Continental Drift: Are American and Japanese Gamers’ Tastes Growing Apart?

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a piece I wrote for one of my classes at graduate school. In the interest of sharing knowledge, I’ve posted it here on the Skyboy Games Dev Blog.

Many years ago while reminiscing with a friend, I happened to mention that, as a child, I had been so struck by the opera scene in Final Fantasy 6 that I kept a save file at that point in the game specifically for the purpose of playing that scene whenever I wanted to. My friend then responded that he had done the same thing. What struck me about this exchange was that my friend had never left Japan and spoke little English. Meanwhile, I had grown-up in North America and had not been to Japan until my early twenties. Despite growing up half-a-world apart, we had managed to share a moment of culture centered around a particular scene from a particular video game from Japan.

Given the market dominance in the 80’s of the Nintendo Entertainment System (Cunningham, 2013), the strength of its successor, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, in the 90’s (Buchanan, 2009), and the success of the Sony Playstation (IGN Staff, 1998) and Playstation2 (Ewalt, 2011) into the mid 00’s, it is easy to imagine the size of the impact that Japanese games have had on the shared history of video game players. Yet, more recent news about the console games industry in Japan has a more pessimistic attitude. Articles state that “Japanese games are now by and large made to appeal almost exclusively to Japanese gamers” (Winterhalter, 2011) and that Japanese gamers typically equate foreign (non-Japanese) games with low quality (Kohler, 2010.) Meanwhile, Japanese games industry veteran Tak Fuji lamented that Western gamers “have no interest in Japanese games” (Yin-Poole, 2011.) Statements like these suggest a growing separation between the tastes of Japanese and American gamers.
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Lessons Learned from It’s Raining Bombs

Participating in One Game a Month (#1GAM) is possibly the best and worst idea I’ve ever had. On one hand, quickly producing games prototypes is a great way to learn and try out ideas. On the other hand, launching a game every month is HARD.

Still, I’m glad Skyboy Games is doing it. (Ask me again in a few months to see if my answer has changed.)

In the spirit of spreading knowledge, here are three lessons learned from producing It’s Raining Bombs, our August entry for #1GAM.

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A Cheapskate’s Guide to Twitter Ads

When running an internet-based business, you can’t throw a rock without hitting an article telling you how important it is to have a presence on social media like Facebook and Twitter. (P.S. Please follow us on Twitter and Facebook!) Meanwhile, said services will bombard you with offers to run ads to get more likes/followers.

So, that got me thinking: how many Twitter followers can I get for a tiny advertising spend? Say, lunch at a fast-food restaurant kind of tiny. The following post is the result of that experiment.

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Crushing Every PNG in a Folder Hierarchy with a Batch File

While writing a batch file to remove stray Thumb.db files from my Ookibloks data, I figured it would be a good time to do a little extra content optimization. If, like Ookibloks, you happen to use PNG for your game’s textures, you may have a lot to gain by way of the PNG compression strategy you use.

The amount of file size compression can vary wildly depending on the compression tool used and its settings. For Ookibloks I went with pngcrush, an open-source commandline utility that can change compression methods and strip unnecessary metadata from PNG files. After experimenting with various parameters and looking up the batch file “for” expression syntax (I can never seem to remember it off the top of my head), I ended up with the following:

FOR /F %%i IN ('DIR /S /B resource\*.png') DO pngcrush.exe -ow -reduce -rem gAMA -rem cHRM -rem iCCP -rem sRGB -rem alla -rem text %%i
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Easily Create a Windows App Icon with Gimp

Icons and how they appear in your target OS are the sort of thing you don’t think much about until you actually have to make them. This was definitely the case for me after I prepped a build of Ookibloks and noticed that the icon was blurry.

Looking more closely at how icons behave on my Windows machine, I noticed how icons that may look fine at medium size, will look like a lame little image in the middle of an empty square at larger sizes.

Various icons in Windows at medium view

Various icons in Windows at medium view

Various icons in Windows at large view

Various icons in Windows at large view

The effect is even more pronounced when using the extra-large icon view.

Icons at extra-large view

Icons at extra-large view. Whoah!

Naturally, I wanted to make sure that Ookibloks has an icon that looks good wherever it resides on a player’s machine. This post is a result of said semi-deep dive into app icons on Windows.

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Recursively Erasing Thumbs.db from your Game Resources

Despite our best efforts, Thumbs.db (a hidden file that Windows uses to store Explorer thumbnails for all the images in a folder) often manages to sneak its way into game data folders. At least, that has been the case for me while putting together build scripts for Ookibloks.

Before potentially releasing a build with one or more Thumbs.db hiding in the game’s data, I’ve found it useful to scrub out all the Thumbs.db files from my game data with a console command like this one:
del /s /A:H resource\Thumbs.dbContinue reading

Run a Windows Batch File from the Current Directory

Here’s a little bit of Windows batch file magic that I never remember off the top of my head so I’ll log it here.

When you want your batch file commands to be executed from the current directory, putting the following at the start of your batch file should do the trick:
cd /d %~dp0Continue reading