Mar 12

2010

Robots Will Pick Our Next Game

Posted by: Adam Strong-Morse | Comments (8)

As we’ve mentioned, we’re currently finishing up Choice of Broadsides.  That means that we’re also working on picking our next couple of games for development– whether that’s Choice of the Dragon II, Choice of the God, Choice of the Consort, or something else.  We thought it might be interesting to discuss our method for selecting projects.

The first thing we did was do some brainstorming for some ideas that we thought would be fun to write, fun to play, and popular.  We came up with a long list of ideas–really, any nifty genre with any nifty character type can be the basis for compelling choices.  We also had some suggestions from e-mails we’ve received, which basically provided more support for ideas we already had–various people have suggested werewolf games or vampire games or other ideas that we were vaguely talking about.

So, the question, is which game should we make?  That’s where the interesting choice is.  The first thing we did was to toss up a blog post asking people to vote for their favorite ideas.  We’ve gotten some great feedback, but that’s still pretty limited.  The key step is our next approach:  using Google AdWords to test a bunch of different games.  Google AdWords is a service that serves short text ads to lots of websites on the web.  The key is that AdWords ads can be cheap– we’re aiming to pay about 5 cents per click.  That means that $100 will get us 2000 clicks.  And AdWords can rotate among a bunch of different ads.  So we’re building ads for a bunch of different games, none of which we’ve written yet.  The AdWords robots will rotate our ads for us.  If one game idea gets 500 clicks over the course of the experiment, while another gets 10, we know that there’s more market demand for the 500 click game.  We can also try tweaking the ads as we go– if one ad is doing badly, we’ll pull it and replace it with a variant for the same game.  If it then does better, we understand what aspect of the game to emphasize.  If all ads for the same game idea do badly, it’s probably not the most popular idea.

So that’s how robots will pick our next game.  But they won’t really, because while we’ll take into account demand, we’re also going to focus on which games we most want to design/write.  (That’s how we chose Choice of the Dragon and Choice of Broadsides–those were both ideas that we were particularly excited to write.)

There are a couple of reasons why we’re going to take into account our preferences.  First, we’re writing these games at all because it’s fun.  (That’s also why we encourage you to try writing your own ChoiceScript games.)  Choice of Games isn’t anybody’s main job– it’s a hobby job for all of us, although it produces some real money, and we hope it will make a meaningful part of our incomes.  But more generally, we should be doing things that we like and that are fun–that keeps us motivated, productive, and satisfied.  That’s what we aim for in our day jobs, and it’s doubly true for Choice of Games.

Second, if we tried to write things we weren’t interested in, we would do it badly.  When you care and are excited, your work is better.  We would make worse games more slowly if we were just doing what we thought would get us the most downloads.

Third, if we’re excited about it, we think others will be, too.  The blog voting provides us with some useful information, and the AdWords experiment should provide even more, but it’s still all tea leaves.  There may be many thousands of people who will download our game or play it on the web, but would never click through an AdWords ad or vote in a blog poll.  And some people who click on an AdWords ad may be looking for something very different from our style of games.

So, robots will pick our next game.  But they won’t pick it on their own.  They’ll more identify particularly strong contenders, and then we’ll pick our favorites to do now.  We think that will be an effective strategy, but equally importantly, we think it will be lots of fun, both for us and for you.

8 Comments

  1. Dan says:

    I should add that we were inspired to follow this strategy by Eric Ries’ great blog post on Lessons Learned: http://www.startuplessonslearned.com/2008/11/using-adwords-to-assess-demand-for-your.html

  2. CR says:

    *laughs* This post made me want a “Choice of the Robot” game! Think of a company trying to write the perfect robot AI that does testing similar to the game “Portal”. You get to choose which what systems you start with (“Were you manufactured with eyes or ears?”), then you’re put through a maze where you have to find your way out through puzzles, moral decisions, etc.

    You could even continue the story after the maze by having the company assign you a job your AI seams suited then see how well you do in that job. (As an aggressive AI with lasers, you’re assigned to a security job where you have to protect a building from a break in.)

    ^_^

  3. Jan M says:

    Indeed CR.

    I too wished for a “Choice of the Robot” after seeing this blog-post.

  4. Devalyn says:

    I find the google ad idea rather creative. The support from a fanbase would also help. A simple donation system could be improvised and also provide a small flow of income to continuously fund these small ads. With a large enough fanbase it can extend to actual ads based on the more popular games. Just an idea, if it wasn’t already taken into consideration. I personally like what you guys are trying to accomplish.

    Sidenote: Vampire and Werewolf Games would increase a fanbase but also be a repetitive idea…it has been done too many times.

  5. Yayofangamer says:

    I really liked choice of a dragon! I just finished it today lolz

    I was really interesed after the first questions, it was even fun! :)

    I hope you guys continue like that :D

    plus Im waiting for Choice of a dragon II :D

  6. Kate14 says:

    Choice of the dragon 2, put a 69p price on it for ipod touch, i would buy and if COTD 1 is free people can buy that see if they like it then maybe pay for no. 2

    btw love the apps bestvin my ipod

  7. [...] at our market research data confirmed the impression. I was genuinely surprised at the number of votes (via the blog and via [...]

  8. Ian Holmes says:

    Or a “Choice of Not Evil” game, where you play a Google employee (or a rogue AI on the Google megafarm)

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