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

Game Clue #7 plus decision making

I was shopping for cakes today and bought 2 cakes. There were 2 of us, and we wanted one each, and the guy says “You can get a third cake for the price of 2, which cake do you want?” and although that’s a good deal, it kind of bugged me, and (in my obsessive analytical way) I realised it bugged me because I had lost control of my decision making right then. I had strode into the cake shop, confident of my wants, my decisions, my choices and my needs, and suddenly my whole world view (I want 2 cakes) was reversed at someone else’s decision.I thought I knew what I wanted, and someone else had taken over and was making me operate on their terms (they want to sell more cakes).

I mention it because it reminded me of ‘the social network’ which I watched last night. The harvard guy talks about how harvard encourages students to create their own job, rather than just take a job. I thought this was an incredibly good attitude and should be drilled into ALL students, not just ones at elitist super-expensive universities.

You almost certainly don’t have the job you want. You might *like* your job, but that’s different. You didn’t *really* choose your job. Someone else had an idea, and wanted to make/do/build something. They then worked out they needed some people do do parts X and Y (probably the annoying, boring bits) and they posted a job ad, or asked a headhunter for someone to do it. They then wrote a contract, on their terms, and offered it to you. They will tell you what to do, and keep you doing it as long as it is useful to them.

Employment is a very one-sided situation for most people. Imagine showing up at a job interview with your own contract and asking the employer to sign it. Laughable isn’t it?

Working for yourself is not just different in minor job security and tax and quality-of-life ways. It is a fundamental re-arrangement of the terms upon which you carry out a good third of your existence. Even if you are 80% sure you prefer employment to self employment, I strongly recommend trying it before you hit 40ish, and you become too risk averse. I don’t know many people who tried it and went back to a regular job.

Here is another clue alluding to my next game. The last three were a bit hard. I would have thought trench art and stormtrooper helmets were pretty easy to spot, but I’m impressed how rapidly someone can spot a tiger tank gun barrel, especially when it’s a photo of one I took myself :D. Enjoy:

Clue #7


We need an open, simpleapp store built into windows

Like most people selling software, I occasionally get people who say the download link is broken (it isn’t) or the file didn’t download properly (it did) or that it’s the wrong version for their O/S (maybe, but they bought the wrong thing in that case) or they lost the file they downloaded etc etc…

Obviously this sort of stuff is fixed by ‘client’ app stores such as impulse or steam. the problem is, those stores are run by third parties which

1) Take a cut of the sales

2) Retain all the customer details and never share them with you

3) Don’t accept all products for sale, so act as gatekeepers.

Ideally, windows would have a built-in bare-bones app-store. Not a microsoft store where you pay microsoft, but some system whereby you could pay anyone, and they could trivially build a back end system to provide you with the file. Maybe the app-store simply acts as a front end web browser client to your existing BMTMicro / paypal / plimus store.

Given all the shovelware crap that windows ships with anyway (photo editing, movie making, a calculator, a paint program, games…) it seems crazy that something people do all the time (buy stuff online) has virtually zero API support built into the O/S.

Time for another ‘next-game clue’:


Odd Size Monitors

I develop on a PC with 2 monitors. 1 is a 21 inch iiyama monitor and the other is a 24 inch iiyama. They are both great, but they are different sizes, and resolutions. There is a tiny part of me that thinks this is inconvenient enough to justify buying another 24 inch one. There is also the rest of me, the rational me, that knows this is nonsense.

Maybe I’m just in an irritable mood. My local council was supposed to rule on our solar-panels planning application yesterday. They did not do so. It’s still undecided, despite us originally submitting it in OCTOBER 2010, and there being zero objections.

One day, the useless, time-wasting, lazy idiots that work in such places will be thrown into the real world to get a real job in the private sector, and it will be like a hurricane has hit them.

Work trundles along on mystery next game. It looks quite nice now, and the tools almost work, which means one day I’ll have proper maps and units in there. One day, there will be screenshots. One day :D


Avoiding confirmation bias in business

I occasionally read a fairly insane and crappy web blog about investments in silicon valley. It’s quite amusing in some ways, the way people think everyone on earth has an ipad and a smartphone, and is a venture capitalist or runs a dotcom startup. Businesses are either the next google, or totally doomed, and that can flip completely from one day to the next.

It’s silly, but the flipside is, if acts to put my own world in perspective. I hang out (virtaully) with quite a few indie developers like me. I’ve met a lot of them, and we tend to agree on a lot of stuff. Selling direct is good, finding reliable artists is a pain, selling games too cheap is bad etc…The problem with just hanging out with people who think like you, and are like you, is that it narrows your focus and you suffer from serious confirmation bias. If everyone you know charges $20 for their games, is a sole employee and all make $50k a year, you are very likely to conclude that ‘this is what people do’, and follow suit, in both strategy and outcome.

I try very hard to avoid this. This is why I sometimes to chat to guys like Nicholas Lovell, who disagrees with almost every aspect of my business strategy :D. It’s why I take a huge interest in the economics of MMOs and facebook games, despite not making one. I was always interested in the business side of gaming. I would LOVE to be able to look through the bank statements of zynga, or activision :D

One business decision that I really struggle with is the idea of re-investment in my ongoing business. It makes sense for me to spend a huge chunk of the profits from GSB into growing the business. I should probably have 1 or 2 full time employees right now, and I don’t. I have (at the moment)  3 contractors working on my next game, plus me. There will be at least 2 others working on it before it ships. But this is small fry. I could make a legit business case for a much bigger investment.

To that end, I *do* have a little side project in development, which I won’t talk about for a while, and I am also trying to persuade myself that I should invest a whole months profits in advertising one month. I’ve never, EVER done that. Jeff Bezos would think I’m an idiot. In the last year, my google adwords budget was £27,000. It sounds a lot, but it should probably have been a lot higher, given that it’s such a major chunk of my expenses.

Anyone who thinks it’s easy to know the correct business strategy for making indie games hasn’t really thought about it.