Industry Week


Another year and another great opportunity to speak to the students of Confetti as part of the Industry Week. It’s always a pleasure seeing the enthusiasm and interest of people wanting to join the games industry. Anyway so they’re available online, the slide for my talk Working as part of a team.

Dipping my toe into the Unity Asset Store

On the 21st of October 2016, I released my first Unity Asset Store item, a statistics plugin called Abaci. It was definitely an unprofitable venture, despite being updated with various new versions of Unity and reducing halved the price. Of course I should still do a post mortem, so here it is.

What Went Right

Development of Abaci was painless, having worked develop statistics and achievement systems for games like Homefront: The Revolution, Warface and Crysis 3, I had a great understand of what was needed and the sort of thing that’s been asked of my code before so it didn’t take long to have a decent version up and running.


Alongside the code I spend time putting together a series of interactive tutorials, showing users how the system works in a quickly through interaction. After doing lots of user testing on Polyology I was keen to keep up the tradition and took my tutorials to one of the excellent East Midlands Indies meetups, and people quickly understood the idea of the system and it’s advantages.


Finally putting together unit tests and the documentation (using Doxygen) went hand in hand. The unit tests helped develop the code samples for the documentation and writing the documentation helped me spot a few places for optimisations which in turn could be validated against the unit tests.


What Went Wrong

The idea of a statistics plugin is the biggest issue, most games don’t make good use of statistics and just track the simplest things using increment operator. There are a few games, like the lovely Alto’s Adventure (pictured below) that make great use of statistics (this game doesn’t use Abaci). It starts off asking you to collect stars and builds on it by asking you to collect stars over chasms, and then collecting staros over chasms in a single run, concepts which are easy to define in Abaci.


The other thing that went wrong was backwards compatibility, I started development of Abaci on the latest version of Unity and didn’t consider that you wouldn’t be able to open them in earlier versions of Unity. So while the code works fine in Unity 5, the tutorials and examples needed the most recent version of Unity.


I suspect Abaci will be the only toe I dip into the Unity Asset Store. It was enjoyable to write Abaci and it still gets used in my own projects. But unfortunately like most things in life, it boils down to money, and Abaci simply wasn’t profitable.

Cold War Research

It’s been a busy few months working at Dambuster Studios and The Chinese Room; despite not getting much time to do actual development my Google Alert for Cold War comes in everyday with information, articles and stories about a war that ended 25 years ago. These are a few of my favourite links, some of which will undoubtedly appear in the Spy Management Game.

NCAP (National Collection of Aerial Photography) have a released a wonderful collection of images gathered during the Cold War of various locations from East Germany, Egypt and Syria. NCAP’s images will help add some visual detail to mission briefings.

As well as assets there are so many stories from the Cold War, this one from DailyNK about the use of Radio in West German, giving the East Germans an insight over the wall. Hopefully the shear breath of stories and ideas from the Cold War will help make Spy Management Game be an interesting place to spend time.


Finally an article from Tech Insider shows how the Cold War references were used to help create the world of Fallout. It’s just nice to see examples of games drawing from the rich history of the Cold War.


Deeply Dreaming

So what is happening with Polyology and Spy Game at the moment? Well unfortunately I don’t have time for the next few months as I’m currently busy working for Dambuster Studios and The Chinese Room on upcoming projects. I’ll still bring Polyology to Steam, I’m still going to continue the Spy Management Game but in the short term I need to be practical and make sure I have enough money.




Missed Opportunities: Fallout Shelter

Fallout shelter, for the few of you that don’t know, is a management game about running a nuclear bunker after the apocalypse on iOS and Android. It’s of course a Free To Play (F2P) game as well, as most games are these days. This entertaining game is let down by a few missed opportunities that without much development time could have notably improved the game.

Mystery Boxes

Like several F2P games it has Mystery boxes containing a select of random items, and again like all successful F2P games the early stages of the game gives you a Mystery box. However Fallout Shelter doesn’t limit the selection of random items you can get from the starting mystery box. This can wildly effect your play experience. One player might get 500 money, while another player gets an awesome weapon that does all the damage. While the money is nice, the weapon makes attacks on your vault take a few seconds, instead of a minutes of painful drawn out combat.


Mystery boxes can give you resources, such as 50 power, which only makes a difference at he start and quickly means nothing as the game continues. It’s a shame the Mystery Boxes don’t progress and change as the game does. This would fix the randomly assigned difficulty at the start of the game and keep Mystery Boxes useful to players later in the game.


In Fallout Shelter you send your dwellers, loaded up with health packs, into the Wasteland to collect items and money. Over time they use up their health packs and you have to choose when to recall them back to your shelter. I was disappointed when recalling a dweller from the wasteland. Nothing happens on their journey home. No more lovely wasteland log updates, no fights, no nothing.


This mechanic is screaming out to have events happen on the way back, they should be able to find new items and fight enemies. Importantly this lets you gamble about when recall dwellers. Will 2 health packs going to be enough for the 10 hour trip back or is it worth the risk leaving them out for another hour? It creates choice and tension instead of bland inevitable non-event of recalling a dweller.

Despite these missed opportunities Fallout Shelter is still an entertaining game filled with charm and isn’t a bad way to spend time while compiling.


Player Centric

As all good developers I try and spend some time on personal development. I’ve been watching some of the talks from the Full Indie Summit 2014 and amongst them was about player centric design by Nels Anderson (Lead Designer on Mark of the Ninja), which currently has a criminal number of views so you should probably carve out 40 minutes and watch it yourself.

Enjoy it? It mostly made me think about how I want the player centric design of Spy Game to play out. Using real life ideas such as love and betrayal to help generate interesting player centric stories.

Perhaps Agent Alpha is captured, however Agent Juliett is in love to Alpha, so she throws her current mission to rescue him.

Do you send in more agents to help with the rescue? If they come back alive to you keep both, one or none of them as active agents? What are the consequences of Juliett throwing the mission?

So much potential, so much to create.


Polyology has been Greenlit and will be available on Steam in the coming months! This is excellent news, it’ll allow Polyology to entertain more people and hopefully help me carry independently developing games. More usefully I’m including my Greenlight statistics to give you an idea of what numbers are needed to get onto Steam.

votes over time

Most the views for Polyology came through launching a Greenlight campaign, from Steam users who happened to look at their Greenlight queue. The second small bump was from doing a YouTube Video with Action Soup Studios and finally the second large spike was from doing a Lazy Guys Bundle. It’s very heartening seeing my actions correlate with Greenlight votes.


However as you can see the statistics above Polyology didn’t get that many votes, at least compared to the Average Top 50 (on the day I took the screenshot). The average number of Yes/No vote ratios are about the same. The followers at 1.9% is higher than the top 50 average of 1.36%.


So why did I get Greenlit? To be honest I have no idea. Maybe they played Polyology, or liked the Rock, Paper, Shotgun review? I suspect it’s because Steam is becoming a more open platform and they’re generally letting more games through. Regardless should go and integrate the steam overlay, localize and think of some achievements for Polyology.

One Year on

So it’s been a year, to be honest it’s flown by and doesn’t feel like any time at all, Maybe I’m just getting old.

There have been many highlights this year

  • Showing at Gamecity 9
  • Polyology Released
  • Contract Work
  • Greenlit
  • Homefront Gamescom Demo

New Year’s Resolution

  • More social updates
  • Polyology on Steam
  • Spy Game

I’ll talk more about my contract work and Greenlight stats in future posts, until then here’s the Homefront Gamescom Demo I mentioned above.

Spy Game!

So it’s been a few months since posting, mostly due to being hard at work at doing Freelance work, learning Unity and developing new game ideas.

First of which is a Spy Management Game! A very under utilized genre in my humble opinion. There are a large number of espionage series in contrast; Homeland, Alias and Spooks to name a few. They typically have strong themes like betrayal, the greater good and intense action sequences. Ideally these themes will come across in this spy management game.


The game is set during the Cold War as it has a rich history, isn’t entirely focused on electronic surveillance and gives a great visual theme. The game will recreate historical events, such as the Space Race, but allow the player to influence it’s outcomes and changing how events play out. Importantly, like any good game, the focus will be on the characters in front of the rich background of the Cold War.


As well as the management side of the game; hiring agents, selecting missions and worrying about funding. There will be top down stealth missions; sneaking into a lab to steal rocket plans and assassinating that communist dictator. Finally there will also interactive fiction sections of the game; interacting with other agencies, turning agents and undercover interactions.

Anyway I obviously have a lot of work ahead of me so I doubt this project won’t see the light of day for a while. But it’ll always be ticking along in the background, keeping me furiously scribbling down notes or implementing another gameplay idea. Just encase I wasn’t enough I’ve also got another lovely puzzle game idea I’m developing…maybe next blog post.