Yikes,. so we had a lot of MUST FIX NOW issues in the first four days of releasing Gratuitous Space Battles 2. I think in retrospect I had bitten off a bit more than in possible for a single coder / designer to do.

GSB2 involved a phenomenal amount of re-engineering to support the kind of graphical fidelity I wanted. I sometimes read comments like ‘its just a new engine’, as though I just went into a drop-down box in unity and selected ‘new engine’, then hit the ship-it button. Arrggghhh. This new engine took well over a year of mind-mangling stress to develop. I love it, but its still hard work.

Anyway… Lesson learned #1: Multithreading increases your bug count by at least tenfold. Especially on ‘other peoples hardware’.

spag

Lesson learned #2: Don’t do a multi-platform release. Do a Windows release. Fix everything, THEN worry about mac & Linux. Or hire another 3 or four people. Or make a much, much simpler game.

The good news is that after tracking down some pretty obscure stuff, I’ve got version 1.26 out there, and early reports suggest it is MUCH better. MUCH more stable, and a lot of silly dumb-ass mistakes by me have been fixed. The only *big* bug left is some series of actions that leads to ship designs being (temporarily) deleted until you restart the app. I reckon thats easily fixable today. Which then means I can get on with what I wanted to be doing all along: tweaking values, improving GUI elements, supporting modders, and getting a feel for what features people would like improved or added. I know people want galactic conquest put in, but thats a HUGE project, and not one for the next few months. That didn’t ship with GSB1, and that was with good reason, I assure you. Every single weapon and module from every race & expansion pack of GSB1 is in GSB2. It also has more initial missions, but even then people complain it doesn’t have enough content. Argggghhh.

Anyway, at least I can smile now for the first time in a few days. If you are enjoying the game, please leave a positive steam review. Even better, tweet about it :D.

There is nothing relaxing about the day after launching a game. Especially when you do this for a living, and other people depend on you. Its a huge, big deal. Its basically betting your one and a half years income on a roulette wheel. And the worst thing is, it can be weeks or even months before you really know if it worked. Terrifying. I read a lot of books about similar (more established industries) to give myself some perspective. One of the Harry Potter movies (not the first one) LOST money at the cinema. Despite tens, probably hundreds of millions of people seeing it, it LOST money. They broke even, then made a handsome profit, only after all the TV rights, DVD, Blu-Ray and merchandising income came in. Imagine taking in $200 million+ and thinking “Yup we are still in the red guys. Don’t worry, it’ll be fine in the long run.” Holy fuck.

Thankfully I’m not *that* much down right now, but I’ll still have a celebration pub lunch on the day I break even.

The launch has gone ok, in that people are buying it, it jumped into the steam charts, people are playing it, they are uploading steam workshop entries for their ships, and I’ve got some very nice comments about the graphics. That’s all awesome, and trying out some of the challenges is hilarious. You people are very inventive when it comes to both ship and fleet design. I’ve got my ass kicked many times already :D

workshop

I’ve already patched it twice (yup I’m nuts). and am planning another one in a few days. There is a lot of admin overhead in patching the game, so I want t make each patch worth it, especially as I’ve fixed a bunch of urgent issues, and can now track down more obscure issues and the odd crash.

Of more interest will be what I’m learning about releasing a game in 2015 vs one in 2013. Holy fuck, its got harder. here are some observations.

1) There are so many games the media (inncluding youtubers/twitch streamers) won’t care that you released a new game without real hand-waving and pleading. Just being a good, quality game isn’t going to cut it any more. Unless your game has a famous actor in it, or is hilariously weird in its premise, or has some other non-game related ‘hook’ for the press to get excited about it, you can forget it. I hate worrying about all that. I’m a coder at heart, and this is meaning its getting tougher for me.

2) Ad costs are creeping up. The site takeover costs are stupidly high anyway, but even facebook, google adwords, its all got very very pricey.

3) There is a definite tendency for everyone to just add a game to a wishlist and wait for the sale. The inevitable sale. Kinda weird because…

4) There is still the inevitable abusive anger about a game daring to cost $24.95. People moan that the price is too high, then say they only ever buy games at 50% off. There may be some logic there but I can’t quite see it myself. Every game I’ve ever released on steam has had a thread saying its cost too much. I suspect every game on steam has that thread. I suspect its the same posters too…

5) Nobody leaves steam reviews. Seriously, its like pulling teeth persuading people to do so. Which means only people with a bug, or a problem bother, and that drags down the scores. I can see from my stats I have a lot of happy people playing the game, I wish I could interrupt them to ask them nicely to leave a review :D

I’m guessing things are a bit quiet because GTA just came out, and it just started getting nice weather. Games are a long tail phenomena these days. GSB1 made 1% of its total earnings to date in its first week on sale. By that measure GSB2 is going to do well :D. Fingers crossed anyway :D

 

 

logo

Yup, it’s true, the much-awaited sequel to the 200,000+ selling Indie Strategy game Gratuitous Space Battles, is finally on sale. Hurrah! This has taken us twenty months to make, involved a complete redesign and re-engineering of the graphics engine, numerous changes, improvements and fixes, not least the fact that the game now lets you design the look of the ships from scratch AND has steam workshop support, achievements, trading cards and so on. Plus it has one-click easy to use multiple-monitor support, which I HIGHLY recommend. Behold: the cheesy trailer:

The game has been in beta a while, so its hopefully vaguely playable by now! Big thanks to all the beta testers, and of course everybody who worked on the game. You can grab it from a variety of sources, and I’m just going to flat out assume all of their buy links are active right now…so here we go:




Of course the world is a different place now to when GSB1 was released. Who knows how well this one will do? Will anybody like it? One of my biggest fears is people assuming it wont run on their PC. It will! Its actually not *that* demanding. And if you happen to have two monitors you OWE it to yourself to grab it :D. So please do it, help me feed my cats! And if you like the game, PLEASE review it on steam, or wherever you buy it, tweet about it, tell all your friends. And your enemies :D. If you are someone who makes youtube lets-play videos, I hereby give you permission to use the game in your videos, and to monetize those videos, this is fine with me. The more video footage of the game the better. (The battles look much better in motion than as screenshots).

If you want more information / screenshots / wallpaper head over to the official site. Press inquiries welcome to cliff@positech.co.uk.

So lets do this. Lets lay out what I’m thinking / hoping / dreading. And look at how we got here :D. Initially my plan was to do Gratuitous Space Battles 2 as a nice relaxing project after the mental weightlifting and stress of doing Democracy 3, which may look like just a screen with some pretty icons, but is a fiendishly complicated and intricate simulation that is pure HELL to code. Making a nice simple sequel to my space game was sure to be a nice easy ride in comparison, and would relax me.

Ahahaha.

That was in August 2013, when I first started talking to the spaceship artist about how to do proper 3D-style lighting effects. Here we are 20 months later. It may not seem like it took that long, because it happened alongside some of the Democracy 3 DLC, and I worked on it for *ages* before going public with what I was working on.

Back in the early days, screenshots looked like this.

early

They look a tad better now :D.

At some point along the development path for the game, things started to balloon out of all possible proportion. I got insanely ambitious with the technical side. I’d never done much multi-threading or multiple-render target stuff before, and fairly limited shaders. Suddenly I was going full-throttle with all that stuff. I bought two 27″ identical monitors purely to test the huge 5160 res possibilities for high-end hardware. I added more and more effects and content, and ended up giving in and hiring people to do a lot of stuff (hulk graphics, sound effects, we design) that I would have previously done myself. The cost went up, and up and up. The game has cost more than double what Democracy 3 cost, and that excludes my time. 20 months work. Yikes.

So here we are. The game is on sale already through my site as a beta but at midnight GMT tomorrow (16:00 PDT) it will go live on steam, humble store and GoG. At some point the next morning, a cheeky little ad campaign will start up to tell the masses about it. I will become loud and annoying on twitter, and become very, very stressed.

Imagine taking no salary for twenty months, putting a big chunk of your savings in with the salary, and rolling a dice. That’s game development, and it is terrifying. Not just for game one, or two, but for game ten, eleven… This is a very very high stakes nerve wracking game, and at some point between midnight tomorrow and whatever time I drag myself to bed I’ll know if I made a good bet or a bad one.

I’m eating lots of chocolate to combat the stress.

 

If you are not already aware, Gratuitous Space Battles 2 will be released on April 16th, this coming Thursday. This is scary stuff. People who are working on their first indie game may suspect that after you have shipped a dozen of them, you become more relaxed and laid back about it, but absolutely not. It always both exciting AND terrifying. The benefit of having some games ‘under your belt’ is that¬† if the game totally bombs, you can at least know that you *have* made some decent selling games, and thus you don’t feel like a complete failure. However, the downside is, that you have likely scaled up both your production and ambitions, and expectations, so you are setting yourself up for a bigger fall if it flops.

release

Conventional wisdom in media circles is to never admit to a flop, so you don’t get to read about them, but we have all had them. Gratuitous Tank Battles definitely made a profit, but comparatively, it was a flop. Check out it’s steam spy entry compared with the first gratuitous space battles. (Not accurate data, but you get the idea)…

My plan to make GSB2 a success, apart from the obvious and ‘I think we can assume that’ strategy of ‘making the best game possible’ is basically to minimize reasons for people ‘not’ to buy it.

For example, some people might not buy it because its not in their language, but I’ve hopefully reduced that by translating to French, German, Spanish, Swedish and Dutch. (Others *may* follow). Some people may not buy it because they don’t run windows, but again I hope to eliminate that by porting to Mac & Linux (I *hope* these will be ready by Thursday). Another reason people may give is that they don’t think the game will run on their PC, but I’ve gone to great lengths to both optimize the game big-time, and also include a plethora of graphical options to ensure people can streamline the game down to whatever graphics capabilities their PC supports.

languages

And yet another reason is that people have their preferred store, but I am hopefully mitigating that by being on Steam, GoG, Humble store and direct. The others are too small to be worth the accounting hassle tbh.

Of course, thats all well and good, but the reason 99% of people don’t buy your game is because they don’t know it exists. I am *still* running an ongoing facebook campaign promoting democracy 3, and every few days I see a comment on the ad saying ‘whoah this looks interesting’ and I wonder where on earth these people have been hiding! There are a LOT of people out there.

So with that in mind, I have a big scary ad-campaign budget primed for GSB2. Hopefully you will see an ad somewhere, if you are vaguely in the target demographic.¬† And don’t email saying ‘why not advertise with us’. I’m more aware of ad opportunities than most. If I didn’t email you, I’m not choosing that as an ad option thanks :D