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

The Indie Strategy Game Bundle

Check this out:

It’s five games being sold as a bundle. Gratuitous Space Battles + Expansion, Solium Infernum, AI War + expansion. It’s a bundle of strategy games by like-minded indie strategy developers, being sold at a discount. In effect, buy two and get one free. Hurrah! Go blog it, tweet it, digg it, whatever it!

On a serious note, this is something I really like doing, because it shows the true potential of the internet, in a way that was much discussed in the 1990s, and now lost, which is the democratisation of access to customers for small businesses.

In theory, as a small indie dev, I have a shopfront every bit as big as EA or Activision or Ubisoft. Its just as easy (I’d argue WAY easier) for you to buy my games than it is to buy the latest AAA game from the big studios. In practice you don’t do that, on the whole…

In practice, not only do you still buy the AAA games, but if you *do* buy the indie games, you tend to buy them from someone else. I just got my stardock check for last month, and it’s not bad, quite a few sales, much appreciated. I genuinely appreciate every sale. However, isn’t it *slightly* a cause for a wistful sigh that the majority of semi-succesful indie games are sucessful through third parties? Wouldn’t it be nicer if there were as few parties between the gamer and the creator of a game as possible?

I really think so. I like services like impulse and steam, they are very developer friendly and give a good deal, but I also like a direct contact with my buyers. This strategy bundle is a step in that direction. There is nobody administrating this deal (except the card payment company as usual – BMT). It’s run by Me, Vic and Chris. We all contributed a little bit of time to make it happen. I *really* want it to be a success, because I’d love to do more things like it, with other developers, and other games. Maybe one day will be quite a fully-featured site. Who knows?

Anyway, it only lasts till monday. Tell everyone!


Like many geeks I fantasise about turning my house into it’s own power station using renewable tech like solar panels. Wind doesn’t scale down, solar does. Having moved house, it’s now viable to consider installing solar panels. In fact since the govt recently introduced very high new feed-in-tarrifs, its super sensible to do so. Effectively you get a 7% return on the investment, better than most banks for the forseeable future. And that’s not even accounting for eco-smugness.

Anyway, the installation costs of solar are way beyond my means right now, but I’m making tiny steps towards energy independence. We bought one of these:

That’s a wood-burning stove, not the cat. Wood-burning is very very efficient (in a closed, not open fire). The local power source is longleat, a few miles away. Wood gets delivered by the ton. A ton of wood is a LOT, and you can’t burn it ‘green’, it has to be left to dry out and ‘season’, hence we built a log store:

Which I’m very proud of. It has proper tiles and everything! There is just one drawback though. We built the log store to house the 1 ton of wood we bought from longleat, but then we had 3 trees chopped down in the garden. I had underestimated the amount of wood that generates, and that’s it, in the log store, almost full.

So the longleat wood which we paid for, is going mouldy in the garage whilst our freshly cut (free!) wood is in the log store. I have neither the energy of enthusiasm to build yet another log store. (It cost about £200 in materials, and a few days hammering and screwing).

Anyway, the good news is that the felling of the trees was triple-efficient. Not only do we generate wood we can burn that never leaves the site (eco-smugness++), but it means more sun falls on the once shaded house, which makes it warmer (eco-smugness+++) and opens up the long term possibility of having solar panels. (eco-smugness*2).

I’ve wanted solar power for so many years that I reckon I’ll have a special celebration 90%  games discount day if I ever get some installed :D

Yesterday we had fog drifting over the fields, men wielding chainsaws and some big bird of prey circling the house. It was like a stephen king novel.

Two different 3d Rants

I’m going to rant about 3D. In two different ways. Stick with me.

1) I think 3 D ruins some games. I remember when all games were 2D, then I remember the first isometric RTS games. (In fact arguably the first was ant attack). Moving the camera in isometric games was easy. When they introduced a limited 4-way rotate to the genre, that got darned confusing. Then came 3D. the first 3D RTS games sucked massively. Then we got mroe of them, and they sucked a bit less. In my limietd opinion the two that do it well are Total War and Company Of heroes. I think COH is better. Why? Neither game makes me waste half my gameplay moving the camera around.

I have a pal who has problems with 3D cameras. Real bad ones. he can’t play an FPS. He can kick my ass big time at CoH. He has tried Men of war, but literally prefers CoH because you can’t rotate the camera by default in CoH. I agree. Watch a video of Eve online and note how much time the player is fucking around with the camera. I played a 3D space RTS recently to try it out, and got sick of the 3D antics. I’m a human, not a bird. I percieve 3D but I’m not good at planning movement in it. I bet there are planets of bird people where Homeworld and Descent are the top 2 games.

BTW I *can* handle 3D in a game. I can kick ass at Call of Duty. I just don’t like a game to be all about the third dimension in terms of planning. Most mass market usable games operate in 2D. They use 3D graphics to draw an effectviely 2D world, with 2D gameplay. Descent and Homeworld were 3D, also flight sims. Not much else. Portal I guess?

2) When i said I perceive 3D, thats true. But it’s also a lie. I suffer from this. Stereo Blindness. It means two things:

  • I can’t see through binoculars easily
  • Avatar was dull.

Actually avatar was ok, but not earth shattering. I can see a vague slight 3dness to it every 20 minutes or so, but that’s it. I REALLY hope this isn’t the future of movies. If so, I’ll have to keep my money. Paying extra to have to wear dorky glasses to watch a movie in 2D is not my idea of progress. If people think we will all buy new TV’s for this, they are dead wrong. I went ot a demo at blitz games kindly given by the excellent oliver brothers on 3D gaming. Sadly, it looked 2D to me. Gutted. (On the other hand their engine is flipping awesome.)

Above all, I don’t like gimmicks driving artistic development. 3D might be good for the odd CGI film, but lets not default to it. It gets over-used and in the way. People with spears tend to point them self-conciously at the camera a lot. It makes film making even more expensive, and thus dumbed down and generic. (unobtainium? really?). Personally I would have taken every cent of the 3D budget and spent it on writers. Preferably Iain M Banks or Greg Bear, or anyone over the age of twelve, basically. I’m not convinced special effects or 3D have massively improved the long term quality of movies. In 50 years time will avatar be seen as a ‘must-see’ movie? I doubt it. Casablanca probably will still be, despite not even having color.

Sometimes it’s not all about the budget, or the tech.