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

Bloom occlusion in GSB 2…

This has taken me all today and part of yesterday to get working. And no it isn’t final, and no, it isn’t optimized yet. And yes, it probably should have been easier. That little asteroid is occluding the bloom flare from that engine. You can see the non-occluded one above. Took me ages, and about a million lines of code. Arrrghhh. Click to enlarge…



Visual experimentation

I’ve spent the last day or three experimenting with various visual effects for GSB 2. This is kinda fun, but I also think its quite productive. If i was making the game using Unity or some other engine, I’d just pop along to the asset store and browse the effects other people have written and bung them in. Job done, ship the game.

I can see why a lot of people are attracted to doing that, but personally I’ve found rolling my own solutions to be much more rewarding, not just as a coding geek, but from a game design and visuals POV. The lighting effects in GSB 2 will not be the standard Unity effects, or the same effects used in any other engine, ever. they are unique to the game. They may not be ‘radically different’, but I think the distinctiveness helps. Sometimes i end up coming up with pretty wacky solutions to problems which allow me to include features in an unusual way. I think it’s a really good thing for different coders to be approaching each problem in a different way, after all we are supposed to be creating original, and distinct works of ‘art’.

When big movies add special effects, they don’t often copy and paste effects from other films. Arguably Star Wars has already done ‘lasers’ so you could theoretically just copy them. The problem is, you never get innovation that way.

I just watched ‘The Forbidden Planet’, a classic 1950s sci fi movie. it was the first sci-fi movie to have an all electronic soundtrack, which was amazing at the time. It’s cheesy as hell now. I bet one of the reasons for it’s success is how different it sounded as a result. they had to work out how to do that from scratch. Then sci fi movies all tended to sound the same and become tedious until Star Wars, when George Lucas decided classical music could work with a futuristic movie. Now, ALL movies copy that idea.

It would have been easier, simpler, and cheaper, and much more in line with what the audience expected if those innovations had not happened. But when they get it right, they get it right big time. I doubt that GSB 2 will change the future of gaming, but I like to think that by occasionally approaching things from first principles and hacking my own way to make things happen, I’m at least ensuring there is some variety in the way stuff looks.


BTW… On the topic of Robby the robot, what a flipping layabout! He is , if you read-between-the-lines a nightmare to work with. First he does this whole ‘Sorry I was giving myself an oil-job’ excuse (yeah whatever), when he can’t be found when called, then he mocks and sounds incredibly put-out because he is asked to make a new dress. then later, he tells the crew ‘if you need anything, use the beamer’ without ever explaining where or what that is. Plus he moves at about the pace of a snail. if I didn’t know better I’d think he did that deliberately so everyone got sick of asking robby to do something and did it themselves.

‘if you need anything in about 6 hours, use the beamer, otherwise you might as well do it yourself’.


Post-BAFTA positech random update

So I didn’t win a BAFTA. I didn’t think I would. I thought Papers,Please would win it, and it did. I did get to drink champagne and listen to carol vorderman and some nobody from hollyoaks though. Quite why some nobody from hollyoaks is giving out games awards baffles me. At least Dara O Brien actually *is* a gamer.. Anyway…

By the time you drive to London & back, park in London, book a hotel room in London, BUY 2 tickets for the awards ceremony and hire special outfits that apparently in 2014 we still need to drink champagne… There isn’t actually much change from £1,000 ($1,600) in being an indie game dev at the BAFTAs. Obviously for a billionaire like me, this is petty cash, but it’s a big chunk of change none the less. Luckily those fine chaps at steam ran a BAFTA sale on the day with Democracy 3 included, which earned me about £12k that day, so woohoo! I win!


Now I’m back in my sheep-surrounded country headquarters, and coding away, there are probably a number of other updates to mention. Update #1 is that for a LONG TIME, I will be working away on Gratuitous Space Battles 2, and mostly I just *can’t* show you any of the stuff I’m doing now until I reveal the ‘big feature’ in it, and I don’t want to do that until i have some newer art, which will be a month or three.

Secondly, there are firm plans now to bring Democracy 3 to the IPAD. Oh yes. the IPAD. I have not been a huge evangelist for the income-generating potential of the ipad, but I have had such commercial success with D3, and it’s such a touchscreen-friendly GUI, that I have taken the decision to give it a go. There are not enough thoughtful deep strategy games on tablets, so I’m hoping to find a niche there. I’m outsourcing this 100%.


Thirdly, I continue to throw money at advertising, despite nobody ever agreeing with my theories there :. Right now I have a pretty steady $400/day spend on facebook ads. My tracking (which I’m improving today) shows that getting someone to visit the BUY page on my site for D3 costs between $3-4. The game is $25, DLC can take that higher, and of course there is extra viral + future income. Right now, I’m content to continue with that experiment, having chalked up $4,541 on facebook ads this month. The direct+steam+apple app store sales of D3 are very good, so I’m still somehow making a daily profit on this, and as D3 has paid for itself happily, I’m looking at this process as a general ‘raising my general site profile’ expense right now. I’d stop if it ever hit 50% of my revenue.

There are also TWO other projects in the works under the positech umbrella. that probably sounds mad, but I’m slowly expanding in little dribbles, and I’m not working on either of them, so I still have plenty of time to concentrate on spaceships. yay!


GSB 2.0 Ship hull lighting

Finally got this stuff working today, I just plonked any old windows and hull lights on a test hull to see if it works, obviously it will get fine tuned to be better, and stuff positioned better, but you get the general idea. I now have a day or two of really complex and fiddly behind the scenes stuff, then off to the BAFTA’s, where Democracy 3 is nominated for a strategy/simulation game award, which is kinda cool. Then back to work! (click to enlarge image)



Posted in gsb2 Tagged

A bug that will become a feature (but a worthy one)

So I’m working on various stuff I’m not talking about yet for GSB 2, and I ended up with the image below. All looks fine, it’s a ship nicked temporarily from GSB 1, with some tweaks, and I found a bug. The bug is a bit of a pain, and it’s those 2 little axillary engines in the middle towards the bottom. Those engine glows are not supposed to be there, they are supposed to be under the ship.


But they aren’t.

And I could fix this really easily, but actually, it is kinda cool. I mean…why *shouldn’t* i have a few ships with engines that sit above other elements of a ship? the more creative freedom the artists have the better right? and that way the glow from the engines will illuminate the ship ‘fins’ in dark battles. It will look cool. It also means a shedload of irritating fiddling with code that already looks like a psychotic kitten has had a panic attack in a spaghetti factory.

but hey, I’ve trained myself never to think like that. If it makes the game better, I’m going to commit to supporting it, even if it makes life awkward for me. Expect this game to ship sometime this millennium…