of content that can be had for less than $1000 to help you build a fully functional first person multiplayer shooter:

  1. A first-person multiplayer shooter Blueprint to flesh out core systems
  2. A level prototyping kit for laying out full levels and gameplay
  3. A cool sci-fi character rigged to the default Unreal skeleton
  4. A series of animation packs to get one-handed weapon and two-handed weapon animation sets onto those characters
  5. A procedural set of randomizable combat rifles and pistols for them to carry
  6. A modular warehouse full of industrial props to fill the level with
  7. VFX packs to add explosions, muzzle flashes, bullet ricochets, and blood splatter VFX
  8. Then to polish it off, packs of realistic weapon sounds, military character barks and deaths, and a dramatic score.
  9. To tie it all together, add a modular UI system and frontend.

How do I price it?

Here’s the tricky question! Selling content on an online marketplace is dramatically different than pricing it out with an outsourcing studio. When you’re selling your content in a market to attempt to become profitable through volume, there are a wide variety of factors in how you set the price. Most people purchasing the content haven’t been in a position to commission content from an art outsourcing studio or independent artist, so they have to fall back on the simplest way they have to quantify value: How many and at what price?

100 props for $20 comes out to $0.20 per prop. Not bad! But 10 high-quality PBR rocks for $80 is $8 per rock, and that’s a lot more. What about a set of 3 background mountains for $125? Geez, that’s $41.66 per mountain, that’s getting pricy!

Granted, there are massive variables there, including quality, texture resolution, polygon count, modularity, are they part of a cohesive set, and so on. The biggest factor that’s difficult to quantify is functionality. How meaningful is it if you have 5 pieces of content and 20 knobs to control them? How do you convey that meaningfully?

How do I convey quality?

The best answer I’ve found is to illustrate the value by showing how you can save time by compounding effort. “With this set of 50 modular cave pieces with randomized materials, you can create thousands of possible cave configurations in minutes. Just click to draw, and flip these switches and see what you get!” People love modularity, randomization, sliders, swappable parts, and procedural generation. The sales pitch there is giving someone the tools to create almost anything they can imagine for the game of their genre. That’s harder to quantify and harder to put a price on, so if you can start out with a basic number of modular parts or bullet points that they’ll do the basic “how many and at what price” math on, you can increase the price even more beyond that by adding the procedural and customization options, as well as making it *really* easy to use. Adding tutorials, documentation, and demo levels is also a confidence booster if your content is expensive.

“I want to make caves with dungeons — oh wow, this pack is $85, but I could make thousands of them with this. It comes with 40 walls, 16 kinds of stalactites and stalagmites, and includes a demo level showing how it all fits together. I’m sold!”

Really, how much should it cost?

As for actual dollar amounts, impulse purchases are almost anything $30 and under. If you’re pricing anything above $50, it’s important to have a well-produced video to demonstrate the content. Tutorials and documentation are a bonus, but you basically need to make a short commercial to get people to open their wallets for anything above $50. Don’t forget that anything you sell in European countries is going to have a 23% VAT charge on top of it, so bear that in mind when setting your prices. Depending on how strong the presentation materials are, the quality of the product, and the level of customer engagement and the buyers’ confidence that ensues from that, I’ve seen content above the $100 sell extraordinarily well. If all else fails, ask your audience!

What makes a good video?

An effective approach to creating a video that I recommend is keeping it between 90 and 120 seconds long. Begin with examples of the finished product, then show your content in the editor. Show the controls you provide, and look at some of the most interesting and visually meaningful configuration options your product offers. Although long tutorial videos are helpful and they’re great to have if your content is complex, creating a shorter “commercial” video for potential buyers is a smart move. Ease of use and the end product are what is most important, so if you can dazzle them with video of how it could work, then show them what knobs they can turn to use it, and try to keep it under two minutes, you’ll be in a very solid competitive position. The easier it is for the buyer to visualize “what is it? Now how can I do it?” the faster you’ll get them interested.

How do I build a loyal user base?

Get involved with other creators in your community and surround yourself with them. I strongly believe you’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with, and keeping smart people that work toward the same goals you have is a great way to stay motivated, interested, and connected to opportunities as they arise.

  • Join forums
  • Get invites to Slack and Skype chats
  • Find or create a Twitter list for interesting or influential people and interact with them there
  • Join Facebook groups

Embed yourself and publicize

Embedding yourself with other content creators is a great way to find potential partners to collaborate with on your own projects, and to do more comarketing. Go where they go, and emulate them. Keeping ongoing development threads of your content is a great way to build publicity in advance of your content releases, as well as getting valuable input and feedback from other creators and potential customers. Engagement is incredibly important and a strong differentiator, both before the release and after.

Analyze other creators’ work

Analyze your competition closely, and look for people with complementary content that you could team up with in the future to help promote each others’ work. It’s important to separate how you feel as a content creator about your competition’s products, and how the end users ultimately feel about it in their review and forum feedback. It’s possible that content that may seem substandard on the surface is actually excellent and widely loved, while content you think is amazing is actually very difficult to work with. Another factor and strong differentiator is the quality of support the developer provides, if any. Do they consistently update their content with bug fixes and respond to their community, or do they see content development as a one-off dumping ground? I’ve seen enterprising people torpedo their competition by offering better support and responsiveness. People generally feel more comfortable purchasing content from people they like that they feel will support them, even if it’s only $30.

Set up a support infrastructure

I also recommend setting up a basic ticket support system and a separate email address for all support requests. From least to most expensive:

These are all viable options for tracking your support requests. Really, stay on top of this because it’s incredibly important to build a good reputation. Word of mouth is everything, and these are simple and cheap ways to stay organized. This is something I hammered on Marketplace sellers to maintain, and I’ve even removed content from the Marketplace for people that wouldn’t support their content. It’s very important, and has a direct effect on sales, loyalty, and repeat customers.

Tips and tricks for success

  • If you’re in the US, form a limited liability company.
  • Absolutely the most important thing you can do in a position of supporting your customers is acknowledging them quickly, even if you don’t have an immediate or even satisfactory answer for their concern.
  • When doing work-for-hire content for your clients, identify which of your assignments could be turned into a sellable product, and negotiate a lower rate if they accept non-exclusivity. You can open yourself up to a larger client base, make work-for-hire money, and generate a recurring revenue stream and a library as you do it.
  • Having a library of content and getting on a regular release schedule is important for marketing beats and re-promoting your earlier work. Ship something every month. It’ll keep your motivation high.
  • If you’re working on a game, consider selling some of the content you develop for it on an online marketplace as a means of promoting your game,attracting talent and interest, and monetizing early.
  • Selling your content can be an excellent marketing vehicle to drive interest toward your service-based offerings.

Good luck out there!

Amazon finally adds Two-Factor Authentication

You Can Now Use Two-Step Authentication on Amazon—Here’s How

Excellent! Amazon finally added two-factor authentication for account security. Here’s how to set it up. It’s easy!

As a bonus, it appears they’re using HTTPS sitewide if you’re logged in now, which they didn’t used to do. Good job, Amazon. :)

BitTorrent Sync Mobile Update: Create, Edit and Share

BitTorrent Sync Mobile Update: Create, Edit and Share | Official BitTorrent Sync Blog
YES!! One my of favorite tools just got even better.

BitTorrent Sync Mobile Update: Create, Edit and Share:
(from Jon Jones, Tech Geek via IFTTT)

Vizio Latest Manufacturer To Offer More Ways For TVs To Watch Purchasers

Vizio Latest Manufacturer To Offer More Ways For TVs To Watch Purchasers | Techdirt
Here’s another compelling reason never to own a Smart TV — spyware!

In Vizio’s IPO filing, they reveal that over 8 million of their Smart TVs currently track every channel you watch (broadcast, cable, and satellite), everything you stream on any device connected to your TV (Chromecast, Roku, etc), and every game you play and everything you do on your consoles. In their own words, this generates 100 billion data points per day that they “deliver to advertisers and media content providers.” This is not referenced on their website or in their privacy policy.

In other words, the Vizio Smart TV you paid for is secretly recording absolutely everything you do with your TV, including third party devices plugged into your TV, and all of that data gets sold to advertisers, there’s no way to opt out, and they’ve deliberately hidden the fact that they’re doing this from the people purchasing their TVs.

No thanks.
(from Jon Jones, Tech Geek via IFTTT)