When I meet fellow game developers and the topic of social media comes up, the scorn for twitter is almost universal. Even people who seemingly rely on it a lot, and have a big social media presence tell me how much they hate it, how divisive it is, how abusive it is, how they wish they didn’t have to be on there.

I love twitter. I find it interesting, fun and positive, and it makes my life a bit better. How on earth can this be true?

(background: I’m a 49 year old UK game dev with about 10k followers, running my own business but using twitter 50% for biz stuff and 50% for laughs).

I think the big mistake people make with twitter is that they are confused about what it is. Twitter is not the Harvard debating society. It is not the BBC. Its is not CNN, it is not your safe space, nor is it a political campaign rally, or a movement for social change. Twitter is a huge open-bar with drunk people sharing funny gifs of cats falling off things, and memes, and bad jokes. It has an element of stand-up comedy, and element of wild party, an element of drunken argument, and its not going to change.

Imagine blundering into the final hours of a drunken stag night/hen party and trying to deliver a lecture about gender politics, or inequality, or trying to argue about austerity. Imagine how well that would work out. Its the wrong forum. Its WORSE than a drunken stag party because so many people are anonymous, and people who you do not *vaguely* know, often from another country. How do you expect it to work when you bring up the issue of gun rights, inequality, or anything else to do with politics…

I’m very political, and opinionated. I have VERY strong opinions on climate change, but despite some eco-tweeting, I don’t vaguely expect that I will change anyone’s opinions on there. Basically life is too short. I tweet when I’m drunk, or find a silly video or interesting website, or have some crazy image of something. I vent angry tweets about trivial things (TV continuity announcer volume levels, donotreply email addresses etc) but I’m not kidding myself that this affects social change.

If you are hating twitter, you are basically doing it wrong. Immediately block or mute everyone you don’t like. Why the hell did you ever follow them. Don’t try and use hashtags to change the world. Follow a lot more silly accounts that post fun stuff. There is an endless supply of funny meme accounts, comedians, and other amusing stuff on twitter. I follow accounts that mock the lack of plates in pretentious restaurants, the stupidity of some internet of things inventions, and an account dedicated to things that annoy British people. Its rare that one of these wont make me smile every day.

Don’t complain about ‘toxicity’ on twitter. Its just a mute button away. You are doing it wrong.

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For the last year or so I’ve been employing a pretty ‘passive’ approach to promoting my current game Production Line. By this I mean that I have primarily concentrated on posting on my own forums and the steam forums, posting weekly video blogs, and cross posting those to the forums, reddit and my production line facebook page.

In a sense, all of that is basically preaching to the converted, as if you follow me on youtube, are subscribed to the reddit, or a fan of the facebook page… well you already know about the game and very likely already bought it.

The only way in which I am actively reaching beyond the current audience is by some facebook ads, but obviously the cannot reach everyone (loads of gamers don’t even have facebook accounts). We don’t have any more game shows coming up for me to meet youtubers and press, so apart from facebook, to the outside world I’m pretty silent about the game.

I should probably get used to changing that as the game eventually shuffles towards release (probably January next year?). With that in mind, I think I’m going to set aside some time next week to build up a proper list of youtubers to get in touch with, and put together a proper updated press release with new screenshots and information. The game is now on Kartridge and the Humble Store, so that definitely needs updating.

 

Of course the trouble with any *active* promotion is that it involves my time. The blog posts, video blog, tweets and facebook posts already take up a big chunk of time, and I’m busy coding the game as it is! Unfortunately I don’t have any *easy* way to outsource any of this work. It is *me* in the videos after all, and even if I could record the video, then pay someone else magically to disassemble my green screen, render out the video (only 2 mins editing normally needed), upload it, cross-post it and so-on… its only likely saving me 30mins-1 hour a week anyway. Thats also the fantasy scenario where someone beams star-trek style to my house to assist me, then beams out immediately.

SO I remain, after all these years both the code AND the marketing/PR/Biz bottleneck for my company. I have a horrible feeling that if I *did* ever expand further, code would be easier for me to outsource the rest of it. I’ve tried outsourcing PR a lot of times and never made a decent ROI (or even a positive one).

Food for thought.

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So my recent adventures in the land of code have taken me to port Production Line to 64 bit. The current 32bit build only allows me to access 2 GB of RAM and although even super large factories can fit in 800MB now, when you really pack things in and put the hours in, it *is* possible to hit 2 GB. With modding & any possible post-release expansion possibilities, there is arguable a need to remove that limit and so here we are.

I’ve basically done 2 days(ish) work on it, and have a release build and debug build 64 bit version of the game that seems to run just fine. It was relatively painless. The 3rd party stuff I use is mostly, Steam, some sound middle ware, Directx and an intel profiler, and all of this has 64 bit support, so the majority of the work has been going through the config for the game and changing include folders and paths to point to 64 bit DLLs and Lib files.

This has been complicated a bit by the mess that the Visual Studio (2013) software makes out of configurations. I can have a debug64 project config that then has the platform set to 32bit, and then god-knows where the exe gets put or which files get compiled and oh-my-god how messy. I think I have finally got close to getting it straight in my head, although I have ended up hard coding exe names and paths and may have to even rename my engines lib file to engine_64.lib to make ABSOLUTELY sure that it is not using the wrong lib file and thus mix-and matching.

I can totally see why people do not want to support both 32 bit and 64 bit versions of the same game, especially given the fact that, unbeknown to me, the mere *existence* of a 32 bit dll in the exe folder will seemingly stop my 64bit .exe launching. I guess you end up with separate folders? What a pain.

In terms of code, it was almost entirely painless. As I suspected, my one pain point was my GUI code for buttons. I have a base button type that takes a function pointer called BUTTONFUNC to execute when clicked. I cannot remember far enough back to work out why, but generally I end up passing an objects ‘this’ pointer as an (int) to the constructor for a button, if I want the button function to access it as data. So I end up writing code like this:

PCheckFree = new GUI_CheckButton(TRANSLATE(“CHOOSE_MISSION_FREEPLAY”), Freeplay, (int)this);

And then in the code that receives it I’d do this:

void GUI_Scenario::Freeplay(int data)
{
GUI_Scenario* pwin = (GUI_Scenario*)data;
pwin->SetType(SIM_Scenario::FREEPLAY);
}

Which is perfectly fine and lovely, assuming pointers are 32 bit and an int is 32bit. However, it turns out that porting to 64 bit is as simple as just replacing both users of (int) with (size_t) which varies based on platform, and voila! problem sorted. I expected this to be the first step in a whole world of nightmares,, but although I have not done serious testing yet, it appears to launch, run and allow me to load in massive save games, so I reckon I’m 95% of the way there. All I need to do know is investigate how all the various stores (Humble, Kartridge, Steam, Gog) handle multiple versions (64 bit versus 32 bit), to ensure I’m not leaving the tiny 32bit minority behind. I guess eventually that will not be an issue.

I’m definitely happy that this seems to have gone smoothly, as it amounts to days of coding and admin and investigation which are essential, but doesn’t make the game noticeably better for players, which is always a worry when the game is still in Early Access. Fun fun fun…

 

 

 

Its not long ago that Discord famously launched their new store, which a lot of people I know got very excited about and predicted big things for. I have not heard any tales of epic riches yet, and not read much news about it since launch, so I’m assuming its not yet setting the world on fire.

Today its the turn of Kongregate with their ‘Kartridge’ store:

This one is infinitely better because it sells 3 amazing games that I was involved with somehow. Those are Production Line, Shadowhand and Big Pharma. Kongregate still have that slight ‘amateur hobbyist’ thing going on because those games show as made by ‘cliffski’ which is my username, but really should list developer/publisher if they want proper ‘triple I’ games to flock to the store maybe?

As ever the big elephant in the room is epic, and why did they raise 1.5 billion dollars recently. Are they going to launch their own store? I suspect they are, but few people seem to agree with me. They certainly have the money, and they more importantly have a big name game that EVERYBODY plays called ‘fortnite’. Don’t forget everybody thought steam would die on launch and were outraged to find it as the only place to get half Life 2, which arguably is the only reason the site ever got any initial traction. Epic are clever, maybe they realise this and have been stockpiling money and plans for a store until they had the ‘must have’ game to ensure its success?

I think what everybody gets wrong about this stuff is they ‘dip their toe in the water’, rather than going bananas and adopting a ‘VICTORY OR DEATH’ approach to the new venture. Even Kongregates home page has just a standard wrap skin about their site today: https://www.kongregate.com/ which quickly rotates to a banner about ‘just another game on the site’. The same is true of discord, I don’t exactly feel like they are absolutely killing themselves to make me use their store, or even inform me whats on it. This seems way, way too meek a strategy to take on a massive established and popular competitor (steam).

I’m a big fan of Tesla and Elon Musk, and I believe the company to be the most important company on earth right now (due to their rapid push to shift us off fossil fuel dependence that is actually killing off our ecosystem and ensuring we will all die…), but even ignoring their ‘mission’ you have to admire the way the company pushes full-tilt, 100% into achieving things with seemingly the force of a nuclear explosion. Any other company would have happily sold high priced model S and X cars, and maybe invested any profits into eventually expanding into making slightly cheaper cars. Tesla has a single quarter of profitability, then immediately borrows and dilutes like crazy to raise a tra-zillion dollars to build the largest factory on the planet to go full tilt into mass-market car production. They *might fail* (although as of last month it looks increasingly unlikely), but nobody can ever, ever accuse them of not really going for it.

I don’t know what will happen to Kongregate. I think their store has a better chance than most, and I doubt it will actually fail. As to whether it will take noticeable market share from steam…thats even harder to know. Maybe one day these stores will start to compete for the top devs listings by reducing their royalty take?

 

 

Lots of cool stuff in this update to Production Line, which will get further checks, tweaks and balancing before I roll it out to the main Early Access steam branch, GoG and Humble widget customers. Here is a list of all the features, and notes on the biggies:

[version 1.61]
1) [Feature] Loans can now be re-paid early, assuming you have the funds, at a penalty of 12 hours interest.

This was widely requested, and I kept putting it off because I felt that it would lead to an unbalancing in the games difficulty, but actually now I’ve tested it for a while I think I’ve got it about right and am glad its in there.

2) [GFX] Conveyors use less obtrusive graphics
3) [GUI] New screen for market analysis to show breakdown of demand, production and sales.

I find this new screen really helpful when playing the game towards the later stages when there is a lot to keep an eye on. I worry its not immediately obvious how it works, but I do think its a usability improvement for managing supply and demand.

4) [Content] New researchable upgrade & feature: large touchscreen.

To make it obvious some cars are tesla-level expensive, and some are more Ford Ka level… :D

5) [GUI] Vehicle design screen now hides categories entirely if there is only a single default option.
6) [Bug] Fixed design research queue bugs where you could adjust first and last items up and down, causing a crash.
7) [Bug] Fixed bug where the second-nearest import bay for each stockpile was sometimes calculated wrong, meaning inefficient routing. Also major route calculation speedup.
8) [Balance] Major increases in the cost and value of electric car batteries (large and small) and touchscreens.
9) [Balance] Increased the power draw and process time for making wheels.
10) [Content] New researchable feature: parking sensors. Now a pre-requisite before reversing camera. Fitted at bumpers.

Amazing we went so far without these, as they are getting so common now. Also handy to be able to add a new feature without requiring yet another resource as ‘sensor’ is already in there. Plus it gives some much needed upgrades to the bumper slots.

11) [GUI] Revamp of the ‘apply options’ screen post-research, which adds price category indicators and selective coloring, and new buttons to apply a feature to a whole category at once.

This makes things much quicker when you have 20+ designs, and you don’t really want to make a more nuanced decision other than ‘add this new widget to my expensive ranges’.

12) [GUI] Music and cruise control are now feature-categories, where the more expensive versions include the resources, value and features of the cheaper ones.
13) [Content] Self-driving! new researchable tech, new resources and feature category for high-end cars.

This is very late-game stuff and requires quite a bit of research, but then you should have expended your factory enough to have a good dozen or two dozen research facilities at this point.

14) [Balance] Boosted the impact on marketing campaigns on showroom visits by 25% to increase total market size possible with current campaigns.
15) [Bug] Fixed bug where sometimes the warning on the design screen about common or universal features missing would be skipped if the feature had a category.
16) [Bug] Fixed bug where changing the color of a car design could lead to duplicating the price slider GUI.
17) [Bug] Fixed bug where the correct price-category adjusted market value of a feature was not being displayed in a number of places.
18) [GUI] Double clicking a car in the showroom now launches the vehicle design screen for that car’s design.
19) [Content] New researchable vehicle body style -> The small van.

I’m so pleased we got this in. Its likely the last new body style,  and its a really cool one :D

Feedback on this new update is very welcome, and of course any bug reports for things I have no doubt stupidly managed to break with this patch…

 

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