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

Lets watch some numbers change

When you are a game designer, you become more attuend to this phenomena, but it is all around us. In games, we really notice it. In fact, a talented journalist once reviewed kudos by saying “it’s just watching numbers go up, but sometimes, that’s all you need”. (or words to that effect.)

You probably know what I mean in terms of stuff like ‘leveling up’ in games like World Of Warcraft, or earning skill points in an online shooter. It’s nothing new, when I was a kid there was a lot of obsession about winning a place on the high score table at your local arcade. We seem to love nothing better than getting a high score, a better score, better than our friends, better than yesterday, better than 10 minutes ago.

It’s only when you analyse it, you realsie it’s not just in games, but everywhere. We love getting a pay rise, even if the rise is taken up entirely by extra tax. We care about the ‘top 10’ or the billboard ‘top 100’.  And we love seeing numbers change. It’s not enough to know who is #34 in the worlds richest/fattest/sexiest/cleverest person. We need to know they have risen 4 places!

I love playing the stock market, I get a whole page full of numbers to check, and they go up and down in REAL TIME! And deep down, I know that one of my motivations for getting solar panels is that I’ll get to watch more numbers change each day.

What does surprise me is that employers don’t do this stuff more. My brain would melt if I had a job on a checkout at a supermarket, or driving a truck long distance. However, if there was some built in emtrics and measurement meta-game to my job, based on how efficiently, or consistently I did my job, I’d end up focusing on that, and it would probably make my job go much easier.

People love seeing numbers going up, and comparing numbers, why don’t workplaces make use of that?

Half a million space battles

Here’s a chirpy statistic. At the time of writing, the total number of online ‘challenge’ games of Gratuitous Space Battles that have been played is…


Or in other words…


That’s just online challenges, meaning player A trying to beat player B’s fleet, whether it’s on Mac or PC, direct or through steam. It’s all handled by my server. The number of offline, single player games against the pre-shipping AI fleets is likely to be a lot higher. That’s pretty scary. Also, lets not dismiss over 40,000 uploaded player challenges (actually many more, older unplayed ones get deleted) and over 100,000 campaign battles already.

Ok, so it’s not exactly minecraft, but still, not bad going for a game made by a few geeks, and a few cats.

Going from BASIC to C++, in understanding game source code

I was chatting to someone about a year ago, who was embarking, for research purposes, on how to code a game in C++. They were familiar with the rudimentary concepts of coding, and with games, but had never looked at C++ before, or the source to any modern game. They had enormous problems going from the programming they leanred briefly as a kid which was this:

10 PRINT "I AM L33T!"
20 GOTO 10

And modern game source code. The main difference is that a C++ game is ‘object-oriented’ and the languages people start with are just simple lists of instructions, executed in order. This is a 30 second guide to helping newbie coders cope with the difference. The biggest problem you have, is the question “Yes but where does the code actually START?”. And the answer is, a function called WinMain. Basically, the structure of any game is this:

Create A Window();

That’s basically, Kudos, Democracy, Starship Tycoon, GSB… etc. It’s all there. that is the whole game. The real stuff happens inside GameLoop(). That is basically this:


And that obviously splits out into a billion other functions. Now already, it might look scarily nothing like 10 PRINT SCREEN, but just imagine that GameLoop() is a GOTO that jumps to the start of GameLoop() and imagine a RETURN statement at the end of that section. The weird bit, for new coders, is that the code will jump back and forth all over the place, between different source files, in different orders, up and down and all over like a ping pong ball, but, ultimately, when the chips are down, it’s not really *that* different from old BASIC programs. Until you multithread it, anyway :D.