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

Credit Crunch Games

So despite the fact that most economists realise that talk of recessions can easily become self-fulfilling prophecies, it’s hard to avoid the constant discussion of the ‘global economic downturn’ or whatever it’s called this week. Obviously, given my line of business, I’m forced to ask myself “how does this affect games sales?”

Some people would suggest it could be very bad. Games are a leisure activity, and thus are easily cut back. you will stop buying games before you stop buying food, or paying the rent. This would suggest that the wise man would make cheaper games, in order to make the potential buyer think he is getting a bargain, or that the game is so cheap the price isn’t worth worrying about.

I think it might be the opposite. It could be that tough economic times are good for games. Not *all* games, but mine, and here’s why:

1) Games in general are a VERY cost-effective leisure activity. Assume a $22.95 game like Democracy 2. That’s probably a similar cost to buying a DVD which lasts 2 hours, 3 with the extras. Call it 5 if you watch it twice. A decent game will last much longer than that, so in terms of cost-per-hour of leisure, the game pretty much beats the DVD. Compare them to the hourly cost of drinking in a bar, the movies, restaurants, the theater, or pretty much anything but books and TV, and gaming wins out big time.

2) The games I make are simulation/strategy, which tend to have a lot of playtime, and replay value. They aren’t fixed length games with one-shot puzzles, like the hidden object games, or on-rails one-time hollywood style rides such as COD 4. Even if in practice you choose not to keep replaying, the option is there. It’s perceived value that affects sales, and the perceived play time and thus value of my games is high.

3) The credit crunch is terrible for the overpriced PS3, and bad for the XBox, Wii, DS and any blockbuster PC game that requires that you upgrade your hardware. On the flipside, this means there are a lot of gamers who have got used to buying a new console or video card every year who have decided not to do so this time. In other words, there are a lot of people who want low-system-requirement games to play, in order to make full use of existing hardware investments.

Thats ME!

My games are unusual in that they aren’t designed for absolute base level minimum spec. I assume a hardware accelerated video card and 1024 res monitor. I also assume some graphical punch, so I do a lot of overlays and blending, and some particle stuff. In other words, I try to make my games look as good as they can, whilst staying out of the 3D arms race.

Who knows how it will play out? Sales for the last two weeks have been really bad, so maybe I’m just trying to cheer myself up, but I think my logic at leasts makes some sense. What do you think?

Open Source Games

I’m very interested in the idea of making one or more of my games open source. Not the current big sellers, but maybe planetary defense, or Starship Tycoon. I’d be tidying up the source and preparing it this very instant if it were not for one big silly, embarrasing problem…

The hard drive with the source for both games is in a PC that died.

Now yes, theoretically somewhere I have a backup of it all, but how recent? I have no idea. and you would imagine there would be a disk carefully labelled somewhere that has “final retail release source for games” or other cunning description, but I’m just not that organised to be honest.

My motivations for open sourcing a game are 1) to see what people will do with the source and 2) promote my games! I think I might go try and boot the dead beast now. I suspect its a dead PSU and motherboard, and don’t look forward to the nighmare of sticking the old drive as a slave (is that even how it works now) on my vital 100% mission critical vista PC. I may risk it though :D.

Virgins Letters to thieves

This:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/7486743.stm

has got a lot of thieves up in arms. here is a typical comment on the BBC website:

“I think it is just stupid because people cant be bothered 2 buy every cd with there favourite song on because people might not like all the songs they sing”

TOUGH.

Don’t buy it then. Don’t think you are still entitled to have it. Do these people ever pay in restaurants? Or do they only pay for the chips they ate, not the few they left because they were a bit too crispy?

I’m sick of thieves trying to rationalise their actions. this attitude is so widespread now, that I am wondering about what other programming work I could do for a living, after the next game is done. I just don’t see the point of working so hard to make stuff people expect to take for free. it’s soul-destroying…

Cue someone tryinfg to re-define theft to make taking other peoples work for free seem ok…

*sigh*

Imaginary Property!!!111111ONEONEONE

It’s popular amongst anti-copyright dorks to use the phrase ‘imaginary property’ when they are ranting about Intellectual property, usually as some juvenile method to rationalise pirating music, movies and games. Apparently, IP is just ‘imaginary property’, so why should they pay for it?

Lets make a deal, I’ll let you pay for my Imaginary property using that imaginary money in your bank account. Both exist purely as strings of numbers, agreed? But of course, if you don’t think that trivially copied strings of data have any value, please email me your sortcode, account number and bank login details. I’d like to ‘share’ your bank balance. Sharing is caring right?

Website stuff

back in the early days of Positech I made quite a few smaller, lower budget games which you don’t see me actively promote any more. The games still exist though, and some occasionally sell a copy or two.

Because I’ve always developed my own web site, I’ve gone from it looking dire, to less dire, to a lot less dire, to tolerable, as I’ve introduced new games and new mini-sites for them. This means that a lot of the older games still linger on the positech site with crappy designs, older logos and screen-shots, and other badness.

Over the last few days I’ve found some time to revisit those pages and make them look slightly less dire, even slightly consistent, and make sure they link to the main page. I also added some very small text links to them at the bottom of the main page, so they aren’t entirely orphaned any more. I also added a few adwords panels (worth a try!), and dropped the price of my old budget puzzle game thing.

Step into the past with my earlier, cheaper games!

http://www.positech.co.uk/rocky

http://www.positech.co.uk/minefield

http://www.positech.co.uk/planetarydefence