Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Day Unknown -Busy and a free man
Quit your job today, you are wasting your life making other people wealthy. If they didn't need you, they would sack you on the spot. What have you got to lose? You only have one life, so make the most of it.
Look at my cat, does she look like she would tolerate an office job :

Monday, November 28, 2005

I made a mistake when paying my corporation tax and the Inland Revenue owe me £374. Oh happy day. This was more than my monthly cheque from RealGames, which also showed up today.
I'm still fidgety about waiting for a response from mystery 3rd Party. It's one thing to blunder on ahead and keep the faith when it's your project, but another when it's being paid for by someone else. I'll be happy once they have played an early hacky version and still send me checks.
The thought of it being so long (maybe 5 or 6 months?) before I have a new product actually on sale is a bit scary. How do companies manage when its 2 years and 4 million dollars until they sell a copy? *shudder*

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Pirates of the carribean
Its just not possible to watch this film too often. Especially when you've just been there.
(warning - posted when drunk)

Friday, November 25, 2005

Day Sixteen? Download managers are EVIL
Back in my day download managers were programs like GetRight. These are good programs, they let you queue up some stuff to download, set a timer, choose a download directory, even set a speed limit so you can still surf or send emails while downloading.
These days there is a new download manager. These are programs that effectively replace the normal .exe file of a game demo. With these programs you download a tiny application that then connects to the web, and downloads the game for you. The developers sue them so they can track downloads better. But the advantages they give the player are these:
But the disadvantages:
1) You can't set a speed limit on them
2) They try and add themselves to your startup registry just like spyware (no thanks)
3) They often clutter your desktop, and due to a bug, some can never be removed. Thanks!
4) They need you to give them web access through your firewall. No thanks, I'm pretty choosy about firewall settings and what's allowed through.
In summary, they are a BAD idea. The only worst idea would be this:
Set up 'exclusive' deals with big companies like filefront to host a 2 gigabyte game demo. Insist on them having to display 200 flash adverts and go through 10 pages of hard sell before getting to a download link
Include copy protection like starforce in the demo
require credit card details before allowing a demo download.
Of course, ALL of this is totally insane, and I've seen other companies do ALL of it. I summarise that they are all clearly mad. In the meantime, download some of my demos. You will find simple fast .exe links direct to the demos at my homepage. It's not rocket science.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Not the real Sid M, I've never met him, But his 3D-rendered virtual dummy that guides the Civ 4 demo tutorial. I like to lean games QUICK. It's a demo remember, so I am just gauging my interest. Let me play and have fun quick, don't bore me.
Things I note:
WHY is there a 'virtual sid'? How much did this cost? Why bother?
WHY does sid try and do a jedi mind trick animation on me?
WHY am I being told 'congratulations!' every time I click the mouse? You TOLD me where to click, did I just invent quantum physics? Don't treat me like a puppy learning tricks. I'm a 36 year old computer programmer. grrrrrr.

The game itself seems good, so why present it as though it's barbie goes ski-ing? I neither need to look at a virtual game designer, nor hear him speak. I am literate. I can read...

Ok rant over, today I've been waiting for an email from the mystery 3rd party (no joy), and coding progress bars. They are MUCH more complex than you'd think (especially nice rounded 3 part ones that look cool). But they are done now. thank heavens.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Got back from supper sunny carribean to super frozen cold UK. Jetlagged and suffering severe cold here. I am waiting on contracts for the 3rd party stuff, which is a bit inconvenient. I'm considering learning to draw cartoons, but a part of me thinks thats mad and I should just go with a proper skilled artist. I'm torn between wanting a proffesional look and wanting not to invest money with no guarantee of return.
I'm going to make another push to get 'Democracy' into American schools. step one is building up a list of influential people to mail copies to.

Monday, November 14, 2005

I'm off on holiday for eight days tommorow. I'll be lying on a sunny beach in the Carribean drinking coktails out of pineapples. Maybe.
I'll also be reading a book on improving my writing skills. Say goodbye to my crap grammar and awful sentences!
Sales trickle along, but I do certainly need to get another game out there. I have made huge progress on the 3rd party game today which is looking lovely, and will be huge fun, but I long to get back to my now frozen positech game. I'm aiming to get it released by Summer next year, and need it to sell as well as Democracy. That won't be easy, but I learned a lot from Democracy, and am learning more from this side project, so hopefully my efficiency will be at it's peak by then.
I'm going to try hard to not think about sales figures while I'm on the beach.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Was princess Leia Sexy? was it the metal bikini that did it?

Day TWELVE - Marketing Stupidity 101
Lets say it's 2005, the age of the internet and you have a new 'triple A' megabucks game to sell. Make sure you call it something really distinctive so it can be found on google, like 'GUN'. Ooops, nope you might as well have called it 'The'. Mistake numero uno.
So I head to the activision website to check it out:
Lesson 2, don't allow people to even read about the game until they enter a valid credit card number. No I am not kidding, yes this is modern game marketing. yes its insane. For one thing, I'm 36 and don't even have a credit card.
I wanted to find out if the game had a demo, but knowing modern hype-based marketing, they will have not bothered with a demo. If people could play the demo, they might see through the triple A hype right?
I am PROUD that all my games have freely available demos. I KNOW that this helps a GOOD game to sell. I am going to make it a rule to never buy a game that doesn't have a demo...
What do you think? you think this is good PR?

Friday, November 11, 2005

DAY ELEVN - Movies Bug
Ok WAY off topic, but to anyone playing The Movies who gets costumes and roles scrambled in post production when cutting scenes, if you save and reload the movie the problem is fixed. The actual data should be fine, its just what's drawn on screen is sometimes a glitch. Hope that stops a few hundred people tearing their hair out. That's as I recall anyway.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

How often can you be intrrupted in one day? if it's not long phonecalls about accountancy, its people selling landscape gardening or religious enlightenment at the doorstep. Don't these people realise I have work to do?
Todays progress has been rocky. Random numbers not being random due to weird bugs wasted a good hour of my time, and progress hasn't been as fast as normal.
However, I'm still convinced this game idea is great. It's a bit frustrating that it's not a 'pure' positech game. The moment it's finished I need to throw myself back into the muystery abacus game, to secure future earnings.
I'm still dithering about getting Civ4. I like the idea of Civ, just not sure if (like most triple-a retail games) in practice it will annoy me with FMV, voiceovers and other bloated waffle that afflicts all new games.
Maybe I'll get it cheap when I'm back from holiday.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I learned today:
1) If you have a microwave oven running when you are transferring files over a wireless network, the transfer rate drops massively. Yes I am serious, I did extensive testing. I didn't realise this would happen, but trust me, it does.

2) MP3s SUCK. You may well think they sound cool, but trust me, I'm an ex musician, and my sample files (Dream Theaters new album) sounds way better on my car stereo (CD) than on MP3, even if I use my ninja Bose headphones. (if you like music and do not own Bose QuietComfort2 headphones, you need to reasses your priorities. sell a kidney on ebay NOW).

I hope you all feel better people for knowing this.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Lot to do. I started preliminary coding on the 3rd party game. Its kinda daunting at the start of any project, even though I know this is a prototype rather than complete project.
Anyway, I have some stuff onscreen, and some simulation code loading in data from text files. This isn't that bad for day 1. Now I've started writing some basic code, I'm in a better position to sit back and take another look at the design and see how this thing is going to be structured.
Once I have the first milestone payment it will all feel more secure :D
Check this out:

Troubled Atari is facing a $4.8 million lawsuit by RollerCoaster Tycoon creator Chris Sawyer, who claims the company owes him unpaid royalties.
ImageSawyer is alleging that Atari miscalculated payments from game sales during the period 1999 to 2003.

Of the $180 million generated by RollerCoaster Tycoon, Sawyer received around $30 million, but he says this is shy of the figure he ought to have received.

looks like a single guy (chris sawyer) did very well out of his game, and even then, the retail scumbags try and shaft him...
Apparently The Movies also ships today. All I can say is, watch the goddamned credits :D

Monday, November 07, 2005

DAY SEVEN - High Level Design
So I'm doing my first 8 hour day on design for the new 3rd party project. I already have the 'big concept' done, now its the tricky bit. There's basically 3 aspects to game design. Part 1 is "lets do a game about running a city". That's a very important bit, and it can me make or break bit, and its really where the big chunk of originality comes in, but not neccesarily the hardest bit or the most important bit.
Part 2 is "how on earth would that work?" and Part 3 is "What should the cost of a coal power plant be then?" I'm pretty good at 1 and 2, not so good at 3. Some people (big famous designers normally) excel at 1, and sometimes at 2. There are a lot of unsung heroes who excel at 3. The problem is, for a game to really be cool, you need to be good at 1,2 and 3. good at 1 gets you nowhere. Good at 1 and 2 gets you sales, and angry customers with an unbaalnced game. Good at 1,2 and 3 gets you Sim City.
Unless you sit and think about it, you don't realise how much of '2' there is to do for any game. Heres some examples:

In Sim City, do you actually have to build plumbing? or do we ignore that? Do we get money from central government? or is it all local taxes? Do we get voted out as mayor? or are we always in charge? Are there city limits and bordering towns already in place? Can we just compulsory purchase private land when we want?

In the Movies, do you hire actors on a salary or pay them per picture? Do actors always do what they are told? do you have location shots? do actors earn royalty points?

These are all the big decisions that spread out like a flowchart to effect everything that gets coded and designed for the game. It's big decision time. At this point, everything is up for grabs, the game is still vague. Its both exciting but scary. At least I can ignore 3 :D

Friday, November 04, 2005

I've felt ill for 6 days now. That's way too long. Not feeling well enough to get much done today, hopefully it will clear up tommorow. I have had a little rush of Democracy Sales. Someone has asked why the retail deals I signed are only Europe (and not all of Europe). Its a good question, because its a good selling game that would sell well in the UK, USA and Australia without any translation. The thing is, the price needs to be right, as I'd be losing out on some online sales when its in retail, so it's not 'free money'.
Like almost everyone in the Uk dev community, I get sent MCV every week. Its a really boring magazine about the retail games industry. I hardly ever read it, but today I read a bit of it. There was a big argument between an indepedent retailer and a distributor over X-Boxes. There is a lot of this, the impression I get is that Sony, Microsoft etc dont give a damn about games shops, they just want to sell to WalMart, Tesco and ASDA. I hate this, it seems that mega-corps deal with mega corps, and everyone else can just get stuffed. This is why selling direct to my customers is such a good thing. I don't like middlemen, I think they exploit both sides of things. It's good to be indie again.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Tax return day is never fun. I take heart in the knowledge that now I have an accountant this is probably my last one. The big problem is the Inland Revenue (UKs IRS) automatically assume you have an accountant, and that you have nothing better to do than read hundred page documents on obscure law. I've been putting off doing it, but as I feel REALLY rough (thanks Tom!) today, I might as well ruin it completely by dealing with Tax.
I did get some work done today on a design proposal for a third party. That could turn out very well as I'm very excited about the project.
So I have 2 things going on here:
The secret game thats a biz sim style thing that I'm designing, coding and working on myself for Positech (my company). That's going pretty well, and I'm at the coding stuff and making things work stage.
and an even more secret project for a 3rd party which might take up a few months. That's being done partly because its a cool company to work with, partly because it's nice to have some guaranteed cash now that I'm not salaried. I still don't know 100% if that's going ahead yet.
Interesting times ahead.
Things haven't been finalised with my last employer, which is why I haven't really spoken about that game on here yet. Ideally it would be nice to be able to answer questions about it etc.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

I do a lot of my own artwork for my games. For Democracy I employed an artists to do the icons, which were just beyond me, and I bought some stock art from istockphoto, a great site for getting high quality art for games. For Starship Tycoon I did almost everything, an artists did some crew images.
A lot of people who do indie games employ an artist to do everything. There are two ways to do this, give them a roaylty split, or pay them outright. I don't like royalty splits myself. If a game is a shock suprise hit, I could end up having lost a lot of money. And if I don't believe in the game enough to spend a few hundred quid on art, I have other problems.
Unfortunately, I can't really afford proffesional art for everything, its just too costly. And during development, I need some 'coder art' mockup stuff so I can get a feel for things.
For reasons that are hard to explain, I needed an abacus image for the new game. This was a sudden silly idea, but I ran with it and knocked up an abacus in 3D Studio MAX:

I think that's not bad for coder art?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Inflatable Doctor Who villains are all very well, but another birthday present I got was this:
I don't know much about the game, and am dismayed to see a cliched buxom space babe promoting it, but its supposudly the spiritual successor to Elite, the greatest game ever made. You might be aware I tried my own Elite style game ( so naturally I'm a big fan.
is it a good game?
Because I haven't installed it yet. Like a blind date, Its potentially the best thing ever. as long as I don't install it and play it, I can cling to this joyous moment. Will it let me down? I might not ever install it, just keep it in the wrapper.
I got my trivially small egames quarterly cheque today. They sell a lot of games, they just bundle mine with a gazillion others. Still, these are old games, any income from them is welcome.