Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Is this the best they can do?

There isn't really anyone out there trying to compete with the main game that I make (Democracy). There was a 'window of opportunity' for someone to take the idea of the first game, do a better-graphics and better-marketed version of it, and whip it out there about a year ago. But for some reason nobody did it. they were all busy making clones of Wild West Wendy.
But hey, you missed your chance now, because the new ones out :D.
However, it seems I do finally have some competition...


or do I?
I don't think I should be worried. Some 'game' that revolves around you marketing a soft drink for a billion dollar company isn't what modern gamers have been crying out for methinks...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Still hanging in there

I read a forum post recently by an indie gamer who is depressed and considering going back to full time employment. I can't say I'm surprised.
Most indies sell less games than I do, and take longer to make their games. Some of them have kids, and thus need more money anyway. The chances of a random selected indie gamer being able to survive comfortably from making PC games are very low.
Added to that, the lifestyle of the indie sucks big time. I work with people in the USA and Australia, which means just as most people have finished work for the day, I'm dealing with new emails and discussions about work over msn.
Sure, I work from home, with no boss, no commute, and no co-workers, but I also cannot physically get away from my job.
But just as I hear about one indie leaving, I realise that another team of indies are doing a hell of a job. Check out this game:


Its a pretty unpolished and unfinished RPG, but forget all of that and play the 'quick battles' on horseback. That bit is truly excellent. I wish them every success.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Slowly drifting into a new game

I'm generally still handling Democracy 2, promoting it, advertising it, checking out bugs etc etc, but I have also started very rough initial work on the next game.
I'm basing it on one of my older games, but I'm hopefully going to do more than just an update, more like a total re-designing and overhaul to make it better than before.
When I first started red-doing Democracy 2, I imagined that the main interface for the game would change a lot. I did a few mock-ups and spent a lot of time doodling and trying to lay things out better. But in the end, I stayed pretty much the same as the original game.

Right now, I am fiddling with the interface for this new one, thinking about what I have on the screen and if I really need it there, and generally simplifying things. My games tend to look more complex than they are, and they also tend to look pretty dark and gloomy. Democracy 2 was a step in the right direction, in that its still a damned complex and deep game, but has a more friendly 'why not give it a try' look to it.

The next game will hopefully take it a bit further. Just by using bigger, friendlier fonts and lighter interface colors, the whole thing already looks much more welcoming.

Once I really get into the game, I'll get more excited about behind the scenes stuff such as a lot of gameplay/AI changes I would like to make, but right now I'm being shallow and concentrating on looks :D

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Black Font White Font Black Font White Font

One major thing I have learned today is that windows renders (draws) fonts totally differently depending if you render white on to black or black on to white. You might think that its just a matter of inverting the colours, but NO! it does it totally differently.
I've always done dark moody serious depressing games, so I've tended to use light colour text on dark moody backgrounds.
Then I did Kudos, which was a bit upbeat. But in typical cliff style, I used miserable black backgrounds and carried on as before.
But Now I'm experimenting with lighter GUI with dark text and it looked BAD. I tried all sorts of fixes until some kind genius pointed out that if my font drawing code took as its source windows rendering of white on black and swapped it, I'd get poor results.

My text engine basically uses a bitmap cut into chunks and tints the colour to my liking. But now... if I want black text I need to use a different source bitmap to if I wanted to use white text. It's no big disaster, as I'm likely now to only use black text, but it was well worth discovering.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Ooops, seven thousand pounds overdrawn

Sooo... I get a call from the bank, and the bank says you need to check your account, and when I do, I see why. I appear to be seven thousand pounds in the red.


But thankfully it's not another Jeremy Clarkson incident. But happily, its just a silly mistake by the accountant, paying my yearly income tax before I had put the carefully set-aside money in the right account.
Happily, despite having a £500 limit, and going over it by a factor of 14, my bank were happy not to charge me a penny for doing so. Would your bank do that?
Mine is www.smile.co.uk

Of course this all comes in the same week that I needed my car fixed, and to tax it for another year. Combine UK car tax levels with UK income tax and you wonder how the hell you are supposed to make a living doing this stuff.
Bah.. :(

I'm busy fiddling with some older code in possible preparation for redoing an older game, following indecision as to exactly what to do next. Ho hum.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Can entrepreneurs relax?

I make my own games. I do the coding, the design, the marketing, yada yada. In some ways I consider myself primarily a game designer. In other ways I consider myself an 'entrepreneur'.
A friend of mine runs his own business and I'm always yakking about his business to him. My favourite TV program is Dragons Den. I love books on marketing and business. When there is a TV program or newspaper article that says how much business X makes, or what their costs breakdown is, I LOVE it. I'm a bit sad like that.

I think that;s why I've managed to make a living as an indie game dev, despite living somewhere so expensive (England). Most indies I know are coders first, everything else second. they hate self promotion, and they really loathe the business side. I'm lucky that I enjoy this stuff, it means I put more time into it, and my business probably benefits as a result.

But being an entrepreneur also has its downsides. I get the impression that most of us find it difficult to relax. My one guaranteed time to relax is if I'm on holiday in another country, and I know we have nothing planned for that day. I spent 10 days in the Caribbean once, most of it reading on the beach, and it was awesome. But even then, I found myself mentally adding up the income the hotel must bring in, and guessing it's costs and likely profitability.
I'm not sure if entrepreneurs are happier than everyone else, but I think we are more anxious and more fidgety. Maybe thats why most business people seem relatively thin?