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

The world wide consortium

There was a time… it seems silly now, and Aleks talked about it on BBC TV recently, when the web was open, free, and very very democratic. Pretty much every site was some dude in their bedroom hitting a keyboard (like me!), but that didn’t last long.

Remember It used to just be, then it was CNET’s Now it is owned by CBS Interactive, who also own, ZDNet,,, and many others.

Remember it’s now part of geeknet, who also own sourceforge.

Remember IMDB and Alexa? Both owned by Amazon.

YouTube? owned by Google, of course.

Slowly but surely, in fact maybe not even slowly, all the sites on the net buy each other until there are fewer and fewer owners that control what we read, buy, see, listen to and discuss. I see this as very bad. I’m not some bearded anti-capitalist hippy, I’m VERY much a capitalist at heart. But I’m a pure free-market, small-business style capitalist. I love the idea of a dozen different companies competing to make the best product, and to give the consumer better value. I worry these days that the net is heading towards a time where we don’t do that.  Games are going that way too. Lionhead bought by Microsoft. Maxis bought by EA, etc etc…

Facebook are having a rough time over dodgy privacy settings. The problem is, it’s too late to hassle them about it. Facebook have won. they are huge, valued at 20 billion dollars. Thats bigger than the GDP of Nicargaua. Nobody is about to topple facebook as the top social website. Competition is failing.

Amazon have a similar position in the UK for shopping. Ebay have it for auctions, Google for search, maps, video and most likely small business advertising too.

The really scary thing is that this is MUCH worse than the situation at retail. With physical stuff we have vast competition. I bet you can name ten manufacturers of laptop. ten manufacturers of cars. Now name me ten online book stores.

Or even five.

Pill Box in Barnes London

Ignore this post, it’s here purely for google, unless you know the answer.

When I was a kid, I lived in Barnes, London. I remember that near Beverly Brook there was a  piece of wasteland, not far from station road. Eventually they built a housing estate there. I’m sure I remember there being a WW2 pillbox and some factory gates there, during the early seventies. Am I imagining it? Is it true there was a factory there, maybe a munitions factory that got bombed? If so, what do you know about it? Just curious… :D


Lets say you run a business. The business makes $40k in a year. You are used to living on $40k, so you spend it, and have a reasonable life. Then suddenly things go well, and you make $50k the next year. Do you

a) Have a better year, buy better donuts, drink more beer and enjoy the $50k

b) Have a slightly better year, buy a few more donuts, spend $5k of the surplus and invest the other $5k in making the business better.

c) Stay as before and invest the whole $10k on making the business better.

I think most people are like a). I think a lot of people who work for themselves are like b), including me. I suspect that a lot of the dotcom billionaires are like c). I read once that valve basically took all the money from Half Life’s success and invested it in Steam and Half Life 2. I suspect this is true. I would guess that when World Of Warcraft was making tens of millions in profit, Blizzard took ALL that money and reinvested it. Then did the same when it made hundreds of millions. It turned out to work very well for them…

The problem is, no matter how much I may intuitively see this, and would even recommend it as a policy to others, I find it difficult to do myself. Maybe I’m just not as obsessed with running a bigger company as the dotcom guys, but when positech has a good year, I tend to bank some it (paranoid about having a bad year), spend a little bit more on the business (ooh look! some professional spaceship art), and buy a new TV. I tend to fear that if I don’t spend some of the company profits when there are some, it might crash and burn one day and I’ll have nothing to show for it, whereas with my current policy, at least I have a new TV.

I read Duncan Bannatynes autobiography, which is a great read. He made an absolute fortune from ice cream sales once. he then invested ALL of it in making retirement homes. he sold his car, re-mortgaged his house, even sold his TV to make the final payment on the first home. He had multiple maxxed out credit cards at that point. James Caan did the same. They went from having a good income to being penniless and in debt, because they could see the return in the long term being a whole step-change higher.

I don’t reckon I could ever do that. And even if I could, I’d be a nervous wreck doing it. What about you? Are you risk-averse? or a dotcom dude?

Todays Bugs

I found a bug today, after it was reported by a few GSB modders. I had done some cunning optimisation for my file handling months ago, where my Ini File loader code kept a file open during it’s lifetime in case another section from the same file got read soon afterwards.

It turns out that the C Runtime barfs if you try to open more than 512 files, under all circumstances. This is fine until you mod an extra 300 modules into GSB, then it just dies. So… problem fixed. Ideally my ini file code should be able to handle this better entirely, but thats for another time,

The second ‘bug’ is still underway, (point defence modules appear to not respond to damage, but in the debugger, they clearly do…) but its pointed me to a third one, that was also reported…

When a point defence beam shoots a missile, it may not work. The missile may be unharmed. In this instance the missile is still ‘claimed’ by the PD module until it dies, so no other PD module will have a second go at it.

I could fix this trivially, it’s just an oversight*. But would that make PD too powerful? It’s already prety good, albeit some of it’s thunder has been stolen by the Swarms Smart Bomb. It’s only going to kick in where you have a few incoming missiles and multiple PD modules. But that second chance to fire could save you from that vital pesky megaton missile, or Order nuclear bomb…


*easily explained though. The neutron power surge generated by the point defence beam temporarily blinds the targeting mechanism of other PD modules from homing in on the positronic flux decoupler on the same missiles.

Edit: actually the PD bug is now fixed, making them fire much slower as a result, so I’ll fix the multiple-attempts  bug to compensate. it also turns out that the fire-Interval for guidance scramblers is misleading and not applicable, which explains its strangely high effectiveness, so that will be nerfed slightly too…

Campaign Game

Just a quick screenshot showing the state of the current campaign game UI. This is zoomed in on a planet to show the fleets there, the UI for building new ships and the list of facilities there. It’s all very coder-art and work-in-progress. I’ll likely not do the icons myself.

It is getting there though…