So here is the exciting and thrilling alpha video for you to enjoy:

And you can now grab a copy, should you desire, from the humble widget. its a straight $10 to pre-order the game, you get immediate alpha access, and all future builds including final. Its an early alpha, so consider yourself warned. there are a load more disclaimers on the buy page which is here, or you can just use this exciting widget:

We have forums set up to discuss the game here. Registering is easy as you should be able to use Facebook/Google and twitter as I recall…not sure. Anyway…feel free to post comments here if you prefer. Anyone who wants to do a youtube video, go for it I’m not fussed about that, although I’m not promoting it directly with promo copies yet (that will come later). BTW The forums include a poll where you can vote on my development priorities :D

This is the first totally new IP and Idea I have had for first-party games since….well Gratuitous Space Battles I guess (GTB was a bit of a sideways move), so that my first attempt to work out if I really know what I’m doing in about 7-8 years so…no pressure.

Yikes.

I’m not doing any press stuff until I’m confident the build is ok, but if press cover it, then thats a bonus. I’m definitely in this game’s development for the long haul so I am not in a rush to get it in front of everyone’s face just yet.

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What is it with TV executives and non-tech savvy journalists? Can they not do the vaguest bit of research and kill of this myth about ‘gifted child genius programmers and hackers’? its so off-base its laughable, especially to anyone my age who works as a software engineer. If it isn’t immediately obvious what I’m talking about, its characters like this from silicon valley:

And also like this (also from silicon valley)*

And like this from ‘halt and catch fire’

And any number of media stories about ‘teenage bedroom genius hackers’. I guess it all goes back to a single film, in the early days of computers (and the threat of hacking)…war games, starring Matthew Broderick aged 19 released in 1983. The myth of the young genius computer whizz was born, and nobody has seemingly challenged it since.

Firstly…lets get something straight., The ‘cleverest’ programmers are not usually ‘hackers’. Firstly, its much easier to break something than build it. You build software with 100,000 lines of code and 1 line has a potential exploit? you did a good job 99,999 times, versus a hacker who finds that one exploit. are the finest minds in programming really working for the Russian mafia? I suspect they are more likely to be working for Apple or Deep Mind or some tech start-up with fifty million dollars worth of stock options. They get better pay and no threats of violence, which would you choose?

Secondly, computers were invented a while ago now. We have people with a LOT of experience in the field out there now. Amazingly, C++ is still perfectly usable, and very efficient, and given the choice between someone who has written tens of millions of lines of C++ over twenty or thirty years, versus some ‘bright’ kid…I’m going with the old guy/girl thanks.

Learning to code takes TIME, yet because bookshops hawk crappy ‘learn C++ in 21 days (or less)’ bullshit, some non-coders actually believe it. There is a BIG difference between ‘knowing some C++’ and being a C++ software engineer. Writing code that works is fucking easy. Writing reliable bug-free efficient, legible and flexible and safe code is fucking hard. Why do we think that surgeons with 20 years experience are the best choice for our brain operation, yet want software coded by a fourteen year old? Is there some reality-distortion field that turns programming into a Benjamin button style alternate reality?

No.

So ideally, any movie or TV series that features the ‘ace’ coder would have them aged about 30-40, maybe even older. At the very least they would be in the darned twenties. Enough with the school-age hacker god bullshit. Here is a recent picture of John Carmack. I bet he is a better coder than you, or me. He has even more grey hair than me.

While we are on the topic, the best coders are not arrogant, mouthy, uber-confident¬† types on skateboards wearing hip t-shirts with confrontational activist slogans on them, and flying into a rage whenever people talk to them. Nor do they always blast out heavy metal or rap music on headphones whilst coding on the floor cross-legged, and nor do they ‘do all their best work’ when on drugs, or at 3AM, or after a fifteen hour coding blitz.

These are myths that make TV characters ‘more exciting’. Except they also make them unbelievable and stupid. I’m quite unusual in being a fairly extravert (in short bursts) programmer. Put it down to being a lead guitarist in a metal band 27 years ago. Most really *good* coders I know are actually pretty quiet. They will not draw attention to themselves. they are not arrogant, they know enough to know that they know very little. Really good coders tend not to brag. I brag a bit, its PR but would I claim to be a C++ *expert*. Nope, I know what I need to know. I also only really know C++, a little bit of PHP, and some HTML, CSS, but not enough to do anything but the few things I need. When I meet coders who brag that they know 10 languages, I get that they know the syntax, but how to use them effectively? enough to write mission critical code that a company is built on? I find it hard to believe.

Most coders look pretty boring. Most of us are pretty boring. Most of us are not arrogant shouty attention seekers. The experienced ones know to stop coding by 9PM at the very latest, and to take regular breaks. We also aren’t stupid enough to store backup disks next to hi-fi speakers in the same room (an actual plot point in halt and catch fire). We make shit TV, but good code.¬† I suspect our portrayal will never change.

 

*All the SV cast are young, but carla seems to be portrayed as younger, cooler, more confident than the rest.

Here is the latest in my surprisingly (to me anyway) regular series of vlogs on developing Production Line:

This video has me talking about some of the new graphical tweaks to the game as well as a short talk about the alpha, which I’m planning to start in about a weeks time, with pre-orders for $10, direct from my site (using the humble widget, if I can get it sorted out in time :D).

I’m really keen to get the game in the hands of some real paying gamers to get their opinions on the design, and ask them what they would like to see. I’ve never done Early Access before, and although when that trend first started I really disliked the idea, I have totally come around to it. Next week should be really cool :D.

Another shadowhand update!

January 14, 2017 | Filed under: shadowhand

Another video from Jake talking about the enemies abilities to use consumables in Duel sections of ShadowHand. I’m really looking forward to playing the finished version of this. Its getting closer to release!

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I’m keen to get people playing a really early build of my next game: Production Line. My current aim is for it to be available for pre-orders and early alpha play in about two weeks time. This is MUCH earlier than I normally start taking money for a game, and letting people play it, but this as an experiment for me, and I’m always looking to try new stuff. The more I think about ‘Early Access’ for a game like this, the more I like it as a developer. I suspect I’m a much better programmer and ‘big picture’ designer than a designer of the nitty gritty mechanics of a game, and for someone like that, early feedback from real players will be invaluable. Here is my current plan:

The next two weeks: Get a playable Alpha.

The game is playable right now, and you can easily spend a few hours playing it without issues, or running out of things to do. The game is English-only, windows-only, and is missing the following:

  • Proper music
  • Proper SFX
  • A decent GUI design
  • Any kind of high scores, goals or achievements
  • Modding support.

There will also be a lot of awful balance issues, and of course some hidden bugs you can enjoy finding. Yay!. My big internal debate right now is how much to charge people ordering at this stage, more on that next week. This is likely to be a direct-download from-the-developer only affair in the short term. Anyway beyond that…

The month of February: Play Balance

Everything will be thrown into chaos once the player base goes from just me, to the 100 or so people mad enough to pre-order at this stage. (I plan no press release or ads, just a blog and twitter/facebook announcement. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it). I suspect I will be inundated by people saying ‘Windows are too cheap!’ ‘Employees don’t cost enough!’ ‘Aircon is a worthless upgrade’ and so on… Sorting through all that and making the game a balanced, playable experience for everyone is going to take a lot of analysis and fiddling so I expect that this, combined with GDC at the end of Feb, and also Shadowhand‘s launch, will mean February will be likely ‘feature-free’ in update terms.

The month of March: Late game stuff.

At this point I’ll likely want to gather opinions on, and suggestions for, the two big missing areas of the game, marketing & QA. The cars currently are assumed to have neither, and the whole topic is ignored, but introducing them both will be fun, and involve new research, new graphics, and a whole lot more GUI. This is just to get stuff into a vaguely playable state and make sense of the mechanics. Marketing is obviously something I am personally interested in, but I’d like to know the extent to which players of the game find that it will add to the experience.

April and beyond: Features and polish.

Music, SFX, a decent GUI design, and a whole lot more features are all planned, but I intend to ask whatever community I can build up to give me their priorities in terms of what I work on. Some people may be interested in more employee management, others in variants of car designs, maybe some in an even bigger tech tree, or more complex market mechanics, it could go in a number of different directions from here.

Q2 2017: Steam Early Access?

If all goes well, I might take a step towards putting the game on steam for early access later in the year. I can’t guarantee that, and never intend to make any promises about the future, but I also cannot foresee any problems. Until then, it will be direct sales only, so I can keep control on things, and not have to divide my time between my blog & forum and steam and so on. Also it can be a bit of a megaphone effect when you launch on steam, even in Early Access, so I’d rather reserve any press coverage I may be lucky to get until after all those early issues have been wrangled along with help from the early-players.

Beyond that… who knows! The game may prove a success or a flop, and that largely determines what happens. I’m loving working on it, so I can’t see me stopping work on it for ages, even if nobody buys a copy :D If you want to know more about the game we have a website here, and also a bunch of youtube playthroughs here. Let me know what you think.