Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Up to No Good - A Gliese Book and Thinking of some Gliese Game work

So am not happy where things ended up with the Project Gliese game, and have been working on some things. First was a book I wrote that helps give some of the setting for what I imagine happens after the period the game covers:

Blurb first:

This was it! The first signs of intelligent life outside of Earth!

It was only a slight disappointment when the first probes to Gliese 581g determined that it had died out almost 5000 years earlier. Dr. Kim Evans was part of the team picked to investigate what had happened to the Gliesians. Come along for a Hard Sci Fi thriller looking into Archaeology, Biology, and more on an alien world. And join Kim as she passionately works to unlock the planet's greatest secret.

Kindle version is available free through the Kindle Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited programs.

Next - I have some time off next week where I am thinking I will go ahead and complete an incomplete version of the game and put it up as a Web Player Unity app so folks can tell me whether it's worth making another go of it. I anticipate putting up an increasingly more complete version (but not fully complete by any means) using an "Incomplete Alpha", then "Alpha Alpha", then "Beta Alpha", then "Alpha Beta" and finishing with a "Beta Beta". At least some of the vision I had in mind would be available for folks to check out that way.

More soon (hopefully)!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Project Gliese Kickstarter fails to fund - What comes next?

If the campaign had raised even 10% of the goal I probably would have tried to find a way to go forward with the project. It wouldn't have funded in that case, but it would have told me there was some interest.
However, since that didn't happen I have to presume that the kind of game I was building was not the kind of game that most folks wanted to play. And at this point I don't see a good reason to invest the time and effort that would be required just to put something pretty up on my shelf.
Of course that is part of what Kickstarter is all about (IMNSHO) - taking what seemed to you like a good idea, and seeing if there are enough other people who agree to make it happen. If all that ever happened on here was success, then you probably wouldn't need the site in the first place :-)
So I will go back to the drawing board and see if I can come up with something folks would want to play enough to fund. I will leave the Project Gliese page up for a bit in case there's anything someone wants to look at one more time. But that's pretty much it for this project at this point in time.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Couple Tweaks to Make Unity 4.5 run on Ubuntu 14.04

First off, a screenshot to show it CAN be done:

You'll notice where the close button and such are that show it really is running under Linux :-)

The main instructions to make this all happen are at:

He goes into a lot of detail about how the script was developed, but at the end of the day the main thing you need to do is to scroll to the bottom of the article, copy the indicated script text into a file called "Unity.pol" using GEdit or the like, and make sure to change the Wine Version line to read 1.7.19. Save this file in your Home directory.

Once you've done that you will want to get the latest version of PlayOnLinux either through the software store or their site. Then you will want to run it and once it has installed go into Tools>Manage Wine Versions and make sure you have the 32-bit version of 1.7.19 installed. I suggest using the base version and not one of the versions tuned to various games.

Now DL Unity 4.5 into your Home directory (or DL elsewhere and copy it there).

Make sure you have closed PlayOnLinux, and then open a terminal screen and enter the following:
echo 0 | sudo tee /proc/sys/kernel/yama/ptrace_scope

The command above is KEY to getting this to work. Otherwise the Ubuntu Kernel will stop the install halfway through - and that's not a pretty picture.

Start PlayOnLinux back up and use Tools>Run a Local Script. Here you will pick the Unity.pol file you created. It will now DL and install various MS tools for .NET and Mono and assorted other goodies. Some of those will ask you to agree to things, so don't walk away. One of them will ask you to reboot - select not to and say you are ok - the script will then simulate the reboot successfully whereas the other way can interrupt the script.

Once that is all done you will be prompted to show the script where you DL'd the Unity 4.5 install exe, and then that will kick off. Before you know it, you're golden!

Hope this helps!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Preying on your Dreams

It is an unfortunate fact that the overwhelming majority of the email I get, and of the comments on here (which is why I have moderation turned on) are from folks who make a living Preying on the Dreams of Indy Developers. I have been approached by over 100 folks offering "business opportunities" since I released the Android version of Alta, Texas. The split is almost equally 50% folks who for a fee will help me market more effectively, and folks who for a similar or larger fee will pay people to buy my app and leave good ratings. I suspect the first group of 50 are doing the same things as the second group but are more circumspect about it.

Imagine my surprise in the last two days to find out there is a similar cottage industry of "marketers" for Kickstarter projects. Essentially they broker arrangements where you support 3 folks and then they get 3 others to support you or similar such deals. The few that actually came through Kickstarter emails I have reported to the KS folks as spam, but the majority of these folks aren't quite that naive.

Given the speed and number of offers, I have to assume that at least some of these folks are actually making some (hopefully not much) money doing all this. But I think it's sad to think how many developers, desperate to succeed while knowing the odds are against them, are probably throwing time and money at several of these folks in the hope that "this" offer will prove to be the one that finally gets them noticed. That finally gets them the recognition to have a chance to be successful.

I can only hope that the cost is not too dear for anyone. But in the mean time, thought that those of you who haven't been in the trenches might want to know about some of what else is going on behind the scenes.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

CryEngine just undercut Unreal AND Unity

I was surprised to see the following in the Steam store this evening:

CryEngine just announced their new licensing. $10/month, full access to everything, NO ROYALTIES. So cheaper than Unreal both per month and over the life of your project. Much cheaper than Unity.

Yes... I'm going to have to at least look at this...

Project Gliese Kickstarter is GO

I am pleased to announce that the Project Gliese Kickstarter is now live:

Please feel free to check out the Kickstarter page and see if you might be interested in lending your support.

Thanks for your time and as always...

More to Come!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Balancing Promotion and Programming - The Challenge of Indie Development

One of the challenges that is built into the Indie experience is balancing the need to build the game with the need to promote the game. With Alta, Texas I spent almost all my time building the game, and saved my promotion until I was about ready to release. My sales prove that was a bad idea. Although for the desktop version I thought the issue was not being part of one of the bigger stores - however the Android release has sold only modestly better.

So as I started work on Project Gliese, I did some of the research I should have done earlier, and while there are different approaches the one thing everyone seems to agree on is that promotion needs to start not long after programming. That is why Project Gliese already has it's own page, an IndieDB listing, and is on Greenlight Concepts. The idea is to make sure that the word gets out so that when the game is ready the audience is ready as well.

The problem becomes that it can become easy to spend time working on promoting the game at the expense of actually building the game. At which point you have to remember that you have to make sure that when the audience is ready that the game is ready.

Ideally you're doing some of both, and you're doing that EVERY DAY. That doesn't mean you won't do more of one than the other on some days. Today, for example, I will probably spend almost all my time after writing this on programming. But later this week when the Kickstarter for Project Gliese gets going, the split will turn the other way.

Part of my education in this was looking at the most successful Kickstarter games, and finding that they almost universally have concept and art, and that's it. Very few successful Kickstarter game projects have even as much as an alpha available. That makes sense if you think about it rationally - the campaign is used to "prove" that there will be an audience for the game - and if there won't be then the game may need to be put on the back shelf to allow another game that folks are interested in to be completed.

I had to have the alpha almost complete to make sure that I had the artwork - because for me it's easier to program and model a scene than to draw it. Plus I would be nervous that some of the things I'm trying to do might not be doable in Unity. On that count I have been pleasantly surprised by just how far you can push the free version - and am looking forward to the Kickstarter being successful so I can see how things look once all the items I currently have commented out that are supported in the Pro version can actually be turned on.

If you are part of an Indie team then you may find it easier to have someone on the team who is devoted to PR and marketing as their main task. On several teams this has been the background or level artist who usually has to have their part done early. Another approach that works well is to rotate and have everyone on the team take one day (or two or three depending on the size of the team) where they work in some communication into their schedule. That way folks get a regular update on the art, and one on the music, and...

In my own case as a team of one, that's not quite as viable an approach. Of course I'm not really alone since I have been able to get someone to provide music, and a couple of folks have assets in the Unity store I was able to take advantage of. But none of them are sitting around the table to discuss the project each day. While they all deserve credit for the game (and will be in the game credits at the very least), they aren't quite as invested in the success of this one project. In that sense it's a bit like climbing Everest by yourself. You're still going to have support at the base camp from others, but that last leg is entirely yours to finish or fail. Then again even if you have a team of five, it's not likely that any one or two folks are going to drag one of the other members all the way up. In that sense even a team is actually five individuals doing their own climb, just that they're not alone doing it.

To wrap things up, you need to promote early and often, but it needs to be something you do a little bit at a time until the game is finished. You need to program and model and test early and often, and it also needs to be something you do a bit at a time until the game is finished. By keeping a balance in these activities, you have the best chance of making sure the audience for your game and the game itself arrive at the same time.

More to come!