There are a lot of indie games being released these days, hell, a lot of games full stop. There is evidence of this from this wonderful graph courtesy of steamspys twitter account:

Its hard to imagine the number of gamers has increased to the same extent, or the amount of games press covering indie games, so the inevitable conclusion is that chances of the press caring about your indie game are less than 1/6th as high as they were when I released Democracy 3. In short…in terms of getting press about your game, you are kinda fucked.

And not just you. I haven’t been able to set the world of gaming media on fire with Political Animals or Shadowhand or Production Line either. If it makes you feel better…its me as well. In terms of getting press, I’m probably only slightly less fucked than the average reader of this blog (assuming you are a developer obv.).

The good news is, I don’t think this really matters. These days, I increasingly hear about a new game from world of mouth, a reddit/forum post, twitter or facebook. Or I see it on my steam front page. None of these are areas where the press is dramatically driving eyeballs. The idea that all discussion about video games is emanating like a funnel from the core seed that is planted by a number of gaming websites and print magazines is rooted in the 1990s and 2000s, not today. I actually think that if the editors of Kotaku, Rock Paper Shotgun, PCGamesN and PCGamer all HATED YOU with a vengeance, and refused to ever mention your game, its not really going to have much effect, because the percentage of the games-discussion taking place online that is controlled  by a few media people with megaphones is actually pretty small, and my gut feeling is that it is shrinking.

So how do you fight that?

You don’t, you embrace it.

The fact is, gamers like to find, play and talk about cool stuff. Despite us complaining that only 1% of steam players leave reviews, thats still hundreds of thousands of reviews, and tens or hundreds of thousands of comments, retweets, likes, upvotes and all the other social media stuff. I have to admit, given the option of a front page article on a news site about production Line, or having the game discussed in a top-voted subreddit by hundreds of redditors…I may well choose the reddit option. Social media gets a bad rap, and sure its a cesspool of trolls and people referring to each other as Hitler, but in amongst it all there are a lot of people talking about games, and these people BUY the games, they aren’t the ones getting free press passes.

I, like everyone in any branch of the entertainment industry, have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. Sometimes I’m right, sometimes I’m, wrong, but I like to think I make informed decisions. In a day when googling for almost any topic or question will get you video results near the top of the list, its hilarious that so many once proud gaming websites don’t even have a video channel. The same people who laughed at their bosses not understanding the shift from print to web are missing the shift from web to video. I strongly think that a constantly updated and topical video channel is not just an option for the fully staffed indie studio with a full time community manager, its absolutely essential.

I’ve done 11 blog videos to promote Production Line, and done my best to respond helpfully to all the comments on them. I fully intend to blog every week in video form until final release and then beyond. I may prefer text to video, but many of my customers do not, and they are the ones in charge. I’m no longer releasing videos as a way to persuade the ‘big press’ to run a story with the video link, the video IS my story, and it IS my coverage, and I’m fine with it.

Right now my videos average about 600 views each, hopefully this climbs over time. If the game looks good, people will share the videos and tell their friends. I am not trying to rush this, or be too pushy about encouraging it, I’m hoping to just make a great game and let it gather attention organically for now. I’m not saying i wont advertise at some point, I’m just saying that chasing the conventional press is starting to feel to me like perhaps a bit of a dated strategy.

 

 

I am one of the MANY MANY games programmers who have somehow ended up driving a Tesla model S. I have had it just over a year and feel strangely motivated to talk honestly about my experience owning it and using it. Here is my exciting take on ‘owning an electric car for a year’. Grab some popcorn.

Beforehand:

Some background: This is the second ‘from new’ car I have ever bought. The previous one was a lexus hybrid. I had long lusted after a prius, until I sat in one, then drove one, and thought ‘yuck’, and ended up with the lexus instead. As a hybrid owner, I got used to the fact that there was an ‘on’ button rather than a key you turn, and that the car was an automatic (technically a continuously variable transmission), so no gear changes or gear stick. I loved my hybrid car.

When I had enough money saved up, I took the plunge and had a test drive in a Tesla model S, and pretty much ordered one the next day. Mine is an 85D with air-suspension and autopilot. In practice that means its just fucking fast, rather than *insanely* fast, and it does some self-driving tricks, and its comfortable.

How I got it:

I had to wait about 6 months for my car, because this is Tesla-mania time,. and there was a waiting list, plus I needed to get a home charger installed. this cost a pittance, and there was a small subsidy available anyway, I ended up paying about £100 I think. The charger is basically a box on the side of the house near where I park, with a black cable that I often (not every day) leave connected to the car. It takes most of a night to charge from empty, but as its often plugged in, its only ’empty’ if I’ve driven to London and back (about 180 miles). I tend to only plug mine in when its half empty or less.

How I use it:

I work from home (programmer, self-employed), so I don’t commute, so the car is for shopping trips, the odd pub lunch and so on. I have family in London (hence long trips), and I live in rural England, so we have to drive almost everywhere. The local area is narrow roads, people on horses, hardly any traffic, the odd dead badger. mobile phone signal sucks, road markings are rare. More on this later… So far I haven’t left the country in my Model S but may well do this year. Its almost always charged from home, with an occasional stop at a Tesla supercharger. Charging from these is free for me, so I tend to only use them. I have ‘cards’ for using some other charging networks but very rarely use them. I also have an exemption (£10/year to register) for the London congestion charge. This is nice, but hardly a dealbreaker for me, as I use it maybe 3 times a year.

Initial Impressions:

My initial impressions were ‘holy fuck this thing is fast’ and ‘oh my god it drives itself’ combined with ‘jesus this thing is wide’ and also ‘i cant believe i can drive this speed, this far, in an electric car’. I was also amazed at how much luggage space there is. We once had 4 of us go away for a week with a ridiculous amount of luggage, food and other nonsense (suitcases, a drone in a box, multiple hampers of food etc), and we still had spare room. its nuts. Obviously over time, you calm down and just get used to it. I haven’t opened the ‘frunk’ for months, and then, only to show someone whats in there (nothing).

Long Term:

I’ve done about 10,000 miles in mine, with an average watt-hour per mile of 353wh/m. That means, with domestic electricity at 12p/unit I pay roughly £0.04 per mile in fuel. Car insurance is also surprisingly low, it was lower than my lexus (which cost half as much) I suspect the insane survivability of crashes in the Tesla accounts for that. This all sounds like economic paradise (plus servicing is far less complex and urgent) until you factor in the one big problem with the Tesla model S.

its fucking wide.

I hate wide cars, because I suck at parking, and driving in general. I now have big annoying obvious scratches on both sides, and the bill for fixing them is likely £2k+. In other words, over a year I’ve probably spent £426 on ‘fuel’ about £350 on insurance, and about £2k on getting dents fixed. Bah. Basically the Tesla is as wide as a land rover, so if you are used to big cars, its not a big deal, but if you prefer small cars like me…it *is* a factor. Its actually the *only* real negative I have about the car. Basically when I go to a multi-storey car park, it feels like this:

Other Minor negatives:

Teslas service is…’not bad’. by any normal cars standards its good, but by lexus standards, its pretty poor. You have to compare apples with apples, and the model S is not a cheap car, so you expect a certain level of awesomeness on the service side. They don’t have that yet. My car has gone to a service center twice, once for a charging port door issue (they replaced the whole thing and its been fine ever since), and once to get a fix for a car handle motor failure. (The handle stopped sliding back in once the car was moving). I get the impression their service is improving, and early issues were basically due to being a bit swamped by rapid expansion. The only other issue is that some of the cool tech stuff requires a mobile signal, and I live somewhere with an awful mobile coverage, meaning occasionally a podcast cuts out, or voice recognition fails.

Other positives:

Not purely an electric car thing, but having a mobile app that a)locates your car in a car park and b)lets you pre-heat/chill the car is just SO awesome. Having a car with its own free spotify account with voice recognition is hilariously cool. Having a car that can drive itself on motorways is both weird, terrifying AND cool. Being able to ‘summon’ the car out of a tight space is cool…but pointless. Controlling everything from a touchscreen is weird at first, but very cool once you get used to it.

The *BIG* issues.

Range anxiety is not a thing. Not with a Tesla.  it just isn’t a thing. Superchargers are not everywhere, but they don’t have to be, I can drive to London and back without re-fuelling. I now actually feel sorry for non-electric drivers with all this bullshit of having to stop and ‘fill-up’ on their voyage at a petrol station. My house is my petrol station, its always open, and I don’t have to fumble around with wallets and pin numbers. If I lived in a flat, or a terraced house with no driveway, charging would be a major issue, but luckily I’m not in that position. Charging an electric car is trivial for anyone who has off-road parking. Don’t give the charging or the range a second thought if you buy an electric car, its a total non-issue.

The Tesla model S is catastrophically expensive to buy. Its not the solution for everyone. The Model 3 is going to be about £35k, so a LOT cheaper, yet still pricey. I strongly suspect that the 3 will effectively be a very slightly hobbled ‘S’. In other words…if you can wait, and don’t have to have a model S…then its probably worth waiting for a 3. I think the model 3 is going to be revolutionary, not in tech, but in terms of acceptance. Right now the only people buying long range electric cars are those who would otherwise buy an Aston Martin or a Jaguar. The minute it becomes an option for the BMW crowd you are going to see a lot of people picking them up.

TL:DR: Electric cars are fucking amazing. Mine is too wide.

I apologize in advance for this. I am normally less easily amused. Maybe. This is in no way an attempt to distract attention away from my failure to have many big ticket features to show off this week:

Next week might be more noticeably ‘different’ because I have grand plans to get some ‘expandable lots’ in the game. That means your initial factory size might be 30×30, but it will be bordered by a bunch of additional lots of different sizes which you could take over (thus increasing your hourly rent costs). I think a lot-based system is more interesting than the standard ‘$x/square meter take whatever you want approach many tycoon games use. This is a real-world concern. How often are you able to phone up the farmer who owns the field next to your factory and specify exactly how many square feet you want to rent next year? That sounds way too easy :D.

Hope you enjoy this rather stupid video of dubious informational content.

For those interested, you can find out all about Production Line Here.

A lot is written about coming increases in inequality, driven mostly by technology. Basically robots will replace almost all low-income and middle-income jobs, leaving a society where wealth accumulates with those who have access to capital and an understanding of high-technology. In short, those who own the robots will own the future, and everybody else is fucked.

This is bad news for the vast majority, and comparisons are often made with previous instances of inequality that have led to civil unrest, revolution, or just plain old suffering. However, I think this time it will be worse because it will be perpetual, and for two reasons.

Reason one: Poverty wont be too bad.

That sounds awful, but what I mean is… “you have nothing to lose but your amazon prime, your netflix and your smartphone” is not much of a rallying call. As technology gets cheaper and the provision of basic services becomes even cheaper, allowing everyone, even the very poorest in society to have a ‘livable life’ becomes almost trivial. I’ve already seen this in my lifetime. My grandfather had an outside toilet (basically a shack) a black-and white TV and a house with no kitchen at all (he built one from spare building material he swiped from sites when he worked as a builder). His house had only a tin bath, no telephone (obviously), and was tiny, even by modern standards.

These days that would be awful, and he would be considered to be living in poverty, eligible for all sorts of benefits etc. In other words, life for people on my grandfathers level of income is vastly better now than it was then, and even back then, we had no workers uprising. I simply cannot see any revolution or popular uprising from people as long as they have facebook, food, a warm house, TV and a smartphone. People now have too much to lose.

Reason two: We won’t know any poor people (or maybe rich people, depending which group you are in).

We may think that situations like downton abbey show inequality at its worse. The rich landed gentry living a life of luxury while the poor servants live a life of near poverty and servitude, but there is actually something very beneficial they had which increasingly we are losing.

They had integration across income levels. Lord Grantham may well consider himself vastly ‘superior’ to his butler and his valet, but he chats to both at least ten times a day. he knows his butlers personal opinions, his concerns, and his thoughts. Ditto, the butler and valet know what troubles Lord Grantham has, how he feels, what he cares about etc. They all live in the same house, albeit in very differently furnished rooms.

In other words, even in a land of masters and servants, there is human contact, maybe even some understanding, some empathy. It really matters where we have personal *human* interaction with people. Its very hard to ‘dehumanize’ people we know really well. Racism, Sexism, Classism, whatever form of exclusion you name, it all relies on keeping ‘the others’ at arms length. This is why religious extremism tries to separate people from outside influence. Its hard to be a suicide bomber when most of the people you will blow up are people you feel like you know and understand. Its no surprise people didn’t like the idea of ‘marrying down’, it blurred the important distinction between ‘us’ and ‘them’.

Shockingly, I recently realized I don’t have any close friends (who I see weekly or monthly) who are non-white, nor any who are gay (to my knowledge). This is quite a shock to me, but its true. Also…an increasing number of my friends work for themselves, and are fairly (or considerably) financially successful. In other words, increasingly I seem to associate with ‘people like me’. We all see this as a problem with social media, ‘blocking’ and ‘share with friends’. Admit it, how many of your friends hold strongly different political opinions to you? Now more interestingly, how many of your friends earn more than four times what you do? or less than a quarter of what you do?

As technology increasingly dominates our lives, we no longer integrate with people across financial boundaries. I do most shopping through amazon, never meeting even a cashier, and even when I go food shopping the UK has a fairly strictly defined stratification of grocery shopping destinations by income level. Restaurants even get graded online as £ ££ or £££ to ensure you pick the right one for your income. Cars are now cleaned by robots, soon even taxis will be driven by robots, and parcels and post even delivered by robots. How much random interaction with people not of your choosing will you have in 2020?

A lack of interaction with people from different groups means a lack of empathy for those groups. The age of the hyper-rich and the relatively poor majority is coming, and if we expect the hyper rich to care about anyone else we have to wonder how they will even understand the rest of us if we never meet them. Even their few remaining employees will be bussed in to work to avoid contact with the masses. The new Mr Carson or Mr Bates is a robot or a disembodied AI voice, and the new Mr Grantham won’t care.

An age of huge inequality and technological isolationism is coming, and I cannot see it ending any time soon.