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

Some thoughts on the evil that is… *comments*

I think a lot about how I think. I’m ridiculously obsessed with this topic, and it kinda screws up my brain. I often have no idea what I think, or what I want, because I am so busy over-analyzing my decisions. Back when I was super into marketing, I read a fuckton of books about decision making and influence, to see what makes people decide to play, or click or buy. I probably got a bit too into it, because now I find it hard to just *want* a thing and then just *buy* it, without analyzing if I really need it or if its irresponsible, or if its good value, yada yada…

Anyway, despite that annoyance, it does yield some benefits in terms of me noticing changes in my own behavior and my attitudes over the years. One of the more weird things I have noticed is how successfully silicon valley billionaires have persuaded me to think differently about information.

Back in the pre-internet days, I would read a book or a newspaper, and think about what it said. I would turn the topic over in my mind, dwell on the facts, or the arguments made, consider how persuasive they were, or were not, and think about how this new opinion/commentary/information could improve my life in some minor way. Maybe I just read something about physics. Now I know a bit more about physics! maybe an opinion piece on tax rates…now I have a more refined sense of my own views on tax rates… whatever.

I think the important thing here is…the time. The actual reading of new information is only the gateway into learning from/absorbing it. If what you read is good, it will stimulate a lot of thought. Some reflection on what the deeper implications are, maybe discovering links to other views or information in related areas. You have *improved* from reading the information, but also mostly from the post-reading consideration and analysis of it.

Say for example you read ‘the communist party manifesto’ by Karl marx/Engels or ‘Capitalism’ by ayn rand. (FWIW I’ve read both! … sort of, got bored with 2nd one) You probably get triggered by the opinions in one or the other of these books, maybe really angry, maybe you think those views cannot hold up to scrutiny etc… But left alone with a paper book, you cannot *react*, you have to consider. You have to analyze, you have to allow deeper thought, and reflection.

But not now.

Now we read everything online, and even if there are NO comments on the article we read, you can bet a site like slashdot/hackernews/reddit/facebook is where we saw the link, and there will be tons of comments for us to join in with there.

There is now NO TIME set aside for considering what is being read. You MUST comment. You MUST read other peoples comments. I feel it too, this is not me being superior, I feel that pull too. I have read something that I have an instant opinion on. I MUST SHARE MY HOT TAKE IMMEDIATELY. In many cases, who really needs to RTFA (read the fucking article) when you can post your half-baked instant reaction simply to the buzzwords in the headline. Do NOT think, COMMENT!

Someone Is Wrong On The Internet. - Pellet On Pellet - Field Target

Of course this is bad, because it means 5% of what we read is thought-out and researched, and considered, and 95% is hot-takes responding to (if we are lucky) the content of the article. I wish there was a way to auto-track how much of what I read is journalism vs random strangers reactions to journalism. I suspect the ratio is very worrying. (BTW I am not elevating ‘journalists’ here, I am referring to any considered, thought-out piece of writing, and actual *article* instead of a single-paragraph hot take).

Much of what is true feels wrong. We tend to overlook this, but some thought shows it to be true. Here are some things that I am led to believe to be true, but which I subconsciously suspect must be wrong, intuitively.

  • The Earth is a sphere.
  • Aeroplanes, made of metal (which is heavy), can fly.
  • Quantum entanglement is a thing.
  • You can raise a tax rate, and then take in less money from that tax.
  • The earth is hurtling through space at an incredible speed.

If I was not aware of any of these things, and saw them posted on the internet, I would likely have to fight an immediate urge to respond with my ‘hot take’. “FFS metal is HEAVY, no special shape, or strapping it to an engine will make it fly like a bird. Have you ever SEEN a bird? the article is clearly BS. This so-called aeroplane doesn’t even flap its wings FFS. what bullshit. Downvote.

Exaggeration for hilarious comic effect indeed. But there is a nugget of truth here. We have been conditioned, by the clickbait seeking engagement-time metric maximising billionaires of silicon valley, to ENGAGE with content, but not to critically consider it, or appraise it. That 95% vs 5% metric is why this is the case. There are simply not enough ad-views generated by reading a single article, but if we can twist that into a 50-page comment thread where people post hot takes, we can get hundreds of ad views of ‘engagement’ for the cost of a single piece of clickbait!

Comments are sometimes good, and the point. A forum about a video game where people share feedback or discuss strategies. and make suggestions is good. Thats a deliberate decision to set up a forum to discuss a topic, but comments on the news are often cancerous and awful. Facebook, Reddit, Slashdot and the rest provide ZERO actual content, they just link to other people’s work, and then monetize peoples hot takes, with a built-in voting system to encourage partisanship and arguments. People get so invested in the comments, they forget what the article was about. The article was the hand-grenade thrown into the room by silicon valley so they can monetize the bloodbath it generates.

We should fight the urge to comment on everything we see. I struggle with this every day. You can never know the pain I suffer of reading an article suggesting hydrogen powered cars make sense, or that writing your own game engine is pointless. *must resist*. Yet I think its better if we all do so. Do not comment. blog your own rebuttal. Think about it. put the effort in. Generate real content, not hot takes.

The super-helpful 2020 indie games company costs breakdown smorgasbord

In a continuing war with the patronizing wordpress ‘headline clickbait analyzer, I tried using smorgasbord to rate as an uncommon word…but no joy. Enjoy this non-clikbait post I guess…

How much does it cost to run a one-man indie game studio in the UK? What are all those costs that you don’t think about? I have no idea! but I can tell you what it costs to run positech games, if that’s interesting? Lets assume so:

WEB HOSTING

I have a dedicated server with liquidweb. Its possibly overkill, but it runs this blog, a lot of back-end stats reporting stuff and the challenges system for gratuitous space battles, the web pages for a handful of different domains and about a dozen games. Its also handy as a ftp-drop for sending stuff to people without worrying about dropbox accounts/limits/costs etc. The cost of this is $219 / month. A dedicated server is l33t because I can reboot it at will, install any version of php or whatever I want, and I’m not at the mercy of sharing a physical box with someone else.

ACCOUNTANT

I have a proper Limited Company, and its hellish without an accountant if you deal with VAT and multiple currencies, and multiple banks accounts and business investments etc…so I have an accountant in the UK that charges me roughly $135 / month. They are more like bookkeepers than accountants, as I handle my own VAT and don’t do any clever tax avoidance/offshore nonsense.

MAILING LIST

I use ymlp to maintain a small mailing list of about 10,000 people. I send one email a month and this costs me about $30/month. This means I don’t have to worry about my domain being seen as spam, and they can handle opt-in and unsubscribe handling etc. Not 100% sure its good value for money, always hovering on cancelling.

COMPANIES HOUSE

To have a limited-liability company in the UK you have to pay an annual registration fee. Worked out on a monthly basis its just $1.40/month.

APPLE DEVELOPER FEES

To sell games on apples store, and some other stuff, you need to pay them money (WTF?) looks like in the last 12 months I’ve paid them roughly $7/month for this honor.

ANTI-VIRUS SUBSCRIPTION

Do not risk being without it. I use malwarebytes paid version, works out at $3.25/month.

BACKUP SOFTWARE SUBSCRIPTION

Again, don’t risk it. I use carbonite, and it works out at $6/month.

BANK SOFTWARE

I use quickfile, to do automated tax-payments and access bank accounts remotely. It costs me about $5/month.

INTERNET ACCESS

I have fiber-to-the-premises (140 mbps down, 30 up) and a landline phone (I know old people!) and monthly this costs me a whopping $80/month.

Everything else I can think of is one-off payments for equipment, like a new PC or whatever, and project-specific stuff like PR or marketing/advertising budgets, or obviously what it costs me to hire people to do art/music/code and so on. But these are the current ‘fixed costs’ of positech. A summary:

Web Hosting $  219.0045.00%
Accountant $  135.0027.74%
Mailing List $    30.006.16%
Companies House $       1.400.29%
Apple $       7.001.44%
Antivirus $       3.250.67%
Backup $       6.001.23%
Banking $       5.001.03%
Internet $    80.0016.44%
 $  486.65

Now I actually write it all out, it seems like quite a lot. Almost $500 to just exist, without eating or paying any other bills, or hiring anyone to do anything.

Democracy 4 gets awesome new update, and coming soon on steam.

You will be excited to know that wordpresses automatic clickbait generator rates that headline as 73/100 because of the ‘power word’ *new*. I get points for the ‘uncommon’ word *awesome* too. Is this really human civilisation at its peak?

anyway…

I’ve just updated Democracy 4 to build 1.09 (still in alpha from our website here BTW), and there is a huge list of 31 official fixes plus some minor stuff I didn’t bother mentioning like grammar fixes (thanks ginny). The fixes are many and various but a lot of them are balance tweaks to make the game a bit harder, and various extra links between items have been added, and a bunch of equations adjusted.

I should probably call out the fact that prt sc key on your keyboard now drops a png format screenshot inside

\my documents\my games\democracy4\screenshots.

In fact it bugs me a bit that often you have to ask about a game with ‘how do I print or copy a screenshot in X’ where we all have a button that basically says SCREENSHOT BUTTON right there in our faces on the keyboard… bah. Plus its 2020 and hard drives/internet speeds are awesome, so screw lossy jpgs, I’m saving stuff as pngs :D.

For anybody unsure, the game checks once a day (if you run it obviously) to see if there is a new version, then pops up a box to tell you, and tells you what’s in this version, but then you have to go the humble bundle link and re-grab the installer and re-run it over the top. If you need your link resent, you can do that here. (be warned, sometimes they go in ‘spam’ or ‘promotions’.

oh dear…

I have exciting news in that yes, we now have a listing on steam, and so its officially coming to steam on the 6th October. If you think that’s really soon then *gulp* so do I, but I like deadlines :D. Obviously that’s EARLY ACCESS, not the final game release. So much more work to be done before then… although I expect that by that date we will have a bunch more countries in the game, even if its all still in English at that point.

So anyway… wishlists are a thing, and more important than you think because steam apparently takes the number of wishlists into account in promoting new games, so its super-helpful to have people who are interested in the game wishlisting it in advance. You can do that using this handy little widget below this text here…

Exciting stuff :D. The trouble is there is discussion among indie devs as to how many wish lists you need to get promotion for your game. Some people say 5k minimum, 20k awesome. Others say 50k minimum. That sounds like a lot. I have no idea how things will go in the mere four weeks between now and my steam release, but I’m hoping for a shot at 20k anyway.

This means I now have a new thing to check and obsess over EVERY DAY as part of my job, as though steam sales / direct sales / stock market / exchange rate / ad performance / youtube views were not already enough! Luckily I have a monitor that can keep 64 spreadsheets on the screen at the same time, so I guess that’s just fine :D