Monday, May 29, 2006

Welcome Danes

I've had a small rush of sales to Denmark, thank's to the mention in a danish newspaper. Unfortunately, I don't speak danish or know of a free translator, so I don't know what was said, but it must be good.
Anyway, it makes for a welcome boost in sales.
I spent some time looking at the starship tycoon code trying to fix a bug. This is NOT fun, as that code is old and *not very good*. The code for Kudos is lightyears ahead of it, and to be honest, debugging kudos in the event of people finding any problems will be an absolute pleasure in comparison.
I'm currently adding some 'special events' to the game. These are things like 'Book Launches' that you are only invited to once you meet certain criteria.
That should then be it gameplay-wise, from then on it's adding content, tweaking, bug fixing and getting ready to release the thing. That should take me a few months though. I also need to get some integrated moddability done too.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Don't buy retail

If you have the option to buy direct online, PLEASE don't buy retail games, you are only stopping th developer getting their money. Why would you go to a store, pay money to park, wait in a queue, just to get a copy-protected DVD you can lose anyway?
I've done a fair few retail deals over the years. Some worked out ok (Thanks Akella!), some turned out just to be criminals (who never paid me a penny) and some turned out to be half way between (Thanks for the advance, but no thanks for the royalty fiddle guys).
I'd guess on average that a developer earns 3-4 times as much (at least) from a direct sale as he does from a publisher sale. He also gets your email, which means he can verify its a legit copy and provide tech support and updates appropriately.
Retail is a crzy way to buy games. I've lost my Rise Of nations CD, which means im totally screwed, yet if I wanted to, I could fire up steam and re-download my Half Life 2 copy and play it again.
Online direct sales ftw!

I'm getting into a really good playtest -> fix bugs cycle each day with kudos. It's looking to be a fun game.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


About 15 mins walk from me there is a forest that the army use as a firing range. If they use heavy machineguns you can sometimes hear them.
About 2 minutes walk away is a school. The kids can be heard shouting and screaming sometimes.
At lunchtime and school 'play time', if the timing is right, and I'm in my garden, you can hear this:


It amuses me. Especially if I'm playing battlefield 2.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Site re-design

Yesterday and this morning I redid the front page and a few smaller pages of my website ( I like this new look much more. The old one was very cluttered and looked like it had been added-to and bodged for years. Maybe the new design is a bit too corporate looking, but I think it gives off a more polished image.
I'll be adding a link to the kudos site from the front page soon. I don't want to over hype the game before it's ready, but it will be cool to actually have some people waiting for the release of the game this time. The launch of Democracy was very subdued, it didn't really snowball until the Game Tunnel awards.
I've added tropical fish to the game.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Lovely Lux

I like Dustin. He has a great game under his belt (the wonderful Lux), he supports it very well, has improved and modified it over the years, and built up a superb thriving community. His blog tells you everything you need to know. He lives in Canada (fantastic place), and he's smiling in his blog profile picture.
I live in the UK, and I'm brandishing a dagger in mine.
That tells you everything you need to know about the quality of life in those two countries.
I know dustin is doing the sensible thing by continuing to work on Lux, expand it with new versions etc. A sensible business person would have done an expansion pack for Democracy right away. (I may do that next, who knows). However, it would be interesting to see what he does next, if he gets tired of Lux.

I'm doing save/load code for Kudos. I think that even september might be a far off release date. It could come out before then at this rate. This is weird. games get put back right? I'll still be working on it in December regardless, adding to it, improving and tweaking based on user feedback.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

big name devs are self-centered arrogant bastards

title says it all. looky here:
I'm sick of this. Maybe we should add Warren spector and his 'other panelists' to the name Molyneux, in a list of 'famous game designers' who have made millions out of starting a game company, only to try and dupe all their underpaid staff into sticking with a crap wage slave job rather than go do WHAT THEY DID THEMSELVES and start up a young passionate games company.
There must have been a time when these guys wanted innovation and exciting new games. Now they are just tired old men that want nothing more than a big bank balance.
Fuck em.
Time to retire please gentlemen. The next generation is ready.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Coding in the Sun

One of the best things about my current situation is the feeling of freedom. For the last 3 or 4 days I've taken to doing around 2 hours work a day in a nearby park. Its pretty tough to focus on a laptop screen in this sun, but its worth it. Plus the park == no internet == no distractions.

One problem is the poor sony laptop battery life. Coding on the laptop makes me realise that most people in my taregt market have older, slower, and less well-maintained PCs. If the game loads in 3 seconds on my main PC that's fine, but it needs to do likewise on a laptop with a slower and more fragmented disk. Also, if I want a game that's really laptop-friendly, I need to reduce it's CPU and disk access needs. Disk access kills laptop power.
A batch of optimising yesterday and today has worked wonders, and I'm happy that the games much more efficient now. The problem with optimising (as always) is it makes the code more complex, especially the text rendering. I use GDI for text, and the state changes for device contexts are SLOW. I've done a pile of rejigging to only render some text when I really have to.

I also considered ditching DDS files for PNG, but it seems PNG is only 256 colors, which sucks, and also my DirectX7 SDK doesn't support them. I've switched from ARGB DDS to DXT3, and that looks as good, and is maybe a fourth the size. This is partly to get download size down, partly to allow for a pile more avatars.

I also bought a licence for FRAPS so i can do a gameplay movie at some stage.

In other news my share dealing hobby has returned a 20% investment in 4 months. I am the god of the stock market.

Friday, May 05, 2006

tip#1 - Keep your staff

I looked at some old code from about 6 years ago today. OH MY GOD. I used to code like a blind rabbit on cocaine. God knows how it all compiled, let alone sold a few copies. Anyway.... when I started in the retail games biz, I was a fairly average coder. I learned a lot at Elixir. Then I worked at Lionhead. I learned tons more. I am now at the point (esp after coding Democracy), that I really have my act together. I don't really think much about how to code anything, it's second nature. I know exactly how to approach problems, my code is 100% structured, debuggable and maintainable. I'm writing good quality code at maybe 10 times the rate I could do just 4 years ago no problem.
And as I said, I learned most of this whilst being paid by someone else. Yes I've read a few books, but mainly its from experience working on big projects.
What I'm getting at is that big companies with budgets, accountants and full carpeting throughout, have basically put all the costs into creating a decent programmer, and I left just when I got good at it. This isn't peculiar to LH, its the whole game Industry. The minute someone gets really good as a coder, they leave. My inbox is crammed with emails from people who have also left their jobs, often they are experienced, talented guys.
This is insane.
Why spend tens of thousands letting your employees develop and get better and better, then when they finally get good, do you let them leave over a fairly trivial amount of money? I bet you any games developer who went to his boss and asked for a 20% pay rise would be told to f**ck off, yet a big chunk of them can probably trivially justify it in terms of experience and work rate. I am literally worth ten times my industry starting salary now, without a doubt, but I dont recall hitting 6 figures salary wise, nor do I know anyone on a six figure coding income. I guess this is because to a non-coder, a l33t developer seems to be hitting the same keys as the fresh-from-school n00b. Paying one even five times what the other earns would make no sense right?
Kudos is going really well. Started on romance today :D

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Endgame design

Ok, so after listening to the wise words of two wise game journalists in sunny Bath, I have also concluded that Kudos needs an endgame. So the game will last ten years, and that's it, finito. Stock-taking time, where you present your sacred accounts to the divine exchequer and he audits your life. I've already written some code to track a whole bunch of statistics that get presented to you when you hit age 30, such as how much time you spent socialising, how many friends you lost, how much you spent on buying stuff yada yada. And also, how much kudos you earned over this period.
The games time system has been warped so that effectively there is one week in each month, so a year is not 365 turns but just 84. so we are talking 840 turns for a full game. I don't think thats too bad. assuming a turn will (once you get going) take 20 seconds, thats 3 a minute or 180 turns an hour.
Yes this is very simplistic, and I need to get everything in place and then playtest to death to get the numbers right. The dilemma is, I am modeling individual social events on a week-scheduled basis, so I need a turn to represent a day, yet I want you to achieve great things (build a career, build up your IQ etc) which is only feasible over a ten year period. So we shall see how things progress with my current solution...

I visited the PC Gamer (UK) offices yesterday to demo kudos, hopefully there will be some press coverage of the game soon, if it's not eclipsed by the hypefest of E3 (lots of fantasy MMORPGS coming apparently - *yawn*).

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Content Dilemma

One of the thinsg I do in between coding is the artwork for Kudos. I'm no expert, but thankfully Poser 6 makes me look good. Coupled with lots of trail and error, and an account at, I can just about pull it off.
The problem I am facing right now is a lack of character variation for the game. Poser 6 is great, but you get 2 (yes TWO) adult models, called Jessi and James. Now you can morph them, change the textures a bit, but they still look pretty similar. I can't get my people to look convincingly black or asian, so right now, the game is set in a racist suburb of London. That's not good. Worse still would be me trying to apply some RGB tints to flesh tones and thinking it looks ok, it does not.
Now it wouldn't be a disaster if there were just buckets of purchaseable extra figures for Poser, but in actuality all you can get is a japanese girl and a japanese middle aged man.
Thats not enough.
If you are a character artist, you know your way around poser, and you have spare time, knock up half a dozen new base characters, and sell em online for $30 each. I bet you will be suprised how many sales you get.
Or if you are a texture artists knock out a dozen different face textures for the existing characters. I want freckles! I want Scars! I want variation dammit, and the face editing room just doesn't vaguely cut it.
What with the imminent purchase of FRAPS, this new japanese character and ongoing sound effects costs, its good that Democracy has had a bit of a sales surge lately.