Friday, April 30, 2004

its the runup to E3 so very busy, Lots of last minute stuff getting done, as well as still dealing with builders etc. Very concerned about lack of starship tycoon sales at the moment, despite my advertising. ho hum.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

got some work done on govt last night, on redoing bits of the simulation so its better and clearere, and tying in policy effects to the GUI.
its damned hot today.
Havent sold a game in 2 days. what the hell is going on?

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

not the best of days today. full of office politics and company bullshit.
what ever happened to just designing and making great games? I guess thats the preserve of the 1 or 2 man teams these days, and all power to them.
I'm still very hung up on what the main interface for the government game will look like. I'm toying with the idea of not using images at all, but just generic icons with text over them.
Too many games patronise the players and assume they can't read. Im trying to make this game for the older, more cerebral player anyway.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Spent all evening fiddling with warped text in photoshop and PSP and different icon effects to get that main screenshot of govt to look less messy and cleaner. It looks better than it did, but its the icons themselves that re the problem. round one slook no better, coloring them makes them a mess.
is switcjhing to using text instead of icons total heresy?
Im trying to mke a game thats the total antithesis of onventional management game design (hence the circular design). Maybe using warped text in the game itself is the answer?
maybe sim gamers arent afraid of text heavy screens?

working as an indie is at least 5 times more productive than working for someone else. Add up the meetings, the timewasting, the IT screwups, the total lack of communication, the redoing other peoples work and them redoing yours..
its a wonder anything ever gets finished. The flipside is, nothing can generate hype lies and bullshit like a big company. I guess thats why indie developers havent wiped them out. People fall for hype, reviews and crap, rather than for great games.
ho hum.
having a bad day!
also jadzia... my lovely cat, may have FIV (cat HIV) which is a bit grim, shes going to have a blood test soon.

Monday, April 26, 2004

Got some bugs fixed this morning thanks to some helpfull posts on my forum. I need to chase up the publishers tonight. Its a lovely sunny day, and theres a ncie lake right next to where I work which is quite cool.
I'm worried that the GUI for government looks far too bitty and cluttered.
On the plus side, the electricians turned up to fit a fan in the conservatory today. ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Sunday, April 25, 2004

Heres the latest screenshot from Government:

Feedback much appreciated.

well I've released 2.19a of ST, I can't find any more bugs. Back to government.
Why is there no real competition to paypal? I've docu,mented thir stupidity in the past, but suffice to say that due to database fuckups on their part, they refuse to let me sign up an account or use my credit card. So they get zero custom from me. Paypal really need some good competitors.
Also... I bought some trainers yesterday, this was much harder than in need be. They are all overpriced, (if they have prices on at all), and the shops are staffed by disinterested 12 year old boys, or in some cases, no staff whatsoever. There are lots of things I could spend my money on, so if you don't supply staff in your store who are motivated enough to say "can i help?" to a guy holding a shoe he obviously wanst to try on, then I'll keep my money.
Companies that don't make even a minimal effort to sell to me won't get my money, its really that simple.

I'm determined to fix some outstanding bugs in starship tycoon, which I can't replicate, so I spent the morning putting ASSERT stuff in, and initialising some variables etc.
Its quite a nice day today, pity our conservatory isn't finished. Ideally I'd be laying on a sofa out there witha laptop rather than sat at a desk indoors. ho hum.
Our normally wonderfull cat jadzia made a mess on the kitchen floor this morning. bah! Tip to future cat owners : dont have floorboards in your kitchen (with gaps between them) unless you are 100% sure your cat is litter trained.
Once I've found a fixed a bug in ST i'll celebrate by blowing something up in a game or two. hurrah!

Saturday, April 24, 2004

did a fair bit of design work on government last night. this morning I've spent hours playing starship tycoon, trying to get it to crash, but cannot replicate any bugs that users find at all which is annoying.
I'll probbaly do some more work on government later. I don't expect to write any code at all today, I'll just work on screenshot mockups for all the different data. theres no point in coding a GUI only to realise its not right.
I aim to finish government around Octoberish,then start work on a different game, theres no point in doing another StarLines and letting the game take years...
My advertising just started again, so hopefully I'll get some sales coming in.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Hmmmm. I need to kick off my advertising again, sales have dropped, which at least means I know the adverts are working.
Anyway... I'm even closer to the publishing deals now... which is good news,and still highly motivated about Government.

This morning I realised that unlike the normal once every week update, Norton anticirus ahs been updating its definitions at least once or twice a day. This seemed weird so I went to the tech support page for NAV, and it told me that my product (AV 2002) is no longer supported and did i want to upgrade?
yeah right!
I still support Asteroid Miner and I released that in 1997. What drugs are these big companies on?
Something for me to consider when my current AV subscription runs out i guess.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

jesus I'm busy.
making some good progress on government, the Moies has so much work to do before its ready to ship. Big games alwaysseem a huge task to me, and so much work is redone or wasted.
The best thing about being an indie (apart from taking all the money) is that you get to play every role at once. I can look at a feature as a designer, programmer and marketer when I decide whether to put it in or scrap it, which means little work gets dumped or redone.
The simulation for government is pretty extreme at the moment, I might need to simplify it.
I'm VERY close to signing 2 publishing deals for my games, which is great news.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Serial codes for shareware programs are useless. Its trivial to get a hacked serial number that works for practically any shareware game on the web.
The way forward is to keep your download over 5MB, and have a separate full and demo version. Makes ure there are some data differences too, so people cant just host a small full version .exe file.
This way hackers have to pay the bandwidth costs of hosting a 5MB file, and they just don't do that.
I'm getting into the desert rats game now. Its quite hard, but good fun.
Been working hard on the movies, and doing bits and bobs on Government. I need to pick a better name for that game...

Monday, April 19, 2004

ho hum back to work.
My email inbox is still clogged with maybe two dozen bounces a day from stupidly configured antivirus and mail spoftware claiming I am sending email which I obviously am not.
Email is more or less dead these days. I would say 99% of the email I'm sent is useless, which means I often can't be arsed to check the remaining 1%. well done spammers, your wrecked your own business there methinks.
Sales might trickle off for a few days now my advertising has stopped. Ill launch another splurge of advertising next week.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

got some brief work donw on the simulation data for government last night. also now chasing both US and Russian retail deals. hurrah. And this morning woke up to find I'd sold 3 copies ($60) of Starship Tycoon shareware.
Having said that, my latest royalty check from the states for RegNow seems to be taking forever, then it will take a month or so to cash into my account. In this day and age you would reckon that direct money transfers would be easy and free. ho-hum.

Friday, April 16, 2004

trying to get the movies save/load code to be tolerant of adding new variables (and removing them) so we can basically change the game, and still load old save games.
its hard but not impossible.
also been doing my best to wipe out some of those sad warez sites that post serial numbers of games. mine arent affected yet, but it really annoys me when people are too lame to pay $10 for a computer game. The arrogance of some software pirates drives me mad. grrrrrrrrr
shaun of the dead is a very funny film, but very British. if you've seen Spaced, you'll lvoe it, if your a geek and havent watched spaced, then BUY IT NOW on dvd (its a british sci-fi geeky TV series about some computer game geeks sharing a flat). its massively funny.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

getting some good work done today, on casting people for movies. Also been thinking a bit about government and how to include scripted events in the game.
Shaun of the dead tonight. hurrah!

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

hmmm. im running out of web bandwidth so I just upped my plan to a 25 gig/month one. Seems quite expensive at 29.95 (dollars), but there you go. I earned more than that today in sales so wahey!
Been playing the afrika corp desert rats game. Its great, but boy soes it need a skirmish mode, who gives a f**k about a story mode in an RTS????
Im going tto get some work done on governmnet maybe friday, tonite im gaming, tommorow im seeing shaun of the dead with some guys from work.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Ok it looks like there will be a lot of work in adding all the simulation data for government.
I have the voters feeding back their opinions to the policies, and colouring the policy group zones in real time, so I can now fiddle with government spending and see peoples opinions change on the fly.
Thats half the battle.
The other half of the sim, is getting policies to feed into simulation variables, and have those variables themselves influence the voters indirectly.
My problem will be allowing the sim to be self referencing, so will policies that affect business actualyl effect the number of voters who are unemployed?
at the moment it doesn't, so the cost of unemployment benefit is set in stone, and I can just raise and lower the amount I spend on it as a policy (in other words, if unemployment rises, it doesnt double the cost).
I think changing this would cause mega complications... or possibly make it easier (by making it self balancing?

back at work today. ho-hum. Full of ideas to put into 'Government' but also havign fun working on the movies.
Been working on The Movies for age now, it will be nice to finally see it finished and shipping... Sold a few copies of StarLines through RealGames today, but no shareware sales yet. bah!

Monday, April 12, 2004

Aha yes this neural network biz is the way to go, All the numbers are gibberish, but I can now cut spedning on schools and see the effects on my popularity. bwahahahahaha!
High on my todo list is to come up with a flexible 'fuzzy' system for voter generation. At the moment, being Men doesnt prevent them being women too (or neither) I need some way of making groups mutually exclusive or mutualy unlikely. I think adding the data for this game will actually be great fun (in a geeky kind of way).
I like the idea of being able to get a random focus group on the screen:
"Doug is a retired gay socialist who has 44% approval of your transpiort policy" etc etc

I've torn apart some of the code for Government, and am re-implementing it in a kind of neural network. This is definitely the way to go, for both the policy, and the back end simulation side. The simulation code isnt in yet, but the basic relationship stuff that controls voters reactions top policies is sketched out.
I got the current network to plot itself as a map of connecting neurons. Its a bit bizzare just how dense the map is at the moment. (see below)
I might include a mode of the game where you can fly around the simulations network and examine the insides ;)

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Still havent heard about my afrika corps game, might have to pop to work to check for it...
Got LOTS done on Government. Its got working sliders for policies, and I've set things up so I can add policies in Excel to a CSV file. That meant adding some small bits of CSV handling code to my library, which was trivial.
The big problem ahead of me is sorting out the back-end simulation so it makes sense. At the moment its calculating in a very similar way to the way things work in the real world. There are a thousand voters, and each voter belongs to a handfull of different voter groups. So someone might be a man, trade unionist, liberal car driver who own his own house and has 2 kids.

When it comes time to vote (or to evaluate his satisfaction with the government), he has to look at each government policy in turn and see how it influences him.
Each policy will have both an intensity slider, and a range of different effects for different voter types.
So a policy might really upset trade unionists, be popular with motorists, and slightly unpopular with lone parents (for example). Our voter will aggregate all his different viewpoints based on what groups he is, and come up with his overall opinion of that policy. Of course, that might change with the policys intensity. If its income tax, then a low level might make him happy, a high level sad, etc.
Once he has his aggregate view of that policy, he then has to group that will his views of all the other policies, and come to a final yes/no choice on whether to support the government.
Repeat this a thousand times, and I get my final job approval rate.

Its not working yet, so i dont know if my 2.8gig machine can calculate this in 1/10th second, or in 20 minutes ;)
we are talking 100 people evaluating maybe 30 policies, each affecting maybe 10 groups. so thats 30,000 evaluations, each one involving searching through the policies policy_effect vector doing string compares..
nah it should be instant... if it is, I might switch to 10,000 voters.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Well today I sold 2 copies of Starship Tycoon, and I got some good work done on Government. Its getting close now to what it looked like in my mockup. You can select policies, and have their details shown in the middle of the screen, and adjust their spending using the slider.
Tommorow hopefully Ill get the button in to go to the next turn, and add the code to handle the transition from one turn to another.
The two big things in this game are going to be the simulation itself, and adding the data for all the policies. I reckon I need 500 policies to make the game playable, which is a lot of data. Hopefully I'll find a way to use Excel, and some kind of CSV format to manage the policies, as using ini files for that much data isn't a realistic option as things get big.

Havne't heard about the delivery of my Afrika Corps game, which is a shame, so I ended up playing Ultra Assault. Its ok, but to be honest, Star Monkey is better.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

ok, got a long weekend coming up which is great. Movies is going well. My afrika corps game should turn up tommorow at work *dang* so I'll hopefulyl have a weekend of cool RTS fun ;)
Also hoping to finally sign off Starship Tycoon, and get some serious work done on my government game.
Sales have been going pretty well, mainly due to my advertising I suspect.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Today we started adding some silly stats to the movies. These are the kind of thing simcity had on the useless buildings like "hotdogs consumed" "pigeons on statue" etc. They are meaningless but fun.
I haven't added my batch yet, but I have a ton of them I'm intching to add. I lvoe stuff like that.
Most of the cool things in games are pointless. Does it matter a damn who wins the zero-g-baseball in Starship Tycoon? nope, but its fun to put in the game, and it adds color. It makes for lots of little things a player can discover when playing the game even for the 10th or 20th time.
Should hear a final yes/no on the Starship Tycoon retail contract today. hurrah.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Theres an email I didnt get, so I checked spamcop to see if it was blocked. There are 717 blocked emails.
Spam has all but killed off email. At this rate I will just have to go back to using telephones.
nice work spammers. you wrecked the most usefull invention of the century.
why aren't these guys given the death penalty?

Monday, April 05, 2004

Been working on some hideous save laod stuff at work, and some complex sim stuff at home. eeek might have a night of zoning out in front of the TV.
I've installed stardocks object desktop at work and home. I lvoe having an always-on-top analog clock in the corner of the screen, so much more helpfull than a digital one (to people my age).

Sunday, April 04, 2004

I need the advice of my peers. so here is a screenshot of the game design for government:

So heres my new (potential) game. Its a turn based management/sim game, where you are the president of a fictional country. The game has no way to win, you can only lose, if you fail to win the election each 4 years (each turn is 1 month).
You have to remain popular with the people, by implementing policies to fix problems, improve the standard of living, and react to events (like labour disputes, economic problems, crime sprees etc).
You manage all this by implementing and adjusting policies in one of 8 different policy areas. Each policy can be adjusted for its effectiveness. (so if you have a policy to tax fuel, you can adjust how much its taxed by a slider).

This is a rough mockup of the main GUI, showing a policy thats already in effect, and icons for other policies scattered around. The green or red coloring of each segment shows how popular or unpopular that area of policy is at the moment.

So is it a good idea? a terrible idea? is the gui design good or bad?
am i insane?
I know that sim games sell (starship tycoon sells nicely still) so I'm going with that style of game, I'm just not sure about the subject matter and the design.

This morning I got 189 emails, 186 of them were viruses or spams. That doesnt count any that spamcop might have caught. I think there is a new virus out, as these emails claim to come from some address at positech, and even have my url as the url at the bottom of the message. I think its trying to trick people into thinking their own company has virus scanned it. very lame.
In the days of boot sector virii, maybe there was some skill involved, but these days any moron can code a virus or worm.
None of us are impressed, you are just wrecking the net.
In fact, with most of googles results now being spam from other search engines, and 99% of email being worms or spam, the webs two most important features are all but worthless.
I've given up on email newsletters, most people would flag them as spam, even after they opted it.
Sales have been slow which is grim, but im actually slowly getting somewhere on the government game.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

That warez site got getting some yahoo groups closed. Do these people think us indie gamers don't need to pay rent or something? scumbags.

Anyway... I've been through a rollerocaster of emotion this morning whilst designing the GUI for my new game - Government. At one point I was doubting the game idea as well as the GUI, but after a bit of experimenting I'm getting closer now to my screenshot mockup which will help me see how the game should look and play.
I think its definitely the right thing to do, to design the games GUI and appearance before doing too much (or indeed any) work on the code itself.
Haven't sold any shareware today but sold 2 copies of StarLines through realgames. Why didn't these people want starship tycoon? it would have been more money all round.
oh well, their loss, hope they enjoy selling nothing but tetris clones.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Well I've been doing some design for the new game, not at the point where I've decided on a layout for the GUI yet.
Starship tycoon is selling nicely online, and I'm awaiting a response regarding the contract.
I got to level 3 in Star Monkey this lunchtime, I was well pleased!