When I was very very young, i remember reading some dead-tree magazine talking about online ‘chatrooms’ where people played a role playing game like dungeons and dragons. Its was probably a role-play chat room where people dialed in with their modems. It sounded amazing.

Imagine a whole alternate world where you could be a wizard! a space captain! a ferengi. A completely different existence free of the worries, stresses, concerns and hassles of the real world. Even as a kid I thought it sounded awesome. As I grew up, I found the idea even more appealing. Imagine a world with no boss, where you hang out in a space bar with aliens drinking weird space cocktails and talking about space stuff. No boss, no TPS reports, no income tax, just existing like a giant shared dream.

And then along came MMOs like everquest and killed my dreams.

Te way I imagined these online worlds were pure sandbox. No quests, no missions, no score, no rank, none of the status-chasing and accumulation targets of the modern world. I wanted an online bar. I wanted to be Quark, or morn…

morn

One day I thought I may even get my wish when they did a star trek MMO. it was AWFUL. They were so scared, so paranoid, so terrified that the attention-deficit generation wouldn’t love the game, that the VERY FIRST few minutes of the (hugely goal-driven game) involve an attack by multiple borg cubes. Talk about skipping to the end. This was existing in another life, another world, another place I could call home, this was just a multiplayer LAN style game full of people shouting at each other to join quests. Amazingly, considering it involved real people, the average modern day MMO is LESS human than a singleplayer game. In a singleplayer game there is some voice acting and some interaction with the player. An MMO is a series of bland NPC quest-vending machines stood repeating the same offer like a speak-your-weight machine crossed with spam email.

mess

The standard reaction to my kind of sadness about the state of MMOs is to point out that you have to play with people you know. To me, this misses the point. If there is a group of people I know, and can arrange to do something at the same time as me, I’ll go meet them for a drink or grab some food in the real world. The idea for me of an online existence is to meet new people, to chill out, to maybe explore the world a bit, but to feel no pressure. But this is impossible. I’m only Level 322 and everyone else is level 892, and the cool hats are only available at level 500+ unless you buy one on the market with 23,000 AddictionBucks.

The nearest thing we have to mazes full of human test subjects are MMO games. They are skinner boxes where not only are we all experimented on to extract more and more money from us, but we actually pay someone for the honor of being a test subject. I feel more ‘attacked’ and pressured in a F2P MMO or most MMOs than I do in the real world.

This is backwards.

Star Wars Galaxies (when it first came out) was as close as I got to that Zen State. I was a wookie, I didn’t join clans or go on quests. I knew a few people playing but not many. I spent a lot of time on Tatooine crafting stuff, building up my little hovel with its moisture vaporators. It was fun. I’d go into town now and then to sell stuff, trade a little, see what was going on. It was kinda relaxing.

Where is the MO for relaxed people who don’t want to grind. Is there ANY MMO that doesn’t have scores/ranks/missions? Maybe just Second Life? Is it not really built yet, because game makers don’t realize a lot of us are 30 or 40+ and have jobs and want to chill-out, not get into another rat-race?

So big pharma is now being played, in beta, by the general public. And apparently, by most of you, looking at the sale figures. Yikes. We had a few ‘eek the payment provider is overloaded’ and ‘errr…do we have enough keys’ moments over the last few days. And naturally you won’t hear too much from the designer/programmer Tim, because he is crushed under a weight of feedback and working around the clock to churn out a patch that fixes any major issues. Still, its a beta, and it seems to be extremely stable, and very, very popular, which is good.

Nobody who has not shipped a game can really understand just how stressful the first 2-3 hours are after you press the ‘for sale’ button. For Tim, its a case of finding out if his game idea was any good and if his programming is stable, with potentially hugely embarrassing consequences if it crashes for everyone and nobody likes it / buys it. For me (publisher) its finding out where the ball lands on a six-figure roulette wheel bet that was placed a year ago. Stressful either way.

But it turns out that everything is going to go pretty well, because people seem to love it. And obviously me and Tim both think the game is awesome, but you never know. You get too close to it. When I play Gratuitous Space Battles 2, all I see is stuff I want to fix. I have to force myself to step away from my own work and try to evaluate it, and that is HARD.

Anyway, in case you missed the news, Big Pharma is currently in beta, and its doing very well. We have a lot of lets play coverage already, and hopefully some websites will be doing previews. Get in touch with me if you are a site that needs a copy. And if you are a gamer that enjoys Tycoon games, Business sims, Strategy and maybe a side-order of puzzle, you will really like the game, so hit the big phat link below and grab a copy right away :D. (Windows only for now…)

Disclaimer: I’m pretty drunk.

So I just watched the paddington movie (its about a bear). And it was ok, it was funny it places, it was clever in places. I enjoyed it. But I have issues with it. Rather I have one issue with it.

I was annoyed by the family.

On the surface, paddington gets adopted by an ordinary English family. Hilarity ensues. Paddington brings the family closer and everyone ends up happy. Hurrah for bears.

On the other hand… Bear gets adopted by a middle class English family. Hilarity ensues. Hold on… Nope, Paddington gets adopted by a typical 2.0 children white heterosexual nuclear family where the parent works in risk management. Families house is (drawing on my local(ish) knowledge of London) worth about 1.5-2 million pounds, (Roughly $3,000,000). Family is basically fucking loaded. Money is no object. The cleaners and other domestic staff this stupendously rich family employ are kept cleverly off-screen. This is clearly life in ‘Windsor gardens’, where the only concerns are that daddys job is a bit boring (although obviously colossally well paid) and that their neighbor is ‘a bit nosy’. Welcome to England in 2015. Yeah bollocks.

This film reminded me of ‘Home alone’, the first film I saw which made me think ‘how the fuck do this family afford this lifestyle’, and made me think about something I’ve only realized now I live in a nice village, where I’ve met my first proper screenwriter neighbour. I grew up in a VERY wealthy part of London (we were the odd ones out…) which was apparently famous for being full of screenwriters.

I think the problem is, that screenwriters write about the home life they know. And most screenwriters are not worrying about how to pay for the electricity this week. At least not the ones who get the job of writing movies. And probably this doesn’t matter, maybe I’m drunk and overthinking it, but I can’t help but think that the VAST majority of people who go with their parents to see paddington, will not *in any way* recognize the blissful ‘money is no object’ family life that is pictured as ‘normal’ in Home alone, and Paddington and stories like Mary Poppins and Peter Pan.  They will, as I did, see it as some ideal goal of wealthy family life that ‘other people’ have and that they recognize as lacking. And that’s not a good thing. If you want to see what London is actually like, try ‘attack the block’. More accurate, even though it has aliens in.

Yeah, I am the kind of guy that can watch a children’s movie when drunk and still find things to be negative about. Bah :D

 

 

Big Pharma is on sale RIGHT NOW

June 04, 2015 | Filed under: big pharma

Yup you read that, the strategy/management/cure-em-up developed by Twice Circled and published by us is now taking pre-orders with beta access from the ‘official’ site. You get a steam key with your purchase, for people worrying about that (but its not active yet). This is another of those ‘externally developed but published by us’ games, which I’m really quite getting into these days. I have to admit I am horribly, horribly addicted to Big Pharma already. Its got the balance of strategy, difficulty and fun absolutely spot on, and I even find myself humming the music when I’m not playing. I think its going to be pretty popular. Check out the buy link:

If you aren’t sure what the hell I’m talking about, check out the trailer below…

As ever with new indie games, getting people to hear about a new release is just HELL. The best system seems to be to beg people to tweet, retweet and like/share it on facebook, reddit and similar sites, so if you do any of that for this game, know that we really appreciate it. And if you have a youtube channel and want to monetize lets play footage of the game, know that we are fine with that too. If you have a bazillion followers on youtube, and you want a free copy of the game, then email cliff at positech dot co dot uk. And any journalists wanting to cover the game, or interview Tim (or even me!) about it, please do get in touch. Looking for the press kit? It’s here.
And if you get stuck/have feedback, we have a forum for the game set up here.

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Game Royalty Futures

June 01, 2015 | Filed under: business

Welcome to the futures market. This is (sort of) a thing now. Let me explain.

You are a farmer. This is a risky business. You plant loads of seeds, then do whatever farmers do while seeds grow, you harvest the crop and sell it. Hopefully, it makes enough to support a reasonable lifestyle. Classical economics suggests that your profit will be only high enough to prevent other people getting in on this ‘farmer’ thing, and pushing prices down. Theoretically,. you will earn the average wage, +/- some adjustment for skill requirements etc.

But hey. Hold on. Sometimes you have a good crop, sometimes a bad crop. Good crops are happy years, great years! but sometimes there is a bad crop. Sometimes a very bad crop. Some years, you are truly fucked. In theory, you save in the good years, and spend the savings in the bad years. Most people suck at that. Besides, what if your first 10 years are bad years? There is a solution, and some people think its fine ( I do) and some people think that its evil, and smells like predatory capitalism.

future

The solution is called Futures (although it sort of is, and isn’t, yes, this is very simplified).  Lets pretend I’m an evil mustache twirling capitalist. I go up to the farmer and say ‘Guess what! I’ll pay you for next years crop NOW. I will pay you 80% of what you probably get for it. Deal?’.

On the one hand, thats a rip-off, I’m creaming off 20%. On the other hand, suddenly the farmer has a completely risk-free job. he doesn’t care what happens to the weather and his crop, he can sleep easy at night. Basically the rich capitalist dude has leveraged his greater stock of capital to take a risk the farmer cannot afford to, or does not wish to (maybe the farmer is old, and risk-averse, and the capitalist is some young adrenaline junkie).

I LOVE things like this. I love the existence of such phenomena. I don’t know why. Something about the maths, and the calculation, and the balancing of risk vs reward just sets off serotonin generators or some-such. I find it fascinating. The same with options (which are risky as fuck) and other such financial messing around.

Anyway… is there a market for this in game development? I think there is. Its been with us (in some respect) as publishers for ages, and I hear people are doing this with finished games now too.

So look at it like this…. you have made your game, it took you two man years, you worked hard, its finished, its good. You think it will do well. You are hoping that it will pay for the development of your next game. Think through the scenarios.

Leonardo Dicaprio in The Wolf Of Wall Street

If I paid you $200,000 to take all the future royalties of your game right now, would you take the deal? (You keep the IP, sequel rights etc…). I get to control pricing and bundles.

If I paid you $180,000 to take 90% of the royalties would you take the deal?

Its day 1 on steam and the game has earned $2,000 in the first 24 hours. Both offers still stand. Interested? (I get that 2k as well).

It’s day 30 on steam, no discounts yet, and the game has earned $20,000. Yesterday it earned $150. Both offers stand. Interested?

Don’t forget that you get the ‘time value of money’ if you take the deal. In other words, you get $200k right now, which you can use right now, as opposed to drip-feeding in royalties over time.

I’m not saying thats a good deal or a bad deal, obviously it MASSIVELY depends on the game. I just find the poker-playing / calculation of such deals to be fascinating.

How much would you pay *me* right now to own the future royalties of Gratuitous Space Battles 2? (they aren’t for sale :D) or Big Pharma? :D