Wednesday, April 30, 2008


Anyone going to this?
I should be there. Post here if you are going.
I can't get anyone tickets for it, sorry!

Monday, April 28, 2008

GTA vs Wii Fitness PICK YOUR TEAM!

On Friday Wii Fit was released in the UK, My copy turned up today. On the plus side, I'm apparently ideal weight. On the downside, my wii fitness age is 49 :(
Tomorrow GTA IV is released, let the orgies of violence and crime begin!
Get fit and healthy, or shoot people and run people over. Which will you be doing? (I played GTA 1 and 2 but went off it then, I'm a wii fit kind of guy).

Friday, April 25, 2008

Town names, cats and Articles

If you want your town name to be one of the random town names in kudos 2, email it to me. (cliff AT positech blah blah).
here are some new cat pics:
And here is an article thing I wrote:

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Movies in Kudos 2

Apart from other stuff, today I'm doing some of the new movies you can see for Kudos 2. I'm trying to make it so that all of the 'content' in the old game is replaced with newer stuff, so people don't feel like they are getting the old stuff again.
One change I'm making is to give watching a movie more varied effects.
In the past, all thrillers were the same, all comedies the same etc. Some would be better or worse quality (the movie guide told you which) so you had that, but you didn't really care about the movie descriptions and titles, other than hopefully finding them a bit funny.
This time, the movie title and description is a clue to the more complex effects of the movie.

So if you invite some friends to go see "The happy puppy" ' a hilarious tale of animated dogs and the fun they have!' Then the film is likely to make you happier. whereas if you go to see "Vladimirs funeral" 'three hour epic telling the tragedy of the potato famine in cold war ukraine", then it might make you less happy, and maybe bored, but also raise your culture and knowledge.
Some films will be boring, others exciting, some will make you pessimistic, or optimistic, or even help you learn a bit of foreign languages.

I like it when games give you clues as to what the consequences of your decisions will be, without waving it in your face like you are an idiot :D.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Hating the industry, loving the job

Last few days I've got nothing but grief from people in 'the industry'.
Frankly I'm sick of 'the industry'.
I love games. But I hate some of the idiots working in the same industry as me. Thank f**k I don't have to work with anyone else any more who I don't get along with.

I like chatting to my customers about my games, and people doing the same thing as me, but there are far too many idiots making games in the 'big budget' industry that just wind me up. If you are passionate about games and thinking of going to work for a game developer, don't bother, you will hate it. Unless you thrive on insults and testosterone and bargging about how much unpaid overtime you all did. if you enjoy that, then go for it!


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why My games have demos

Every positech game has a demo. Every single one. And I've done more than you think. Maybe a dozen. Most of the older ones are a bit rubbish and not even linked form my homepage.
Anyway... I got into a massive argument today (on the web) about why a 'triple a' game didn't have a demo. Apparently making a demo was too much work, and not worth doing.
I never believe that.
Unless you want to sell through

a) hype
b) previous customers only

Then why would you not want people to try your product first? It's like making a movie and refusing to do a trailer for it, or recording an album but not letting them play tracks on the radio. It's mad.
I do demos because

a) I want people who aren't sure about buying the game to give it a try
b) I want people to be confident that the game will run on their machine
c) I want people to know what they are getting when they pay me.

I think that's just playing fair. I think ym games are GOOD. If i didn't, I'd keep working on them till they were. I have no publisher deadlines to meet.

It's amazing how angry the idea that demos should be available for triple A games makes some developers. I got one idiot saying "The game I worked on sold 6 million copies, how many did your last game sell?"
Well let's see, he was probably on a team of 100 people for 3 years. My games take one guy about 6 months to a year, or roughly 300 times less work. Without dedicated office space, its more like 500 times less. So I guess I need to sell 12,000 copies. Hold on, I get 90% of the money, so that means probably 3 times as much a royalty cut, so that means I need to sell 4,000 copies.
Given that the last game took more like 8 months, its closer to selling 2,600 copies, to get the same equivalent return on investment.
Interesting :D

Monday, April 21, 2008

Big Crowds Bug

It seems kudos had a bit of a design flaw. If you invite bob out for a beer and he is entertaining, he has a +10 entertainment effect on you.
If you invite bob AND dave out, and maybe dave has a +10 IQ effect on you, bob STILL has the same effect.
It stands to reason that with the three of you, the entertainment value of bob needs to be diluted more. In other words, if you really want to be entertained, hang out just with bob. if you invite other people too, the effect won't be so strong. I just fixed this, as I revamped the code to accommodate up to 2 personality type per NPC.
I also need to check that your avatar gets bored if it does the same things too often, because I'm not sure that is true either (yet).

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Affiliate deals

Went away on holiday for just a day and a half. My god it is windy in the peak district.
Back today and doing some code housekeeping stuff. I now have 3 people who are potentially affiliates for Democracy 2.

What is an affiliate?

An affiliate (in indie game terms) is usually another game developer, who sells games similar to your own. Because we take 6 months to a year to make a game, there is very little 'news' on our websites, so between games we may sell other peoples games on commission. If you check you will see I'm selling Lux. Sillysoft made lux, not me, but it's game that appeals to my customers, and Sillysoft cut me a percentage of any sales through me. In the same way, a few other game devs sell my stuff.

Affiliates are preferable in some ways to regular publishing deals, because
a) the people making money from your stuff are fellow struggling game devs
b) you still actually process the sale yourself, get the customers details for tech support purposes etc
c) you can change or cancel the deal at any time.

Affiliates are like the friendly, low-hassle community-based version of a publishing deal. They can be more lucrative too, because there is no extra layer of middlemen, just you and the other developer.

So don't be scared if you see some other dev selling my game, or me selling someone else's games. nobody is getting ripped off :D.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Personality Types

I have a minor dilemma in Kudos 2.
I have more personality types than before, and up till today I've been thinking it was nice and simple and easy if each NPC only had 1 characteristic.
So Jack is Dull, Bob is Clever and Sally is Charismatic.
The thing is, you maybe only know 4-8 people at any one time, so its unlikely you will cover all the personality types, so the part of the game dealing with associating with positive personalities seems a bit lucky dip.
I can introduce you to more people (co-workers etc), but I know the best solution is to have people go back to having multiple types, like they did earlier in development.
So Bill is now Dull but Clever. Sally is Charismatic but dishonest. Lane is optimistic and friendly. etc etc.
This means a lot of GUI changes, plus code to ensure that only sensible groupings go together. (no optimistic + pessimistic people, lots of optimistic and charismatic ones etc etc.).

I want the game to be simple, but I want it to make sense too, and have people feel that their NPC friends are lifelike. I guess I need to change it.

In other news, olympus will repair my broken digital camera and mail it back for just £42. That's quite abargain, as I didn't really want to buy another one. Hurrah for olympus!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Took the other cat

Jadzia *resisted* again this morning. we never even got close, she knew something was afoot and hid.
So we grabbed Jack and stuffed him in the vet-provided box and took him instead, so at least he has had 1 initial jab. That's 1 jab down, 3 to go, as they both need two. I ordered a new big cat box because that one seems much better than the tiny thing we try to stuff them into.
My arm is still covered in scratches and severe cuts :(.

back in game-dev land and I have finished off the revamp of the 'evening classes' GUI code this morning. It looks much nicer than before, which a cool blackboard effect, rather than a plain windowsy dialog.
This afternoon I'm going to have a look at improving some front end stuff. I'm keen to get some new avatar art in to the game so I can start showing people some screen-shots of the blasted thing.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Cat Scratch fever

So... One of the possible long term plans is to emigrate somewhere nicer and cheaper. And one of the requirements for doing this is that you have up to date injections for your pets. 2 cats in my case.
Neither cat is up-to-date because they both have high resistance to being put in cat boxes to take to the vets.
99% of the stress of the vet trip (which is in the same road) is getting them *in* the box.
This morning we were prepared, we lured jadzia into the kitchen with food, and blocked off two doors, and placed a bin in front of the catflap. The cat box was already in the room opened. As she was eating, I grabbed her and stuffed her backwards into the box.

in theory.

In practice there was lots of screeching and whining, followed by her getting out of my hands and trying to escape, eventually somehow getting through the cat flap. I haven't seen her since.
I, however, look like I've been wrestling with Freddy Krueger, and have 18 separate incisions and scratches on my right hand. The blood loss alone was considerable.

So we now have borrowed a much bigger cat cage from the vets which opens at the top, and have been advised to pick her up using a towel. She is booked in again for tomorrow at 9AM. My predictions for success in this endeavour are very poor.

Tune in tomorrow for the results.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Faster Text Rendering

I spent a chunk of today speeding up text rendering for Kudos 2 (and all future games).
If you are an beginner games coder you may be used to rendering(drawing) text like this:


But that doesn't cut it if you want to run really fast and lower your system requirements. Even with ninja video cards actually *drawing* anything is very slow. You don't want to tell the card to actually 'commit' any pixels until you:
a) know they will be seen and
b) have enough pixels ready to draw that its worth interrupting the card to give it more data.

Rendering text isn't a simple matter. If you have a block of text that needs word wrapping there are tons of calculations to do. How much are you scaling the text? what character equates to what part of what image, where can be break words in half? how wide was that last character, have we applied any kerning or leading to the current font, or alpha blending etc etc etc.

Because text tends to not change 60 times a second, it makes sense to 'cache' this stuff. That means that you do all these calculations, work out the final data, and then store it, for use later on. It's like preparing a quick and easy script for the video card so it knows what to do without lots of tedious re-calculating of stuff that doesn't change.

Of course *some* text is changing more often, and some windows appear in front of others, and some groups of text share the same font, and some don't... It all ends up a hideous spiders-web of code that looks a bit of a mess, but is in fact quite cunningly designed so that the amount of 'on the fly' calculating of what goes where is minimised. The player doesn't know any of this, its all transparent and hopefully just *works*. But that doesn't mean it doesn't take hours of fiddling, and measuring, and more fiddling, to get it all right.
Som coders render text out to a separate texture and just 'copy;' the finished text to the screen every frame. I have found that this works great on 95% of video cards. The other 5% just crash, without warning (cheers intel). Like most games coding, you spent 50% of the time catering to the edge cases of 5% of the hardware setups. That's why coders love consoles.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Online Activation is Inevitable and safe.

I just had someone ask me if one of my games used online activation, saying they would not buy it if it did. I think this attitude is pretty rare, but I have never understood it. here is why:

1) Online activation is essential to prevent piracy.
Yes I know there are ways around it, but generally they are harder than bypassing a disk check. vital code can (in some systems) be kept on a server and never released into the hands of gamers. Piracy IS killing PC gaming, and pretty much every developer is using some kind of online integration or activation now. It helps kill casual piracy, which is the main concern.

2) It's no different to retail
If you buy clothes in a store, they come with a big bulky security tag that you cannot remove. the sole purpose of the tag is to prevent you stealing the clothes, and every exit from the store has technological systems in place to check everyone leaving for stolen goods. They don't even hide them. Yet somehow this is just fine, yet doing the same check online is 'treating you like a criminal'. hmmmm. The stores have security cameras and guards too...

3) It's as safe as anything else you run online.
You might not trust positech games to run any code that connects to the web. But there are two reasons why you should. Reason 1, is that we have sold games for 11 years. we have a reputation and we aren't about to risk losing it. Do you REALLY think that there aren't a few geeks who run packet sniffer software telling them every single byte of data that our games send to any server, and every byte that comes back? (we only use online activation for 1 game - Democracy 2 and it's a one off thing when registering). If we were snooping your hard disk and copying your emails to our server, it would be splashed all over the geeky websites within 24 hours and our business would collapse. We know that. (besides which we would consider that a gross invasion of your privacy, obviously, but assume we are rational but evil for the purposes of argument).

The second reason, is that there is nothing magical about anti-piracy activation systems that mean they should be less trusted than your web browser, your messenger client, your email client etc etc.
How do you know that MSN messenger isn't logging every conversation and every image you send with Microsoft? Ditto firefox, ditto vista itself... Even if all your apps are open source have YOU looked at the source? EVERY line? are you SURE that source really is that exe? did you compile it yourself (with an open source compiler).
You don't, and yet you trust these applications every day to send personal emails, surf websites and even bank online.

Online activation of games is probably one of the least invasive, most trustworthy situations in which you trust someone with your computer. If you won't buy a game because it needs to send a serial number over the internet, I STRONGLY suggest you give up internet banking, shopping, web browsing and everything else. Unless you want to learn HTTP and run a packet sniffer on everthing that leaves you PC.

I'm never fussed by on-line activation of games. If it lets me play the game without needing a CD, then I'm extra happy.


Seriously, the storm over my head right now is like something out of a movie. I felt my chair move with the latest thunder and the web keeps cutting out.
If I should die, someone do sequels to my games, keep the dream alive etc...

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


S0 there I was buying a new frying pan, and thus in a big 'mall' (for you Americans) and I thought I'd pop in GAME and see what was new in PC land, and right next to Company Of Heroes was at least 4 copies of the retail Democracy 1. I was pretty excited. I'd have taken a piccie if my camera worked (which it doesn't :().
I feel quite proud. I wonder how well it will sell?

Monday, April 07, 2008

Teaming up with Indie Comics

I have a character artist:
Check out the full story:
and feel free to vote it up here:

Right now I'm adding extra job events to the game. I have a horrible feeling I need several hundred :(

Saturday, April 05, 2008

My mouse is sub-prime

Normally, a mouse is just a mouse, but for FPS PC gaming, a mouse is like your trusty rifle. Its your steed, your wheels, your partner, your companion, its IMPORTANT.
I always game with one of these. I think they are the best mice ever made. All other mice feel like a weird shaped clunky piece of crap that looked just LUVERLY on the screen of the imac-wielding buffoon who knocked up the design straight out of art college, but does not actually fit nicely in your hand.
Saddles are that shape because your buttocks fit in them. And so it is with mice.

My problem is that my mouse has been sluggish to respond with right mouse clicks. The 'clickiness' of that vital button is sub-par. So I have spent the last day or so carefully unscrewing it, cleaning it, screwing it back together and experimenting.
I just can't get both left and right mouse buttons to be as clicky as I like. I need instant responsiveness dammit. I've found that by experimenting with the amount that I screw in the top two screws, I can tweak it, but it's still not perfect goddamit.
If you managed to hit me in a COD4 game lately, this is why. Either that or you were sniping me when the man from BA was on the phone pretending they were going to deliver my luggage.

Off to Birmingham tonight to get drunk with game developers. yay!

Friday, April 04, 2008

Rock legend on the MAC

Recently I released the mac version of Kudos : Rock legend. It's handled by a 3rd party, who port the code, host the files and take the orders, I just get involved to count my share of the money :D. The game seems to be selling pretty well. I think this is down to three factors:

  • There aren't THAT many mac games, so there is less competition.
  • Piracy on the mac is lower
  • Lots of mac-owners are musicians, and probably more likely to be into the games subject matter.

Regardless of the reasons, I'm not complaining, coming as it does right at a recent slump in my own sales :(

Work continues on Kudos 2, I've spent part of the day doing a new handwriting font for the diary-entry parts of the game, I did a bit of final work on the crossword GUI (including totally new clues for both versions), and also some new asset graphics. I'm currently experimenting a bit with what parts of the game look better with the handwriting font.

I plan to really take my time with this game and make it as polished as humanly possible. It already looks better than any game I have made before, and I am hoping it will look and feel better too when I release it sometime this year (hopefully).

In other news, I added a new affiliate-sold game to my website. Called LUX. Check it out:

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Getting back into code mode for 2 days

So there are no excuses today, I've been back off holiday over 24 hours now. Yesterday was partly spent dealing with a ton of email, and looking for a new artist. I also had lots of tedious business stuff to do, like paying my monthly expenses yada yada. I nearly got caught by some fairly convincing google adwords phishing too.

My holiday has just left me with more non-work bullshit to deal with, such as recover my luggage, claim compensation for the luggage, get my camera repaired, claim on holiday insurance for broken camera etc etc.
In between all of this I have been talking to potential artists and drawing up asset lists, plus trying to remember where I was in code and design terms. Plus there is a possible bug in Democracy 2's voter code, and discussions regarding renaming and branding the game for a re-release in September for the US elections.
And with all this going on, the Mac version of Kudos: Rock Legend has been released.

If I had just a bit more stuff like this going on, I could actually just handle the business, and not have time to code or design. I could do without the coding (which can be dull) but I'd miss the design side.
And I only have 2 days work until I head off to meet some fellow indie devs for a sort of pizza/gathering in Birmingham.
busy busy busy

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Looking for an Artist

Just got back from holiday in Switzerland, sadly without any luggage, which is probably gone forever. grrrrr

I need an artist. Here is the official ad:

I'm doing a sequel to this:
And need a character artist. Its 2D stuff, and more casual-friendly than my previous art. In the original game I used poser characters, but I want hand drawn art this time.
I won't be having the full screen face close-up images, just the 512 pixel high avatars.
If you haven't seen the game before, think of a 2D, turn based version of the Sims.

So basically my requirements are for someone who can do
a) layered avatars, with customisability, in a paper-doll style like this:
with the possibility of applying RGB tints to each layer

b) small portrait images for the main characters friends. just simple 2D portraits.

Ideally I want someone who
a) Has art in an existing, published casual game
b) Can start work fairly soon.

Rates to be negotiated

Its a short term contract obviously, I'm not hiring anyone fulltime.
I don't care what country they are from as long as their English is good.

Know anyone?