Monthly Archives: September 2018

Hi all. This is a reminder that on Thursday-Sunday this week, Positech Games will be at the EGX games show in Birmingham, England. I will only be there Friday-Sunday, but the booth will be manned by suitable experts :D Come say hi!

Youtubers most welcome, I am always happy to give thrilling interviews for anybodies channel. I even have a silly hat to wear while I do it.

We will have a nice happy booth with 2 PCs running the latest build of Production Line, comfy leather cube seating, a whole pile of leaflets, stickers and badges, maybe some silly little toy robots to decorate it with. Come tell me all the design decisions I have made wrong. Oh and obviously if you are from the games media, email me at cliff AT positech dot co dot uk if you want to arrange a specific time and place for an interview. We love that sort of thing.

If I look grumpy, have sympathy. Its not my natural environment. I’m more scared of you than you are of me :D


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Not of interest to many, but I made a little demonstration video (using Production Line) to show how I can check out the concurrency of threads in the game using Intels VTune software. Enjoy:

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Announcing Democracy 4

September 14, 2018 | Filed under: business | democracy 4

Development has started on Democracy 4, the latest iteration of the political strategy game by Positech Games. Democracy 3 was released in 2013 and…quite a lot has happened in global politics since then, which we hope to reflect in the new version. We are still very early in the development of the game, so are not ready to show anything yet, but here are the answers to some expected questions:

Lead programmer and Lead Designer on Democracy 4 will be Jeff Sheen from Stargazy Studios, who also designed Democracy 3:Africa and worked on the Unicode port of Democracy 3 recently to allow support for Russian & Chinese translations. Cliff will help with design & testing and will be producer.

Democracy 4 will incorporate the extra features introduced in Democracy 3 Africa, which simulated corruption, limits to press freedom and other political phenomena from the extremes which are starting to become more common in western politics since the release of Democracy 3.

The game will be completely updated to reflect modern issues, so no more worrying about the ‘V’ chip and other long forgotten issues, and more worrying about fake-news, social media, and other social phenomena driving politics in 2018 onwards.

The release date is ‘some time in 2019’ and we expect to offer an early-access / playable alpha version to players before the games final release. Target platforms are PC, OSX and Linux.

The plan is to roll content from the existing 4 expansion packs (Extremism, Social Engineering, Clones & Drones and Electioneering) into Democracy 4 where appropriate and relevant to provide a single version of the game.

More details coming over the next few months :D

I was never convinced that the cars in Production line looked shiny enough. The average car on the average street looks…ok, but when a car is BRAND NEW, they look insanely polished and shiny, and I think that we were not achieving that in the game until recently.

Some messing around with re-rendering off images, and some adjustment of shaders and some code has allowed me to produce the following images, which I’m happy with, although I may end up toning them down ‘a bit’. (its a shader where I can easily adjust the strength downwards a bit).

Exhibit A is a car that is still being assembled. Structural bits are matte, and the final external panels are a bit shiny, because they are brand new shiny steel/aluminium:

Exhibit B is a car that has received an undercoat. Currently this is way too dark, so I’ll be adjusting that to be much lighter:

Exhibit C is a car with its final coat of colored paint. This is a standard car:

Exhibit D is a car that has had the ‘polished paintwork’ feature researched and applied to it, so it looks extra shiny:

I may adjust these a bit, depending on feedback. Interestingly I asked a lot of people for their opinions and although a lot of people on twitter preferred an unglossy look, the players of the game on my facebook page tended to prefer a more glossy look, so obviously those people are my priority. I also still intend to maintain the ‘glossy cars’ option so players can just toggle off the shader entirely if they dont like it. The cars will still look a bit glossy, because its baked into the textures, but it wwill tend towards the look of the undecorated cars (matte) rather than the glossy or super glossy.

Open top sports cars with gold plated wheels are going to look super over the top :D. (and they should be for the price).


September 08, 2018 | Filed under: business | democracy3

Democracy is the game I’m best known for. Its the ONLY game I have made three versions of. The very first version was released back before the invention of color television when I was really young. Winston Churchill gave it decent reviews, and the rest is history. It remains my best-selling game to-date, and the one that has got me by far the most press attention, as you would expect given the subject matter and title. The list of weird offers and proposals and deals I have discussed with people over the years (including foreign governments and military institutions) has provided me with enough interesting anecdotes to compensate for my inherent boringness. Its been a fun ride.

Because Democracy 3 was built on Democracy 2, which was built on Democracy 1… there were some coding decisions made right at the start that effectively bit me in the backside years later. The most obvious two were the dependence on directx9 (meaning no cross platform capability) and the development in ASCII (well… MBCS) instead of Unicode. The game was incredibly popular, so not having mac or ipad or linux versions AND not being able to do a Chinese / Russian version was kinda silly and had to be fixed eventually.

With this in mind, I hired people to make a mac port of the game, and for a long time we had linux and OSX versions, even eventually ipad versions of the game. They make up about 10% of revenue (9% mac, 1% Linux), and definitely have paid for themselves over the long run (although I was sceptical at the start. The linux build existed purely as a humble-bundle price-of-admission at the time). The ipad build is *sub optimal*, due to the RAM limitations in the device, but still, it has turned out to be profitable in the long run.

A while ago now, I decided that it made sense to bite the bullet and have the game translated into Unicode, which would allow for non-western character sets, and thus Chinese and Russian support. Who could resist the opportunity to bring Democracy to Russia and China right? After all, as  Spock explains in Star Trek 6: “Only cliffski could go to china”. I HATE middleware, and hate compiler/development environment bullshit, so I had always avoided it, so it wasn’t until Jeff Sheen (Stargazy studios) offered to handle it, that I actually got around to making it happen.

The next part of this story contains so much grief, hassle, WTF moments and ‘how the hell is this even possible’ mini-stories that it is surely worthy of a Klingon opera, or a Netflix miniseries. The short version is that yes, its 2018 and still if you want to code a game and have it seamlessly support Unicode for both display and text entry, and support every possible language known to man AND also run on really old hardware (which often blatantly LIES about its capabilities…) then you are in for a world of pain. A lot of games *claim* to support Chinese and Russian character sets, but they are not doing so fully, they just create a huge sprite-sheet of the few characters they use, and dont allow for modding or user input. Modding is a huge part of Democracy 3 and we wanted to do it properly.

So anyway… today is the day I am declaring that yup.. its done. Finished. Finito. DONEZO, Completahontas maximus rex. IT.IS.DONE. TYhe updates to Democracy 3 we sneaked out (purely Unicode-related bugfixes) last week are the final ones. Development on Democracy 3 is FINISHED. After 4 expansion packs (Social Engineering, Extremism, Clones & Drones and Electioneering), Ports to Ipad, Linux and OSX, and translation into a long list of languages…we are done. I’m sure that it still crashes or wont run for 0.1% of potential players (which is actually a lot for a game that popular), but at a certain point, you just have to accept that PCs are VERY variable, and you will never have 100% compatibility.

Now you might think that with everything that is happening politically in the world right now, surely this would be a good time to be working on a political game, not a good time to finish working on one.

And I say to you people who think this… follow me on twitter or bookmark this blog :D.