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

Gratuitous Space Battles 2 is released RIGHT NOW


Yup, it’s true, the much-awaited sequel to the 200,000+ selling Indie Strategy game Gratuitous Space Battles, is finally on sale. Hurrah! This has taken us twenty months to make, involved a complete redesign and re-engineering of the graphics engine, numerous changes, improvements and fixes, not least the fact that the game now lets you design the look of the ships from scratch AND has steam workshop support, achievements, trading cards and so on. Plus it has one-click easy to use multiple-monitor support, which I HIGHLY recommend. Behold: the cheesy trailer:

The game has been in beta a while, so its hopefully vaguely playable by now! Big thanks to all the beta testers, and of course everybody who worked on the game. You can grab it from a variety of sources, and I’m just going to flat out assume all of their buy links are active right now…so here we go:

Of course the world is a different place now to when GSB1 was released. Who knows how well this one will do? Will anybody like it? One of my biggest fears is people assuming it wont run on their PC. It will! Its actually not *that* demanding. And if you happen to have two monitors you OWE it to yourself to grab it :D. So please do it, help me feed my cats! And if you like the game, PLEASE review it on steam, or wherever you buy it, tweet about it, tell all your friends. And your enemies :D. If you are someone who makes youtube lets-play videos, I hereby give you permission to use the game in your videos, and to monetize those videos, this is fine with me. The more video footage of the game the better. (The battles look much better in motion than as screenshots).

If you want more information / screenshots / wallpaper head over to the official site. Press inquiries welcome to

The blog post the day before release

So lets do this. Lets lay out what I’m thinking / hoping / dreading. And look at how we got here :D. Initially my plan was to do Gratuitous Space Battles 2 as a nice relaxing project after the mental weightlifting and stress of doing Democracy 3, which may look like just a screen with some pretty icons, but is a fiendishly complicated and intricate simulation that is pure HELL to code. Making a nice simple sequel to my space game was sure to be a nice easy ride in comparison, and would relax me.


That was in August 2013, when I first started talking to the spaceship artist about how to do proper 3D-style lighting effects. Here we are 20 months later. It may not seem like it took that long, because it happened alongside some of the Democracy 3 DLC, and I worked on it for *ages* before going public with what I was working on.

Back in the early days, screenshots looked like this.


They look a tad better now :D.

At some point along the development path for the game, things started to balloon out of all possible proportion. I got insanely ambitious with the technical side. I’d never done much multi-threading or multiple-render target stuff before, and fairly limited shaders. Suddenly I was going full-throttle with all that stuff. I bought two 27″ identical monitors purely to test the huge 5160 res possibilities for high-end hardware. I added more and more effects and content, and ended up giving in and hiring people to do a lot of stuff (hulk graphics, sound effects, we design) that I would have previously done myself. The cost went up, and up and up. The game has cost more than double what Democracy 3 cost, and that excludes my time. 20 months work. Yikes.

So here we are. The game is on sale already through my site as a beta but at midnight GMT tomorrow (16:00 PDT) it will go live on steam, humble store and GoG. At some point the next morning, a cheeky little ad campaign will start up to tell the masses about it. I will become loud and annoying on twitter, and become very, very stressed.

Imagine taking no salary for twenty months, putting a big chunk of your savings in with the salary, and rolling a dice. That’s game development, and it is terrifying. Not just for game one, or two, but for game ten, eleven… This is a very very high stakes nerve wracking game, and at some point between midnight tomorrow and whatever time I drag myself to bed I’ll know if I made a good bet or a bad one.

I’m eating lots of chocolate to combat the stress.


Final week of Gratuitous pre-release

If you are not already aware, Gratuitous Space Battles 2 will be released on April 16th, this coming Thursday. This is scary stuff. People who are working on their first indie game may suspect that after you have shipped a dozen of them, you become more relaxed and laid back about it, but absolutely not. It always both exciting AND terrifying. The benefit of having some games ‘under your belt’ is that¬† if the game totally bombs, you can at least know that you *have* made some decent selling games, and thus you don’t feel like a complete failure. However, the downside is, that you have likely scaled up both your production and ambitions, and expectations, so you are setting yourself up for a bigger fall if it flops.


Conventional wisdom in media circles is to never admit to a flop, so you don’t get to read about them, but we have all had them. Gratuitous Tank Battles definitely made a profit, but comparatively, it was a flop. Check out it’s steam spy entry compared with the first gratuitous space battles. (Not accurate data, but you get the idea)…

My plan to make GSB2 a success, apart from the obvious and ‘I think we can assume that’ strategy of ‘making the best game possible’ is basically to minimize reasons for people ‘not’ to buy it.

For example, some people might not buy it because its not in their language, but I’ve hopefully reduced that by translating to French, German, Spanish, Swedish and Dutch. (Others *may* follow). Some people may not buy it because they don’t run windows, but again I hope to eliminate that by porting to Mac & Linux (I *hope* these will be ready by Thursday). Another reason people may give is that they don’t think the game will run on their PC, but I’ve gone to great lengths to both optimize the game big-time, and also include a plethora of graphical options to ensure people can streamline the game down to whatever graphics capabilities their PC supports.


And yet another reason is that people have their preferred store, but I am hopefully mitigating that by being on Steam, GoG, Humble store and direct. The others are too small to be worth the accounting hassle tbh.

Of course, thats all well and good, but the reason 99% of people don’t buy your game is because they don’t know it exists. I am *still* running an ongoing facebook campaign promoting democracy 3, and every few days I see a comment on the ad saying ‘whoah this looks interesting’ and I wonder where on earth these people have been hiding! There are a LOT of people out there.

So with that in mind, I have a big scary ad-campaign budget primed for GSB2. Hopefully you will see an ad somewhere, if you are vaguely in the target demographic.¬† And don’t email saying ‘why not advertise with us’. I’m more aware of ad opportunities than most. If I didn’t email you, I’m not choosing that as an ad option thanks :D


Supporting modded content

Supporting mods is normally pretty easy, especially if you have your data left pretty open. The place it gets tricky for GSB2 is online challenges. People post their fleet to other players as a challenge, and this works great when the only content in your challenge is content you *know* the other player has on their hard drive, but the minute you allow modding it gets kinda complex.

It’s pretty late in GSB2’s development for me to realize (less than two weeks from release) that the way I was handling it was not actually working, so yesterday I had to go back to the drawing board, and I have high hopes it will be cracked by the end of the day, especially regarding the most likely form of modding, which is extra hulls, modules and ship components (visuals).

When people posted a challenge in GSB1, it was just a binary GSB file. I had a really rubbish system where the player had to tick boxes when issuing a challenge saying what extra DLC content might be included. In fairness, the game did actually check on launching a challenge and warn people if they needed extra content, but it really did kinda suck.

With GSB2 I’m improving this. I hacked the mod-content code last night so it told each piece of moddable content (module/component/hull) what mod is came with. The base game has been designated as just another mod, which makes this nice and easy. Then, when I post a challenge, the game can scan through every ships hull, module and component and make up a list of all the content packs required, which in 99% of cases will be just the base game. In then sticks that in the header file for the challenge.

Theoretically I can parse that file on the server and store it in a database, and thus show a player what content requires mods and what doesn’t. Also theoretically I can direct them to the download page for that mod. In an ideal world, I’d break mods apart automatically upon submission and handle the file delivery along with the challenge, so you would magically get any extra required content. The bandwidth requirements there might be a pain, and this is all fantasy work for after release.

But I am at least confident that I will release with a system that at least lets people put together mods, and use them within challenges without any confusion or random crashing. Worst case situation is a popup on a challenge saying “sorry, this requires the ‘l33t ship hulls mod’ and you don’t have it yet!”. That will just be phase one.

GSB2 had a superb modding scene, and I want to be supporting that in GSB2 from day one. I suspect the ship design steam workshop submission stuff will help get people interested in the mod scene better, and the integration of a mod control panel will also make mod management a lot easier.