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

OMG I am an entrepreneur

I’m only half-joking, but I’ve only recently realized this. I know that the french have no word for it, but it seems I do! The thing is, the whole ‘being an entrepreneur’ thing creeps up on you. I know that people often describe themselves as entrepreneurs, especially in silicon valley, but I have a stricter definition that most, along these lines:

To be a true entrepreneur you need to have actually started a company that has made a profit. you need to have more than one successful product, and you also need to have managed a product where the work is done by other people.

The reason I say that, is there are a lot of people who are really talented, and very successful, and that comes from their ability in that specific skill, not specifically skill at running a business per-se. In other words, you can be an awesome artist, and do well from it, despite being a pretty poor businessperson. That’s not a criticism, in any way, it just gets rolled into being an entrepreneur, which at least in my mind means something else.

The reason I say this, is redshirt. I didn’t design the game, do the art, write the code or any of that sort of thing. Mitu did. I was the publisher, so I made strategic decisions and invested money, in the hope that I’d get that money back and make a return on my investment. That’s how entrepreneurs work, and how they can invest in your coffee shop* without knowing the first thing about making coffee. They probably need to know good coffee from bad coffee, but more importantly they need to understand business/marketing/finance and the most important thing of all: picking the right people and the right business model.

The reason I’m suddenly happy that I’ve had a success at this, is that it’s one of those very intangible skills that I like to challenge myself with. It’s the same reason I trade on the stock market. Judging my my recent performance there, I’m not so good at that :D. Both stock-picking and entrepreneurship are things that NOBODY KNOWS how to do. Studies have shown monkeys picking peanuts can do as good a job as many pension fund managers. There is no mathematical formula for beating the stock market or investing in a business. None. Some people get lucky for a long time, but there is no absolute formula. It’s a combination of research, a lot of gut feeling and a lot of analysis.

In other words it’s a game!, and I unlocked an achievement. Woot. Wheres my little steam badge?

*I drank coffe 20 minutes ago, and this is the reason this pops into my head. That is exactly how advertising works, subconsciously but incredibly powerfully.



Learning to code (with george osborne!)

So there is this new government initiative in the UK where apparently every student in the country will be taught some programming in an effort to increase the technical knowledge of the future workforce. I see this as an extremely good thing. It surprises me that we have gone this long without introducing it as part of the school day anyway. Physics, Biology,Chemistry & programming? They seem like fairly equivalent importance to me, although I think we should add in ‘Engineering’ too. What slightly worries me is that the depth of the courses will not go far enough.

The general theme behind all this is that schools have been teaching people how to use Excel, rather than teaching them programming. This is clearly a bad thing, partly because most kids know how to use excel anyway, but the problem is, the grasp of what ‘programming’ really means seems incredibly weak amongst those who are discussing it. I keep seeing discussions where politicians and campaigners talk about how ‘you too’ can learn the ‘complexities of HTML’, and equate this to an understanding of how computers work.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people understanding how HTML works, but we can surely go further than that right? Shouldn’t we be encouraging kids to go a bit further down the programming rabbit hole? At the very least php and java-script. ideally all the way to C# or even a real-mans language like C++*. I wouldn’t be shocked if everyone understood at least in principle what assembler was. (I know I could do with learning some more there). My point isn’t that we need a million C++ coders, but that understanding ‘a bit’ about how it works means it’s much easier to find the 1% of kids who really do want to study that sort of stuff, and in any case knowing a ‘bit’ about the next-most-complex layer of a technology is always beneficial. I’m not an assembly language programmer, but I’m not horrified to click on the breakdown in aqtime and look at my codes assembler breakdown either. Knowledge is good.

I know you have to start somewhere, and people think that stuff like C++ will scare people off, but hey, lets set some lofty ambitions shall we? At the very least lets not make the mistake of giving an entire generation of kids the idea that Windows 8 was programmed in HTML and that this is as low-level as it gets. There is more to coding than HTML and phone apps. A lot, lot more.

*I’m kidding**

**sort of :D


Democracy 3: Social Engineering

Sooo.. I slipped this in  a bit under the radar yesterday because of the amazing 50% off deal this weekend for Democracy 3, but you may have noticed that Democracy 3 now has an expansion pack/DLC/whatever we call it these days. That expansion is called ‘Social Engineering’, and I talk about it in my relaxed and charismatic yet fascinating way in the video below…

For those who skip the video, first of all note you can grab the expansion from my site here or on steam here. It’s $4.99. basically it’s a policy & dilemma pack which adds 26 policies and 8 new dilemmas, but not randomly, more on a theme of ‘social engineering’, in other words, all those subtle imperceptible ways in which society is shaped by the government. The main game already has the ‘big blunt instruments’ like income tax and spending on health care, but this pack has the slow-burn stuff like public awareness campaigns and cycling subsidies. It also has policies that encourage entrepreneurship and a pro-business mindset from a  young age, and many of the policies take ages to take their affect.

This whole area is a thought-experiment hobby for me. One of my whimsical policy ideas if I was UK Prime Minister would be to reduce the temperature of all government buildings in winter to encourage people to wear warmer clothing. NOT just because it would save money & the environment, but because it would remind people in general that *in winter, you dress warmer*. This is a lesson the UK has forgotten. From what I’ve read: average indoor temperatures have risen from 12C in 1970 to about 17.5C (63.5F) today. Thats a huge increase in energy expenditure, and it doesn’t surprise me one bit. Recently, a government minister had the ‘cheek’ to suggest that in cold weather people put on warmer clothes. he was hounded for it, but it’s just common sense. Personally I think government should be more about this (long term influencing the behavior of society for the common good) and less arguing about relatively trivial tax/benefit changes that amount to under 1% of government income/expenditure…

Anyway, hope you like the expansion pack :D


Democracy 3, 50% Weekend Sale (Direct+Steam)

So at last all those people complaining that I was literally hitler because Democracy 3, the ultimate political strategy game, was still full price can….. Go grab the game! Currently, and for the next few days, you can grab it at the insane discount of 50% (that’s right, HALF PRICE) both from my own lovingly hand-crafted website here. Or from steam which you will find here. Tell your friends and enemies! Go grab a copy, your country needs you! (Don’t forget the game is DRM-free and comes in Mac Linux & PC varieties.