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

Stability == productivity

I have had to update and change a few things lately, and will be changing a few more things, and it leads me to use on the fact that I generally do NOT change things and how that is *a good thing*.

Due to changes to the pricing of cpanel, my server (yes for historical reasons I still have a dedicated physical server for all my sites) has to switch to a different physical box, and that means a lot of checking, and fiddling with hosts files, and rechecking, and panicking about php and so on…

Also recently my company bank changed their user interface and made a total and utter hash of it, that has caused me no end of admin hiccups and annoyances getting everything to work fluidly again…

…and me and Jeff (co-coder on Democracy 4) will shortly be switching to use git, as a mutually agreed source control system. This will cue no end of gnashing of my teeth and moaning that I don’t know how it works…until I get the hang of it.

In general I have found that from a productivity POV, change is BAD. It is REALLY bad, and you don’t realize how bad it is until you have gone multiple years without changing anything. Production Line is developed with my same trusty engine as years ago, in directx9, with visual C++ 2013, perforce for source control, visual assist, and nothing else changed for years other than my monitor, and my PC a few years ago. I use the same sound engine middle-ware as I use for most of my games, without change, and no other middle-ware at all.

…not quite THIS old…

With a certain level of code experience, and a rock-solid stable setup that *never changes*, making video games i actually kinda EASY. Its just typing. Literally just typing. I started typing for fun around age 8, so you would be amazed how stupidly fast i type now. My wife thinks I’m being sarcastic when she hears me typing but thats the real speed.

When I hear people talking about how an (unwanted) update to their middle-ware has broken their game, or how upgrading to a new O/S or maybe a new dev environment has lost them a day (or more), I just wince. Thats totally unnecessary pain. You do NOT need to port your code to the latest engine, or the latest operating system version, or the latest API. Unless you are working on the frostbite engine, this stuff should not bother you.

I don’t have a vulcan API path for my games, in the same way I don’t have a ‘mantle’ code path either. Why would I? Why would I even use directx 10, let alone 11 or 12. I make isometric strategy games or iconic top-down games. I don’t need ‘ambient occlusion’ or ‘subsurface scattering’. I’m not 100% sure what they are.

has that much really changed?

Nobody will buy your game because it uses the latest API, or because it uses some cool graphical feature (unless…frostbite). Nobody will buy your game because you developed it on the latest IDE, or using the newest coolest system. And your in-house productivity tools? did you change those too? did you start using slack? why?

I chat to Jeff using skype or *gasp* email. When I work on spreadsheets I use Microsoft office, the old school purchased version from 2010. Tell me what features are in the new cloud-based tools that you NEED to make better games… BTW my software subscription cost is trivial, just malwarebytes and….oh thats it.

So my top tip from an old grizzled but stupidly productive game dev… Find a dev environment that works *for you* and then look at changing it maybe once a decade. If you HAVE to. That goes for everything. Get a decent office chair and you will have it for a decade. Get a decent keyboard and you will have it for ages. Don’t change anything, don’t install anything, don’t even move anything, just TYPE :D

8 thoughts on Stability == productivity

  1. The thing I don’t like about 3D is it takes so much effort to learn and maintain those skills, yet any game an indie could make with it looks ugly, because they can’t afford AAA art. Even if they could afford the art, 3D games age rapidly while 2D does not. I could never understand why companies that made brilliant 2D games in the late 1990s insisted on switching to 3D. The excuses they all gave was 3D is more productive for their art pipeline, or we can’t compete unless we follow the industry, yet all of them went out of business not long after the change. Dumb.

    I used to enjoy Windows but came to despise it since it runs slower and slower each year. So I left for Unix and am enjoying computing again since it responds instantly, and you can find very simple tools that also respond instantly. I’m still not getting any work done, as my problem has always been ideas. lol

    Is PewDiePie reading your blog, or is quitting social media the new Zietgiest, because he just quit Twitter!

    1. If you have to ask about why dev’s switched from 2D to 3D in the 90’s, you must have barely been alive then! :D

      I would put it as going from a B&W mono TV to colour stereo TV, it was the latest and it was mostly great… and no looking back… that’s just how it was… the opposite of what happened to .. ha FMV!

      looks ugly? ages rapidly? that’s the nonsense that gets repeated on youtube or reddit…
      A true comparison of early 3D games would be to early 2D games, ie pong and atari2600 and hey guess what.. do they look ugly? and aged rapidly?

      “The excuses they all gave was 3D is more productive for their art pipeline” really??? who ever said that? .. 90’s 3D pipelines were hell.

      Given a long enough time line, 99.999% of all businesses will be merged or gone.

      2D is 3D math, unless you’re blitting pixels ;)

      Social media has had an obvious negative effects, for many years now, especially on the youth… it’s designed for addiction and conflict, it’s not new or NEWS.

      1. All the 3D games from the 1990s look horrible. All the 3D games from the 2000s are an eye sore too. Pretty much any 3D game that isn’t current year looks terrible. Yet I can play Baldurs Gate from the 1990s and it still looks great. It might be different now they are approaching the photo realism singularity.

        Basically 3D fans to me are the equivalent of low brow sports fans who get drunk watching the football every weekend. AAA 3D games look good in the current year, but they spend so much time and effort on how they look, that they can’t afford to add content that would challenge anyone with an IQ over room temp.

        “looks ugly? ages rapidly? that’s the nonsense that gets repeated on youtube or reddit…”

        Sounds like customers saying what game makers don’t want to hear. Devs should listen to their customers, as it will save them going out of business every 5 years. lol

        “A true comparison of early 3D games would be to early 2D games, ie pong and atari2600 and hey guess what.. do they look ugly? and aged rapidly?”

        Hey you are talking to the wrong guy here. I went back to 1970s Unix tech, because it responds faster and is infinitely more customisable than the treacle software that is made by Microsoft today. Coin-op Space Invaders looks just as good today, as it did back when I was a kid. The Atari Space Invaders was always ugly. It was a cheap knock-off written to work on a machine that wasn’t designed for it.

        ““The excuses they all gave was 3D is more productive for their art pipeline” really??? who ever said that? .. 90’s 3D pipelines were hell.”

        Thats what they told us *before* they did it and then went broke. I guess making things super complex didn’t pan out for them in any way, in that they had a really bad time and it ruined their businesses.

        “Given a long enough time line, 99.999% of all businesses will be merged or gone.”

        Sounds like an excuse made by a poor businessman.

        Another mantra they would repeat in that era and still do: The only way to survive is to get bigger and bigger. That meant bigger budgets for the games, bigger staff numbers, and dumping their existing customers to make games for the lowest common denominator.

        So if 3D is so productive, why did the budgets keep going into the stratosphere, and all these companies with smart people lose their investors’ money? 3D was supposed to be more productive, so it should have saved them a lot of time and money instead it killed them.


        I think the game makers who get into 3D do so, because they want to work really hard and be seen as super important, but they are doing it as a way to avoid the reality that they are in a creative business but are not creative.

        School kids do similar when they have to do assignments, or prepare for exams. Suddenly they are interested in doing anything, (like organizing files, or doing house work), but what they should actually be doing.

        I know how they feel. I’ve done it too. lol

        “Social media has had an obvious negative effects, for many years now, especially on the youth… it’s designed for addiction and conflict, it’s not new or NEWS.”

        Social media is PewDiePies *only way of making a living*. That would be like Cliffski saying he’s quitting making games saying that they are harmful. That is NEWS.

        1. I should also add that I didn’t understand at the time why they went from games like Baldurs Gate that looked pretty, to the ugly 3D things in the 1990s and early 2000s. It was a giant step backward in aesthetics. They told us dumb rubes at the time that 3D was better in every way, so we’d just have to like it or lump it, but the Emperor had no clothes.

          1. A lot of bad faith arguments against 3D here.

            The only 3D games that badly aged are either games trying to be photorealistic, or games with a dated aesthetic.

            Jet Set Radio is still a beautiful game today:
            So is Ikaruga.
            StarTopia is still pleasant to look at.
            Minecraft is already ten years old and no one questions its aesthetic anymore. Pretty much every space fight game hasn’t gotten old at all (not requiring animations and terrain helps a lot). In general, games that don’t require animations age better.
            Will this ever get old?:

            Also 3D is more scalable: playing the original Baldur’s Gate in 1080p is simply impossible, only games that heavily use vectorized graphics can stand the test of time, that’s why Eric Chahi often re-releases Another World (which was displaying polygons at runtime), but will never redo Heart of Darkness (because it was all prerendered, redoing it isn’t affordable). Doing a hi-def 2D game in the modern day requires more and more memory for textures…

            Also being productive in 3D depends a lot on your tools: see how the Quake mapping scene has exploded since the release of TrenchBroom, a much more user-friendly user editor. (Unfortunately Quake is one of the games that are ugly now to look at now…)


            I agree with pretty much everything in the blog post, except I’m skeptical about switching to Git, on the other hand, Perforce wasn’t great either in my experience so… You’ll see for yourself :p

        2. “So if 3D is so productive”, I don’t know where you got this from or who said that?
          3D was and still is hard, it wasn’t about being “productive”, but producing hits or something relevant with the times… because if it was 2D, it was an instant budget game, at least on 3D consoles anyway.

          You can’t really compare the gameplay of a PSX 3D car racing game to any 2D racing game, there’s no equivalence to a DOS 3D FPS in 2D, or Mario64 in 2D, 3D was and still is a big deal because it’s more gameplay and more depth!

          “horrible”, “eye sore” well that’s your very “low brow” opinion, personally, I’ve always been fascinated with low poly and pixeled textures, but it was cutting edge at the time, and something 20 years late, most “indies” still don’t know or care to know how it was done!, because script engines? :D

          Re social media, the correct analogy with cliffisky, would be him not publishing on steam, epic or consoles, but he would still making games, only self publishing via the web or even side loading via consoles… his audience still get his product, ie like alex jones, etc.

  2. I used to get kind of anxious to always have the last upgrade of a new tool, for some dumb reason I thought that my productivity would increase with all the new bells and whistles.

    Unless is critical is not really worth it losing one day of work installing everything and then have the uncertainty if nothing is going to break.

  3. If you’re switching to git then I suggest you make a local copy of your code base before you do any commands until you get used to it.
    It’s the c++ of source control. Enough power to blow your whole leg off if you’re not careful ;-)
    I do like git a lot but it is very easy to make a mistake

Comments are currently closed.