Archive for month: December, 2013

Christmas Break

23 Dec
December 23, 2013

The holidays are finally upon us, thankfully! It has been a long, busy, eventful year* and I am well in need of some R&R!

With that in mind, blogging will take bit of a break until January. However you choose to spend this time of year, I hope you all enjoy a great holiday indulging in the good life with family and friends!

Until the New Year! Have a Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/Unnerving Cthulhumass!

Gareth, out!

*That reminds me, I should write up an end of year cap-off post. I’ll write that up after the break.

Josh Sawyer, on writing Genre Fiction

20 Dec
December 20, 2013

Josh Sawyer, who answers fan questions on his tumblr, the Frog Helms Fan Club, posted this excellent, thoughtful response to a question on avoiding cliche in writing genre fiction.

Good stuff.

The Future is a Foreign Country

17 Dec
December 17, 2013

THE FUTURE IS a foreign country. Not only do they do things differently, the things they do are often incomprehensible, wildly exciting or profoundly horrifying. And the locals won’t stop to translate for you. The only effective way to cope with the shock is through immersion, the way a child learns.

I rather enjoyed reading the first couple of paragraphs of this, describing the experience of science fiction, as a genre. The author isn’t the first to describe it that way, certainly, but it’s elegantly phrased. And I do so enjoy elegant writing.

Elegant writing and elegant code. Two of life’s greatest pleasures.

The Hook

13 Dec
December 13, 2013

The indie team behind “Ethan: Meteor Hunter” posted a post-mortem of their development, along with revealing their disappointing sales figure : 127 copies sold.

Which is obviously fairly heartbreaking. Especially for a 7-person indie team who’d sacrificed much of their resources to get the game finished. That’s the unfortunate reality of the world, one I face myself (ulp). Outside of your friends and family, customers don’t care how much effort and time you put into something. Only what value it offers to them.

But that aside, their reasoning for why their game didn’t sell seems a bit flawed. This reddit comment sums it up nicely.

“Good” is not enough to sell a game, or even really to be noticed by the press and customers. Good is assumed, as a baseline. Read more →

Obama’s Tribute to Mandela

10 Dec
December 10, 2013

It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailor as well.


Damn. Whatever else you might think of Obama and his politics, he’s one hell of a speaker. Kudos to him and his speech writers.

I’ve got the live stream of the Mandela memorial playing in the background while I work, today.
You can read the full transcript of his speech here.

Dang, That’s Pretty

09 Dec
December 9, 2013

Hamba Kahle, Madiba

08 Dec
December 8, 2013

Others have already written pieces, better than I can, on his life and what he meant to South Africans, and to the world at large. Suffice to say, he was the spiritual father of our country, its greatest hero, and deeply beloved by most South Africans. We mourn his death, but more than that, we celebrate his life.

The struggles and sacrifices that he and those like him made set all South Africans, no matter our race, free. Free from the cycle of hatred, oppression and injustice.

It’s easy, looking at South Africa today, to see only its problems. Politicians who seek to subvert the mechanisms of the state to enrich themselves, debates on the limits of free speech, the crushing poverty many still live in and the violence and crime it births. Easy to focus on these things, and to forget how far we’ve come in such a short time, and what a miracle it is that we managed to transition from the apartheid government to a true democracy without degenerating into full-scale civil war. Current events demonstrate how easily these things slip out of control.

That transition relied on the courage, moral strength and leadership of people like Nelson Mandela. For myself, I think of all the things I want to achieve in my life, all the dreams I have. And I try to imagine having 27 prime years of my adult life snatched away by the brutal inhumanity of a system that judged my worth by the colour of my skin, that sought to smother the desire that every human shares, to determine their own destiny and pursue their own potential. I try to imagine the strength of character it takes to endure all that and yet forgive, and seek reconciliation with your oppressors instead of revenge.

When Nelson Mandela took office in 1994, at 12 years old I was too young to really understand the significance of the event. Much of the sickness of the old South Africa was invisible to me, at the time (an ignorance that was itself a manifestation of privilege). It’s only as an adult that I really comprehend what it all meant, and fully appreciate the efforts of leaders like Mandela.

On Friday, the day after he passed, I was driving to my girlfriend’s house , the radio stations filled with programming commemorating his life. And I passed a group of young boys, walking up the road. Obviously fresh from soccer practice, all in the kit, laughing and tossing a ball between them as they walked. Black kids and white kids, just playing together as friends, no divide separating them.

Mandela’s legacy lives on in his children.

Rest well, Madiba.

Some System Crash Art

04 Dec
December 4, 2013

I don’t think I ever posted these on this blog. So let me rectify that. Here’s some of the latest art I did for System Crash.

I actually would have preferred to pay a professional artist to do them, as it actually isn’t cost effective for me to do so. I’m not as skilled and I take longer (2 days apiece). Which, if you translate that into hours spent, means it costs me more to make an inferior product. My internal business manager grimaces at this.

But what can you do? I ran out of money. There is at least some consolation in having enough skill to “fill in” for an artist in situations like that. Wearing multiple hats is actually fairly tiring, but the alternative, needing some asset and not being able to afford to pay for it, sucks more.

Anyway, art.


A Design Question

03 Dec
December 3, 2013

There’s an aspect of the System Crash UI design that I feel is a bit awkward and confusing. And I am considering changing it. So I thought, before I did that, that I’d ask people who’d played the beta for their feedback.

When you start the game, from the main menu you can choose to play a SenseSim game ( a quick random match), and you can access the Black Market (the deck editor).


Behind the scenes, the game saves out the data representing your Profile. This includes data for any campaigns you’ve played, your unlocked cards, and your decks.

Now, your unlocked cards and decks are not tied to any campaign. The idea is that if you unlock a card in any campaign, it’s unlocked for your entire profile. Likewise, decks that you create are global to your profile.

Your earned credits, however, are not. I didn’t want you to be able to unbalance expansion campaigns by being able to play Campaign A, earn tons of credits, then take them into Campaign B, which is balanced around you only having so much money to unlock cards slowly.

So, the awkward part is how your cards and decks are global to your profile, but credits are campaign-specific. This means that if you load up the Black Market from the main menu, you can create and edit decks, but not buy and sell cards. Whereas if you load the Black Market from a Campaign game, you can do so.

I feel it’s not hugely clear to new players why it’s like that. I did it so that, even without a campaign loaded, players can fire up System Crash and play a quick game. But what I wonder is, does anyone do that? Have I catered for a case that no one cares about, making things more confusing in the process?

It’s also a half-measure which doesn’t quite fix the balance concern. Sure, you can’t take your credits across from one campaign to another, but you can take your unlocked cards and decks. Which means that a similar problem exists, you can play Campaign A, unlock a ton of strong cards, then go onto Campaign B and steamroll. At the time, I was thinking that any expansion campaigns would assume you’d have unlocked all the cards from the base game, so you would only be unlocking new, expansion-specific cards anyway.

But now I’m thinking that may not always be the case. Maybe I’ll want to ship an expansion campaign that has you starting with limited or weak cards again. Which would mean I need to tie the unlocked cards/decks to the campaign they were earned in.

The downside would be that you’d need to recreate your favourite decks in each campaign you play.

I dunno, I’m torn. What do you guys think? Is it a non-issue, am I worrying for nothing? Should I leave it as is, or make cards/decks campaign-locked and nuke the SenseSim/Black Market buttons on the main menu screen?

(There is a poll on this question up on my forums. Feel free to answer here in the comments or in that forum poll, whichever format you prefer.)