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

Yes, That was me on ‘the today program’

If you aren’t from the UK, or are not over 30 you might not know what the today program is. It’s the early morning weekday news program on BBC radio 4. It has a lot of listeners, but it’s impact is way bigger than that, because it’s the #1 place that politicians get grilled by journalists, and news stories are often broken by it.

Famously, it’s also used by the captains of british nuclear submarines to detect nuclear war. A sub under radio silence listens for the today program each morning. If it doesn’t hear the program for several days running it assumes the UK has been destroyed.

No I’m not kidding.

Anyway… this morning they were discussing music piracy, but seemed incapable of calling a spade a spade, and kept calling it ‘file-sharing’ instead, which anti-copyright kids think makes it sound cuddly and harmless. So I emailed them, and they read out my email on the air. bwahahahahah. here it is:

I see you have swallowed the anti-copyright crap wholesale. It’s not
‘file-sharing’ its theft, or piracy. Are you now going to call shoplifting
‘food-sharing’? is car theft ‘car-sharing’?
Stop dancing around the issue. File-sharing is theft and the people doing it
should be prosecuted.

Made me feel better :D

Snow and websites

I tweaked the code for the snow effect in Kuos 2 today.  I always was unhappy with it, and wanted it to be better in the new game. The snow used to ‘settle’ a bit in K1, but that effect was always a bit poor. In the new game it looks better, plus I also coded a system that lets me adjust the colors of all sorts of interface bits depending on stuff like whether its snowing which makes the game look much more interesting.

As part of doing all this, I reinstalled Deep Space Nine: The Fallen, a game which I remember had awesome snow effects. It’s an old game, but it’s still quite funny to replay it and see just how poor those effects were. Despite using the unreal engine, their snow looks way worse than mine :D.

I also started thinking about the kudos 2 website today. I want a much better website than my earlier games, but I’m not sure I can justify paying a proper pro web designer to do it, and no pre-made templates seem to fit it at all. I knocked up a test page today, but it took me ages, and looks crap as I have zero web design skills. If anyone can recommend a talented and not uber-expensive web designer, just let me know.

Website fiddling

I’ve been doing some housekeeping on my website this morning. Nothing too thrilling, just redoing the page for StarshipTycoon so it matched the same style as the other pages I recently tidied up. over the years, the site has come to look a bit of a mess. I’m only really happy with the Democracy 1 & 2 and KRL websites tbh.

I found a lot of now dead links to older phpbb forum installs, so they are tidied up now, and thus my server error log is less spammy. In other news, the Mac version of D2 should be ready VERY soon, and Democracy 2 is also now on sales through the new Stardock Impulse system.

I have vague plans to a do a bit of fiddling to Starship Tycoon 2 to improve some of the shoddier bits today and tommorow. It’s something I can do thats relaxing and not too like real work. It’s a really old game, and part of me is seriously considering dropping it to just $5.

Risk Aversion?

It might seem weird for me to worry that I’m too risk Averse. After all, I’m the idiot who bought a bunch of shorted Lead Futures on the stock market without really understanding what it was (up 0.83% today!, still down overall…).

But I think one of my failings as a business person is my risk-aversion. I do not invest a huge amount of my savings into making a game. I *do* spend more on art and sounds and so on than a lot of indie devs I know, but am I *really* doing everything it takes to make the game the best ever? have I spent every penny in the Positech Account on artwork and programming? have I re-mortgaged the house to spend that money on a kick-ass advertising campaign?  Did I have to take out a bank loan to pay for the content creation and professional team of QA and testing staff?

No.

I read a lot of books and stories about businesses that became really successful. It’s amazing how many of them really risked everything to get where they are today. The pattern I often see is that someone is very successful, then rather than cashing the check, they invest it *all* (and then some) into the next level of their business and become stratospherically wealthy.  valve took ALL the money from half Life and invested it in an amazing next gen engine for HL2. George Lucas took ALL his money from American Graffitti (he was a millionaire before SW) and invested it in Star Wars. he then took ALL that and invested it in Empire…

The closest I’ve got to ‘success’ was Democracy & Democracy 2. They both sold pretty well by indie game standards. They made enough for me to work comfortably from home. But did I take all that money and invest it in K2?

No

I *have* spent more on k2 in times and money than any game before now. I *do* plan to spend even more on advertising and QA than ever before, and it is the biggest game-related risk I’ve ever taken, but I won’t be re-mortgaging the house or getting into debt. I even just booked a holiday. Maybe I’m doing the *sensible* thing, but when did sensible ever make someone a millionaire?

Bad few days…

Sadly everything seems to be going wrong lately. Sales have not been at all good, last night I got a parking tiket from the bastard scumbags at Hammersmith & Fulham council for not understanding their cryptic parking explanations, and this morning I realise some sad little thug has kicked the wingmirror off of my car…

Plus my shares I bought are in freefall…

So it’s all a bit pear-shaped right now. There are a few potential pieces of positive news around the corner, such as finishing Kudos 2, getting a Mac release for Democracy 2, and a possible portal release for Democracy 2, and also for a slimmed down version of the game for the casual portals. (more on that when I know it’s happening).

Hopefully next week will go better.