Monthly Archives: January 2017

Wow, fifteen video blogs. Its amazing how I have found the time. Also you note that my physical appearance deteriorates with each blog. I must remember to shave and wash my hair one week. Anyway, enough of that, my blog readers come for Production Line updates, not men’s grooming tips!. Here is the latest video blog:

Its safe to say that pre-orders have exceeded my expectations. You people seem to like this game! I keep checking that there hasn’t been some big news article on it, and no! its just word of mouth and some cool youtube videos. I’m working my way through a seemingly never ending list fo fixes, tweaks and suggestions, and trying to patch the game only when I have patched something that is embarrassing enough that it pains me to think of people playing without that fix! I’ll try to slow down the release schedule and have fewer, bigger updates, as that means less time spending doing and checking builds and more time spent actually developing fixes and improvements.

The full 1.03 fix list is this:

[version alpha  1.03]
1) Click-dragging on a slot to build a conveyor or a production line no longer launches the details window for the slot.
2) Fixed bug where the wrong entry was deleted on supply stockpile contents lists if the scrollbar had moved.
3) In game settings menu now pauses game, and some other menus now pause and resume previous speed when closed.
4) Facility and slot placer GUI now postpone the autosave kicking in to avoid corrupt saves.
5) Fixed crash bug with loading large save games.
6) New resource route highlight GUI for when you select a slot that has a resource stockpile.
7) Fixes to resource routing to recover from cases where resources-in-progress cannot get to their destination.
8) Fixed anomalies with slot details window not refreshing accurately.
9) Clicking a resource importer no longer shows a slot details window.
10) Checkbox now has a visible tick.
11) Fixed bug where time would pass when game was in alt-tab mode.
12) Fixed missing sales data for games with over 2,000 sold cars.

6) and 7) are the big ones, which solve a lot of issues, along with those save game fixes. I’m going to try and pack a whole bunch of tiny GUI improvements and fixes into the next patch.

Also worth mentioning we have a sale on right now for political animals, 40% off on steam here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/458630/

I know politics in the US has got very newsworthy lately. In the past when political events happen I have tended to run some satirical promotion or ads for Democracy 3, and I’m not doing it now just because people are so angry they are lashing out at everyone, and I’m just staying out of it. Also I’m going to GDC next month and don’t want to get involved in any political arguments. I *did* take the time to look at Democracy 3’s immigration code and noted that extreme border checks do actually reduce terrorism according to the game, and also cheer up patriots and annoy liberals. I guess it should also have a negative effect on capitalists (who tend to support free movement of labour) and maybe a hit to technology, as tech companies are especially keen on free movement. I’m surprised people haven’t done a ‘I played democracy 3 like trump’ video yet.

Anyway, enough politics, lets remind ourselves you can order production line right now :D

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A short rant about UK tax

January 24, 2017 | Filed under: Uncategorized

…not about it being too high. I think its probably ‘about right’ myself, and there are arguments in both directions, and I don’t want to get into that. My complaint is not that we are taxed too much, bu that we are taxed really badly. Theoretically our income tax system is simple enough:

Basic rate band:  £0-32,000 charged at 20%

Higher rate band: £32k- £150k charged at 40%

Additional rate band: £150k+ charged at 45%

All well and good. A few needless cliff-edges there, having a band between 32 and 150k wouldn’t exactly over-stress modern computers methinks. If life for a UK tax payer was this simple, it would be great. the thing is, we have a load of other bullshit:

  • ‘Tax credits’ are a thing that are basically benefits, but the government didn’t want to call them benefits so they get called tax credits instead, and are not credits against tax.
  • If you earn over £100k, the government starts taking away your ‘personal allowance’ of tax-free income at a marginal rate of 50%. This was a kludge to fix a bodged budget one year that nobody has the balls to fix.
  • As well as income tax, there is capital gains tax, which is totally different rates, at different bands, on money from different sources.
  • ‘National Insurance’ is a tax on employment paid by employers AND employees, again at totally different rates and rules. Its essentially just more tax, and makes no sense whatsoever to be separated from income tax.
  • TV License, is a tax you have to pay to use a TV, or a computer capable of receiving a TV signal. Theoretically you don’t HAVE to have one, but in practice everyone does, and a totally separate regime of costs, enforcement and collection takes place. FFS roll this into income tax.
  • Car Tax. This is a tax (technically a duty) for owning a car, even if you never drive it once. This is again, set, enforced and collected in an entirely different way to…
  • Fuel tax. A tax for using a car, assuming that its a petrol/diesel car.
  • VAT. A sales tax, whose rules are complex enough to be laughable. Some biscuits have VAT on them. other biscuits do not, depending how they are made. I wish I was kidding. I’m not.
  • Stamp Duty. This is a tax on buying a house, or buying *some* shares on the stock market. Apparently it seems to be designed to reduce market liquidity and reduce labour force mobility. No other explanation makes sense.

Essentially the UK tax system is one nobody in their right mind would design. We have several taxes (Car Tax, National Insurance, TV licenses) that could happily be abolished and rolled into a rise in income tax, but nobody has the balls to confront this and actually do it. The insane complexity of the system gives profitable work to an army of accountants who do their best to prevent the government collecting tax from the wealthy, whilst confusing the crap out of everybody else. The partisan state of British politics means that cross-party co-operation on issues such as tax-simplification is much needed yet impossible to achieve.

Eventually such system will collapse under their own stupidity. Countries like Italy and Greece show what happens when the majority of people start avoiding tax, you get more and more taxes to compensate for the evasion, leading to greater and greater evasion…

If I were Prime Minister, one of my first steps would be to abolish car tax and stick the revenue lost as an increase in fuel tax. I’d scrap stamp duty. I’d scrap the License fee and roll them both into income tax, and do the same with national insurance./

Accountants would hate me, but c’est la vie!

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.

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.