Look at this sad, sad image below:

Image1

This is my internet speed, and this is a GODO day with a BRAND NEW router. TBH, the 6MB download is generally quite enough for me. I have a 110GB monthly cap anyway, and I can stream through amazon video on that, plus I don’t download a huge pile of AAA games every day so it doesn’t really bother me. I have a monthly cap because I’m with a really reliable ISP who charge a lot but provide decent tech support and actually have human staff who aren’t in some call center 10,000 miles away…

Anyway, it’s the upload speed that is a pain. Imagine uploading a 100MB game installer with that. Now imagine a 300MB installer… And then the mac build, then linux, then to 3 other portals, and then a 300MB promo video… And then all of it again because you found a bug :D.

When I check out the upgrade plans for the nearest exchange to me, BT list it as ’2014′ which is very encouraging. So I *may* get faster broadband before GSB2 ships (I really hope so). I suspect this will be FTTC, and not FTTH, but to be honest if I can just get a service that doubles my upload speed it would be a godsend, let alone all this 50MB stuff people have.

I live in a pretty remote village of maybe 60 houses, so we don’t have any cable service here. Our telephone lines are all raised up on poles right outside the houses, subject to the random whims of the local vegetation and wildlife.  There is vague talk of community broadband being set up using a radar link? but I think that might be unlikely to happen, whereas presumably if BT write ’2014′ on the exchange, it’s definitely going to happen, even if it gets delayed.

I bet the prices go up too…

If you have read this blog for a long time you will know I own and run a site called www.showmethegames.com. It’s been around a while, and it’s a collaborative indie thing, that basically serves as a cool database of indie games you can buy direct from the developer. It’s essentially a bunch of screenshots, short descriptions and links. It’s NOT a portal, because it doesn’t sell anything. Every link takes you to a developers own site, and the owner (me) doesn’t skim a penny from anyone. It’s run by me because I like indie games and I like supporting indie developers.

Anyway, the problem with it, is there is little draw to it traffic wise. Some indie devs link to it, but not many. The problem is that the devs are all too busy making games to contribute any fresh content, and although I stuck some stuff up there in the past, interviews with some indies, some videos about upcoming games… I’m as busy as the next guy (probably MORE SO).

smtg

So I’ve bitten the bullet and accepted I should actually hire proper writer types to generate content for it!

This isn’t going to be another Rock Paper Shotgun. it’s not getting daily updates and won’t cover today’s gaming news. It will be feature-driven, not news-driven, but I hope it will prove interesting and worth a place on your bookmarks or under your tweet button.

The first article has just gone up on the site, courtesy of Dan Griliopoulos, talking about the Golden age of simulations, and you can read it right here, right now.

For the business minded asking why I am doing this, this is a long, long term hedge. There is no immediate profit from doing it, although obviously my own games are amongst the 100+ so far listed on the site.

 

Can you, by sheer weight of tweeting, facebook-promotion and general marketing and ‘oomph’ force your ipad strategy game into the charts?

Maybe not.

I’m experimenting with marketing efforts on the ipad version of Democracy 3. The game is already profitable, so I don’t *need* to make money from it on the app store, but I’m interested to see, if used as an experiment, whether or not you can catapult such a game into the top ten and then generate it’s own self-fulfilling sales momentum. It seems this is harder than i thought, even if you spend 70%+ of your profits straight back on marketing. Here are the charts. (click to enlarge)

charts

You can see that the game has a tough time clinging into any ‘top 10′ list, whereas I thought that it would pretty much stay there a while once it crossed that thresh-hold. It did that at the start of the chart, but getting it to bounce back in has been tricky, not to mention expensive. I’m currently trying to push it back in again, hence that climb (and my complaining wallet).

My guess is that it takes about $1,000 a day in marketing spend to get a game into the top 10 strategy or sim categories for the UK, presumably MUCH more for the US. I might concentrate entirely on the UK (as my ads are currently UK/US), so it might be possible to jump into the top 10 for less ads than that. The problem is, that seems to equate to only about 140 sales a day, so about $980 on a 70% cut of a $10 app. In other words, a net loss. Which of course makes sense in a completely perfect market, because if it was an easy win, those ad prices would just climb to eliminate the surplus. The people making money here are apple and advertising sellers, not the app developer.

Still, it’s all good fun :D

There are now quite a few cool-looking mods for Democracy 3 on the steam workshop page (and others for non-steam versions can be found at my site here). I’m so glad I introduced modding support. I haven’t tried very many of them, but just from the titles, I like the sound of the ‘State Pyschologists’ mod, the ‘Religious Prisons’ one, and a whole mod dedicated to dental health issues (oh yes).

workshop

I have a few ideas myself for mods, which I throw open to the modding masses. For example:

  • National lottery! (makes the poor happy, but also poorer at the same time!)
  • Help-to-buy scheme. Essentially the government backs mortgages for the middle classes. Popular with the middle classes, but expensive if GDP drops due to defaults.

You can pretty much look at the headlines on any particular day and find something that is very moddable for the game :D. In the meantime, i should point out that the retina-font update for the ipad version is OUT NOW! And already got a thumbs up here:

http://www.pockettactics.com/news/ios-news/vote-fixing-democracy-3-update-adds-lovely-retina-fonts/

So if you were holding off because of that, please take another look, and as ever, please leave a review of the game in the store if you like it :D.

I’ll have other news soon, both Gratuitious Space Battles 2 related, and ‘other stuff’. Stay tuned and all that.

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The programmer constraint

June 21, 2014 | Filed under: business | gsb2

Positech Games suffers from the programmer constraint. Everything that gets made directly by positech goes through the funnel of coding by me, and it’s becoming difficult to keep that up. GSB 2 is a BIG BIG game. It introduces a lot of new features to the game, and it has a much much more complex engine (a multi-threaded one). It will also have higher production values, more music and art and so on, than it’s predecessor. This is fine, as I have the budget to match my ambitions, and no real time constraint (although I’ll have to have a ‘playable’ version for Eurogamer in London, this September. The only thing that holds the game back now is me.

I’m the only programmer, and that is a pain. GSB2 uses my own custom engine, and no middle ware other than a sound library. There is a LOT of code, and although I do none of the art, the constraint of me being totally the only coder slows down the games production, and possibly limits its scope. I can see various mitigation strategies.

Mitigation Strategy #1

Delay the game. Just deal with the fact that it will take another year, and keep plugging away. This is the easiest option, although one I don’t like. I dislike 2 or 3 year projects. I already have plans to show the game in September, I can’t wait years to release after that. Plus the memory (and player-base) of GSB will degrade more the longer I leave it. Plus also I won’t earn any money until I start selling it!

Mitigation Strategy #2

Scale down the ambition. The engine runs very fast already, it really does not need to be optimized that much more. The GUI can be functional but not flashy.  I really don’t need to go bananas with features like steam leaderboards or online messaging etc. That’s stuff I can leave out of the game. I dislike this strategy too. This is a sequel, it should be the better interpretation of the idea, with better everything, and all cool features intact. I’d be disappointed otherwise.

Mitigation Strategy #3

Hire a coder. This would be ideal but vastly problematic. Experience with Unity or Unreal or the Source engine will not help you with my engine. it’s all my work, and never written to be understood by anyone else. Plus how can I be sure their work is good without checking it and testing it, which might take more time than me just doing it? I  am not good at code collaboration, so this might keep me awake at night. What if they code some bugs I then have to fix? Nightmare… Plus I’d be VERY picky. How will I find a very experienced (no time to teach) coder that is available, reliable, affordable and motivated enough to work alongside me between now and the project end. This is unlikely.

Mitigation strategy #4/

Offload everything else. I already have taken steps towards this. My Linux & Mac ports are done by other people, some of the PR stuff is outsourced, as is making trailers. All the art and music is outsourced, should I hire a sound designer to pick sounds too? what else takes time? QA? Should I hire some QA company to do playthroughs? Could I maybe hire a designer to do some balancing? A writer to do some writing? Even though i am never really happy with it (because its’ hard to edit) should I take the plunge again and get the website designed and implemented entirely without me?

This is my favorite strategy. I can probably do a bit more of this, offloading all ‘non-core’ code stuff, and literally everything else. it does mean a pure-code lfie for me, which can be a bit maddening at times. I still have the biz strategy and advertising task in my court though :D