Archive for month: February, 2013

Mainstream Gaming’s Glorious Future

27 Feb
February 27, 2013

Microtransactions in everything, says EA.

Hoo-fuckin-ray.

So what now? After the alpha release.

27 Feb
February 27, 2013

As I said in the previous post, getting some good feedback on the first alpha release. So, what now?

Well, I’ve collected all that feedback into a large spreadsheet, classifying the bugs/issues based on priority, type of issues etc.

Bugs

There’s a bit over 60 so far, which I’m going through and fixing as quickly as I can. As you can see from the stats, GUI issues are the majority right now.

Which is pretty much what I expected. The first real test of the GUI is when you open it to lots of people to hammer on. Developers are blinded by their own intimate knowledge of all the systems and design choices, they can’t see the points where their assumptions aren’t obvious to players very well. You need the feedback from people going in with a blank slate.

Once the GUI issues are sorted, I expect more bugs and balance issues to come rolling in. A good metaphor for a GUI is that it is like a window into your game systems. A bad GUI is like that window is dirty, obscuring the game systems seen “through” it. A great GUI is transparent to the player. Right now, in this rough state, the GUI is too “dirty”, which will prevent a number of players from digging too deep into the game.

So, in the interests of “cleaning the window”, my primary focus has been upgrading the GUI based on players’ feedback, concentrating on the issues that are resulting in player confusion or “what now?” moments.

Things like upgrading the Player Hand UI –

( old version for comparison )

And adding in animations to make it clearer to the player when and how they score OP (Objective Points), and to draw their focus to their OP Total.

I’m aiming to get a new version to testers later this week, hopefully Friday.

Getting Emotional

22 Feb
February 22, 2013

So, the first alpha build is out in the wild!

And I’m already getting some great feedback on the forums, starting up some good discussion.

Now, friends are always going to be more supportive than the average stranger, so you have to take praise with a pinch of salt. But, based on the feedback, I think I’m seeing some genuine enjoyment of the game. Or, at least, the game’s potential, once certain rough aspects have been sorted out.

So it’s going well, better than expected, in fact! And,

I must say, I’m relieved! In fact, I’ll admit that I was actually feeling fairly anxious before the release, even a little depressed. Which might be surprising, for someone on the cusp of finishing their project. Especially since I’m a fairly emotionally stable guy in general, my usual mood is “cheerful, confident and optimistic”.

But this journey I’m on, this has so much of my hopes, dreams and resources invested in it. So much of my focus and effort this last decade has been leading to this moment. The pressure is starting to chip away at my usual calm cheerfulness, giving way to swinging moods and emotional churn.

Well, to some degree. Let me not get too melodramatic much here. But I’ve had my share of sleepless nights, of times when I can’t work because my mood makes me listless and unfocused. And there have been many times where I look at my work and think “This is shit. No one is going to buy this. It would be embarrassing to show this to the world.” And then I procrastinate on the net to avoid thinking about it.

I have had to work at confidence and optimism. I wrote this post not because I want pity or reassurance, but so that others can know that getting to this point wasn’t just a gambol through the daisies for me. That it’s hard, it’s hard to keep going, it’s hard to stay on course. And it gets harder, the closer you get to that moment of truth.

Be prepared for it to get hard, and come up with strategies to help deal with it when it does.

Me, I like motivational videos with inspiring music. Yes, many of them are kitsh and filled with oft-repeated cliches. And, amusingly for me, most of them are sport-related. But they work for me. I often watch them just after I wake up, to get me pumped up for the day. And I’ll put on soaring orchestral music, or read inspiring quotes from people I admire.

I hurl these like weapons against that negative, self-defeating voice that whispers in the back of everyone’s mind. In the moments when my self-belief fails me, I look to these things to prop me back up.

I’ll also watch cinematics and listen to music from my favourite games, to remind myself of the emotions I felt while playing them, that love. To remind me of what I’m working toward, for the times when it’s hard to remember.

So, thanks for the feedback, guys. It’s given me a second wind, motivation wise. After reading everyone’s comments, I went for a long walk. And I was smiling the whole way. I feel euphoric, optimistic, eager to get cracking.

I may just be able to pull this off!

Alpha is live!

20 Feb
February 20, 2013

Took a bit longer than I’d hoped, and I’m quite exhausted, but it’s been released!

Now to see what the feedback is.

It’s only been released to a small group at the moment. I’ll do a more general alpha once I get the first feedback, pick up any glaring issues and have the tutorial hints in.

Whew. Quite a moment, this. 15 months of work to get to this point. I’m rather hoping the response isn’t a resounding wall of “meh”. But the die is cast, I will see it through regardless.

Interesting

18 Feb
February 18, 2013

It appears that running a successful Kickstarter does actually create a binding legal promise to deliver on the project. And that disgruntled backers can actually sue for non-deliver.

Still, not sure how that applies for devs who take the money and deliver something craptacular.

The best laid plans…

16 Feb
February 16, 2013

“Releasing the Alpha next week!”, I announced, confidently. And, in accordance with Murphy’s Law, I then immediately ran into two bugs that each took an entire day to fix. Bah.

The best thing about these kinds of bugs (two distinct glitch cases in a crossfade between the two modes of the map screen, local map and world map), is that no one will notice the work put into it (two separate nights spent staring at code past 2am) if you get it right. But they’ll certainly notice if you fuck it up. Your job, as UI coder, is to be useful but unobtrusive, like a well-trained butler.

I’d planned to have the build out by Thursday, but that didn’t happen. So now I’m working to try get a build out tomorrow. Fingers crossed.

A useful resource for Cyberpunk designers ;)

15 Feb
February 15, 2013

Massive, sprawling cities are a hallmark of the cyberpunk genre, hell, Gibson’s defining series was called the “Sprawl Trilogy”.

Well, I found this rather useful wikipedia page for figuring out where exactly to place your futuristic metropolis. It shows the regions of the world where urban megapolises are currently developing. Useful, especially for those of use that don’t come from those countries and have no idea, beyond what you’ve seen in movies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megalopolis_(city_type)

MapofEmergingUSMegaregions

I really need to name one city “The Golden Banana”, heh. 😀

Exercising the creativity muscles

13 Feb
February 13, 2013

flex

Secretly, though some people have told me that I am, I’ve never really thought of myself as particularly creative. Frequently, when I’ve sat down and thought “ok brain, give me an idea”, nothing comes. My brain looks back at me, blankly.

And I’ve never really felt like those ideas that I do generate are particularly original. Most creative work I have done is simply an iteration on another’s ideas, some mashup of the books, movies and games that I’ve enjoyed. The characters and mannerisms I write, simply voices from the past that I channel from memory.

So it was comforting to finally realize that that is what creativity actually is. As captured in this excellent, free series on the creative process and the follies of modern copyright law, everything is a remix. (well worth the watch, that one)

132448911_640

So I got over that fear. But I’ve also, for the last 6 months or so now, been keeping “idea journals”. Started with one for future game ideas, then later added another for story ideas I’d like to write. Either for my future games or for the writing projects I want to start tackling on the side.( For a start, I’m planning to write a novel this year. For fun and to learn about the process of fiction writing. It’s a challenge I’ve set myself, rather like my 365 days of art in 2011.)

I went and counted them yesterday. I’m currently sitting at 48 game ideas and 62 story seeds! Some better than others, certainly, but it’s quite a change. And comforting! New ideas seem to be coming more often, with practice. It’s definitely a muscle that you can exercise. And while I’m still not particularly good at generating new ideas on the spot, there are mental frameworks and tricks that, with practice, seem to make it easier.

And when that fails, I can always turn to my docs.

I’ve also taken to trying to consciously creating space for my subconscious to churn. Something I noticed, the ideas tend to come when I step back from consuming media etc. Many of them come at night, after I’ve crawled into bed, before drifting off. Or lying in the bath, or when I go for a long walk to stretch my legs.

It’s like your mind operates in different modes. I can be in input mode, taking in and consuming media, in output mode, creating things and implementing ideas, or finally in a more neutral mode between the two, a mode conducive to ruminating, to digesting ideas and letting new ones take shape in the back of your mind. You need the all three modes, of course. The input mode gives you new fuel in the form of exposure to new ideas to build on and recombine. And you need to switch to output mode to actually go about the business of building your ideas. But I’ve realized that, with all the distractions of modern life and our always-online gadgets, the time I spend in that third mode has shrunk and become insufficient. I have to consciously make time for it.

One day, maybe I’ll be able to own a specific “Ruminatin’ Room”. Furnished in mahogany and deep, rich reds, walls lined with stuffed bookshelves. Thick padded armchairs pushed close to a cosy fireplace. Tall glass windows along the north wall, rain drumming against them endlessly. The perfect place to wander the paths of the imagination.

One day.

Sigh

11 Feb
February 11, 2013

This is why the trend towards basing decisions on metrics is worrying to me.

This kind of conclusion.

It’s a classic example of “correlation doesn’t imply causation”.

The mainstream has been moving away from offering demos for years. And the “top sales” charts for any given year will almost certainly be dominated by hyped AAA mainstream releases, from the studios that have stopped offering demos. Which means that yes, the top of the cumulative sales graph will be games that don’t offer demos. But that DOES NOT prove that foregoing demos was a significant factor in their financial success.

What this guy is doing is constructing a post-hoc narrative to explain a causal relationship he thinks the data is showing.

“Yes, that’s exactly what happened to you because when you put the demo out, people had seen the trailer and they’re like that’s cool, and they made a plan. They had to try that game. And then they played the demo. Alright, I tried the game, that was okay, alright I’m done. But the games with no demo, you have to buy it if you want to try it. These plans make a big difference.”

The news is filled with this kind of thing, and it’s the foundation of conspiracy theories. These two things appear to have a connection, construct a narrative that neatly ties it all together.

The takeaway lesson : practically everybody is horrible at interpreting stats, including CEOs of software companies.

System Crash Website is live!

09 Feb
February 9, 2013

Ain’t she pretty?

Link

Demo and Buy are dummy links, for now, and I’ll be updating the Setting section with lore, soon. But at least now I have a place to link people to other than this blog, for PR.

Let me know if you encounter any issues using various browsers, please.