Category Archives: Thoughts and Opinions

The Big Journey

I’d like to take a moment to shill a mobile game that I actually like: The Big Journey!

As you’ve probably heard me mention before, I think that most mobile games are nothing but endless time wasters filled with micro transactions and horrible psychological exploits. (I blame casual gamers who don’t want to pay up front for anything)
But I like this one, so I’m doing my part to promote something good. It has actual level design, and no mobile bullshit. I also really love the art style and music, to the point where it might inspire the cartoony cutscenes in EBF5 a bit.
It’s not a masterpiece or anything, it’s just really good by mobile game standards, in my opinion. Also Sushi Cat is in it.

Anyway, it’s on iOS and Android for like $3 and takes around 2 or 3 hours to beat.

Rise of the Robots

I recently read “The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of Mass Unemployment” by Martin Ford, and even though I’m already quite familiar with the topics covered, it was sobering to have all of the information together in book form.

Until now I’ve read a few books about the singularity and the threats posed by super-intelligent machines, but that’s all still in the fairly distant future. Rise of the Robots discusses major problems that will arrive within the next 10 and 20 years, and in many cases are already happening: Automation will soon put a huge proportion of the population out of work permanently and create wealth inequality like we’ve never seen before.

The important take away is that the production of goods is starting to rely only on capital and not on workers, meaning that anyone with a lot of financial resources can set up a factory or a datacenter and produce tons of goods and services with very few employees. This is easily visible when you look at the tiny amount of workers employed by tech giants like Google and Facebook – most of their infrastructure is already automated and requires very little human oversight. It’s very important to remember that the number of new jobs created by automation is a tiny fraction of the jobs being replaced, and not even engineering and science degrees will guarantee a decent job anymore.

One particularly relevant point to me was that the internet itself –  ”the great equaliser” - is a great source of inequality. The new digital jobs being created: eBay seller, blogger, YouTuber, indie game developer, etc… are extremely unequal, with only a tiny number of people actually making a decent living doing these. It’s a winner-takes-all situation, but the platform owner always gets his cut.

The book also sold me on universal basic income, as I don’t see any other way things can turn out well once 30% or more of the population is unemployable through no fault of their own. Fast food and transport industries are upcoming targets for automation, and they currently employ a massive number of people. Those jobs are over, and the economy as we know it can’t function without money in the hands of consumers.

Anyway, I strongly recommend the book, especially if you don’t follow tech news and don’t yet realise how for automation has advanced in recent years. It’s an easy read with clear explanations and is not overly technical or longer than it needs to be. There’s a many more eye-opening examples in there that I haven’t mentioned here.

RIP Flash

As many of you have probably heard by now and started to panic, Adobe has announced they are phasing out Flash by 2020. As ya’ll should know, all of my games are still made in Flash.

Adobe is only discontinuing Flash in browsers, meanwhile it will still run fine as standalone AIR apps on Steam and mobile, so there’s no chance of Flash games suddenly disappearing. And Flash on browsers will still be around til 2020 anyway, so it probably won’t affect EBF5 much. Even if this turns out to be a problem, I can always release free/demo versions of my games on Steam instead.

Adobe has also announced lots of new features for Desktop AIR in the upcoming years, including more resolution options and GPU support. So who knows, maybe EBF5 won’t run like shit once these new features come out!? It would be a miracle!

Either way all this news is a great relief for me. Adobe has been quite quiet about the future of Flash and AIR for a while now, and it’s been driving me crazy. It’s good that they’ve finally revealed their plans. If things go well, I may even keep using Flash after EBF5 and work on some small spin-off games again. I really miss being able to pump a game out in 2 months. I would like to try that again.

Anyway, I’m going on holiday for 2 weeks. Bye.

A Rant About Social Media

I think social media has become a literal addiction for me, in the sense that it’s actually hurting my well-being by wasting hours of my time and overloading me with information about things that don’t matter. I’ve installed a browser extension to limit my Facebook and Twitter time to 20 minutes a day, which is just enough time for me to make my blog posts and read the comments I get. It’s not stopping me from procrastinating overall, but I’m spending more time looking at games and animations on Newgrounds and 4chan, which I think is a much better use of my time than reading about petty outrage on Twitter. So it’s been a positive change so far.

I’m also trying to be more mindful about digital distractions in general. Before I compulsively open a new tab, or look at my phone, I ask myself: Do I really want to be checking what pointless notifications I got in the last 30 minutes? Or is literally anything else a better use of my time?
I’m not great at it yet, but I’m making some progress.

I used to love technology, but it feels like lately a lot of it has been engineered to be so psychologically exploitative that I just want to get away from it. All social media seems to encourage the most outrageous, low quality, click-baity posts in an effort to make you stay on the site longer.

On YouTube half of what I get recommended is shit like “10 reasons why Final Fantasy 7 is the worst one!”, and “7 times Richard Dawkins went beast mode on idiots!”. They figure out what I’m interested in, and then show me the lowest quality content possible. What an age we live in, eh…

Maybe I’m a bit naive and nostalgic here, but I used to feel that social networks were a useful tool that you were in control over. You followed people who’s posts you were interested in, you searched for content you liked, and you were notified of important things like replies to your comments.

Nowadays the social networks are in charge of what I see. They show me posts that are “liked” by people I follow, when no one ever asked for that feature. They don’t allow me to turn off many types of notifications that I don’t want to see. They disguise advertisements as regular posts. Posts and comments aren’t ordered chronologically anymore, but instead by some secret algorithm. Algorithms predict what news you want to see, instead of showing you news that’s actually important.

It’s all a big waste of time really, and I wonder if the net affect of social media is even a positive one at this point. It was nice being able to keep in touch with friends and find cool people, but I think more traditional messenger apps are better suited to that now, as they don’t come with all the extra distractions.

Oh, and I forgot to even mention the mobs of self-righteous bullies that thirst for public shamings on the internet. Apparently these days it’s acceptable and often lauded to ruin someones career and livelihood over a few distasteful Tweets, or some other petty nonsense. Try saving the outrage for actual criminals who deserve it, ya twats.

Anyway, I just wanted to rant a bit about this. Do you agree or disagree?

Humble Bundle Results

So this blog is a few months overdue…

Back in January Epic Battle Fantasy 4 was invited to take part in the Humble “Overwhelmingly Positive” Bundle. EBF4 has been bundled before, but it was a few years ago and in a very small bundle (5K sales), so that barely counts. Back then I didn’t expect to EBF4 to have such a long sales tail, so I figured there was no harm to be done by bundling. But it turned out that EBF4 would be selling well for years after release, thanks to Steam’s Discovery update which does a lot to recommend the game to Steam users. I told myself I wouldn’t bundle EBF4 again until the sales dried up and I was invited into a more prestigious bundle. It’s quite flattering being a new Steam dev and getting tons of bundle offers, but one quickly realises that most of them want to bundle your game with garbage and devalue it.

So a long time later comes along Humble Bundle asking to sell EBF4 next to games like Shantae, N++, and Day of the Tentacle. I hadn’t played these at the time but I knew they were very popular and well rated, and also not as old as EBF4, so I was definitely bundling up rather than down with this lineup. Another major stroke of luck was that the Steam review system was changed shortly before this offer, so that reviews from key activations don’t count towards the review score. EBF4 has a Steam review score of 98% (overwhelmingly positive), which is why it was included in this bundle, and this change meant that opening up the game to a more general audience was unlikely to hurt it even if a lot of them didn’t like it. It would have been rather embarrassing if EBF4 lost this high rating during the bundle, and being the somewhat niche Flash game that it is, I would have absolutely expected that to happen.
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The bundle ran for two weeks, and with EBF4 being in the $1 lowest tier, it sold 135K copies. Around 92K of the keys were actually activated, and the amount of user engagement was incredibly low, as expected from a bundle. Very few of them left reviews or posted in the forums, and the ratio for players to owners drastically decreased (the bundle more or less doubled the number of owners on Steam). Success! This is the best result I could have hoped for: Free money for almost no work! No user complaints to deal with! Though it did hurt a bit that the other games got more attention for being in the bundle. (I lurked Reddit to see which games people were most interested in) (also the few reviews EBF4 got during the bundle were around 75% positive, so definitely much worse than usual)

Overall the bundle almost doubled my income for the year, and with Brexit plummeting the value of the UK pound, the incredible exchange rate boosted my earnings further, making last year my most profitable year ever! And I didn’t even release a game that year! Being self employed is weird.
(note: the UK tax year ends in April for reasons unknown)

The only real question left is whether or not bundling EBF4 hurt its long term sales. It’s hard to say. Sales have been a bit lower after the bundle, but they were already slowly going down, and the Steam autumn and winter sales shipped a lot of units shortly before the bundle too. EBF4 has been on Steam for over 3 years and hasn’t been getting any updates, so it’s still doing remarkably well either way. Today it still more than covers my living expenses, which is all a developer could ask for really.

New life for Cat Cafe and EBF3

Hey guys, EBF5 is 25% done!

So I’m gonna take a little break and work on publishing Cat Cafe on the web, and maybe on Steam too. If ya’ll remember, it’s that little idle game for phones that I made. It was up on Android, but it got taken down cause I never updated it for some new rules after months of warnings.

It’s not an amazing game, but I’m interested to see who might enjoy it (It got over 300,000 installs on Android somehow), and it’ll be 100% free, so I don’t think there’s much to complain about.

I’m also planning to put EBF3 up on Steam (also free), but that’ll be a bit more work – hopefully still not too much. I probably won’t make any changes to the game except for adding that mute button everyone wanted. Just gotta figure out how to do stuff like full screen in good old Actionscript 2.

Anyway, decent free games on Steam seem to get a lot of attention, so this is my chance to catch some eyeballs while other indie devs are putting price tags on their small 30-minute games.