Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Some changes to Kudos 2 (for the better)

I’m really pleased with some of the last minute improvements and additions to Kudos 2. For one, there is an NPC drawn from a portrait of everyone who worked on the game, which is kinda funny and cool. Another thing I’m pleased with is a new system when someone asks you out for the evening. If you can’t afford it, you can say so, and they aren’t *that* snubbed. But better than that, you can just lie and pretend you can’t afford it. This reduces your honesty :D (BTW A friend of mine reckons honesty should be a pre-requisite to a science job, what do you think?)

I’m also putting a system in where once you have customised and selected your avatar, it’s saved out as a random pre-set, so you might see your old creations come back as defaults (inspired by spore, clearly :D).

The biggest difference in working methods between Kudos 1, and 2, has been getting family members and friends to try the game at an earlier stage. It’s amazing how many issues other people can identify in just five minutes that you will never think of. An example is “why don’t people thank me if I pay for their evening?”.

Good point :D

Customer attitudes

Which of the following two attitudes do you think is best:

I went to download your game after I lost my copy which I bought a year ago, and can’t find the email, I have no idea how to get hold of the game I PAID FOR. Send me a new link for a game that I PAID FOR NOW, or I will forward the details of your company to the police and have you prosecuted for fraud.


Hi, sorry to be a pain but I formatted my PC and didn’t back up my email for purchasing your game, and need to re-download it. I bought Democracy 2 around November last year using this email address and the name Joe Smith. Is there any chance you could resend the original email? Thanks!

Which one do you think gets answered first?

I agree, it’s the second one, so why do so many people make their first port of contact with a business an angry aggressive and insulting rant? I have had people insult my intelligence (when they could spell it), call me a thief and a fraudster, say my games are shit and they could do better in a weekend, had people email me asking for tech support on a pirated copy, accuse me of being ‘in bed with the MAFIAA’ etc etc. It’s not like I’m the local drug dealer, or some kind of evil fascist dictator. I just make PC strategy games for a living and sell them online. Chill out people.

And why we are on such topics, I feel duty bound to point out something else that people seem to ‘not get’ about the internet. All websites are owned by someone. All forums have admins, all forums are hosted by someone paying the (often large) bills. I’ve seen so many cases of people crying out that “This is FASCIST CENSORSHIP!!!” when a forum admin or site owner removes comments that they want removed. This is just being silly. In a free country, you can say what you like, but you can’t demand that other people pay for a website for you to do it.

I mention this because today I removed a few posts from my forum that were completely silly and tired rants about all intellectual property being imaginary and arguing that the price of something should be it’s marginal cost (wrong!). I’m sick of reading such twaddle, especially from people who try to lecture me on basic economics as though I never did my degree in the topic…

Anyway, there are penty of sites like slashdot or digg were amateur economists can try and justify piracy on some shaky belief that marginal costs are everything and that content is manufactured by space pixies who don’t need food. I don’t need that stuff clogging up my games forums :D.

Kudos 2 Feature Complete

Kudos 2 is definitely feature complete. Unless feedback from potential website partners or play testers is focused on anything specific missing, I won’t be putting any new features into the game from here on. It already has a ton of stuff in, much more so than the original, and presented 100 times better. From here onwards (and this shouldn’t be more than a few weeks now), it’s a case of playing the game, and polishing it, and playing it again etc.

The most common issues that come up in my daily playthroughs now are just balance tweaks. There’s no bugs in terms of features not working or conflicting, and there hasn’t been a crash bug for weeks, if not months. This hopefully means it should be relatively plain sailing. I’m close enough to release to actually be talking to my portal-publishing partner about the game, and will be directly contacting some portals closer to the release date.

In the big picture sense, Kudos 2 is a BIG deal for me. I’ve never spent so much time and money on a game before, and heading into a global economic downturn means potentially tough times ahead. If I can make Kudos 2 as big a success as my last big game (Democracy 2), then I’ll be trundling along ok and not nervously eyeing the bank balance. I think it’s a far better game than Democracy 2, although thankfully I always tend to be most motivated about whatever I’m currently working on (a big contrast with most people in mainstream game development).

Anyway, feature complete, today, hopefully code complete and on sale by the first week of October. *crosses fingers*.

Guardian Newspaper + Dublin radio?

I am on the front page of the IT-section in today’s guardian newspaper here in the UK. It’s an article about games piracy and the various responses to it. I should also hopefully be interviewed live *eek* on the radio in Ireland tomorrow, around 10amish hopefully.

here’s the online version:

Still working away on Kudos 2, doing play balancing and so on. Gradually getting there…

Fiddling with variables

A lot of the vital design stuff on my games is coming ton conclusions about cause and effect that are simple enough to work inside the context of a PC game.

Take alcohol. What are the effects of alcohol? Well they are many and varied, according to scientists and doctors, low levels of some alcohol can actually be beneficial as a prevention against heart attacks. High levels will ruin your health, and we probably agree that alcohol will give you a higher level of confidence, and relax you.

But… does it make you happy? This is a complex question. In my experience, alcohol exaggerates moods, so miserable people become more miserable, and happier people get more happy. The problem is, this is a bit of a personal opinion, and not easily explained in game terms. In the simplistic fashion of a sim game, alcohol makes you happy, albeit at the cost of reducing your concentration, and having potential health effects.

So I find myself wrestling with how to set the numbers in Kudos 2. Right now, you get a confidence and relaxation boost automatically from all alcohol, but only deliberately chosen alcohol in restaurants directly makes you happy. The happiness associated with alcohol from a bar or a wine and cheese evening is factored in with the other effects. If this seems slightly woolly, and not 100% accurate, it isn’t, but that’s game design. The problem is, you could add more and mroe complexity until the game took 20 years to make and a manual like a phone directory to play it. The trick is making the effects in the game seem just real enough to suspend disbelief, whilst still keeping it as just a game, and not an exercise in statistics.

Tis a fine balance…