Category Archives: Thoughts and Opinions

Translating Games

Hey, this is a big blog about my experience translating Epic Battle Fantasy 4 and Bullet Heaven 2, and how I’m trying to do things better in Epic Battle Fantasy 5.

Translating EBF4 was a last minute decision – it didn’t even cross my mind until the game was almost finished. But I knew I had a lot of fans that didn’t speak English, based on my Facebook page and Kongregate data, and the fact that my Flash games were quite popular on Spanish, Chinese, etc, Flash game sites. The languages I chose to translate to were Spanish, Portuguese, German and French. The first two because I had a lot of fans in those regions, and the second two because they just seemed like the most popular European languages to translate to (ie. they buy a lot of games). I didn’t consider Chinese because they already had made unofficial translations, and I figured they just pirate everything anyway. (I don’t know how much that’s changed in the last 5 years, but China seems to be really big on Steam now)

I asked for volunteers from my fans to translate and proofread, and a lot of people stepped forward. I couldn’t judge their skill at their first language, but I made sure they were at least fluent in English. My translation strategy was to turn all of the text strings in EBF4 into arrays of text strings, and dump them on Google Docs so that all the translators could work on them at the same time. “Word” would turn into ["Word","","","",""] and the translators would fill in the gaps. I also provided a lot of notes and instructions for the translators, and hung around in case they needed me. Once translated, the script was also shared publicly, so that anyone could provide feedback if they wanted to.

This wasn’t very efficient, but it worked. The worst part was going through all of the game’s code, trying to find every tiny bit of text, copying it to a Google Docs file, and then later doing that whole process in reverse. It also means that adding a new language now would involve all of that work again. With EBF5, I’ve put all of the text in seperate files right from the beginning, and each file contains one language. The game’s code just loads the relevant text file depending on the options. This means that adding a new language requires almost no extra coding work: I can just give out the English files, they can be translated, and the game can load them as a new language. So that should save me a lot of work in the long term!

But there were some other problems when translating EBF4:
 It turns out that most translated text ends up being a bit longer than the original, so I had to significantly increase the size of many text boxes. Lesson quickly learned.
 Translating parts of sentences separately is a very bad idea, for example: “A ” + “fire/water/ice” + ” elemental attack!” This works well in English and a few other languages, but you never know when weird grammar rules might pop up. From now on I’m sticking to full sentences, even if it leads to a lot of redundancy, like typing out the full line for 10 different elements.
 Dialects! I didn’t realise how different these could be. With French and German we managed to settle on neutral dialects, but with Spanish and Portuguese we went with south American ones, since that’s where almost all of the volunteers were from. Some Europeans were not very happy with these translations. I’m not sure if this problem is totally avoidable, but it’s worth talking to your translators about it before you start. (and then marketting your translation accordingly – luckily Steam let’s me specify that it’s Brazilian-Portuguese)

One thing that went very well was, uh, Flash! Flash handles special characters and text related stuff very well. So I never had any problems putting weird non-English characters in my games. The default fonts seem to handle everything.

So, in the end, was translating worth it? Well… kind of? It took me about a month to organise and implement EBF4′s translations, which also includes countless hours of work by the translators and proofreaders. The Steam sales for German (8%) and French (4%) are reasonably high, so from a financial perspective, those languages were worth doing, maybe even if I had to pay professionals instead of volunteers. But even though tons of Spanish and Portuguese speaking people played the free versions of EBF4, very few of them bought the game on Steam (less than 1% of Steam sales each), so if I was translating just for money, I wouldn’t have done those languages.

EBF4 was overall very successful on Steam, with around 100K sales in total – so 8% more sales is a lot in the end (well, I’m sure a lot of Germans speak English, and may have bought the game without a translation, but whatever). My other game, Bullet Heaven 2, on the other hand, was not so successful. The game wasn’t a flop – but it’s not far from it. Even though it had much less text to translate, I think translating that game was a waste of time – it just wasn’t worth the extra work. And if I had paid professional translators, I would have lost a LOT of money on it.

So I think that’s what it all comes down to for me. If I have a lot of fans in some region, and they want to volunteer to translate EBF5, I’m perfectly happy to work with them and make it happen so that more people can enjoy the game. But I wouldn’t bet on the translations to be worth it financially if I had to pay professionals. I guess I just don’t like taking too many risks. It’s also not particularly fun to program my games to support multiple languages.

Anyway, I’m almost ready to start translating. I’ll start doing research and asking for volunteers soon-ish. German, French, Spanish, and Portuguese are coming back, and the new languages I’m strongly considering are Chinese, Russian, Polish and Vietnamese. Feel free to suggest others, but I think those are the most likely. Of course, I can always add more languages after the game is released, as the new infrastructure makes that much easier than in previous games.

I’m interested to hear what you all think.

tl;dr: I translate for the fans, as it’s probably not worth translating a text-heavy indie RPG for financial gain, except maybe to German.

Play Expo Results

Hey guys, I’ve been without internet for over two weeks, but I’m back now. I guess I have to start off with a write-up of the Play Expo.

It went really well! Not a single thing went wrong!

Setting up was easy. I just brought in my computer, two monitors, a poster, an old pile of Kongregate stickers I got from Mochi London, some cute business cards to give out, and that was about it. The venue was conveniently 10 minutes away from my home. At first I didn’t have anywhere to put up my poster, but the guys next to us left very early so we essentially got a 2nd table just for that. Me and Ronja took turns manning the stall, so we didn’t tire ourselves out. (I also got to try some VR stuff on my break, woop!)
expo photo 1

EBF5 never crashed. Both days it ran non-stop for 8 hours without any problems, which was pretty cool, but also what I would have hoped for since the demo was just the most basic parts of the battle system. On the second monitor I had my YouTube videos of EBF5 running on loop forever.

The audience was a bit different from what I expected. EGX in England was mostly for gaming enthusiasts, but while this event still had some of those, it was generally much more casual and family oriented. There were a lot of really young kids, but also a lot of parents and grandparents who weren’t even into video games at all. I ended up showing off EBF5 to a huge variety of people, and it was a very educational social experience for me. I learned how to talk to kids, disabled people, and a lot of very socially-awkward people.

I’m glad I had EBF5 configured in work-safe mode, and I’m happy I made that option available in the first place. Bouncing anime breasts were not out of place at the event, but I think it would have been a bit awkward with the game’s default settings, especially when young girls came to play.

A related point that surprised me was the lack of PC gamers! I think EBF5 was one of the only mouse-controlled games there, and a lot of kids were confused when they couldn’t find the controller or keyboard. Quite a few people had trouble using the mouse accurately, and double-clicking when single-clicks were fine. But besides that people picked up the game very easily. I just told them to pick commands and hit the baddies, and that was all they needed to know really. I only intervened to tell them how to heal when their health got low.

expo photo 2Besides all that we also got to know some of the other exhibitors, including Mega Cat Studios, who make modern NES games, Wrench Games who make card games, and Oi Oi Games who are a store for retro games (their Mario Maker stall dominated the area at first and sort of overshadowed us – not fair!). I don’t think there was anyone particularly famous there – there wasn’t even any official presence from the big gaming companies. It was all quite local and modest. A reporter from The Sun talked to me briefly, but in the end I don’t think he actually wrote anything about me.

I had around 5 people tell me they were fans of the EBF games, and another 5 or so who said they’ve probably played them at some point in the past. So that’s not bad – I’m not a total nobody!

Anyway, it was all a lot of fun and I’d love to do it again if I get more chances to do it so cheaply. (Grand total spent on the event: £89 and around 3 days of preparation)

EBF Sticker Packs

Hey guys, if you recall some of my old rants, I’m really worried about online privacy, freedom of speech, and big tech companies like Facebook taking over the world. Lately I’ve started using Telegram for instant messaging (Desktop & Mobile) in an attempt to rely on Facebook less, and my favourite thing about it is that you can make your own sticker packs! So once I got bored of spamming Pepe the frog memes, I made two EBF packs: One is the characters in the cutout style, and the other is the character emoticons from the game.

You can get them by opening these links in Telegram:
EBF Character pack: https://t.me/addstickers/EBF_characters
EBF Emoticon pack: https://t.me/addstickers/EBF_emotes

Anyway, I like Telegram a lot because it reminds me of the old days of instant messaging: where you could post whatever you wanted and didn’t have to worry about some huge corporation recording all of your personal data. It’s even popular with ISIS, so it must be good for privacy.

Also before someone mentions Whatsapp: that’s also owned by Facebook.

Alright, that’s enough shilling for now. Let me know if there’s any other apps that can use custom sticker packs, and maybe I’ll put these on there too.

sticker preview

Playstation 4 Binge

Hey guys, I borrowed my brother’s PS4 over the holidays, and played through some great games. Figured I’d write a few quick reviews about them as I’ve got some thoughts, so here it goes.

Inside
Inside has some of the most fluid animation I’ve seen in a game. Every movement feels incredibly natural: The way your character stumbles after a jump, objects flexing as you walk on them, the way background characters react when they see you, and so on. It’s a spooky puzzle-platformer game that tells a story without words, and does it well. It’s a good game to study if you want to see how much feeling can be conveyed with relatively simple graphics.

Unfortunately, it’s very similar to Limbo, which is a good thing, but also makes it feel much less groundbreaking. I’ve already played something like this before.

The Last of Us: Remastered
The Last of Us is a masterpiece. It’s the first game I’ve ever played where I would consider the storytelling to be as good as a top-notch TV show or a movie. The cutscenes are exciting, and the scenery is detailed enough so that areas in the game actually look like real places. Even the gameplay enhances the story: The characters visibly work together, get power ups as a result of story progress, and actions have consequences. It’s all tied together.

Also the general variety of pacing and combat is very refreshing. You may be fighting thugs, soldiers, or zombies. You may be chased, ambushed, navigating complex terrain, stealthing your way through an obstacle course, or just having an all out shoot-out. Each enemy encounter in the game felt different, and the game rewarded taking your time and experimenting with approaches.
6947132381_ab0c648246_b

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
If you’ve heard anything about this game, it’s probably that it’s an incredibly slow-paced walking sim, where your character can’t run. This is very accurate, but I feel like it adds to the weird dream-like atmosphere. It’s much easier to enjoy if you play it first thing in the morning or just before bed, when you’re very sleepy. I thought the voice acting was great, and I liked the way characters were portrayed as glowing lights – it meant that you could imagine real people instead of falling into the uncanny valley of modern games. Anyway, it’s different from any game I’ve played before, and if you’re in the right state of mind and don’t rush it, it’s easy to look past its flaws.

Until Dawn
Until Dawn is a fun interactive-horror-movie to play with friends. It’s got some very pretty graphics – though the framerate is noticeably less than 60fps. There’s a lot of story branches, and although I’m unlikely to play through the game again, it’s still fun to talk to other people about how many characters died in each other’s playthroughs.
until-dawn-screenshot-05

Call of Duty: Black Ops III
I played through the campaign mode just to say I’ve completed a Call of Duty game, but apparently I didn’t pick the best one to start with. I found the gameplay and story excruciatingly boring. There’s no sense of pacing: Every mission is just over-the-top action and chases and explosions – there’s no stealth missions, or moments to enjoy the scenery, or time to question the choices I’ve made in the game. It just flies down a linear path at a constant full speed. The characters are as bland and shallow as they can be – I don’t think any of them ever told a joke or talked about their history at all. The dialogue is mostly made of military cliches. The enemies types become repetitive very quickly.

Also I just outright suck at CoD. I’m okay at other FPSs: I can play Doom or Halo. But something about CoD just never clicks with me, and I die a lot even on easy mode. I can’t tell which guns to use in which circumstances, nor how aggressively I should be moving forward. *shrugs*

Doom
I’ve already played new Doom several times on my PC, but only on the lowest settings (being 5 or 6 years old, I suppose it’s good that my PC can run it at all). I played it again on PS4 to compare graphics and controls – and woah does it look good on a huge 4K TV. Until I get a new PC, I should probably enjoy AAA games on console for a while.

Anyway, I definitely prefer playing FPSs on PC – mouse controls are more accurate and it’s much easier to switch weapons with all the keys you got. But Playing with a controller wasn’t too bad. It’s still nice to have the comfort of sitting on your couch.

Oh, and Doom is a great game. Probably my favourite of 2017.
the-new-doom-game-is-insanely-good-and-violent-as-hell--and-its-out-now-on-nintendo-switch

Christmas Giveaway Results

Hey guys, the Christmas Steam key giveaway is over and I’ve sent out 40 game keys by email!

The entry requirement for the giveaway was telling me a bit about your gaming life.
I got nearly 400 entries and a lot of stories. It was nice to see that many people got into gaming playing the sorts of games I played when I was younger: Zelda and Pokemon on Nintendo consoles, Heroes of Might and Magic and Age of Empires on PC, Final Fantasy games on PS1, old stuff on emulators, free MMO games like Maple Story, and a lot of Flash games too (though I still haven’t played Mardek). I was also reminded to play Doki Doki, Hollow Knight, Cuphead, and LISA. These games are on my radar, but as always it’s just a case of playing through everything else first.

I was mildly annoyed by how popular rogue-likes were though! I think games like Binding of Isaac, Dead Cells and Enter the Gungeon would have been better off with actual designed levels instead of randomly generated ones that you were forced to replay over and over. I guess some people like their nearly endless games. But I guess I am slightly out of touch these days, as I’ve not played Team Fortress 2, Dota 2, Overwatch or PUBG.

A few people mentioned that EBF4 was the first game they played on Steam, and got them into downloadable games. Most people were very long-time fans, but there were a few that just recently played my games for the first time. Apparently quite a few people have tried playing the EBF games co-op with a friend, with each person controlling a different character in battle. This is weird, but it’s also the sort of thing I might have tried when I was younger.

Anyway, thanks for all the holiday wishes and hope you’re all having a good time!

Here’s a guy I made:
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Patreon is okay again!

(continuation of an earlier post)

Hey guys, after a lot of pushback, Patreon has decided not to change their fee system!
This is good news, as it means they will continue aggregating all of your pledges into one monthly payment, and you won’t get hit by transaction fees multiple times. So if you support 10 different people, you’ll only be hit with one fee, as before. (and the fee will continue to be invisible to you, being taken out from our end)

But basically, the smaller your monthly amount, the bigger proportion goes to fees. If you’re only giving a $1 or $2 in total on Patreon, it’s probably not worth using. Save up your money and give $10 after a year instead. No point in giving 35% of your pledge to PayPal or Credit Card companies. The main benefit of Patreon (in my opinion) is that you can make lots of micropayments together, as an efficient larger payment.

It’s also worth noting that protesting actually works, if you hit your opponent where it hurts: in PR and cashflow!

Anyhow, in EBF5 development news, the overworld map is complete now!
I’ve just got two of the premium dungeons left to do. After that I’ll finish off NPCs and sidequests, and then patrons will be able to test it all out. It would have been nice to get it done by Christmas, but that’s probably not going to happen. I’ll have many more animated gifs done before then though.

I suppose I may have to do my usual Christmas Steam key giveaway soon…

I already don’t like Patreon

Hey guys, I’ve just set up a Patreon two months ago and I’m already feeling very sheepish about using the service. They’re planning to put up their fees soon, which works out very poorly for people pledging many small amounts. Previously the fee was taken from all of your pledges put together (the whole point of a service like this), but now it’ll cost 0.35c  for each individual pledge. Meaning if you support many Patreons for $1, you’ll essentially be charged over 35% in fees, which is absurdly high. Patreon’s been very brazen about this change, hiding it behind the fact that creators will get more money overall (assuming that many patrons don’t just outright leave). Patreon’s facade of being in it to support the little guy is becoming very hard to believe, especially with these dishonest PR statements that don’t address the actual reasons for these changes.

There’s a lot of anger over this, but if this change goes through, I’ll have to delete my $1 tier and tell people not to waste their money. At that point Steam and Kongregate take a smaller cut, and they actually earn it by giving me lots of traffic, while Patreon does fuck all besides process payments. People who were on the $1 tier will still get all of the perks, but in future those perks will be on the $4 tier instead.

It’s not that I don’t want your $1, it’s just that we’re both better off if you save it and buy my games on Steam or Kongregate instead. Charging you guys $1.35 to send me $1 is pointless.

Also I still think Patreon’s new logo is ugly as hell.

Thoughts?

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

Book review time.

Today I read Tribe by Sebastian Junger, and it resonated with some of the thoughts I’ve been having about modern life and how technology is carrying us further away from the way we evolved to live. The premise of the book is that hunter gatherer tribes offered many advantages to mental health that modern societies lack. As a member of a tribe you were around many others at all times. Everyone shared their resources and relied on one another. Class distinctions could not afford to exist, people were judged purely by their contribution to the group. Life was less complicated and one spent less time working overall. People trusted each other and worked for the benefit of the group. Liars and cheats were dealt with harshly.

Skip forward to the future, and for all of our material wealth, rates of depression, PTSD and other mental illnesses are on the rise, presumably due to the loss of such communities and the support they offer. People now spend much more time alone, often rely on the government instead of on each other, feel utterly unneeded when they are unemployed, and have less shared experiences that they can relate with. We have strangers looking after our kids and grandparents. We seek individual wealth at the expense of others. We talk contemptuously about others instead of trying to understand them. We let political leaders turn us against each other over small differences, even though most of us agree about most things.

There’s a lot to sift through there and the solutions aren’t obvious. But in general the message is to strengthen family and community bonds, focus on the many things we agree on, and to be vigilant against those who try to take advantage of the group – bankers, frauds, polarising political speakers and others. I feel like these issues will grow in severity as technology leads to more unemployment and more isolated lifestyles.

Anyway. Tribe is quite short and is an accessible read, but if you don’t like reading you can also get a gist of it from this interview with the author.

There’s a lot of food for thought in there.

Thoughts About Patreon (part 2)

This is a continuation of my previous post, where I explained why I’m considering making a Patreon. No one seemed to have any major objections to me setting up a Patreon, as long as I stuck to the rules I outlined there.

I’ve spent the day researching what other creators have done with Patreon, and I’ve come up with this list of reward tiers. I’d be interested to hear what you think of these:

Supporter: $1 per month
• Get early access to buggy, spoiler-full, alpha versions/demos that otherwise won’t be released to the public until they are finished. Over the next few months this will include the entire EBF5 world map, and a boss fight demo.
• You also get the “Supporter” role on the EBF Discord, making you a trusted user who can post links and images in any channel, and gives you access to the “Alpha Discussion” and “Alpha Bugs” channels for discussing the content mentioned above. (You still gotta follow the rules!)
• And finally the loyalty program: With your continued support, you can request a Steam key for any of my games for every $15 you’ve given. (you can give extra keys to your friends or use this as a way to pre-order future games)

Super Supporter: $4 per month
• Same as the above, but you get the “Super Supporter” Discord role, which does nothing besides letting you show off.

Wall of Thanks: $8 per month
• Get your name listed on the “Wall of Thanks” on my website, KupoGames.com, letting visitors know that you’re kind of cool!
• This lasts as long as your contribution does, and can include a link to some profile or website of yours. (subject to my approval, maybe contact me with your details first!)
+ Includes Super Supporter perks
(100 slots only)

Thoughts About Patreon

Lately I’ve been thinking about making a Patreon, but just bringing that up makes me feel a bit dirty. I don’t want to start double-dipping or locking people out of content that is free at the moment, so I’m writing this blog to discuss my thoughts.

Here’s some perks to me having an income on Patreon:
• My income would be a bit less volatile month to month and year to year. Currently in some months I get 30x what I get in others. I’m used to this but it does make financial planning a bit complicated, especially when working on a project over many years.
• It gives people another way to support me. I get asked about donations, preorders, kickstarters, etc. every once in a while, and Patreon makes more sense to me than any of those.
• Most game stores take 30% of my earnings, and some take even more than that. So it would be a more efficient way of getting money straight to me for those who are concerned with that. (Patreon only takes 5% as I understand it)
• It gives me a way of releasing demos to a small group of people, which would be useful with spoiler-full stuff. For example, I’d like to get a bunch of people to test the entire EBF5 world map, but I don’t want to release that publicly cause it’s obviously full of spoilers.
• I’d get more money overall, which you may or may not think I deserve. I don’t *need* more money, but 2017 is shaping up to be my worst year in a while, as I haven’t published any games in a few years now.
• I’d be able to make some smaller free games again without needing to worry about a sustainable income. Games that on their own probably wouldn’t be worth buying. (And with Greenlight gone I could easily put them on Steam as well) (alternatively it could lead to free updates for EBF5 post-release)

Here’s some perks for patrons that I’ve thought about:
• Early access to spoilerific demos or very early and buggy stuff. Anything that I wouldn’t want to release publicly for a while.
• Requests for little favours that I’ve thought about doing but haven’t quite gotten round to. For example, releasing a blog post on a specific topic, releasing some existing artwork as a wallpaper, releasing bits of source code, etc. This stuff I’d also make publicly available later, so I’m not doing it just for the patrons.
• Some little perks on the EBF Discord, such as having a colorful username and the ability to post images on any channel. (still within the rules, of course)
• Using it as an alternative payment method for buying my games. (not sure how well this would work, but if someone’s sent me enough money through Patreon I can send them Steam or Humble keys or whatever)

What I’m NOT going to use Patreon for:
• Letting patrons influence my games’ content in any way that isn’t available to everyone else.
• Giving out perks that would use up a lot of my time on things that aren’t game development.
• Locking stuff that would normally be free behind a paywall. I would only put stuff on Patreon that I’m currently not releasing at all.

So that’s it I think. Of course what I would do with Patreon depends on how much support I get on there, and what people would find most beneficial. But first I want to hear from fans; Does this sound okay? Are there any perks you’d like to see? Are there any concerns you have?