Blogging In A New Gaming World

If any of you still have your RSS readers connected, you know it has been over a year since I have posted anything to this blog. The reasons are myriad as I’ve been under intense product deadlines, tight NDA’s, and entrepreneurial/company pressures. While NDA’s prevent me from giving you all the full story, suffice it say that all of that pressure is now gone, we got a great exit, and it’s time to start firing up the blog again.

While I still stand by my thoughts that all professionals should blog (see The First Day of the Rest of My Life article), in a world filled with Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, and Google Plus, etc. blogging is starting to feel quaint. I do most of my everyday posting and observations on my Google Plus account because it is just so easy to click on the +1 button, and instantly be connected to a large audience. However, I don’t want to be a Google sharecropper forever, and longer in-depth posts need the attention and depth that only a blog post can provide.

I am bursting at the seams to get started telling you about my take on the wonderful opportunities that are available in the gaming market today. These opportunities have been building for years, and you should count yourself lucky to be making games right now.

Jeff Tunnell, Game Maker
Make It Big in Games
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Sad Day… R.I.P. GarageGames, Instant Action, Torque Powered

This post on the Torque Powered site says it all…

Today, InstantAction informed employees that it will be winding down operations. While we are shutting down the InstantAction.com website and Instant Jam game, Torquepowered.com will continue to operate while InstantAction explores opportunities with potential buyers for Torque. We thank all of our past and current customers for their support.

– Torque Management

I am mostly posting it here for sentimental reasons.

Posted in Biz

Dear Google, Please Take Facebook Out

Dear Google,

This week’s announcement of Open Graph by Facebook, and the privacy concerns it raises, is too much. Even though I am making my living by making Facebook games right now, Google needs to respond to what is happening in FB land, and start your own “real” social network. It is obvious that the world needs a social network, yet there is no real alternative to Facebook. You have been farting around with social network ideas for years, with Orkut, Buzz, and Profiles, but your implementations to date have pretty much sucked. Just bite the bullet, and make a network as easy to use and obvious as Facebook. Please, no more back door attempts like Buzz or Profiles or the gawd awful sharing that is on Reader (it is getting better, but still sucks). My team uses and loves Buzz for one small use case, but it is not something I can ask my non-techie friends or family to use.
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I Think Zynga IS Worth $5 Billion

Traditional game developers are scared to death of what is happening with “social games“, but that is fodder for another post. This post is about the big gasp that went up throughout the game industry when the site Second Shares posted a well through out article that that came up with the $5B valuation.

NOTE: As a corollary to this article about why I think Zynga is worth so much, you should check out why I won’t invest in traditional game publishers.
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Torque Game Engine Enters Retirement… Bittersweet For Me

Yesterday Brett Seyler of GarageGames posted a blog announcing the release of version 1.0 of Torque 3D, which is a $1000 updated version of Torque, with new rendering, tools, art pipeline, COLLADA support, etc. It looks awesome, and I know their world-wide team worked incredibly hard on the product. I congratulate them on this release, and wish them great commercial success.

However, buried in a single sentence of the blog was the following statement:

“No matter what the results, there will be other changes to the Torque product line up as well. Biggest of all, as of November 1st, 2009, past versions of Torque (TGEA, TGE) will no longer be available for purchase.”

TGE and TimAste Art

TGE and TimAste Art

Before I get back to this, allow me a little history lesson. Torque Game Engine started life in 1997 as the 3D engine behind Dynamix titles such as Starsiege and Tribes. For those that don’t know it, I was the founder of Dynamix and the Executive Producer of those titles. In 1999, myself, Rick Overman, Tim Gift, and Mark Frohnmayer made an agreement with Sierra/Vivendi/Universal, the parent company of Dynamix, to license this technology, leave Dynamix, and start a company called GarageGames. Open Source was the hottest thing going in those days, and our original intention was to give away the engine, and help people sell the games made with it. A couple of months into our company, we realized we would need some revenue, so we decided to charge $100 for the Torque Game Engine (TGE) and all of the source code. We joked that it was as close to Open Source as we could get it, or it was “Open Source with a business model”. At the time, game engines like id’s Quake engine were selling for $500,000 or more, so our price was something of a shot heard around the world.
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PushButton Engine Open Beta Launched

Two days before Game Developers Conference we opened the PushButton Engine site in Beta form to the general public. The PushButton Engine is a Flash game engine released under the extremely liberal MIT Open Source license. If you are interested in Open Source Flash game development, you should check it out!

PushButton Engine Logo

PushButton Engine Logo

Nine years ago when we released the Torque Game Engine for $100 at GarageGames (for those who don’t know, two of the founders of PushButton Labs, Jeff Tunnell (me) and Rick Overman, were half of the founders of GG) everybody wondered how we could make a company charging so little for our products. To be honest, we thought we would make up the difference by selling games, and even though that did eventually work out, it took a long time, and in the meantime we made a meager living selling TGE one at a time for $100. However, any way you look at it, GarageGames worked out very well, and, like I always say, if you catch fish in a hole, go back to that hole next time you go fishing. So, here we are making another engine, but this time we are giving it away for free!
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Risk Assesment: Don’t Put All Your Games In One Market

Owen Goss, the owner of Streaming Colour Studios released a great article about his iPhone App Store experience that has been sweeping the Indie blogosphere. If you have not read the post, you really need to do it right now, but the gist is that Owen invested $32,000 in Dapple, a color matching game, that has returned only a couple hundred dollars in the first few weeks of release. Owen’s post was awesome. He was not whining. He was just putting out a data point for the community to digest, and I, for one, appreciate his honesty.

A day after the release, the article was picked up by Slashdot, and Owen wrote a follow up article describing the responses he has gotten. Here is an excerpt:

Perception of whining or quitting

Many people perceived my post as whining about my sales, or that I was giving up on the game. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The post was meant purely as informational. I thought it would help people to see that selling an app on the App Store is just like selling any other product: it takes a lot of work and you shouldn’t expect to be an overnight success. I am also not giving up on Dapple; far from it. I’m only just getting started with it. That post was only a single data point on what I hope is a long upward trend for the game. Every game, every company starts somewhere, and I wanted to document where that was for me.

Don't put all of your eggs in one basket, or your games in one market either.

Don't put all of your eggs in one basket, or your games in one market either.


The observation that I would like to make is that it would be great if Owen’s work could be leveraged across multiple platforms. I think Dapple looks like a game that would work in the casual portals, on Facebook, and in the Flash market. Adding all of those revenue streams together may not have made the game profitable, but it could lessen the blow, and who knows, maybe activity in one market will lead to recognition in another market.
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Hey Whiners, the iPhone Market Owes You Nothing

The success of the iPhone App Store is bringing out a lot of pontification about what is wrong with the market and how to fix it, but I think many of the ideas are dead wrong. Develop Magazine’s interview with developer Nnooo finally pushed me to write this article to debunk some of these ideas before they become dogma.

If you think there are too many games in the iPhone App store now, just wait. There will be many more.

If you think there are too many games in the iPhone App store now, just wait. There will be many more.


On 3/3/2009, 148Apps announced that the App Store had over 25,000 apps and games in the marketplace, prompting Develop Magazine to interview Nnooo, WiiWare developer of the product Pop. Pop is a nice looking game, and there is some great information in the interview about the juxtaposition of development on the Wii vs. the iPhone, so it is definitely worth reading the article. However, a good portion of the interview was spent with the founder of Nnooo explaining that the ease of development on the iPhone is causing crowding in the market, and that a lot of bad product is making it onto the system thus lowering the sales of the good games. Wow! Yesterday I had a fairly polite response written, but thinking about it last night really pissed me off, so I changed it.
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Putting Your Game On OS-X and Linux is Not Enough

Recently, an article about Indie gaming went up on Ars Technica entitled Indie dev suggests peers should support OS X, Linux gaming. While I think Jeff Rosen and the Wolfire Games guys are making a cool game, and Ars Technica meant well, this is not enough in Today’s market.

Windows vs. Mac is no longer the question.

Windows vs. Mac is no longer the question.

Eight years ago, when we were first starting GarageGames, putting your game on three OS’s was state of the art, and we supported it by releasing an engine and many games on all three platforms. Obviously, making sure your game can run on three OS’s instead of just Windows is a big step in the right direction, but now days, you need to expand your idea of what a platform is, and build your game accordingly.
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