Phil Hassey - game dev blog
Phil Hassey as Rambo
".. I've been there,
I know what it's like,
and I'll do it again if I have to."

Archive for the 'biz' Category

Freemium – my take: design for maximum enjoyment first

Friday, October 21st, 2011

There have been a ton of posts about game design and ethics lately relating to freemium.

Here’s my take. I don’t really think there is ethics so much in if you make a freemium game with random drops or checklists or whatever or not. I think those are game elements that some users REALLY LOVE and some users REALLY HATE. Some users HATE in app purchases, some users LOVE them. I think many players find random events to be FUN! Randomness is a big thing that helps make a game addictive and people like addictive games!

Here’s my “big picture” view of where game design gets unethical – when the designer’s time is spent too much on designing for maximum monetization as opposed to player enjoyment. I think the purpose of games is for people to have FUN! If you as a designer are working mostly to ensure that, you’re doing your job. If you are spending most of your time tweaking your game for maximum REVENUE then you are doing it wrong.

So, yeah, I think the reason Zynga gets a bad rap is because there’s rumors that they have huge departments of psychologists and number crunchers working non-stop to increase the addictiveness and monetization of their games. With no concern for the player beyond what they can do for the bottom line. That’s not very positive. They have lost their way as game developers and that’s unfortunate.

On the other hand there are tons of indie developers out there who are working hard to make FUN games that use checklists, random drops, grinding, and in-app-purchases as game elements who are focussing on making FUN free-to-play games. I think these guys are doing it right.

I think freemium is right now the brave new world for indies. I think some indies are doing great stuff with free-to-play and I think some are scrambling too hard to MONETIZE. I think it’s a time where some people are screwing up and making bad games, but I think it’s okay to make mistakes right now. I think right now is the opportunity for people to find out what free-to-play can offer the player. I read every single blog post and article I can find about free-to-play game design because I want to do my best as a game designer to make my stabs into this new territory to be good ones.

And again: as a game designer be sure to keep your focus on making games that people genuinely enjoy.


Galcon Fusion announced – Finally!

Friday, January 29th, 2010


So, I’m finally announcing Galcon Fusion to the world.  Fusion is a port of iPhone Galcon + Galcon Labs to the desktop.  This time with hi-def graphics and a full interactive soundtrack.  It’s going to be coming to Steam and direct on my website on Feb. 11.  Users who supported me when I was first starting (as in, you bought desktop Galcon), your license is compatible with Galcon Fusion.  Thanks!


There are a few technical things that were challenging, dealing with endiannes for my network code, supporting fullscreen vs widescreen resolutions, and supporting a wide range of resolutions (from 800×600 all the way up to 1920×1080.)  To make it short, here are a few conclusions: best to support endiannes from the start, fullscreen vs widescreen is a pain, and baking lots of image data into your binary is a pain because it requires a ton of recompilation.  Oh, and installing VC++2008 is waaaay easier than installing mingw32, but keeping code working on both takes more effort.

I think my biggest conclusion comes along with this announcement, is that doing “secret dev” work isn’t really that sensible.  If you look at that last paragraph, there are a ton of issues I could have documented in my blog that I didn’t because I was all being secretive.  And hey, since I was so mum on this, nobody has heard about it until today.  I guess there might be some benefits to this (??) but I can’t think of what they are.  I think blogging about my progress is a good way for me to be able to see what I’m doing and not get lost in the haze myself.  My recent article on VC++2008 is a great example of something I’m going to get quite a bit of value out of just for my own reference.

One big different thing I’m doing with this project is my wife Nan is doing the PR for it.  She’s contacting all the reviewers, the general press, the newsletters, the announcement blog, twitter, and everything.  I’m trying to take a more dev-only role in the announcement.  This is nice, because I’m not very good on PR.  I try .. but I really don’t do it as well as I want to, largely because on a launch of a product I’ve always got about 50 technical things I’m trying to do along with the PR!


Galcon pricing experiment

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Two weeks ago, the price of Galcon @ $3, Labs @ $2, and Lite @ $0.  This past week, I changed them to Galcon @ $5, Labs @ $3, and Lite at $1.  I wanted to see how this would impact revenue.

And the big surprise is …

It didn’t!  Much.  Best I can calculate, revenue was down 10%.  The most dramatic change was Lite, which went from $0 revenue to a few bucks a day, and from a few hundred downloads to almost none.  So this week I’m changing the prices back to Galcon @ $3, Labs at $1, and Lite at $0.  What have we learned?  It seems that people who want a free game want a free game, and people who are willing to buy would rather spend less.  Since I’m not going to run this sale for a month I can’t say for sure what the long term effects will be, but I’d guess word-of-mouth would be reduced as the pool of Lite players shrunk.  Who knows 😉


Galcon T-Shirt Competition!!

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

(I should have posted this earlier, sorry blog-reading folks!)

Rev up your design skills and make a Galcon T-Shirt!  Top entries win a FREE T-Shirt and the admiration of the world!!

Here’s some graphics, logos, fonts, and other goodies from the new iPhone Galcon that you can use on your T-Shirt:

Contest Starts: August 25th
Contest Ends: September 8th
Voting Ends: September 14th

Fine print: T-Shirts must be family friendly.  Unfriendly t-shirts will be DQ’d and will incur the wrath of Nanno.  Upload a hi-res (300dpi) image, if trouble ensues, use the Contact form and bug Phil.  T-shirt designs become property of

Preview entries here:

Have fun!

RC1 ..

Monday, April 6th, 2009

So .. After recovering from GDC, I’m working on wrapping up my “new game” .. Which is in RC1 tonight.  Hope to package it up and ship it tomorrow with a hopeful launch date of next week.  I gotta get all my press materials together tomorrow so that when it does launch I’m ready.  Here’s a checklist of things I need to get together:

  • Website ?
  • Game page
  • More games page (linked to from game)
  • Newsletter announcement
  • Blog announcement
  • E-mail announcement for reviewers
  • AdHoc build with comments for reviewers
  • Get a banner ad ready & pay for ad slot
  • Description, title, screenshot, icon for AppStore
  • Game assets / screenshots for reviewers
  • YouTube video of gameplay
  • YouTube video trailer
Man .. these launches take a lot don’t they!  At least I’ve utilized my blog here to list all the things I plan on preparing.
So starting Wednesday I’m working on a iGalcon update *finally*.  I’ve got the most demanded features figured out, so I hope to package it and send it to Apple come Monday.  Fun bit is the game will probably be available on the AppStore during my sister’s wedding.  So .. I have to make sure all my announcements are all prepared a week in advance so I can “launch” my update with about 5 minutes of button pressing when I get the notification from Apple.


Friday, December 5th, 2008

Well, I spent the last week putting ducks in rows. Mostly dealing with the business end of Galcon stuff. It has been a pretty long week, but I can’t complain since having lots of people interested in my games is always a good thing!

On more dev-side note, I purchased a previous-gen MacBook Pro yesterday. I hope it arrives soon. I’m getting this because I would really like to consolidate my development onto a single machine. Using Parallels desktop, I’m really hoping to be able to do my Linux, Mac, and Windows dev all from the comfort of that one laptop. I’m starting a new game project this coming week, so I’ll give it a real try for a month and see how it goes. If it doesn’t work out as well as I hope, well, at least I’ve got a new laptop 🙂

On a “if you are a game dev you better show up” note, Ludum Dare #13 is this weekend. You get 48 hours to make a great game! I’m quite looking forward to this one 🙂


Stuff-n-maintenance-n-stuff stuff stuff ..

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

So this past week or so was pretty wild. I was doing all “behind the scenes” stuff mainly. Sometimes these sorts of things are kind of weird to do, because the main goal is to do them in such a way that nobody really notices that I did them (so the point of this blog post is to point out the invisible so I can FEEL like I accomplished something in the last two weeks) … Anyway, they (supposedly) had to get done so that everything can keep moving along without collapsing.

  • Fixing up the themes on so that all the pages actually use the same header/footer and everything. I also restyled the whole site so that all the pages use the same style.css file. (Previously each part of had its own stylesheet. Weirdness.)
  • Moved to using a real mailing list (it took me forever to decide!) But in the end seemed to be the ticket. This is a pretty big step. Previously I was running some script which took a very long time to send out the newsletter and made me very nervous.
  • Updated my game server with init.d scripts so that should my server get rebooted, the game servers will automagically restart. Previously, well, if the server got rebooted, no games would come up.
  • I also migrated to point to .. So now all the “classic” Galcon customers get to see my new swell site. This is also good for search engine stuff, so has a nice position now.
  • While I was at it, I set up google mail for .. So now I can e-mail in style!
  • Upgraded the maze so that each user’s “save state” is a single database record. Previously I saved the full history of a user’s game, so a single user could have hundreds of records if they were wandering around. This table got to around 362,525 records and it was making those pages go pretty slow! With a single record per user, I’ve only got 1371 records in the table and things are nice and fast again. (BTW – Maze 2.0 is up, you can create your own separate adventure mazes now!)

On a more “in your face note” I did add in a games section to I’m sort of excited about this, because it makes it look like I’ve actually made more than one game 🙂 More importantly, it makes it really easy for me to put up a quick page for small games. I’m always making new mini-games for game-dev compos or whatever that don’t necessarily deserve their own “special custom website” but I still want people to be able to get at them. This will make that possible. It also makes it easy for me to link to some of my game-dev friend’s games.


Mailing list software or services

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Right now I send out my newsletter via a hand-rolled PHP script.  I just sent out a letter this morning and it took 80 minutes to process.  Not only does it take forever, but I am a bit concerned I might not be doing it “right”.

All that said, I’m in the market for getting some decent mailing list software, or subscribing to a decent service.

So, “dear lazy web” .. Can anyone give me a rec?  What’s good in the software or service markets?

My one “requirement” is the ability to import a CSV file of e-mail addresses every month.  And if someone unsubscribes, I want it to be smart enough not to re-add them if I re-import them.


Healthcare job opening for a pythonic PHP coder …

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Hey – my healthcare business is hiring! Yay!

We’re looking for someone who lives in western New York, is a pythonic PHP coder, and enjoys consulting and software maintenance.

Here’s the full listing at monster and at craigslist.


Watermelons for the iPhone / iPod Touch

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Watermelons is the ultimate fruit rescue mission game! The local watermelon tree has gone berserk and is producing fresh watermelons at an amazing rate.

You must move your trampoline at high speed in order to save the melons from splattering horribly on the ground. You get ten slip-ups before you lose your job as the Melon Master.

Includes high scores, realistic watermelon sound effects and authentic watermelon bouncing soundtrack.

Watermelons was first created in several hours using python+pygame.  I then ported it to haxe.  And then last of all, I ported it to the iPhone / iPod touch using C code.  I suppose the dev lesson learned is .. rapid prototyping stuff in python is really quick and easy.  So when I port a game from python to something else, I’ve got the whole game concept down, so it’s fairly straight forward to switch to a static language like C.  If say, the problem was not well defined, I suspect it would be harder to implement the games in C first.  (I think my statement here was particularly true for porting Galcon to the iPhone.)

Anyway, check out the flash version, and if you think it’s worth your 0.99, you can get it on the App Store now 🙂