Game Trailer

After my blog post yesterday, a few people seemed to be interested in it, and asked for more details. Being used to cut a lot of family videos recently, I was able to create this trailer for my latest political simulation game 'Government Simulator' within just an hour:



I think it still looks ok, though. At least it shows pretty well within one minute what the game is and how it works. I even created the music myself, ha. Hope you like it.



My latest Side Project

On my way to the office or generally when on a train or plane, I usually write a bit of code when I can. Creating 3D stuff isn't possible usually, so I write tools, or once, I even wrote a book (named Die Wiederentdeckung der Erde).

Last year, because I was frustrated with the absurd assertions of our local politicians, I programmed the simulation of a state. So that I could for example change the VAT tax rate of Austria, and see what would happen then. It turned out to be quite fun, so I added a user interface to it, and extended it a bit. The result is the Government Simulator:

A simple economic and political simulation game. I will polish it up a bit and release it soon. Here is another shot:

Do you know the "Kill All The Poor" sketch by Mitchell and Webb? This one here:


I wanted to create a simulation just like that. Sounded like fun. There are a lot of features already in that game, and although I haven't written a "Kill all the poor" option, it would be possible. Not sure if I should though.

Anyway, if you think this is a good idea, subscribe to the newsletter of that game to get a mail once it is finished, or tell me in the comments of what you think, or what you would like to have in a game like this. Any feedback is welcome!



PostCollapse 1.14 update: create your own buildings

I uploaded a new update of PostCollapse to Steam last weekend, which adds the most requested feature so far: The possibility to create own buildings from scratch. Previously, you could only take an existing building and modifiy them.

The game engine wasn't designed initially to support a feature like this, so there are constraints where you can place new buildings. The game will show red markers when you try to build the platform where this is not possible, like too close to another existing building, or on a tile border. In a future update, maybe it will be possible to lift these restrictions, but let's see.

Hope the people playing this game will like it.



Super Galaxy Ranger Luna 64

The game Super Galaxy Ranger Luna 64 has a cool retro look. I played it for a few hours already, and it was fun. Hope it will be released soon:

It's being created with CopperCube by ishmaru. There is now also a trailer available. Yay.



Website update and communities

I just updated the CopperCube game engine website a bit: Added new free actions and behaviors like "Read specfic line" (just_in_case) and "If below sea level" (Bracer ), added new screenshots, updated a few texts here and there, and we also have https support now:

Did you know that there is also now a quite active CopperCube community website named MarshTownMadness? They also have a lot of downloadable plugins, models and extensions of CopperCube. Probably worth a visit.

I'm wondering what the added https-Switch did to our search ranking. The first days where this was available, the traffic went down a bit. There was also a certificate issue for a few days where some very old Android Devices were grading the website as unsecure, wrongly. That's fixed now, but I'm still leaving the http and https website existing side-by-side. Also not sure if this is a good idea.



Marderschaden

Waking up. Everything cold. Checking heat pump. System says "everything bad". Checking error code. Checking outdoor unit. Marderschaden! (=Damaged by a weasel!) That's new.

Reparing. Yay! Working again. Saved roughly 300-500 euro in costs (and a weekend with only cold water!), and the wife is complaining that I cut her 2 Euro USB-cable for that. Argl.



PostCollapse 1.13

I just uploaded an update of PostCollapse to Steam, version 1.13. I think I fixed a crash bug which occasionally appeard for some players. I also added a nice new feature: You can now actually see the water sinking into the ground, when you are watering your plants:

This is also a quite nice usability improvment, I think. Also, I think it again looks a bit better now. I tweaked a few textures and shaders:

Still not that great, but I'm only a programmer, after all. :)

The game is currently on sale on Steam, by the way. if you like, check it out, it is only 4,87 right now (I think in Dollar, that's also 4,87).



Steam Direct and what it means for us

Since Valve has shut down Greenlight and replaced it with Steam Direct - a method were you basically pay 100$ and can publish your game on Steam - the number of games released nearly exploded: more than 1000 games have been added to Steam since then.

As engine developer, I also noticed a big change since Steam Direct: Way more people who are using CopperCube (that's the 3D Game Engine I am developing and selling) are especially asking more questions about its Steam integration (Achievements, Steam Overlay etc). Also, a lot of new game developers and beginners are starting to use CopperCube, in order to create games specifically for Steam. For me as developer of that game engine, that's great news.

But for me as Steam user, it is not: It was difficult to find nice games to play on Steam even before Steam Direct. Now it should become much more difficult, with the flood of these games. The curation system Valve introduced in the Disovery Update didn't help a lot. Also, search and filtering still could be improved, a lot.

So, why is Valve doing this? Clearly, no one wins if they flood Steam with tons and tons of low quality games? No one except the people at Valve can tell for sure, but a lot of evidence ([1], [2]) points to this: Valve seems to be very much afraid of the Windows Store. It's basically an app store built into Windows, which also sells games. If you ever bought something there, you'll notice that it is unintuitive and broken at a lot of places and it doesn't look like Microsoft is putting much effort into trying to improve the situation. But it will eventually get there, and although Steam today is basically the place to get games, it could change some day.
So to make Steam more relevant and future-proof, I think they probably thought it would be a good idea to put as many games on Steam as possible. And if this really is the reason for it, then ironically, they achieved the exact opposite:

As game developer (try my latest game PostCollapse), visibility in an app store is very important. If your game or app cannot be found, then your game won't get sales.
Previously, because Steam usually only had a handful of games (around 8000 in 2016, which is already now twice as much at the time of writing), it was like that: If you made it onto Steam, already this was a guarantee that you would earn at least a bit of money. But the more games are on Steam, the more it starts behaving like one of the existing app stores: It is a gamble, and the probability to earn nothing at all gets higher and higher. So once Steam reaches this, there is no incentive for game developers to prefer Steam as platform to developing for. The probability to earn money then will be the same on Steam, Google Play, Apple's App Store, the Windows Store and others. Valve then will has made Steam more irrelevant.

Let's see, maybe I'm wrong about all this. Or maybe Valve will simply adjust the price tag of 100$ of Steam Direct, and improve quality like that already. It will be interesting to see what comes out of this.

[1]: Gabe Newell said that Windows 8 is kind of a catastrophe when introduced, included the Windows Store (source)
[2]: Linux based Steam Machines where introduced at roughly the same time, likely in an attemt to make Steam more independent from the Windows platform (source)




A few important Tips for new Game Developers

So you would like to create a game, and probably also earn a lot of money with it?

As developer of a commercial game engine (and probably better known for that once popular open source 3D lib), I have a lot of contact with new game developers. I also created commercial games completely on my own (6 until now, this one here is my latest attempt) and about a dozen as part of a bigger team, so there are some few tips I have which new game developers might find useful:

Make Backups!

About once a month, a game developer contacts me, telling me about his deleted / destroyed / lost game files. They usually deleted important files by accident, the disk stopped working, a virus encrypted the data, or similar. Months and months of work completely lost. In the beginning I was baffled that these people haven't made backups, but apparently, this seems to happen more often than I thought.

For god's sake, please, people. Make backups. You don't even need some sophisticated system for this. Just copy your important game data regularily onto an USB stick. Or to another PC. Or burn it onto a DVD. At least do something. It only takes a few minutes but will safe your ass.

Plan for Failure

Game development is a very risky business. Only some very, very few games ever make a profit. You are lucky if you will be able to pay yourself a minimum wage by selling your game. Don't put all one's eggs into one basket. Don't quit your job and take a mortage to work fulltime on your game. Thinking of all the games where my software has been involved in and where I have a bit insight into, I estimate about 10% have not been financial failures. Your numbers might vary, but that's what I experienced during the last 10 years.

Finishing a project

I've seen dozens of cool and interesting games which have been created with my game engines, but which never have been made public. In most cases because the developers have lost focus and interest or just stopped working on it, which is a pity. Finishing a project is not easy, and the last 10% are always the hardest part. But there is a simple trick:
The best way to ensure you'll be able to release a finished, working project is this: Start small. Don't plan a huge game with and endless list of complicated features. Create a small, working game, and iterate from there, by adding more features to the existing, working game. That way, you can always stop at any time, bundle the thing you have and release it. Even if you haven't added everything you initially wanted.

Use an Engine

For all my games, I've created all the code from scratch myself. I've written the graphics renderer, audio engine, collision detection, user interface, io, model loaders, input handling, everything from scratch in C++. But today, this is a bad idea. It is a lot of work, and you'll be spending a year or more with this, instead of focusing on creating the actual game. Today, there are lots of game engines out there. Just choose a fitting one for creating your game.

Development is only half of the work

I often get criticized for my opinion on this, but I'll repeat it here: Once your game is finished, you still have about half of the work to do. You need to do marketing. And it is as difficult (or for me: even more difficult) as game development itself. Without a lot of work in marketing, your game won't usually sell. You probably hope for an automatical viral bump via social media or similar, but usually, this won't happen. It is unlikely that people will find your game themselves. And of course: Lots of people will tell you that you should have started with marketing even much earlier to begin with. When your game is done, it might even be too late to start with marketing.



Most points I've mentioned here are pretty basic, but a lot of people don't seem to know this. If you are interested, I'll write up some more generic game dev articles with more interesting stuff in the future, just let me know. Ah, and I forgot the shameless plug: Try my game engine CopperCube! :)



A guy with a stolen iPhone walks into the Apple Store

I just sent a user this story:
A guy walks into an Apple Store and complains that the display of his iPhone sometimes flickers. He wants it repaired for free. The Apple store employees tell him OK, but three days later, they call him, asking him if he bought the phone in this store, because they cannot match up his Apple-ID with the phone. He then admits that he had stolen the phone, from their store, a few weeks before. But he still wants them to repair the phone. For free.

What do you think now happens? Will they repair the phone for free?

While Apple might not have conversions like this, I get this all the time. Also, for game developers this is a known phenomenon. I create specialized software (like this responsive website designer, or this WebGL 3D editor), and I get support requests which are a lot of work. I usually need to debug code for looking into them and it takes a lot of my time.

And in a lot of cases, I discover that this user is using a stolen version of my software, but still has nerve to file a support request. I wonder what I should do in this case. Not answer support requests like these?

I also wonder what these people are thinking. Probably not much? Anyway, for now, I usually still help them to fix their problem, and tell them afterwards that it would probably a nice idea to buy my software instead of pirating it. Which, in a few cases actually happend then. But still, maybe I should change my attitude towards this behavior?