Friday, August 28, 2009

Bug Squad post mortem

I made and release this game a month ago, but I've only just had time to write it up here.

It all started about 4-5 months ago when there was the first swine flu scare. I had an idea for a dumb game about shooting pigs and got it as far as being able to shoot circles with other circles. I then got a contract and forgot about it. After that was finished I had a bit of time off and finished it off. I decided to keep it as a dumb game about shooting pigs and concentrate my engergies on the production values.

I think I succeeded in making a game that looks really nice and has rocking music, but I'm not so happy with the gameplay. It works to a point, but I think that I may have over-simplified it. I was aiming for a combo building high-score game and it's works as that, to a point. The mistake I made was than I didn't make it short and snappy enough (check out Boomshine for a good example of this) to work as this type of game. Also it has a huge problem in that if you don't go for the combos it's possible to survive for a really long time just by being click happy, but that if you do this it's a fairly boring game.

I did put it on the forums at flashgame license and I got some good feedback, but no-one picked up on the last point, and I was too close to the game to see it myself. I only realised after the game had been released when I was showing it to my family, and I actually got to watch them play. I'm absolutely gutted about that because it would have been fairly simple to have cut down the shot speed and thereby eliminate this as a viable mode of play. This just shows the huge limits of bedroom development. I'll have to make sure I can watch people play any subsequent games before putting them out.

Given it's drawbacks I can see now why I was unable to get what I would consider a decent payment for the sponsorship, and I'll just have to take it on the chin a try to learn the lesson for my future projects.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


So I've just started work at new digital agency, and it's the second one in a row where there have been lots of people gushing over PureMVC. In the past I've also been asked by recruiters if it's something I know, so I finally decided to try to get my head round it.

I've put aside another project I was working on since it was too far progressed and started a new one that may be more suited. It's a take/rip-off on the cool Dice Wars game, which I've wanted to do for a while, mostly because the AI programming interests me. It's also not a game that should require too much cpu, so the added overhead of the framework (and my mistakes in using it) shouldn't interfere too much. Also it's closer to an app or website than most of the games I do with lots of buttons, menus etc, so I hope it will actually be relevant to making sites in PureMVC.

My first impressions are... not great. It's about tripled the amount of code I think I'll need to write, and I've spent half of my time trying to work out where to stick what bit of code. My biggest issue is getting my head around the fact that in the tutorials I've read the controller/commands don't seem to do very much and most of the logic seems to be put in the proxies. I have a horrible feeling that if I were to show what I've done (and the final code) to a hardcore mvc guy they would facepalm.

Also what it makes me think is, do I really want to be a frameworks kind of programmer? There's nothing really that I can't do without frameworks, and for the projects I've been working on mostly up to now - micro-site, games etc I think they actually might be a hindrance. Am I just learning it so I can join the cool techie kids' gang? Or just to tick some boxes on a recruiter's form?

Anyway, I'm sure once I get my head round it I'll be spouting off about it to all the flash guys I know who haven't bothered with it. It's not what you know, it's the jargon.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Fixed my google indexing problem
After a fair bit of tearing my hair out and frantic searching I finally managed to sort out my indexing problem, and the custom search used by google adsense for search works now. It turns out that the problem was that I was using relative paths in my linking, and somehow this meant that the page was calling some of the link recursively, causing the robot to die, even with a sitemap.xml still submitted. I changed my php so all my paths are now absolute and bingo, problem solved. I have no illusions as to this suddenly shooting me up the search ranking but as least it can not search within my site, making it looks that tiny bit less rank amateur.

The way I found the problems was first I looked at my page using a Lynx viewer. Lynx is a text based browser and I'm told that what it sees it very close to what the robots see. It saw lots of links that didn't work. I tried creating a sitemap at, which is an awesome site. It generated a huge sitemap which had all 500 allowed links for the free version. I checked the forums there and saw references to the problem, changed my links and booyakasha, I now have a site that indexes. I used the sitemap generated there (I was so happy I even uncharacteristically made a donation) and now all my pages are showing up. Went back to lynx and now I can move around my site with Lynx, googlebots are happy and I can move on to my other problems.

Monday, August 10, 2009

New Site live!

I put the new version of my games site live last Wednesday. It was pretty much the first thing I did once we finally got the internet set up in our new house.

At first, of course there were lots of bugs, dead link where I had typos when uploading, and the rating system wasn't working, but that's all mostly fixed and I'm reasonably happy with how the site looks and works. At the moment it doesn't have very many games, so I'm going to try to get the numbers up as quickly as I can. As I said before, finding the right games and formatting them for upload is looking to be almost as big of a job as making the actual site.

My immediate plans are, in order of importance:
1.Get the search working properly.
This is a big issue. I'm trying to use the google site search, both so I don't have to write one myself and so I could potentially get ad revenue. My problem is that google doesn't seem to be referencing my pages - they're all dynamic links, but since you can get to every page from other pages in the site I assumed it would work it out. This doesn't seem to be the case. I'm going to look into it, but if I can't sort it quickly I'm going to have to ditch google and do my own one.
2. Change the thumbnail info to include rating and plays.
Hopefully this shouldn't be too much work. I just want to add the rating, date added and plays to the game thumbnails. Also I need to clean up the css and structuring of that element.
3. Make an admin page and image upload.
I really want to have a game upload page where I can enter in all the info and upload the image and swf. If I can do it properly so it error checks the paths and info I can avoid the annoying typo errors I've been making while uploading games using ftp and phpadmin.
4. Make and add some games.
In order to generate traffic I'm going to need to make some more games linking back to my site. Probably the hardest task, and I'm not sure when I'll next have time. I'm slightly regretting licensing Bug Squad, since it would be really cool to have a game to launch with.

I'm working on site at the moment at an agency, probably for the next week or two. I'm hoping that there will be a natural break where I can work, but I don't feel I can turn down work at the moment, and I don't expect the site to make any significant income in the near or medium term. Unfortunately if I don't pull my finger out it won't even in the long term. Oh well.