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

Show Me The Games

An idea as old as stonehenge, is that indie game developers should band together and start up an ‘indie portal’. The idea goes to discussion, then argument, then an obsessive ranting over the topic of what is considered indie, and then devolves into a sort of kibbutz-style hippie-love-in where no decisions ever get made because everyone had to agree on everything, which never happens, because we are, as a tribe, very independent.

So after watching this spectacle about 100 times over the last decade, I decided that what was needed was someone to just bulldoze ahead like an egotistical dictator* and say “this is what we are doing, take it or leave it”. I also thought that a full blown steam-style portal would never happen, so thought it best to start smaller. And this is how ShowMeTheGames got started.

Here is the website in question:

It was a domain name that was free, and reminds me of Jerry McGuire, which is, after all, a story of a guy quitting his corporate job to go indie…

Now I know what you are thinking, “why haven’t I heard about it then?” isn’t it usual form for me to go on a publicity blitz? When am I going to punch Keith Vaz on live TV? The whole point of SMTG was to prove 2 basic concepts:

  • You can get almost 20 indie game developers to co-operate, and actually pay money into a mutual project
  • You can make advertising work for indie developers, it we club together. (this is why we tested it as an ad-driven site at first)

I think SMTG proves both, but you’d have to ask each contributor if its working to get an unbiased view. Basically, we have been running google ads that point to that page, on the basis that if you see an ad for defcon, come to SMTG, you might try out defcon, but you might also like GSB, or Smugglers IV or Castle Vox… That way, it’s like having the advertising and catalog clout of a portal, yet we all still independent, all taking 100% of the sale price. The site is php and randomises the order of the games, so nobody has a better slot than anyone else.

I think there is some future in SMTG. We might start running competitions to win games, or have discount bundles of our stuff, or post up interviews and previews of new games. I just don’t know yet. So far, it’s just an experiment. One decent outcome from it so far is this:

If you are trying to explain to someone what an indie game is, you no longer have to point them at a single example or wave your arms saying “Stuff like World of Goo”. Just point them to, it has a whole bunch of the best indie games I could find. If you can find it in your heart to tweet a link to the site, hashtag #smtg, that would be awesome.

*can you guess who that was?

The Fighter Spam Issue

I have a slight problem with the balancing of the GSB campaign. The problem is that swarms of fighters are just *too good*. The main game prevents this because each battle has pilot limits. The campaign battles do not. It’s not a total game killer, because spatial anomalies act as ‘chokepoints’ preventing fighters roaming everywhere. It’s annoying though.

One solution is to increase the maintenance costs of fighters. The downside to this would be that it’s hard to explain to the player, doesn’t make *that* much sense and may not be effective enough.

Another is to make them more difficult to build, maybe using twice the resources per CR in a shipyard, thus making shipyards more efficient when building cruisers etc. This maybe just delays the inevitable, and is also hard to justify.

Another is to introduce the idea of needing carriers. This is tons of work and testing, plus it breaks the link with the main game, where they are not needed, and means the player will fight AI fleets designed by players operating under different rules.

Another is to introduce flight schools, and pilots as a new resource. This is adding even more complexity, although to be fair, I could make academies churn out pilots too, so its just a resource, not a new facility too…

Another is to add more anomalies that block fighters, or set hard limits of the number of fighters in a particular fleet or battle. That involves real chaos, as I’d have to handle it when merging fleets yada yada.

I can see whatever I do will involve lots of work won’t it :(

Stats Summary Window

I was looking at the conversion rate for the GSB demo (The percentage of demo downloaders who buy) and thinking I could find a way to improve it. One of the pieces of common feedback about the game was that people had no idea whether they had made good choices or bad in terms of ships and weapons.

Obviously there are all the ship and module stats and the post-battle stats, but I was thinking that it’s a bit much on the first playthrough, and that maybe something more simple was needed to give instant feedback. So I’ve coded a popup dialog on the stats screen that basically gives you four stats, based on the amount of hull damage that ships and modules do:

Thoughts? I know there are some people here who tried the demo but didn’t buy. Would this have helped ease you into things a bit?

This was a weekend diversion, I’m back on campaign bugs now…

Domain Name Woes

Bah. I had all sorts of interesting plans for what work to do today, and they are all up in smoke.

My domain name registrar has gone tits up. I have about 10 domains there, including, so well done if you managed to still get here. Luckily the actual site hosting is with hostgator, and is not affiliated at all with the useless incompetent muppets at my old domain name registrar. Also, thankfully my forums and the actual game server are thus unaffected.

It’s not *too* bad because hardly anyone types in the domain names, but I bet I’m losing some traffic now. I’m also possibly losing some email. bah.

I’ve been quoted $15 per domain to move them from my dodgy crappy cheap old registrar to the same company that hosts the site. That’s non trivial, but I guess it might be worth doing to avoid this mess. My real fear is that monday morning, the part time idiots that claim to run an inetrnet registrar won’t be fixing it, and I may be stuck in domain name limbo. This sucks :(

I wish I really understood more about DNS and the way it’s set up in WHM and stuff like that. Right now my sites are all a bit hacky, thats why going to just redirects you to positech. Ho hum. I guess it’s the games that matter, not this crap :D

The Indie Rules Of Acquisition

I don’t have time to annotate and explain them now, but I thought at least I could put up the raw slides from my presentation at the Indie World Of Love conference. If I get time tonight or tomorrow, I’ll expand this blog post with details, but for now here they are. For anyone actually AT the conference, this is what my slides were meant to look like, without my silly attempt to use the ‘open document format’.