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

Amazon Cloudfront

In a recent discussion amongst indies, someone had stats showing that by switching to a cloud-based file host for their demo, they got a lot more demo downloads than before. I was naturally intrigued.

As a result, I set up an account with Amazon cloudfront, which requires an account with Amazon S3, and a lot of complex nonsense. Eventually, I worked out how to do something simple, like let them host a file, and link to it. grrrr… I lvoe the way you can’t actually see how many times a file was downloaded, or at what speed. That’s awesome reporting they have there….

Anyway, it’s cost be $9 so far, and I’m only doing it for the GSB demo link. Basically, if you download the GSB demo from here, it’s from my server, but the GSB demo from here, is from cloudfront, and theoretically much faster. If anyone is bored/curious enough to test, could you say if there is an appreciable difference?

Also, would it make a difference to you? I have 7MB broadband, and I have very very often cancelled demo downloads if they look like they will take > 30 minutes. I don’t really know why, it just bugs me. I’ve also likely downloaded demos on a whim then forgotten about them. I’m trying to quantify the extent to which a fast download of a demo matters to people.

In other news, I’m coding like mad on LB. Can’t talk about it yet, until it looks anything worth looking at, and thats likely 2 months off. I’m also arranging those extra GSB maps, and dreaming about getting planning permission for something, anything, one day.

Gratuitous Modding Awesomeness

Because there are only 24 hours in the day, and I sleep at least 7 of them, it means I can’t do everything or keep up with everything, so it sometimes takes a while for me to spot totally awesome GSB modding efforts like this:

There is a community-run ship modding competition, basically, and some really cool designs have been submitted. People on the positech forums are voting for the best one, so feel free to go take a look.  There are loads of cool entries, I especially like this one:

I need to ensure LB has better support for modding. GSB is a bit flaky in that regard, in terms of having a lack of easy ways to turn mods on or off. At least it has separate mod folder support, so it’s not too bad.

In other news, I’ve picked my map-designer for the Galactic Conquest bonus maps and emailed them. I simply do not have the time to email everyone who applied, so I’m sorry to not get back to everyone, but there was a lot of really good entrants and it was very difficult to pick someone. I’ve never employed anyone to work on game design stuff before, but I need to start doing this if positech is to make the quality and size games that I want to make in future. I need to be dedicated to LB, and I hate to leave anything in GSB unfinished, so this is a step towards achieving that.

Thanks for everyone who expressed an interest in the idea.

Game designer job. (yes really)

I’m not actually offering someone a *job*, job. It’s not a permanent thing. I’m looking for a contractor, just for a week. Even if I *did* have the work (and money) for a permanent employee, I wouldn’t do it. The UK insists on burdening employers with so much paperwork and bureaucracy it’s literally better to just not bother and stay a one-man business. Bah etc…


See Gratuitous Space Battles?

See the campaign add on Galactic Conquest?

That campaign add-on has only ONE map. It’s fixed, every time, and people would prefer it to to have variety. Hence I want to have another 3 maps made that are different, and let the player choose from them. This will require some coding by me, which isn’t a lot, but it would involve a fair amount of editing, play testing and balancing, and I don’t have the time to do it.

This is where my new padawan will come in.

Basically I want someone to take the GSB campaign, and come up with 3 new maps, all new planet names, all new facility locations and anomaly locations, and a new network of connecting hyperspace doodahs. There is a debug editor, of sorts, built into the game (I’d get a debug copy to them) which is flaky as hell, because my tools suck, but I used it myself so it can’t be too bad.

I’m thinking it’s probably a full time job for a week. I’m thinking it’s worth $1,000. I know full time lead designers don’t work for that, but this is more of a junior designer/tester thing anyway. Don’t shout at me, I’m only a frail humble indie :D

This is who I need:

  • Someone who speaks and types very good English. Language barriers can be hell.
  • Someone over 18.  This sounds horribly cruel, but it’s purely because if you are under 18, there are probably all kinds of horrific laws about employing a minor, and I don’t want angry parents suing me. Sorry about this…
  • A very keen gamer, likely someone who has played GSB and likes it, and plays a lot of strategy games. You will definitely have to be very familiar with how the game plays, and be reasonably good at it before starting to do this.
  • Someone who has a free week coming up very soon (Feb/March, really). I don’t want to leave it longer than that. I doubt it’s doable in evenings and weekends, but you can try and convince me otherwise.
  • Someone professional , with a good eye for detail, organised and capable. I’m pretty sure I could talk people into doing this for free, I’m paying hard earned cash because I want a top notch job done that I can happily put my name to.

If this applies to you, please email me at, with details about you. Any references or CV style stuff would be welcome, but not essential. if you are a game design student at some college or university, then maybe this is a good opportunity to wangle it into the course. If you are an unemployed game designer with pro experience, this is ideal for you. Don’t forget you can work from home, and 90% of the time you will just be fighting space battles, and checking it’s fun. There are worse jobs out there, trust me. Plus it looks good on CVs.

I’ll pay the full amount by paypal or bank transfer on completion. You can trust me, I’ve been around decades, and employed dozens of people in similar ways. I always pay! There will be a contract/NDA to sign, naturally.

If you know anyone suitable, please tweet this to them, or whatever you hip kids do these days.

BTW this will be a free update, not new DLC.

Explosion Design

I’ve spent another whole day working on particle /explosion stuff and tools. I was very pleased with the explosions in GSB. They look like this:

But much better in motion. I think that’s not bad. However, just because I think it’s not bad doesn’t mean it can’t be a factor of ten better. I’m aiming for ILM-standards, so there is a huge way to go.

GSB had a particle editor, but it wasn’t as good as it should be, mainly because it was built as an external program, and a crap one. I am notorious for making rubbish tools. I should just ask Eskil to make them. Anyway…

Here is the very first attempt at the explosion / particle editor for LB. It’s not vaguely finished, not even by 50%, and I really need to support zooming in! Anyway, the main thing is that it’s built into the game, which means a lot less hassle to edit effects and then toggle back into the game and see how it looks. Plus it uses the exact same source files as the in-game effects, so it’s less messy.

To be honest 90% of the effort was a re-jig of the class structures for a lot of my particle code, rather than actual tools production. Obviously all the GUI code there and the graphics are from GSB, don’t worry, I’ll get a brand spanking new GUI design for the new game in time.

I’m determined to finally make a game that has decent tools from the start, to make me more productive.

In other news, I was woken at 3AM by the death screams of what sounded like an injured pterodactyl in the garden. It *might* have been some less exotic bird, but I’m not so sure. Glad I hadn’t just watched some creepy horror movie.

Gratuitous Space Battle campaign too hard?

Hardcore GSB players, who have played 100+ challenges would say “no way” but to a lot of new and casual GSB players, who only played offline, the campaign can seem like a suicide mission. Here are some tips:

1) Don’t rush to expand. You need to build up. Trying to take and hold a planet with 2 or 3 ships is futile. Think bigger.

2) Don’t build slow moving tanks. You WILL need to retreat them at some point, and if they are too slow, you are toast.

3) Make sensible choices as where to attack, based on your needs. You either need cash, or you need crew for your ships. Deciding which planet to take next is pretty vital.

4) Keep an eye on loyalty. Loyalty acts as a multiplier for the income or other facilities on a planet. Taking a world is step 1, you MUST hold it for a period too, else it’s just a waste of lives and ammo.

5) Hold the chokepoints, those places where hyperspace lines converge. Especially ones which have anomalies preventing certain ship types. These are your best barriers against enemy attack.

If you are still getting crushed, feel free to edit how the campaign runs…

Gratuitous Space Battles/campaign/data/campaign_opt.ini lets you edit all this yummy stuff…

connected_fleet_multiplier = 0.5
loyalty_boost_per_turn = 0.05
loyalty_fall_per_turn = 0.15
threat_fall_per_turn = 0.05
threat_rise_per_turn = 0.11
enemy_attack_chance_multiplier = 1.0
fleet_garrison_loyalty_multiplier = 0.01
max_fleet_garrison_loyalty = 0.20
no_attack_window = 6
no_attack_fadein = 8
no_attack_homeworld = 36
homeworld_attack_fadein = 8
max_ai_attacks_per_turn = 4
ai_repair_low_rate = 0.1
ai_repair_high_rate = 0.3
ai_attack_spam_freeze = 6
ai_homeworld_spam_freeze = 9
ai_new_conquered_attack_freeze = 5
ai_new_conquered_threat = 1.0
ai_armsrace_fear_degrade = 0.05
ai_armsrace_fleet_growth = 0.17
ai_fleetsize_reduction = 0.04
ai_armsrace_fear_spread_multiplier = 0.6
newgame_credits_normal = 10000
newgame_crew_normal = 450
newgame_pilots_normal = 50
newgame_credits_easy = 16000
newgame_crew_easy = 600
newgame_pilots_easy = 70
newgame_credits_hard = 5000
newgame_crew_hard = 300
newgame_pilots_hard = 32
repair_cost_multiplier = 0.5
diff_game_length = 500
diff_min_adjuster = 0.5
diff_max_adjuster = 2.0
futile_attacks_threshold = 0.4
ai_repair_adjuster_easy = 0.5
ai_repair_adjuster_hard = 1.5
nobattle_boredom_threshold = 10
emotion_consec_victories_cocky = 5
emotion_consec_defeats_depressed = 5
emotion_cocky_adjust = 1.3
emotion_depressed_adjust = 0.7
maintenance_percentage_easy = 0.005
maintenance_percentage_medium = 0.015
maintenance_percentage_hard = 0.025
proximity_boost_multiplier = 0.9
freshy_conquered_minfleet = 2000
freshly_conquered_needs_defense = 6
freshy_conquered_undefended_penalty = 0.09
aifleet_replacement_limit = 24
ai_max_fleet_size = 200000
absolute_attack_freeze_max = 10
absolute_freeze_reduction_after_conquest = -8
lostworld_attack_freeze_easy = 8
lostworld_attack_freeze_medium = 4
lostworld_attack_freeze_hard = 1
max_fleet_growth = 4000