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


I’ve started reading a book, and ordered another one, that focus on the topic of business processes for small companies. Essentially the theme of them is that far too many small businesses are built around the hands-on skills and knowledge of a single person -> the founder, and that this can act as a roadblock to the company expanding and flourishing.

This rings very true to me. People sometimes suggest I get a full time artist or coder, but I never do, and what I really need is either a clone of me, or an all-rounder who can do a bit of everything, marketing, business stuff, design, coding, testing and artwork. Such people are not easy to find. A lot of indies use interns or junior / student employees, but I always try to ensure I get the very best, and the very best are normally not looking for a job, they freelance, and are booked up a year on advance.
If I can’t expand by hiring, something I can do is to try and streamline all of the different systems that make up positech. My current systems are a mess. I run backups when I feel like it, I check my ad and marketing budget stuff at random intervals. I have no organised calendar for anything, no dates on GTB milestones, no quarterly assessments of sales, it’s a mess.
So this is something I’m going to work on fixing, over the next few weeks. I’ll hopefully identify a few areas where some new software or cunning scripting can save me time, and make sure I am more organised, and that everything is better documented. One day, I might even end up with some staff.

In the meantime I showed Gratuitous Tank Battles running on a big TV to two fellow indie devs recently. It looked good on the TV, ran without issues, and I think they likedit, which is reassuring :D

Small world.

This morning, when I woke up I checked my email at a desk in the Southwest UK. The internet routers somewhere in London spoke to my positech server in Dallas, and sent me messages from all across the planet. One of them was from a flash developer I have never met, whose game I am sponsoring. I have no idea which country he lives in. Another was from a business partner in Boston, (as I recall), about a port of my game. While I read these, I also checked share prices of companies around the UK whose shares I buy and sell as a hobby.

If I chose to check, I’m sure there would be people from every continent currently browsing the dallas-hosted server of my UK owned company.

I’ll probably chat to some other indie developers today on forums hosted god-knows-where and who live all over the world. Most of the people I talk to on a daily basis are more than a thousand miles from my home.

My parents were born and worked all their lives in one city. My grandparents were born, worked and died 80+ years later in the same city. My grandfather left the UK only once, as a soldier during the war. My mother remembers before TV, before plastic, before indoor plumbing…

And online, we think people are old now if they remember alta vista, or windows 95.

When the world is so amazingly fast moving, it’s easy to forget to stop and reflect on what an amazing time this is to be alive. Life has never changed with such an incredible pace.

Let us ACHIEVE things!

Sooo.. Gratuitous Tank Battles has had achievements in it for a while, although they get called medals in the game, inkeeping with it’s WW1/2 context. The achievements system is a universal one, based of data stored on my server, so if you bought the game direct, or through any store, it should all still work the same way, and you will get the same experience.

Today, is the day I finally got around to wading through the documentation to get my achievements system working with steam. Steam look like they will be carrying the game, which is great news, and probably not unexpected, but I never count my chickens beforehand etc… Anyway, that means I can blog this image:

yay! Essentially steam is just mirroring my own data at the moment, but at least this means that the achievements will show up on your steam pages, which is vital to many people :D

Lots more news to come in the next month or three. I am currently taking a look at the possibility of steam cloud, although I write a lot of tiny little files, so it might get very messy…

Theory: The best game designers have little fun playing games

Here is a theory, tell me what you think. I’m sure it’s rough around the edges.

The best games are made by people who feel ‘compelled’ to make a certain type of game. Invariably, this is because that sort of game does not already exist. If the perfect game (to that designer’s eye) already existed, they would

a) Waste a lot of their free time playing it

b) Not perceive there is a market for another game like that, and not feel as motivated or driven to make it.

If this theory is true, it follows that the designers that are churning out consistently original or refreshing stuff, are amongst the most frustrated and miserable game-players. They are constantly living in a gaming world populated by other people ‘doing it wrong’.

Now that theory is a bit arbitrary, and I am well aware of the fact that I’m just trying to rationalise my own opinions and convince myself that the fact that I find 90%+ of modern games to be rubbish is because I am perceiving flaws others do not. The other option is that I’m going off games, which I’m pretty certain is not true, judging by my huge addiction to Anno 2070 (dammit I WILL get enough fruity drinks to get that next level of eco inhabitant!!!!), or that I have unusual taste in games (quite likely).

Any other game designers out there who feel let down/ dissapointed / depressed by most modern games? I have maybe 20 games in my steam account (I admit, I tend to buy retail or direct from developer so that’s only a snapshot) whereas I know many people have 100+ 200+ games. I find most games to be unappealing, at any price. I judge games more by the time required, than the asking price. I’m not saying other games are *bad*, just that they do not appeal to me. Maybe the designer in me has just evolved to constantly find fault in games?