Thursday, October 28, 2004

Just finished the demo of Rollercoaster Tycoon 3. Its pretty damned cool. the graphics engine seems a bit shaky, saw a lot of bugs, nut the depth of the management game itself is quite impressive. makes me realise that asd a concept, starship tycoon is nowhere near its potential. I should really expand on that game once democracy is done. Maybe I should do a totally new game as a sequel.
I think the problem with St is the insistence on selecting individual cargoes and passengers. this is too micro-managed.
I will probably do a sequel where its made real easy to manage multiple ships.
or a space station sim, or starport sim of some kind.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

I tried today to setup my website to parse php url varaiables so i can trac what buy buttons in my games etc provide what kind of results.
unfortunately php wont work.
this is the last straw for me and my web provider, so following a personal recommendation I'm thinking about swapping to another provider.
hopefully they will be competitive and I can swap right away.
that would be good news.
I'm also fed up with a downlaod site that is totally incapable of letting me use a flash banner on their site. grrrrrrrrrrrrrr. added to this, the advertising hasnt paid off (yet).

In other news I have to be at work at 9am on my birthday. this sucks.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

haven't posted because Ive been very busy. Looks like one website has a screwed up click tracking system, so Im paying for impressions with my cool new ad! Aother site actually asked me how much traffic I got from them... Its all very hit and miss out there in advert land.
I know I got at least 1 sale through, but I need maybe 9 sales to break even (although thats over a 1 month period).
I'm getting the first few proper icons for democracy and they look pretty good...

Saturday, October 23, 2004

I hate flash banners.
im acting as middleman between my banner artist and a website trying to get the damned thing to work. You would think this would be easy.
it is not.
Jesus its not like this is new technology. a banner gets clicked, it goes to my site. how hard can this be?
too hard apparently.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Been doing some design work on democracy. heres the latest look:

I'm pleased with the rounded stuff in the middle. I hate the numbers at the bottom right. still lots to do, but it looks better and better to me.
Heard a lot of *interesting* views on the industry today, not all ones I agree with, but thats life when you work on a big game as a day job. Got to see the Movies on a cinema screen and it looked very very good. Hopefully it will be a major hit. Certainly lots of work has gone into it.

My advertising is generating lots of hits. my customer feedback suggests people play Starship tycoon for 24-48 hours before buying, so hopefully I'll sell a few copies over the next few days.
Happy brithday goes out to I regularly visit this site to see if any interesting new games have been released. Some of the bst games out there are small games, and I prefer them to 'triple A titles'. I like games I can download and install in 15 minutes and play on a low spec laptop. I also like Call of Duty, so I'm kind of a gamer with 2 lives ;)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Been busy on the adverts front. I should now hve my new banner ad up and running on gamextazy and strategyinformer. It quite an expensive business to get a proper artist made ad and run a month long campaign, but I'm hoping it will translate into a lot more sales.
I've also just finished doing my yearly tax return and company accounts. very tedious and full of accountancy doublespeak, but Im buggered if Ill pay 10% of my profits to some creep of an accountant to do them for me. Any way, its just the same legalese junk every year, just the numbers change, so its 2 hours or so with Excel and the jobs done.

Tommorow is 'corporate day' at work... *shudder*.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Still pretty poor on the sales front. It looks like the banner ads and so-on that I used to do are the most effective way to drive sales. I have my doubts about how effective google adwords are.
Hopefully I'll get my flash advert this weekend, and hopefully I'll be happy with it!
I have got a fair bit of work done on democracy. I'm torn between getting it done and on sale by Christmas (possible) and increasing my effort on it and hoping to make it a bigger success in the long term. I'll certainly pitch it to some retail publishers when its done, To be honest the game will be a success if it matches Starship Tycoon for sales, because it will have taken a LOT less effort to develop. Apparently 'The Political Machine' cost $200,000 to make, so I'm a pretty low budget effort in comparison (I'll probably spend just a few hundred dollars on art, and a few hundred dollars on initial promotion).

Oh and get well soon dad!

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Got some work done on democracy. I'm pretty happy with the workings of the new grudge system. some basic playtesting shows the game needs balancing (although its getting better) but the real problem is I need the 'shakeup' code. This is stuff that will 'prod' the simulation periodically to prevent you getting your country into a stable state and then just leaving it there forever.
This will be stuff like terrorist attacks etc etc. I previously had this in the 'dilemma' system, which ive commented out for now. I'm considering a new system of 'one-off' events that would bestow positive as well as negative grudges.
So if your tech investment is really good for a while, I might trigger a 'tech breakthrough' event which gives a short term boost to GDP etc.
But the big decision I'm agonizing over is the representation of the games simulation data. This is stuff like Suiciderate, AverageWage etc etc. its all modelled, but do I show it to the player? I dare not cram yet MORE icons onto the screen, but a separate table of them seems bizzare.
Dare I just hide all of them? can't decide.....
sales have been flat, but I've cut back on my advertising while I wait for the banner ad artist (or hell to freeze over...)

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

I was given a copy of Rome Total War today. The campaign mode is good (once you bypass all the annoying as hell advisors, logos and other such crap retail games insist on bugging you with, but im unconvinced by the battle part. It moves too quickly, and you seem to have almost no control over your units. It looks nice, but then so do movies, and I suddenly realised half way through a battle that the AI code was probably having more fun than i was.
This is a critical design flaw, and one I'm determined not to repeat on Democracy.
People keep telling me that I haven't given it a fair chance, that if I learn all the hotkeys, read the manual, play for x hours etc, that its really good.
But I'm 35 this month. Lifes too short. 'Maybe' I'll have fun if i dedicate my life to the game, but thats like people who say you should keep reading a dull book because it gets better at the end.
When I pay money to be entertained (ok it was a freebie...) I expect to be entertained. I don't want to have to do a lot of hard work first. Especially when there are so many 'instant fun' games out there like Call Of Duty.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

I had planned to watch 'chocolat' and then write some code. Trouble is, I got really into it (Its a great film, starring Johnny 'pirates of the carribean' depp and also featuring carrie 'trinity from matrix' anne moss). Maybe I've reached that age where you get emotional about 'girly' films without aliens or guns in it.
So now Im drunk on superb white wine and incapable of coding.

Monday, October 11, 2004

just read in this blog the view that there are too many RealArcade clones out there. This is very true. Even down to the kind of graphical buttons people use on their sites. This doesn't bother me, the more other sites do the same thing, the more chance I have of getting noticed.
I now have 4 pages (20 games) of stuff on sales at (althought there are some duplicates). Over time, I'm hoping to ramp up my affiliate sales. I have made a deliberate decision to try and include as many strategy and sim games as I can. The market is overloaded with people selling word games, platform games and puzzle games. The net really doesn't need a new place to purchase SuperCollapse or Diamond Mine.

Well I spent far too much time at the weekend fiddling with my website and adding some new affiliate games to the site to get more money. Hopefully the affiliate sales will gradually ramp up. Its no, but its not too bad.
I also did 'some' work on democracy, mainly in debugging this new grudge system. I still need some decent feedback system to the palyer, along the lines of something saying "dont do this.. you will give these voters a grudge against you that might last a long time" or whatever.

in other news, we moved offices at work, I can now see lots of trees and a lake from my desk. very nice. unfortunately the office is huge, open plan and thus noisy.

Friday, October 08, 2004


Watch Green Wing if you are in the UK, its a CH4 comedy. the trailes were rubbish buts is very very very funny, and even ahs Brian from Spaced in it. If you arent from the UK or never seen Spaced, and in any way think you are a geek, you MUST buy the DVD of Spaced immediately. its absolutely awesome.

Also, Buy COD:United offensive. Best FPS for years. amazing atmosphere, great maps, awesome graphics, superb sounds.

I ended up writing a completely new system based upon grudges, which handles the long term effects of unpopular events. Im not sure whether I will 'refresh' grudges if they persist or just generate cumulative ones.

So for example if i whack tobacco tax real high, smoekrs will get a grudge against the government. Regardless of what else happens, that grudge will still be around, and will gradually fade out over time.
hopefully the effect of this is that its ok to tweak values, and make people a bit unhappy, but theres a 'tipping point' where you will give people a long lasting reason to hate you if you push past that level.

Now the usual system of affecting opinion in the game already has a variable 'delay' so if we raise school spending, people only get happy about it as it takes effect, maybe over a year or so. The difference here is that this is an additional layer of fading opinion, which is unaffected by future events.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

I think I have hit on why the game didnt seem to be giving me the right feedback. Dissilusioned voters were returning their opinion of the government, rather than zero (which more accurately describes how they feel. Hopefully changing this will let a clearer picture of voting intention come through on the main 'approval rating'.

Got some (not enough) work done on the game. Been too busy playing Call of Duty - United offensive. which is excellent. Hope to get some real work done on it this weekend. I played it last night, and its ok, but there are too many email icons, and I'm not playing it in a detailed enough way (just clicking through the turns to fast).
Its too easy, and the simulation values seem irrelvant when you play (maybe need icons for them.. eeek too much data).

Monday, October 04, 2004

I have all of the policy data for the game converted to the new flexible function format for evaluating effects. I still need to convert some of the event data, and need to take a fresh look at the dilemma stuff.
I just started skimming an article on some AI website. It was explaining a very simple concept, basically a single neuron in a neural network, but it threw around lots of equations and phrasess like "perceptron convergence fomula" which makes it all sound more complex than it is.
A lot of game AI is filled with buzzwords and people being very academic about it. My approach has always been far simpler and more practical.
The way I see it, what works.... works, and it really doesn't matter whether you are using 'zyminskys inverse consciousness paradigm' or just making it up as you go along. After all, I'm writing games, not academic research. (there is a big difference in priorities between the two approaches, something some game studios often forget).

Sunday, October 03, 2004

At school I was pretty good at maths, but I kinda lost it over the years and forgot a lot of what I learned. Thats what happens when you go into music and carpentry instead of IT...
Anyway, its coming back to haunt me now. I am re-writing the code for the 'neural effects' that power the simulation in democracy. Basically each effect has a host, a target and some relationship between the two.
So there is an effect between MiddleIncome Voters and Income Tax. As tax goes up, their happiness goes down etc.
It's defining enough flexibility into that equation that is my problem.
I guess most people would parse real equations so you could do this:

MiddleIncome = 0.25 - sqrt(IncomeTax)*(1/IncomeTax *0.8)

or whatever... (thats gibberish)

The thing is, I want to
a) Keep it simple so you dont need a maths degree to tweak the values and
b) Not make it a nightmare to code.

At the moment I have a simple linear system where

MiddleIncome = 0.5 + (IncomeTax * -0.12)

which works just fine. I just altered it so I can have a 'localised' effect within a range of values, so the effect only kicks in if Incometax > n or <>
This helps, but I really need the option to switch between linear and exponential or logarithmic stuff.
The thing is, even using terms like exponential and logarithmic now just depresses me, as I'm crap at maths, and I didn't get into games coding to solve maths problems anyway. Yet another reason to be a designer and not a coder I guess...

Saturday, October 02, 2004

I'm about to go horse riding. I've never ridden before. If I don't add to my blog for a while, I'm in hospital...