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

We need an open, simpleapp store built into windows

Like most people selling software, I occasionally get people who say the download link is broken (it isn’t) or the file didn’t download properly (it did) or that it’s the wrong version for their O/S (maybe, but they bought the wrong thing in that case) or they lost the file they downloaded etc etc…

Obviously this sort of stuff is fixed by ‘client’ app stores such as impulse or steam. the problem is, those stores are run by third parties which

1) Take a cut of the sales

2) Retain all the customer details and never share them with you

3) Don’t accept all products for sale, so act as gatekeepers.

Ideally, windows would have a built-in bare-bones app-store. Not a microsoft store where you pay microsoft, but some system whereby you could pay anyone, and they could trivially build a back end system to provide you with the file. Maybe the app-store simply acts as a front end web browser client to your existing BMTMicro / paypal / plimus store.

Given all the shovelware crap that windows ships with anyway (photo editing, movie making, a calculator, a paint program, games…) it seems crazy that something people do all the time (buy stuff online) has virtually zero API support built into the O/S.

Time for another ‘next-game clue’:


Grinding and unhappiness and clue #5

I’ve been playing some World Of tanks. I’ve played before in the beta, now I’ve started for real. I haven’t spent any money on it yet. For those unaware, WOT is a free + microtransactions game. You earn gold and experience in the game to buy and research better tanks and crew, or you can just go and buy them with real money.

I don’t play normal MMO games any more because of my dislike of the tedium of ‘grinding’. To me, grinding is a failure of design. It’s an admission that the actual game isn’t very fun, so you need to stretch it out as slowly as possible so people pay a lot in subscription fees to you before you run out of content. It’s cynical. Imagine any other medium of ‘entertainment’ introducing a grind. Imagine a crime novel where you had to read through 12 almost identical chapters of the detective interviewing a witness before you could ‘level up’ and get rewarded by a chapter with a new clue. It’s just silly. We don’t do it in TV, Movies, or Plays, but in games, making the player do a tedious job to earn the next bit of entertainment is considered fine.

I found when playing WOT last night that I wasn’t having any fun at all. I wanted a better tank than the tractor with a pistol that you start with, and It seemed I got points for just being ‘in’ a battle and spotting an enemy tank before I died, so I played 10 quick battles where I just hurtled towards the enemy and died, to get the points. No fun for me, or them. No entertainment was had. And yet, at the same time, people whizz past me in better tanks, not because they are better at the game, but because they have more free time, or more money. I could sense that as a player, this subtly makes me unhappy, frustrated and jealous. This is not fun.

In Gratuitous Space Battles you sometimes get a player-designed challenge with faster ships, but that speed has come at a tradeoff. The player had the same points and the same components as you, they just re-arranged them differently using their own judgement and skill. That is what games should be about. A level playing field, and instant fun with no grind. I sadly accept I’m in the minority on this :(

Anyway, time for another clue. Nobody had a clue what clue#4 was did you? I’m dissapointed in you :D It’s  a very very specific form of art, from a very specific point in history.


Clue #5


Unit Variants and next game clue#4

One of the things that GSB lacked, was visual unit customisation. You could customise the hell out of your ships, and that worked great, and of course people loved it, but aside from the visual deployment and choice of hulls, one GSB challenge pretty much looked superficially like another. In terms of holy grail, a system like that used to build ships in Galactic Civilisations 2, combined with the GSB engine would have pretty much kicked ass.

Sadly, that is not what I’m working on.

However, I am at pains, in the mystery new game, to ensure that people get a chance to customise their forces (yes there are forces…) so that they look at least slightly different and personal. I wanted, in my minds eye an incredibly modular system of putting together sprites to build things, but although it sounds great, it’s insanely difficult in practice, without severely crimping the art style. This is one of those phenomena that you only really encounter when you MAKE a game, rather than being a frustrated designer. No game design survives contact with the programmers, and the artists.

The system I have ended up with, and I really need to move on, so it’s the final system now… Is one where units have a basic design, and then a large number of variants. In GSB terms, it would be like picking an imperial centurion cruiser, but then picking variant_d, which has a different look, in terms of weapon attachment points or engines. New graphics cost money,  but no more programmer design or effort, so once the system is in place that makes ‘imperial centurion cruiser’ work, then adding  few new variants based on new engine styles is easy, and has no gameplay balance impact at all.

Hopefully this will mean the game has a lot of unit combinations visually, if sadly not complete freedom. There will also be an opportunity to pick unit colors in pretty fine and cool detail.

Ready for another clue? here it is…

clue #4

The next positech game: Clue #3

Age of empires online could be fun. Anyone played it yet? I’m looking for a new online game to play as co-op with a buddy. He isn’t a hardcore gamer or very tech savvy,  but he is obsessed with Company of Heroes. I’m looking to get him into another game, that isn’t too different. We tried men of war, but that didn’t really work out. Ideally something thats built around co-op play, and would benefit from voice chat. Any suggestions? Is world of tanks a good idea? Also, everyone feel free to add cliffski as a friend on battlefield Bad Company 2. I’m a helpful team player :D I tend to play evenings in UK time (GMT).

I guess it’s time for another clue about my next game, following on from the last two…

Clue #3