Sunday, December 31, 2006 -
The Measure of Success
A new friend of mine from
Linux Gaming World e-mailed me a link to an adorable audio review of Dirk
Dashing by a father named Dann and his daughter, Paige. You can find the
program here: http://www.thelinuxlink.net/lager/?p=17.
The program itself is two hours long, but they discuss Dirk Dashing right
at the beginning. You can download it in MP3 or OGG format. If you have a
high-speed internet connection, check it out.
This broadcast was a big
morale booster at My Game Company today. Sometimes we read comments left
on various gaming web sites from hardcore gamers, adult gamers, or other
game developers who think our games are too simple or childish, and that
can be disheartening. But when we hear feedback like this from parents and
occasionally from the children themselves, it helps remind us that adults
are not our target audience: children are. Our games are designed and
written specifically for children, though some adults enjoy the games too.
But regardless of what the adults think, as far as children are concerned our games are a hit!
And that means one thing: success!
My thanks to LaGER for sharing
Dirk Dashing with their audience and reminding us of our purpose. Happy
Friday, December 29, 2006 -
Before we begin working on our
next big project, namely Fashion Cents Deluxe, we're making some upgrades
and improvements to our computers. The first big change we are making is
to switch over to one single operating system: Linux.
For the past year, we have
been running the business on two different operating systems. All game
development has been done on Linux (SUSE 10), while web site management,
order fulfillment, bookkeeping, and other office-related tasks have been done on
Windows XP. There were two main reasons for this: 1) we were using programs
that would not run on Linux nor could we find suitable replacement
programs, and 2) I could not find a Linux distribution that completely
satisfied our requirements - SUSE 10 was close, but I could never get the
networking configured so we could share printers and files over the
Then two things changed toward
the end of this year. First, during the testing of the Linux version of
Dirk Dashing, I had an opportunity to try out a dozen different Linux
distributions. I came across one distribution in particular that I think
is probably the best desktop experience ever: Kubuntu. Their latest
version, 6.10, also called Edgy, contains the latest desktop applications
and technology that Linux has to offer. I have been really impressed with
the way everything "just works" (the way you would expect it to). Even though the installation
did not automatically configure everything, like the printer or the
networking, the Kubuntu web site has some
of the best documentation I've ever seen, and getting everything
configured myself was pretty easy. It took roughly a day to install
Kubuntu and configure everything. That's quicker than it takes me to
reinstall Windows XP from scratch.
Second, I discovered a new
version of Crossover Office had been released that finally allowed me to
run most of the Windows programs I need under Linux. I was already able to
run Microsoft Office 2000 and Quicken under the older version of Crossover
Office. Now, I can also run Microsoft Project 2000 to manage our project
schedules. I can run FrontPage to manage our web sites, and I can run
FeedForAll to update our RSS feeds. In fact, this is my first blog post
made directly from Linux using FrontPage and FeedForAll.
With these changes and
improvements, I felt the time was finally right to switch our business
operations completely to Linux and away from Microsoft Windows. We will
continue to support Windows versions of our games, but Windows will no
longer be used at My Game Company except for testing. This will reduce our
operating costs significantly in the near future because 1) we will no
longer be jumping back and forth between computers to do different
day-to-day tasks, 2) we will no longer need to pay for expensive copies of
Windows XP Professional nor upgrade all of our machines to Vista next
year, and 3) we no longer need to worry about spyware, adware, and viruses
crippling our computers.
We have already switched our
first computer over to Kubuntu, and so far, it has been running quite
well. I expect we will finish the rest of the computers some time during
January. I'll let you know how it goes.
Now all we need are more games
for Linux. Don't worry - we're on it!
Tuesday, December 26, 2006 -
Back on Track
I've been doing a lot of
traveling this past month, first for my grandmother's funeral, and second
for the Christmas holiday. But I'm back in the office now, and I plan to
continue working on the Mac OS port of Dirk Dashing tomorrow.
Fortunately, I have gotten
into the habit of leaving notes for myself on my Palm Pilot, so it
shouldn't be too hard to remember where I left off. As I recall, I had
learned enough about Mac OS to finish setting up our new MacBook. I
had also downloaded and installed the developer tools, loaded the Dirk
Dashing source code onto the hard drive, and had started to work on
compiling the code. Hopefully, this will go fairly quick and I can get a
beta of the Mac version on the web site soon.
In the meantime, I spent so
much time in airports and on the road that I started working on Fashion
Cents Deluxe. I'm excited about this long-anticipated sequel to our
flagship product. We have a lot of really cool enhancements planned, and I
can't wait to get started working on it! The game design is already
complete, and I have almost finished laying out the production schedule. I
can't give any details yet, since we are still finalizing our plans, but
I'll be posting more about it here in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
Friday, December 22, 2006 -
Dirk in the (Linux) News
Linux.com has posted an
article today about commercial gaming on Linux, and one of the commercial
games it highlights is Dirk Dashing. You can read the article at http://www.linux.com/article.pl?sid=06/12/20/1830250.
There was also a brief review
of Dirk Dashing on Linux Gaming World a few days ago. You can read it at http://www.linuxgamingworld.com/2006/12/dirk-dashing.
Thursday, December 21, 2006 -
Dirk Takes the Fifth
Fifth place, that is, on Game
Tunnel's Game of the Year Awards, in the category of
Quest/Adventure/Platform Game of the Year. They only choose the top five
games in each category, and we made the list! You can read about it on
Game Tunnel at http://www.gametunnel.com/articles.php?id=562.
Saturday, December 9, 2006 -
Dashing Around the Web
I frequently surf the net to
see what others are saying about our games. I found a couple of
interesting sites where folks are discussing our latest game, Dirk
News Podcast - the October 30th broadcast discusses the Linux
release of Dirk Dashing (you'll find it at time index 6:33 in the
Gamer - in responding to a recent article on the state of gaming
on Linux, one poster mentions Dirk Dashing in a positive light!
Game Break - Dirk Dashing is a "Hot Indie Game"
according to this site
Thursday, November 30, 2006 -
The Nativity Story
I know this isn't related to
computer games or our company, but I wanted to share this anyway. And
since this is my blog and I'm the president of the company, I can pretty
much write about whatever I want, huh?
We just returned from an
advance screening of the new movie, The Nativity Story, which is
officially released tomorrow. The movie tells the Christmas story of Mary
and Joseph and the birth of the baby Jesus. The script is very faithful to
the Biblical record, and even the creative license that they took with
certain parts of the story was consistent with the Jewish culture and
tradition of the time. The film gave me a new appreciation for what Mary
and Joseph endured and the overwhelming challenges they faced.
I especially enjoyed the way
they wove the instrumentals for many Christmas hymns throughout the story.
The music was masterfully done - they chose the perfect tunes to play at
just the right place in the story, and at times the music was so subtle
that you wouldn't notice if you weren't paying attention (or if you were
too engrossed in the story itself).
I would highly recommend this
film to anyone. Even if you are not a Christian, I think you will enjoy
this movie. We plan to add it to our collection when it comes out on DVD,
and I'm sure this will be one film we will watch each and every year at
Tuesday, November 28, 2006 -
SiteAdvisor: Green Light
McAfee SiteAdvisor has finally
updated their web site, and our site is now GREEN.
Their prediction was right -
it took three weeks for them to fix their web site. I have no idea why it
should have taken them that long to correct their problem. That is just
ridiculous. But at least it is fixed, and I'm relieved. Now we won't be
losing any more visitors because of our site was marked RED for stupid
reasons and without them first notifying us and giving us a chance to
I still stand by what I wrote
before - I will never use SiteAdvisor. Ever. I don't trust it. If you're
using SiteAdvisor, be very careful. It marked our site RED simply because
we happened to link to other sites that are also marked RED, even though
search engines like Google, Yahoo, and MSN link to every web site on the
planet and they're still marked GREEN. Plus the RED rating had nothing to
do with our downloads - McAfee itself confirmed all of our downloads are
free of adware, spyware, and viruses, and yet big web sites like
download.com and others are marked GREEN even though they host hundreds of
unsafe downloads. It is this kind of inconsistency that makes the
SiteAdvisor ratings worthless.
If you're trusting SiteAdvisor
to tell you whether the sites you are visiting are safe, then you need to
know that SiteAdvisor could be lying to you. Be careful.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006 -
My First Mac
I finally received the MacBook
that I ordered through CompUSA this past weekend!
I found it interesting that
CompUSA had lots of floor models, but nothing in stock. And neither did
any of their other stores in Southern California. They had to ship my Mac
from a store in Arizona. It made me wonder whether or not this is a normal
experience for a Mac buyer. If so, it might help explain why there aren't
more people switching to Macs - it's a bit of a challenge to get your
hands on one!
Anyway, this is my very first
experience with a Mac computer. As much as I hate to admit it, I've never
even seen one before, let alone used one. It feels quite different from
Windows or Linux. The system menus are organized much differently, and I
was confused at first by the way the menu kept changing each time I
selected a different application. I like the Dock at the bottom of
the desktop - that is slick.
I've been reading a lot about
Mac OS and Mac programming while I've been waiting for my MacBook. Now
that I finally have it, I'm looking forward to getting Dirk Dashing up and
running on it!
Thursday, November 9, 2006 -
After sending the folks at
McAfee SiteAdvisor yet another e-mail (basically rehashing the same
arguments I had made in previous e-mails), I received a response yesterday
from them that finally contained an apology:
Hi Mr. Hepfner,
Thank you for your e-mail.
We're glad you've taken the time to express your
dissatisfaction with our software and apologize for the aggravation you
have experienced. Please let me know if you have any questions or
suggestions regarding SiteAdvisor in the future.
Our web site is still
marked RED. If they reran their online affiliations test yesterday, as
they said they would, then they obviously haven't updated their site yet.
It still says we have links to softsland.com, even though I removed all
such links from our web site two days ago.
I just hope it doesn't really
take three weeks to get this fixed. While I appreciate the apology, it
would mean more if they expedite this matter and resolve it quickly.
Tuesday, November 7, 2006 -
SiteAdvisor: Don't Trust It
We received an e-mail from one
of our customers last night, who informed us that our web site was marked
RED by McAfee's SiteAdvisor.
When I went to their web site
to check it out, I discovered the reason they marked us RED. It wasn't
what I expected. Their own download tests indicated that our game
downloads are free of adware, spyware, and viruses. And they didn't mark
us RED because they thought we sent spam e-mails (we don't), use excessive
popups (we don't use any), or cause anything on their list of
"annoyances". They marked us RED because we happened to link to
another site that is marked as RED:
"When we tested this
site we found links to softsland.com, which we found to be a distributor
of downloads some people consider adware, spyware or other unwanted
Guilt by association, it
In fact, they state as much in
their own FAQ:
"When SiteAdvisor visits a Web site, we examine how aggressively the
site tries to get you to go to other sites that we've flagged with red
verdicts. It is a very common practice on the Internet for suspicious
sites to have close affiliations with other sites. The primary purpose of
these affiliations is to get you to visit the suspicious site. A site can
receive a red warning if, for example, it links too aggressively to other
red sites. In effect, a site can become "red by association" due
to the nature of its relationship to red flagged domains."
Sounds impressive, but here's
the problem with it.
McAfee never bothered to
notify us to let us know they were marking our site RED, or to give us
an opportunity to correct or address the so-called "problem"
they found. They just automatically marked us RED. Their assumption
is that their little automated bots that crawl around other peoples' web
sites are never wrong, and anyone that happens to link to a RED site must
obviously have underhanded motives.
In our case, we have no
association or affiliation with softsland.com, or any of the other RED
sites they mentioned. All we did is post award images for awards our games
received from those shareware sites, and we linked those images to our
product pages on those shareware sites as evidence to visitors that we did
indeed earn the awards we claim to have earned. We have no "close affiliation"
with these sites, nor are we trying to "get you to visit the
suspicious site". Nor are we in any way responsible for the thousands
of downloads you might make from those shareware sites.
So our web site has been RED
for who knows how long, and there is no telling how much damage this may
have caused to our business because we didn't know about it.
When I contacted McAfee and
sent a very long e-mail to express these concerns, I received a very cold
Thank you for your e-mail.
What is your domain? I will investigate the rating.
After I e-mailed him back,
giving him our domain name and informing him that we had already removed
some links (not really knowing for sure everything that we need to
correct), I get this e-mail a few hours later:
"Hello Mr. Hepfner,
Thank you for your e-mail
and we are pleased that you have taken action to mitigate the Web safety
threats our automated crawlers detected at your site.
We have manually queued
mygamecompany.com and dirkdashing.com for an online affiliations retest.
Outgoing links from this domain were cleared and a retest will take
place within 24 hours. Please allow at least 3 weeks for results to
propagate through our system.
Let me know if you have any
other questions or concerns during the process.
I guess I don't need to tell
you how upset and disappointed I am with McAfee. Nobody asked them to
perform this so-called "service" for the online community. They
undertook this on their own. I think their cause is good, but their
methods leave much to be desired. They operate with impunity, accountable
to no one. They blindly rate web sites without forewarning or notifying
the owners, and without any consideration to the negative consequences of
their rating system on sincere web site owners who may honestly not
realize that linking to other web sites can be such a "Web safety
threat". They take no responsibility for the damage their rating
system can cause to honest businesses. And they apparently have no sense
of remorse or regret for their practices: I haven't read anything yet in
their correspondence that even remotely sounds like an apology or an
admission of error on their part. Instead, they're treating me like I've
been proven guilty of some heinous crime.
And I'm not the only one.
Searching around on Google turned up lots of other online businesses and
honest web sites that have experienced the same problem.
As it turns out, I don't use
any McAfee products. And now I never will. These folks are very rude, in
my opinion, and they don't seem to care about what they're doing. I have a
feeling there are a lot of honest web sites whose business is being ruined
because of this so-called "service". Maybe SiteAdvisor does a
great job of identifying genuinely dangerous sites, but if they are rating
honest sites as RED, I have to wonder how many sites they are rating GREEN
that are actually dangerous.
One might argue
that for a free product, it does a pretty good job. You know what
they say about free advice. You get what you pay for.
Monday, November 6, 2006 -
Dirk Explodes onto Linux!
We released Dirk Dashing for
Linux 10 days ago, and we are simply stunned by the results!
To set the frame of reference
for the following statistics, I should remind you that the Windows version
has been out since October 6 (31 days ago).
As of today, 33% of our total Dirk Dashing sales have come from the Linux
version. For the month of November so far, we've sold more copies of the
Linux version than the Windows version each day. This surprised me,
especially since the initial feedback on happypenguin.org
came from unhappy laptop owners who couldn't play the game on their slow
machines. If this trend continues, I expect the percentage of Linux sales
to Windows sales to go up significantly.
Traffic to both of our web sites (mygamecompany.com
and dirkdashing.com) spiked
big-time on the last three days of October. On each of those days, we
received about 20x the amount of daily traffic we had received on any
previous day. Ever.
We've been swamped with lots of supportive e-mails from Linux users who
have tried the game and enjoyed it. Almost all of them thanked us for
porting the game to Linux and supporting their favorite OS. Many of them
told us they had forwarded our web site address to their friends and
family. We also had a lot of inquiries about Fashion Cents, and if/when we
expect to make a Linux version available.
This past week also saw a spike in Fashion Cents and Word Play sales, and
a number of customers entered various Linux news sites as the advertising
source when they purchased the game. This also surprised me, since these
are Windows-only games right now. But I found out a number of Linux users
have their systems configured to dual boot, and they currently use Windows
for gaming (since the gaming scene on Linux is so poor right now).
I must say, I was stunned by these all of these results.
I guess the moral of the story is that it doesn't always pay to follow the
crowd. Nearly all of the advice and feedback I have read in ASP forums,
Indie forums, etc. is that Linux is a dead-end and should be avoided like
the plague. What really bugged me is the blanket statements that are made
by people and the general perception of the Linux user base as a bunch of
people with radical views who refuse to ever pay for software - it also
bugged me that such ideas are never challenged and are just blindly
accepted by everyone. Dirk Dashing was an experiment to test these
statements for myself, and find out what the Linux market was really like.
What I am learning is that the Linux user base is actually very diverse,
and there are a lot of people who use Linux simply because they don't like
Windows and want an alternative - at the end of the day, they don't care
about the ideals of the FSF or the GPL, they just want something safe and
reliable that they can use. And they are very hungry for
While Linux may not be a viable platform for every kind of application, I
think it is certainly viable for games. And I am so glad we tried a Linux
version of one of our games - this has turned out to be a huge shot in the
arm for our business!
Sunday, November 5, 2006 -
My sister sent me this
picture. She's playing Fashion Cents with her 3-month old daughter,
Allyson, on her lap. I think Allyson might be our youngest fan!
Isn't she cute?
Sunday, October 29, 2006 -
The Linux Challenge
The Linux version of Dirk
Dashing was released yesterday afternoon, and we've already sold a couple
of copies. We also had an e-mail today from a Linux customer asking us
when we expect to have Linux versions of our other games. I'm encouraged
and excited to discover that there is interest among Linux users about our
Creating the Linux version of
Dirk Dashing was quite a challenge. Linux isn't quite like Windows. There
is only one Windows (though there are multiple versions like
98/ME/2000/XP) because Microsoft is the only one who produces it, and the
source code is not freely available. But with Linux, the source code is
available, so multiple companies have picked it up and created lots of
different flavors of Linux (called distributions).
It was very difficult to
create a version of Dirk Dashing that could install and run on multiple
distributions. Every distribution is a little bit different from all the
others, as far as what version of the Linux source code was used, how the
"Start" menu is organized, and how the operating system is
configured. There are standards, but not all of the distributions follow
all of the standards. And unfortunately, finding information about all of
the standards and what one has to do to create a program that will run on
most of the distributions is a challenge. It isn't documented very well,
and there isn't one place where you can go and find all the answers you
I've learned a lot about Linux
in the past two months as we have prepared for this release, thanks to a
number of individuals within the Linux community who have helped me. And
I've decided that I will write an article (or more realistically a series
of articles) to share this information with other developers. Hopefully,
they can benefit from what I've learned and it will be easier for them to
create Linux versions of their games.
Thursday, October 12, 2006 -
Catching Our Breath
We're now six days past the
release of Dirk Dashing: Secret Agent, and so far the game is doing
well. We've had hundreds of downloads, and the download count grows
rapidly from day to day, as the game finds its way onto more and more
shareware sites and download repositories. Our download-to-sales
conversion ratio is very good - in fact, it far exceeds both Fashion Cents
and Word Play combined! Yesterday, we broke our all-time record for
the most sales in a single day - you should have heard the whoops and
cheers! The game is also beginning to earn some awards, which I have
posted on both of our web sites.
We're taking a break before
starting our next project. We have worked very hard this past year
to complete the game, and we need a little time off. We haven't
stopped work completely, however - we're wrapping up testing on the Linux
version of Dirk Dashing within the next few days, and will be releasing it
very soon. We're also starting to port the game to Mac OS. But
the big deadline has passed, so we're not working as hard as we
were. It's nice to keep normal working hours again, and have some
I'll keep you posted as to
when the Mac OS version of Dirk Dashing will be available, and when we
start working on our next project: Fashion Cents Deluxe! Stay tuned!
Saturday, September 30, 2006 - One Week Left!
Actually, only six days remain until the official release of Dirk Dashing: Secret Agent!
At long last,
game development is complete. All of the game levels are finished,
including the levels we wanted to revise. We added a lot of finishing
touches to the game this past week, like additional AI enhancements,
some special effects, and usability improvements. We also added
some last minute features that were recommended by our testers. And we
finished our runtime analysis, which helped us find and plug several
memory leaks. In short, the game code is very solid, and we feel the
game is stable, feature-complete, and ready to ship!
In preparation for the official release, we are now busy assembling all of our game marketing materials. We are collecting fresh screen
captures, authoring web pages, writing press releases, developing ad
banners, lining up ad placements on various shareware sites, and
working on a whole host of other activities that need to be done before
we can release.
We are also in
the process of creating and testing the final installer for the game -
this includes both Windows and Linux. There is an outside chance that
we might be ready to release the Linux version along with the WIndows
version on October 6. The Linux version of the game itself is
definitely ready for release; however, creating an installer that will
work on most distributions has proven to be quite a challenge. Our two
beta testers for Linux have been very patient with us as we have been
learning and figuring out some of the quirks of the Linux operating
system. Now that we think we have the installer issues resolved, we
want to take time to test out the installer on as many distributions as
we can prior to release. If we can test it on enough distributions
before next Friday, we might decide to release it along with the
Windows version; otherwise, we'll hold back the Linux release until the
starting to look into porting the game to Mac OS. Hopefully, it will be
a relatively easy process. I will keep you posted.
In the meantime, stay tuned to our web site for the big premiere of Dirk Dashing!
Friday, September 22, 2006 - Two Weeks to Go!
Only two weeks left until the official release of Dirk Dashing: Secret Agent!
In the past
week, we have made significant progress on the game. The full version
beta test has gone very well on Windows so far. No major bugs or
issues have been found, and the testers have only reported a handful of
minor problems, most of which we have already fixed. The game has been
tested on a wide range of computer hardware now, from 1.2 GHz machines
to 3.2 GHz machines. The testers report good game performance on all
computer configurations so far.
development side, we revamped two older levels, bringing them up
to par with the quality of some of our newest level designs. We made
some additional performance improvements to the game, some of which
resulted in significant gains, so the game should run even better than
the testers have reported so far. We started doing some runtime
analysis of the game to discover and fix any memory leaks that might be
present in the game. And we added a few new features to the game,
including some AI enhancements and some new interactive cartoon gags.
A draft of the
official Dirk Dashing Hints and Tricks Sheet was written this week,
which will be given to players who purchase the full version of the
game. The Hints and Tricks Sheet will help players maximize their
enjoyment of the game by revealing some of the larger secrets of
the game levels. The sheet also tells you how to set up all of the
interactive cartoon gags, so you can have the most fun with the
dimwitted red-shirt thugs.
We still have much to do in the remaining two weeks. Stay tuned!
Friday, September 15, 2006 - Three Weeks to Go!
There are only
three weeks left until the official release of Dirk Dashing: Secret
Agent! And we are extremely busy here at My Game Company!
We finished the
final level of the game on Labor Day Weekend. The final showdown with
the nefarious Pique Pockette is very exciting, and I am very pleased
with the way this level turned out. It is very different from all of
the other levels in the game, and fits the secret agent theme of the
game very well. I would love to do more levels like this, but that will
have to wait until Dirk Dashing 2.
We started our
third and final beta test one week ago. This beta features the full
version of the game on both Windows and Linux, and unlike our previous
two beta releases, this beta is not open to the general public. We
obviously don't want the full version of the game to get out before we
are ready. The beta testers consist of customers and supporters of our
company who have contributed to the development, testing, or promotion
of our games in the past, as well as some friends of mine in the ASP
(Association of Shareware Professionals). So far, the feedback of
the testers has been very positive. Most of the feedback has consisted
of suggestions for minor improvements, and except for one report
of a tester having a problem installing the game, there have been no
reports of any bugs or serious defects. This has been very encouraging
have been busy working to improve the game performance on older and
slower hardware. I've also been adding some finishing touches to the
game, including instructional folders on level
1-1, enhancements to the artificial intelligence of the
enemies, and little animation flourishes for certain characters.
We still have
to produce all of the promotional material for the game, including
updated screen captures, press release, advertisement writeups, banner
ads, web site pages, etc. Plus we need to create the official install
programs for the game, add the product to our online store,
purchase advertising spots on various shareware sites so that we
have the spots reserved when we are ready to release the game, and so
much more. The next three weeks will be very busy for us. But it will
all be worth it at the end, when we can finally get this fun game into
the hands of our customers! Stay tuned!
Thursday, August 24, 2006 - Two Ends are Better Than One
We're down to
the last level in Dirk Dashing, and it's been a challenge to create. I
wanted to make sure the game has an exciting, action-packed climax -
the big showdown between agent Dirk Dashing and his nemesis... but
If you know
anything about the storyline, you know that Dirk's mission is to
recover seven stolen diamonds from international jewel thief, Pique
Pockette. But the E.V.I.L. organization of spies is also after the
diamonds, and along the way, Dirk is battling the forces of E.V.I.L. to
get to the diamonds first.
there has to be a showdown between Dirk Dashing and Pique Pockette,
where the player (in the role of Dirk Dashing) gets a chance to capture
the thief. But I also felt there needed to be a showdown with the
E.V.I.L. organization, who had been competing with Dirk during the
whole game. It seemed to me that E.V.I.L. needed to be included in the
final level somehow.
couldn't decide what to do, I finally decided to have two separate
showdowns in two separate levels. The climactic battle between Dirk
Dashing and Pique Pockette will be in the very last level of the game.
But I modified the storyline a little bit to include a second showdown
with the E.V.I.L. organization, which is featured in the third and
final secret level. If you find the secret level, you have an
opportunity to pursue the E.V.I.L. agent who was negotiating with Pique
Pockette to purchase the stolen diamonds. But don't worry - we ended
the secret level in such a way that will allow those E.V.I.L. agents to
return in a future sequel.
We finished the
final secret level last weekend, and it is a lot of fun to play. We
chose the castle dungeons for the setting, and used a number of dark
textures to create an appropriate ambience. Every E.V.I.L. agent you
encounter in the game makes an appearance in this level. There is a
large variety of characters, traps, and hazards, which makes it very
exciting and challenging. This is probably the hardest level we
designed for the game, and it requires every trick and skill that you learned
along the way in order to get through it. Those of you who find this secret level are in for a real treat!
Saturday, August 5, 2006 - Famous Art
working on decorations for the castle that is featured in the final
levels of Dirk Dashing. I wanted to have tapestries or paintings on the
walls, to make it look like a luxurious medieval castle. Sounds simple
At first I
tried drawing some tapestries, but I began to discover how much work
goes into producing an ornately decorated tapestry. So I went online to
try to find some simpler patterns. I typed "castle tapestries"
into Google, and started looking at tapestry designs produced by
others. I found some tapestries that had reproductions of renaissance
paintings on them. That gave me the idea that instead of creating some
elaborate tapestries, I could use renaissance paintings by Leonardo da
Vinci, Raphael, and other famous artists. That would fit perfectly with
the castle theme, and I think the paintings themselves are public
for a couple of hours longer, I found some public domain photos of
several of my favorite renaissance paintings, and the pictures
were of pretty good quality. I loaded them into my art program,
and adjusted the sizes to fit with the game art. I then loaded them
into one of the Dirk Dashing levels and tried it out. It didn't look
right at all. The paintings were too detailed, and did not fit with the
rest of the artwork in Dirk Dashing. Besides, even though I knew I
could freely use the art in my game, I had this feeling in the pit of
my stomach that I shouldn't use the paintings. It wasn't my artwork. So, back to the drawing board (no pun intended).
Next, I tried
painting my own pictures. The problem is that I am feeling the pressure
of time and the need to get this project completed. So nothing I
painted turned out well at all, because I painted them in a hurry. And
I didn't want to spend weeks painting a half dozen or so pictures to
hang in the castle. So at this point, I was frustrated and decided to
take a break for lunch.
I was halfway
through my sandwich when inspiration struck. I suddenly remembered that
I had an entire portfolio of drawings and paintings that I did in my
high school art class. So I pulled out my portfolio case and spread the
art out over the floor. I quickly took inventory of what I had - a
painting of Curwood Castle in Owosso, Michigan; a colored pencil
drawing of a lakeside dock with some boats, an ebony pencil drawing of
a series of waterfalls, another ebony pencil drawing of a beach
But I couldn't
scan the artwork because our scanner only handles 8-1/2 by 11 inches.
So I had to use my digital camera to photograph the artwork, and then
download it into my computer. I sized it so it was consistent with
the rest of the game art, and then I tried it out. It looks pretty
good, if I do say so myself. And best of all - it's my own work.
So when you
finally purchase Dirk Dashing and you play the final levels in the
game, stop a moment to look at my paintings hanging on the walls.
My art may never make it into a museum, but it is on display in a
Sunday, July 31, 2006 - Back to Work
The mockingbirds left our yard about a week ago. They left gradually, one
at a time, until finally they were all gone. We really enjoyed watching
them grow and learn, and we thank the Lord for the privilege of
observing that process.
Now that we
have had a chance to take a little break and recharge our batteries,
we've resumed work on Dirk Dashing. We're in the final stretch, and
we're hard at work to wrap up the game production. We cranked out
two complete levels this past weekend (a total of nine individual game
maps), fixed a number of bugs in the
code, and started sketching out the maps for the final levels. We also
finalized the details for the big end battle between Dirk and the
villain, Pique Pockette.
about wrapping up production on Dirk Dashing, so I envision a number of
late nights for us over the coming weeks. Stay tuned!
Sunday, July 16, 2006 - Baby Mockingbirds
We're taking a break this weekend from Dirk Dashing to enjoy the little family of mockingbirds that God has blessed us with.
We have a
cobblestone patio behind our house. Our patio cover is made of white
lattice and covered by wisteria vines, which provides a natural shade
covering for us. Back in May, a pair of mockingbirds built a nest up
there, underneath the green leaves. They laid three blue-speckled
eggs, which finally hatched several weeks ago. We've been listening to
the babies ever since, squeaking and screeching as their parents bring
them food. But we didn't get to really see them until this
morning, we saw one of the babies hopping around in the backyard. It
had found its way out of the nest and fallen to the ground. It's mom
was right there, though, bringing it food and keeping an eye on it. It
couldn't go far, though, because our yard is fenced in. The baby
mockingbird was cute to watch. It pretty clumsy, occasionally tripping
over the grass and falling on its face. It also stretched its
wings a lot, trying to figure out how to fly. It tried to hop up on the
flower pots and patio furniture, but frequenty misjudged the distance
and jumped while it was too far away. And once it did manage to hop up
onto something, it would sometimes lose its balance and fall off.
the end of the day, it had already learned a lot. Victoria and I were
surprised by how much growth and development we observed over the
course of a single day. It had figured out how to hop up onto things,
how to keep its balance while it was perched, and how to hop back down
Over the course
of the day, its siblings joined it. The second one fell to the ground
later in the afternoon. It looked a little more developed than the
first one. The third one came down about 7 PM, kicking and screaming as
its mom knocked him down to the ground.
As the sun set, the baby mockingbirds found places to sleep. The first baby, the one who had been down the longest, managed to
its way up to the top of one of the patio chairs, where it slept for
the night. The second slept on a trellis in the garden, where we have a
small crop of sweet peas growing. The third one slept in the lattice
work on the side of the gazebo, which is in the back corner of the
we found all three birds awake and continuing to explore the yard. They
are all continuing to grow and learn, and we expect they will be gone
within the next day or so, when they finally learn how to fly. I'm sure
they will probably continue to hang around our neighborhood, but we
probably won't recognize them.
decided to take a break from game development this weekend and enjoy
the birds. We are eager to finish up Dirk Dashing and move on to a
new project, but sometimes you just have to stop and enjoy the rare
opportunities to see something truly amazing. This was one such
opportunity we did not want to miss. Our Creator is awesome!
Saturday, July 15, 2006 - Bombshelle
finished animating one of our last Dirk Dashing characters this week,
probably the most dangerous E.V.I.L. agent Dirk will face in the game.
She will show up in a handful of levels towards the end of the
game, and her name is Bombshelle. I'm sure you can guess what her
favorite attack is, but in case you can't, I've posted a screen capture
of Bombshelle in action on our Dirk Dashing web site. Just go to
the Preview page at http://www.dirkdashing.com/preview.htm, you can't miss her.
not the main villain in the game, as you may or may not know.
Dirk Dashing is after an international jewel thief named Pique
Pockette. We're not going to show you what he looks like.
You will have to wait until the game is released!
Saturday, July 8, 2006 - Dirk Dashing Production is Nearing Completion!
It has been a
long time coming, but we will be wrapping up production on our newest
game, Dirk Dashing, within the next few weeks. There are just a
handful of levels left to build and two animated characters to finish.
Once that is done, main production on the game will be finished.
So what happens
then? First, the game will enter the final phase of
development, where it will be rigorously tested by our test team.
The testers will be hammering on all aspects of the game, so we
can find and fix as many bugs and problems as we possibly can. We
will also implement the next phase of our beta test program, where we
provide the full version of the game to a select group of people.
The goal of the beta test will be to run the game on as many
different computer systems as possible.
time, we will also be tweaking the game. One primary area of
tweaking is to improve the game performance so the game can run on
some older hardware. We will also add lots of finishing touches to the
game animation and behavior, to make the game more interesting and
Second, we will
be working on our marketing and promotional material for the game. This
will include development of the new web site and advertisements that we
will run on various shareware and gaming web sites.
I hope to be able to announce the official release date for Dirk Dashing sometime in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned!
Monday, June 26, 2006 - Word Play Tops the Sales Charts!
interesting to observe how this internet business grows and works over
time. Things just happen sometimes that you just can't explain or
understand. It's almost as if the business has a life of its own!
Case in point:
is our flagship product, and has traditionally been our best seller
each month. Word Play does well, but as fun and addicting as the game is, let's face it: there are
lots of word games around. So each month when I look at our sales
graph, I have become accustomed to seeing the Fashion Cents bar a lot
higher than the Word Play bar. That's just the way our monthly sales
graph has always looked.
Until this past
month. This time when I looked at our sales chart, I had a
pleasant surprise: our Word Play sales have exploded! If you think I am
exaggerating, let me elaborate: in the span of one month, the Word Play sales didn't double or
triple - they quadrupled! And for the first time ever, Word
Play overtook Fashion Cents on our sales chart. Wow!
interesting, because we did not change the marketing plan or
advertising approach for Word Play. In fact, we haven't done any
special advertising at all. But somehow the game has suddenly found its way into
the hands of many different people that live in many different places,
and they have been purchasing it. I don't know how that happened,
but it was a thrilling discovery!
Saturday, June 3, 2006 - So You Want to Make Computer Games...
When I meet
some of the kids who play our games, a lot of them tell me something
like this: "I like your games. I would like to make games too
when I grow up."
If you want to
write computer games for a living, then it will be very important to do
well in school. I think I use almost every school subject when I
do my job.
- Math - if you want to
write games, you will use math a lot! Almost everything in
computer programming involves math. Even if you aren't interested
in writing programs and instead want to do graphics and music, or get
involved in the business aspect of a game company, you will definitely
need math skills. Almost every day I use geometry, algebra, statistics,
and even calculus.
- Science and Physics - To
create realistic effects in games, you will need to understand the
basic laws of physics, like gravity, velocity, acceleration,
light, sound, etc, so that you can realistically model these effects in
- English and Composition -
Believe it or not, I do a lot of writing in my job. I write
business plans, design documents, advertisements, press releases, web
pages, and more. You definitely need to learn to write well so
that everything you write looks correct and professional. Poor
grammar and poor writing skills will not earn respect from investors
and customers, and can be devastating to your business and your career.
- Art - Even if you can't
draw or paint, your should at least learn about colors,
composition, and other basic art concepts. It will help a
lot when you are designing a game.
- Computers - obviously.
If you want to program games, don't just learn how to use a
computer. Learn how it works inside, so that you can write games
that run well.
- Economics - writing
computer games can be fun, but it is a business like any other.
You need to learn about basic economics and how to run a business
so that you can succeed. Otherwise, you won't get to write games
for very long before you run out of money and go out of business.
Make sure you learn about accounting, investing, copyrights
and trademarks, intellectual property, types of business organizations
(sole proprietorship, partnership, corporations), taxes, and so on.
are the ones I use the most, but other subjects are important too.
Subjects like geography, humanities, psychology, and religion help
you understand other people, as well as other countries... not just
yours. We sell games to customers in many countries, so it helps
to understand people so you can write games that they will like, or
help them when they have a problem with your game. Subjects like
history and sports are great because they can give you ideas for your
If you are
older and getting ready to start college, and you want to know if there
are any schools that teach how to make computer games, there are.
Check out this article on gamedev.net about game development
recommend a more generic degree, however, like a Business, Computer
Science, or Engineering degree. You can still get into computer
games with such a degree, but if you change your mind or decide later
that you want to do something different, or if you have a hard time
finding a job in the computer games business (which can happen), then
the more generic degree will still help you find a good job. People
who earn a degree in game development will not be able to use it
to apply for jobs in other fields.
can be fun, but if you want it to be your career, then you need to work
at it and do well in school. Computer games is a very competitive
business, and game companies only hire the best.
Saturday, May 27, 2006 - Nvu: A New View for Linux
Over the past
five months, I've managed My Game Company from two different computers
- I use my new SUSE Linux system for game development, accounting,
managing project schedules, and office-related tasks, and I use my
Windows XP laptop for creating game artwork, managing the web sites,
and processing orders.
My goal is to
manage My Game Company from one computer (my desktop Linux machine),
but the problem is finding programs on Linux that can do what my old
Windows programs can do. As I mentioned in earlier posts, I have
MS Office and Quicken running under Linux using a product called
Crossover Office, and I have found competent replacement programs on
Linux for most of the other Windows programs I need, except for two:
Frontpage (which I use to maintain our web sites) and Corel PhotoPaint
6 (which I use for game art).
This past week, I finally found a worthy Linux replacement for Frontpage - it's called Nvu.
It is just as easy to use as Frontpage, and it lets me edit my
web pages in an intuitive WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get)
way. And like most of my other Linux software, it is open source
and available for free! I've been looking for a Linux program
like Frontpage for a long time, and I am thrilled that I have finally
found it! In fact, when I updated my blog yesterday, I used Nvu!
The one thing I
don't like about Nvu is how it publishes pages. With Frontpage, I
kept a local copy of my entire web site on my hard drive - I could edit
pages to my heart's content, and changes wouldn't be reflected on my
web site until I published. But with Nvu, it connects directly to
my web site and lets me edit my web pages directly. I'm sure some
folks may like this feature, but I don't. I'm always editing,
proofing, editing some more, changing my mind, etc, so I save
frequently. I don't want intermediate results reflected on the
web site. Nvu lets you save intermediate versions of your files
on your local hard drive until you are ready to publish them, but that
just doesn't feel natural to me. Maybe I'm just too used to the
workflow in Frontpage.
does allow me to specify a directory on my hard drive and treat it as
my web site, so in this way, I can keep a local copy of the web site on
my hard drive and use Nvu to edit it. But I'm not using Nvu to
publish pages. Instead, I am using an FTP program to do the
publishing. And that is working out just fine.
The main thing
I needed on Linux was a way to edit web pages WYSIWYG (because I don't
want to write HTML code), and I had not found a decent program for that
until now. Nvu fits the bill nicely!
Now, if I can
just find a good image editing program for Linux to replace my aging
Corel PhotoPaint 6, I can put my Windows XP laptop back in the closet
and sail off into the sunset with my trusty new OS - Linux!
Friday, May 26, 2006 - One More Photo from Gull Road Elementary
Mr. Howell, the
fourth grade teacher from Gull Road Elementary, which I mentioned in
Wednesday's blog entry, sent me one more photo.
He writes: "Here is one more picture.
We were able to get a better shot of Lizzy. It's Lizzy's turn, and
she's on level 9! As I said, 'All the girls love the game!'"
Thanks again, Mr. Howell! It looks like you have a fun class!
Wednesday, May 24, 2006 - Playing
Fashion Cents is Elementary!
It is interesting to me how many schools
have purchased our games for educational and recreational use. We did
not anticipate this when we started My Game Company, because our original
vision was to produce clean games for kids that were fun but not necessarily
educational. Because our focus wasn't strictly educational, we did not
expect schools to be interested in our games. But we have been
pleasantly surprised at the increasing attention that we have received from
schools about our games, and we have enjoyed forming partnerships with a
number of schools and after-school groups around the United States.
One such school is Gull Road
Elementary. I received some photos today from the fourth grade
teacher, Mr. Howell. He sent me the following photos of the girls in
his class playing Fashion Cents, and gave me permission to share them with
you. You can click on the thumbnails to see the larger version.
In the first photo two of his students,
Claire and Amber, are playing Fashion Cents on the school laptops. The
other two photos show Monica and Allie playing on a computer that is
connected to a SmartBoard.
The SmartBoard is a touch-sensitive display that connects to a computer and
a digital projector. With it, the girls can touch the clothing pieces
with their fingers and then touch a doll or shelf to place the pieces.
The screen they are using is a 60-inch screen. Very cool!
Mr. Howell tells me that Fashion Cents is
very popular with the girls in his class, who refer to it as "The Girl
Game." It is so popular, he says he has to kick them out of the
class during recess on warm sunny days! I understand the boys are
excited about our upcoming Dirk Dashing game, and are already referring to
it as "The Boy's Game!"
Thank you, Mr. Howell, for sharing these
photos with us!
Friday, May 20, 2006 - New Shareware
Both Fashion Cents and Word Play recently
received some more shareware awards:
Word Play received Editor's
Pick awards from www.redsofts.com
Fashion Cents received 5-star awards
from the same sites!
Both games received awards from www.cleansofts.com
for being 100% free of spyware, adware, and viruses!
We're always proud of the awards that our
shareware products have received, because they reflect the hard work and
effort we put into our games!
Thursday, May 18, 2006 - Sneak Peek of
New Dirk Dashing Levels!
Over on www.dirkdashing.com,
we have posted a brand new preview page where we will feature sneak peeks of
recent levels that we have completed for Dirk Dashing. This is part of
our ongoing coverage of the game development process, which will continue
right up until the game's release!
We've posted a few screenshots of three
recent levels. Head on over and check them out!
Friday, May 12, 2006 - Dirk Dashing
You may have noticed that my blog hasn't
been updated in a few weeks. We've been busy working on Dirk Dashing,
and we've made some good progress. We completed several brand new
levels since my last posting.
We've also received some feedback from
Dirk Dashing Beta #2 in recent weeks, and we have been making some updates
to the game in response. For example, we're adding additional mission
folders to Chapter 1-1 that will serve as in-game instructions to get the
player started. We're tweaking the enemy AI, and giving some of the
E.V.I.L. henchmen the ability to walk around on patrol, rather than standing
still and waiting for Dirk to come along. We have also made some
additional performance improvements and bug fixes, enabling the game to run
smoother on certain lower-end computers.
We're in the final stretch of the
development process, and our goal now is to produce the remaining game
levels as quickly as possible so we can get the full game into the hands of
our testers. Stay tuned!
Monday, April 17, 2006 - Super soniK!
In my March 4 blog entry, titled "So How's
That Linux Thing Going, Really?", I talked about what I really think of
Linux after having used it for several months. I had said that for the
most part, I was quite happy with it, but I mentioned several areas that I
found disappointing. One of them was the lack of a good sound editor,
since I had not been able to find a good WAV editor for Linux that is as
easy to use as Creative Wave Studio, by Creative Labs. As a game
developer, this is a program I absolutely need.
That all changed when someone recommended
an open source program called soniK.
Yeah, I know it's spelled funny. Don't ask me why. But it is a
handy little sound editor for Linux that is almost as easy to use as Wave
Studio. I can visualize a sound effect file as a waveform, I can edit
it using cut/copy/paste, crop it, adjust the volume, convert it to different
WAV formats, and apply dozens of effects to it... basically, everything I
could do with Wave Studio! It's great!
That's one of my five Linux complaints
that has now been resolved! Four to go!
Thursday, April 13, 2006 - Mine!
We finished a brand new Dirk Dashing
level today... we've been working on this one for nearly two weeks! It
takes place inside a mine, as you can see from the screenshot below.
This particular level required a lot more
custom artwork than other levels we have done. There are wooden beams
that support the ceiling, wooden door frames, mining carts that travel along
railroad tracks, new cave textures that complement our existing set of cave
walls and floors, and so much more. There was also some custom
programming that we added for a new cartoon gag, which allows Dirk to trick
bad guys into running into the path of oncoming mining carts!
Wham! They go a-flying!
It took a lot of work to create this
particular level! But it is one of my favorites, so I had to share it
Tuesday, April 11, 2006 - Dirk Dashing
The Dirk Dashing production diary has
been updated with some brand new material, including a new section called
"Fine-Tooning the Game". The new section expands on my
recent blog entry "Fine-Tooning Dirk", and provides some
screenshots that demonstrate one of the cartoon gags that we added to the
game! I also rearranged some of the material, and added new material
to the "Game Scenery" section.
Head on over to www.dirkdashing.com
and check it out!
Wednesday, March 22, 2006 - Stay
We're wrapping up the final changes for
our second Dirk Dashing beta, which I hope to release this weekend!
The new cartoon interactions that we've added have been a big hit with our
testers, and everything is looking good. The audio problems are gone -
the music no longer cuts out, and the sound effects are all working as
expected. We've also made some significant performance improvements in
the graphics engine, which should provide for higher frame rates and
The first four levels in the game have
been completely reworked. We ended up tossing out the original level
1-4 and replacing it with a brand new level. Most of the gameplay
issues have been resolved, with better item placement, better building
interiors, more gadgets, and more hidden areas. The new timing
mechanism speeds up the pace of the game considerably, especially in full
I hope you will try the new beta version
when it comes out, and tell us what you think. We have about 4-5
months left before we officially release the game, and your input will be
invaluable to us! Stay "tooned" for the official release of
our second Dirk Dashing beta this weekend!
Thursday, March 16, 2006 - How Cute is
My nieces (ages 7 and 9) enjoy playing
Fashion Cents - they were some of the game's first fans! Anyway, my
sister-in-law found this photograph a week ago on her daughter's digital
camera. Apparently, the girls did this on January 10, 2006, and she
didn't know about it until she found this picture. She sent it to us,
with the caption "How cute is this?"
I laughed when I saw how all the dolls
were lined up the same way they are in Fashion Cents - five on top and five
below, with most of the hair colors and skin tones in the same position as
their Fashion Cents counterparts! Isn't it adorable?
Wednesday, March 8, 2006 - Fine-Tooning
Our test team has been hammering on our
latest Dirk Dashing build, and in addition to the usual bug reports, we have
received a lot of positive feedback from our testers. That is very
encouraging! The snow weather effects are a big hit with the team -
it's amazing how little finishing touches like that can make such a big
difference in the gaming experience. Even though it doesn't improve
the gameplay at all, it does add a lot to the atmosphere of the game.
The other change that our testers really like is the new and improved level
1-2 warehouse. It feels more like a warehouse now, and there are
several directions you can go to navigate through it. The testers also
like that you can now drop crates on the bad guys - the game is definitely
starting to develop a more cartoon-like feel to it. We plan to add
more interactions like that to take advantage of the cartoon aspect of the
One of the negative comments we received
with the IGF anonymous judge feedback in January was this comment: Dirk
Dashing "lacks punch". So I have been overdosing on Looney
Tunes cartoons, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?", and other cartoon
shows for the past two months. I've been studying them to learn what
elements make an entertaining cartoon, with the goal of introducing more of
those elements into the game. Of course, nobody believes me when I'm
watching cartoons and I explain that
I'm studying them. Hey, can I help
it if I enjoy my work?
Anyway, I've been learning a lot, and
here are some of my findings:
Visual gags - every good cartoon has
them, and if done right, they are funny! I think we can introduce
more slapstick into the game without necessarily making it
violent. Dropping crates on bad guys to knock them out is a good
Variety of gags - I like the
non-lethal knockout gas grenades that Dirk already has, and it is fun to
use them. But let's face it, they get a little boring after
awhile. I think it is because they are the only weapon Dirk's had
until now. It's like hearing the same joke over and over again -
no matter how good it is, it gets stale after you've heard it the
hundredth time. But if it is part of a collection of good jokes,
it lives longer. I can still watch Road Runner cartoons that I've
seen a hundred times, and even though I know every gag by heart, it
still cracks me up. I think it is because there are so many
different gags, and they come at you "randomly". I don't
necessarily know which gag is coming next, but I will recognize it as
soon as I see Wile E. Coyote setting his trap. And even though I
recognize the gag that is coming, it is fun to anticipate it and funny
to watch. I envision giving Dirk a variety of hilarious attacks,
so there are different ways of knocking out the bad guys. The goal
of any game is to entertain the player, and for a cartoon game, I think
this is what the average player would expect.
Verbal gags - a good joke or a play
on words can be very funny, especially for adults. The dialogue in
Rocky and Bullwinkle is a great example - need I say more? This is
one area of the game we are already doing well in. We have clever
chapter titles, humorous tutorial pages, and the brief enemy reactions
are fun to read. Also, Dirk has some witty dialogue in later
levels, which one would expect from a secret agent. Still there is
always room for improvement, and you can never hurt a cartoon by adding
I hope to have some of the new cartoon
interactions ready for our second Dirk Dashing beta, which is coming out
soon. Stay tuned!
Saturday, March 4, 2006 - So How's
That Linux Thing Going, Really?
I started using Linux in January when my
Windows system crashed, and it is easy to get excited about something new
when you've only just acquired it. In fact, I wrote several blog
entries about my excitement over it. But I've been using my new Linux
system for over 6 weeks now, doing real work. So what do I think of it
Well, there are aspects of it that I
really like, and other aspects that need improving. The parts I really
Web Surfing: I use Firefox
as my web browser on both Windows and Linux, and I love it! But I
feel so much safer surfing the net on Linux, because I know I am not
picking up any spyware, adware, or viruses. And even if I did, the
damage it would do is minimal because of the inherent security built
into Linux. Also, web pages seem to load so much faster on Linux.
Quicken and Microsoft Office 2000 run just fine on Linux, thanks to the
handy little program called Crossover
Office. I also have the latest version of Adobe
Acrobat Reader for reading PDF files - Adobe only mentions Windows
and Macintosh on their site, but if you click on the "Get Adobe
Reader" button, you can select Linux as your OS. Excellent!
Palm Pilot Connectivity:
I love the fact that my Palm Tungsten T2 syncs so well with my Linux
applications (this wasn't the case two years ago). For an
executive on the go, this is a must!
CD Burning: I haven't
been able to find a free CD Burning program that is easy to use.
For awhile I was using K3B, which
comes preinstalled. It did a good job, but the user interface is
not very intuitive. Then I discovered that Nero makes a Linux
version of their popular CD burning software, called NeroLINUX.
It's easy to use, and works like a champ! And it's only
Software development: I
seem to be much more productive on Linux in this area. Compiling
and debugging programs is so much faster than using Visual Studio
.NET. The debugger I am using is not quite as intuitive, but it
gets the job done and I think it is actually faster and more responsive.
The parts that I find disappointing:
Zip Drive: My internal
Zip 250 drive only reads 100 MB disks on Linux, and reading and writing
is very slow. This is the only hardware component I have that
doesn't work well under Linux.
Sound Editing: As a
game developer, I need a good WAV file editor. I've been using
Creative WaveStudio for years, but I can't find anything as powerful or
easy to use on Linux. So I still do my sound effects editing on
Image Editing: I
haven't been able to find a good art program for Linux that lets me edit
pictures at a pixel level (something I absolutely need to make
games). The popular open source GIMP
program is ok, but I don't like the color selector or the way it handles
image resizing. Actually this isn't a Linux-specific gripe because
I haven't been able to find a good art program for Windows either, but
at least my old copy of Corel PhotoPaint 6 still works on Windows.
I did try installing Corel PhotoPaint 6 on Linux using Crossover Office,
and I had high hopes after it installed flawlessly - but alas, the
program wouldn't start. It's too old, I guess. So I've been
doing a lot of my game art on my Windows laptop with Corel PhotoPaint 6.
Multimedia: SUSE Linux
10 doesn't come with the ability to play encrypted DVDs, Windows Media
files, or other proprietary media files/formats. You can add this
capability, but you have to do it on your own and it is not very well
documented (for legal reasons). I was able to do it, and it wasn't
hard to do, but this is something that the average home user isn't going
to put up with. From the average user's perspective, there is no
reason this shouldn't work as easily and as smoothly as it does on
Windows. However, the situation is changing. Today, I
discovered one Linux distribution called TurboLinux
that has legally licensed the official Microsoft WMF codecs so you can
play Windows Media files, and it comes prebundled with a Linux version
of Cyberlink's PowerDVD software so you can legally play encrypted
DVDs. So I don't think it is long before other Linux distributions
like SUSE follow suit.
Games: There aren't
many games available yet for Linux, but that's something My Game Company
hopes to start changing! You can play a lot of Windows games on
Linux using a product called Cedega,
but it is only available on a subscription basis (which means you have
to continually pay to keep using the product). Personally, I think
that is a rip-off, but it seems to work for them - they have been in
business for several years.
Bottom line: SUSE Linux 10 is working
very well for me. I still use my Windows laptop for sound editing,
image editing, and managing the web site. But everything else is
working fine, and overall I am satisfied with Linux.
Monday, February 27, 2006 - Testing,
As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we
are in the process of revamping some of the earlier levels in Dirk Dashing
to fix gameplay issues and incorporate new features. The revisions for
the first two levels were completed this weekend, and we're in the process
of getting them into the hands of our testers, who haven't had an updated
build since before my Windows PC crashed six weeks ago!
The new build contains not only the
revised first two levels but also a ton of program changes, including the
new timing mechanism, snow and weather effects, soft camera movement,
performance improvements, sound engine rewrites, and miscellaneous bug
fixes. I'm looking forward to unleashing our test team on this new
If all goes well, we hope to release our
second Dirk Dashing beta within the next 2-3 weeks. Stay tuned!
Thursday, February 23, 2006 - Spam
Spam filters are becoming increasingly
more common on home computers, due to the growing volume of junk e-mail
(also called spam). A spam filter is a piece of software that screens
your incoming e-mail, using keyword searches and statistical algorithms to
identify potential spam e-mail. Some e-mail programs have spam filters
built-in, so customers may not even be aware that they have one. Some
anti-virus products, like the Zone Alarm Security Suite, also provide a spam
Some spam filters are better than others,
but the bottom line is this: there is no perfect spam filter. No spam
filter is 100% accurate. So if you use a spam filter, the chances are
that some spam is going to get through to your inbox - and some legitimate
e-mails are not. The only thing worse than spam getting through to
your inbox is for you to miss a critical message because it was caught by
your spam filter.
This can cause major problems for companies such
as My Game Company whose emails you have requested but are being blocked by
spam filters. By far, the most common
support question we receive is from customers who have purchased our game
but have not received their registration e-mail. And in almost every
case, the problem has been traced to a finicky spam filter.
So what can you do? Well, here are
Some spam filters have the option to
automatically delete suspected spam. Never use this setting!
It could end up deleting legitimate e-mail!
Most spam filters give you the option
of redirecting suspected spam e-mail to a "junk mail"
folder. This is the safest way to configure your spam
filter. Once you do this, you should regularly scan through the
contents of your "junk mail" folder to look for valid
e-mails. I do this once a week, and it only takes a couple of
minutes. I usually find one or two legitimate e-mails that were
mistakenly classified as spam, which I then drag back into my
inbox. I don't even bother to open the rest... I just delete them.
A good anti-spam program will have a
white listing mechanism, by which you can specify that e-mails from
certain addresses should always be delivered, regardless of what
"spam rules" they trigger. Some spam filters call this a
"safe sender" list or a "safe recipient" list.
Make sure everyone in your address book is on the white list, as well as
companies like ours whose e-mails you have requested (because you
purchased software, or signed up for a newsletter, or whatever).
Some spam programs use your address
book as their white list. So if you want to be sure you receive
e-mail from someone, add their e-mail address to your address book.
Some spam programs have an option to
"Block mail containing pictures
or files". Most legitimate companies nowadays send HTML
e-mails containing graphics and hyperlinks because it gives their e-mail
a professional appearance. Unfortunately, that means that such a
setting would probably block not only spam but also a lot of legitimate
e-mails. It is up to you whether you want to turn this option on
or off, but I wanted to mention it so that you are aware of it. If
you setup your spam filter according to bullet #2 above, then it's safe
enough to leave this option on.
Hopefully, these tips will prevent your
spam filter from intercepting and deleting any legitimate e-mails you want
Tuesday, February 21, 2006 - Shareware
Both Fashion Cents and Word Play recently
received some more shareware awards:
Both games were awarded 5-stars from
a new shareware site: www.gearsbox.com!
Both games were awarded Clean awards
from www.softpedia.com, which
certifies them as free from spyware, adware, and viruses!
Fashion Cents received an Editor's
Pick award from www.softpedia.com!
Receiving these awards reminded me of a
topic I've wanted to blog about for some time now. If you've seen our
product pages and noticed the awards column on the right, you may have
wondered exactly what all these awards mean. I'd like to set the
record straight about that. And I'll tell you why in a moment.
Shareware sites receive dozens, if not
hundreds, of new product submissions every day from shareware developers and
distributors. If you've visited any shareware sites recently, you've
probably noticed the lengthy product listings, and you have probably
scrolled down page after page after page of obscure shareware titles.
Many shareware sites provide ratings and/or reviews to help visitors quickly
find quality software.
In many cases, the operators of these
shareware sites will rate products on their own initiative. In that
event, developers do not have to request a rating or review, nor do they pay
to have their product reviewed. This is great for their visitors and
for the shareware developers, you may ask, but what's in it for the
shareware site? Why would they provide this free service?
I've read blog entries and articles from
various folks in the industry who think the awards are bogus - that
shareware sites give every product 5/5 stars only so developers will link
back to their site and give them free advertising. I don't know
whether this actually happens or not, but if it does, it does not appear to
be the norm. Most shareware sites that I have visited have page after
page of entries that have no award of any kind. While free advertising
is certainly a benefit, I don't think that is their primary motivation for
rating or reviewing software. And incidentally, most of the folks who
make this complaint are developers who haven't received many awards
I think the real reason that shareware
sites rate or review products is because many shareware distributors and
developers offer affiliate programs. The idea behind an affiliate
program is that if a shareware site refers a visitor to some product and it
results in a sale, then the shareware site would receive a percentage of
that sale. Now, I'm no rocket scientist, but I can put two and two
together. Common sense will tell you that quality products are the
ones that are likely to sell the best. Thus, the operator of a
shareware site will naturally want to point visitors to the quality
merchandise in the hopes of contributing to a sale (and thereby earning a
percentage of it). Hence, the shareware award system.
As an independent developer who is trying
to earn a living via shareware, it really bugs me when someone trash talks
the shareware industry in a public forum like a blog or an article -
especially when they have no real data or facts to back up their
ranting. I don't know if they are just blowing off steam or what their
beef is, but it hurts well-meaning shareware sites, developers, and
distributors who are operating in good faith. Like My Game Company,
many of these sites, developers and distributors also happen to be members
of the Association of Shareware
Professionals (ASP), which has a code of ethics to which its members all
subscribe. If the developers whose blogs and articles I mentioned
earlier had a legitimate complaint, it should have been made to the ASP
We're proud of the awards that our
shareware products have received, because they reflect the hard work and
effort we put into our games. I'm sure other ASP developers feel the
So the next time you see a shareware
product that has won some awards, download it and give it a try. It
probably hasn't won lots of awards for nothing.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - Taking
Dirk Dashing to the Next Level
You can always tell if you're learning
and growing in something - just compare your latest work to your earlier
efforts. If you see flaws in your early work, that's a good sign.
In our case, we have been learning what
qualities make a good Dirk Dashing game level. We started out by
studying the level designs in other similar games, and took note of the
ingredients that we thought made their levels fun to play: start with a
large area to explore, and add to it a collection of interesting characters,
a generous helping of rewards, a dash of puzzles, a healthy sprinkling of
secret areas and hidden goodies, and a twist of humor for good
measure. Then we attempted to emulate those qualities in our
levels. Over time, as we gained experience, we found ways to improve
on those qualities and to take advantage of our own game's unique features
to create some satisfying levels.
Our last few levels have been very
creative, and it is rewarding to see our testers enjoying them. We've
learned a lot in the past few months. But as we become more
experienced in level design, we start to see the flaws in our first game
levels: poor item placement that requires multiple jumps to collect, slow
pacing (though to be fair, the first levels are intentionally designed to be
easy), linear levels that offer little choice as to where to go next, and
not enough gadgets! Unfortunately, many of these pitfalls were also
noticed by the IGF judges, which prevented Dirk Dashing from advancing into
the final round of competition.
We're planning to release an second beta
version of Dirk Dashing soon. So we've decided to revise some of our
earlier levels first, in order to incorporate new features and to fix the
gameplay issues. We want to show everyone how much we've learned and
how far the game engine has progressed. The second beta version should
be much more polished than the first!
We'll let you know when the second beta
version will be available. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, February 7, 2006 - Surfing
Periodically, I hop on the internet for a
couple of hours to see how our games are faring around the net. I plug
our game titles into a search engine and look for reviews, write ups, blog
entries, fan sites, and so on. Sometimes I just find the same sites I
already knew about. Other times, I find lots of interesting new sites
that I wasn't previously aware of.
Today, I discovered these sites that I
thought I would share with you:
It never ceases to amaze me how this
little game we produced in our home office has propagated around the world
via the internet!
Saturday, February 4, 2006 - Fashion
One of our next projects after Dirk
Dashing is released will be a major update to Fashion Cents, which we are
tentatively calling "Fashion Cents Deluxe". We've had many
requests over the past year for new features, for the ability to play the
game on Mac OS, and for many other improvements. We plan to
incorporate many of these requests into the next release of Fashion Cents!
Some of the new features we are currently
considering for Fashion Cents Deluxe are:
Support for Windows, Mac OS, and
Better graphics, using our new
DynaPaint engine from Dirk Dashing
50+ brand new voiceovers from Hilary
Burris, the same talented young lady who recorded the original
voiceovers for the game
An online high-score table
An exciting new two-player mode
Multiple saved games, so each family
member can save their own game
I want to hear about the features you
would like to see in the next major version of Fashion Cents. E-mail
us and share your ideas!
Monday, January 30, 2006 - Timing is
One of the more interesting issues in our
first Dirk Dashing beta was the way the game ran slower in Fullscreen mode
than in Windowed mode. Our beta testers also found that the game ran
at different speeds on different computers.
At the risk of boring you with technical
mumbo jumbo (hint: those who are faint-of-heart should skip to the next
paragraph NOW), the problem was the timing mechanism that I used.
There are two ways to deal with timing in a computer game. One way is
to configure the game to run at a fixed number of frames per second (say, 60
frames per second). Each frame of animation occurs after a specific
amount of time has elapsed, and since the amount of time is fixed, character
and object movements in the game are predictable and consistent (and
therefore easier to program). The other way to handle timing is to let
the game run as fast as it can, and for each frame of animation, determine
the amount of elapsed time since the last frame of animation, and compute
character and object movements accordingly. The first technique is
easier to program, but it can be surprisingly jerky if the speed of the game
(in frames per second) doesn't line up nicely with the refresh rate of the
monitor. The second technique solves this problem by letting the game
run at full speed and keep in sync with whatever the monitor refresh rate
happens to be, but it can be much more difficult to program. The
problem in Dirk Dashing beta #1 was that I tried to be creative and blend
the two techniques (to get the best of both) - I wanted the game to run in
sync with the refresh rate of the monitor (for super-smooth animation), but
I wanted to keep the code simple by using fixed increments for character and
object movements. I had hoped the speed difference when running on
different computers with different monitor refresh rates would not be that
noticeable. I was wrong.
So I spent the past week reworking the
timing mechanisms in Dirk Dashing. After having designed the game
around one timing mechanism and built on that mechanism for over a year, it
was no small chore to replace it with a completely different timing
mechanism. It's like trying to unravel a 200-foot strand of Christmas
tree lights after it has been in a box in the attic for 11 months.
It's all spaghetti! But I did finally get it working again the right
way, and it is so much better. Lesson learned: if you have a job to
do, do it right the first time, and don't take shortcuts - in the end,
you'll regret it.
Monday, January 23, 2006 - Hilarious
Now that my computer is back up and
running (and Linux is running beautifully, by the way), I can finally
continue working on Dirk Dashing. Before I got sidetracked, I was
working on a new weapon for Dirk Dashing, and I had promised to tell you
As I had mentioned before, one of the
criticisms that we got from the anonymous judge feedback in the IGF
competition was that there was only one main attack (the knockout gas
grenades). The same judge also felt that this limited the player's
interaction with the game world. So I set out to design a secondary
weapon for Dirk Dashing, one that would operate a little differently,
provide some interesting interaction with the game environment, and still
remain true to the non-violent nature of the game.
What I came up with is a comically huge
gun - a grenade launcher, in fact. When you discharge it, it shoots
your knockout gas grenades across the screen in a straight line. This
makes it easier to dispatch enemies, but it also has one drawback - it's got
some serious recoil! When you shoot it, it will launch you
backwards! Woe to the player who stands too close the edge of an icy
cliff or a spike-filled pit when he shoots this gun!
I've got more ideas for dealing with the
bad guys, but I'm not going to give everything away! You'll just have
to stay tuned!
Thursday, January 19, 2006 - Tonight,
Dirk Dashing live on Linux!
Yahoo!!! Dirk Dashing is officially
up and running on Linux! It only took me about four hours of work to
port the Dirk Dashing code to Linux, compile it, and run it. I'm very
pleased! There are a few glitches that I need to work out (mostly
audio-related), but the game is very stable and playable. Here is a
screenshot that I took a few minutes ago:
Click on the thumbnail to view a larger
image. As you can see, the game looks the same, but it is running on a
nifty new Linux desktop!
For me, this reaffirms our decision to
write the Dirk Dashing code using portable open source libraries, and not
Microsoft-specific libraries like DirectX. Our customers will be able
to use any operating system they want - Windows, Linux, or MacOS - and still
be able to play our games!
Wednesday, January 18, 2006 - Linux to
I got a little sidetracked during the
last few days, after my Windows computer died on me. This particular
computer has been my primary computer for running My Game Company, including
fulfillment of Fashion Cents and Word Play orders, development of Dirk
Dashing, maintaining our web sites, etc. I'm still not sure what
happened - it just would not boot up anymore. Thankfully it was not a
hard disk problem, as I first suspected! So I was able to recover all
of my data and transfer it to my laptop (which is where I am typing this in
from right now).
So now I was left with a dilemma.
After I wipe the hard drive, do I reinstall Windows or do I try something
else? Windows tends to collect a lot of junk, and I haven't been as
happy with how it has worked for me in recent months. I've been
getting tired of having programs crash on me and having to do frequent scans
for spyware and malware in order to keep a relatively clean and secure
computer. And with all of the significant security problems that keep
surfacing in Windows, I seriously considered whether or not a Windows
reinstallation was a wise move.
I had used Linux a couple of years ago
and had been fairly happy with it, even though installing it was sometimes
an arduous task. But I had to switch away from Linux when I decided to
develop Fashion Cents and Word Play for the Windows platform. Since I
was planning to port Dirk Dashing over to Linux in a few months anyway, I
figured it would be worth spending a few days installing one of the recent
versions of Linux and trying it out. I was naturally curious to see
how far it had progressed in two years, and whether I could successfully
make the switch now and run the entire business from a Linux machine.
I purchased a copy of Suse Linux 10 from
a nearby computer store on Monday. I could have downloaded a free
version from the internet, but I wanted the manuals that came with it, as
well as the technical support in case I ran into trouble. The
installation went extremely well - I was surprised how easy it was in
comparison to what I remembered from two years ago. Suse Linux 10
automatically detected nearly all of my hardware and configured it for me on
the initial install. Within an hour, I had a computer up and running
with internet access through my local network (using Firefox, by the way,
which I wrote about in an earlier blog entry) and e-mail! Linux even
detected my Palm Pilot and configured it so I could hot sync! I was
The only two hardware issues that I had
was the 3D acceleration on my NVidia card and my scanner. The
installation correctly detected my scanner, but it installed the wrong
driver. A few minutes in the Control Panel fixed that. As for
the NVidia card, there is a licensing issue that prevents Suse from putting
the 3D accelerated driver on the installation disk. But they install
it for you when you do your first online update. All I had to do after
the online update was finished was to reboot, and viola - I could run 3D
OpenGL games on my Linux box! There were some cool free ones that came
on the Suse Linux 10 CDs.
The last two days I have spent getting my
data loaded onto my new Linux computer, and finding and installing
applications that I needed. I purchased a handy little program from www.codeweavers.com
called Crossover Office, which lets Windows programs run on Linux. So
I can run Microsoft Office 2000 and Quicken on my Linux box, as well as
Enterprise Architect (my software design program). I also found some
free programs for scanning and editing artwork for Dirk Dashing, as well as
a version of Adobe Acrobat Reader for Linux.
Tonight I started working on getting Dirk
Dashing to compile and run under Linux. I am hoping to have Dirk up
and going on Linux by the weekend. I will post a screenshot when I get
I'll keep you posted on how the Linux
experience goes. It is a refreshing experience to know I am dealing
with an operating system that is stable and secure. It is a great
feeling to be back on Linux again!
Sunday, January 15, 2006 - Let it
Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!
As I mentioned last time, we came up with
a list of improvements we plan to make to our Dirk Dashing game, as a result
of the anonymous feedback we received from the IGF judges. We have a
page-long list of modifications and new features that we plan to implement
to improve the game. We incorporated two of them this weekend.
First, we added some interesting weather
effects to our Dirk Dashing game this weekend. There is now snow
falling in the outdoor areas of all of our completed levels, and when you
are inside a building, you can see snow falling outside through windows and
doors. It is a small thing, but it adds so much to the atmosphere of
the game. In fact, at one point in my work, I removed the snow in
order to test something. And I immediately discovered that I missed
it! We still have some adjustments to make, but it looks really cool
(no pun intended)!
Second, we changed the camera movement to
be much more dynamic. The camera is no longer tied directly to Dirk
Dashing's movement. Previously, the camera moved exactly when Dirk
started moving and stopped when Dirk stopped. There is now a slight
delay, and it accelerates to keep up with you and decelerates after you
stop. This is another small detail, but it makes the game feel much
more polished and professional. Disconnecting the camera movement from
Dirk's movement also allows us to do some interesting effects in the game,
since the camera can now move independently. When heavy objects fall,
for example, we can make the camera jump. This will add a lot more
interest to the game, and I'm excited about the possibilities!
Tomorrow, I will be designing a new
non-lethal weapon, as an alternative to always throwing knockout gas
grenades. But I will write more about it next time. Stay tuned!
Friday, January 13, 2006 - IGF
Feedback for Dirk Dashing
We finally received our anonymous
feedback from the Independent Games Festival judges today. Some of you
may remember that we entered an early beta version of Dirk Dashing in the
IGF competition back in September.
The feedback was brutally honest, but
that's ok. One of the reasons we entered Dirk Dashing into the IGF was
the fact that they were going to provide feedback to the entrants this
year. The judges pinpointed some areas of our game that definitely
need improvement. Some of the comments are gameplay related, such as
only having one type of attack, limited interaction with the environment,
and collectible items being poorly placed (requiring multiple jumps to
attain). Another comment pertained to the game not feeling like a spy
comedy... as the judge put it, it "lacks punch". And one of
the judges reported a bug that caused the music to cut out, which we have
Some of the positive comments we
"The cartoon aspect is
"They have a good sense of humor
and solid knowledge of the spy-fiction subculture (via stage titles and
"The UI seems to be off to a
good start and the title was remarkably stable"
We plan to take the feedback we have
received and improve the game accordingly. The game engine is solid,
but the game admittedly needs a lot of polish. I had a lengthy
brainstorming session with Victoria today to come up with ways to inject
more humor, more interaction, and more interesting gameplay. While we
are at it, I plan to take a long look at each and every element of the game
to improve it so that we deliver the best gameplay experience we can.
After all, that's our goal!
We've got some good ideas to start
with. I'll share more about them later. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, January 10, 2006 - The Making
of Dirk Dashing, on DirkDashing.com!
I have finished moving our production
diary for the Making of Dirk Dashing to our new web
site at www.dirkdashing.com!
I've also added some brand new content to the production diary, with some
new images from the game and a section describing how we build game
levels. I think you may find it very interesting, so head on over to
Dirk Dashing's new web site and check it out!
Saturday, January 7, 2006 -
Dirk Dashing now has his very own web
site at www.dirkdashing.com!
This web site will eventually become the central web site for game
information, hints, tricks, trivia, and more. We will also be
migrating our game production notes to this new web site over the next few
weeks and creating a much more in-depth production diary for the game.
The new production diary will give you an even greater insight into the
making of this exciting computer game.
In the months ahead, as we draw closer to
the game's release, we will start featuring more and more information about
the game on Dirk's new web site. The web site is one of the tools we
will use to help promote the game and generate excitement and interest for
it prior to its release. So stay tuned for lots of cool new stuff over
Wednesday, January 4, 2006 - Firefox
Amid concerns over the security
vulnerabilities in Microsoft's Internet Explorer, I recently tried out the
Firefox web browser. In case you haven't heard about Firefox yet, it
is a free web browser invented by a 20-year old Stanford college student
Blake Ross. Firefox has received a lot of media attention since it was
launched, and I had heard good things about it (faster, more secure,
etc). So I decided to try it out.
I downloaded the Firefox setup program
from the official Firefox web site at http://www.mozilla.com/firefox.
The installation went smoothly, and it even imported all of my favorites and
browser history from Internet Explorer. Very fancy. It was a
little slow to startup (much slower than Internet Explorer), but once it was
up, it ran very well. The interface is a little different, but it was
very easy to learn and has some features that I really like, such as tabbed
web browsing and an integrated search engine (namely Google). I have
been very pleased with it.
One of the things I really like about it
was the free plugin called Sage that adds RSS capability to Firefox. I
like having RSS integrated directly into my web browser, instead of using a
standalone RSS reader. It just feels much more natural to have these
two things (a web browser and RSS reader) in the same program. You can
download Sage for free from http://sage.mozdev.org.
Overall, my first experience with Firefox
has been a very positive one. Firefox has become my preferred web
browser, and I don't miss Internet Explorer at all. If you're looking
for a good alternative to Internet Explorer, and you don't really like
Netscape, try Firefox for yourself, and see what you think.
Tuesday, January 3, 2006 - The Price
One of the interesting issues that came
up with Dirk Dashing recently was the game's incompatibility with certain
hardware, particularly older or slower computers. We knew this when we
first started developing Dirk Dashing. We had to choose whether to
make the game compatible with as many computers as possible, which would
have required us to implement a game with substandard graphics and sound (by
today's standards), or to take advantage of more current technology to
produce a game that looks and sounds great. It's a decision every game
developer has to make. Like many others, we chose the latter, fully
knowing that it would isolate potential customers with older
computers. But we relied on the old saying: it's the price of
What we didn't expect was that the game
would also be incompatible with some current hardware. I discovered
this while visiting family in the San Francisco Bay Area during
Christmas. My sister-in-law and her husband have two laptop computers
that are not that old; in fact, one was purchased just recently. It
turns out that Dirk Dashing runs well on the older laptop, but it runs
extremely slow on the newer laptop. That really surprised me - I would
have expected it to be the other way around. Both computers have
roughly equivalent CPUs and RAM. But the newer laptop has a different
architecture, and after reviewing the system specifications, I suspect it is
a mid-range to lower-end model. That made me realize that when people
buy a new computer, they don't necessarily buy one with the most powerful
technology inside. Computer manufacturers produce a wide range of
models, and some models are designed to be affordable. Nowadays, you
can get a decent computer for a very reasonable price - sure it doesn't have
the most powerful technology inside, but it will do the job for most
customers. Unfortunately, these affordable models use graphics and
sound capabilities that are built into the motherboard, rather than
specialized hardware that can increase the price tag. Unfortunately
for games like ours, the built-in capabilities are not as powerful as
specialized hardware. While DirectX games worked fine on this new
laptop, our OpenGL game did not. I believe the on-board graphics
capabilities did not provide for OpenGL rendering in hardware; instead the
manufacturer provided a driver that did the rendering in software (which is
What this means is that there are some
newer computers that will not be able to run our game, at least not the way
it is currently implemented. This was something we did not
anticipate. We will need to investigate this further, after all of the
game levels are built. My plan is to reuse the Dirk Dashing game
engine for all of our future games, so I want to be sure it runs on as many
computer systems as possible, especially new computers that customers are
buying. If it doesn't, then the price of progress is going to be much
Monday, January 2, 2006 - Happy New
Wow, it's hard to believe it is 2006
already! Last year flew by!
We've got some great things planned this
year, including the upcoming release of Dirk Dashing: Secret Agent!
We're still building levels, and as I have said before, it is a slow
process. But at least our progress so far enables us to better
estimate the release date for the game - it looks like Dirk Dashing will be
available sometime in April or May this year.
In the meantime, we've updated our Dirk
Dashing product page with several brand new screen captures from recent
levels that we have built, so that you can see some of the progress we are
making. The game is really starting to take shape, and it is very
cool! Some of my nieces and nephews had the opportunity to see the
game and to play it over the holidays, and their positive feedback was very
encouraging! I think we have a good product here, and we are looking
forward to wrapping up production and shipping it so everyone can enjoy it.
After Dirk Dashing is released, we have
two new projects planned for completion this year. The first project
is a major upgrade to Fashion Cents - I will be writing more about that in a
later blog entry. The second project is a brand new puzzle game, with
a very unique design and original gameplay - we're very excited about it,
but we're not going to give away any details just yet. But I will be
writing more about it later, so stay tuned!
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