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

Crunch Crunch

I have a day-off booekd for the 24th August. I’ll probably do some programming anyway, but according to my schedule, there is nothing specific booked on that day. Every other day in between has a pile of stuff to do. Why so busy?

Well REDSHIRT will be shipping very soon, insofar as we will start taking pre-orders and make the beta available to people who order it. When I say beta, I really mean beta, not some experimental kickstarter-early-access style tech demo, I mean beta. The game is perfectly playable. Bugs to find, balance to tweak, typos to fix, but everything feature and design wise is looking pretty cool.


Shortly after redshirt going into beta, DEMOCRACY 3 will go into beta as well. This is in the same state, ie: finished, apart from any last minute bugs or balance tweaks. Officially, I’ve balanced the UK, France and half of Germany.  USA,Canada and Australia will be done over the next few days, then I’ve set aside some time to bug hunt in redshirt. Democracy 3 will be on sale from my suite hopefully by the end of the month, with pre-order customers getting to play it straight away, and a steam and final release about a month later.


After both games officially ship, there will be a bit of admin involved in terms of Linux & Mac builds of both games, and an ipad port for Redshirt. Then….who knows what comes next! I have grand plans for Gratuitous Space Battles 2, and also vague other plans, and may actually consider whether it makes sense to carry on like this as the sole designer/coder.

Anyway between now and then is a lot of crunch crunch crunch. Also, in unrelated news, I recommend this book on advertising and neuroscience. half way through it so far, kinda cool.



Just one pesky stat

The trouble with designing games like mine, is you often find that the game ends up focusing on just one stat. This is a problem, in my view, because it makes the game a bit too single-minded, and decisions a little too easy, or frustrating.  let me explain what i mean…

In a game like Prison Architect, theoretically it’s a very interesting and fun balancing act. You need to balance your budget the ratio of staff to prisoners, the happiness of the prisoners, the safety level of the prison, the  cleanliness, the number of prisoners you can feed that day, etc etc. It is a great game with a lot of appeal, and theoretically you are spinning all of those plates at once, trading X against Y and Y against Z. This is what makes for exciting, fun and unpredictable gameplay.


HOWEVER. Like all games of this sort, including my own such as Democracy and Kudos, and no doubt Democracy 3 and Redshirt, they often (at least during development and beta) bump into a problem where for long periods, gameplay becomes all about just one pesky stat. In Democracy 3 it is often GDP or the deficit. In Redshirt, it is often happiness. In Prison Architect, for me at least it is always budget.

This is a problem that it’s worth keeping an eye on. Some games deliberately ‘cheat’ it. If your budget has been a ‘limiting factor’ for X turns, why not alleviate it a bit with a grant from the government? If happiness is ‘stuck’, then why not have the player invited to a happiness-inducing random event? The very interesting question is…. Is that good game design?

Personally, I think it is, at least in a single player game (obviously). In the real world, we can become ‘stuck’ and frustrated with one part of our lives, one single problem, but when we are game designers with total control of the universe there is no rule saying we must make the player suffer in this way. racing games often cheat with ‘catch-up’ physics. Is it ok for simulation and single-player strategy games to do so too? I would say yes, but I’m interested to know what people think. When you are stuck with 4,000 fuel and 9,000 munitions and zero manpower in Company Of heroes 2, and this is your tenth go at that mission, would you be offended if the manpower stat artificially sped up a bit?

Redshirt alpha screenshots

Ok…so today marks the day when we send out press releases to a bunch of journalists about Redshirt. (If you have somehow been missed email me). For those who haven’t been following progress on the game, Redshirt is a sci-fi social-networking life-sim comedy game by The Tiniest Shark, which is being published by me. It’s the first time I’ve published another developer’s game. yes I have become THE MAN.


As well as sending out press builds, we have a bunch of shiny new screenshots to share with the world, and obviously news on the game will speed up now we are in alpha, heading towards beta and pre-orders. Without further ado…click to enlarge…

Don’t forget to check out (and please LIKE!) the game’s facebook page at

Staggered Game Release failure

One of my plans with the game I’m publishing ‘Redshirt‘ was to have it all set up nicely so that it launches in-between my own game releases. I’d therefore keep the positech games name and website alive in every-bodies minds while I huddled in a corner typing away on my next masterpiece. The thing is, no plan survives contact with the real world, and with some stuff going faster than expected, and other stuff going slower, and ‘events dear boy,events’, it turns out that Democracy 3 and Redshirt are going to be close to shipping at almost exactly the same time.

It’s so close that I actually got voiceover for both games on the exact same day. I’m interleaving emails to the press about one game, with emails about the other. It’s CHAOS I tell you. CHAOS!

Obviously I’m sure it will all be ok in the end. Redshirt is looking really cool, and it is crazily crazily addictive already. It requires balancing, as do all games towards the end, and there is the inevitable ‘things act differently on this PC’ nonsense that us PC developers absolutely LOVE.


We will be showing off redshirt to the wider galaxy very shortly, so expect screenshots and more info on the game very soon. Also expect lots of puns about tentacles. I’ve already added a link (for widescreen layouts) to the redshirt site from I only do this at the last minute, because I tend to prefer to funnel eyeballs towards opportunities to give me money NOW :D