Monday, March 24, 2008

WARNING - Do NOT attempt social commentary

It's time for me to go through all the buyable stuff in Kudos and decide which of it goes in Kudos 2, and what gets added.
I just ditched the lottery ticket.
Because people kept asking me why they never won. they asked me how many times to buy a ticket before I won a prize.
Here is the confession:


It was a joke I put in. There is NO chance of winning. There is no code for it. It is deliberate. I find lotteries to be exploitative and wrong. the chances of winning are very very low, and yet they are marketed at people who have very little money. Some people on the minimum wage spend a noticeable chunk of their income on lottery tickets, hoping for a sudden win and a way out of poverty. Statistically, that money is better spent on buying books to learn more profitable skills, but people don't want to hear that. it sounds like hard work, and a celeb and talent-show obsessed media fuels the nonsense that you can be an overnight success and a millionaire.

Lottery tickets in real life are a waste of money. you will NOT win. I've met quite a few millionaires, and every single one of them got their money by working hard. The percentage of people who became rich (and stayed rich) by gambling is insignificant.

I guess the conventional 'casual game' wisdom is to be optimistic, and fulfil peoples dreams, but I'd rather fulfil dreams of working their way to fame and success rather than just getting lucky.
Earning money is way more satisfying than winning it. It has real value then. Something you get for nothing often feels worthless.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Phones, Pizzas, Meetings...

Oooh it's suddenly very busy. I leapt into work straight away today doing a few more of the books for Kudos 2, then got some new artwork for menus (hurrah!) which took some fiddling to put into the game (half done). Then I had lunch with a pal, and beat him at wii tennis 9and lost at wii bowling), then it was back to work, firstly booking a train trip and hotel for an indie developer meeting thingy, then I started work on the new interface for mobile phone messages in Kudos 2.
Tragically today has been really BAD for sales. Why does that always happen just when I've spent some money?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Take The Test

You need to hear the audio...

Thanks to seth godin for spotting this.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Movie titles

It's sunday, so in traditional style I'm trying not to spend *too much* time working today. Although one thing I got started on was new movie titles and taglines for Kudos 2. The movies are all supposed to have slightly silly tongue in cheek names and descriptions such as:

Royal Icing
Princess stephanie hates the pressures of royal life, until the new cake expert starts work at the palace.

Hive Mind
When mild-mannered beekeeper edgar scott wins the nobel prize for mathematics, it's just the start of his adventures.

etc etc. I know they won't win any comedy awards, but its good to have something slightly entertaining, rather than deadpan crap that looks procedurally generated.

On my list of things to do today are to
1) eat a creme egg whilst in the bath. I've never done this before and have slight suspicions it may be the most awesome experience imaginable.

2)reassign some money at My first loan got repaid yesterday, so it's time to go help out another entrepreneur. If you can spare $25 for a year, you should check it out.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Optimising, Music and More

A busy day today. From the very start I leapt into action on the optimisation front. Just running a fullscreen release build using fraps meant I could pinpoint some parts of the code that were too slow. I added a switch to my engine to turn 'vertical synch' off, which lets me see the 'real' frame rate my card could achieve. I have a Geforce 8800 GTS, so I need it to run like the clappers on my machine, in the hope that people with less cards can run the game ok. Its a fairly static, GUI game, but that's no excuse for clunky coding, and besides I might want to add some particle stuff later.
basically, despite concerns about overdraw, its my text rendering code that's a bit slow, especially when I draw lots of different pieces of text in one frame.
I'd already coded a sort of 'buffer system' for text, which lets me pre-compute all the slow stuff for drawing some characters, then just re-draw it the next frame. It was a case of tidying up (and improving) that code, and using it in some of the more immediately vital areas. I raised the frame rate in my worst case from 65 to 91 eventually, so that's a good start.

Once that was out of the way, it was time to listen to the 'final' passes of the games music and stick it in. Some of the music I love, some of it I'm not sure fits in with the game as well, but there's a long way to go yet, so it will probably involve a lot of trial and error as to where to put things.

My GUI artist is away, and un-contactable, which is a bit of a pain as I have lots of stuff I need him to do. On top of all of this fun and games, there is the fact that I'm supposed to be doing some decorating with the medium term view towards selling the house. Oh joy. At least I could console myself with a sausage sandwich.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Job Adverts

For the last TWO days I've been doing code for formatting job ads for Kudos 2. The old job ads in the original game were horridly dull, looking like windows error messages (as did the whole game):

The new ones will have individual frames, layouts and font selections, and look more like this: (The text isn't for this advert, I haven't done job specific ad text yet)

It's entirely cosmetic, but people *do* like a brighter, nicer looking game. This isn't the final look, but its getting there. There is SO MUCH to do.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Todays code

Some stuff I've got done so far:

Added new solo (not sure about this) activity for Sundays -> Go To Church. this is a way to raise honesty (there are other ways). Considering that honesty in the game is more about being law abiding, I think i can get away with this. Its very debatable. i could say that it reduces your 'reasoning', but I'd get attacked for that. hmmm.

Persuasive ability is now part of NPCs deciding to accept social invites, as is the extent to which they are introverts or extraverts, and their liking of the proposed activity.

Law enforcement jobs now have honesty as a criteria for applying.

Optimism is now a factor in your characters happiness.

I'm just doing the code for job applications being affected by persuasion.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Making More Complex People

So today what I've started to do is to add greater variety to the personality bit of Kudos 2. In the old game, you had this list of 13 different 'attributes' for your character. And there was about 8 different friend types.
The new system is more complex, but I hope, understandable.

In the new system you have lots more attributes, maybe 25, but only 13 of them get shown at any one time. The system shows you the highest value ones, plus there are some (like happiness or tiredness) which are always shown regardless.
So one day the game might show you a strip of GUI that says "optimism 66%", but a few days later it might be replaced with "Dishonesty 71%". I'll probably add some button that expands it to show you everything for people wondering about values they spotted earlier. My only concern is that the sytem won't be obvious to people who wonder where certain values have gone.

In addition, the NPCs will have much more variety of personality. Some will be dull, some extraverts, some pessimistic, some others will be persuasive, honest or charismatic. As with the first game, spending time with these people will let these effects 'rub off on you'.
So if you hang out with lots of dishonest, dull people, you will also become a bit dishonest and a bit dull, blowing your chances of a job as a policeman or a tv presenter :D

It's all good fun to work on anyway...

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The kids have no money

So the worlds youngest billionaire is the guy who invented facebook. Companies every day fight over access to sites like myspace and facebook.
AFAIK, the appeal is that "that's where the kids are".
But this is outdated for two reasons:
1) Kids are getting used to stealing stuff anyway. this does not make good customers.
2) Kids are generally broke, even UK students now face university fees
3) With the global credit crunch, kids aren't likely to be able to get access to cheap credit to buy stuff they way they used to.
In short, the teenage market is crap. Why sell to them? Retired people often have more money, and the 40-50 age group are rolling in cash, because they are at the peak of their careers, and the kids have left home.
Why try and sell to people with no money?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Todays achievements so far

Bit of a worklog here, to keep me achieving stuff..

1) Replied to emails from publisher, journalist and my character artist
2) Added new code to support tool-tips for windows tabs
3) Changed code so that NPC interests are hidden from the player when they first meet, and gradually revealed as you spend more time with them
4) Removed lots of old code that wasn't used, relating to naming people based on social classes.

hopefully more to come this afternoon.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


So here I am working on Kudos 2. the game is progressing in both code and art terms, and even in music, but I am still struggling with some aspects of the design.

What I'm trying to avoid is the game being this:

Kudos 2 : The same but shinier

Which is what it might appear to be, if it doesn't have a definite direction. Now with most 'casual' games, the game mechanic is very one dimensional, and the game is easily 'themed'.
(Shop Management XIII - Now in a different town! etc...).
My problem is that Kudos 1 covered LIFE. So what exactly does Kudos 2 cover?
Something I'm currently working on is the idea that you have a target in Kudos 2 that is imposed by someone else. basically, a wealthy relative will leave you $1,000,000 at age 30, if he judges you have led a 'worthy' life up to that point.
So the game is about 'doing the right thing'.

It's the same game style as before, make friends, get a good job, stay happy etc etc, but there is a subtext of making sure you are a good person. So becoming an alcoholic is a no-no, snubbing your friends is a bad thing, making people happy, doing charity work, having a worthy job (surgeon or 'good' lawyer or police officer), is all very positive. I am thinking of making Kudos not something you get for being hip or different, but for doing worthy stuff. Catching a mugger is no longer about bragging rights, its about making the world a better place.
This is my current direction. I am still not 100% decided. Once I am, it will be full steam ahead in code and content terms.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Future Plans

Occasionally I think about what to do with Positech Games in the medium to long term, like 2009 onwards. I know I'm doing a sort of Kudos 2 this year, but what about further on?
I have thought about a few possibilities...

1) Carry on doing the same sort of thing. I have a t least 2, maybe 3 good new game design ideas I can work on. One of them at least should sell ok, so that should keep thing going along as they do now.

2) Attempt to move onto consoles. Maybe do a wii game on XBLA. Possibly this would earn more money, but its almost impossible for a one man dev without *connections* to get this opportunity.

3) Move into doing online-enabled games. Maybe not quite an MMO, but a game with a lot more on-line integration. That eliminate a lot of the piracy hassle.

4) Stick with what I do best. Kudos and Democracy. there is a market for them, and I know what I'm doing, so do regular yearly updates and expansions and sequels, or maybe just keep patching and fixing the current versions in order to make them more attractive to buyers.

I guess once K2 is finished I'll have more information on what to do. I'll have long term sales figures for D2, the dollar may be weaker or stronger, and piracy may get worse or better.
It's good to think ahead though...