Wednesday, May 28, 2008

This Blog Has Moved

At last...

to here:

Moving from blogger

I'm thinking of moving the blog to the positech site. anyone recommend any decent blogging software I can install easily?

Today I got some work done on kudos 2, then dealt with some crap on the internet. It seems every COD 4 game is full of children being abusive to each other. I also got loads of pathetic abuse from game devs on some forum. For some reason, whole swathes of people in 'the industry' hate my guts and are constantly abusive to me. Interestingly, they act the same way towards Derek Smart. I think the problem is that me and Derek are our own boss, work from home on games we design, love and enjoy working on. There are a *lot* of bitter spiteful people in the industry who hate that, and they deal with it by hurling abuse at us.
Fuck em, I earn more than I did when I did their job, and work at home when I feel like it. Sucks to be them :D I like to keep my customers happy, but the industry can be sniffy at me if they like. I don't need them.

Ho hum.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Optimising for Intel and their ilk

I spent most of today trying to speed up the 'choose game' screen' for Democracy 2. This part of the game runs slowly and several people have mentioned it.
The thing is, it runs between 165 and 300 FPS on my machine.
So after a days fiddling it now runs between 250 and 800 FPS on my machine.
I just hope this means it goes faster than it used to on those crappy low end 'cards' they put in laptops.
Text rendering is SLOWWWWWWWWWWWW.
At least the way I do it (with fancy spacing) is.

Friday, May 23, 2008

New Activities (What makes you feel confident?)

I'm thinking about new activities to add to the game. Ideally I want lots of variety, but not too many overlapping ones so the GUI doesn't get too full.
So I was thinking of these two:

Health Spa

I reckon sunbathing is like sleeping, only you get a tan. So boredom is pretty high, but it reduces tiredness. It could increase charisma (nearest I have to attractiveness) and maybe confidence.

health spa could increase charisma, confidence and happiness whilst reducing stress. In fact, would it increase confidence? if not, what does?

What makes you feel more confident?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Why tutorials are a pain.

I'm revamping the code that powers the tutorial for Kudos 2. You might think that tutorials are a fairly easy thing to add to a game, but they are not.
If the game is really really simple, it's not a big deal, as witnessed by one famous game's entire instructions:

Avoid Missing Ball for High Score.

But Kudos 2 isn't pong, so it needs more than that. I'm using a similar approach to Democracy 2, which is a tutorial which highlights different GUI elements in turn and presents an overview of the game, whilst getting the player to make a few mouse clicks here and there. In addition, when you first play the game 'Hint' windows will pop up when new things happen to give you more information.

It's hard to code a tutorial without writing 'spaghetti' code. In other words, its tough to stick with the principles of Object-Oriented programming and not have lots of code spread around the place.
A tutorial, by definition, should cover the whole game. It should also prevent the player screwing it up with an errant keystroke or mouse click. In simple terms, you switch off player input at the tutorial start, and on again at the end, but that's not good enough if you want to support mouse clicks and other input during the tutorial itself.
So you end up writing 'hooks' into your input code to let the tutorial define what buttons can and can not be clicked at any point of time. This can get a bit annoying.

Fortunately my engine now has a better scripting system tan it used to, so it's pretty easy for me to 'label' buttons and windows in the code, and then let a script close them, allow or deny them, or highlight them. This means most of the real 'control' is done by scripts and thus easily edited and debugged.
It's taken most of the day to get it working the way I like, and that's without actually rewriting the new tutorial text, spell and grammar checking and so on.
But it's a step towards the far off goal of finishing the game. So hurrah!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Something interesting about the piratebay.

Something I found out today when reading a post on a forum.

ThePirateBay is one of these websites that lets everyone steal everyone else's work, whilst selling advertising space. They make a fortune, and pretend to be some sort of bullshit pseudo-communist anti-corporate 'stick it to the man' political campaign. Apparently, we will throw off the shackles of capitalism by downloading DVD rips of Spiderman 3.

But whats interesting is who actually funds them. It's a notorious right wing Swedish political campaigner and millionaire:

From wikipedia:

""In April 2007, a long-standing rumour was confirmed on Swedish talk show Bert, namely that Pirate Bay had also received financial support from right-wing entrepreneur Carl Lundström. This caused some furor since Lundström, an heir to the Wasabröd fortune, is known for financing several far-right political parties and movements like Sverigedemokraterna and Bevara Sverige Svenskt (Keep Sweden Swedish). The size of Lundström's contributions is unknown, as are his motives. In the talk show, Pirate Bay speaker Tobias Andersson acknowledged that "without Lundström's support, Pirate Bay would not have been able to start" and claimed that most of the money went towards acquiring servers and bandwidth.[9][10][11] Both Pirate Bay and Piratbyrån have since declined to comment on Lundström's involvement.""

So next time you are chatting to some thieving kiddie who tells you he loves the piratebay because they are sticking it to the man, and fighting against "teh evil corporate fascists" remind him (or her) that their heroes are working for a right wing millionaire businessman.

If this wasn't true, you can bet the kids who are put up as the public face of TPB would be out there denying it.
They don't

Monday, May 19, 2008

Why go to the office?

Nice blog post by seth godin:

I've worked in three companies that had lots of people and lots of cubes, and I spent the entire day walking around. I figured that was my job. The days where I sat down and did what looked like work were my least effective days. It's hard for me to see why you'd bother having someone come all the way to an office just to sit in a cube and type.

Sprucing up the special activities

I spent today rejigging the graphics for the 'develop theory' and 'investigate' story activities for scientists and journalists. I need to get a lot more stuff like that put into the game. Hopefully I will be more productive tomorrow than today, when i felt like i coasted through it all quite a bit.

Sales have been quite nice recently, 19% higher than last month, which I'm putting down to lots of advertising I've been doing. Hopefully it more profitable, rather than just more revenue for the same profits.

I have so much admin stuff going on regarding the company right now, with so many old publishing deals, so much potential and existing press, and so much tech support and promotion, that there isn't enough time to handle all of it as it should be done.
Ideally I would train up someone to do it all, although I can't see that happening this year, maybe next.

I think I'd like to be a 100% game designer who never wrote code or did business stuff, or a 100% business man who didn't develop the games. Doing both at once means that neither gets done as well as they should be, which is very frustrating.

Just played COD 4 for the first time in a week. Forgot how l33t a game it was for a while :D

Friday, May 16, 2008

Busy Day

Today I had to:

Go food shopping (zzzz)
Feed a friends cats
Argue on the phone with British Airways (grrrr)
Do a new patch for Democracy adding voter support, update the demo and full versions, upload them, post on the forums and update the server version check code.
Fix a crash bug in Kudos 2
Add some new text and code so the diary entries for when you have a dog, or a dirty house comment on this fact
Check the code for (and fix it) regarding coming home to a dirty house
Buy two new bark sound effects for the dog.
Chase up a publisher, then recommend a new potential publisher to my agents.
Reply to emails, and deal with website forum posts.
Check the frame rate of the new GUI for Kudos 2 using FRAPS. (seems very fast).
Install and play the Sims 2 for a bit as a way of seeing how it compares to kudos (big and slow, and a bit irritating, but lots of content).
It's only 3.30PM. I have vague plans to do some decorating later.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

"Jesus is pessimistic"

To make sure I got an accurate spread of forenames, I found some site with the top few hundred names in the USA, and pasted them into the names files.
Whilst testing some fonts, I suddenly discover one of my friends is called Jesus.
Not only that but apparently 'jesus is pessimistic' and 'spending time with him brings you down.'


I think I'll remove that name, people will get upset...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fiddling with the Gooey

I knew deep down that the art style of my interface was a bit of a kludge. Basically the character art doesn't look right alongside the dialogue boxes and similar bits.
It clashes.
So today I've been reworking it, making it simpler, cleaner and more line-art cartoon drawn style thing.
I think it's getting better.

last night I went to the theatre, and walked out after 30 minutes because it was BAD. Some people just are no good at what they do. if you play night after night to a near empty theatre and people often walk out, you probably suck.
Know when you are no good at what you do. Switching careers may help. I'm currently on career #3, and doing WAY better at it than career #1 (boatbuilding) and #2 (music).
I'd hate to have retired a penniless, crap boat builder.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Kudos 2 screenshot

As promised. The friends portraits are placeholders right now:

Click the image to see full size.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

New Voter Groups

I've revisited Democracy 2 this weekend. Playing GalCiv 2 reminds me how cool it is when an existing game gets added to and improved to make it better, so I took a look at the Democracy 2 modding forums to see what people would like.
One of the loudest requests is to get moddable Voter Groups.

the game ships with 21 different voter groups, which covers a LOT of ground, but doesn't cover some vital ones such as:
Young People
Ethnic Minorities
Drug users

Modding the actual code to support more voter groups through modded text files is easy. Modding the GUI to seamlessly allow n extra groups where n is a variable isn't.
I think I'm going to stick (for now) with the option of adding in up to 3 extra groups. the game may get unwieldy with more anyway. This has entailed all sorts of fidgety code changes, and I was originally hoping to get a setup where you can add new voter groups entirely without touching the games main data directory, but that is proving tricky.
It's all worth doing anywya, an I'm throwing in a new country (USA) as well.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Behind Schedule

I was planning on releasing some kudos 2 screenshots this week, but it does look unlikely right now. I've wasted some time, got distracted, and basically not got around to it.

When I started work on Kudos 2, I was planning on it being a quick game, targeted squarely at the casual games portals. Now I've really got into it, its turning into quite a major game. It's probably more aimed at the Sims crowd than the 'diner dash' crowd.
I still plan to sell it through portals, so I'm hoping that the finished game will come accross as being really content and feature-rich, in comparison with the normal point and click games on those portals.
Ideally, I'd get them to sell it for $22.95. $19.95 really isn't a good enough price for a game that has so much more in it.
Ho hum.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Game pricing and individual utility

What is the right price for an indie game?

$22.95? $19.95? $9.95?

maybe it depends on the game? A simple shooter is maybe cheaper than a Civ IV style game?

I don't think that matters at all. The genre, the budget, the production values are all irrelevant. What matters is the customer. the INDIVIDUAL customer.

I know people who would rather stick razor blade in their eyes than listen to Yngwie J Malmsteen, but I'll pay money to hear him. I know people who would rather gnaw their own legs off than watch a BBC costume drama, but I love em. What am I trying to say?


but WAY more than that, peoples perceived value in a piece of entertainment varies massively. In an ideal market, you would extract the exact amount from each customer that matches the utility they get from the product. Some people LOVE democracy, and I'd like them to pay me $100. Others think its pretty cool and I want $22.95 from them. Some think its fun for 20 minutes and I want $1 from them.
A lot of companies do this, by having 'collectors editions' and 'value' versions and 'gold' versions. It's just an elaborate way of segmenting the market and preventing the real fans getting the casual browsers price. Cheap afternoon cinema tickets are a classic example.

I sometimes see people panic about games prices because "There are tons of cheaper games and some of them are really good". This will not work as a pricing strategy. The value of a game is unique to each buyer. it doesn't matter that Halo 3 looks better and cost more and lasts longer than Cute Knight. I got more fun out of Cute Knight, so it's 'worth' more to me.

Indie game devs should not try to compete on price, but on gameplay, quality and innovation.

Monday, May 05, 2008


I'm pimping a new game. Not one developed by me, but by a fellow developer. It's an arcadey space shootey robot maze blasting transporting capturing beaming thing called droid assault that looks like this.

Here is the full info:
The developer is insanely generous and selling it for just TEN DOLLARS. Buy it quickly (there is a demo) because it can't saty that cheap foerever!