Prototyping

I've been teaching college full-time for four years as of this week... which surprised me! Over the years, I've helped my students deal with various production issues, ranging from team problems to managing project scope to iterative development. ("Iterate early and often!") There are many different ways to approach iterative development, and one specific approach I use frequently is prototyping. First, my definition of a prototype: A prototype is intended to answer very specific questions. Ideally, the prototype answers just one question. This makes it very different from a vertical slice, which is intended to be a representation of the entirety of the game experience (just a very thin

Designing from the Tutorial Upwards

When I'm designing a game from scratch, starting with a concept and going all the way to content complete, I like to "design from the tutorial upwards". What do I mean by that? A game starts with a concept, and also usually with creative design goals as well as business goals. These initial creative decisions might be figuring out the core mechanic, and determining how to make that mechanic into the most engaging possible experience for the player. But then I get started designing the actual features and preliminary content of the game, and that's where I focus on the tutorial. The whole point of a tutorial is a prioritization what you're going to teach the player. You start with... wh

Speculative Futurism 101

I'm not entirely sure why, but I get asked surprisingly often by my colleagues at the college about my thoughts on the future of technology. (It's probably because I'm such an obvious geekette). I think there are technologies in development that could lead to a very optimistic future which I think of as a "World of Abundance": where basic human needs are met and we use technology to optimize human endeavors for creative and social ventures. Or it could be a very bleak future, depending on how we use and manage (or fail to manage) these technologies. We have already achieved so much with technology that enables creative and inventive work. I've gone from writing my first novels on a manual

Monetization Profiles: Meet "Able", a non-paying player

This is a series of interviews of different player profiles (non-paying players, moderate spenders, and big spenders), and how and why they monetize in free-to-play games. "Able" (not his real name) is a game industry professional and generally a non-spender in free-to-play games, though he has some very specific criteria as to why and when he will spend on a game... ELLEN: You have not spent money on any free-to-play game. Is there a specific reason why? ABLE: You’d say that I don’t like the value proposition. I don’t want to purchase consumables, or durables that I’ll grow out of. ELLEN: But there are free-to-play games that you've played at length... ABLE: "You Don’t Know Jack"

Monetization Profiles: Meet "Bobbi", a moderate spender

This is a series of interviews of different player profiles (non-paying players, moderate spenders, and big spenders), and how and why they monetize in free-to-play games. "Bobbi" (not her real name) is a game industry professional and what I would consider a moderate spender in free-to-play games, though as you'll read, she isn't always... ELLEN: Bobbi, what were your initial impressions of "free to play" games? BOBBI: I know when I started I was like "why would anyone ever pay?" But then I got hooked on a game, and considered what I was paying for in-app purchase vs. how many hours I played the game. And it ended up being incredibly cheap entertainment. Cheaper than going to a movie

Monetization Profiles: Meet "Carl", a big spender

This is a series of interviews of different player profiles (non-paying players, moderate spenders, and big spenders), and how and why they monetize in free-to-play games. “Carl” (not his real name) is a game industry professional and frequently spends in free-to-play games. He shares some great insights into why he makes these purchases… Ellen: Carl, thank you so much for participating in this interview. My first question... about how many F2P games have you paid money for? Carl: Too many to easily count. Probably in the vicinity of fifty or so. Ellen: What is the most you will you spend on a F2P game? Carl: For a single game, probably $100. That amount is similar for my wife, who a

Monetization Profiles: Meet "Chandler", a big spender

This is a series of interviews of different player profiles (non-paying players, moderate spenders, and big spenders), and how and why they monetize in free-to-play games. "Chandler" (not his real name) is a game industry professional and what I would consider a big spender in free-to-play games, though with very specific criteria as to why and when he'll spend big on a game... and also how a game can irrevocably turn away this very valuable player... ELLEN: Chandler, thanks so much for this interview. So, what are some of the free-to-play games you have paid money for? CHANDLER: Farmville, Frontierville, Dragons of Atlantis, Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North, Defenders of Tex

Product Pillars: The What and the Why

"Product pillars" is a concept that I was introduced to years ago by Shannon Loftis, one of the smartest production executives I know. The pillars are a short list of the key requirements of your project. But product pillars are more than that... they are the touchstones you can use to evaluate design decisions throughout production. They are what matters most to your customers and to your business. On one of my most recent mobile game projects, these were our product pillars: 1. Deep strategic gameplay, but easy to learn and play 2. A fireworks show of amazing visuals 3. Incredibly fast, snappy gameplay 4. Under 50 meg initial download size That's fairly straightforward, right? So

Speaking Engagements

Upcoming speaking events: - January 23rd, 2018: "The Actuality of Virtual Reality", Pacific Science Center, Seattle, Washington - March 2018, "Superhero Prose" (moderator), Emerald City Comic Con, Seattle, Washington - March 2018: "Acing the Technical Interview", Game Developers Conference, San Francisco, California Past speaking events: - July 2017: "Kickstarter, Or How We Succeeded But Nearly Went Insane While Crowdfunding", Universidad Peruana de Ciencias Applicadas, Lima, Peru - October 2016: "Storytelling versus Story Sense", Sweden Game Conference, Skövde, Sweden

About Me

Ellen Beeman describes herself as mom, videogame producer, author, gadget geekette, fiddler, former TV writer and city commissioner, etc. She is an expert and consultant in software production, usability, metrics, and monetization. She joined Origin to write and direct games in the Wing Commander series, and has also held salaried positions at Electronics Arts, Warner Bros., Microsoft, Gazillion, and Glu Mobile. As a freelancer, she worked for Disney, Sega, Leapfrog, and other companies. Prior to her games career, Ellen was a television writer, and she also has published four fantasy and science fiction novels and numerous short stories. Ellen has been a speaker at the Game Developer Confe

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