Wednesday, June 30, 2004

sales have been pretty good lately.
I havent done that long a test but so far my advert results are:

Popular: 1.5% CTR
New: 0.8% CTR
Fun: 0.5% CTR

Still waiting for more clicks though.
Also shoud soon be getting royaltuies for Russian version of Planetary Defence, which i intend to pend on a new laptop ;)

Monday, June 28, 2004

Fulfill your political fantasies
Did some good work on the legendery government game tonight. Its quite a complex beast. There are so many levels of interconnection that its going to be hard to set up the data so that
a)it makes sense as a game and
b)there arent any feedback loops, weird results or cheats
The feedback one is a problem. take something like a general strike. Im setting it up so that high levels of poverty, unemployment and a low average income will possibly bring about a general strike. One of the effects of a general strike might be to reduce GDP, and maybe even increase unemployment. Which makies it a self fufilling problem.
Of course, there are other policies which could rescue you here. So miliytary spending might boost GDP and cut unemployment (at a high cost in govt spending/borrowing) so it might be possible (in the short run) for you to buy yourself out of that situation. Of course, that implies you have built up a decent strategic 'war-chest'.

Part of me thinks I'm insane to do such an 'intellectual' game.
Part of me thinks nobody else makes games like this.

Ideally I'd liket o sell this game to people like my brother and my dad. This is a computer game for people who dont want a test of reflexes, or to fight dragons.
Its like simcity but with polictics, a little 'toybox' of political ideas that you can play with.
A hell of a lot of people have strong political views, and its the fantasy of carrying out your ideas I am trying to fulfill.
Some people fantasise about being a WWII fighter pilot. Some people fantasise about being president.
Is clicking a button that increases tax on high earners as satisfying as clicking a button that fires a laser cannon?
for some people, I'm hoping the answer is yes.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

got some work done on govt, also revamped my main positech page, so i now have 2 pages of games, both mine and affiliates. I think this is the way forard. I also updated the CSS on the pages to make adding new prodcust much easier. All i need now is more site visits and some higher selling afiliates. Hopefully google adwords will be my friend here.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

I am experimenting with my google adwords setup. I run ads for Starship tycoon, for Asteroid Miner and just for my Positech site. I just added a few more keywords to try and get my impressions up (I'm currently spending about £1 a day on ads) and also set up an experiment with the text ad wording.
I have 3 ads, with the same text except the first one calls the game a "Popular starship management game" the next a "Fun starship management game" and third a "New starship management game".
At the end of next week I'll find out which has the best effect and kill off the other two.
I do this kind of test rarely, but having been motivated by reading some businessy books lately,I'm going to try and get a bit more organised.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Had quite a stressfull week at work, but earlier i sat and played the gold version of the Movies (very fast) with the sound on, fullscreen, and its excellent! Pity its not finished yet, it will be great fun to play.
Im experimenting with google adwords again, I love managing adwords campaigns, its very addictive. Apparently the Russian publisher have paid half the advance for ST and PD, which is good, just chasing the other half now.
Sales have been ok but not stellar, and I have got some work done on Government. I hope to get a fair bit done on that game, now Timook the rodian is a master artisan in Star Wars Galaxies!

Had quite a stressfull week at work, but earlier i sat and played the gold version of the Movies (very fast) with the sound on, fullscreen, and its excellent! Pity its not finished yet, it will be great fun to play.
Im experimenting with google adwords again, I love managing adwords campaigns, its very addictive. Apparently the Russian publisher have paid half the advance for ST and PD, which is good, just chasing the other half now.
Sales have been ok but not stellar, and I have got some work done on Government. I hope to get a fair bit done on that game, now Timook the rodian is a master artisan in Star Wars Galaxies!

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

The Ideal size for a games company?
Everyone in the industry probably has an opinion on this topic. My own very strong opinion is that 90% of game teams are way too big. Although its true that a game like Star Wars Galaxies (or the Movies for that matter) can't be dome to the same quality with a dozen people, its also true that a huge amount of creativity goes right out the window as companies get bigger.
suddenly you cant put in (or take out) a game feature without there being a meeting, someone taking minutes of a meeting, a big email discussion to sum it up, a lawyer to check that the feature doesn't infringe copyright, a business guy to assess the cost, a producer to schedule when it happens, an assistant producer to do the exact same thing etc etc.
Its a wonder big games EVER get finished, and no surpise that many of them appear poorly made and poorly designed.
With a team of 4 people, everyone has a huge influence on the game. They have a real stake in it, both financially and creatively.
Employee #471 doesn't have the same feeling about the huge uber-project he works on, so he doesn't do his best to make it good, he doesn't get motivated past his regular hours..
I reckon the best games that get made are those made by small intimate teams of creative people. With this in mind, this should truly be the glory days of the indie shareware developer.
so where are you guys?

Monday, June 21, 2004

started work on governments editor last night. its good to get the editor started early as it will be such a data-driven game.
got a $130 check this morning from RealGames, and sold $118 worth of games as shareware yeserday. Things are looking good.

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Sales have been quite good for the last few days, although sales of asteroid miner have been low for a while. wonder why..
I have done a small amount of work on govt, still far too addicted to SWG.
I added the capability to have a 'defauly neuron' that actrs as an anchor for effects that are in place by default. For example, I can give my country a 75% chance of a traffic congestion problem, whihc is mitigated by road building, bus lanes and high fuel tax.
This means that a problem can now arise as a result of a lack of certain policies as well as the existence of them.
which is cool.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

got a reminder in the post this morning about filling out some tedious company tax forms. Apparently mine are overdue.
In any sensible country you would get a letter saying "you need to fill out this form in the next week"
instead what the Uk supplies is this:

They tell you you need to fill the form out 6 months before they need it AND 3 MONTHS BEFORE THEY WILL ACCEPT IT.
They dont actually send you the form.

Brilliant isnt it?
so everyone loses the form which they arent allowed to send yet, then forgets about it and gets fined.
what a great system.

I have had 2 reminders for the form, from 2 separate addresses. no idea where tos end it so I'm just going to pick one.
If there is a country thats less entrepreneur-friendly than the UK id be suprised.

Friday, June 18, 2004

lots going on...
Looks like ive reached 1000 spams a day. thanks to some cunning new filtering rules its ALL getting junked though ;). What a major waste of everyones bandwidth though...
Looks like the Russian publisher of Planetary Defence and Starship Tycoon has final builds to send to manufacturing, which is superb, and means I should have my money any day now.
And SWG is still huge fun.
Hopefully this weekend I'll get another major chunk of work done on Govt.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

spambully turned out to be totally useless, and spamcop isnt working much either. 200 german spams a day? not much fun I can tell you. Getting some good work done on the govt game though...

Monday, June 14, 2004

Things are starting to gel on government. Its not exactly a balanced sim, but you can manipulate stuff and see things happen. I just put in a better finance screen, that basically shows you the policies that are yout top ten sources of income (basically taxes). and your top 10 costs.
For those new to my blog, Government is the game I'm currently working on. Its a complex Simulation game where you are the elected president of a company and need to improve the lot of your population whilst persuading them to keep you elected.

Nice sunny day and back at work. Got a lift in today, theres 3 of us who are planning on car sharing now and then. Itsa good plan, for all the people whineing about 2p on petrol tax, why not try car sharing? effectivly thats 33% of your tax ;)
Wrote some good code for the movies, all looking quite good, but Im at the point where I would just like it done and shipped. I hate long development times. I'm very motivated about Govt right now, it will be good when its playable and just needs the data putting in. Im aiming to finish it by christmas.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

doing lots of stuff today. got some work done on government, even put some realisticish data in so it makes some snese, and Im now adding a screen to show you which policies are costing you the most money. Its gradually making progress.
Went to see some snow-leopard blue eyed bengal kittens today, but to be honest their mother looked dangerously thin and ill. Im not buying kittens from a cat breeder that doesnt seem to know what they are doing. At least that saves me some money I guess. Makes me realsie how wonderfull our cat jadzia is anyway ;)

Im trialing SpamBully, because SpamCop isnt delivering the goods at the moment. God I hate Spam.
Also I'm still into SWG, and I'll be playing galaxies later tonite. hurrah!

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Had a HUGE influx of unblocked spam in german, at least 300 mails got through. grrrr. This motivated me enough to load up To give them a taste of their own medicine.
Tonight I hope to get a bit mroe work done og Government, in between doing some business and inland revenue stuff (yawn).
ho hum.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Govt has been rejigged to use the system used in my last post. although i need to do some more stuff to get it to actually manipulate voter group frequencies. that should be easy though.
Also signed some contracts for Starship Tycoon, so I should be seeing money from that soon.

Sunday, June 06, 2004

think i have cracked the design. Im gouing to jot in down quick before I forget ;)

I am going to scrap the idea of persistant voters. The voters are generated at the last minute just before they vote.
This means that the percentage that determine how many unemployed there are etc, now become 'live data' that can be affected by policies.
So if a policy cuts unemployment and upsets the unemployed, then I can upset the neuron that is the voter group "unemployed" but that group contains no voters.
Then at election time i generate the population using the current value for freq_unemployed that the simulation gives me (which is likely to have changed since last election) and then those voters are affected by the voter group "unemployed".
So i can strill have groups of people in a number of different groups at the same time, but now I can vary those groups size as well as thei appreication within the simulation itself.
back to star wars galaxies...

Saturday, June 05, 2004

This might be a long post.

There are some things wrong with the design of government, and I'm not doing any mroe code without fixing them mentally first.
The frst problem is that you cant change the makeup of yuour population in opinion terms. So people who are socialists will always be socialists. They can be happy or unhappy at different periods, but you will never change their views by making capitalist policies work and showing them working. Ditto every other type of voter.
So you will never achieve your aim of cutting the number of motoroists or racist in your cou8ntry down to a lower level, you can just make them unhappy.
Because you cant change the opinion-profile of the electorate you cant really achieve your aims (whatever you set them to be, free-market paradise or communist utopia.

Secondly given a fixed voter opinion makeup, ther will be a single 'sweet-spot' of policies that will work the best (barring random events). This would let the gameplay stagnate, and I can't have that.

I want people to sit down with the game and decide they will make a success of their country, that they will outlaw smoking, encourage home ownership and bicycle use, arm the police and nationalise the railways.
In other words, you should be able to win the way you want to win, not the way the model has been set up.

So i've beent hinking about rejigging the simulation.
One idea Im toying with is preventing the policies themselves affecting voter directly. hey can only effect varaiables in the simulation, and the simulation will influence the voters.

So income tax will not offend capitalists directly. It will just raise the average %tage taxation.( a sim varaiable).
There will be voters who have their own opinions on what is a fair tax rate, and that sim value will affect their happiness modulated by their view of fair taxes.
Rather than an individual voter being "socialist" he will just be somebody with a high ideal tax rate.
because he is no longer in a fixed discrete group, his views can now change.
So as time goes on, and taxes remain high, providing everything else is ok (his general happiness is ok), a voter will tend to get used to minor differentials in his ideal tax rate and the current tax rate.
In other words, over time people tend to accept whats working, rather than what they believe.

I think this will be more realistic. It will allow you to start off with a country like the UK(for example) with high tax rates, and by reducing taxes gradually (slightly offending the more socialist minded in the short run), as long as you can mitigate the bad effects of this (ensure good public service provision), then as time goes on, people will come to accept lower taxes as desirable.
So you can gradually shift your population towards your own views.
Ofcourse its wont be that easy. If there is a health crisis and your low taxes and low public spending cause a plague or something, then there might be a backlash effect.
But i think this will allow for a far more flexible and believeable system.

Of course this all sounds horribly complex, my challeneg is to make it seem obvious and intuitive to the player. The last thing I want is a game that seems hard work. I want people who have their own views on politics to sit down with the game, tweak things the way they like, and watch the public react in believeable ways.
It wont be easy ;)

Friday, June 04, 2004

ATI video cards don't work.
Don't bother raving about their hardware accelerated trinlinear bullshit-mapping, or suggest my machine has a non video card fault.
We are talking 2 separate machines, 3 separate cards, many different driver revisions.
They crash
they freeze
they overheat.
These cards don't work.
Just buy an nVidia one. They have caused me NO problems. You do NOT need the extra 0.1% performance.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Working on a complex simulation is pretty brain draining, but combine that with the overall game design and its even worse. The current design dilemma I have is how to ensure Govt is a game, rather than just a clever politics simulation.
Im hoping to drive most of the gameplay from events, so the player has to react to changes in public opinion etc, and compensate for stuff like strikes, changes in the world economy, riots ect ect.
I dont want to get too much into the 'politics' side of it, but its difficult because in many cases a policy can be made to work by manipulating public opinion.
For example, UK is pretty high-tax comapred to the US, yet both governments are as popular with their electorate. How can I represent this?
I guess if you can keep taxes at a high rate for X number of years, then gradually peoples resistance will wear off... so what people want in policy terms is tempered by what they are used to over the long term.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

just heard george bush talk about ww2 starting with a terrible attack against america.
err... forgive my shaky grip of history but surely WW2 started with the german invasion of poland (its a country in europe).
Surely GWB knows this???????

Been doing some thinking today about the voter group sorting in Govt.
Its a complex problem. It could all be hardcoded, but thats horrid, and inflexible.
There are some voter groups into which I would like everyone to be in one or the other, such as:

Elderly,Middle Aged,Young


Wealthy,Middle Income,Poor

Then there are groups whose membership is pretty random like:

Commuter, Disabled , Gay etc

Then there are those with probabilistic dependencies
So Poor people are more likely to be socialists.
Middle Income or Wealthy more likely to be liberal
People who commute more likely to be motorists etc

And there are some probabilistic exclusions:
Liberals not likely to be patriots
Socialists not likely to be racist

Of course this is all opinion, but unless some rules are in place, the whole thing is a random mess and thus less predictable (and playable).

So somehow I need to represent these relationships in an editable data format, such as an excel spreadsheet.
I am currently using a simple csv file to laod in each group, their size, and the min and max 'loyalty' a voter has for each group (some people are weak socialists, some are real zealots etc).
I need a more flexible system to accomodate these relationships correctly. And I need it to be simple and elegant...

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

what the hell is wrong with modern gamers? Both at work at on a web forum, I dared to suggest that Thief 3 made a big mistake by not including a skip option on the tutorial and not supporting Geforce 4 MX cards.
I have been attacked in a hail of abuse for doing so.
What a bunch of muppets!
If people want games that only run on the latest hardware accelerated vertex/pixel bullshit then they are welcome to them.
Meanwhile I'll make games for the other 99% of the population who arent impressed by such crap, and make a damn fine living from it.
Nothing is more annoying than video-card fanboys.