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

Update on the situation with Gratuitous Tank Battles

So why haven’t I patched the game lately? when is the release date? Here goes…

The release date is basically any day now. The final build of the game is done, tested, built and ready for distribution. That doesn’t mean it’s the ‘lat’ build. I intend to update the game later with a number of improvements, not least to enable easy mod-support for the game, and a bunch of graphical improvements, speedups and GUI tweaks etc…

But at some point you declare the game officially launched so people who would not preview it, get to review it.

Also, that’s the point at which third parties like steam etc get to sell the game…

And that’s currently the slight delay. Setting things up with third party portals is taking a little while. I have some minor tech issues with setting it up for one portal, another is frankly not getting the final build until I see last months royalties actually arrive in my bank account (god I hate this hassle…), and a few more I shall contact today and see if they want to stock the game.

while we is a tank made from balloons…

Previously I’ve launched on my site first, and the portals later, but I was hoping for a simultaneous release this time.

The good news is that I’ve written a web-based front-end for people who have bought the game direct, which tells them what their steam-key is, for when the game launches on steam. They will get an email from me on launch day.

So don’t think I’ve stopped working on GTB, far from it, it would just complicate stuff a LOT if I released a new patch now, and then portals started selling a version slightly older. Hopefully the first post-release patch will be bigger than normal and have more fixes as a result (or more important ones).

Frictionless Feedback

One thing that a lot of companies don’t get is the importance of frictionless feedback.
All companies perpetuate the myth that they want to hear from customers. They pretend to value their feedback, and want to hear from them, regardless whether or not the feedback is good or bad. In very few cases is this really true. I’m not referring to actually abusive or threatening feedback, which obviously just gets binned.

Negative, but non-abusive feedback is good stuff to have, and so is positive feedback obviously. Any developer who has sat down and watched a ‘lets-play’ video of their game, or better still, observed strangers playing their game for the first time in real-life, can tell you that NO amount of brainstorming, agonizing or debating over design features is as good as watching people play…

Sometimes, people think that the only feedback worth having is the long and analytical email or forum post dissecting the games design and deliberating it’s strengths and weakeness, alongside constructuive suggestions as to how to improve things. Obviously this feedback is awesome, and much appreciated but it is not the only form worth having, because it’s delivery method implies some self-selection on the part of the player.

In other words, only a certain subset of hardcore, analytical thoughtful and time-rich gamers will ever commit their thoughts to keyboard in such an effective and clear manner.
What you really need to capture is the gamers who can’t be bothered to spend more than 10 seconds giving you feedback on your game, but nevertheless are buyers/potential buyers and have a viewpoint. they are gamings 99% :D
To do this, you need to reduce any ‘friction’ involved in that process. Is it easy to get feedback from your customers. Here is how I try to make it easy.

1) you can email me at, and I will read it. I acknowledge almost all feedback, and I read all of it. Even if it’s a one-line email “The mechs are overpowered”, it still gets filed away and noted.
2) You can post on my forums at This is probably my best source of feedback.
3) You can comment on blog posts here
4) You can direct-message or just quote @cliffski on twitter. I read all that too.
5) You can comment on the facebook page for the game.

Ideally, I’d make it even easier, but true anonymous frictionless feedback is just open to spam. I experimented with anonymous guest posting on forums, but it’s a spam headache unfortunately. I guess the best thing to do is just make it really clear that feedback is welcome, good or bad and you can email me your thoughts on the game, and they will get read. Indies are lucky because people actually believe us when we say you can email the lead designer, rather than a customer service person.

I always wish when I read a comment on my games on some foum, that the person typing it knew that they could just copy and paste that opinion and throw it at me by email, and it would have 100x the effect on getting the game changed and refined than a post on a foumr (although such posts are to be encouraged too, anything that gets people discussing your game is clearly a good thing)
Any game developer hiding their email address behind a captcha or sign-up account is just throwing away a free source of honest feedback. Don’t do it. get better spam filters. It can be done, how else can I constantly type on my blog and get away with it? :D