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

Self-destructive behavior? or practical PR management?

I was replying to an email about democracy 3 today, when ti occurred to me to suggest the person who wrote to me ‘like’ the facebook page for democracy 3. For those interested, you can find the page here: As of the time of writing, it has 540 likes. This is not a lot. On the other hand I could have sent him to the very sparsely populated Democracy 3 forum at my site, which is at It currently has 139 posts.

I’ve been musing over whether or not that sort of decision makes sense. This is the kind of thing I lie awake worrying about :D


  1. Almost everyone has a facebook account. he can visit the page and click ‘like’ and that boosts the popularity of the game in the eyes of others. it’s simple and easy. He is MUCH more likely to do this that join my forums. In other words, this is less likely to be a waste of time.
  2. Facebook is always up to date and has no security flaws or requires any technical maintenance on my part. It also has features that forums do not have, and everyone knows how to use it. People are more familiar with facebook ‘likes’ and posts than they are forums.
  3. Facebook is viral. If this guy ‘likes’ democracy 3, then that gives me indirect marketing to all his friends who saw that like. Even those who have never heard of the game. In other words, facebook likes ‘leak’ out into the rest of the world for free. Forum posts stay where they are.


  1. I control my forums and my server. I have total freedom to do what I like there. I cannot have my forum ‘banned’, or have the terms and conditions change underneath me. I can also populate that forum page with banners linking to my main site, and promote my games there with greater freedom than I can within a facebook page
  2. I’d just be making the facebook page more popular and my own forum less so. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy if I start defining facebook as the place to go, which could kill off my own forum.
  3. People on my forums can be ‘marketed’ to for free by me. People on facebook, even those on my facebook page, will only see my posts if I pay facebook enough. Essentially, I’m building up their network for free, and then paying them for permission to talk to the same people I sent there in the first place. This is stupid in the long term.

The game is not even in beta yet (although it will be soon, I’ve even made the buy button for it!). So the traffic on both is limited. I need to get these decisions right NOW, not dither about them. The trouble is, I tend to dither and not make firm commitments.

Does the virality of facebook trump the ownership of developer forums? I’m suspecting that it may do, although that is horribly short-term thinking. ARGHHHHH.

Musing what positech games could do for new indies…

With steam announcing that they are greenlighting 100 new games today, it seems that ‘securing distribution on big name portals‘ is a task for new and upcoming indies which just got a bit easier. That’s good news, but there is only so much scope for people to sell games, it probably just means that the things indie devs might need help with haven’t reduced, but just changed. This has got me thinking about the medium term future of Positech, and what I’d like to do, and what maybe I *could* do for indies. If I’d made the list a few years ago it might be this:

  1. Provide web-hosting
  2. Process payments
  3. Handle mailing list stuff
  4. Take care of PR
  5. Provide funding for development
  6. Sort out contracts and admin/businessy stuff like contracts with artists/sound/music people
  7. Provide general business advice
  8. Take care of advertising

Some of these are maybe less of a need now than they used to be. I know it’s possible to do *all* of this yourself. I do. But I’ve been doing this for decades. if you are 18 years old and programming your first game, do you want to do those 7 things too? Aren’t you busy debugging? :D. For some people, no doubt the answer is yes. And of course some people could do it all, but may choose not to. I quite like looking at sales charts and advertising stats, but few game designers really do.

Certainly 2) is something that has been kinda dealt a blow if it’s easy to get on steam. But has it really? Firstly not everyone gets on steam, even now, and secondly, they take their cut of the sales, which is a non trivial amount. You can use a payment provider and sell direct, but you need an account with them, and need to learn how they work, and then handle currency conversions etc etc. Maybe that is still something people would rather not do?

5) Would normally be a HUGE big deal, but now we have kickstarter. Had this made funding for indies easier? or just for established indies? Something that has not got any easier is likely to be 7) and maybe 8). I’ve been around a while, and know a bit about the games market. I might be able to provide some value there perhaps.

So I guess what I’m thinking about is whether I should be looking for the classic ‘first time indie’, that has great programming skills, great game design skills, but doesn’t know where to go from there. Could turn into a storefront for games not just made by me, but also games developed (like redshirt) by other developers but published by me? I think it’s definitely something worth considering, in the medium term. I just wonder how many developers fall into that category. if you are working on your first game, would you pay a cut to someone to handle all this?



Killing the golden goose

So when I first released Democracy 2 on steam, I thought to myself ‘it might sell a few copies, would be good to prove to valve that i was right all along and it is a game that matches the steam audience’. And then it sold well, and then better, and better still, and right now it is my #1 top selling game on steam. It is not overall the biggest earner per week, that’s still GSB, because GSB is split amongst the base game and it’s various expansion packs, but even so, when you realize D2 is much *older* than GSB, it’s quite an achievement. A quick check shows Democracy 2 earned $1,900 in the last week. That’s pretty awesome.


And in a sense, it would make sense to  work on that game I keep putting off, or that other game I keep putting off, or the third one, and happily cash the royalty checks from valve for an old game like Democracy 2…

But goddamit I couldn’t do it could I? I just HAD to make a newer, better version. Why?

When I look at democracy 2, lots of things bug me about it. Stuff not done right, stuff not included, graphical roughness, simulation glitches, all kinds of stuff which screams out at the games creator but which most players don’t notice or forgive. I felt that there must be (surely!) lots of people out there who were playing Democracy 2 and thinking ‘he hasn’t really done the concept justice though has he?’.


So whether or not it was a sensible business decision or not, I took it upon myself to make the third version of Democracy. I’ve never done a ‘3’ before. And as I prepare to launch it into pre-orders and beta (mere days away!), I find myself slightly niggled, in a ferengi sense, that I am about to effectively kill off Democracy 2 by releasing a bigger, bolder, brighter, better version. It may not be the smartest business decision ever. I should probably have made Gratuitous Space Battles 2 instead, or made another new game, and THEN come back to the democracy series.

Sometimes you just have to let the creative part of your brain beat up the business part though :D

Redshirt plans, Democracy 3 etc…

So there is lots going on…

In case you missed it we opened up redshirt to pre-orders and beta. You can grab the game right now from here:

We have a few bug reports we are working through and trying to fix, so we will be planning on patching those the minute we track it down. It seems like 95% of people aren’t hitting any problems, which is a relief.

Regarding redshirt, a few people have asked about mac,Linux and iPad. All are planned, and the game is developed in unity. I’ve played it on my ipad in the past. It shouldn’t be *that* tricky to get the mac, linux and ipad versions done, but we didn’t want to ship anything that had not been  extensively tested, so right now the beta copies are PC-only. Obviously we are as keen to have the game out on those platforms as you are to play it, but give us a while to sort it out. Plus I need to finish up my mac developer account application. Typical of apple to get hacked the day I wanted to apply isn’t it?

For people who might be asking ‘where the hell is Democracy 3‘, the answer is ‘it will be here very soon’. My plan with D3 is to actually have Mac, PC and Linux builds together in it’s beta from day one, but that means a delay while the finished and now un-touched code gets ported for me by someone who actually understands OpenGL and linux :D. The minute those builds are done and uploaded, I’ll open up Democracy 3 to pre-order and beta just like redshirt.

You wait years for a game release date to come along, then they all show up at once eh?

Redshirt now open for pre-orders & beta copies!


Greetings , staff of space station megalodon 9! We have a great station news update for you this morning. Redshirt is now taking pre-orders direct from us, and people pre-ordering the game will get an immediate download of the current beta version. The usual disclaimers apply, beta builds of games are not 100% optimized, there may be bugs, more content  is likely to be added and balance tweaked etc. Right now, the beta copy is only for windows (mac and linux will follow for the final game and be bundled in for all purchasers) and although we are issuing steam keys to all direct pre-order customers, obviously those keys will not work until the game is released and hits steam.

So what is redshirt? Check out the trailer below:

For those who aren’t regular readers of this humble blog, you might not know that Redshirt is developed by The Tiniest Shark, a fellow UK indie developer. Positech Games (me!) is basically publishing the game.  If you liked our game ‘Kudos’, you are definitely going to enjoy Redshirt :D. This represents the first time we have ever published a game by another indie game developer.

If you are ready to go grab yourself a copy of the game (it’s $19.95) you can hit the big button below, or head over to the website at While you are about it please TWEET and SHARE the relevant links with your friends and help us get the word out. And in a very ‘meta’ sense, you can even like the games very own facebook page.