Category Archives: Indie Scene

Long Live the Demo, or Why We Can’t Have All The Things

It’s been a  little while since I stood on the soapbox to serve as a distraction for the ire of the masses. Allow me once more to entertain you with news of the exciting events of our times.

Big time 800lb gorilla monopoly stakeholder Valve announced a week ago a wonderful u-turn on their famously awful refunds policy, and frankly, about fucking time.

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Cockroaches, Games Development, and You

Hmm… it’s been a while since the blog had a new entry. It’s been even longer since I opened my virtual mouth to make commentary on the industry (and what fun that is!). But, the tripes are heavy, and thrice has the cock crowed under a full moon. The portents are good!

I recently had the good fortune to babble away in a thread on Facebook with Old Guard Indie Derek Smart, one of the very first and most prominent indie developers around. I got onto a subject which has been nagging away at me for some time, which I shall now dub “The Roach Theory of Indie Games Development”.

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Well, that went pretty much as expected, didn’t it?

I’m now peeping back out of my bunker and it feels safe enough to remove my flame-resistant underpants. This time around, I’ll give the polite version sans rhetoric and sardonic speech forms that confused so many people. Bless the Internet, but it seems that so many readers turned up to the blog post actually wanting to have a fight and somehow read the post as if it had been specifically written about them, for them. I’m afraid this is not how sardonic rhetoric speech works, and none of us are so important as to seriously believe somebody would write a random blog post on a two-bit backwater indie game developer’s site that was actually addressed directly to us, now, would they? Exactly. Now everyone’s calmed down I bit I’ll explain the post.

First of all, I be playin’ ya

My apologies for that.

I deliberately wrote the most invective, filthy, shit-stirring post I could to ensure that it would, indeed, make lots of people angry. Angry enough to repeat and respond to it all over the internet. Unfortunately in this day and age, well-reasoned and sensible posts such as those made by the wonderful Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Software are received in hushed tones, nodded sagely to, discussed in high-brow intellectual circles and then disappear like ships in the night. Everyone goes back about their business and the next day everything is the same as before. Spiderweb is probably better-known than we are having been around for many more moons and made many more games, and still, people really aren’t taking a lot of notice about what’s going on.

So my little missive was designed to ensure that it spread far and wide, hopefully virally. Which it pretty much did, thanks to the power of Twitter. The site was flattened for a few hours. The plan was that Angry Internet Man would misunderstand the post, start a fire somewhere on the internet, and then someone with a few more braincells and the patience to actually read the whole article would respond and pour some sense on the discussion. Which by and large is exactly what happened. In this regard it’s been absolutely successful, bringing it to the attention of a far, far greater audience than we’d have reached if we’d just been nice and polite about everything.

And once again being absolutely honest: I didn’t do the post absolutely for altruistic reasons. It’s been said that it was a desperate bid for attention disguised as truth; in fact, it’s truth disguised as a desperate bid for attention. I knew beforehand about the total roasting that the internet was going to dole out to me after posting it. That’s exactly why no other developer wants to say what I had to say. So I’ve tried to mitigate the damage it was going to cause by at least getting Puppygames into the consciousness of as many people as possible.

Comments closed on this post. Anyone still somehow insulted by the previous blog post is simply not capable of reason and there is really no point in you venting flames about something you don’t understand; those who understand and/or support us, you have been well appreciated over the last week and we send hugs and kisses in your general direction.

I wish I hadn’t invoked Phil Fish

It seems that Phil Fish is some sort of bogeyman in gamer circles and the mere mention of Phil Fish causes all sorts of random and spurious bullshit to erupt. Unfortunately this seems to have deflected a full third of the conversations about the deeper meaning of the post onto rants for and against Fish. Next time I’ll pick someone more low-profile to use as a poster child, like Zoe Quinn or something.

It wasn’t about Puppygames

An awful lot of people wrongly thought the post was a desperate rant on behalf of a failing developer whose business is going down the tubes. I’m afraid you’ll have to reformulate your entire line of thinking and conclusions for two fairly solid reasons. Firstly, we’re not going down the tubes; we’re doing OK and we’ve got two games in development and all sorts of irons in the fire. Even if we did run out of money we’d still be making games because that’s what we like doing and we did it for 7 years before we made anything beyond a few beers.

Secondly, the post was simply not about Puppygames. It was about the entire indie game industry. Actually it probably applies to the AAA industry as well, or at least all the mid-sized studios kicking about that make AAA quality games but without the marketing budget that defines the AAA industry. All developers are in the same boat. All developers are having to deal with this problem – the problem of having worthless customers. I’m not even sure why there’s a pretence that we even have customers any more: they – you – all belong to Valve. We are unable to issue a refund for our games. We have no way to directly contact a customer after they’ve bought a game from us. But that’s ok, because you can get games for a dollar now, eh>?

There’s nothing wrong with our games

The next most prevalent response was to incorrectly assume, as a conclusion based on the incorrect assumption that we were going out of business, that there’s some problem with our “shitty” games. Again, I’m sorry to pop your bubble but you’re going to have to draw some other conclusions. Our games have grossed over $1.5m in the last four years or so and continue to sell (although not as well as we’d hope they’d sell but then again – we are a niche interest and we’ve had very little exposure from Valve relatively).

We do love our customers

…and it even says so explicitly in the previous post, but it seems a lot of people either didn’t actually bother reading it at all, or just made up what they wanted it to say and then got angry about that! No, we do in fact love our customers, even if they’re only worth 10p. What we don’t love is customers who demand that we fix their computers, threaten us with lawyers, chargebacks, violence (yes, really), and general hate, sometimes before they’ve even asked us for help getting their games working – and worse, sometimes even after we’ve gotten their games working.

That sort of crap is not good. Check out this sort of thing we get:

You fucking piece of shit, yeah you Cas make sure you read this, this is so funny for you to moderate something you don’t like right ?

It’s about your complaint “you re worthless”, you re just the same asshole just like Phil Fish, always bitching and insulting people who like your games, no have no motherfucking respect, you insult people because they are not happy with the game or because the game isn’t working ? They gave you their money and you re acting like a little bitch ? You know I hope for you I will never see you in real life at a convention because I swear I m gonna fuck you Cas you little bitch you and your stupid blog posts, it’s so easy to rant behind a screen, we will see if you re so tough, just like the fucking Fish.

and this:

Those dollars i spent on your shitty game will shure come in handy when you get cancer(hopefully)and have to pay your medical bills. O wait, i pirated that shit and i hope you’ll end up broke in a ditch.

And this stuff is minor compared to what a lot of developers receive. And none of us are exempt; it’s almost as if this sort of thing is “par for the course” once you get to a certain level of exposure. Just like “being a woman in a man’s world” meant at one time you had to just “suck it down” when you were groped, slobbered on, leered over, or just plain talked down to. It’s exactly the same issue with a different target: it’s about a total lack of respect for a relatively defenceless minority. There are hundreds of thousands of customers to every one developer. The odds are not on our side, and as we’ve noticed, the group IQ of a crowd is inversely proportional to its size, and it sure does help when the target of such behaviour has very little support or sympathy.

In conclusion

Next time you feel like getting enraged at something, have a read through it again to make sure you’ve not misunderstood something, or missed something rather important in the post that changes its entire meaning. Especially if you’re getting enraged.

Now, I wonder what we’re going to do about the actual situation? That’ll be the subject of some other blog posts.

Because You’re Worthless: The Dark Side Of Indie PR

There are unwritten taboos on the internet. There are things you Don’t Say. There are replies you may not give. There are comments you may not make. There are truths you may not tell, in the world of public relations, for the public are fickle, and behave as a mob. A mob in all its feral, brutal depravity, lacking any and all of the qualities we laud upon humanity that allow us to feel so smug over all of the hapless animals that we raise ourselves over. And we are all, whether we admit it or not in public, under strict censorship of the mob. Even admitting that the mob censors our thoughts and feelings and the expression thereof is risky. Be careful! The mob may notice.

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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.


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.







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

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.


Revenge of the Titans is Released…

… on …

…on The Humble Indie Bundle #2! “What!” you cry. “I just paid three shekels and a camel for your miserable beta programme to try and blag a tidy deal! I feel extra cross, and entitled to a lifetime’s supply of creamy grapes fed to me by attractive Mediterranean virgins!”

But wait! There’s more to it than that!

The Humble Indie Bundle #2 has got no less than five awesome games in it: Braid, Cortex Command, Machinarium, Osmos, and a special deluxe edition of Revenge of the Titans! And another trick or two up its sleeve, as you will discover…

Deluxe Edition

The Deluxe Edition includes all of the full length mp3 tracks from Dave Sunerton-Burl! He’s spent four months making the album, and he’s just as unemployed and broke as Chaz and I are! So please consider supporting Dave and making a contribution to the bundle even if you’ve already bought the game direct from Puppygames. In the couple of weeks or so we’ll also try selling the album from our site for some nominally tiny sum, and all the money will go towards keeping a roof over Dave’s unemployed ass. And his family. He is truly a star and really deserves it.

More good news!

What’s more, you can choose what you think all of this amazing l3wt is worth – so if you feel like it, go buy that bundle, and deduct what you think Revenge of the Titans is worth if you’ve already bought it direct from Puppygames. But also consider – this is your chance to do a super good deed this year and donate a bit of money to Child’s Play Charity and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)!

The Humble Indie Bundle #2 is also specially set up to be bought as a gift – and what greater Christmas gift can there be than these five fine examples? Search no longer for that elusive present for your housemates or geeky spouse. You have reached your goal.

Love and peace to all from Cas, Chaz, Dave, Mike, Steve and Brian. Go forth and donate!

btw… I’ve been trying to post this for the last 7 hours – HIB2 got tweeted 10 minutes before we were expecting – and then the database fell over with the massive traffic spike – apologies for those who have had trouble getting here 🙂

Linux problems!

… we’re having some problems with the linux builds. If you’re getting errors such as…

unable to create `/opt/revengeofthetitans/full_length_music/einleitung.mp3.dpkg-new’ (while processing `/opt/revengeofthetitans/full_length_music/einleitung.mp3′): No such file or directory

…we’ll be uploading new versions in the morning that will fix the problem (touch wood).

In the meantime you could try sudo mkdir -p /opt/revengeofthetitans/full_length_music and then try the installing again.

Show me the games!

Cliffski, erstwhile Bat’leth-wielding UK indie games entrepreneur, has blogged about an experiment we’ve been conducting called Well, I say “we”, really it’s all Cliff, and we’re just throwing a bit of money at it and participating. So far it seems reasonably successful. Go and take a look at the other games – there are some real gems in there. In fact they’re all good – there’s bound to be something that floats your boat, and every one of those indie game developers in there is to some degree or another as skint as we are or not far from it. Buy a game for someone else this Christmas, if not for yourself!

In other news, we’ve released Revenge of the Titans v1.63, which you can get directly here:
Mac OS X
Linux (sorry, still not done package thingy yet – next release!)

Bugs Fixed

  • Fixed: Survival level selector allowed you to select one more world than you had actually completed

New Features and Enhancements

  • Medals are now worth bonus $$$!
  • Ranks are now worth $(points/10)
  • New bashing and building destroyed noises
  • Lasers now fire through wraiths
  • Gidlets and wraiths can no longer penetrate nanomesh
  • Slightly larger maps


  • Laser, rocket, and disruptor turrets now only $3000 each
  • Decoy now only $1500
  • Silos now rather less amazing at stretching resources further (10, 12, 16, and 25% for 1-4 silos)…
  • …but silos now cost a flat rate of $250


  • Back to using the tiered server compiler for Windows to claw back a bit more performance
  • Perform a full GC between levels
  • Wired up more shortcut keys on medals screen
  • Displays monetary bonus for a particular medal underneath points value
  • Crystal spawn noise occurs at the end of the res-in effect now
  • Attenuated colours updated only half as frequently
  • Gidrahs brains now only half as fast at calculating routes
  • Titan boss now has a disruptor, with variable range depending on difficulty
  • New animation command to cause a gidrah to fire its weapon
  • Fixed various bugs to do with completing the game causing crashes
  • Fixed crash where if you restarted a level after dying you immediately died when the aliens started spawning
  • Tweaked tactical brain so it targets the base as well as turrets
  • Fiddling with the speech for the General and so on – sounds rubbish so far 🙁

Yes, the speech for the General and ZX-bot sound just awful but we’ve not managed to finish it or get it even half-right yet.

Some Notes About The Balance Changes

You might be interested to hear about the reasoning for the changes to silos: I noticed that upon researching silos (and knowing exactly how they work so I’m pretty good at using them in the most efficient way possible), my refinery takings for the level shot up. This is all well and good, because it means a canny player who knows this will research silos as soon as possible and then be able to progress through the levels at a reasonable level of difficulty thanks to the big cash infusion. However – anyone who doesn’t know this trick was going to be at a major disadvantage, and having a pretty crap time progressing really slowly. The reason is that silos unbalance the game too much in their previous form.

So now, silos are a simple flat-rate upgrade, and have a much more modest effect on the efficiency of crystal refining. With four silos, you’ll manage to eke out just 25% more from a factory (rather than the 100% it was before!). However the outlay is now just $1000 for the four silos instead of $2500. You can still be cunning in your silo placement – putting them next to factories that have access to the most crystal – but the effect is a bit less dramatic unless you get a really lucky configuration. But every penny counts, so it’s always worth doing – especially as your silos are recycled if they’re not damaged and you’ll get $400 of that $1000 back at the end of the level.

Just for your information, there are three sizes of crystal in the game, containing $600, $1200, and $1800 respectively. You can work out the maths yourself 🙂

Also you’ll notice a bit of cheapening of the heavy weapons and the decoy. Seemed a shame to spend all that money researching them and then not ever have quite enough cash to justify splashing out on a few eh?

Also take special notice that nanomesh is now gidlet and wraithproof. Very useful. There are nearly enough to surround your base! Nearly.

I’ve just noticed that the bug where factories don’t start up again in survival mode when a crystal appears next to them has come back – doh. I’m also aware of the (very rare) occasion that a gidrah seems to get stuck sometimes and you have to drop something on his head to kill him. If this happens to you, save your game and send the save file to me!

The Next Release

The next release is 1.64, the final beta release, which will include the long awaited Titan levels. After that there will be a strange quiet period, where we sit and listen intently for bugs and last minute pleas for absolution or clemency, and then we’ll release the finished game. Phew.

Eurogamer Expo 2010

Well, I went to Eurogamer Expo 2010 this year on the Friday, thanks to Dave Hayward at the recently-merged Mudlark. Dave arranged it for us to showcase Revenge of the Titans at the Indiecade booth round the back of the show, along with a few other indies. Extra super thanks to Dave for being brilliant! Unfortunately I didn’t take a worthy camera with me so there aren’t any exciting pictures of me doing exciting things, which is just as well, as I’m not too photogenic.
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Rock Paper Shotgun Loves Us

Rock Paper Shotgun

… and we wuv them back, too, for they have interviewed me. And yes, I speak the truth, it does appear that we’ll have a pre-order demo ready in a couple of weeks, and it’ll be 50% off, and the full game will appear in the summer!

Best get back to the drudgery of the day job first though.


The to-do list currently looks like this:

  • Alien stuck in corner of map inexplicably
  • Double music playing on start of world
  • Research screen
  • Twiddle story xml around
  • Research tree
  • Replay Level button on Game Over
  • Clearer “reloading” timers
  • Some unique landmarks
  • Shift-click on a building to switch to Build Mode using that building (if still available)
  • Increase barricade / mine limit with silos?
  • Add ammo counter to capacitors?
  • Medals screen
  • Show medals earned on complete level dialog
  • Put in a load of tips
  • Hiscores screen
  • Different sfx for factory shutdown klaxon, base attack, base critical
  • Bezerk effect
  • Freeze effect
  • Mars
  • Saturn
  • Titan

What Makes Me Buy A Game?

Over on a secret forum where the illuminati of indie game development hang out, someone asked this question (I say someone because technically we’re not allowed to talk about Fight Club, but this is a benign and often-asked question, and I think that this won’t upset anyone):

What REALLY makes someone buy a game? I think we should brainstorm this. I get the impression that people are too quick to rush to very simplistic judgements about this. We are clever people, what do we think?

I’ve read a ton of psychology / microeconomics / neurosciencey stuff that leads me to believe that game buying decisions are almost entirely irrational and entirely emotional.

So I had a little think about it, and fortunately I have a fresh, current experience to relate to.

I’ve just played the demo of Defense Grid, and I’m about to buy it.

I’m even writing my own tower defence game right now and I’m utterly sick of playing it already!

I want to think a bit more about what made the decision for me.

Firstly, I’m going to be flush again in a few weeks. I just landed a contract in Folkestone, 220 miles from home, but I’ll be earning £275 a day (a crap rate, far worse money than I earned over a decade ago, but still way more money than most people earn). A $20 or even $30 or even $50 purchase is now pure whimsy. I won’t even notice it – whereas before, as an unemployed bum, I’d have reluctantly said no, I can’t afford it. Even though at £13.99, which I could easily spend on a takeaway and a couple of bottles of beer last weekend when I didn’t have any money.

The takeaway and beer is an important comparison – people often get to thinking that the takeaway and beer lasts only a couple of hours, and is therefore maybe a tenth the value of a 20-hour game experience. That’s wrong. I need to eat, so does the missus. The beer is immensely enjoyable. I’d take beer over games any day. Really.

A comparison with cinema tickets is usually what follows next. And actually I think it’s almost valid, for certain kinds of game. But the fact is, a cinema outing is for the two of us, we’re paying to have the experience together. It’s (sadly) a Big Thing (especially now we’ve got a 6 month old baby). £14 of cinema tickets buys us a whole evening of different. It could buy me a game, but we won’t be playing it together. Even a multiplayer game. Even a multiplayer game that we play on one screen together. It’s not the same. There’s no occasion. So we value the cinema tickets considerably higher than the game experience. This is the emotional draw from this form of entertainment.

Games, then, probably fundamentally have to compete with this extremely powerful emotional hold that “activities” such as “going out” have. The situation of being an unemployed bum counts towards the ultimate decision but I suspect we can totally ignore the financial status of prospective customers. Customers are either rich, or they’re not going to buy a game. Or a cinema ticket. They might buy beer and a takeaway instead with what frugal funds they have. So just forget them, and forget the money equation. I don’t want poor customers who reluctantly part with $3.99 for something I spent 6 months toiling away at. I want rich customers with an appreciation of the value of the really hard work we do (ie. other people who work really hard). That’s why I’ve put all my games up at $19.95 finally and that’s where they will stay from now on.

So what made me buy Defense Grid?

Well, first and foremost, it’s good. It’s a really good tower defence game, even though they spelled defence wrongly. It’s not innovative in any particular way (unlike, say, the one I’m working on, which is quite different to most TD games), but the basic gameplay has been executed perfectly, and when I played it, I enjoyed myself so much that I’m going to buy it because I know I’m going to keep playing it for at least a couple more weeks. I’ve not got any other games to play right now apart from Zatikon from Chronic Logic, which I limit myself to 1 game a day of because of its hellishly addictive qualities, and I need a break from my own game.

Secondly, it’s a piece of piss to buy stuff on Steam. I’d go direct to the developers except the Steam version is integrated with the Steam achievements stuff and also Steam takes care of auto updating and I’ll even be able to just download and install it again anywhere I choose to be without having to think about it. I like that. Steam got that stuff dead right. It’s value that I’ll gladly pay for. It’s the digital equivalent of owning a shiny box with a CD in it – it feels like I’ve paid some middleman some money for something I actually feel is worth something – totally unlike my feelings about buying stuff from BFG (oh look – no hyperlink), where I feel that I’m giving BFG all the money solely because they bullied their way to the top of the search engine charts and do their damndest to make sure the developers remain unknown. They’re pure middlemen. They add nothing I care to have. I’ll even pay an extra £10 for a game to get it direct instead of through BFG.

It may come as a surprise also but I’ve never actually played a tower defence game. Apart from my own game, this is the first one I’ve played, and it’s been done so absolutely perfectly and TD is such a great concept for a game, with all sorts of decision trees one has to go through and enjoyable trial and error, it couldn’t fail to sell to me. So it was the first game of its nature I’ve actually come across, and it’s a great implementation.

(Similarly: Faerie Solitaire was the first solitaire game I’ve played since the one that came with Windows 3.11 – I would have bought it if Brian hadn’t thrown a free copy at me).

So there’s my thoughts on the matter. What makes you buy a game?

Droid Assault a winner in Game Tunnel 2008 awards

2008 Action Game of the Year

Droid Assault recently picked up 4th place in Game Tunnel’s 2008 Action Game of the Year awards, making it our third in the Action Game category.

For those not familiar with the Game Tunnel Game of the Year Awards this is the 6th year they’ve been running, an always entertaining review of the very best Indie games in a range of categories – action, sport, sim, rpg, puzzle, adventure and strategy – always worth checking out for the odd gem you might have missed. Cheers Russell!

Space Barnacle!

Space BarnacleI found a very cute game over at TIGsource today called Space Barnacle by a little known crew going by the name of Doomlaser. We at Puppygames dig the ultra-retro graphics and sound. The game’s a tad difficult (mainly because it’s a bit too fast for my ageing reflexes) but there’s just something about it I just loved.

I mean… a space barnacle. With a gun. Genius.

Guert from the TIGsource forums has done a comprehensive review of the game in his “Grinder” which makes interesting reading.

Reviewing Games on Gametunnel

You may or may not have noticed that I now review games on GameTunnel’s monthly roundup nowadays. As usual I’ve been kicking up controversy with my reviewing style and outrageous review scores (2 out of 10! He can’t be serious!)

Well, I think I ought to set the record straight on the review thing as it’s spawned numerous grumpy decisions around the internet.

Gametunnel uses a marks-out-of-ten review system for the monthly round up, which I’m not a great fan of anyway. It’s got some advantages but mostly disadvantages in my humble opinion, mostly being that very rarely does anyone ever score anything much below 5, and also that scores just aren’t consistent from one reviewer to the next or even for one month to the next.

I wanted to make the marks out of ten system work for me, and be consistently reliable so that I could look at a game and know that I’d always rate it the same. And let’s be clear here, it is my opinion, not anyone elses, so I can justifiably come up with any score I want for a game, just like everyone else does,.

So here’s the scheme I settled upon:

  • 1 point if the game installs and runs painlessly
  • 1 point if it doesn’t crash or go wrong in some way at all
  • 1 point if it’s slickly presented
  • 1 point if it’s original
  • 1 point if I think the graphics are good
  • 1 point if I think the sounds and music are good
  • 1 point if I think the overall style is good
  • 1 point if I enjoyed playing it
  • 1 point if I wanted to play it some more later on even though I didn’t have to
  • 1 point if I’d actually buy the game either for me or for someone else

Now, I’m very lenient about my ratings for graphics and sound and style. Style is a combination of graphics, sound, presentation and gameplay which is where the whole thing comes together to create a consistent and immersive experience.

The first three points a game can earn are very objective. It’s not much to ask that a game installs fine and doesn’t crash, and that it presents you with clear and concise options and menus to let you start playing.

The graphics, sounds, and style are subjective but as I say, I am very lenient and have a critical eye for what works and what doesn’t. That’s why Lexaloffle’s Chocolate Castle, with its simplistic 16-bit style unantialised 640×480 graphics gets a point but Magi didn’t: Magi has nice icons but very weak particle effects and sprites which just don’t seem to work.

Then there are the absolutely totally subjective points of whether I actually enjoyed playing the game or not, and whether I wanted to play more than I had to for the purposes of a review, and whether I felt like actually buying the game. And mostly this comes down to plain old whether I like the game, not if I think someone else might like it. That’s the whole point of it being me that’s reviewing the game instead of someone else.

But the end result is a scale that works from 1 to 10 consistently. You know what you have to do to get 10/10 from me. It won’t be very easy at all, of course, but at least it means that if a game gets 10/10 from me I don’t think it could really do any better!

Horizontal Scrolly Shooter Contest Finished

Over at Shmup-Dev you’ll find the results of the recently finished Horizontal Scroller with Boss competition!

The winning entry is this R-Type clone:
The Winning Entry
(more or less as you’d expect given the theme of the competition!). I notice there’s an entry from Dr. Petter there at number 9 (Dr. Petter of GridWars fame). I’m busy wrangling with an RMI-HTTP-CGI tunneling wotsit at the moment and I haven’t got time to play ’em. Perhaps you could, and post a comment or two on them.