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

My experience of exhibiting at Rezzed 2013 UK

So… I’m back from the sunny climes of Birmingham UK. For those who don’t know much about Birmingham, here is an up to the minute guide:

But enough about Birmingham, what about the games show known as rezzed?

This was the first time I had ever attended a games show as an exhibitor. I’ve given talks before, but never had a booth and shown off games, either released or in development. My main concern has always been the shaky business case of paying thousands of pounds to hire a few square feet of space for two days. As an analytics boffin, I’m very wary of spending money without being able to quantify what I get for it. Anyway… I decided it was worth doing it properly or not at all, so we had a proper big 4 PC booth showing redshirt and democracy 3:


And despite our initial very English doom-and-gloom panic that we were the only strategy game in a sea of call of duty, and nobody would care, our booth was kinda swamped right from the start. It was *very* rare to find a moment of either of the two days where all 4 seats were not taken, sometimes with a small crowd around each player. Redshirt was a big attraction, and democracy 3 seemed to attract all kinds of gamers, young,old,male,female, which was very interesting.



As well as showing off the games, and getting to watch people play them, we also got to talk to a fair few people from the press, and of course hang out with a bunch of indies we know from previous events. I was busy enough that I only got to attend one of the developer sessions, which I guess is the downside of actually being an exhibitor. We had three people on our booth including me, and maybe we should have had more to free us up to actually walk around, or more importantly, sit down now and then!

We completely ran out of badges, and almost ran out of flyers for both games. People really like game show swag! So anyway… the big question is, was it worth it, and would I do it again? I think the answer is ‘probably yes’. These things are expensive. yes it’s cool that you meet real gamers who play your games, but the gamers are charged for entering the show, and you get charged for providing the games they come to see…seems a little cunning to me. I am in the wrong business clearly… I think if the costs of exhibiting were much higher I’d say it isn’t worth it, given the opportunity cost that the money could also buy a lot of advertising or artwork/promotion in other ways.

I think it’s probably very good to do shows when your game is approaching beta and close to release (as both ours are), but earlier in dev, or attending every show for an already released game? It’s a really tough call. Obviously it also depends on your company’s balance sheet! I saw some indies still fighting to get picked on greenlight, with their first game, and I wonder where they get the money together for an appearance at a games show. Still… there is no right answer for this stuff, everyone has their own strategy. Anyway…back to work…

Come say hello (and try the games) at Rezzed

I’m pretty sure I’ve already mentioned it, but I’ll be Rezzed in Birmingham UK this weekend with Mitu from the Tiniest Shark showing off our games Democracy 3 and Redshirt. (I’m the publisher of redshirt, mitu is the developer).

Rezzed is a PC gaming show run by eurogamer and Rock Paper Shotgun and the last one was totally awesome. there are developer talks and lots of games on show, including triple A stuff and lots of really good indie games. You should definitely go. It’s at the Birmingham NEC which is trivial to get to if you live within a bazillion miles of it :D


Right, that’s the sales pitch over with, so lets get to the more human interest honest heart-on-wrist stuff shall we?

PLEASE COME AND PLAY MY GAMES! I’ve worked for ages in this little bubble where I *think* democracy 3 is fun and looks good and is playable and intuitive and makes sense, but like all developers I really have *no idea at all* what gamers who haven’t played democracy 1 or 2 will think of it. It is VERY valuable for me to know peoples opinions. I’ll give you nice glossy flyers explaining the theme of the game, and badges! and mitu has stickers as well as two yes TWO different types of badge for redshirt. How are you not already buying a ticket at this news???


Seriously, it is very helpful to hear peoples thoughts on the game, and even more helpful to actually stand discretely and watch people try it. You don’t *have* to talk to us, just plonk yourself in front of a monitor and start clicking things, that’s the whole idea. And this is true of every developer at the show. They desperately want you to come and try out their games. Even if you just click a few things, read a bit of text, and decide it’s not for you and wander off, that’s still preferable to no interaction at all. And also…do not feel bad if you *do* really like the game and sit there playing it for twenty minutes. If a queue forms, I’ll wave a bat-leth at you, but I doubt a deep turn-based strategy game will be the star attraction among the explosions and car chases at a games show :D

Anyway, in all seriousness, come say hello, try the games, and tell us what you think. Don’t feel bad if you have criticisms or complaints about them. All feedback is good. I’m told I am ‘less scary’ in real life than online by people who meet me. I have *NEVER* done a games show in my entire career, so this is a big scary ‘argh will it be worth it’ moment for me (these booths are EXPENSIVE), and I want to squeeze it to get as much helpful feedback as possible.

And if you write a blog, or do lets plays, or whatever, please introduce yourself. We are very happy to talk about the game, be interviewed and so on right there at the show. I might even give you one of my legendary business cards.

See you there.


It’s all coming together…I think.

Sooo…there is a lot going on in positech land these days, partly because Redshirt and Democracy 3 are both coming together at the same time. At the weekend I also had a sudden revival of adding indie games to, which is my much neglected side project.

A bit of stats crunching in google analytics persuaded me that my homepage was slightly slow loading, but thankfully there are tons of sites that will test and analyze this sort of thing, and free utilities to minify your javascript and losslessly compress png’s and jpgs, so hopefully that’s all much faster now.

In the land of actual game development, I’ve been working on both gameplay stuff for Democracy 3 (adding in new policies such as Fossil fuel subsidies, Privately run prisons, Mansion taxes, Foreign Investor Tax breaks,  Fuel efficiency standards…) and also some graphical stuff, which included importing all the art assets for the achievements, which are new to the game. That also meant I needed to actually code the achievements system (which is separate and independent from steam, but which I’ll link to steam if they accept the game).

I’ve also been doing a bunch of playtesting, which has shown that I’ve now made ministers actually *too* cynical and bitter and destructive, with most current test games descending into a wave of resignations and widespread public indignation at my incompetence :D

In other news… I have started up a very bare-bones for now, but nevertheless to-be-promoted facebook page for Democracy 3. Please go and ‘like’ it if you are interested in the game. (There will also obviously be a proper non facebook page in due course…) I’ll try and post more stuff there over the next few months. I’ve bought a video camera, which I’ll be carrying about to gaming events like Rezzed to film people trying my games, and also capture the magical ‘boothness’ for the first time. Plus I’ve grabbed a ticket to the ‘Bit Of Alright’ event in London next month, just as a visitor.

In between all this, I’m madly trying to open a high street business bank account, despite them all being idiots, and clueless, and annoying, because only a big name high street bank will give me a US dollar account that everyone in the US (publishers,portals) are happy to make payments into. The way I do things currently means I lose a chunk of cash on poor exchange rates, and I’m fed up with that. However, the bureaucracy so far is testing my will to continue with this process. bah!