The October Challenge

I was hanging out in #ludumdare like I do when a regular there by the name of PoV posited a challenge to us:

Make a game and sell at least one copy (or license it) by the end of October.

Well.

I’ll be taking him up on that, and the game I’ll be making is the long awaited Star Kittens! Needless to say I’ll be blogging the entire process.

And if anyone else wants to join in, here’s PoV’s original challenge post along with tips for success!

A New Inaria

Behold!

Inaria!  Compiled with NetBeans and Cygwin!

“But Viridian!” I hear you exclaim. (My god, you exclaim loud. Keep it down, will ya?) “This is just the same Inaria that you’ve been peddling for years now!”

Ah, but it is not. For this version of Inaria was compiled using the NetBeans IDE and the Cygwin compiler platform. And since the source does not call any Windows libraries, that means I could very easily make a Linux version.

If Linux didn’t hate me.

So why’d I do this? Well, I had an interview recently, and the company is using NetBeans as their IDE so I figured I’d get familiar with it. It’s actually quite good – similar enough to Visual Studio that I could figure things out quick. And it’s got one nice feature – hold CTRL and mouse over an include directive and it’ll tell you the path of the file you’re including (or tell you that it cannot find it). Nice.

More good stuff tomorrow, including a CHALLENGE! (For me, not for you. Sorry.)

My One-Sentence Review of Civilization 5

You know, we started using computers to play these kinds of games to get away from the limitations of board wargames.

And if you want more proof that Civilization IV is still the pinnacle of the series, here it is. Warning, strong but hilarious language.

As for Civilization Facebook (which, yes, I know, is technically called Civilization Network)…I have no problem with it. I probably won’t play it, but I don’t think it’s a travesty that craps on the good name of the series like some people do.

The Strategy

I know this is belated, but thank you guys so much for your kind words and support. You’ve really made this easier.

First, I’d like to talk about Derek Yu. Derek’s a cool and froody dude in the world of independent game development, having designed and done artwork for both Aquaria and Spelunky (which will soon get an Xbox Live incarnation).

Well, Derek’s written a rather excellent article about how to finish making a game.

His advice is excellent.

Here’s why I’m not going to take (most) of it.

It’s because I have…a strategy.

THE STRATEGY (TM) (R) (C) (PG-13) is to finally, finally, finally listen to that voice that’s been telling me “go indie!” for years.

Now, this doesn’t mean I’m not looking for a full-time job. I certainly am, and once I find one I will devote all my working energy to doing it as well as I possibly can.

But if you’ll recall, I originally purchased this web space to sell the awesome games I was going to create in my spare time…back in the year 2000.

This web space will finally be put to its original purpose. Now, don’t worry, I’m not going to finish Planitia and charge for it. I said it’d be free, and it will be. But I’m also going to be working on a new game.

And in complete contrariness to Derek’s advice, I’ll be using my own engine (unless one of you knows of a 2D/3D codebase that is absolutely free and cross-compatible between PC, Mac and iPhone/iPad). I won’t be completely rewriting the engine, but these changes will take a good bit of time. (And again, if anyone out there knows a good “convert your Direct3D renderer to OpenGL” tutorial, I’d be grateful.)

I’ll also be scaling up rather than down.

But I don’t want to reveal what my first commercial project is going to be just yet 🙂 Hopefully I’ll have some screenshots for you very soon!

Welcome to Viridian Games.

The games are about to begin.

Goodbye, My Love

Well, my wife and I have talked about it…and it doesn’t seem like I can stay in professional game development. For one thing, we don’t want to move again so soon (it’s been less than a year since we left Austin). And for the other…we just can’t put up with the uncertainty of the industry any more.

So I made a video to say goodbye.

Don’t worry, this blog is not going defunct. In fact, I’ll have more time to devote to it than ever!

I Don’t Believe in Omens…

…Really, I don’t.

But…when I got home, I noticed this.

That ankh is the one that came with my original copy of Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar. It has been on my keyring for over 15 years, and, needless to say, has endured an incredible amount of abuse. For a long time I thought it was indestructible, despite being made of rather soft metal.

But on the day I get laid off from yet another game development job, I look down and notice that it has finally broken.

I don’t believe in omens, but…damn.

About Elemental

Just got this comment in a previous post and thought I’d respond here rather than there.

So.

WHAT were you guys thinking, to go around saying it was ready to ship?

Because, y’know, it wasn’t. As just about every review and forum thread is acknowledging, some more heatedly than others. (PC Gamer: “You should not buy it.” Uh, wow. I’ve NEVER seen them be that blunt before.)

Does Stardock have an actual QA department? Is it organizationally independent of development? Are there good lines of communication between QA and the rest of the company? Do they write test plans? Do they run them? How can they test this game and not encounter the problems that were present?

Or is the only testing done by developers in their spare time?

How does something like this happen?

-Rollory

First off, welcome to the site! I don’t think I’ve seen you around here before. I’ve got some free games you can try, and if you’re here for the Name That Game! feature, I’ll be posting a new entry later today.

Second, allow me to answer your questions and respond to your statements in the order they were presented.

So.

Nice to meet you too!

WHAT were you guys thinking, to go around saying it was ready to ship?

Brad’s now infamous statement (which you can read here) was made in anger and exhaustion. Brad explains the situation (and apologizes) here.

Because, y’know, it wasn’t. As just about every review and forum thread is acknowledging, some more heatedly than others. (PC Gamer: “You should not buy it.” Uh, wow. I’ve NEVER seen them be that blunt before.)

PCGamer’s most recent article about elemental states “I’m glad Stardock are patching Elemental so quickly after its disastrous early launch, and I’m relieved to finally have the game in a playable state.”

Does Stardock have an actual QA department?

Yes.

Is it organizationally independent of development?

Yes.

Are there good lines of communication between QA and the rest of the company?

Yes. We use Skype chat channels to stay in constant touch and they use Jing to quickly post screenshots and movies of problems so that we developers can see what they are seeing.

Do they write test plans? Do they run them?

Yes and yes.

How can they test this game and not encounter the problems that were present?

And now you have raised my ire. As a former tester I can tell you that testers find bugs; they do not fix them. If bugs exist in a final product they are not the fault of the testers; they are the fault of the developers. Of course they saw the issues. They are not idiots, and I resent your suggestion that they are.

Or is the only testing done by developers in their spare time?

No. Although most of us developers do play the Impulse version in our spare time and keep track of any problems we find.

How does something like this happen?

At last, you have asked a truly salient question (although I’m sure you intended it to be rhetorical.)

“This” happened because it was the lesser evil. Stardock simply does not have the clout to release a retail game during Christmas. Our choices were to launch on August 24th or push the game back to February of next year. Pushing back would have had disastrous consequences for Stardock because of the partnerships we had made and the forfeiture of our retail space.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “Well, releasing an incomplete, buggy game is also going to have disastrous consequences!” And thus you’ve hit the crux. We were in a bind, and chose the lesser evil – to release on time and then work like the dickens to get the game to the state we and the players want (instead of, you know, sleeping like most people who have just shipped a game do). Yes, a lot of people have already had a negative initial reaction to the game. There’s nothing we can do about that. But Stardock has a reputation for continually improving their games over the months and years after its release, and we’re continuing that tradition by improving Elemental as quickly as we can and turning it into the game it deserves to be.

-Rollory

Again, welcome to the site, and I’m sure we’ll have lots of spirited debates in the future!