Archive for April, 2009

My wierd Community Games/Tank Strike promo…

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

So, I’ve actually been preparing more with Tank Strike than just that one base promo video I put out yesterday. I also took a shot at one of my old loves, claymation to make this promo video talking about XBox live community games.

A bit rough around the edges, but it was an interesting experience to make, and may try it again later on.

Oh and of course, if you haven’t done so yet, you really should get on your XBox360 and try Tank Strike. It’ll blow you away… with explosions ;)

Tank Strike is released! Go! Run to the hills!

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

That’s right everybody, it’s finally here! Tank Strike, the indie sensation that’s sweeping the nation is now available on XBox Live Community Games! It’s time for celebration!

So get on your XBox and go find Tank Strike in the community games section, or you can find more info about it at the xbox marketplace site and purchase it from there.

Go, for the joy of artillery games!

Things are looking up, but slow…

Monday, April 27th, 2009

A week ago I talked about when you can expect to see Tank Strike on XBLCG, or at least, what options may occur leading up to that event. So far my game hasn’t been rejected yet, but it also hasn’t been accepted by enough community game developers to get it on the service.  It seems to be working for people so far. What’s the hold-up you may ask? Well, amongst community game developers so far, Tank Strike gets peer reviews at a rate of 1 every 2 and a half days. Yup… that’s 1 person per review. The issue is that almost every reviewer is also a game developer, and a busy one at that. Most people just can’t make time to assist in the review process, which makes the whole process quite cumbersome. Especially if you go through this process only to be failed at the end, and have to go through it again. One suggestion that has been made within the community is to open the reviews up to all XBox users. But in my opinion, this has issues. The average user does not have the knowledge needed to do proper testing, nor would there be any constaints to keep people from gaming the system. By restricting reviews to the developer community it’s a lot more managable in its current state. Perhaps if community games had a bit more integrated “Tech” backing up it’s review process it could work, but in it’s current state opening up reviews to all would only lead to abuse. I would like to get my game out there for the public, but at the same time I’d probably prefer to wait a bit longer in order to maintain the integrity of the current systems. XBLCG certainly isn’t the “youtube of games” that Microsoft originally talked about, but it has its own charm none the less.

It seems I only need a bit more to get my game out there though, so hopefully my next post will be the big release announcement! Fingers crossed!

Epic decides the new work week is 60 hours, IGDA keeps their mouths shut

Friday, April 24th, 2009

I’ve been reading up on the Kerfuffle of Mike Capps and his talks of 60 hour work weeks at Epic, as well as the stances (or lack thereof) taken by IGDA board members. Personally, it irks me.

Companies shouldn’t be overworking their employees. It’s counter-productive and in my opinion abusive. Do you know what I think of when a company like Epic not only expects but PLANS for long-term overtime? It’s ridiculous if you know things will take longer and don’t give your employees a longer deadline! By using them for overtime labor I think you’re taking wrongful advantage of those people’s passion and dedication, and not treating them like people who need their own time. Mike talks about being responsible and making sure his employees leave by 2am. That’s not really for the employees benefit though is it? It’s that by 2am the average programmer is probably submitting more bugs into the system than good, usable code. It’s just forcing them to sleep. Being fair to the employees would be letting them have their lives outside of work. But instead, the practice becomes some bullshit story of comradery where you’re miserable, but at least you know that everyone around you is miserable as well.

This isn’t the passion of a great team of people making sure everything is perfect. Passion implies you love your work, but often in the game industry we see these situations leading to people hating the work they used to love. If your work-life balance becomes a work-work balance, that’s hard to deal with mentally. It’s unhealthy and leads to the large turnover rate in the industry.

Why is the practices of Epic games relevant to the IGDA? Because by not taking a stance on the issue it tells studios that it’s okay to do this and not put pressure on them. The point of the IGDA is to be the voice of a wider group of developers, to help make their needs and concerns be met. Once this attitude in companies is in place, it’s nearly impossible to have a proper work-life balance and be part of the company, because even if the official standpoint of companies is 40 hours a week, you’ll always see internal pressures to do more than the employee is being paid to do.

This isn’t just an IGDA issue either, nor may it even be just a games industry issue. It’s the fact that the labour laws are not always clear about how much employers are allowed to work their employees in the tech industry without extra compensation, or upper bounds. And where these laws are not made clear, or exceptions have been made to the employers benefit, they can take advantage of that to a destructive degree which was outside the spirit of the laws.

For the low low price of 200 MS points!

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

At Jeff Vogel’s blog there’s a post about why indie developers like me should charge more for their games so that we can make more money. Now, I don’t necessarily disagree with his statements, but there are considerations to take into account which pretty much leads me to “charge what you can, if you can”.

One of the big things I hear about pricing is that indie developers undercut themselves, and if everyone charged what their games were actually worth then we as developers would be in a lot better situation. This is a bunch of useless rhetoric. Why mention something that is impossible to make happen? Every developer makes their own, individual decisions on what they think is of the best benefit to themselves and individuals. Pricing yourself out of your market doesn’t help you on an individual scale. It may not even help indies on a macro scale because portal services could still undercut! The reason prices of indie games have for the most part gone down is because the markets have gotten bigger! A good game can be a success based on quantity of buyers over individual purchases. The market isn’t hardcore enthusiasts anymore. If you want to appeal to certain niche groups with your product that’s great! Jeff has done this well, and so has cliffski with his Democracy and Kudos games. They are just choosing a different spot to compromise at. They trade possible audience for higher prices and it works for them. There have been other successes such as SOME iPhone developers who won out by quantity and making simpler games that sold well.

For me, I’m creating Tank Strike for the XBox Live Community Games service, which has an average cost of 200 MS Points. The price points, in my mind, dictates the audience and the games. I’m not going to make a fantasy epic because it doesn’t fit the platform, price point comparison. The same goes for the iPhone. Just because the prices are low does not mean people are undervaluing their games on these services. It moreso means that the developers who use these services are going to be more cautious in the scope of projects they undertake.

If you want to see another opinion about the lowering price points, I found Jeff Tunnel’s article about it to be an interesting read personally. He takes a more realistic slant on things in my opinion.

Hopefully of things to come…

Monday, April 20th, 2009

Tank Strike, if all goes according to plan, could be out within the week. Of course, this depends on the speed of XBox Live Community Games peer reviews… which can be hit or miss.

If everything goes right, I’ll get the needed approvals to get my game up soon.

If things go slightly off, I’ll still get accepted, but reviews can come slow, and I could end up waiting some time before I get enough reviews. It looks like things don’t stick around much longer than a week in review.

If things go a bit more off, I’ll be rejected due to some bug I didn’t find in my game. This is actually a fairly expectable occurrence because really I can’t fully test a game for every bug that may be there, so an astute reviewer may find something wrong with my game that I didn’t. This would put things back at least an extra week, because you can’t resubmit immediately after fixing a bug.

The worst case would probably be having to wait, to THEN find out something is broken. In other words, reviews drag on and I only find out something was broken after a week or so, making the game waiting at least 2 weeks til I’d have a new review process up, which may or may not go through as well. I could really see things taking between a week and over a month!

Really, I don’t mind this time period. It’s an expectation of this system to go through review… but that doesn’t stop me from being anxious about it. After the time I’ve spent working on Tank Strike it’s exciting to see it heading to market, but it’s also nerve-wracking knowing that it could be out there soon, and once that happens, how much attention will the game get? I need to learn how to relax!

The simplest answer is, it’s usually someone else’s fault

Friday, April 17th, 2009

Today I was (figuratively) pulling my hair out. I had made a nice trailer video for Tank Strike to advertise the game when it gets released, but I needed to submit it to Microsoft Soapbox today in order to have the video be included in the game’s release when it gets reviewed by other XNA developers. Why was I pulling figurative hairs out? Because I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why I couldn’t upload the video. Using Microsoft’s Movie Maker to make the video and using their own wmv format, I assumed that it would be easy to get my video online! Oh how wrong I was.

Every video I uploaded would get to 100% upload after a few minutes of upload time, followed by “Failed” with a retry button beside it which did nothing. I didn’t get any indication of why it failed, but it did. I tried to re-encode the video, make smaller videos, and soforth. I even downloaded and learned an open source video converter to try and change the format to something the site would recognize. At this point I knew something had to be wrong. It wasn’t just something with my movie maker. So, I did the one thing I should have STARTED with at the first sign of trouble. I looked at what the newest user videos uploaded were. Well there we go! The last uploaded video on the site was 7 hours ago! CLEARLY the upload process is broken and no one told me in a direct way. Oh how fun! I could have saved myself a lot of frustration if I had checked that earlier. Oh well. Better luck being productive tomorrow I guess.

Tank Strike website, now on your computer internets!

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

So, today instead of my usual programming and blog post, I’ve had to combine the skills of code and writing to make a website of both minimal programming and writing! Hope you all enjoy what’s on this page for now! I might tweak it a bit more later on for enhanced pretty functionality.

Tank Strike: The website of the game

Taking a left turn…

Monday, April 13th, 2009

So, most of the programming work for Tank Strike has been completed, save for a few small tasks, but I’ve still got a few more “artistic” things I’m working on for the game’s release to try and drum up more interest. And of course, as the few, the proud, the people who come to my blog, you all get a REALLY early sneak peek at what I’m currently working on.

Ahh… I can never finish a project without breaking out the clay can I? I hope this idea actually reaches fruition, though it is tougher than I initially anticipated.

Other interesting places…

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

A quickie post today, considering the length of yesterday’s post. I just wanted to point out a few events other than ToJam that are coming up that people might be interested in.

1. GameCamp Toronto 3 looks like it’s going to happen again. Not much info on it yet, but it looks like it could be late May. I’ll make sure to keep up on things as more info is found out. I’ve taken photos of previous GameCamp Toronto events and also presented at the first one. Perhaps that pattern may repeat? :)

2. Ludum Dare 14 happens in only 6 days! I don’t know if I’ll be entering it, but if you don’t have any events in your area LD compos are really good to join into.