An open letter to the indie gamedev community

Filed under Random Gibberings

Last year, my wife and I founded Arcade Badgers Limited with the help of Princes Trust, Business Gateway, and Dundee Development Grant.
We started with the idea of breaking down the barriers to playing games – making them as accessible as possible.

Our first game, Germies, a riff on the standard Match-3 gems formula, was released last year. While a lot of the people we did get it infront of thought it was great and loved it… we had hell getting any form of distribution for it. For those that actually DID reply, we were often just sent with a decline notice, and no way of figuring out why or what was so wrong with it. So the game has sortof stagnated a bit.. we had all sorts of ideas to add in later on, depending on feedback, but as we got next to no feedback as we couldn’t get it out to people, we lost our confidence.

So, a year later, and we’ve just finished our second game, Grim… and we’re having the same issues yet again.
We’ve managed to get it up on and gameolith, who have very open policies on getting games on their service… but again, we’re getting rejection notices from others… one particular “indie” game store declined us without even actually playing the game, so what they based it off of I have no idea. The screenshots? The gameplay trailer? And if so… what was so wrong about what they saw to decline it with a generic message?

The barriers for game development itself are coming down, thanks to the likes of GameMaker et al, and there are more games being made than ever before.
This is great.
Making games is fun, especially in a collaborative way, with a melting pot of ideas being thrown in to see what sticks and what slides down the wall.
But we now have an issue of getting these games out there to people.

We thought that Germies, being HTML5, and ad-supported with non intrusive ads away from the game area, would’ve been a fine game to get everywhere. That wasn’t the case, so with Grim we were a bit more conservative with making it PC, Mac and Linux, and charging a small £2.99 for 100 levels, upto 4 player local co-op, 3 difficulty settings ( which do change the game somewhat, with Easy allowing anyone to play through the game regardless of their age or skill level ) and a good solid arcade game… being a bit more “standard” doesn’t seem to have helped either. So what is the magic incantation here? What is it that all these portal gatekeepers are looking for? And more importantly… why?
If someone’s made a game, there’s bound to be someone else that’d love to play it.. so why is it so hard to get that game to them?
Why are the portal gatekeepers defining what we want so much…

Last year, I let this all get to me and ended up in a bad way again.
This time, I’m not going to stand for it… as if we’re having trouble getting our quirky little game to people who might want to play it, there’s bound to be others in the exact same situation.

The barriers for development may have fallen.. but the barriers for distribution certainly haven’t.

Server Wibbles

Filed under Arcade Badgers, Random Gibberings, stuckieGAMEZ

So, the server switch didn’t go smoothly as previously posted.

Actually, having ran it a few days now, I did hit some issues.
Most of that is to do with the multi-server shenanigans of Arcade Badgers.

It’s DNS is hosted elsewhere, it’s mail somewhere else, a VPN somewhere else and now, it’s web server another different place as well.
Most of these were consolidated on the same server.. but what with Arcade Badgers being somewhat of a priority domain, I split off emails and DNS so that if the server had a hiccup, I could still get emails.
When I upgraded the server, I just pulled along the VPN and web server with it… but the poor little server had issues with it, as it’s DNS isn’t quite what it thought it was, so was sometimes getting confused and then pulling down the entire server in a bit of a fit.

So, the webserver is now up on Amazon’s EC2 service… and what a rather pleasant experience it was to do.
As it’s only going to be one instance for the one thing – hosting the site data – I was able to use the micro instance which fits with the free usage tier.
It’s Amazon Linux appears to be a RedHat derivative what with the use of the Yum package manager, so is easy enough to deal with as the server has CentOS on it as well as a backup; another RedHat variant.

In my usual manner, I still stuffed up a couple of things on the first attempt.
I managed to cock up the security groups and blocked access to the server from pretty much anywhere. That was silly. Thankfully you can reassign and fiddle with security groups as you see fit.
Then it was configuring the Elastic IP thing for plugging into the DNS server and wiring up the domain properly.
What I didn’t expect was this sortof knocked out the address I had been using to access the server, so was somewhat confused when I couldn’t get back in!

However, it’s up and running now, and hopefully will sit quite happy in the free tier for a while

That also brings us to the end of the server madness.

Till something else breaks anyway!

The Big Server Update

Filed under Random Gibberings

Hurrah, it’s finished!

Let’s see if I haven’t missed something in the absolute chaos that ensued.

Firstly, the server was running Ubuntu 10.04… mostly.
Due to using Matrix Panel as a configuration tool, apache, the kernel, python and a few other things were pinned to old versions.
This had the added fun of being pretty vulnerable to DDoSing, which the server was getting hit with fairly regularly.

Obviously, not the best of things to have happen… so, the decision was made to upgrade to Debian.
And then the fun began…

After spending about a day backing everything up, I grabbed a Debian iso and spent another day wrestling with the remote KVM implementation to try get it mounted on the server.
No such luck.
Thankfully, Linux can do all manner of naughty things…
Ubuntu is also a derivative of Debian, so a quick grab of debootstrap, and a Debian bootstrap was downloaded and ready.
Except it wasn’t quite that simple…
As the server had been in use for a while, the partitions had all gotten used, so I couldn’t easily repartition the drive – especially as it was running, and especially since I couldn’t mount an iso to boot from.
So I pointed grub at the bootstrap as if it was a new install, got it setup as readonly to try and use it in rescue mode to juggle the partitions about a bit, and hit the reboot button.

And it went bang.

Something had gone wrong with Grub, and as I couldn’t boot any sort of recovery disc, I was a tad stuck.
So, I put in a rebuild request.
Except.. they’d knocked Ubuntu off the list of things I could rebuild to.. so was stuck with CentOS 5.0 ( which was duly updated to 5.10 )

So with the server now running CentOS, and a bunch of backups that were probably a tad useless now, I was in a small pickle.
On the plus side is that being just brought up again, I was able to repartition without any fear of killing something, even on a  running system.
Also, VirtualBox is a godsend for fiddling about with stuff, so I setup a 64bit Debian 7 install, wedged the backup bits and pieces in and had it ticking over nicely.
I then brought that over to the server, bit by bit, and finalized the last of it tonight.

Not that that stopped swines from attempting to DDoS the server again.. but it didn’t work, as it’ll now sort itself out and keep running, rather than bringing the whole server down.
So, it’s taken about a week, but I’m happy with it.. it’s running much faster and more stable than it ever has.

Now to get back to Badger work.