Category Archives: Uncategorized

Much Needed Break

November 05, 2014 | Filed under: Uncategorized

So…I’m about to head off on a much needed holiday somewhere nice. Right now it’s raining outside here. Haha, I shall think about the British rain while I’m here…

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This will be the last time I actually have a real holiday before I release Gratuitous Space Battles 2. A small army of highly skilled assistants are working away on various cool art things while I’m not here. Unlike most geeks, I’m very into the whole ‘unplugging’ thing. I’m not taking a laptop. I have a ‘smart’ phone I guess, but I never use it for the internet. I’m taking it just for emergencies. I think it’s good to break away from the world of computers and games and get some fresh input into my mind. Maybe it will inspire me to make a different game, or who knows what. I’m away for almost three weeks, the longest holiday I have ever had, as I recall. I wonder if the cats will recognize me when I return.

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…

I’m against tax breaks. that makes me a pariah amongst UK games industry folks. I’m, not against these tax breaks, I’m against ALL of them, especially the French, who frankly wanted to have them, but deny them to us. Fuck that. But I’d be happier if no video game in any country had them, as they are a distortion that is unwelcome. However, in the real world, we have to compete so…yay? I bet it’s impossible to ‘game’ them right? No new tax law ever has loopholes, thats why Starbucks and amazon pay the same tax rate as me! Lets try anyway…

“3 points if at least 66% is set in the United Kingdom or another EEA state or set in an undetermined location;”

CHECK! GSB2 is set in the star system Zog, so that is an undetermined location. pretty british so far…

“if there are only three characters depicted in the video game, 4 points if two or three of them are from the United Kingdom or another EEA state or from an undetermined location”

CHECK! I’ll get some tiny 32×32 faces drawn of 3 alien dudes who help with the tutorial. They are from Zog, which is undetermined, so yup, pretty british…

up to 4 points depending on the percentage of the original dialogue that is recorded in the English language or in a recognised regional or minority language as follows

CHECK! I have plans for zero dialogue, so I can state on oath that 100% of it was recorded in English.

2 points if at least 50% of the work carried out on any of the following is carried out in the United Kingdom

Ok, lets try to define 50% of the work. By time? by cost? By talent? by final contribution to the game? And lets define ‘carried out in’. If I have a design meeting over skype, where was that? here? the other guys place? skypes headquarters? the nearest fiber cabinet?

(a) 1 point if the project leader (or, if there is more than one, the main project leader) is a qualifying person;

Well thats me, so CHECK!

(b) 1 point if at least one of the scriptwriters (or, if there are more than three, one of the three lead scriptwriters) is a qualifying person;

Scriptwriter? is this a movie now? OK, I will write some dialog for the tutorial so thats me too. CHECK!

(d) 1 point if the artist (or, if there is more than one, the lead artist) is a qualifying person;

Yup, CHECK! Thats me too. I don’t get my hands dirty with actual art though, as lead, I hire other people to actually do my work…

(e) 1 point if the programmer (or, if there is more than one, the lead programmer) is a qualifying person;

(f) 1 point if the designer (or, if there is more than one, the lead designer) is a qualifying person;

(g) 1 point if at least one of the heads of department is a qualifying person;

(h) 1 point if at least 50% of the development team are qualifying persons.

Wow, that was an easy four points, as all those people are me too. As department head, and half the team, lead designer coder and artist, and scriptwriter, yeah, thats a lot of points.

So far so easy, now how much do I actually GET?

In summary, the relief allows a company to make an additional deduction in calculating the profit and loss of a game development project.
Righty ho. This is  going to be hilarious. So a game development project is already crazily hard to define. Is this engine work, or project work? What if I’m coding a routine used in one British and one non-British project? do I still claim the costs of writing that function? What is really an expense for this project anyway? My salary? do I need to keep a time log of which project I’m on now, for the Inland Revenue? If I have a business lunch where I discuss 2 different games, do we split the cost depending on which one was discussed the most?
If I run a generic ad campaign for my website that has 50% British and 50% non British games, is that an expense? is the marketing budget included? Define dev budget vs marketing budget for this purpose.
Lets now have a laugh with income from the game.
If I have 1 British and 1 non-British game in a bundle, do I split the profits from the sale 50/50? Ok cool. One of them is GSB 2, one of them is a pong clone I set in piccadilly circus and coded in 5 minutes that’s bundled with GSB2, so lets split 50/50 right? You think that’s unfair? Prove it.
In fact I might only sell bundles of my games from now on, all bundled with piccadilly-pong, so all of my back-catalog is now British too. Yay!
Some of this might not work, but some will, and people whose entire job is to find exploits will. So the 2 pages of tax-code for this ‘relief’ will become 200 pages, and at that point one-man indies won’t be able to justify the bureaucracy of claiming.
I’d love to be proven wrong…

You hear the comment quite often ‘I’m not buying anything till I clear my backlog’ and ‘I bought that game then realized I already owned it’ and ‘I bought the first one but didn’t play it, might pick this up…’

This is nuts. Gamers are being played, played like a fucking piano, every time you see the word SALE. This is a big psychology trick that is being used to siphon money from gamers, and it’s a bad thing, and if we can (and I think we probably can’t) we should stop it. Here is why I think using deep discounting to sell games to non-players is bad:

  • It kills off game launches. That thing where everyone plays the latest game doesn’t happen so much now. The game is ignored until the first 50% or 75% off sale. You don’t get that ‘water cooler moment’ where everyone talks about a game. That means some multiplayer games launch without the proper size of players, and the company isn’t making enough to retain support staff to patch and improve the game at launch.
  • It’s a step away from selling based on quality. When a game is in a one-day 75% off sale, how much research do you do before buying? Did you watch a lets play? the trailer? did you read any reviews? how many? Admit it, you have bought a game based on the name, a logo and a screenshot because it was under $5 haven’t you? If so, this is a problem. We are rewarding games with cool names & screenshots over actual quality.
  • We are handing power to people who run sales. If anyone can sell $50,000 in a day with any game just by being on the front page of a sale, then that makes the people who manage the sale webpage the kingmakers. Is that right? is it fair? is it an optimum maximization of everyone’s satisfaction and enjoyment? Or is it more likely making hits out of games who are well known (or liked) by the owners of the big portals?
  • We devalue games. We expect games to be $5. We don’t ‘invest’ money in them, so we give up and discard them at the first time we lose, or when we get confused or stuck. Some games are complex, tricky, hard to master, take a while to get to the point at which it all makes sense. We are increasingly likely to not bother with complex games, if we paid $5, we want something quick and disposable.
  • We don’t play beyond the first 10%. There is not a single game in my steam collection I’ve finished. Not ONE. And I almost always buy full price. There are many games I’ve played for under 30 minutes, some for under 10 minutes. They may have wonderful endings, who cares? I have another X games sat there I can experience the opening level of instead. And yet… gamers insist on 50 hours of gameplay. Cue 49 hours of back-tracking and filler, because game devs KNOW that 90%+ of buyers will never see the game ending anyway…

I’m not sure there is anything we can do about it. Discounts work. Sales work. There is some mileage in building a reputation for maintaining high prices for longer, I think I’ve built that up to some extent. D3 has never been lower than 50% since release back in October, with no immediate plans to re-do that 50% off or go lower. This is quite rare though. I got called a ‘fascist who hates gamers’ one month after release because the game was not on sale. *sigh*.

I understand that varied price points to suit different gamers is good, I understand the reasons for sales being economically efficient ways to maximize global utility. But this implies utility is derived from the product. We are no longer selling products, we are selling discounts. The endorphin rush is now from getting a bargain, not the fun of actually *playing* the game. This is bad.

Am I right? Am I wrong. TELL ME :D