Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How can a game developer make money on P2P / torrents?

Q: How can a game developer make money on P2P / torrents? 

A: By not paying for traffic generated by customers downloading his game installer and patches. 

We have been hosting our installer and updater files on different hosting services - at the beginning we used one non-name hosting company, then Amazon S3, and then CDN77.

  • Non-name hosting wasn't good because they had a download limit. Once reached they shut us down.
  • Amazon S3 couldn't guarantee download speeds and was twice as expensive as CDN77
  • CDN77 is reliable and works well, but still costs money

In the world of file hosting, you usually pay for traffics (downloaded and uploaded Gigabytes).
Price ranges from $0.049 to $0.1 per Gb.

We used to pay few hundreds of dollars per month - that's not brutal, but I didn't like it for two reasons:
1) we could use that money for something else (drugs, alcohol...)
2) if the traffic grows up, we could end up paying thousands per month!

For this reason I was always playing with an idea of exploiting torrent protocol. In this case the files won't be streamed from our server, but from other people (peers):
1) people who are actually downloading and installing the game
2) people who volunteered to seed our files

The result is great. If you look on following stats you can easily spot the day when we switched to P2P :-)

It wasn't easy to find a programmer who can integrate P2P into our distribution method - but luckily we made it.

Other thing is that once we get on Steam, we wouldn't need to distribute files from our location (Steam would do that)...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Greenlight stats for Miner Wars 2081 - we are #21

Steam just changed the way they present stats of games on Greenligh.

Actual stats for Miner Wars 2081 (visible only for us / authors):

Everything looks great except that Miner Wars 2081 is only #21. One would expect to be #1  :-)

Whose fault is that? Our fans? Ha?

I am assuming they are going to greenlight 10 games per month, so with this speed we get on Steam in December. That's not acceptable!

Force all your friends to go there and vote! Please! :-)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Funny bugs in Miner Wars 2081

In the last few weeks of development of Miner Wars 2081, we have collected a couple of funny bugs.

1) when you lock doors on your mother ship and then travel to another sector, you respawn outside of your mother ship - but since the doors are still locked, you can't get back into your mother ship :-)

2) if you meet a neutral bot and trade with him (e.g. buy all his weapons) - and then he becomes your enemy (due to story reasons) -- he can't fight you, he has no weapons :-)

3) there's huge nuclear explosion at the end of second mission (Laika). If you are fast enough you can see this explosion from the next mission (Barth's moon). These locations are on the opposite sides of the Solar System :-)

4) when you die in a co-op game and then you respawn -- you are still dead :-)

5) and then there's this screenshot -- I would add just one more red notification "No Money, Bitch"

Saturday, September 8, 2012

2.5D gameplay in Miner Wars 2081

One hour experiment: 2.5D gameplay in Miner Wars 2081 (which is a 6DOF game - six degrees of freedom)

This idea exploits our other title: Miner Wars Arena

Except that in this experiment we can reuse everything that's already in MW 2081 (in-game editor,
50 weapons, sector traveling, multi-player, AI...)

Any ideas?

Do you want 2.5D in MW 2081?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hall of fame

Two years ago I promised a special "hall of fame" sector for top contributors to Miner Wars.

Finally here it is: check the actual test build! It's there as a death-match sector named "Hall of fame".

Right now we have only one contributor in there. We are waiting until others send their photos.

Wanna get there?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Failure to shoot at our customers

I just experienced a situation that I would never anticipate - failure to shoot at our customers.

It happened after we released the first MW 2081 Test Build with multi-player. I used to launch it every few hours, to see who is playing, and if there was someone, I joined his game. Usually I just went to the guy and talked. They knew who I was.

Funny thing was that it felt weird to start shooting at them, even though that's the point of a death-match game :)

What do you suggest?
- Should I inhibit these feelings and shoot them without any regrets?
- Am I the only developer with this illness?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Finishing ALPHA build - 10:30 PM - Keen Software House

This is how it looks in our office - at 10:30 PM

We are excited about Russian Assault mission that's going to be in the upcoming ALPHA test build.
It's playable, it's fun, and it just feels great. It's Miner Wars 2081.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Can you guess what's the goal of these missions?

Concept art from missions we are designing / finishing.

Can you guess what's the goal of these missions?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Saturday at Keen Software House

Saturday at Keen Software House is a happy place. We are working on Miner Wars 2081 and Miner Wars Arena.

Next week is E3!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Article in SCORE magazine

We got nice three pages in SCORE - printed games magazine for Czech/Slovakia.

If you live here - go and buy it! Issue no 219.

Very important: you can get Miner Wars 2081 for free in the next issue: no 220!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Audio Interview for LazyTechGuys / Radical Insider

In the second episode, we get inside the mind of CEO of Keen Software House - Marek Rosa and Community Manager Ansel Leos. These guys join us to talk about their brewing space sim – Miner Wars 2081. We talk about some of the challenges indie game developers face as they push their game into market. Miner Wars 2081 is a game I’m hoping to see the light day considering all of the graphics and concepts being fleshed out. But at what point do you start dealing with scope creep? I push Rosa and Leos to the limit as my expectation for the Miner Wars game is to simply see it finished. We talk candidly about how they deal with developers, feedback and overall scope of the game. Rosa also talks about how he crafts the story on Miner Wars and I spill my impressions on it.

Show notes
  • The mind of a CEO and Programmer – Marek Rosa
  • The mind of a Community Manager – Ansel Leos
  • How they found each other
  • How Marek Rosa built the Voxel and ploy-based and Miner Wars’ 3D Engine
  • The complexities of development time vs. scope
  • The state of Miner Wars 2081, MMO and other stuff
  • Gathering feedback on indie games
  • Rosa gets into the story. I get into a frenzy
  • The competition
  • Seeing the game through. Giving it that ummmph.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

AAA game in XNA?

I had a presentation for Microsoft in Prague. My speech was about how we develop Miner Wars 2081 in XNA and whether it's possible to make an AAA game in XNA.

My answer would be "yes, but it also depends on what do you consider AAA game".

Download it here or view below.

Friday, April 6, 2012

We are adding support for dirty & damaged prefabs

We are adding support for dirty & damaged prefabs.

Left one is the default, middle one is with some basic ambient shadow (or dirt), and right one is with a lot of damage and dirt.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

GDC 2012 & San Francisco, New York

In March 2012 we attended GDC in San Francisco. It was a five day event, we spent 3 days exhibiting Miner Wars at our kiosk. The other 2 days just walking around and meeting people.

Did GDC help us? Yes and no. Yes in a long term - it brought us some interesting contacts to publishers, investors, distributors, journalists or other developers. In a short term = no. We haven't got more registrations or orders. Considering the costs (which are in thousands of dollars) it's better to take GDC as a vacation. Don't expect a life changing experience :-)

Other positive experience was finding out that 99% of people who visited our place never heard of Miner Wars! At the beginning it felt super weird, since I was assuming that after 2-3 years in public and 15,000 sold copies we must be pretty much known - at least in game dev community. But NO.

This is indeed a good observation - market for space games is not saturated. Our 15,000 copies don't represent all possible fans. Just a few people who were "lucky" to notice us.

San Francisco is very new and modern city, everything seems to be like it was built just yesterday. Even ghetto streets seem fine and clean - the only way how to see it's a ghetto is to visit it at night and meet homeless guys trying to sell us some crack or heroin :-) Which we did! :-)

And yeah, there's so many homeless people - I would say 10x more than in Prague. I guess they move to the west cost for good weather.

On the last day we made a visit to SF bay/harbor - good place to see a submarine and large navy ship.

I also made a quick trip to Santa Monica, just to experience US train and bus system. Felt normal to me :-) Although, good thing is that Americans tend to optimize, simplify and organize everything. It's so easy to get what you want there. Nation of manuals = I like it!

On my way back to Prague I had to switch planes in New York, and I was lucky to make a 12 hours break there. I slept in the plane, so I had almost whole day for walking in NY. I made a visit to Manhattan, Times Square, Central Park and American Museum of Natural History.

See photos!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Meet the Miner Wars Team at GDC in San Francisco

We are thrilled to announce that Keen Software House, developers of Miners Wars, will be attending this year’s GDC (March 5-9, 2012, San Francisco Miner Wars is a hot new 6DOF space and underground shooter with fully destructible environments. Please stop by, check out the game, and chat with us. We’ll be in the GDC Play pavilion, in the Esplanade Ballroom of Moscone Center.

Keen will be proudly presenting Miner Wars 2081 and its new arcade-style offshoot, Miner Wars 2.5D. The first 30 people who visit us will receive a free serial key for MW 2081 and its upcoming MMO version!

At our GDC Play kiosk you’ll meet:
- Marek Rosa - CEO & Founder
- Nick Miller - Marketing Manager
- Ansel Leos - Community Manager

For current players and others following the development of Miner Wars:

We are presently making major changes to the game, so there will be no new release before the GDC. However, you may expect a new Test Build, as well as a new public demo, in the week or so following the GDC (first half of March).

We do have a cool new trailer in production, which will also be released soon after GDC.

No downloadable demo of Miner Wars 2.5D is presently available; however, a game demo can be seen at GDC. We will be releasing the game for PC/iOS/Android right after the GDC.

Hope to see you at the GDC!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Me in a video podcast at - Fight Club is a Czech game magazine. This Wednesday I was a guest at their video podcast.
It's 2 hours of talking about Miner Wars and other topics.

Unfortunately it's all in Czech language.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Article in czech sci-fi magazine XB1 (ex-Ikarie)

My dreams come true!

I have been a subscriber of Ikarie (now XB1) for 20 years or so... love that magazine. And now they mentioned my name it in! How cool is that!

Preview on Miner Wars:

(BTW, I don't think this article is going to be published in the printed version, but it's great anyway)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Miner Wars in Czech TV - Second Time!

Greetings over there!

We've made it into one of our Czech TV channels again! This time it is Czech TV game show called Re-Play on TV channel Prima Cool. They made interview with me and other members of our team.

The part about Miner Wars / Keen Software House starts at 08:10. It is in Czech language only, however, you can at least get the visuals of our team in motion! ;)

The video is available online - see 08:10:

Article about me in "Hospodarske noviny"

They made an article about me in Slovak newspaper Hospodarske Noviny (Economic News...).

The article sounds better than the reality :-) Thanks.

The next article will be something along the lines of "Marek killed..." :-)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Miner Wars Development Costs: How Much Is a Feature Worth?

As the director, I pay careful attention to the development costs of Miner Wars, not just to sit around and count the stacks of money, (although ’greed is good‘), but especially because I received a specific amount of money from the investors – that’s our budget – and I must not spend it without having finished product – Miner Wars.

Today, I want to show you how much it costs to implement a given type of feature.

All the figures shown below include every related cost: programming, art, testing, design, team management, risk reserve, etc.

Feature Costs

Prefabs: $30,000
This task required us to design, model and texture about 400 prefabs –what’s currently in the game.

One Small Ship: $1,000
This task requires us to design, model and texture one small ship, add dummy points for weapons, the drill, define head for the player, etc. Then we integrated each one of these into the game and tested them. We have 23 unique small ships in-game, thus all small ships are worth $23,000.

Editor - Snap Points: $3,000
This task required a programmer to modify our editor to support snap points, (to help everything align perfectly), modify selection procedures, add dummy points to 3D objects (to define where a snap point is), artists then went over a few hundred existing prefabs to add dummies for snap points, after which testers tested these objects by building some experimental scenes. Second iteration consisted of making snap points more intuitive – programmers added perspective transformation on snap points, more control over selections, etc.

Large Ship Weapons: $4,000
This task required a programmer to implement varying types of large weapons, (bullet based and guided missile launchers for example), with their own AI such as auto aiming and friendly fire avoidance. These were then integrated within the editor and save/load functionality was added. So far, our artists have modeled and textured about 8 different weapons. This complex process is topped off with sound and particle effects, (though some are reused from smaller weapons).

Third Person Camera: $1,500
This particular task required a modification to the default cockpit camera - to be able to move it a few meters behind your ship, add some string physics, and be able to react to obstacles between your view and the ship.

Encyclopedia + $5,000
This task required us to rewrite our internal design document into a more readable form as an Encyclopedia, fill in some new details on factions and characters, add drawings and publish it on the wiki website to keep things up to date.

Sunlight Shadows: $1,800
This task required a programmer to implement sunlight shadows into our engine, make it stable and solid even on long distances, and then a couple of optimizations iterations: reduce objects needed to render into the shadow map, blend by distance, fix issues with floating point precision, etc. Artist had to build a “shadow testing scene”.

Spotlight Shadows: $1,000
This task required us to add the shadow-casting feature to our spotlight entity, support for different types of shadow caster textures, optimizations and tweaking for different rendering qualities.

Publish a Press Release: $150 to $300
This is what we do every week when we post a news update. It requires us to write and proofread a press release, send it to magazines, update our Facebook page, twitter, YouTube, our forums, our web site, etc.
Sometimes we do a trailer or some special PR campaign, and then it’s more expensive.

Publish a test build: $150 to $300
This really depends on how ugly things get—which is hardly predictable. In most cases it is straightforward and it costs us max a few hours of work. In some cases things go awry and we lose 1-2 days. The process consists of making a separate branch of source code and assets, build it (auto-updater, installer, torrent files), upload to all our servers, and switch the test build or the public build to this new version.

I realize now just how costly these features are. I use to think about them in man-days, not in money/dollars.

Think about this: would you rather have 400 prefabs or a new car? Hehe.

Nothing Beats a Reserve

When I do cost estimation for a new feature, I usually assume that the initial estimation covers only one third of the final price. In other words, people, (including myself), tend to under-estimate. For example, the third-person camera was projected for only $500, but internally I knew it would cost three times more: testing, bugs, tweaking and polishing, broken functionality in some completely unrelated function....
So I have this rule: multiply it by 3. I use it for all my estimations.

Admitting Failures

We have failed features too – we spent the money, but the feature never got delivered.
I do everything possible to not let this happen, and though it actually hasn’t happened in the last couple of months, the beginning where I was just creating this team, there were a few moments.

Most significant were:
  • Story and Dialogues for Single-Player Missions - This cost us a couple thousand, as well as a lot of lost time on my side, and we ended up with unusable and unfinished documents that no one could read, no dialogues at all... so we have to do it AND PAY it again. 
  • Multi-Player - 3 months of paid work, 6 months of total time. I felt this was going to be a fiasco after the first month when the programmer took it a very wrong direction. My mistake was that I let him continue because I was hoping that “he will change”. And then the next month passed, and the next month... by December my patience was gone and we let him go. Worst thing is that this “experiment” cost us 6 months – we could already have working multi-player!

Lessons Learned:
  • If you have a new guy in your team, who has only been there 1-2 months, and you feel that he is incapable, or that there’s something wrong with him, or that you actually start thinking about firing him – then do it! Immediately! There’s no point in second, third, fourth chance. Adults don’t change.
  • Save money, save money, save money! You will be needing the reserve anyway.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

18 years of being a programmer

Today I have reached a score of 33 years on this planet.

It occurred to me while I was responding to questions in an interview. The interviewer mentioned there that I have been a programmer for a decade. This didn’t sound correct, so I made a quick calculation in my head and fixed it: it's actually been 18 years.

Eighteen years of being a programmer! Wow. I started at age 15, now I am 33; that makes it 18 years. Huge!

Some people are not even that old.

Some serious statistics:
  • Programmer period of my life is longer than non-programmer period (18y vs. 15y)
  • If I spent 10 hours of programming per day on average, that's 65,700 hours of nonstop programming, or 6,570 days
  • If I wrote 100 lines of code per day, that's 657,000 lines of code during my whole life
  • That would make a book with 13,140 pages
  • Or 43 books, each one having 300 pages
  • If I would be making just the minimum US wage, I would make $420,480
  • If I spent all that time just walking, it would be 328,500 kilometers
  • That's 8x Earth's circumference
  • Or 85% of the distance between Earth and its Moon
  • Or 0.22% of the distance between Earth and the Sun

Curiosity at the end: I still have spent more time sleeping than programming! It’s funny though…
  • Total Hours Programming: 65,700 hours
  • Total Time Asleep? 96,360 hours!

Best Regards,

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Rastko's "making of" of our intro video

Spoil alert :-)

Miner Wars Cinematic Intro - Breakdown from Rastko Stanojevic on Vimeo.

Rastko Stanojevic - 3D Artist who works with us, he did weapons, prefabs and this intro video.