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

Mp3 vs CD’s

Ok, so we all know that I am older than Elrond*, so I’m more likely to be ‘un-cool’ and buy stuff on an older format anyway, but having just bought a CD, I think my reasoning is pretty sound.

First, I have a partner with a car that has no mp3 player, so having a CD means I can play it in her car.

Secondly, I still have 2 CD players in the house. (maybe 3, now I think about it), and this way I can play the music in those, as well as on my PC.

Thirdly, I can always rip the CD to mp3 format anyway, and get all the benefits of mp3 playback.

Fouthly, I’m an ex-muso-snob with good hearing, and CD’s sound better than most mp3s.

These are pretty specific to the CD vs MP3 format, but one of the other reasons was more applicable to buying anything online, and even applicable to indie gaming.

Basically, I heard some music on a TV ad or show (can’t even remember) and it was by a guy who I heard sing news year eve on TV, and pushed me over the edge into thinking “yup, I’l; get that album”, While I thought this, I had a laptop, and a cat sat on my legs, preventing movement. The laptop didn’t have itunes installed, and frankly installing itunes annoys the fuck out of me.

Itunes wants to be in charge of me. I am the humble customer, and it knows best. It will insist on running all the time, as a windows service, whether I like it or not. It thinks it’s desire to run 24/7 is more important than my desire to have my machine setup slimmed down and reliable. Fuck that.
So I don’t have itunes on this PC. I do, however have a web browser, so I went to amazon and ordered the CD. It was easy, done in 2 clicks, and I didn’t have to install any clients, or run any software in order to get what I paid for.

In a sense, I just did the music equivalent of buying a PC game direct and getting a direct .exe link in return. It was way less hassle, and very satisfying, and also very encouraging, because obviously, this is what I do with Positech, as opposed to inflicting a ‘client’ on people, and it’s good to see that it has bonuses for the buyer.

Plus it was only £2 :D


Ecommerce tracking. Oh shoot me now…

One of the really boring bits of my job which doesn’t involve explosions (all the best bits involve explosions), is the tedious process of working out which people who saw an advert or website coverage bought a game. Big companies have an army of calculator-brained accountant/web developer geek hybrids to worry about this nonsense, while the game designers do more important stuff like eat canapes and quaff champagne. In my case, I have to do it.


(The sales tracking, not the quaffing)

Double Bah.

People who know me well, will realise that peversely, I love this sort of stuff. However, getting it working properly is a nightmare. I use google as my analytics provider, and BMT Micro as my payment company. I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to get it all to work properly. In theory this is what happens:

  • Visitor comes to the positech site from a google advert, google analytics drops a cookie on their PC.
  • Visitor buys the game(yay!) and is redirected to the BMTMicro site.
  • Javascript on BMTs site notifies google all of the data about the transaction, and who made it
  • Analytics ties this together and lets me congratulate myself on a l33t advert.

In practice, this is what currently happens:

  • Visitor comes to the positech site from a google advert, google analytics drops a cookie on their PC.
  • Visitor buys the game(yay!) and is redirected to the BMTMicro site.
  • Javascript on BMTs site treats all transactions as UK Pounds, regardless of currency. Lets hope nobody in zimbabwe buys the game or the stats are useless,
  • Analytics denies all knowledge of the fact that it’s the same visitor, convinced that everyone who buys the game must have appeared magically on BMTs website by beaming there direct from Tatooine.

I may have fixed this, by completely re-doing all of the javascript for the analytics on all the pages on the site I’m tracking, but it will take a few days for me to see if that’s really the case. To add confusion, I don’t have access to the code on the actual post-buy page, because that’s a secure page hosted by BMTMicro, so debugging this takes longer than usual. Google have written dozens of articles on how it works, almost all of which is contradictory. Thanks guys!

To really hammer home how clueless I am at that, I have picked up a stalker.

My stalker is an advert for an iiyama monitor that I looked at once, which follows me everywhere. It’s the digital equivilant of a girl you smiled at in a bar once who then follows you everywhere for the next 30 days. Creepy, and annoying, but more importantly, it’s evidence that everyone else has their customer tracking down to a fine art, and I’m still acting like some newcomer blundering about in clown shoes wondering who buys his games.


G4? FOUR? Eh?

I keep blathering on about G4, as my next game. It’s the working title, obviously. I have a title in mind, but I’m not announcing anything until I am 100% sure this is the design that I’m going with. I thought I might as well explain why I’m calling it G4, when obviously I’ve made loads of games, not just three.

The thing is, a lot of the games I’ve made have been pretty amateurish hobby efforts, and have been about me learning to program, not how to design games. You can have the best game idea in the universe, but if you try and make it your first game, you are likely to ruin it through inexperience. I reckon it takes four or five games before you finally find your feet and can do a decent game idea justice.

I know people might think that if they do a course in games programming, or get a great degree, or go to a few game jams, or read a lot of books, that this counts for the first four or five games. It does not.

The experience you need, is the complete full game lifecycle. The picking of an idea, and a name, choosing the technology and coding the engine, the play balancing, artwork, marketing, selling, promotion, and the tech support.


I’ve only really made three really good games. Three games where I did justice to the idea. Some of the other games are good *ideas* but the presentation and implementation is lacking.

Those 3 games are:

Kudos 2

Democracy 2

Gratuitous Space Battles

I’m determined that G4 earns a place in the list.