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

Gratuitous Poster

My office wasn’t looking enough like a games studio office, so I got a nice big blown-up poster of the GSB campaign game background framed for the wall. This picture makes it look crap (reflections and blurriness), but it’s actually pretty cool.


..-. .-. --- -- /  -. --- .-- /  ..- -. - .. .-.. /
  ... .- - ..- .-. -.. .- -.-- /  -.-- --- ..- /
  -.-. .- -. /  --. . - /   ..... ----- /  .--. . .-. -.-. . -. - /
  --- ..-. ..-. /   --. ... -... /  .- -. -.. /  --. ... -... /
  -.-. --- .-.. .-.. . -.-. - --- .-. ... /  . -.. .. - .. --- -. /
  .-- .. - .... /  - .... . /  -.-. --- -.. . /
  -... ... -.-. .... ----- ----- ----- ..- --...

How to get a reply from tech support

I’ve worked as first, second and third line tech support for IT companies, and I also run an indie games biz and handle my own support, so I’m in a reasonably informed position to dosh out some handy advice here to people who run into a tech-support brick wall. here goes:

  1. If sending email, ensure there is a subject line. I’m serious. blank subject lines aren’t going to leap out from someone’s inbox. I get quite a few of these.
  2. Make sure you state up-front and clearly what product or service you have a problem with. In my case, that would be *which* game. It saves a lot of guesswork on time
  3. State anything unusual about your setup. I get a lot of people who only mention they are running the game on Linux (officially unsupported) under WINE after about 6 emails. That’s silly. Let the tech support guy be the judge of what is relevant to the cause, don’t assume.
  4. Find out your rough system specs first, and state them in the email. Everyone will need to know what version of windows you have, and for games, what video card. Find this out *before* you email them, because they are going to ask you anyway.
  5. Don’t get abusive. Especialy not in the very first email. People who are there own boss, like me, will just delete those emails. At the very  least, you go to the back of the queue.
  6. Don’t write a novel. The guy scanning tech support issues is busy. Don’t include too much fluff.
  7. Include any previous correspondence, quoted below or attached. In an ideal world, all tech support staff can instantly see a log of your problem and previous emails. In practice, esp for small companies, we don’t have a system like that. And even when we do, scrolling down an email to see what was said is quicker anyway. This saves us a whole bunch of time.
  8. Understand the problem from the other guys POV. Every consumer computer on earth has a different combination of hardware and software and configuration. It’s not ‘stupidity’ that has resulted in a software crash. They are likely more annoyed at the software having bugs than you are so remember by default, they are on your side.
  9. Use email if you can, and there isn’t a dedicated support form. Email is easily stored and searched. I get tech support requests by forum PMs, by twitter, facebook messages, blog posts and everywhere else. At least try to find the contact email address for support, as this will get the quickest response. My email is Good companies do not hide their email address.
  10. Don’t assume you are being ignored. It’s a big world and tech support may be asleep while you are awake (I’m in England). They may also be investigating the bug before getting back to you. Some problems are fixed in 2 minutes, some take 3 months.  If you need to chase up a problem be polite, and remember 7.

Of course, this doesn’t always work. Some companies, which I won’t name, but they are global internet companies, ignore all communication that isn’t by phone. *Sigh*. But you certainly can’t be *worse* off for keeping this stuff in mind.

Show Me The Space-sim!

Theres a new interview over at my little side-project site ShowMeTheGames today:

it’s an interview with the guy who makes a very nice looking space sim that reminded me of freespace and Elite. Like me, he is a workaholic one man indie maniac. Check it out.

Today has been non-GSB work, for the most part. It seems like patches 1.51 and 1.52 didn’t end the world, which is nice. Recently there was a cool review of GSB over at eurogamer, feel free to comment on it if you have an account:

Today was spent partly buying food from the market (one of the best things about working from home is you can go shopping when everyone else is at work), and partly doing the SMTG interview, plus also some basic work on mystery game IV. That involved taking some existing code from GSB and pulling it apart for the bits I wanted. It also allowed me to do a serious re-write of some of it, which it badly needed.

It’s amazing how a supposedly simple class in C++ can grow and grow and grow until you swear to yourself to make it more modular next time around…

Quick bug / code update

version 1.51 is live. This does the following:

version 1.51
1) [campaign] Fixed exploit where you get 1 crew when you scrap a fighter.
2) Added new order 'Last Stand' which overrides the auto-behavior of ships retreating if all of their weapons are destroyed.
3) [campaign] Some difficulty balance changes.

it MAY be causing a bit of a crash. I just spotted it, when looking into something else (typical). I’m working on a  quick 1.52 now. It should only happen if you capture enemy fighters, i think, and it s a popup message you can click ignore to, anyway. Ironically, it’s a pop-up message helping me find a rare bug, that I still can’t find :(

Anyway… I have fixed a bug where fleets dissapear on retreating if you viewed the post-battle stats. that will be in 1.52 as well. Plus, I’m working RIGHT NOW on a fix for a retreat related crash bug. I think it’s caused by retreating with a fleet where there is a friendly planet to retreat to, but your ships cannot move there due to anomalies. It should be fixed in 1.52 as well.

The sheer tonnage of code in GSB is staggering.

I hope I get this bug squashed before the apprentice is on :D BAGGS THE BRAND!