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

GSB: Galactic Conquest

Right, here we go, Gratuitous Space Battles: Galactic conquest is now on sale for pre-orders / beta. You know the drill by now. The game is in beta, so it might be a bit flaky here and there (hopefully not), but you can buy it and download/play it now anyway, and I will be releasing a patch or two for it before it’s considered final.

Here is the website:

Obligatory video:

I’ll be waiting 24 hours before I send out a proper press release, and tell people on my newsletter. I’ve never done a game with as much server-side integration as this before, so I’m slightly wary of having a sudden mad dash to promote it in case the server blows up. I’m pretty sure it will be fine.

One final warning: This expansion REQUIRES an internet connection, because of how the game works. It downloads enemy fleets from the central server, as they are player designed. it also uploads your fleets (rarely) to serve as cannon fodder to other players. This game just will not work if you can’t connect it online, so don’t buy it if that upsets you / is inconvenient / reminds you of fascism. Make SURE you can browse challenges in the normal game before buying this expansion.

Also, the game really needs you to be on the latest version (1.48). Auto-updating should be happening today/tomorrow for everyone. If you don’t have the latest version, and the patcher won’t run for some reason, you can re-download the whole game (it’s ready-patched). Email me if the link is dead (

For anyone wanting to know every detail about gameplay before buying it, here is the manual: Manual.pdf

I hope it sells a few copies, and it works, and I don’t look like a prize idiot :D

Patch 1.48 for Gratuitous Space Battles

Is now live. Expect your copy to autoupdate over the next 24 hours. Changes:

version 1.48
1) Performance: Major rewrite of tons of areas to reduce memory usage and squash lots of small memory leaks.
2) Bug fix: Tractor beam turrets are no longer drawn when a ship should appear cloaked.
3) Bug Fix: Limpet launchers and Plasmas are now fired from the correct position when placed in multiple-hardpoint slots.
4) Bug Fix: Fixed a few minor miscalculations that meant ship damage  looked (purely visually) like it was being repaired faster than it actually was, especially when cloaked.
5) Bug Fix: When you leave the ship design screen, any open module stat comparison windows are now closed.
6) Some playbalance tweaks
7) Bug Fix: Imperial fighters with tiny engine glows (also a nomad  fighter) now no longer get drawn when the parent ship is docked at a carrier.

The balance stuff:

Awazem loses its cost boost, gets 8% armour boost
Duwasir loses its armour boost, gets 10% speed boost
Majali reduces speed penalty from 22% to 12%
Abbadi gets an 8% armour boost
Nomadic dogfight laser damage increased to 8
Nomadic beam laser power usage reduced to 13

guidance scrambler beam weight increased to 147
EMP Shield ecm strength increased from 66 to 82
All frigate armour maxdamageabsorbable increased by 20%
EMP Missile launchers, (both types) missile speed 25% faster. fireinterval reduced 10%, ecm strength increased 10%
Decoy missile launcher weight reduced to 70

Limpet launcher limpetweight increased to 8.2, cost reduced to 110

Campaign news to come soon. I needed to get this patch out there and live first.

Ad stats, and why people make DLC.

Sooo. I managed to keep my grubby paws from editing my ad campaigns for 30 seconds. I blogged a few days ago about how I took the top 25 sites for ROI (return-on-investment) and confined the Gratuitous Space Battles ad campaign to just them. Here is the results.

Over almost 6 days the impressions for the banners totalled 678,000. The clicks were 3,636 and the average cost per click was a whopping £0.10 (roughly $0.16). That cost me £366.94. Over the same period the income from gratuitous space battles sales was a total of $1,095.71, or roughly £684.

So in a crude sense, I spent 366 and got 684 back. In theory, a pretty good deal. However, I would have got some of those sales anyway, through word-of-mouth, and through reviews and so on. Plus some of them are people buying expansion packs for already bought copies. On the other hand, some of the visitors would have bought the game from impulse or steam or elsewhere, so I get that money too. Plus a bunch of them may buy the game in a week, or even in six months. It’s hard to tell.

If you look at it as £318 for 6 days, that’s nothing very exciting at all. Thankfully I have other games on sale, otherwise I’d be scared :D.

For comparison, I looked at the month of september too. $9,203 sales.  £2,532 ads (roughly $4,051) . That is heavily skewed by the release of the Nomads expansion pack. On the surface, my recent 6 day ad-driven experiment was a ROI of 186% and september gave me a ROI of 227%.

So one of two things has happened. Either the new ‘let google pick them’ strategy is not as effective as I thought it would be, or in fact adverts are just not in any way as good at generating income as new expansion packs. I think it’s probably the latter. Don’t forget that the expansion packs will continue to sell for a few more months, and also generate extra income from sites like impulse and steam (if they actually add the nomads :D).

I know some people hate games that keep releasing DLC, but programmers have to eat, and if I’m honest, the smart thing to do (from a business POV) is to keep doing them. I don’t think I will though, I think the campaign is the last one.

Out of interest, has anyone here ever seen a GSB ad? where did you see it?

Updating my pc power-usage measurements

Ages ago I blogged about how I used a kill-a-watt gadget to measure my PC power usage. I was recently motivated to check on the usage of my newer PC. Read the old post, and you’ll see it was a Dual Core 6600 Intel PC with 2 gig RAM and vista. The bootup power usage was 160 watts.

I have since upgraded, and am typing this on an Intel 8 core i7 chip, running at 2.80GHZ. There is now 8 gigs of RAM running on 64 bit windows 7, rather than vista. The PC has an ATI Radeon HD 5700 video card. The measurement was abse unit only, no monitors.

Do you think the 8 core 5700 combo uses more or less power?




The readings are as follows:

  • On boot-up, after windows has just loaded and no apps are running 133 Watts (less than the old PC)
  • After a while to let everythibng settle down, and stuff liek steam had all been turned off to minimsie network traffic. (I couldnt get the hard disk to totally shut down though)  107 Watts (less than the old PC)
  • Running Gratuitous Space Battles with an average battle in a window at 1680 x1050 res, all options set to maximum 143 Watts.
  • Running Gratuitous Space Battles fullscreen at 1920 x1200 res, all options set to maximum 141 Watts
  • Re-compiling the game, using Visual studio, maxxing out all 8 cores, and no doubt some fair amount of disk-thrashing 192 Watts.

What surprises me is that GSB, as a mostly single-threaded single-core game, uses 73% of the power of a maxxed out CPU-thrash. Could all that power really be going on fans and hard drive gubbins? and maybe powering the other chips on the motherboard, the video card etc.

In any event, 132 watts for a PC that is theoretically doing sod all is in some ways a LOT, and other ways nothing. The UK price for power is 11.5p per unit which is 1 killowatt hour. That means my PC, when on, is costing me (132/1000) * 11.5 = 1.51 pence per hour, or at 10 hours a day 330 days a year, roughly £50, or $75. Peanuts really.

But given that my electricity usage is £39 a month, that rates it as 10% of my power usage. That’s without the router, printer,scanner or two monitors. Obviously this is only electricity, not heating.

In comparison, assume I boil a kettle 6 times a day, it uses 2000 watts for 2 minutes each time. So thats roughly £16 a year, or 3.4% of my power usage.

I suspect the biggest power usage is the PC and laptops, and everything else just makes up a multitude of tiny power draws around the house. Bah.

why most indie game websites suck at getting sales

For top-secret reasons, I’ve recently been looking at a bunch of indie game websites. Some are great, most are not. Some are laughable.  I’ve had an indie games site since 1997, and obsess over it’s performance. Here’s some things I think newcomers to indie game selling should take note of.

1) Show me a game. NOW.

I’ve arrived at your site. well done, that’s 99% of the effort done. But if you want me to skip a flash intro or hunt the screen for a button that says ‘games’ then I may well get bored. Check your webpage stats for people who arrive at the site but bounced out before even seeing a game name. That was money you just set fire to.

2) Show me a screenshot. NOW.

I know, I know. Your game isn’t about graphics, it’s about the fun! You need to engage the user in the fascinating story of your protaginist ‘klaude’ and his awesome backstory about when he was a small boy…<click> That’s another bored visitor. You need a screenshot, because that’s how people make an immediate editing choice about continuing further. I can tell your game is a high quality and colorful side scrolling 2D platformer within 2 seconds of seeing your screenshot. Quicker than I can even read ‘high quality and colorful side scrolling 2D platformer’. Screenshots are what get people to hang around and read about the game. You need them. Preferably lots.

3) Give me a demo and a buy button.

Preferably two of them. One at the top, so I can immediately skip to the demo if I like. One at the bottom, so when I’ve finished reading the blurb, I am right next to one. Use a big clear font, make it obvious it’s clickable.

4) If the game warrants it, add a video

Watching a 30 second youtube video tells me tons about what your game will be like as a player, at least initially. Video is often better than static screens, but it depends on the game. Kudos looks crap on video, so does democracy. Gratuitous Space Battles looks way way better. While we are on the topic, use youtube. Youtube works for everyone, and hosting is free. having some fancy java video player embedded in the site will go wrong for a non trivial percentage of visitors. Make sure you have a good reason not to use youtube.

5) Study your web traffic.

Which gets more downloads. This

or This?

I don’t know yet, but I will do in a weeks time. Yes, this sort of testing does make a difference.

6) Optimise

Go to googles homepage, look at the source. Holy lack of whitespace batman. That’s getting really anal, and I don’t bother much with the text, but try to be sensible with screenshots. Jpgs can very very often be reduced in quality and nobody but a computer can tell. Not everyone has fast broadband, and some are sharing it with other people streaming video or surfing other sites. Assume the worst, and make sure the filesizes are as small as possible. It takes just minutes to do this.

7) Don’t make it too short.

Is your game worthy of my time? If you can’t write two decent length paragraphs about the game, then I guess not. I guess you knocked it up in 10 minutes and have nothing to say on the topic. The screenshots get people to stay, but the text is what justifies to people that you should get their money. People making an adventure game have it easy here. By all means have some backstory, some concept art sketches and so on. If your game is a casual game, you are screwed on the PC selling direct anwyay, so assuming it’s a relatively hardcore PC game, there should be LOTs to say. make it look like your game is worth buying.

I know, some of the games on my site break these rules. But not the big ones. Not the ones that I promote, and that sell.