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

Patch 1.016 for Gratuitous Tank Battles

…has been released. let there be much rejoicing. The game auto-updates once a day, so you don’t need to do anything. Lets take a look at the list of changes!

1) Fixed bug where you could invite a friend with no name.
2) Added the hull size and size type to the hull picker dialog on the unit design
3) Holding down G as you drag props on the level editor now snaps them to a grid
4) Support for new 'starting year' for scenarios and equipment to set a battle
 before lasers and mechs etc.
5) Re-balanced the missile modules (slower rate of fire).
6) Re-balanced the ambulance/command/repair/supply trucks to have less hitpoints.
7) The units on the unit customisation screen now render shadows.
8) Changed targeting calculation so the fastest speed of firing and target unit
 is used, not just the target unit.
9) Battles now start with the map focused upon one of the entry points for
 attacking units.
10) Different vehicle targeting systems now have different weights.
11) Unit Design screen now filters modules to only show modules that the
 current unit has a slot to deploy.
12) Various AI balance changes.

The big items are probably the re-balancing and the change to the unit design screen (11), which I think is much better. Here is a screenshot of that screen if you selected an ambulance hull with the old version:

And now with the new version:

Much simpler huh? I don’t know why I had not done this earlier, but in any case, the screen now only shows modules that the current selected hull has a slot for, which hopefully makes that screen seem a lot less daunting for people who buy GTB thinking it’s just tower defense and think WTF? when they get to that screen. This was a screw-up on my part, because generally I feel that a good design rule is never to clutter the players view with information that they definitely don’t need right now.

There are a lot of under-the-hood changes to AI and other code affecting battles which is all a bit arcane to explain, but basically the AI should be a bit more sensible now, the various weapons and modules are more balanced, (in my humble opinion) and things should be a lot more playable in general. I don’t consider this patch to be the ‘last word’ on GTB. People who bought GSB know I love to improve and finesse a game long after release. I actually have a GSB patch (a kinda scary one) sat there daring me to release it, even all these thousands of years later.

I’ve also patched the demo for the game. I just uploaded the new steam demo, and I’ll be bunging the direct-downloaded version up on my site soon.

Why I hate startup-mania

I read a lot about ‘startups’, and see the term used everywhere. it’s especially common for tech or internet companies, where people seem to use ‘startup’ as an interchangeable term for company.
The obsession with startups implies that new, young, unproven businesses are where all the value is. The accepted business model seems to be that a business is a ‘startup’ for a year or so, then gets acquired Entrepreneurs often talk about their ‘exit strategy’.
I’m very old fashioned in this respect because I believe that your exit strategy should be retirement. In other words, you should build your business to last. Your five or ten year plan should envisage your business still existing. Maybe bigger, maybe much bigger, but not bought out by some megacorp.

This implication that startups are sexy, but established businesses are dull encourages incredibly short-term thinking. People don’t care if their business has a firm foundation or if it makes a profit, or will ever be sustainable. They just need to keep paying the bills long enough for some big company to buy them out, then they don’t care what happens.
The rumor is that people working at onlive knew they were losing money but thought it would be ok because they could raise more money or get bought out.
It never occurs to people to build long term sustainable businesses that produce profitable products.

One thing at a time. Wine and Whine.

All that’s written on my big handy Positech Games office chalkboard right now is this:


Which I consider to be something I need to be reminded off. Unfortunately, I don’t naturally look at the chalkboard much. Really it should be written all over my monitor on post-it notes, or on the office door.  On the topic of office doors, it always depresses me that billionaires waste their money on jets or private islands. I’d spend it much more sensibly, like on having replicas of the Deep Space Nine airlocks made as my office door, which I think we can all agree is a far more sensible use of such money.

I was going to write a big tirade here about how the games industry is scarily too hit-driven, and I think there is a bit of a ‘people buying-what other people are buying’ thing going on, but it’s hard to put into words how I see that being bad without it sounding like I’m whining. People on the internet always hate anyone sounding like they are bemoaning their own lot, even when they actually aren’t. I remember all the abuse I got for asking people who had decided not to buy GSB why they had done so.

What I was hoping for was people saying “that’s cool, a guy asking for feedback on his game to win over people on the fence’. Whereas I got ‘This guys such a dick, moaning that nobody ever bought his shit game’.  Which is kinda funny, because GSB has sold easily over 100,000 copies without counting humble bundles. I just like to make my games as good as they can be.

That’s the internet for you anyway.

In any case, I decided not to type up such a rant, even after a big bang marathon punctuated by mixing various bottles of wine, which is the cause of most of my embarrassing rants.

I actually typed that ‘whine’ the first time by accident. Oh the hilarity.

Gratuitous Tank Battles Tweaks

I’m working on a GTB expansion, which means a lot of playing the game to balance out some new missions. In doing so, a few things have occurred to me:

1) Missiles are overpowered. I keep thinking their limited effective range (max-min) compensates for it, but it does not, because there is always *something* for them to shoot at. I may have to nerf them.

2) I really needed to have separate graphics for command/supply trucks and also for repair/command bunkers. This was me saving money, and it was a false economy. I need to fix it.

3) I may have been a bit too tight in terms of setting the supply-limits in battles. Constantly hitting them means you tend to loiter by the entrance tiles and not enjoy the full area of battle when attacking. They may need tweaking too.

There are also a bunch of graphical mistakes I made, which I should fix theoretically, but would involve considerable re-work by artists at unjustifiable expense. It’s such a delicate balancing act to know when you are ‘speculating to accumulate’ versus ‘throwing money away for no gain’. I suspect I *do* need to get a few more improved bits of artwork done though.

Games are never finished, you just run out of income and have to make something new :D