Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Choosing a business model

I can't decide what to do next. I am torn in two directions...

Direction one, is to do a new game. I have at least 3, if not 4 ideas I think would make great games. 1 is a sequel to an old game I did, but the rest are pretty original. I think they would be at least as successful as Democracy has been and Kudos may well be.

Direction two is to continue expansion, refinement and work on my existing games. There is much that can be added to both Democracy and Kudos. In fact, this strategy has two variants, as I could work on an add-on pack or expansion, which I charge for separately, or I could improve on the existing game in order to encourage more sales.

There are good arguments for both directions. Direction 1 is what led me to make Kudos in the first place. I could easily have gone straight ahead and made 'Democracy 2'. It would probably be a viable game, there are lots of people who liked the original, and a lot of them would buy a sequel. I've never done a sequel before, but I'm presuming its easier than original IP from a design POV. I *know* there is a market for the sequel, basd on the success of the original.

Direction 2 also has potential though. this game, shows that constantly improving and updating an already-good-selling game will pay dividends. I know its been a huge success. There are also other indie games, such as Lux and Space Station Manager, that have evolved and improved over time.
Direction 2 has a weakness, and that is overcoming first impressions. No doubt a lot of people have tried kudos, and some of them may even have not bought it. Will they try an improved version? unlikely. A sale lost, is a sale possibly lost for good.
But I am reminded of 'the sims', a game that has sold 24 million copies. If I assume the global market for Kudos in one 24th that of the Sims, that's a million potential sales. If I guess that 1 in 33 people who tried it bought it, and assume roughly 500 sales, then thats 16,500 people who have tried it. (these are massively rough figures...). So given a market of 1 million, I've only reached 1.65% of my potential market with the current version.
I'd be mad to stop updating it wouldn't I?

Saturday, August 26, 2006

65% in PC Gamer

That's their Kudos Review score. Its a full page review. 65% doesn't sound very good, but when you read the review, its very very positive, which makes the score seem a bit inconsistant. Anyway, good to get some local coverage.

I noticed that Manifesto Games ( have sort-of launched. I'm not blown away by the site design, but it's ok, but when I "to see how it works" went to buy a game, I had to 'register as a user' first. That gets on my nerves, I dont want to enter your database of email targets, I just wan't to buy something, quickly and anonymously as I can, like buying bread in the supermarket, I shouldn't have to register to do that.
But what's this?
That is so *wrong* it's unbelievable. It is, sadly an increasing trend in society. The way I see my demos, they are free, they are quick to download, easy to download, and I don't care who downloads them. Do it, do it now, feel free, I *Want* everyone on earth to try the Democracy and Kudos demos. I'll even pay the bandwidth costs. go for it.
I have that approach because my demos are my marketing tool. I use them to get more sales, the whole point of a demo is to get more sales. So why on earth would you put ANY restrictions on who got them?
But they do. Not just manifesto, but other companies. Try downloading the latest cool RTS or FPS. Did you get it on a fast, no-hassle no-wait direct .exe download from the developer or publisher?
I doubt it, even though that's what A humble company like mine can provide. Not only do they insist you go to some other site like 3dgamers or fileplanet, but those sites make it even harder...

Firstly they want to spam you wityh popups and adverts as you download.
Secondly, they want you to wait in a queue for it
Thirdly, they wont let you have a fast download unless you *pay* for some *premium* package.
These websites give you news about games, and demo downloads of games, all of which is advertising, promotion and marketing for the games themselves (websites are sadly slim on the critical journalism), and people will *pay extra* to be marketed to faster????
I guess its nothing new, lots of people pay a premium to have a t shirt with the marketing logo for some company, effectively paying to be a walking billboard. ironically I note that I'm typing this wearing an Anse Chastanet hotel T shirt, but in my defence, it was free.

Releasing 1.12 of Kudos today, just minor bug fixes and tweaks for now, more content to come at some point...

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tempest ahead, warp factor five

I saw shakespeares 'The Tempest' last night, with Patrick Staurt in. The last time I saw Shakespeare was Much Ado at the Globe theater and it was superb. This time I thought it was pretty dire. I'm not sure if they had excstacy back then, but Will was certainly on something strong when he wrote this. I much prefer "The forbidden Planet" which is apparently a sci-fi take on the same 'story'.
Ho hum.

In other news, Theres a bit of a silly bug in the internet update screen for Kudos. Dang. That means I can't leave it for ages before the next patch, and I should be busy working on a separate version of it for someone...
Sales trickle along ok, could be better, could be worse, but I'm not scraping for food yet. I have actually bought a book to do 'research' for my next game. Wow, I am taking it seriously aren't I?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Anti-Piracy Blog

Just pimping this site:
Nice to see resources like this, more strength to their elbow etc. Piracy is actually pushing me *ME* into thinking about console game dev, and I HATE console games!
Ho hum.

Version 1.11 of Kudos is out now, and it looks and feels much better than older versions. I'm hoping to do a proper post-mortem thing eventually.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Bigger, Shinier webhost

Ok, so it seems that post-kudos, 100 gig/month just ain't cutting it, so I had to leap up to the MUCH more expensive ($75/month) 'semi-dedicated' server option instead. To their credit, hostgator have done a good job in transferring the files and support, my last web host (webaxxs) claimed I'd have to copy the files over myself, as they couldn't do it. doh!
Unfortunately it means the domains nameservers need changing. simple eh? well it would be if my website had its domains bought through some reseller with a 'tag'. Unfortunately, for reasons unknown to me, my main domain name has a 'neutral nominet tag', and the only way to change the nameservers is to write or or fax nominet a signed letter on 'company headed paper' to prevent fraud.
Lets examine this:

1) my signature is just a scrawl, no proof whatsoever its me, 128 bit digitally signed emails are way more secure
2) my 'company headed paper' doesn't exist, so I knocked some up in word in 2 mins, again, hardly a wax seal using the kings cygnet ring
3) This is a major UK internet company. And their preffered method of communication is a piece of parchment with some squid fluid smeared on it.

I'm resigned to the fact that there is nothing I can do about it, but it still amazes me. This is 2006. Lets relegate ink signatures and fax machines to the last century shall we?

Kudos 1.11 looks superb, lots of nice changes, I'm bug testing it now, got some real awkward-to-reproduce ones...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Revamping Kudos

I'm pleased with Kudos, it's a game I'm proud of, but It needs to be better. I'm fully aware of the game needing more content, more variety, and greater ease of modding, but there's something else that it needs to, and that's something that's harder to achieve:

It needs to look better.

People tend to look at screenshots of a game before deciding whether to download a demo. I reckon a huge number of potential customers for *any* game are killed off at this first hurdle. If my game is immersive, interesting, fun and original, but the screenshots make it look dull, I'm sunk. It shouldnt be this way, but it is. Chess looks dull as dishwater in screenshots, but it's still a cool game. I'm not making puzzle games here, but games that bridge the casual/hardcore crowd. Some people only download very impressive looking games, and Kudos screenshots make it look too samey.

So I'm working on it.

One thing I decided I needed to do was have more variety of backdrop. Right now, you have a single high-res quality image of your characters face against a wishy washy blue effect backdrop like this:

And that's ok, but what I thought I could do instead would be to reflect the current weather as a backdrop instead of the blue washy bit. I already have a weather indicator, but it's much nicer to have it reflected in the whole screen instead.
The problem is, that means rendering multiple passes per frame to compose each backdrop, because having 3 1024*768 bitmaps for each avatar (3 weather types) would bloat the game. I decided I could do it by splitting the composited backdrop into the separate layers, and put them together at runtime, this would give me mroe flexibiltiy whilst also shrinking the filesize.
But the fillrate required may be too high for older video cards.

Luckily, there is a solution, and it's the one Sim City 4 uses. You do all the rendering once, to a special texture, then just draw that texture each frame.
It took me a while to get the rendering to a texture to work ok, and I need to ensure it works ok on other cards, and have fallbacks in place, but so far, I'm pretty pleased. Ideally I'd go further and have proper 'live' rendererd weather effects, but sod that for now, I'm already happier with the variety it gives the backdrops:

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Cliff's words are spoken by an actor

I wish they had chosen brad pitt or sean connery to be me instead, but what the heck:
(episode 4, approx 3 mins in)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Retail & E3 and its irrelevance to me

People are talking a lot about the downsizing of E3. I just read a report that suggested that the 'smaller' developers will suffer most, because they won't get the press attention that they used to get from E3.

I went to ECTS a few times, once purely for business, to meet some retail publishers. I had arranged meetings, which lasted about 2 minutes each. Nothing I said couldn't have been said by email, where we would both have had a written record of it. In the end, nothing at all came out of those meetings. I guess it satisfied some sales executive's primitive urge to press flesh.

I've worked for big devs who send teams of people to E3 to schmooze with the press and 'promote the game'. This promotion is usually carried out whilst drunk, jetlagged, bombarded with loud music and people shouting. In short, it's carried out in the most ineffective setup to promote the product as you could imagine.

So whats the alternative? I guess it's getting demo and preview copies of games to journalists on your own terms, when they are ready. No doubt the big names will still refuse to send playable preview discs, so they will want to watch over the journalists shoulders to ensure they dont see any of the buggy bits, but I can live with that. It means that rather than assuming every game in development is shown at E3, magazine editors and website editors may be more interested in developers like me contacting them throughout the year.

A big booth with lasers and cheerleaders can drown out the awkward looking english guy hawking his wares on a laptop at E3, but its much harder to drown out that guy when he doesnt have to stand right next to you at a trade show.
I think this is good news for smaller developers.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Please Drop Interest Rates

because higher UK interest rates lead to this:

And that leads to us UK developers who get royalty checks in US dollars to earn very little.
I'd be pretty comfortably off if I lived in the USA.

Friday, August 04, 2006


And nobody can argue -> ITS IN PRINT (PC Gamer)

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Is google dying?

It seems that the CPC (cost per click) of any keyword on google has suddenly gone mental. heres a popular keyword:


and they want £2.75 per click for that?

methinks their algorithm has died somewhat. here are people with more experience (and money) than me complaining:

It seems adwords is now a dead end for advertising. Goodbye google, I knew ye so briefly.
My new monitor arrived today and it's L33T.