All posts by Cas

The Demo is Dead!

Many years ago, when we first started making games, the perceived wisdom of the age was to follow an apparently successful formula, and strike it rich. Or at least, make a living. Games sold for an average of $20 or so. This is in the dim, dark depths of history, in 2003.

This formula was: offer a demo, and convert demo players into customers by having amazing demos (and, as a secondary, offer a money back guarantee just in case a customer mysteriously wasn’t satisfied). All you need is a large enough influx of traffic downloading a large enough number of demos and a large enough conversion rate. Simple! And this we have done, for the last 10 years.

To cut a long story short, it doesn’t work for us.

Today, none of our games have a demo, and they probably never will have again, either. The Demo is dead.

Long Live Video!

Why have we done this? How can we possibly gain from no longer hosting demos? Well, the times have changed. I have come to realise that I’ve not bought a single game from playing a demo in the last 5 years, maybe longer. Why am I buying games? Or rather, why am I buying the games I am buying as opposed to other games?

Mostly because they’re recommended to me by friends, and sometimes reviews. That generally isn’t enough though; I also want to look at the game before I buy one. And this is where video comes in! Just about every game I’ve bought for the last 5 years has been on the basis of watching a video of the game – either a review along the lines of Total Biscuit, or a trailer in Steam, or on the developers’ websites, or shared on Facebook or Twitter. Usually I don’t even need a recommendation from a friend if I watch a trailer for a game that I think looks interesting.

But there is another thing at play.

Almost none of the games I’ve bought have even had demos. They’re full versions only, accessible only via Steam, and/or usually… rather cheap. And with a bit of investigation we’ve noticed that 99.9% of all the games we’ve sold on Steam have been bought “blind”, without anyone ever sampling a demo.

This got me to wondering why we are bothering with demos any more.

What Does a Demo Do?

I’ll tell you: it has three primary functions:

  1. To assure the end user that the product actually installs and runs ok on their machine
  2. It gives the potential customer a good long demonstration of the game with no up-front investment on their part
  3. The shocker: it then gives them 99 excuses not to buy the game.

Video manages to sidestep 2 and 3 nicely. Video still gives the customer a demonstration of the game, albeit non-interactive; but it does have the potential to cram all the interesting bits into a very short space of time – rather like a movie trailer does. But, barring a total disdain for the style or genre of game, it doesn’t give the customer any reasons not to buy the game. Not a single one. You have to actually pay to form an opinion on how it plays.

The first function is trickier. Why do people buy something if they don’t know if it’ll even run or not? It turns out it’s required a little bit of technical wizardy to solve, which we’ll be releasing the source to in due course as it’s GPL, but basically – take a look at Revenge of the Titans now, if you’re unregistered, and you’ll see that the title screen has in fact been replaced by the video trailer which is now rendered inside the game. So we know at this point that the game is going to run fine on your machine, and more importantly, so do you. We’re slowly converting the other three games into video title screens as well.

In-App Purchase

Of course, once a potential customer has installed the game, fired it up, and been presented with the trailer video instead of an ordinary title screen, that’s not quite the whole story. Customer clicks “PLAY”… and is transported straight to an in-app purchase screen which you can use to unlock the game there and then. Unfortunately this IAP screen can only take credit and debit cards (no PayPal or other dubious payment systems). However… it is working, and working nicely.

Now all our games have a built-in IAP system (and a cunningly built-in one-click buy mechanism too), we’ll be able to collect some stats on how things look without demos, and I’ll be following up in a few months about the end result.

Revenge of the Titans 1.80.21 released

… and this one’s got a few more goodies in it.

Firstly and most obviously, it’s now got fancypants shader effects in it, which I’ll be expanding on a little in another patch. You can turn these off in the Options menu.

Secondly, we’ve added Easy Mode. This is a campaign mode like normal campaign mode but the difficulty is capped at a much lower level for more casual play.

Thirdly, we’ve enhanced Sandbox Mode for those of you that have it. The editor now allows you to specify a lot more detail about spawn points, and also specify exact amounts of each resource available. Check out the new editor options at

Fourthly, we’ve added Research Respec – you can now completely redo your entire research tree, at any time, without penalty.

You will notice a little screen flickering going on at the start, which we will soon remove. It’s gathering some logging information for us so we can get to the bottom of a driver crash. Sorry for the annoyance.

Guess How Long Ultratron Took To Make?

I was idly warbling away to fans on the Steam Community forums today when I had a little think about some of the facts and figures involved in making games. When I read it back to myself I realised it was actually pretty fascinating reading for people outside of the industry (that is, the players of our games). There were some amusing estimates of how much effort goes into making games from the fans, so here are the facts and figures for you all to see, and hopefully, tweet, reblog, and comment about, until all children are suitably scared in their beds and night and vow never to want to becomes games developers ever again, and some sort of massive JUST SAY NO style meme floods the internets and makes it to the very top of Reddit’s wonderfully insular and self-referential news pages.

Ultratron took 24 man months to develop, or if you want to put a financial figure on it, about $120k at ordinary salary rates. Ultratron has so far made a loss of $100k.

Titan Attacks took approximately the same amount of time. Titan Attacks has just broken even after 7 years, so that’s cause for a can of lager in celebration.

Droid Assault took quite a bit longer – about 36 man months, or $180k ish. Droid Assault has so far made a loss of about $120k.

Revenge of the Titans took about 7 man-years to develop, or about $420k. It’s only just broken even. Sandbox mode took 12 man-months and has so far cost us $56k. It is unlikely to ever break even.

For most of the last 10 years, I subsidised all the development of the games by working as a menial contractor in the IT industry and effectively putting every spare hour of my life into them. We started seriously in 2002. It wasn’t until 2010 that we actually made enough money to buy anything more than a celebratory curry!

So now you know why a) you don’t really want to be an indie game developer if you can help it and b) why we’re not making any more arcade games 🙂

* probably. Unless a genius can think of some way we can make them for about a tenth the cost that’s palateable.

You can trust the computer. The computer is your friend!

We gathered in our millions around the Consoles of our cities to hear the announcement. Whole families turned out and stood out in the plazas waiting for the rumblings from inside the machine to herald its latest edict for the good of humanity. We stood in silence, until a deep red light flicked on from a scanner situated near the top of every Console, and a laser scanned over the suspended crowd, surveying. Counting. And then the Console spoke the words of Central Nexus.

All humans are to report in an orderly fashion to their nearest RecycloMat Facility. Transportation will be provided free of charge by Central Nexus – your friendly system overlord. There is no need for alarm and recycling is painless. Central Nexus wishes at this time to thank you for your peaceful co-operation in this hazardous waste recycling operation and wishes you continued happiness and contentment for the remaining duration of your current form.

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Codename Battledroid

So… work is underway on our new game. I’ve called it “Battledroid” for now (ahem), a name which may or may not stay. I quite like it. So by way of warning, there now follows a wall of text explaining everything.

What is Battledroid?

Battledroid is a massively multiplayer asynchronous online war fought over the blasted and war-torn landscapes of Earth in the not entirely distant future a few centuries from now. At war are various ultracorporations (whom we shall call “factions”), who vie for control of territory in order to boost their own manufacturing capabilities. Everybody who is sensible has left for more peaceful pastures in the rest of the Solar System, leaving the wars to be fought by giant armies of autonomous battledroids.

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Steam Linux Love-In Launch

It’s St. Valentine’s day! Apart from delivering coffee and jam on toast to Mrs. Prince, I’ve been beavering away losing hair and sanity making our games work nicely on Linux through Steam. I now have about two handfuls less hair, but also for your perusal, delectation and delight, all of our Steam games working on Linux!

It also happens to be the case that Valve are celebrating the official release of Steam for Linux starting today, and so we’re doing a special sale of all our games on Steam at 50% off! Now there’s a reasonable chance you’ve already bought one of our games if you’re reading this blog, so if you fancy spreading the love a bit, why not buy the gift of a game for that special friend that you forgot to buy flowers for this morning? A copy of Titan Attacks for the object of your affections will surely go a long way to getting you past first base. You might even find out what first base is! I never got to find out myself, I just looked at Mrs. Prince funnily one day and bam! Pregnant. But that’s another story.

Don’t forget that all our games are also “Buy Once, Play Anywhere” – your games will run on any operating system even if you buy the Linux version. And all you existing Puppygames customers – you can still go here to get your FREE Steam keys (note that you have to register your game first though).
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So I went to Rezzed with @Cliffski (and Mrs. Cliffski), ferried there in a state of mild car-phobia induced air conditioned comfort in his spaceship-like Lexus. I couldn’t tell you what Lexus it is, just that it is black, and has batteries in it to make it go, and a charming electronic assistant lady called Lizzy who tells Cliff where to drive. I also managed to figure out how to transmit music from my phone to the car, and forced Mr. and Mrs. Cliffski to endure my “eclectic” musical tastes. I notice that most of the music I listen to has what graphics people might describe as a “high dynamic range” – that is, it has quiet bits, loud bits, bits with low frequencies, bits with high frequencies, and mostly every combination in between. It turns out that this is crap for cars, as you can’t really hear anything, and this probably explains why nearly all modern music is just a massive irritating wall of sound – because the only place most of it gets listened to is on car radios. Anyway, I digress. This is what we did when we got there:

Indie Stone

We went to see a talk by the Indie Stone of Project Zomboid fame (I’ve been doing some things for them). We were nearly as surprised as they were as the room was packed out with hundreds of people (a show of hands in response to a question from one of the, er, Stoners, showed that maybe 90% of them were fans of Project Zomboid). Anyway – the presentation was of course quite funny, detailing as it did how not to set up a studio and have several disasters. We make our own luck, as the saying goes 🙂

I was going to throw tomatoes at Lemmy for forgetting to mention me but as he was visibly shaking like a leaf with nerves decided that would be a bit mean. My time will come! I think it’s time I did a talk at one of these talk things, having amassed all sorts of interesting bits of know-how and wisdom about the industry, games, and coding in general.

Borderlands 2

We wandered around and looked at all the man-shooters on display – still strangely the most prevalent sort of game at computer game shows. There were also a rather large bunch of indie games there but unfortunately my largest and most vociferous organ was telling me that I had to go and eat, so we didn’t hang around and play any of them for any significant length of time. Can’t even remember the titles.

We wandered into a section labelled “18 Only”, hoping for scantily clad pole dancing ladies and these naked booth babes I hear everyone decrying, but annoyingly there was just some guy in a rubber Alien suit, and Borderlands 2. The Borderlands 2 demos were wired up to XBox360 controllers. WTF? I wrestled with the controller for a minute, looking probably like one of those long lost tribespeople that some missionary westerner has just given a knife and fork to, and eventually gave up in disgust. So in short: it looks like Borderlands 1, but prettier and the interface is a smidgen slicker. I’ll be buying it and playing it with a keyboard and mouse as God intended.

Fish And Chips

Eventually my stomach won the argument and we went in search of fish and chips. This you must know if you visit Brighton: the Regency Restaurant, on the sea front opposite the old burnt-out pier, makes the best fish and chips I’ve ever had. The Indie Stoners arrived along with torrential rain, and we decided to go to the pub.


In this bit we discuss things that we are not allowed to repeat in front of anyone, let alone broadcast all over the internet 🙂 A couple of things became apparent though. Firstly, the Stoners absolutely hate the AAA games industry with a passion, and after they told us their life stories, I can see why. Secondly, we had a good laugh at the Zomboid team’s expense concerning what disasters might have befallen them on the way down from tha Toon to Brighton including hilarious anecdotes such as strapping all the laptops with the source code on to the front of the van (“for safekeeping”).

Peter Molyneux

The next talk we went to was to see what batshit silliness Peter Molyneux is up to with his new “independent” studio 22 Cans. It turns out that he’s hiring lots of people to make little games for iPhones, and to be fair he did have quite an interesting “game” concept he talked about which he claimed was about curiosity – “what’s in the box?”. I thought that really it asked the question, “Just how much money can you fleece people out of via iTunes?” Molyneux actually seemed to concur on that point. Nothing wrong with parting people from their money, I always say. Anyone daft enough to spend it in such a manner clearly needs to be parted from it as soon as possible before they actually go and do something stupid with it.

Cliff and I stood at the back and sniggered like naughty schoolboys. During the Q&A session I was just almost but not quite drunk enough to want to ask Molyneux whether Cliff was fired or whether he quit Lionhead in a huff. But again my pleasant nature somehow smothered my desires to make mischief and the session ended without incident.

Mitu and Redshirts

After the session we bumped into Cliffski’s minion, Mitu Khandaker, who is simultaneously developing Redshirts for Positech Games (ie. Cliffski) and also strenuously denying being a minion. Just as I was getting into my stride mocking one or the other of them the Mode 7 team happened by broadcasting their intentions to obtain food from Italian restaurants, and my favourite organ once again declared its interest in food. Exeunt Indies. Past Molyneux near the front entrance; I tried to get Cliff to rant at him (“Remember me? Huh? Remember?”) but he wouldn’t do it, which is a shame as it would have been entertaining.

Pizza, Beer, etc.

Went and had a pizza. Waitress threw a plate on floor behind me. Sometimes I feel like I’m living in Final Destination. Anyway, having dodged certain death from flying crockery, we went out to go and find the RockPaperShotgun drinkiepoos at some fancypants club called Audio. Talked to a bunch of people there including me old mucker Adam Martin, whom I conclude needs to port Titan Attacks to iOS for me, though he doesn’t know it yet. But we were so knackered we only managed a couple of drinks and had to retire back to the hotel. Out like a light. An interesting day.







Musings on the Raspberry Pi

I recently acquired a Raspberry Pi, the £25 computer which is the brainwave of various UK industry luminaries, most famously including David Braben, the author of 8-bit classic 3d-space-shooting trade game Elite. I have a few thoughts about how it’s delivered, what it costs, who it might be aimed at, and what might be done to improve things for level 2.

The Raspberry Pi arrives as a naked circuit board about the size of a box of what we in the UK call fags. This always amuses Americans, but Americans are of course easily amused, albeit for an extremely short duration. The circuit board has as many connectors on it as you could reasonably hope for in a computer – two USB ports, stereo jack, Ethernet port, micro-USB power input, HDMI out, and composite video out. There’s even something called a GPIO which is a bunch of pins which you can connect “things” to that do “stuff”, but that’s for very clever propeller head types who understand electrickery, and not programmers like me.

Of the USB, Ethernet and stereo jack, we shall have nothing much to say. Or indeed the GPIO thing. They are as they are and I dare say no improvements could be made on them. The other outputs represent some rather odd thinking.

HDMI Output

HDMI is the future! HDMI is awesome! VGA is dying! … but unfortunately, HDMI is only available on the very latest monitors and newer TVs. So we’ve got a £25 computer, and the theory is that you’re supposed to pick up and use some existing mouse, keyboard and monitor that you’ve got, probably gathering dust in the spare room, to save you a pile of cash. Except, of course, your monitor only has the usual D-shaped SVGA input. Everyone I know has a spare SVGA monitor lying around. Not a single one has a spare HDMI capable monitor. A few people quite likely have monitors with DVI-D input, but I have a feeling that like mine it is already in use as the main PC monitor. The solution in my case was to buy an HDMI cable and a brand new HDMI-capable monitor. £115 vanishes.

Then there’s this thing about HDMI not exactly being reliable, like SVGA is. In my case, all I got was a black screen on startup. It could have been any number of things but fortunately I’ve got quite a diagnostic mind and I’m not 12 years old, like many of the prospective owners of the Pi are purportedly meant to be. Suffice it to say it took me an entire evening of Googling around to discover that you had to create a text file with HDMI configuration parameters in it to get the monitor to actually display anything. This is fun… for various values of “fun” which unfortunately lie somewhat outside my comfortable parameters. You see, I spend all day, every day, trying to figure out why the fuck stuff doesn’t work properly. I was rather looking forward to plugging in the Pi and tinkering with it straight away, but I didn’t even get that far. I had to wank about fiddling with it just to get a fucking picture. Yes, that made me cross.

Composite Output

A nice touch but pointless. Almost all composite-input devices likely to be found around the home are now rightfully in landfill and those that aren’t are generally massive and not the sort of thing you generally want cluttering up a spare corner of a small room. Not only that but they tend to be Jurassic power-guzzling dinosaurs and prone to going on the blink. The other day I spent a happy afternoon coding in CRT distortion effects in the new version of Ultratron. So anyway: composite output – might as well have saved the money on providing this output, no-one in their right mind needs or wants it who is going to own this device. Yeah, even you. You’ve got a spare old SVGA monitor in the garage too haven’t you? Throw that old black-and-white portable telly in the skip.

Micro-USB Power Input

Er… why? I’ve got about 20 different adapters lying around my house, all with sturdy jacks, providing voltages anywhere between 3v and 12v. I literally have a box full. I expect mostly everyone else does too, because over the last 30 years, nearly every widget you’ve bought came with its own. I bet amongst them all you’ve got a 5v DC input you could have already used. Well, it doesn’t matter, you can buy the flimsy microUSB input instead for another £5.

Supplied without an SD Card or software

Now, here’s probably the most controversial thing I’m going to say about the Pi. As it comes, it won’t actually switch on or do anything, even if you’ve got the spare keyboard, mouse, and shelled out £85 for a monitor and cable. You also need to get yourself a 4GB SD card to put on some firmware and an OS. Although this process is trivial, and the cost is nothing to worry about (literally, the price of a bag of peanuts), it’s completely unlike my first experiences of computing.

My first real computer was a Vic-20, back when they first came out. It cost quite a lot of money – a lot more in fact than all this Pi stuff has come to in real terms – but: I plugged it in to the telly, switched it on, and tuned the TV using the twisty analogue knob. And there it was: a BASIC interpreter, 3583 bytes of RAM free (though 2 went missing immediately somewhere). It came like this out-of-the-box. I could get coding on it within seconds. It’s this plug-and-play appeal that turned so many people off of PCs for gaming and on to games consoles in the first place and represents exactly why software engineers are so derided by mostly every other engineering principal.


Built to a Price, But What Price And Why?

So the Raspberry Pi commands all sorts of cool headlines like “a computer for just £25!” mostly because it sounds, well, cool. Except I’ve spent £200 on mine in total, which coincidentally is about what my Vic-20 cost me albeit in 1982 money. That’s clearly beyond typical pocket money for today’s cash strapped youth who of course absolutely, completely need mobile credit and, er, whatever it is that teenagers spend money on. Drugs I expect, as they can’t easily get booze any more.

About £165 of that cost was the monitor, keyboard and mouse; the keyboard and mouse were really just me being slightly extravagant (I have an awesome tiny Cherry ultra-compact keyboard), but the monitor… well, that was annoying, really, as I could have used one of several other devices kicking about the house if the Pi ditched its HDMI and composite outputs in favour of something more befitting its status as a cheap toy that is meant to be attached to stuff you have lying around gathering dust.

So with the Pi only about 12% of the total cost of the whole setup, why exactly is it designed like this? Why is it built to meet a £25 price point when a few bob here and there would barely change the overall cost but vastly improve the whole experience? Who buying one of these things actually gives a fuck that it’s £25 and not, say, £40? I really have no idea.

It would appear that there have been engineers involved in the market research. Oh dear.

No-one buying computers cares that it costs £25 or £35. Especially when you have to buy a bunch of other things to make it work anyway, and then waste an evening trying to get it to boot. There are of course a few electronic engineering types having gentlemen’s accidents over the GPIO port and that’s great, but I seem to recall that the Pi was all about getting a generation of kids into computing as we used to know it, back when we had Spectrums, 64s and Amstrads. The problem is that price was only a small factor in the choice of whether we owned one of those home computers back in the day, yet it seems to have been absolutely the driving factor in designing the Pi.

What I’d Do To Make Me Happy

Were I to think about the successor to the Pi, apart from the usual guff about making it a bit faster and giving it more RAM through the inevitable march of progress (nabbing the chip out of a Galaxy S II would just be incredible), I’d ditch HDMI and composite out in favour of a technically obsolete SVGA connector. I suspect the cost would be as near as identical as to make virtually no difference to the prospective buyer’s financial situation – as we’ve already established, the cost of a Pi is only actually a fraction of the total cost of actually using a Pi. Not only would this mean you can use that old Dell monitor, it’d also work, unlike the HDMI port, which doesn’t.

Secondly, I’d supply the Pi with a 4GB SD card plugged in to it already, with an OS on it, that boots. In fact I’d probably consider wedging the thing inside a keyboard casing with a trackpad and then you’ve literally got something just like one of those home computers of old, the spirit of which the Pi is attempting to capture. If you sold the bundle of things ready assembled for under £100 you’ve got a no-brainer for any prospective parent thinking about getting one for his or her geeky kids.

Lastly I’d switch from using microUSB power input to a standard 5v DC power input. And then I’d supply the device with one anyway, in the box.

The choice of Linux as an OS is unfortunate but a bit of a necessity given there’s bugger all alternatives yet. Linux is incredibly complicated. Just look at the BASIC interpreter command prompt startup of a Vic-20 compared to the Pi. Eek. This isn’t really going to help a new generation of geeks get in to programming; it’s likely to make them think, this is just too much effort for too little gain. Well done for creating the sort of barrier to entry that filters out all but the most heavily bespectacled and introverted propellerheads but is that really what we need? I believe that the barrier should be as low as absolutely possible in order to hook people into fiddling before people need to get into the nuts and bolts. Look at Mac OS. It’s got Unix underneath but even an idiot can use it after switching it on. I think the Pi is going to need something like that.

Anyway, more ramblings about the Pi later, as I get to grips with the horrors of Linux and C programming (Python! You must be joking). Eventually I’m hoping to get some Java code running on it.


You might think I’m being a little negative about the Pi so far. Actually I’m having a reasonable amount of fun tinkering with it; my fears are really more meta-fears; I suspect that the Pi will turn off more people from software engineering than it will turn on, supplied as is. It is the very raw roots of modern computing. Unfortunately those roots are ugly, messy, nasty, clunky things; and one of the chief reasons I don’t use Linux as my main OS, and also one of the main reasons I use Java as my weapon of choice.

Talking of Java, seeing a bit more of an effort to support Java on the device wouldn’t go amiss. After all, it’s very, very likely that Java is what they’re going to be actually exposed to in higher education. Not Python.


Mac OS X Developer Required for “Charity” Work

Your API Needs YouThe LWJGL project, which provides the low-level graphics, sound and input bindings required for Java to make great games such as Revenge of the Titans, Titan Attacks, Spiral Knights, Tribal Trouble, Starfarer, Blocks That Matter, and yes, the ubiquitous Minecraft, needs your help. Well, that is, if you’re a reliable, seasoned Mac OS X developer with a fairly deep understanding of the Obj-C display APIs. Continue reading

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Having spent the last few days dealing with the aftermath of turning 39, I’ve finally gotten the database rinsed and cleaned and full of genuine registrations again from the Great Birthday Giveaway… and with some cunning databasery I’ve managed to reinstate some previously disabled games. What does this mean for you?

In short: if you ordered more than one game, I have reactivated the first one you ordered.

So if you were one of the people that fired up Steam the other day and discovered your game(s) have vanished, or if you tried to obtain a Steam key and were told that your email has been disabled, or if you tried to register your Puppygames registration but were told the same, you may now again register your game – just the first one you ordered – and get a Steam key for it (if it was Revenge of the Titans or Titan Attacks – Droid Assault and Ultratron don’t have Steam keys yet, but they will have, and you will be able to get them in the same way).

All in all I’ve managed to give away a further 2,353 free games to people who either didn’t read the small print quite right or for whatever reason were unaware of the one game limit. This makes me feel all magnanimous and warm inside, and is back in the spirit of things, bringing the total grand giveaway to 13,701 games.

Just to allay a few untrue rumours circulating – no-one is going to be banned by Valve for blagging an extra key. There are a few script hackers who might be in trouble though, and it was these guys filling up the registrations database with shite that have caused everyone all the grief, you included.

So in short: run your game, pop your email address in and wait for it to register, then go to to get a Steam key if it’s Revenge of the Titans or Titan Attacks.

So, What Happened On My Birthday?

As a little treat for the internets, on my birthday the other day I decided that we would give away our games for free, and see what the power of a single tweet could accomplish.

Well, of course, our server was flattened within the hour, as it turns out our keygen can only generate about 15 keys a minute, and we went on to give away 22,500 keys.  The only reason we only gave away 22,500 keys was because BMTMicro, our payment provider, closed our shop page after 12 hours because we couldn’t cope with the huge backlog coming in.

To make matters more amusing, we only had about 6,000 Steam keys to hand, and these ran out sharpish as well. It also turns out the Steam key retriever contained a schoolboy thread race error in it causing a couple of hundred people to receive duplicate Steam keys. And the cherry on the cake was that unbeknownst to us, a few days before the promotion, our server silently stopped sending email to customers after it was “migrated” by Rackspace. I’ve no idea how its configuration could have changed in that time, but it did. So we had this perfect storm going on:

  1. Site flattened
  2. Shop page shut down
  3. Ran out of Steam keys
  4. Email sender kaput

The end result is that my single tweet generated 3,000 support emails, none of which we will be answering 🙂 No, instead, we are going to send an email to each and every one pointing to a FAQ page which explains what went wrong and what you can do about it, and if you’ve got some problem that’s not answered in the FAQ, we advise emailing us again.


It didn’t take long for some people, in Eastern Europe and Australia, to latch on to our generosity, and quickly create scripts to generate hundreds of Steam keys for themselves, which presumably they have been trading. Unfortunately I know about this. Unfortunate for them, that is, as every single one of these keys will shortly be invalidated by Valve, who will also at their discretion be completely banning accounts who took advantage of the abuse. This is called “karma”.

Slightly Less Abuse!

I’m not sure just how clear that tweet was about the offer but to me it looks very much like “1 item max” means that I only wanted to give away one game each on my birthday. I’m terribly sorry to all 3,137 people who decided to take all of our games during the offer, because I’ve had to disable them all, and again, Valve will be taking your keys off of you, and no, I’m not giving them back because there are thousands of you and you had your chance and blew it.

What We Are Left With

So out of that 22,500 “sales”, we’ve actually ended up with just 11,200 legitimate people who took us up on the offer – happy birthday me! And a thousand thank yous to all those who took the offer in the spirit in which it was intended – you really are our fans and you make it all worthwhile for us. Keep an eye out for the completely updated, revamped and changed Ultratron 3.0 coming in the next couple of months, and of course, Droid Assault will be making an appearance on Steam as well soon.

Some Of Your Problems Answered

Where do I get the Steam key from for my game?

I got a duplicate key! Can you fix this?

Just try again, it’s fixed now.

I never received the email you said you sent me!

Try again, it’s fixed now. And check your SPAM folder!

It says you’ve run out of Steam keys!

We’ve got some more now, just try again.

My game has reverted back to a demo version!

That’s too bad – I did only want to give one game away each and I haven’t time to deal with everyone who somehow “misunderstood”

Incoming Sprouts Detected


Wolcum yole! Christmas lurks just around the corner, ready to pounce on unsuspecting credit cards and weakened bank accounts. To alleviate the suffering just a teeny, tiny, weeny bit, here is a new version of Revenge of the Titans, v1.80.14, which in a few days’ time you will discover has a special Christmas treat in it.

Here are the download links (except for you Humble Bundle types, you need to go back to your Humble Bundle download links and get them there. And, er, wait a day or two for the caches to update first):

What’s New and Noteworthy?

The first thing half of you will notice is that the mouse handling is completely different. I realise that this is a fairly bold and risky thing to do to a fairly long-established control mechanism in a product that’s already very mature, but… it never really worked properly before, you see. It didn’t use the desktop mouse settings, it didn’t work with tablets, it didn’t work with some mouse drivers, it was quite frequently completely erratic in movement, and it also grabbed the mouse when you clicked on the window which is kinda rude and doesn’t behave nicely in windowed mode when it comes to alt-tabbing.

So now the mouse is no longer captured by the window, and you use either the left or right buttons to scroll the screen by click-and-drag. The right mouse button has a tiny sensitivity threshold on it, which means it should still respond sensibly to its original functions (picking up buildings to build, cancelling operations), whereas the left mouse button will immediately drag. The left mouse button of course won’t drag if what you’re clicking on would otherwise have some other effect – for example, attempting to drag whilst in range of a capacitor isn’t going to work – you need to use the right mouse button.

The reason for allowing the right mouse button in drags as well is so that you can go into build mode and still scroll the screen about with the mouse like you used to. Or smartbomb mode, etc. It takes a little bit of getting used to – especially after 4 years of the old way of just waving the mouse about – but after a few games it’s just second nature again. Of course you can still use the cursor keys or WASD to scroll anyway if that’s what butters your bread.

The next thing I’ve changed is the display context handling. Er, what’s that, you ask? Well, put it this way: if you had driver problems before, they might have gone away now and the game is more likely to run. There were a lot of issues with the nice resizable window we introduced in v1.80.13, and hopefully they’ve all gone away now, although sadly with the loss of the minimise and maximise buttons.

The powerup spawn effects (and building attack effects, etc) now use chunky fat lines to draw, and because they’re now being drawn the same way as everything else in the game, they should be proper fast on all drivers. A few people had problems with the game suddenly dropping to about 2fps whenever a powerup spawned. This should now be fixed. It looks prettier, too, I think.

Finally there’s a subtle change to the way animation works, and screen transitions. You probably noticed on the screen transitions that some sprites were rendered before others, just for a single frame, so we’d have this sort of partial display which was just noticeable. This especially irritated me because I’ve seen it about 100,000 times, and it’s been bothering me for several years (yes, really). Well, I finally got around to fixing it.

Please let us know ASAP if there are any odd issues with the new version!

So Long, Desura

This part of the post is likely to attract all manner of hate and flames, but it has to be said: Desura wasn’t working for us. We spend just as much time and stress figuring out how to release software on the Desura platform as Steam, but unfortunately make literally 1/1000th of the money. So little in fact I don’t think Desura have even managed to pay us any money yet. It doesn’t make sense for us to support Desura any more, and so we’re not. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a great client, their hearts are in the right place, but… we’re on Steam.

So my humble apologies to anyone with their eggs in the Desura basket. Contact us if you’ve got any issues.

Ultrabundle refresh being prepared

If this release of Revenge goes to plan, that is, generally seems to work properly, we’ll do a refresh of the Ultrabundle games using the same code, which will fix the same issues, etc. Fingers crossed.

Show me the Sales!

Erstwhile indie entrepreneur, caustic media darling and Ferengi executive Cliffski has put together an awesome site of like-minded indie games developers where we flog our humble wares called Show Me The Games. The site is a dedicated not-for-profit co-operative between a few of us indie developers to bring in direct sales to benefit each other, the lifeblood of expansion in our industry.

This morning we are proud to announce a sale on Show Me The Games called… Show Me The Sales!

If you’re a customer of ours (either directly, via affiliates, through Steam or the Humble Indie Bundle), please stroll on over and check out some incredibly cheap and nifty titles from our fellow indie peers, many of which would make great Christmas gifts for friends and family (especially, hem hem, on account of their extreme cheapness for the next 14 days). Of course, you could spend Christmas day playing Monopoly instead. No? I thought not. Go now!

If you’re in any doubt about any of the titles available on Show Me The Sales don’t forget they all have demos and all have refund policies.

Ultrabundle Updated

After a bunch of false starts, bodged uploads, and some really annoying library wrangling between LWJGL versions, we have finally unleashed the updated Ultrabundle games, Droid Assault, Titan Attacks, and Ultratron. Existing customers can download nice brand new ones from the usual Puppygames locations (keep your old versions hanging around in case, eh?).

AZERTY keyboard users: sorry, but Ultratron is currently going to be pretty tricky to play as it uses WASD – we’ll upload a fix to this in an update probably next week.

What’s Changed

Titan Attacks has received a giant graphical overhaul and grown up into what we now call version 2.00. Now not only does it look timeless it also looks sharp and modern. A nice trick if you can do it 🙂 Three cheers to Chaz for making it look so much more… nice.

Now in widescreen, sort of…

Before and after…

There have also been a few small gameplay tweaks. Firstly, it’s now basically mouse controlled, because that’s how everyone normal plays it, although you can still use the keys if you’re desperate or stuck on a laptop. The mouse however allows you to move the ship at whatever speed you like. This means the ship speed shop item has been replaced with a different upgrade – “Addon recharge” – which governs the speed at which all your addons reload and fire. You’ll probably want to be upgrading it last. Finally, the ship only starts with one bullet, which is a bit more traditional, and gives you an early thing to aim for in the upgrades.

You’ll also notice now that the window is fully resizeable to any size you so desire, and we’ve added a much-asked-for world select screen!

Droid Assault recently already underwent the big graphical overhaul in the previous 1.90 release, so now with 1.90.1, we’ve done a few refinements to it. The maximum zoom of some of the droids was causing some performance issues and sometimes looked a little crazy so it’s been capped. The laser beams and flamethrower and flames have had their effects thoroughly revised. The game has become slightly easier too, with the droid you are controlling given 50% more hitpoints than before. So, a bunch of little tweaklets which should make for a very slightly nicer experience. Still haven’t put fast droid switching back in yet though – sorry.

Ultratron, being the oldest and simplest title, has simply received the ability to resize the window and a little bit of a title screen overhaul. A few tiny weeny tweaks have been made to the powerups – the spidroid powerups will now remain onscreen indefinitely for you to pick them up. Shooting the freeze powerup pauses the enemy robots momentarily, and shooting the three-way powerup causes your shots to split into three! This can give you an incredible amount of bullets flying around on screen but of course you are fairly hampered in your movement and aiming by the need to shoot it. That’s about it for Ultratron.

Unfortunately we’ve sort of lost the ability to redefine the keys along the way which might be a bit of an arse for those of you with AZERTY keyboards or other abominations. We’ll probably have to come up with a fix for that before the forthcoming Steam release.

Some Things Are Broken

All software is subject to the strange force of entropy that causes stuff that previously used to work fine to suddenly not work any more. This is an embuggerance which programmers live with on a daily basis, as it appears to occupy about 80% of our miserable time just keeping on top of it.

And so it would seem that some of our stuff has been broken by the Great Rug of Entropy deftly yanked from beneath its wobbly feet. Allow me to describe the symptoms, causes, and possible cures.


The Debian Packages Won’t Install On Ubuntu 11

Indeed they won’t, because Canonical in their infinite wisdom added some more checking into their .deb unpackager which disagrees with the sadly out-of-date Debian package maker we use. You can actually force it to accept the .deb files we provide (there’s some fancy commandline thing that works – please enlighten me in the comments and I’ll update this post with the solution). If you don’t fancy doing that then the good old .tar.gz files still work as normal.

Java 7 Breaks All Our Games On Linux

Oracle have just released the shiny new Java 7. Hurrah! It’s considerably faster than Java 6. Unfortunately it breaks all our games, and also, it has some serious crashy bugs in it at the moment so generally I’d advise not upgrading to Java 7 for a few months just yet. Unfortunately some Linux distros – notably it would seem Arch Linux – have automatically upgraded Java, and now the games don’t work. The solution is to roll back to Java 6. I advise you to use OpenJDK rather than the Oracle one, as it seems to work better.

Mac OS X

Problems with Lion

There may be some problems with Lion not working, but so far nobody’s come up with a concrete set of problems and/or solutions. We do know that Java is not installed by default in Lion, and so what should happen, on a brand new machine, is that the first time you run one of our games, it’s supposed to go and download Java. This is of course a crappy solution and it’s entirely Apple’s fault. They will be releasing a deployable solution soon which we’ll take advantage of just as soon as we can. If you have any troubles, comment below and tell me and I’ll update this post.


Surprisingly there appear to be no problems with Windows except possibly with that Razr mouse thing which appears to misbehave. And some of you still can’t figure out how to install new graphics drivers. It really is criminal that Windows still ships on OEM machines with drivers that simply won’t play 50% of the available games out there.

Other News

We’re just putting the final touches to the new version of Droid Assault which has many incremental improvements. We could easily massively expand it into a really quite big and deep sort of game but we’re unsure of the potential market for games like Droid Assault any more so we’re holding off further development on it. But right now the plan is to release it as we have it, which is basically the same but much more polished and improved in various subtle ways, and then think about what to do next. Well, what to do other than give the same treatment to Titan Attacks and Ultratron, which also near completion. All three titles will be making an appearance on Steam soonish, but as with Revenge of the Titans, you will be able to get free Steam keys for all of them if you buy them direct from Puppygames.

In Shops Now!

So we can cross another cheevo off the list: Revenge of the Titans is now available in actual physical form, in boxes lovingly drawn by Chaz, in actual shops! If that isn’t cool enough, said boxes also come with a double-sided hi-res poster inside and also the full-length music EP and also a free Steam key and also the Mac version is included as well!

How cool is that eh? I’ve got 3 of them here at home, still wrapped in their cellophane.

Many thanks to Iceberg Interactive for publishing the game phyically for us. We’re hoping that they make a bunch of money on it, because we’d like a nice simple retail partner we can turn to when we need them, and if this works out, it will be them.

Follow Up : For A Buck

A very interesting selection of responses to our previous bit of bloggage about selling games for a buck. Just to cure any wild speculation about things, I should say there’s no way we can sell games for a buck – it costs us $1.50 to process a single sale as it is*, so we’d actually be paying you money to, er, take digital goods “away”. This would lead to brain meltdown and financial apocalypse.

Even assuming we could process the fee for nothing, we don’t actually get enough visitors a day to sell enough copies even at the (very unlikely) conversion rate of 100% to make minimum wage. Obviously minimum wage might be ok if you are 21 and live with your parents but unfortunately I’ve got an entire family to look after in good old Blighty and it’s not getting any cheaper to live here!

Still, it was interesting to see the number of people who would impulse buy a game based on the strength of a video and / or a review of the game from some trusted source somewhere on teh internets. There were a few people who won’t even throw a dollar at anything – presumably not even a bag of crisps – unless it’s a dead cert, but I suspect that though vocal these people are absolutely a minority and I’ve got the figures to back it up! Revenge has been selling on Steam for 3 months now without a demo just fine. And just ask Apple how their pricing policies and refund policies have worked out for everyone. So, sorry guys, but if you won’t even throw a dollar at something to try it out for yourself, your options are becoming increasingly limited and at the end of the day you’re probably just cutting your nose off to spite your face. Well done! You saved a dollar! You can watch TV tonight all night again as a reward.

* We’ve just been informed that BMTMicro, our payment processor, are going to be able to reduce their fee from about $1.50 to 70c on games priced under $5 – so we’ve updated the price of the Ultrabundle and the games within to $4.97 to see what happens!

Paypal, Amazon Payments and Google Checkout

If you’re reading this then chances are you’re a fan and already bought something from us anyway, but BMTMicro have now added the ability to buy our games really easily using Paypal, Amazon and Google Checkout! Unfortunately right now Amazon are still insisting on getting address details but BMT I think are working on convincing them they don’t need that info for a registration.

What We’re Doing Now

So: Chaz is moving house, so he’s going to be incommunicado and otherwise busy for a month or so. While he’s doing that, I’m tarting up the Ultrabundle games, making them finally display in fully freely resizable windows (about time eh!). Droid Assault has gotten a much more thorough working over, with varying levels of zoom depending on droid scanner ranges, and tweaks to gameplay, weaponry, droids, and difficulty. I’ll be releasing the new Droid Assault update soon.

I think it’s ok to tell you that the Ultrabundle games will be available on Steam at some point in the not-too-distant-future, and like Revenge of the Titans, you will be able to get free Steam keys for them as soon as they’re released. So don’t let that get in the way of buying the Ultrabundle now 😉

After I’ve gotten the Ultrabundle games sorted for Steam, we’re going to start work on a new game. This isn’t the game we were originally planning to do next – we think that game is going to take about 2 years to get to releasable state and we’ve only got money for a year left. Instead we’re going to resurrect Treasure Tomb and attempt to do it justice with new hi-res graphics and other clever things. In particular we’re keen on making an integrated level editor that ordinary players can use, to, er, make all the levels for us with. Heheh.

Somewhere amongst all this I’m going to slowly chip away at Steam SDK stuff and get the achievements into Revenge of the Titans. And probably the Ultrabundle games as well. Busy busy busy!

Attention, Graduate iOS Programmers!

Puppy Games is looking for a new MINION to join our tiny boutique studio. Briefly the perks comprise of:

  1. Working from home.
  2. Working your own hours.
  3. Writing games for iOS.
  4. Working for an award winning, renowned studio.
  5. Generous holidays.
  6. Being surrounded by beautiful women.

Only one of those statements is possibly untrue.

The conditions, disadvantanges and small print of your employment are thus:

  1. Miserly pay. We don’t have lots of cash but we’ve got enough to pay you a frugal living.
  2. You’ve got to be a UK taxpayer. Where you actually are we don’t care.
  3. Your first job will be to port all our games to iOS, which is not as exciting as it sounds.
  4. Only later will you get to do interesting stuff.

To this end we seek solicitations from UNIVERSITY GRADUATES with a PORTFOLIO OF GAMES PROGRAMMING EXPERIENCE on iOS who is able to attend an interview in Taunton within the next 3 months. You might not necessarily be a graduate, but then you’ll have a really great portfolio consisting of at least one FINISHED GAME. It would be extraordinarily beneficial if you are proficient in Java, OpenGL, and maybe C++ or C as well.

Please email your CV, either a URL, .doc, or .pdf, to with the subject “MINION”. Please include hyperlinks to any stuff we can check out online such as demos or video, and also include a covering letter saying what your salary expections might be so we can have a good chortle.

I’m afraid we CAN’T AFFORD AGENCY FEES so if you’re a pimp, I’m afraid you won’t get lucky this time around.

If after all the UNUSUAL JOB ADVERT HONESTY you still aren’t put off then this might be the job for you!

More Pies! More Ale! More Droids!

Over the weekend you lucky game playing types may have noticed that Revenge of the Titans got a bit of a bump up to version 1.80.12. A seemingly minor version number update – but no! This one contains the secret new buildings! Pretty much that’s all we did for this release – maybe fixed a few really minor things but I can’t remember what they were.

As usual the procedure for updating the game is simply download the latest version from where you originally got it, reinstall, and you’re done. Steam will update the game automatically, but we’re still waiting for them to make it live I think.

New building info…

Continue reading

Revenge of the Source Code

Finally as promised, you can take a look at the source code to Revenge of the Titans here. Inside that zip file you will find:

  • A src folder containing all the Java and XML source code. Yes, the package name is “worm”. It’s a long story. The whole project was codenamed Ultraworm.
  • A docs folder containing some licenses and a readme.
  • A libs folder containing the Java dependencies for the project.


Now read this carefully: you can do what you want with the contents of that zip, provided you leave the license header alone that’s at the top of each file and respect its meaning (and the licenses of the various libraries). Make your own RTS or Tower Defence game, pinch any bits of code you like from within (in which case the license header is probably in a grey area but… I don’t care much), or maybe make some mods for Revenge of the Titans itself.

What you absolutely may not do is redistribute our assets – that’s the graphics and sounds and music – without our express permission, which if I don’t know you quite well, you are unlikely to get. Although some of the sound in the game comes from the incredibly awesome project, the oggs and jars are still ours; if you want the original .wav files which are licensed under the creative commons license, we’ve included links to every one of them in the docs.

You may also absolutely not use the name “Revenge of the Titans”, “Puppygames”, or “Shaven Puppy Ltd” when redistributing any derivative works without our express permission, as that’d again be stepping on our trademarks.

Some bright spark might cunningly put the lot up on github or sourceforge or whatever – go ahead. Said bright spark might also produce an Ant build.xml file.


This is very important: I have almost no time to actually support this source code and your many complicated questions about how it works. If you’re asking me much about how it works in the first place I suspect you shouldn’t be bothering to look at the source anyway.

Anyone who emails the support email address about the source code will be ignored, after being hung by the foreskin until sorry.

Other than that: I now apologise in advance for the extremely crappy code and terrible inaccurate or nonexistent commenting! It just grew that way. In fact it’s all been growing for 10 years and the subject of constant bodging, retrofitting, and general breaking and poor design. I have it on good authority from Markus that it’s not quite as horrible as the Minecraft code but I suspect it’s not far off.

Making Mods

The one area where I will help out is making mods for the game. However, it’s quite an advanced sort of subject, and I shall expound upon exactly how to do this in a forthcoming blog post.

Other News

I got another 2000 keys from Steam, just as we were about to run out. And finally the Steam version has been patched to v1.80.11. The Mac version is imminent.