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

Announcing Big Pharma: Marketing & Malpractice

Yay! Its the day when I can announce something we have kept secret, thus making the danger of accidental twitter leakage much lower. Today we announce a groovy expansion pack for Big Pharma called Marketing and Malpractice. Here is the rather groovy video:

And with much more information on the details of what is, and is not in the expansion, check out Tim’s blog post.

If you just want the raw facts, here we go:

Release date: 26th April 2016
Price: $5.99 / £4.79/ €5.99
Platforms: PC, Mac, Linux
Languages supported: English, French, German, Spanish

Democracy 3 represents an ideal, sadly not the reality of politics.

I’m the designer (as regular readers know) of the political strategy game Democracy 3. Its promoted as a ‘political strategy game’, but its not a direct simulation of modern politics, and that, I believe is its strength. Its also very popular worth young people, whereas annoyingly modern politics is not, and that tells a very depressing story.

I’ve been following (from here in the UK) the current US election campaign in all its depressing, worrying, and car-crash-style horror. What I see is nothing to do with politics at all. Nothing. It has way more in common with celebrity gossip and reality TV than it has to do with politics. Let me describe to you what I consider politics to be, just so we are on the same page.

Essentially politics is an argument on two spectrums, Capitalist v Socialist and Conservative v Liberal. The Capitalist v Socialist argument is one of how to arrange an economic model in terms of allocating a societies collective resources, and the extent to which resources & money can be seized from one individual and allocated to another. There are some moral issues bound up in this (Ayn Rand equated capitalism with freedom and there is the counter argument of the basic right to freedom from poverty), but also some simply technical ones, such as ‘how high can we set top tax rates before the tax yield declines?’ or the opposite of ‘how high can social benefits be before we destroy the work incentive’. The Liberal v Conservative argument is basically one of social norms and individual freedoms. Am I free to do whatever I want with my own body, including abortions, same-sex relationships and consumption of drugs? or should society prevent me from such actions? Sometimes the conservative argument gets wrapped up in religious argument, but not always.


There are outliers. I am a capitalist green, something people generally consider an oxymoron, because they equate fighting climate change with state spending, which is bullshit. Regulations on CO2 emissions achieve the same result without the government spending a penny. Anyway…enough of the specific issues. What I am saying is that politics is ‘that kind of stuff’.

What politics is NOT, is the style of a candidates hair, or whether they are faithful to their partner, or if they have children or not, and what those children look like, what grades they got, the size of the candidates hands (and other body parts), a candidates accent, their favorite music, which school they went to, whether or not they can eat a bacon sandwich or if they wear a particular style of tie.

And yet this bullshit is what modern politics has become. I think its a symptom of the idiocracy we live in. if you ask people whether or not a 45p vs 50p tax rate is likely to bring in more government revenue, they will give you a blank look, or regurgitate the last thing they heard a friend say about it. If you ask them if Donald trumps hair is stupid or if Ed Milliband looks normal, they will be full of opinions. They put politics in the same box as ‘dumb shit about celebrities’.

I despise this.


Things are so bad, I honestly favor some sort of minimum awareness testing on the part of voters to qualify to place a vote. What is Trump’s Tax Policy? What is Hilary’s? if you cant even pick them from a line-up why the fuck are you voting? Far too many people vote based on celebrity bullshit, fabricated stories, silliness about hair styles and superficial bullshit. Simply put, those people are not mentally equipped to vote.

Personally, I think Trump is dangerous. I think this because he has no policies. The only policy he has stuck to is his plan to get Mexico to build a wall for him. I want a new garage and demanded that my neighbor build it for me, but they were strangely reluctant. What will trump do if Mexico refuses to pay? bomb them?

You cannot vote for a candidate with no policies. Thats basically just saying ‘do what you like dude’. People should be angry that trump has proven to be extremely racist, sexist and inciting violence, but they should also ask him what the fuck he would do if he was president. There should be policy documents, detailed ones that people can scrutinize themselves.


And this brings me back to my title. Democracy 3 simulates voters who vote purely on the basis of policies and facts. The socialists will vote for you if you provide greater public services and tax the wealthy. They will not vote for you because you have cool hair or can play the saxophone. Democracy 3 is my dream of what politics should, and could be. A sensible, intelligent and above all, an informed debate. We do not have that any more, least of all in the USA. For that reason we should be very, very afraid.

An Englishman in New York

Yay. I went to New York. It was pure sightseeing. I saw times square, and went up the rockafeller tower thing. We rode in yellow cabs and drank ‘coffee’. We laughed at people who thought we were Australian. We got used to saying ’76th and Madison*’, like in the movies. We even saw people filming ‘a new NBC pilot’ in the streets, just like they do in the movies. Also we saw woody allen play jazz. It was cool. I was impressed with the fire hydrants. I was less impressed that in 2016 some hotels employ people as ‘elevator attendants’. I’m a C++ coder, I can handle a fucking button. I also marveled at the insane cost of room service tea, and the intensely groomed nature of pedigree dogs in ‘central park’.

God I miss real trees and hills, and nice views of sheep, and horses. And QUIET.

Its always interesting to see different cultures, partly because as an indie dev, I sell GLOBALLY. Understanding what variety there is among your customers is pretty important. The UK & USA are very different. I saw a hot dog stand with a sign that read ‘If you enjoy your freedom, thank a veteran’, which is interesting, because you would NEVER see that on a burger van in the UK. Which veterans do I thank? all of them? did the Vietnam war secure my freedom? I’m unsure. I’m also confused that a society so obsessed with freedom won’t let me just cross an empty road, and seems to revel in some petty rules, regulations and restrictions. I’m sure the UK seems mad as fuck to New Yorkers too, its just interesting.

Anyway… I probably checked my work email too much for a ‘holiday’ but that’s because I have new DLC for something coming up, new DLC for something else coming up, A new game (D3:Africa), new translations for old games, another new game (Shadowhand), new websites, another new game (Top secret) and probably a dozen other things, including a trip to the European Parliament to talk about Democracy 3. (Cool huh?).

Right now my main concern is how much battery loss my car has experienced while I’m away. Also, must remember which side of the road to drive on, when the car isn’t handling it.

*Given the relative smallness of New York vs coruscant in the star wars prequels, what addresses do they give? “Take me to the Jedi Temple, 445,234th and Madison”. Seems a bit wordy?



GDC 2016 Impressions

No fancy images because…I’m sat on the floor of a convention center tethered to a power socket on my laptop…and its fiddly to write this.

I’m at GDC, in the US of A, doing ‘press stuff’ and hanging out with gamedev buddies. I have the cheap-ass indie pass, so I can only get into a few talks, and I do not qualify for ‘free’ coffee. Whatever…

Frankly, apart from the indie soapbox, which was part awesome, part ‘wtf?’, I haven’t really been drawn to talks anyway. Theoretically I’m here to meet the press, and promote Democracy 3 Africa, but getting decent appointments proved tricky (I guess it sounds like DLC…and its not in VR…so…), so I don’t have *that* many of them. If I had to make a proper business case for flights+hotels+conference pass, it would be very tricky.

The highlights are basically having meals & drinks with fellow indies. There is something about game developers that makes them generally pretty witty, pretty easy-going and friendly. This isn’t true of all professions. I worked on city trading floors once. ahem.

Meeting the press is beneficial, and worth doing, but I also kinda feel weird trying to ‘sell’ to strangers face-to-face. Most devs don’t mind it as much as me, I presume. I do find myself thinking ‘if I broke my leg and couldn’t get to any press meetings, that wouldn’t be so bad right?…’. I guess that’s my very very unpredictable mood-swing introvert side coming out.

For those not here, the news is that Game Development is currently dominated by VR middleware and hipster beards. Those are basically the two major prongs of development right now. VR is BIG here. There is a whole VR ‘track’, which amusingly can only be experienced here, physically in San Fransisco, rather than remotely by tele-presence or VR-gogglez.

I do get an impression there is a lot of denial about the realities of the indiepocalypse. Part of me suspects this GDC is the last desperate roll of the dice for a lot of people who quit their jobs, bought a unity license and some stock art, and expected their first indie game to be a minecraft style blockbuster. It would be fascinating to know what percentage of indie attendees here are running down savings, or more worrying still, increasing debts to friends/family/credit cards. GDC definitely needs more talks like Jake Birketts ‘the no hit wonder’, which injected some typically British downbeat realism into proceedings. Better to be cautious and make a living than over-optimistic and bankrupt.

So..I have 2 press things, 2 meals, 1 party and 1 biz-meeting to go, then its off to detroit (I’d tell you why, but its a secret), and then off to New York, just for sightseeing and fun, before back into mega publishing crunch time. I miss the sight of fields, cows & sheep and trees. And my cats, obv.