Thursday, September 30, 2004

Got some more work done on the email stuff for democracy. I now have my little envelope icons popping up as events take place, the user can open them to get a little summary of whats happening, with a button that launches a proper dialog on the problem. The emails can be deleted or stored. Its all done in a nice class hierarchy so I can override the email type to launch different dialogs depending on the email type (only done events so far).
Democracy is looking quite colorfull. Im not sure if this a good thing, or a sign of cluttered and incoherent artwork by me...
Anyway its coming along nicely.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Thanks to the free trial of RationalPurify (a code bug finding thing) I fixed some pesky bugs in democracy. I also added the text for the event start/end messages, and the game is kinda playable (albeit sparse and unfinished)
I played for 10 minutes and...
Its great! My country had a problem with high tax evasion and a thriving black market. I figured that if I could get taxes low enough, these problems would be fixed and my total tax take would actually be better, so I cut taxes, and to balance the books, I cut spending, mainly in law enforcement.
So my tax problems were resolved, and the books looked good, I scraped through the first election, but my earlier spending cuts on law enforcement had created their own problems. I now had riots in the streets, vandalism and antisocial behaviour and my conservative voters were deserting me...
This is exactly the kind of complex balancing act I wanted my game to be, and I can see it has real potential. Hurrah!

Also saw the film 'Hero' today. A chinese film with subtitles, similar to Crouching Tiger... but WAY better. GO SEE IT!

Monday, September 27, 2004

picked up the laptop today (sent to wrong address) its still fcked. Don't buy a sony Vaio. They are great, but the customer service is a joke.

Got some work done on Democracy. I have the GUI working right now, looking good, and I started work on this 'inbox' system for presenting events and advice to the player. I have a basic system sending generic emails when events start and end, and dsplaying them to the player, but much work is needed to translate this into helpfull data and GUI dialogs to show this information.
I still think I'm on schedule to finish this game by Christmas though ;)

Sunday, September 26, 2004

I might be updating more often. I'm planning on using the blog more as a Democracy online design document from now on...

Current Dilemma
Ok, I have the simulation working, but I am trying to design the interface by which events and advice etc are given to the player. I have already coded systems to present news, to present advice and give the player dilemmas, but the fragmentation of this approach bugs me as it looks all very 'thrown-together'.
My current theory is that I should handle things like a mail account inbox, with the player effectively getting email messages for allsorts of stuff. So once you click next turn, your inbox might say:

Pollution levels rising...
Overseas investment company seeks grant...
Unpopularity rises amongst the retired...
Health spending now taking effect...

And each item would be clickable, with more data available. I also need to integrate the dilemmas into this system, and have them represented onscreen. so if you give permission for a new nuclear power plant (for example) this would be a policy that's shown onscreen, even if its one you cannot change easily (or at all).
I may spend some time playing Sim City to see how then handled this stuff.
I am currently wishing I'd done a puzzle game, as this one is proving extremely difficult...

Saturday, September 25, 2004

I've changed my GUI for democracy from using variable height coloured columns to represent a policy to using icons again. I would prefer to be able to do all my own icons rather than pay an artists (which would be expensive...) but I'm not sure I'm up to it.
Here are my first four efforts (I need at least 70)

They are

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


Today I drove the hour and a half to Bletchley Park. This is the place in England where the British intelligence services decoded the 'enigma' code used by the Nazis in WW2. The place was made famous by the film Engima, and the story itself completely rewritten by hollywood in a submarine-based movie (never seen it).
Bletchley park is an excellent place to visit. They have some very well informed guides that show you around the place where Alan Turing and his fellow mathematicians worked out how to break the 'unbreakable' codes used to encrypt german army communications. Its also, in many way, the birthplace of the modern computer, and they have a rebuilt replica of the original 'collosus' computer at the site, as well as lots of real captured enigma machines. Its a fascinating, and in some cases very moving and thought-provoking place to visit. Whats amazing is the fact that these boffins effectivly gave the UK a major lead in computer technology, but the whole lot (the machines, the blueprints everything) was deliberately destroyed after the war to prevent the knowledge falling into the wrong hands.
I took some pictures of the 'turing machines' and the replica 'collosus' computer. Click the thumbnails to enlarge...

Monday, September 20, 2004

well i just finished installing SP2 for XP, and everything went fine. No problems at all. All i needed to do was re-allow a few things for zonealarm.
I think running ad-aware and spybot first helped, and i keep my system clean of junk. but I'm still suprised it went so well.
Time for some Sims 2...

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Spent some time playing the sims, and some time working on improved windowing and GUI for democracy, which isn't looking very polished in comparison ;)
Also considering installing windows service pack 2. I'm very wary of it, but anything that help stop adware and spyware and hackers is a god thing. I can't believe the tricks some scummy spyware companies pull to try and get their junk apps on your system.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Well I got my copy of The Sims 2, and have bene playing it quite a bit. I think I take that game far too seriously. This is the problem when you have such demands on your time, you are determined to maximise the utility of any time spent (much like playing the sims ironically).
So far I think its great, it has a lot more polish and detail than the original, and it looks like they have crammed it with features, rather than leave stuff out for the inevitable add-ons. I've already been inspired by its GUI to revisit the GUI for Democracy.
What I find scary is the sheer level of 'polish' thats gone into the Sims. I need to spend a lot of time improving democracy if I want it to get the ales I plan for it.
I'm still hoping to get it on sale by Christmas though.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Well the laptop gets picked up tommorow, hopefully it gets fixed properly this time. I have got a fair bit of work done on democracy and got an artist to work on a proper web advert for starship tycoon.
In other news, I read a very poor review of "The political machine" which is annoying because having played it, I thought it was actually not bad. The reviewer seems to hate it for being low budget and not an action game. Hmmmmm I always suspected that games reviews were a total waste of time. Hopefully some slightly more relevant reviewers will get to playtest democracy one day.

Monday, September 13, 2004

Sony Vaio customer support is total crap. They can't be arsed to call me back and arrange the pickup for the SECOND time. Their customer support is 7p a minute by phone with no email address offered.
what a bunch of fucking morons. how many customers need to be as pissed off as me before a google search on 'sony vaio customer support' just comes up with a stream of hatred?
These days you MUST keep your customers happy. Its way to easy for people to contact other customers of your products.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

I've been getting some work done on democracy again. I'm quite happy that the main game mechanic of selecting and tweaking policies to get re-elected is sound, so now im working on the gui that presents all the data in a way that gives the player some direction.
I've added two new systems, and advice manager and a news manager. The advice manager sorts a list of items of concern for the player, such as "This policy is very unpopular" and so on. The news manager tells the player what has changed since last turn, so you get stuff like
"The average journey time has fallen by 2.5% since last month"
I havent got anything close to final GUI for these two systems, which may meld into one anyway.
I'm still not 100% happy with the visual design for the game, even the buttons dont look right to me at the moment. That kind of stuff is easily tweaked once I have a playable simulation up and running. The current simulation isnt anywhere close to being balanced or complete. I reckon only half the data is in there at the moment.

Friday, September 10, 2004

my laptops been returned with the screen mark gone. but theres another mark elsewhere.
what morons. you think they might have tested it.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

having two cats is very stressfull. milos great fun, but also a bit wild. I think jadzia has aged 5 years since we got him. Poor jadzia, I feel very sorry for her. We have taken to locking milo in the kitchen occasionally to give Jadzia break... He meows a lot but theres no other choice. Im sure he will calm down soon.
I have the boxed copies of Starship Tycoon (US edition) as well as the russian ones now. They did a great job, a great manual etc. Hopefully it will sell well. Heres the boxes:

bah links dead ill fix it later

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Neural Networks

Democracy is written mainly with a neural network. Not the classic computer science setup of a NN. (I dont even know how that works) but my own impression of how neurons connect.
It works great, its cool to visualise, and very effective. You have 2 neurons with a neural effect between them (a dendrite I think its called in neuroscience) and tht effect transmits some modulated value from neuron A to B.
But this next bit isn't...
I add smoothing to the neural effect result over time.
So it maintains a history, and outputs a smoothed result.
At some point I have to do the periodic smoothing.
this is where I get into catch 22.
I need to do the smoothing at the end of processing, so the current effect is up to date.
The smoothing changes the output effect, and thus the value of the next neuron. Which itself affects the dendrites flowing out from it.
Still if it was easy, everyone would be doing it right?
Doesnt help that Jerry McGuire is on TV tonite.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Read an interesting discussion here. Eric basically points out that he is making a big deal out of selling his product and discarding all information about the purchaser (inclusing email address). In days when we are increasingly pestered by intrusive marketing, I think this is a great idea.
Its the accumualation of small changes like this can make your sales do better and better. I was very pleased when someone pointed out how helpful it would be to actually say thanks to your customers in your confirmation emails.
Anyway, I am looking forward to actually getting some code done on democracy this weekend. I need to start expanding the list of events and dilemmas and maybe even start work on help and tutorial stuff.

as promised heres a pic of milo the destruct-o-cat

It's been a long week...
Bengal kittens are not shy and retiring. In fact they are highly destructive. More than a handful...
To compound this, I have stupidly trodden on my laptop. It was only a single step, but it looks like it was enough to endow the otherwise amazing screen with two minor splodgey marks. I've cleaned and cleaned, but I think that actual LCD has been squashed a bit.
This is a disaster.
I suspect I'm looking at around £400 to repair it. I'm just hoping that
a) its easy to find a repairer and
b) Home insurance covers it.
Either way its pretty grim.

On a brighter note, Starship Tycoon has gone on sale in the USA in retail, so my final advance check (and sample copies) are on the way. I must upload some photos (plus cat pics) tonight.