Monday, October 31, 2005

DAY TWO - Daleks And Accountants
Someone bought me a four foot high inlfatable dalek for my birthday. Left alone, its just an inflatable dalek (which is still funny after half a bottle of wine). But taped to the top of my Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner, its a genuine robotic security guard. My cat jadzia is NOT amused. I'm hoping to will scare trick or treaters into scaling down their demand for sweeties too.*
I have got a pretty good days work done on the uber secret new game. Its amazing how hard you work when you are working for yourself.
I need to sort out whether or not I'm taking on a contract to work for a third party, that should happen tonight, so then I'll know if the secret new game will get put on hold or not.

I've also started work towards getting an accountant. I've done my own accounts for 5 years but It's time to pay a salary and get serious about it.

*this didnt work, they were interested, but not scared. thats kids these days I spose.

Friday, October 28, 2005

DAY ONE - Daggers And Satsumas

Ok, here I am, working for myself again. This time its serious. This is day one. I've already achieved more by 12.00 than I would have in a full day in an office. No interruptions, no noises, no 11.00am weekly fire alarm test etc.
I intend to stay fairly healthy whilst working from home, so step one - Satsuma a day, peeled in the traditional fashion with a Klingon warriors Daqh-tagh :

Ok, so Klingons ate Gagh, not satsumas, but I had noddles last night.
Progress on top secret game #1 is going well. I really think it has potential. Im aiming for < 6 months dev time (max) and my aim is for it to sell as well as Democracy. I already have a domain name for it, I'll aim to release details and a 'coming soon' style website in a month or so. I won't be showing screenshots of features I haven't done, or artists impressions of what the game might look like in 5 years. I'll leave that crap to Sony :D

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Clearing Up Confusion
Well there are still some legal things to go through, but just so everythings clear, I am no longer an employee of the unnamed old company. I am now a free entity. I was very touched by a thread on the company forums saying goodbye to me, and I'll certainly miss the community side of things.
I handed my lightsaber over to Byron, who is one of the console developers, so don't be suprised if you see it brandished on webcams or whatever.
Anyone who knows me really well will know that there is a huge tirade of things I could be posting on here that I'm amazingly resisting doing :D
Now as a free man, I have a game to write.....

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

I don't generally discuss my normal job on my blog. Mainly because its a big company with corporate lawyers around every brick looking for something to be angry at. They probably wouldnt even want me to have a link to their site from my blog. I think I'll remove it now.
I am not having fun at my day job right now. Its end of project time, and start of new project time. I can think of many things that should be happening, good things such as celebrating, learning from past problems, re-engineering with an eye on a prosperous future etc etc.
That's not the way I'm feeling about it right now. Today has really bought things into perspective. Its only 4 days until my Birthday when I'll be 36. I think I'm going to know one way or the other how my career is going to go before then. I have absolutely no doubt that it will turn out well, and successfully. I am mr self-confidence :D but as for exactly how that translates into what I do for a living, that's another thing.
Wish me luck. and wish my enemies the sense to not fuck with me :D

Saturday, October 22, 2005

I've put together a new build of Democracy (1.2) which I should upload this weekend. It adds the new 'manifesto' feature that forces you to keep election promises, plus a few new graphics etc. I'm also going to up the price slightly to $22.95. The dollar exchange rate to the pound really hurts me, and having spent 20 minutes on amazon failing to find a game worth buying, I'm reckoning I can easily justify that for the latest version. Right now I'm getting a 15% download to purchase ratio, so people must be pretty happy.
I'm also going through my usual rethinks and mental redesigns for the new game.
In between this, I've been playing more LUX. It's a very cool game indeed, but often reaches a kind of stalemate.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

I had some time just to sit and play through the latest Democracy build today, and found a few bugs that need fixing. Then I'll be putting together a preview build for some of the players to have a look at, before hopefully uploading it as a new version.
Then hopefully I can concentrate 100% on the new game. I keep dithering about the general look of the game, not sure if it should look a bit less hardcore.
Basically its a business simulation game, with a bit of a sarcastic twist to it. I've been looking at some of the more 'casual' biz sims like Lemonade Tycoon, Coffee Tycoon etc, to get tips from their interfaces. I'm hoping to make the selling points of this game its humour and its gameplay, which I have a lot of plans for in terms of keeping the player interested.
I've also started a new advertising campaign for Democracy.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

I just found a horrid bug in the neural network code within Democracy. Democracy is built like your brain, a big interconnecting matrix of neurons and neural effects (in your brain i think they are called dendrites?). If a neuron changes its value, it changes the 'voltage' of its signal to its connecting neurons. Thats how a rise in taxes will affect GDP etc etc.
To add to the simulation, there are some neurons that I have designed to be 'sluggish'. For example, if you introduce a new policy on car emmissions, that policy takes effect over 15 months, regardless how high or low its set. this is the time it takes to put the law in effect and see the benefits, and is separate from the scaling caused by the policy slider.
That means that the first month after introduction, the policy has 1/15th of its normal effect. This worked fine.
To make the game run reasonably fast, Democracy only updates a neuron when it has to. So I wait until one of my inputs change before recalculating. This is done on a 'push' system, so it's my job as neuorn A to tell neuron B that i just got activated /cancelled or adjusted, so it needs to re-evaluate the input from me.
That all worked fine.
But the one thing I had forgotten was to force an update on connected neurons for any policy that was still being implemented. So if you introduced car emmissions limits and didnt touch it, you were only getting 1/15th of the effect, at least until something else affected air quality, you loaded / saved or adjusted the level of the policy itself.
In practice this meant you hardly noticed, because enough stuff went on to ensure that neurons 'caught up'
But it was still a bug.
I'm going to do a new release soon with a few more dilemmas, maybe a new policy, new meu artwork and my new 'manifesto' feature. As a result of this, I might push the price up for new buyers to $24.95, or even introduce a new 'gold' version at the higher price.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Star Wars passport photos...

Must be kindy samey yes?:

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Although I started making progress on the secret new game, I have revisited Democracy for a while. It's always good to go back and take a fresh look at something you created before. I wish the guys who did big games could do it, I know of a dozen things I'd do differently if I could go back and spend a month on 'The Movies' for example. That's just not (generally) the way retail games work.
I've added another 4 dilemmas to Democracy, and I've rewritten some of the GUI stuff for the tutorial, because when the game starts the tutorial it looks really scary, I'm experimenting with hiding big chunks of interface until the tutorial gets to them. Hopefully that will make the game more approachable.
Also, I've got a new menu background (rather than using a flag). I was wondering if that's silly because it makes the game (and demo) 1MB bigger, but today I hear that Duke Nukem Forever is now 9 Gigs. Of course the difference is that my game is finished, and hasn't take 25 years :D

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The X Factor
there's a TV show in the UK where a bunch of pop-wannabes sing in front of a panel of pop 'experts' who then ridicule them, patronise them and insult them, picking the 'chosen few' to go on to be pop stars.
This show makes me want to smash things.
Firstly, its insulting to the contestants, who are under some insane idea that these 3 judges know what makes good music (they don't). Secondly its unfair on the music buying public. We don't need 3 self-important arrogant gits to TELL us what is good music. There is already a system for that. Its called the free market. If you sell out every gig and shift millions of albums, that's a sign you have talent. If nobody will pay to see your gig or buy your album, chances are, you suck (as far as the public are concerned).
The thing is, the bunch of wannabes that appear on this show do not want to actually do the hard work, they want to bypass the playing clubs and pubs and go directly from a job in a supermarket to megastardom. When one of the 3 judges says they aren't good, some of them look suicidal.
My advice to those people who didn't make it on the x factor is this:

grow up.

don't expect someone else to create a successful career for you. The only people willing to do this are those who want to rip you off. Write songs, and play local pub gigs. Negotiate your own deals, take the money from ticket sales, invest it in marketing on your own terms. Pay for your own music to be recorded. Sell it. Cut out the record companies entirely.

It's not entirely unlike game dev. I have always had a lot of game ideas. As a game designer 'wannabe' I could shop my ideas around the big studios, begging for a job, desperate to be one of the 'chosen few' who get to work with a famous designer, where I'd be told what to do, how to do it, and generally ignored, certainly paid poorly. I'd regularly be told my ideas were not good.
I could start my own game dev company, invest my own money to pay artists, start small and make exactly the games I want to make. When people say the indie games business is dead, I ignore them. When they tell me I won't sell any copies, I ignore them. And what's the result?
I'm not doing badly at all. I've probably made 9 games now, some were rubbish, some were flops, some are selling very well, and my job satisfaction is pretty damned sky high. Best of all I own the whole company. 100%. Nobody tells me what to do, nobody takes a cut.
Don't be like the X-factor wannabes, regardless of your career. Take charge of your career, and ignore the naysayers.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Lots going on.
A big name company is interested in me doing some work for them. I'm still thinking about that one.
The Movies has gone gold, and I have no idea what is meant to happen next. I have literally nothing to do.
And I'm dithering between my new game idea, and the virtual country add-on for Democracy. I'm not sure which to concentrate on.
My cat is totally confused by the new back door. her old cat flap used to be a portal to the outisde world. now its a portal to a coridoor containing yet another catflap, which she is wary of.
I guess it took the bajoran people a while to come to terms with a wormhole to the gamma quadrant. I shouldnt expect my cat to adapt any easier.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

North Koreas amazing games.
This was on channel 4 news in the UK, its jaw dropping on video, but stills are here:
Its a big parade / sporting display in north korea. Its being described by the western press as 'propaganda' which is probably how the north koreans describe the olympics. But forgetting the politics, its absolutely amazing.
If you look at this and say "its just some big pictures", its not. its tens of thousands of people holding up coloured cards to form images one 'pixel' each. Talk about choreography...
Amazing stuff.

Monday, October 03, 2005

I managed to sneak out a new version of Democracy today. Apart from 1 typo, version 1.1.8 is a purely cosmetic upgrade. Instead of clicking a button that starts a mission, it now displays a picture of that country, with some overlaid data such as debt level, population and unemployment etc, and then you can click a button to play the selected level. This lets you go through and pick the most debt ridden country if you are feeling adventurous. Hopefully it also sets the mood a bit more.
This bumped the full install from 18 to 24 MB, but with broadband becoming more and more popular I've decided this is no big deal. I know casual game makers balk at 10MB, but this is more aimed at the hardcore.
I also emailed a selection of Politics teacher today to let them know about the game, I've chosen them carefully as people teaching general politics or political decision making.
I even had some time to do some work on the secret new game. I just need to get the momentum going on that one.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

I've gone ahead and bought a domain name for my next game. It cost £20 for 2 years, I only ever want domain names that are .com these days. I am forever cursed with a web address. Very frustrating.
Anyway, this could be seen as a statement of intent as to how serious I am about doing this game. Partly, I just wanted to buy the name before someone else did. I'm still suprised I got The thing is, virtually every conceievable domain name has been snapped up these days.
Anyway, work continues on the top secret new game, I have a GUI up and running, some text, a few windows, even done some placeholder artwork... Its another strategy game without a 3D or even a 2D world. I learned from Democracy that people aren't bothered by such things, they just want a fun game.
Probably another 6 months to go...