Category Archives: Uncategorized

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 isĀ  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

Gratuitous Solar Pictures

June 29, 2013 | Filed under: Uncategorized

As I have blogged before, one of my hobbies and interests is the magical wonders of solar power. Because I put my money where my mouth is, I bought a share in a solar farm rather than stick the money in a bank account for evil banks to invest in landmines and tobacco. Today was the solar farms AGM, so I went along to check on *my* panels.


Me posing by some of the panels. We guessed about 200 are *mine*.


There are quite a few panels in the farm…


Tea and scones in the shadow of a wind farm, with subtle live music.


These mini-substation buildings were behind every 4th row, with big phat cables running into them.

I bought Bioshock Infinite yesterday. It’s a big budget game that looks intriguing, I enjoyed what I played of Bioshock, and I saw floating cities and thought it could be cool. I also like to ensure I’ve played a few AAA games now and then to remind me how they work :D

I’ve played about 2 hours of it, and it’s kinda cool, very ‘impressive’ and clearly cost a lot. I’m not sure it’s genuinely fun for a player like me, for various reasons. Firstly I’m not a chisel jawed wisecracking American who punches lift buttons with his fists, so I already feel like it’s not really me playing, by my voice and my actions. Secondly, everything seems to be glowing. Nice bloom effect, but give it a rest please. These are fairly minor things though, that I’d happily overlook to experience adventure in what is a very interesting world.

bioshock

The problems that put me off are more fundamental. Firstly, I don’t really feel like any skill is involved. I picked medium difficulty, but I haven’t run out of ammo, salt or health once, and that’s with me bouncing around like a hyperactive squirrel spraying bullets everywhere. I think I died twice, but it really didn’t matter. As a result, I don’t feel scared, or excited. I basically can’t lose, and am not challenged. I can burst into peoples homes and rummage through their house for money without a second thought, and nobody I’ve encountered has posed any real threat whatsoever.

Maybe that’s fixed on higher difficulty, at least for shootouts, but it certainly doesn’t require any stealth in the way the old thief games (or even dishonored, to a very superficial extent) did.

More fundamentally, there is no real sense of sandbox or player control. They have created an amazing world, but they then wrote a movie script for it, gave me superficial control of a character at certain moments, and spun me around like a puppet on a scriptwriters strings for the majority of the predetermined story. I say things I wouldn’t say, do things I wouldn’t do, and spend a lot of the game running predictably forwards as things fall down just behind me, or to one side. I know I could go slower and it wouldn’t matter. I know the pillar that hits me as it falls is scripted to and I can’t avoid it. I may as well just hold down the W key with one hand and play the game blindfold.

I see games like this as a missed opportunity. I know they appeal to a certain crowd, and are very well made for it. I just wish they could take that same awesome world, awesome design and huge budget and make a free-form sandbox game where I could adventure in that world with entirely emergent gameplay. Apparently GTA games do a lot of it. Thief did it better. Just Cause 2 did it exceptionally well.

To me, this is a horribly expensive use of art assets to just wheel me past amazing vistas as they explode. I know it sells, I just wish we could have true, challenging sandbox games set in such a world. No quests. Just free-form experimentation within systems. basically i want ‘sir you are being hunted’ with Bioshock infinite’s budget.