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

BBC interview

I had two people from the Spanish BBC website at my house this morning to interview me for a thing on digital piracy. It’s pretty cool to be interviewed at all, but it’s unfortunate that it’s about piracy. It all comes from the ‘talking with pirates’ blog event from last year. I don’t really want to be seen as ‘the piracy guy’. I’d much rather talk about game design, or other issues within the industry. They filmed an interview with me, and took some shaky cam footage of GSB. If it goes on-line I’ll post a link here. Maybe I’ll be dubbed in Spanish?

I saw the new star trek film 2 nights ago, and it was weird seeing tons of spaceship debris and escape pods. it’s like they have been playing my game :D Yet more inspiration to make the GSB visuals look good…

Cat Rescue

On Friday we noticed our youngest (3 years) cat had stopped eating and was subdued. Jack ALWAYS wants to eat, so this was very weird. He didn’t show any interest even in cat treats. Throughout Saturday and Sunday we got more and more worried because he had eaten almost nothing and didn’t seem to want to move. He also wanted to sit outside in the rain.

Monday morning he went straight to the vets. He had a high temperature and an eye infection, which they gave him injections and eye drops for. On Tuesday, he went back to the vets after nothing much had changed (eyes were better but he still wouldn’t eat). They admitted him to a proper Rolf-Harris style pet hospital. There was talk of x-rays and blood tests and more.

The vets couldn’t take a blood test,a s they encountered heavy resistance from jacks claws, so they put him out for an x ray and took it while his shields were down. The results were grim, because he had serious liver and kidney problems somehow. I still suspect he has eaten something out in the garden that was a mistake.

Anyway, they kept him in overnight and put him on a drip, and did some other technical things that I don’t understand, but which make for a long and expensive price list.

This morning he is all better, he is eating, and I just picked him up and bought him home. he meowed all the way home but jumped straight out of his box and landed right by his food bowl, so he is back to normal :D

It’s great to have Jack back. The only problem is the fact that his Vet bill is a collosal chunk of this months games revenue. We need a national health service for cats :D

Kudos to Kiva

Positech Games is not Intel, I do not make megabucks. However, it does make a small profit, and once I’ve spent my allowance of profits on silly things like robot vacuum cleaners (stopped using it tbh), I have some pennies left over which I sometimes put into a site called Kiva.

Kiva - loans that change lives

If you haven’t heard of kiva, here is the one-line pitch. Kiva is a bank which provides loans to people in the third world. Basically you stick some cash in using paypal (minimum loan is $25) and then you browse the list of people you want to lend money to, and pick one. Over time, the money gets paid back, and you can take your money back then, or re-loan it. Kiva pay you zero interest.

I don’t mind the zero-interest, because that’s one way kiva makes some money to run the site (you can donate too). Also, given current bank interest rates, zero is almost competitive :D

I’ve stuck the odd $25 in kiva for ages now, and have lent money to 24 different entrepreneurs all over the world. Here are some examples:

  • Nguy?n Th? Nhân (Pig farmer in Vietnam)
  • Francisco Javier Lopez Ruiz (Fruit seller in Nicaragua)
  • Sok Kung (Farmer in Cambodia)…

I love kiva because its not just throwing charitable cash and hoping to solve a short-term problem, its investing in countries helping to build up their own economies and become self sufficient. I’m a bit of a politics junkie, and very aware of how first world mega-corps can screw third world producers, so I’m often lending money to farmers in the third world. I like the idea that I help out tiny one-man companies like mine, who otherwise would have to go to some big evil bank, and I like screwing those banks out of business too :D. Also, I’m aware how lucky I am to be born in a wealthy country like the UK. If I was born in Cambodia would I have a nice internet business? I doubt it. I like to see a chance being given to people who want to start a business and live somewhere that makes it difficult.

Kiva is a good site, the loans seem to ALWAYS get paid back (maybe poorer people are more honest than city bankers?). You can give gift certificates, and join groups who all lend money in the name of an organisation (I’m in the indie game developers group :D).

So remember, Somewhere there is a vietnamese pig farmer who feeds her pigs thanks to your purchase of Kudos 2 :D

Fixing minor graphical things

It’s the weekend, so rather than working on gamey stuff I’m making the battles look better :D. I’ve been improving the way the big ships explode so the drifting hulks fade in better, and the subsidiary explosions now blast in various directions. Turrets now smoothly track their targets, and there are various other small tweaks like highlight flares when bullet weapons fire.
My last niggly annoyance of the day is bullets, by which I mean laser pulses.
I draw all the bullets in one go, to make it extra fast, which is fine, but to do this I have to draw them AFTER I’ve drawn all the ships.
The thing is, the bullets are quite big, and when they ’emerge’ from a gun turret, they obscure it for the first frame. Ideally, I’d draw the bullet above the ship but below the turret so it would emerge naturally.
I think I’ll code a real horrid hack, which is to mark bullets as ‘n00bs’ for the first few pixels of their existence, and draw the n00bs separate from the main bullets.
That way I keep generally drawing them fast, but I also don’t get any anomalies when you hit pause and catch that 1 in sixty-off chance of seeing the frame where it looks wrong…

This is why game code looks like spaghetti. All those hacks are there for a reason I tell you!

SimSocial and Kudos 2

I’ve already got emails on the day it went live asking about the similarity between Kudos 2 and the new SimSocial game by EA. So here it the explanation:
I worked with EA years ago doing some contract work, and recently they contacted me about working with me to do a version of the Sims that would be based on the gameplay of Kudos2. That game is SimSocial. If you look in the about box for the game, you will see the credit and link back here.

I’m happy about the deal I did with EA, and think that the games complement each other well. Obviously they have major differences and I’m sure there will be some Kudos 2 players who will play SimSocial, and maybe some SimSocial players will be tempted to come try Kudos 2. It’s great to see a game idea re-implemented in another way, and I hope it’s a great success.
I thought I better announce it here right away in case anyone thinks I was ripped off (I wasn’t) or that I copied the idea from them ( I didn’t).
Cheers :D