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

Updating The GSB website

I just did a minor update of the GSB website:
Please feel free to vote it up on stumbleupon if you have such a thing.
The original page was completely placeholder and had screenshots of crappy spaceships I had designed, alongside some very early particle effects and shield/laser effects. Plus there were no screenshots at all of the non-battle screens in the game.
The new screens are still small, but they give a more up-to-date flavour of the game. Plus I’ve put in the proper GSB logo, and a bit of blurb that I knocked up temporarily to explain what I’m getting at.

Obviously as I get closer to release (still many months off) I’ll add videos, proper screenshots, faqs etc.
I’m quite pleased with how even this one-page site looks though. Iv’e finally got a game that is coming together which will actually look nice in screenshots, and hopefully that will get people to try the demo (which is the major hurdle for an indie developer).
Feedback welcome!

Changing some shield stuff

I did a fair bit of speedup code today, added a new ship, then put some effort into the shield effects. The old graphcis were 512px square, which is pretty big with mipmaps. A basic test showed 1024 px images looked noticeably better, but they get pretty big filesize wise.

So I did what lots of games did, and cut the images down to quarters, and in code I mirror/flip them to draw all four quarters of them. It’s an old trick to save filesize. There’s an image below showing it in game, and file itself.

I also added support for different shield graphics for different races, so you have aliens with their funny foreign-colored shields :D

Optimising day

I’m taking an afternoon to optimise all the code that I added recently. A lot of stuff that makes the game looks cool was being done in a really inefficient way. In some cases, it was a matter of remembering to check somethings onscreen before going to any effort to draw it. In other cases, it’s a matter of caching data.

Caching means ‘keeping a copy of’ effectively. If I ask you the date, and you tell me, I could then ask you the date in 5 minutes time, or I could make a note of the information you gave me earlier, and not bother you. A lot of optimising comes down to caching data. In this case, I was calling the cos() (cosine) function several times in short succession, and getting the same answer. sin() and cos() are pretty slow, if you call them several thousand times a frame, so it really makes sense to cache them.

Things seem much faster now, even with tons going on :D

What is the UK really like?

After reading a lot of American commentary on the story where UK villagers attacked a google streetview car, especially their assumption that we meek brits live in a CCTV-controlled imperialist state, I feel it might be helpful to do a quick summary of the UK for any US readers who have not been here. (Disclaimer: I’ve been to the US only once, years ago, so I’m no great travel expert).

  • People in the UK do not generally consider themselves ‘subjects’ of the ‘monarch’. Frankly, the Queen is just one of those anachronisms like teaching latin in schools or the boy scouts. Gordon Brown is the person we blame for running our country. The Queen is someone who wears a crown once a year and reads a speech GB writes for her.
  • Most people aren’t too annoyed about CCTV cameras (except speed cameras). A lot of high profile criminals have been caught by them, and even the police get caught on them sometimes (menezez trial).
  • It doesn’t rain here as much as people from the US assume it does.
  • We take football (soccer to people from the US) VERY seriously. I don’t follow it, but a lot of people do. It’s like a religion.
  • We actually quite like the BBC. It has it’s faults, but it’s worth it. Yes, we really have to buy a ‘TV license’ here in the UK. generally it’s not a big deal. We like TV with no adverts.
  • We really do not have many guns here. I’m 39 and have only seen guns in the UK twice. Once was a policeman at the airport post 9-11. The other time I went clay pigeon shooting.  Our crime of choice is knife crime, sadly. There is no urge for people to have guns here. We are generally very happy that gun ownership is very low.
  • We have a lot of very different, very strong accents. Watching the Queen speak does not prepare you for a Glasgow or Welsh accent. I’m not sure what would. My accent is closest to cockney than anything, but it’s not strong
  • Dick Van Dykes cockney accent is not real. My grandfather was a cockney, I know. If you want to hear a proper London (not cockney as such) accent, watch ‘Minder‘.
  • Cockneys never say ‘dog and bone’. We say ‘dog’. Only tourists say ‘dog and bone’.
  • London is BIG. Some foreigners call it ‘London Town’. Towns are quaint, London is not. It’s flipping huge.
  • There is a difference between being Scottish, English, Irish and Welsh. People get very annoyed if you confuse them. There is history involved. You don’t confuse Palestine and Israel, so never confuse Ireland with England. People get very annoyed.
  • We don’t get the whole ‘teeth’ thing. people in the US think brits have horrible teeth. In fact, we think we have normal teeth. Tom cruise does not have normal teeth. Only teams of expensive dentists consider that normal.
  • We have a state-owned health service that means most health care is free to everyone. We love this. It’s actually a factor that prevents many people emigrating. We don’t understand how western nations cope without one. It’s the one political issue that every party is very wary of changing.
  • We drink a LOT of tea. We have a fetish for coffee shops too, but we buy tea-bags by the boxload.
  • We have a lot of historic buildings. Unless your house dates back beyond 1800, it’s probably not worth bragging about it here.
  • We are obsessed with house prices. Totally, insanely obsessed. Nobody in the UK forgets how much they paid for their house. EVER.
  • You won’t really find ‘British’ restaurants here. This isn’t because British food sucks. We call them ‘pubs’ and they are everywhere. The more well-off go to ‘gastro-pubs’ which are just posh pubs.
  • We never queue up to vote. that sounds insane. There are never queues.
  • We queue for everything else, and we take queue jumping seriously. It’s just not British.

What have I missed?

The Juggling Game

I often forget birthdays, things I’ve arranged to do socially, where I’m going for lunch, or what I agreed to do for someone. Why? My brain is just full. Here is some of the work related stuff I’m juggling right now

  • A port of Kudos 2 to a new platform by a partner
  • A translation of Democracy 2
  • Artwork for GSB
  • Arranging a musician for GSB
  • Chasing money from a Russian Publisher
  • Getting a portal to use my wire transfer details to pay me
  • VAT (sales tax) return for the last quarter
  • Possible use of Democracy for a magazine article
  • Checking payment from a US publisher for something under NDA
  • Advertising budgets
  • Checking my forums to reply to tech support or similar discussions
  • This blog
  • Analyzing web traffic to see if some recent changes were positive or negative
  • Keeping an eye on the casual games portals payment schedule so they don’t fall even further behind
  • Selecting sounds for GSB
  • Programming GSB

That last one is obviously the biggest, and GSB is effectively four games in one, so it’s a bit of a nightmare all on it’s own. The truly depressing thing is there is very little out of this list I could easily hand over to someone new, even if a) I could afford someone, and b) I found someone suitable.

I guess at least it’s indoor work with no heavy lifting :D