I read a thing recently. Quite an interesting article about ‘how to survive as a solo dev’, but it was written by someone who was releasing their first game (presumably as ‘marketing’) and “haaaaaaang on”, I thought. Yes that’s impressive well done but it’s not exactly advice from someone who has been doing it for a decade and WAIT WAIT WAIT I’ve been doing it for a decade! I wonder what MY advice is to survive as a Solo Dev beyond one or two games.
> Work from home:
I find it astonishing that startup indie devs pay out for an office, with all the extra bills that entails. Work from home, keep your overheads as close to zero as possible. Very rarely have I needed to be in the same room as an artist/ composer/ coder to get the job done.
> Know your Limits:
Yes you want to make a swishy 3D game about spaceships in outer space but maybe make a dirt-simple 2D adventure game with clunky graphics first? See how that goes? Build your way up to it through a series of games rather than lumbering in without really knowing what you’re doing.
> Don’t spend any money:
Do as much as you can yourself. If you can’t afford it, don’t pay someone to make assets that you could do yourself. What’s more, do you really need to hire a full time coder? Or can you just hire a freelancer for a month? If you don’t have money, make the sound effects yourself.
> If you do spend money, don’t spend it on nonsense bullshit:
If you’ve got £1000 to spend, look at it as money to spend it on a composer or an artist, or someone to do a job you can’t. Something that’ll enhance the game. Don’t spend it on printing out a big poster and a booth at a show, and a billion postcards and trinkets to give away. Yes, you’ll get lovely 1:1 time with players but if you want feedback on your game it’s the least-efficient way of going about it. Yes, you might get a thousand people playing your game, but you can get ten times that online for free. Think about where your money’s going. It’s probably better going on a decent launch trailer.
> Actually do some work:
Sit down and do some fucking work. Don’t go for a coffee, that’s not work and you know that’s not work, no you’re not ‘working from the cafe’ stop lying to yourself. Get up, get on and do some fucking work.
> Invest in Yourself:
When your game sells and makes some money, treat it in terms of how many years you’ve got until you’d have to get a ‘proper job’, and tone your next game to suit that budget. Say Game1 brings in £40,000: with rent and beer and socks that’s probably two years’ salary, even if it doesn’t continue to bring in money over the course of those two years. Assume the worst, assume that’s it and make the next game something you can get done within about a year and a half, don’t suddenly decide you can make a 3D space game because in 4 years’ time Game1 will still be bringing in money. Be pessimistic.
> GDC is a big fucking jolly:
And Develop. And all those things. You know it, it’s a big piss-up jolly fun time and it’s not really benefiting your project beyond ‘inspiration’ and maaaaybe some facetime with some journos. Absolutely brilliant to go if you can afford it, and do definitely go if you can, but don’t spend £2000 flying to GDC under the proviso of it being ‘good for business’ because it isn’t, it’s good for blowing off steam and having a jolly. Could that £2000 be better spent on a composer or an artist? Spend it on a composer or an artist, then. GDC-and-the-like are for when you have money.
> Have a proper job if you need one:
I’d released three games before I went ‘full time’, and my 4th was just about ready to launch. The first games were made in my spare time while my Real Job paid for my food and rent, because honestly fuck starving yourself, fuck living on beans and worrying about rent. Go Full Indie when you can afford to Go Full Indie, and not before. The thing here is your game will suffer. You’ll launch it early before it’s well-rounded and polished, and you’re doing yourself no favours and sales will suffer. Take your time and get a proper job if you need to.
> Be there at the beginning:
2006 was a rough time for selling indie games because (get this) people baulked at the very idea of buying games ‘digitally’ they all insisted on a box. It’s true. Getting on Steam was near impossible, to boot. But, it was easier to make a name for yourself so if possible be an indie dev in 2006 and ride that wave into the future, and be aware when writing smug list articles to acknowledge where you’re actually just fucking lucky.
> End articles with dirty promotional material, just in case it reaches the front page on Reddit or Twitter or whatever:
I mean, you never know, do you?
Hmmm there’s probably more. I’ll add to the list if I think of anything but the takeaway is this: don’t be a fucking idiot, be sensible.Posted in News Comments Off
I think one of the things I’ve learned from making Kickmen is to let other people have a go earlier on in the process. In-development games are dreadful for so long it’s difficult to let other people see what you’re doing in case they judge you too harshly and think you’re rubbish at making games. And I mean in-development games are bad bad bad: things don’t work, stuff isn’t implemented yet, so you can see why it’s difficult to let others in, but the result is you get so blinkered with your vision you can’t see where you’re making mistakes.
The ‘Beta’ version I put out for Kickmen was a bit iffy, but I got some great feedback and spent a week tinkering. Tinkering is the best bit of video game development – you don’t really have to create anything new per se, you’re just pushing pixels around, cleaning things up, and addressing problems.
So for the last week, Kickmen has been thoroughly scrubbed up. It’s the same game at its core, but these additions have done gone so far towards making it a rounded experience.
FEVER MODE - the game now employs a system whereby showing off cons money out of your fans. When you do ‘fancy shit’ the Fever Meter goes up and projected earnings rise – do a Goal and that cash is Banked and you can spend it upgrading your squad. Spending cash massively improves the Squad Management side, it helps it feel more tangiable, and also means even if you’re winning by a comfortable margin (17-0 for example) there’s still worth in playing because you can be pulling off cool passes to earn Fever.
GRAPHICS TUNE-UP – I’ve added some funky menu effects and new particles, that kind of thing, which helps give the game some extra sheen, but the main thing is Player Animations. Before, going overboard with animations felt a little pointless. Kickmen is so fast that you’d never really see a Kicking animation, but a little bounce here and there and some ‘tackle charging’ animations has really helped bring out the best in the controls, and added a lot of personality to the game.
GAMEPLAY TUNE-UP – This is the main bit. There have been a few interesting changes, notably to the AI and the goldkeepers – it’s now much harder to score (thanks in part to a smaller goalmouth) which I think ups the tension and satisfaction from scoring a lot. The other main change is a significant nerfing of player speed when you’re in control of the ball – you can now barely move and it adds so much to the game – you need to be thinking about kicking it or passing it away, you can’t really just jog up the pitch. Some people will hate that, but I think it really helps keep the pace of the game in check.
The game now also features a robust auto-levelling system, so if you’re playing against a team and utterly thrashing them, they’ll start to focus their skills and put up a bit more of a challenge. It’s reactive, so you’ll probably still win (because otherwise it’d be annoying) but it just means there’s games have less of a tendency to devolve into boring walkovers.
What’s next? Well, one of the more consistent bits of feedback was that people love the goofy Story Mode stuff, so I’ve asked Michael to bash out some more characters for me so I can take that in some new weird and wonderful directions. Once that’s done, I’ll open the Beta out again and get some more feedback, and do this whole process again.
It’s not ‘there’ yet, it’s increasingly a ‘good game’ and certainly not the embarrassing disaster it was a couple of months ago, so I guess the sensible thing to do it to keep sitting on it, keep tweaking, keep listening to feedback until it’s better than Sensible Soccer and people don’t laugh at me for making it.Posted in Behold The Kickmen, Development, HELP, News, Shilling, Stupid Idiot Comments Off
One of the things I’ve been thinking about making is a sort-of follow-up to The Swindle. Not a sequel, just the same concept done… differently. In order to differentiate it as not-a-sequel it needed a different art style, time period and vibe entirely, so I’ve been working with the exceptionally-talented Gareth Davies to put together some concept art for how a project might look.
Anyway, they’re rough mood pieces to sort of get a handle on how a hard sci-fi take on The Swindle‘s ‘break into buildings’ mechanic might work.
I’m not definitely making it, everything’s up in the air at the moment, but they came out so brilliantly I couldn’t just sit on them so thought I’d share. Enjoy, and do please let me know what you think!Development, News, The Swindle Comments Off
You’re probably wondering what’s happened to Kickmen. It was a silly little game that was supposed to be ‘done’ in a month and is now, what, where is it, even?
Well, people liked the look of it so I had to put effort into making it. It’s not quite there yet, and I’d rather it was there than release it and everyone just goes “yeah, this is fine” and ignores it. Wouldn’t it be better if it were a GREAT game? I took some time away from it, in the hopes I’d come back and go “OF COURSE! It needs a [$MysteryElement_X]!” but that didn’t happen.
So what’s wrong with it, exactly? Well… nothing. It’s fine. It’s just not set-the-world-alight brilliant. Part of that is because it’s a football game and as such boooooring but part of that is definitely that the core game needs a rethink and some more stuff piled onto it.
It’s with some selected Beta Testers right now – feedback so far is positive, it’s a better game than I thought it was, but it’s definitely missing something but no one can really nail what. It just needs more. More special moves, maybe? More team building RPG stuff? More Story? Who knows.
This is, of course, all very much against the idea of making a simple little football game, but there you go.
The plan is to keep adding to it, keep tweaking, keep bolstering it up over time, but it’s basically relegated to Side Project while feedback is chewed over and I work on something financially viable because – and this will stun you rigid – I need to keep the company afloat. There’s no need to hurry on this, I think that’s the point. There’s no big rush.
So there you have it: it’s being tested, it’s being worked on, it’s not ready for you yet.Posted in Behold The Kickmen, Development, HELP, Stupid Idiot Comments Off
Jesus Christ I can’t believe I’m still making this damned game. It started as a fun little diversion and then people liked the look of it and had expectations and eugh pressure.
The end’s in sight, though. The game’s been through a few testers, who all went “yep, it’s a football sort of game. It’s fine, here’s what I liked and didn’t like” so I’ve popped through and addressed the concerns I agree with.
I’ve spent a lot of time getting the core gameplay polished up and feeling nice, and I think that’s there now; it’s moved away from single-button retro Sensi style to something a bit more complex. The reason is because it all felt very ‘surface level’ with a single button doing everything, like there was no skill behind what you were doing.
I reasoned that any game of skill, like football, is actually centred around its players making mistakes, and adding more moves and more complex controls to that made sense: the ability to fluff a tackle by pressing the wrong button, or pausing for a beat to remember what button is Dash adds so much texture to the core gameplay. Added to that are the new Sprint moves and Lob ability, meaning there’s plenty of options at every turn. Plenty of ways to do something wrong, or to do something brilliant and satisfying.
I mention this because people will hate it. The liberating thing about making a football game is I don’t reeeeeally care.
The last thing I need to do is the Story Mode, which sees you progressing through the ranks of the British Football League to win the World Cup. Enemy teams are now generating nicely (in an organic, random, Roguelike way), and the Story stuff is in-and-working but hasn’t been written yet. I’m looking forward to that. The big headache is how I’ll handle the Player’s team stat progression… something I’m leaving till last because it’s a nightmare to get right (I want the player to have agency over decisions, but the core game doesn’t really lend itself to in-depth squad management… so we’ll see how that all comes out in the wash).
Anyway: I’m considering Early Access to get it ‘right’, but hesitant to extend development indefinitely. Whatever happens hopefully it’ll be at least ostensibly done by the end of the summer. So sorry this is dragging on, I didn’t expect it to either but there you go.Posted in Behold The Kickmen, Development, Stupid Idiot Comments Off
Hello! I NEED YOUR HELP.
So, Behold The Kickmen is finally playing really nicely. The AI are good, it ‘feels’ like old-school Sensi or Speedball, and I’m now fixing bugs and making it funny.
One of the things I did to make it funny last thing on Friday afternoon was to record myself shouting into a microphone, and mixing it into the ‘crowd’ chanting. Proper actual things people shout at football match like “Do a Big Kick!” and “Where’s the support? WHERE’S THE SUPPORT?” whatever that means.
They sound brilliant and I’m very pleased to have learned that I’m both a high-grade Voice Actor suddenly, but also a fitting addition to any genuine football crowd, probably.
HOWEVER, I need about a billion of these shouty voice bastards or they’ll repeat annoyingly, and ideally in voices other than ‘slightly posh idiot man’, which is where YOU the Kickmen fans come in.
If you’ve got access to a decent microphone and can shout, please record yourself shouting as if you’re part of a footie crowd, and you might feature in Kickmen!
1. Please make sure the audio is decent quality. I can’t use anything tinny, or echoey, it sounds weird mixed in with the decent stuff.
2. Kickmen is a serious football simulation, and as such details are KEY. I’ve received some ace files from people but they’re making mistakes – such as referring to “the referee”. Referees are for American Football, in Britain we have Umpires. Likewise it is “do a goal”, not “score a goal”.
3. There’ll be a form to sign, and you probably need to be over 18 for legal reasons I guess?
4. Individual .wavs, all packaged up in a .zip please.
5. Send them to email@example.com
6. I can’t afford to pay you, but I’ll gladly buy you a drink if we ever meet. You’ll also be in Kickmen which Jesus Christ has to be reward enough, right?
MOST IMPORTANTLY: you’re part of a FOOTBALL CROWD. You’re trying to be heard by a player 200ft away, over the top of 50,000 other fans. The best stuff is BOLD and BRASH and LOUD. Don’t just say “Come on, team” limply into a mic. I can’t use that.
You can shout whatever you like, but swearing feels out of place so keep it PG, and ideally some of it will be something funny. It doesn’t need to be funny, but it helps if some of it is.
This is all also for ‘gameplay’, and it’s just plucked at random. So contect-sensitive stuff like “yay we’re winning” or “yay we’ve done a goal” isn’t brilliant.
Thanks!Posted in Behold The Kickmen, Development, HELP, Legally Dubious, Shilling, Stupid Idiot Comments Off
Kickmen took off because I was doing loads of COOL and INTERESTING things making a unique football game, and tweeting out gifs of the progress.
Sadly, the reality of Game Dev has set in and those days are over for now. The real grind of boring work sets in.
The first thing that happened this week was designing something to stop football being so impossibly dull. It’s just endless running up and down the arena, trying to do a goal. You have the ball for a bit, they have the ball for a bit. Repeat to fade. It lacked something, something more long-term. I was (still am?) tempted to put Power Ups in to liven things up a little, but for now I’ve added the FEVER system, which is something the game needed and really really helps.
I told Michael it was his idea but really I’d planned something like this from the off (good management technique: make people think they’re contributing in some way). The game needs a currency. I’m not sure what it’ll be used for yet, probably upgrading your players, but the FEVER system works well for that. Every time you perform a key action – a goal, a successful pass, a big kick, a tackle, whatever, you earn FEVER points as the crowd goes wild. It also increases your FEVER MULTIPLIER, which ticks down over time. What this all means is the better you do – lots of lovely passes and kicks in the right places, the more FEVER points you earn.
This adds an extra layer to the game. Yes, you’ve got to win and do lots of lovely goals, but you also want some cash to spend so you’re constantly upping the quality of your playstyle.
The other thing that’s gone in is LEAGUES. I understand this is a huge part of Football. We currently have 6 Leagues each containing 5 teams. If you win, you move up the League, if you lose you go down. That’s probably how it works in real football, I couldn’t be bothered looking it up.
It currently looks like arse, I’ll show it off when it looks a bit less embarrassing.
Anyway, getting all that generating, loading and saving properly was just one long boring headache, and the lack of interesting gifs of the process simply goes to show that 10% of game development is an enchanting, hilarious, fun experience and the rest is just dreary typing and things going wrong.Posted in Behold The Kickmen, Development, News Comments Off
Hello there! As you may have heard, I’m now making a little football game, despite knowing nothing at all about football and not really liking the sport or the people who used to walk past my bedroom window at 11:30 at night after the “big game” shouting “WAAAAY-OOOOH, WAAAAY-OOOOOOOH, WE DID IT, WE DID THE FOOTBALL-aaaaah” or whatever it was they shouted.
I liked Sensible Soccer though, back in the 1990s on Mike Horner’s Amiga. I also enjoyed Speedball on IBM-compatible PCs but (ssssh, heresy incoming) Speedball 2 left me a little cold, it wasn’t as good. There, I said it.
Anyway. Here we are, we’re all here now making a football game and there doesn’t seem to be anything anyone can do about it so probably best to just knuckle down and make it into a viable product to shovel into people’s faces.
Progress has been thick and fast, loads of cool stuff going in. It’s starting to ‘feel’ like a sport, but I’m aware quite a lot of the work at the moment is ‘game feel’ and tinkering, which is something I really enjoy but doesn’t make for a barrage of interesting gifs for Twitter. So, here’s a little run-down of the stuff that’s getting done, and where Kickmen is going.
Lovely Michael Cook has been slaving over the AI – they’re still the game’s biggest problem at the moment. When it was all a silly joke the idea was to have players dogpiling the ball, like a playground match, and the AI for that was going to be exceptionally simple. Sadly, it turns out that just isn’t fun, and while Behold the Kickmen is a tongue-in-cheek silly little game, it still needs to be fun and enjoyable to play. So Michael’s hard at work making the little football men do sensible kicking, and making them do things that make the game more enjoyable to play – spreading out around the arena a bit, predicting what you’re thinking, that kind of thing.
I like working with Michael. He’s super-intelligent, funny and – importantly – doesn’t know anything about football either, so his AI code is all just guesswork as well. It’s helping make Kickmen not feel like just another football game. It’s warped enough to be its own thing, thanks to sheer, blissful ignorance of ‘facts’.
For my part, the main football stuff is bordering on finished. I’m working on giving it some variety, and hoping to get the main “football match” side of things finished soon – all the rules like goals and penalties are in, it’s now a case of making the whole thing ‘flow’ in an interesting way. We’re getting there, but it’s all a lot of jiggling.
From there, I’ll be adding “leagues” or “divisions” or whatever that is, as well as some sort of Management side. Not sure what form that’ll take yet, but it’ll probably be cribbed off of Speedball with a little bit of X-COM thrown in, because who doesn’t love that game loop?
I think that’s where Kickmen‘s development will end – with a nice progression up the ladder to win the World Cup, and some sort of management side to tailor your team. I should point out I’m focussing purely on Single Player. Mainly because I’ve heard from loads of other indies (as well as my own experiences with Gibbage) that Local Multiplayer just won’t sell copies. I’m also not touching Online Play with a bargepole, for reasons I’ve outlined here.
Obviously if the game sells a million billion copies and it’s something people want, I’ll shift my stance. But for now, the game is strictly SP only.
That’s it for now. That’s where the game stands – bordering on playable and interesting, but not quite there just yet. But that’s game development, isn’t it? Everything’s always shit for at first while you wiggle the pieces into order.Posted in Behold The Kickmen, Development, HELP, Legally Dubious, News, Shilling, Stupid Idiot Comments Off