Thursday, September 28, 2006


What do 'triple A' (shudder) companies have against making demos of their games? I was dissecting a game demo that I installed recently, and found it full of uncomrpessd wavs and bitmaps. Every game dialog box was a hardcoded bitmap. What on earth were they thinking? This wasn't a hobbyist game, its a big budget one. naturally, the dmeo was huge.
In a recent discussion on game demos, and their absence for many titles I saw someone say this:

why put more time than needed into a demo during the middle of the development cycle?

This is soooo wrooonnnnnnnnnng.
Even if you are arrogant enough (as many AAA companies are) to ASSUME you will sell 100k units, you are aware that there are now 4 billion people on earth (at least). You do realise there are probably people out there who MIGHT buy the game if they KNOW they like it, and the only way to know that is to play it for a bit right?

I reckon a good demo can add 50-75% to the sales of a good quality traditional retail game. I'm always buying games based on their demos.
But hey, why should I give a damn if the retail games industry is still acting like fools. Knock yourself out guys :D

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I need a good sci-fi landscape artist

So here i am working on the sequel to Starship Tycoon and I'm starting to think about artwork. I already have artists picked who I will ask to do the starship component and crew profile stuff, once I know my exact requirements, but I have an additional requirement that is more specific.
I need planetary landscapes.
Ideally I need lots of variety. So one might be a view of a spaceport landing strip in a desert, another would be a bustling city on an ice planet, another a few small space age hovels on a rocky, airless world, maybe one of a large rocky planetoid orbiting a gas giant. etc etc
I don't think I can just go to 'any' artists and get that.
There are, however, lots of artists who LOVE doing this kind of thing, and churn out lots of the stuff. They spend days tweaking variables in bryce or terragen or 3d studio max to get the right amount of atmospheric scattering or realistic foliage displacement (i made that up). They might not be able to draw a cat or do good brick textures, but they know a thing or two about creating alien landscapes.

I need to find artists like this who
1) are good
2) have a style I think suits the game and
3) will let me licence maybe a dozen of their pictures for a reasonable price.

its 3) that really matters. Some artists aren't great business people. They get very protective of their art and assume if anyone runs a business, esp a games business, that they should pay tens of thousands of dollars for their art.
Not so.
Firstly I don't have 10,000 dollars to spend. Secondly, I'm not looking for exclusive art, just a licence to re-use what you already did. But if your a space-artist that has a bunch of these images you think would suit, get in touch (cliff AT positech dot co dot uk), and let's talk.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Direct Sales FTW

Direct sales from the developer to the consumer will always be the best way to make money. There are just too many unknowns otherwise. Here are some of them:

Trust -> Is the publisher legit? will they just do a runner with the money? will they report royalties accurately, have they made deals concerning your game you dont know about? are their promises of projected sales accurate?

Support -> You have no way of knowing if a tech support claim is legit. Did they really buy it? did they copy it off someone? is it a dodgy pirated copy? You have no way to know

Feedback -> You are one step removed from your customers. Will the portal/publisher pass on any customer feedback or suggestions?

Community -> People will talk about your game, but at the publishers / portals site, not yours. This does little to build a community

Reputation -> You didnt make the game, the publisher did. At least as far as the customer is concerned. Who the hell are you?

Updates -> You want to patch the game? you need to go through a third party. they need to schedule some QA. maybe next month? next year? sorry, the games too old, we dont issue patches.

Demographics -> Who bought your game? what gender? what age? what country? You will never know.

Of course, ALL this can be offset if the royalty check is collosal enough. But it *does* need to be pretty good to offset all this. That's something to keep in mind when you balance out your strategy for selling games.

I'm really getting into Starship Tycoon 2 now...

Monday, September 18, 2006

Starship Tycoon 2

I'm working on Starship Tycoon 2. I was thinking of at least 3 totally original games to do next, and I even started work on one of them, but I've started this now instead. It's very difficult for me to decide what to do next. I know that neither Democracy or Kudos has sold as many copies as they have the potential to do, but its tough to keep tweaking the same game over and over. In the end, you just lose all perspective on it.

I don't have much done yet, I have a very basic application framework, some ships moving around an docking at planets etc, and some basic windowed and scrolling GUI thats eerily similar to Kudos.

I have a lot of ideas on improving on the original game, and I know its a popular idea, having sold tens of thousands in retail (not that I earned anything from it...). My only problem now is making the sequel stand out from the original in design terms, and not copying the old interface too slavishly. Right now it looks very similar.
I plan of actually paying a proper artist to do proper art for this one. I've already picked who I'll be using, although I won't approach them till I have more of a working game, and am 100% certain this is my next product.
I hate starting new games, I'm much happier during the final 25% of dev time.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Even though my old profile pic had a knife in it, and made me look SCARILY like that montreal killer who played evil video games.
I've changed my profile pic to be more family friendly -->

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Ok, I took most of the day off yesterday to fly one of these:

That's me in the front seat. twas great fun, although tiger moths are pretty slow.
Today its back at the coalface working on the new new game for a day, and trying to make some progress there, although I'll probably interrupt the development of it quite regularly in order to update kudos with new stuff.

I got my copy of lego star wars today. like msot people, mine didnt work until I hacked various files, and got various patches and fixes. all because they used Windows Installer.
Can someone explain me what the hell that does that the free, simple, reliable inno setup cannot do? These are games, not new operating systems
So far the Lego game is cool, but a lack of save-anywhere really grates on me, as a hardened PC gamer.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Eurogamer Review

Oooh, Got a new review:

"Cliff Harris has again made a thought-provoking piece of art and social
commentary masquerading as code"#

Sometimes I'm intimidated by my own talent.

I'm working on a sort of web-high-score page generating thingy for Kudos. Not a conventional high score, but a thing where you can press a button and the game generates a webpage on my server showing you lots of stats about your character. I hope its the sort of thing where people email the url to their mates and say "looK I'm an accomplished, confident particle-physicist" etc, and persuades them to buy the game :D.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Demo plans...

check it out:

(star trek: legacy)

"We currently don’t plan on releasing a demo for the game"

cool. I "currently don't plan on gambling £35 of my hard earned cash on the strength of your screenshots"

In the mind of a lot of gamers, myself included, if there is no demo, the game is probably shit. We don't trust reviews any more. It's an interactive medium. Good reviews might make us seek out your demo. An outstanding demo (lego Star Wars 2) will get you sales you wouldnt normally have got. (I bought it :D). This is flipping obvious. The only logical conclusion is:

"This game sucks, but the trekkies will buy it anyway. Keep its suckiness under wraps"


Its extremely difficult to work on a video game that you aren't motivated by. Ironically, the vast majority of people in the industry are often in this position. Even if you are a total video game obsessive, you won't like *all* game genres. At some point you will work on a game you hate, and even if its a genre you like, the theme, the design, or the platform may not excite you.
I've been lucky, and tended to work on games I like the sound of. I've never written code for a cricket game, a barbie game, or a beat-em-up.

However, with great power comes great responsibility, and the flipside of the equation isn't all roses either. As a one-man-band, I *could* do anything I like. Granted, this means I can choose the game I want to do, and then get stuck into it. Effectively, I'm doing exactly what game I like, as a job. So far so good.

But it also means I can change my mind *at any time*, and do something else. Thats a VERY strong temptation. I currently have 3 new C++ projects, all 3 of them are strategy(ish) games. One has a political slant, one has a tycoonish slant, one has a very strange RPGish slant. I've started work on all three, and keep changing my mind.
I'm thinking of going with the tycoonish one now, but that's today. Who knows what will happen tommorow? once I'm 3 months in, I know I won't turn back, but that's a long way off!

I got my first ever gamepad today. I am now ready for LEGO STAR WARS TWO!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Nice small demo

Of some new WW2 RTS (ooh thats a new concept).
A handy 1.8 gig demo. For the uninitiated, thats 1,800 copies of War And peace. For a fucking video game demo.
I bet you 25% of it is cutscenes and advert videos, and at least 25% will be stuff that isn't in the demo but nobody knew how to remove (or couldnt be bothered because its not *them* who pays the bandwidth, or watches the conversion rate). What the hell is wrong with retail developers? Hardly an impulse download is it?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Kudos Design Post-Mortem

Kudos was easier to program (and still is) than it was to design. Game Design is HARD. And when you don't have similar games to leach ideas from, it's VERY hard. Heres some information on some of the decisions taken when designing the look of the game:

And designing the mechanics of the thing was much worse. And here I am about to start doing another original IP. What's wrong with me?