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

Skills GUI

I made a decision with Kudos 2 that I was going to get everything working and looking how I wanted, regardless of how much hassle was involved. Partly this just means changing my state of mind when I’m typing out my ‘todo’ list as I test the game. Rather than mentally editing it to take into account technical difficulties, I just jot down how to improve the game and tell myself not to worry about what’s involved. Then when I go to implement them, I just do it, regardless how awkward some things are.

An example of this was the panel that shows the players skills. This panel just sat there and didn’t have the status update balloons which flash up when you change your attributes, but when playing it occurred to me that this would be a good idea, especially on the ‘post mortem’ screen where many of them change. Making them show up at all involved a ton of recoding. Then I hit the issue that you can have a lot of skills, and they looked horridly cluttered on that post-mortem screen.

So eventually I had to write a bunch of extra code for the skills GUI that rebuilds it just for the post-mortem screen, showing just what’s changed. This is great for the player but was a bitch to code. Hopefully, if I can keep developing like this, the game will have a far more polished feel than anything else I’ve done.

BTW server is a bit slashdotted today…

Computer stuff and power requirements

So recently I ordered a ‘Kill-a-watt’, a gadget that lets you plug it in between a device and the power supply that tells you how many watts, volts, amps yada yada it uses. In these times of insane energy bills (mine is now £100 a month combined gas and electricity) I think it’s a smart move to work out where all the power goes. Sure, some companies quote figures, but can you trust the seller of some kit to say how much it costs to run?

The Kill-a-watt cost me £19.95 from here: and arrived this morning. Here is what the little beastie looks like:

So how do all my bits and pieces of hardware stack up? First lets try that nice flat screen monitor:

The Monitor

The monitor in question is an IIyama 19 inch ProLite H481S. It’s pretty lovely, but looking a bit small these days. this gets auto-turned off by vista when I’m away from the PC, and I also turn it off each evening. It’s guzzling 30 watts, which isn’t to be sneezed at, that’s the equivalent of 3 energy saving light bulbs.

The official power consumption for this model is 40W, so it ooks like they actually overestimated its usage. I’m running it at the native res, but the (very poor) speakers were not in use.

Edit : It seems that I can push it 1 watt higher by playing ‘painkiller’ by Judas Priest through the inbuilt speakers. I think i generalize this to playback of any heavy metal.

The Printer

The printer is an HP deskjet 960C, which I often leave switched on when not in use. Looks like it only uses 2 watts, probably for that little green LED. No great worry there.

The Router

I use a very flaky Linksys wireless-G ADSL gateway router. Obviously it’s always on, and because it gets upset when turned off (sometimes this piece of crap won’t turn on until its been left off for 30 minutes…) I leave it on all night too. Looks like all those flashing lights only use up 8 watts, which is not irrelevant, but not a disaster either

I can’t find any official information on what power this unit is supposed to draw, so you heard it here first!

The PC

Holy cow, the main PC base unit really does guzzle the power. This reading (160 watts) was taken after windows had booted and settled down, its an Intel dual core 6600 2.40GHZ CPU  (2 gig RAM) vista machine with a Geforce 8800 GTS video card. Interestingly, I tried some experiments with heavy processor use (rebuilding my current game project, the sequel to kudos), and some mega disk thrashing (copying huge amounts of files) and the power consumption didn’t really change much at all. Make of that what you will, maybe the disk is always drawing a lot of power anyway, or maybe neither processor core is idle, or steps back its power drain when idle.

The Game

I tried starting a 2 vs 2 AI vs Me skirmish game of Company of Heroes, set to 1280 1024 res with everything set high, to see if maybe the video card could push the power consumption higher. A noticeable change, but nothing dramatic to report. maybe those people trying to sell 300 and 400 or even 500 watt power supplies are overstating their case?

Sleep Mode

ZZZZZZZZZZ. I set vista to go to sleep mode if left for 15 minutes or more, and am very happy with how it springs back to life damn fast. I still make the effort to completely power down the beast overnight, and a BIOS timer wakes it when my alarm clock goes off. is this worth the hassle? In sleep mode it looks like its drawing a measly 3 watts, less than the flipping router.  Interesting stuff :D

So there you have it. later today I might check out what the TV, the Wii, the other gadgets and gizmos draw to see if theres anything stupidly hungry that I’m leaving on (although generally I’m obsessed with turning all this stuff off).

What is this thing you humans call kudos?

One of the things that emerged from recent playtesting was that the actual value of ‘kudos’ in Kudos 2 was a tad irrelevant. In some ways, it was an unoffical ‘score’ in the first game. getting more kudos was good, because thats what the game was about. it enabled a very few things to be unlocked, and it would slowly degrade (and have a static element based on friendships).

This sucked a bit, and needed re-jigging. I did part of that today. Kudos is n longer a seperate score, next to the current cash, and it’s now an attribute like health, IQ or Culture. You build up your kudos just like any other attribute, and its the games shorthand for ‘cool’. So buying trendy sunglasses, going to nightclubs and hanging out with trendy people raises your kudos. You need kudos to become a TV presenter or other cool udde, but if your character becomes a C++ programmer or lawyer, it’s pretty irrelevant.

I think this (currently) works better than the previous approach.  Kudos is just another thing you can concentrate on, like IQ, money, happiness or whatever, depending on how you choose to prioritize for your character. The good news is the game seems to have a lot of potential right now to enable you to play in lots of different ways, whilst still providing a challenge, and lots to do. it’s already so much better a game than the original. There are of course, lots of bugs to fix, improvements to make, and content to add, but this will be the most complex, polished and feature rich game I’ve ever developed, once it’s finally done :D

Kudos 2 play-throughs & cloned!

I’ve done two one-hour play-throughs of Kudos 2 today, fixing bugs and tweaks as I have encountered them. I still need some more artwork, and tons and tons of bug-testing, plus some game play redesigning to make the actual value of kudos in the game more relevant. here’s my fix list for today:

FIXED *** shrink mind-state button doesn’t work
FIXED *** takes forever to build muscles
FIXED *** movie eat popcorn button needs to shuffle up 4 pixels
FIXED *** fitness maybe degrades a bit quick, esp from weightlifting
FIXED *** if some social event costs 0 and we have negative funds we still cant do it :(
FIXED *** calendar “time for two activities” doesn’t update
FIXED *** soccer needs higher max invitees
FIXED *** food item tooltips are wrong
FIXED *** more police days should be fit ones.
FIXED *** police workers should be immune to muggings surely?
FIXED *** tooltip for job search needs to indicate it shows current job details too
FIXED *** if you keep repeating the same activity again and again, you should get bored
FIXED *** maybe a police sound for when you do the police job?
FIXED *** do sunglasses have any effect?
FIXED *** golf should boost fitness a little bit

This is basically the way I work these days, keep playing the game with textpad open to make a list of stuff that’s broken. then when the game gets unplayable due to one of them, go through and fix them all, then repeat. The game already feels pretty addictive, and filled with stuff, which is good. It’s so much better than the original game.

In other news I see that a major games portal have cloned Kudos : Rock Legend. Meh. Mine has more personality. mine is FROM THE HEART. :D

Corporate, and protected by copyright

There is a tendency these days, when whining about ‘the evil RIAA and MPAA’ (often hilariously respelled MAFIAA), to be critical of two concepts: Copyright and Corporations. Again and again, I hear people saying stuff like “The corporate copyright MAFIA” and “The content lobby” and other silly terms that try to lump all corporations and all copyright holders together as some super-evil-cartel that presumably has pointy beards and cackles on piles of gold whilst stroking cats and sentencing poor innocent consumers to death.

This is silly.

Corporations produced probably 99% of the stuff in your house (at least). It’s likely everything you currently wear was made by some corporate entity. And even if you have a local independent butchers or bakers, they are likely a corporation too. Not all corporations are evil like Sony or British Airways. Some of them are small family or one-man firms that have been set up as a corporation to look more professional. Positech Games is in fact “Positech Computing Limited”, registered at companies house UK. That doesn’t stop it being just me sat in a spare bedroom.

In a similar way, copyright isn’t some evil monopoly held by EA and Viacom. I own the copyright for all my games. I know loads of people who work full time but write software or games for extra income, and own the copyright on them. Clearly not all copyrighted content earns people millions of dollars. Copyright royalties also provide an income for people not directly in control of it. I employ artist and sound people on contracts, and although they don’t have ownership of the IP, I can only afford to pay them because people are paying me royalties on my previous IP. Without copyright, my artist doesn’t get paid, and nor for that matter does my local baker or butcher.

Another popular argument being thrown around and repeated as though it makes sense is that “I don’t get paid for work I did years ago, so why the hell do musicians and IP owners, they are just lazy.”

I get paid for games I wrote years ago (very little now), and because that system works, I can invest time and energy in making them. I have worked for 8 months on Kudos 2 now, seven days a week, maybe 8 hours a day. You know how much I’ve earned from it?


You know what my guaranteed future income is from it?


I do this because I’m *hoping* I’ll sell enough copies over the next few years to make that investment worthwhile. If copyright didn’t exist I’d have spent those 8 months doing contract programming for some bank. The game would never get made as there aren’t enough hours in the day. THIS is why copyright exists, and why it’s a GOOD system.  Anyone who clings to some hippy dream that “artists will still make music and software and movies without copyright” is either delusional, or living off daddys trust fund. Copyright is essential to provide an incentive for people to invest up front costs in the production of copyable products. If you know of a better system that WORKS NOW, then feel free to make yourself mega-rich by showing us silly copyright supporters how it’s done.