Category Archives: democracy3

THE END OF DEMOCRACY? OR? …

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.

 

…So I ended up concluding that rolling those two bits of GUI together was not unanimously a good idea, but I think changing the car design one so those horizontal tabs became left hand side list items is a bit of a no-brainer so I did that:

I’m currently working on supporting toggling slot upgrades to be on or off, to allow more player control. I’m in a bit of a ‘usability’ mode where I’m making the game easier to use, and more welcoming, because its easy to get caught up into an Early-Access vortex where all you think about is expanding the game for people who already know how to play it.

However, that doesn’t mean that I am *not* planning a lot of expansion. I have some more music on order (yay!) and am getting all those untranslated strings sorted so that its a smooth translated experience in French, German and Spanish. I’ve also got some more artwork coming probably in the new year, for stuff like making your own air bags, some new machinery to make slots more distinctive, new animations, and some components like chrome and wood to make plush luxury interiors (plus cabin lighting!).

Basically Production line seems to be going quite well, which is just as well as I have lots of other stuff making demands on my time, mostly Shadowhand and Democracy 3 unicode. We have some teething problems with the windows build of Democracy 3 unicode, in that some fonts are not displaying right. We are aware of this and desperately trying to fix it ASAP, although the earlier build is now available as a steam beta option. We already have some thumbs up reviews in Chinese, which I take as a good sign, and hope to have an official press-release about Chinese Democracy soon :D

Shadowhand has been announced to the world recently, and will ship on the 7th December on Steam, GoG and the Humble store (oops…must set that up…) We have been promoting the game a bit on youtube, reddit and facebook, and our wishlists are thundering higher and higher. The more I play the game, and read peoples comments on it, the more confident I am that its going to do well. If you are wondering what I’m on about, you should go check out the game from the link below…

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The Democracy 3 unicode post. Oh yes

September 18, 2017 | Filed under: democracy3

Right then…here goes…

A while ago, we decided that what we really needed to do was translate our biggest selling game (Democracy 3) into Chinese and Russian, and also probably some other languages too. This probably sounds easy but its not, because Chinese and Russian and other fancy languages use non-ASCII characters, so we had to translate the games engine to use unicode instead of ASCII. In theory this is easy, in practice not, especially because there are a LOT of Chinese characters, and you cant just whack em all in a phat bitmap like you do with western characters. This means a lot of assing-around which was all done by jeff from stargazy studios (of Democracy 3 Africa fame) who is my able assistant in such matters.

Anyway, the ups and downs of this process are enough to write a major opera over, but suffice it to say, we think its actually done now. As a test, we are dipping our toe in the water by releasing just now (OMG!) a new beta build of Democracy 3 on steam. (Windows only, steam only right now). If you right click the games icon/name and select betas there is a no-password beta to opt in to this version. This version will only be served to you if your steam language is set to English (we will be changing this…), but it now gives you the ability to change language in the game and select from:

English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Chinese.

You can do this under the options screen in a new drop down box. You can then enjoy wonderful screens like this:

And this:

Which excite me more than they should.

In practice what this means is we will be able to simultaneously support a bunch of new languages AND get rid of the silliness of separate builds for German French and Polish (WTF were we thinking…?). It also means we have some cool new rendering etch built into the engine which we have secret plans for…

ANYWAY… If you are an English speaker who also happens to be fluent in one or more (or even none!) of the above languages, and have Democracy 3 on steam, and feel like opting in to the beta and giving it a spin, we would really like to know what you think. Ideally you cannot tell ANY DIFFERENCE to how the game used to be (although perhaps the text is crisper). All we are really worried about is if it just fails or bugs-out on certain video cards. Any feedback is welcome!

Its so shocking that I’m posting about Democracy 3 again isn’t it? Next thing you know I’ll be telling you we have a release date for shadowhand :D

 

Wow, fifteen video blogs. Its amazing how I have found the time. Also you note that my physical appearance deteriorates with each blog. I must remember to shave and wash my hair one week. Anyway, enough of that, my blog readers come for Production Line updates, not men’s grooming tips!. Here is the latest video blog:

Its safe to say that pre-orders have exceeded my expectations. You people seem to like this game! I keep checking that there hasn’t been some big news article on it, and no! its just word of mouth and some cool youtube videos. I’m working my way through a seemingly never ending list fo fixes, tweaks and suggestions, and trying to patch the game only when I have patched something that is embarrassing enough that it pains me to think of people playing without that fix! I’ll try to slow down the release schedule and have fewer, bigger updates, as that means less time spending doing and checking builds and more time spent actually developing fixes and improvements.

The full 1.03 fix list is this:

[version alpha  1.03]
1) Click-dragging on a slot to build a conveyor or a production line no longer launches the details window for the slot.
2) Fixed bug where the wrong entry was deleted on supply stockpile contents lists if the scrollbar had moved.
3) In game settings menu now pauses game, and some other menus now pause and resume previous speed when closed.
4) Facility and slot placer GUI now postpone the autosave kicking in to avoid corrupt saves.
5) Fixed crash bug with loading large save games.
6) New resource route highlight GUI for when you select a slot that has a resource stockpile.
7) Fixes to resource routing to recover from cases where resources-in-progress cannot get to their destination.
8) Fixed anomalies with slot details window not refreshing accurately.
9) Clicking a resource importer no longer shows a slot details window.
10) Checkbox now has a visible tick.
11) Fixed bug where time would pass when game was in alt-tab mode.
12) Fixed missing sales data for games with over 2,000 sold cars.

6) and 7) are the big ones, which solve a lot of issues, along with those save game fixes. I’m going to try and pack a whole bunch of tiny GUI improvements and fixes into the next patch.

Also worth mentioning we have a sale on right now for political animals, 40% off on steam here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/458630/

I know politics in the US has got very newsworthy lately. In the past when political events happen I have tended to run some satirical promotion or ads for Democracy 3, and I’m not doing it now just because people are so angry they are lashing out at everyone, and I’m just staying out of it. Also I’m going to GDC next month and don’t want to get involved in any political arguments. I *did* take the time to look at Democracy 3’s immigration code and noted that extreme border checks do actually reduce terrorism according to the game, and also cheer up patriots and annoy liberals. I guess it should also have a negative effect on capitalists (who tend to support free movement of labour) and maybe a hit to technology, as tech companies are especially keen on free movement. I’m surprised people haven’t done a ‘I played democracy 3 like trump’ video yet.

Anyway, enough politics, lets remind ourselves you can order production line right now :D

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A while ago we announced that from 21st November to 2nd December, all the Democracy 3 revenue from steam (including DLC etc) would be donated to war child. We finally did the maths and the total we are donating is $15,166.92. Yay! Biog thanks to everyone who continues to buy this game, and to Wayne Emanuel from War Child who talked me into doing it (I didn’t need much convincing tbh). For those people wondering what on earth War Child is, its a charity whose mission is…

To protect, educate and stand up for the rights of children caught up in war. 

I often feel guilt at having such a cushy life, sat in a nice office in the countryside in a country that hasn’t been invaded since people invented guns, having never faced real poverty or the threat of violence. I can’t imagine how it screws people up to witness war as children, let alone to lose friends and relatives to war. I know we all like our war games, I still play Battlefield One most days, but lets not forget that war isn’t just movies and cool games, but something that continues to blight peoples lives, especially in Syria right now.

Anyway…enough preachy stuff. We raised $15k, which hopefully helps quite a bit.

In other news, all our games are discounted by various amounts in the steam sale. Maybe a cute game about animals and politics will tempt you this festive season?

Happy Christmas.

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