This blog has now moved

Posted February 21, 2007 by greyaliengames
Categories: News

Hi, this Blog has now moved to:

http://www.greyaliengames.com/blog/

Basically I’ve used the wordpress code on my site and changed the layout and will be adding in new features soon. Expect lots of posts on the new blog.

Thanks for posting on this blog, see you on the new one!

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Where next?

Posted December 25, 2006 by greyaliengames
Categories: Plans

Well lots has been going on recently and I’ll be making a big post about it soon.

I’ve been having lots of thoughts about what to do in 2007.  It’s an exciting time right now because Oz is done and is out there and so is Holiday Bonus, and I’m not working on any projects at the moment (except for “me”, the biggest project of all ;-)).  So I’m able to relax and let inspiration come to me and also think about my options.  I’m weighing up how I can a) immediately  make money to pay my bills, b) do the fun creative things that I *really* want to do and c) become very rich quickly.  More on all this soon…

The Holiday Bonus musician emailed me recently asking what next and I replied and he said “How much work is it to make a new match-3 game, now that most or all of the vital components are ready?” and he also said “While you could just output a new match-3 for the cash (‘only’ need to insert gfx/music), meanwhile you could make a new engine instead. By the way, what about those Simcity-clones or <insert>-Tycoon? Are these a casual buyer’s choice?”, and I wrote him this reply:

Oz took well over 200 hours (of my time only) to convert into Holiday Bonus (there wasn’t really much new code, most of the time was directing the artist and plugging in the new art). Oh also it cost > £1000 too (and future ones will cost more), plus lots of extra time to market.  So any new Match-3 will take maybe 1 month full-time minimum (assuming that my skills have increased now).  However, to stand out I need to some new elements, which I listed in my last email (to the musician).  If I made a 5th match-3 I believe I could make it my best one yet and also a market leader – should I do it?

Meanwhile, converting the Blitz Max Game Framework to Mac is an unknown quantity, it should be possible but I know nothing about Macs and will need to do a lot of research – perhaps it will be easy.  Once it’s done though, it’s can be reused for many games.  There are less competitors in the Mac market (by a long way) so a good game will do well – and I believe that I can supply that game.

As for sim games, well the Diner Dash-type games are big (not really Sim games as such, but the nearest thing in the casual market).  In March I made a plan for a game called Flower Shop but never got time to do it due to developing the game framework and my other games (Oz/HB etc) – this is my own fault though.  Now take a look at this game, which is the no. 2 game on BFG!  I hate missing the boat – but my boat will come again, and perhaps it will be bigger…

Right now another match-3 is easier as the engine is there and I can improve it each time thus making the game more saleable (it won’t gain me much respect amongst forum programmers, but who cares if I’m the one making money and contacts).  As for a new engine, I imagine that I’ll have to make a first game that will be OK and then my second game with that engine will be the really good one (I’m pretty up to date with particles effects and smooth programming now, although there is still more that I could do looking at some current top notch games).  A new engine needs lots of new code/thought and testing even if it’s copying a tried and tested formula.  Of course a brand new idea needs *even more* thought and testing….risky but with potential huge payouts.  To be honest I need secure income first, then maybe I’ll aim for that – however, I’m not sure that’s how millionaires think…

My Christmas Competitors

Posted December 21, 2006 by greyaliengames
Categories: Grey Alien Games

Hiya,

It seems that the fighting is fierce on the frontline of Christmas/Holiday-themed match-3s!

Check these out:

www.bigfishgames.com/downloads/jewelmatchwinterwo/index.html

www.bigfishgames.com/downloads/holidaygift/index.html

and compare to mine:

www.greyaliengames.com/holidaybonus.php

Winter Wonderland uses outdoor snowy scenes that seem to involve houses – there’s only 4 backgrounds though. It has a nice snowing effect going on and lovely classical guitar music.  The game has a hammer with 3 levels of power up, snowballs (animated like mine) and a bomb.  It has weird horrible looking graphics for the chains on the locked pieces.  Also you have to remove ice tiles like mine, and it even has double thickness tiles (with snow on), like mine!  Pretty similar in some details, but overall it has a different vibe.

Holiday Gift has indoor Christmas decorations for backgrounds, a gingerbread man that looks like a voodoo doll, and some very dodgy music in my opinion.  You have to remove gold tiles.  This game is hardly any different from previous incarnations.  However it was released before mine, so I hope that people didn’t get their “fill” of Christmas games before mine came out!

Of the two I’d say Winter Wonderland is better by quite a bit.

Last Christmas the makers of Holiday Gift made Best Gift which was pretty much the only other match-3 Christmas game I was competing against, if I recall correctly. There also weren’t that many other Holiday games but there’s quite a few this year all competing for the same customers.  We’ll have to see how well my game get’s on in comparison.  Also on Big Fish Games and Reflexive I actually have both Xmas AND Holiday Bonus out at the same time, which gives me a bit more coverage.  Hopefully fans of one will consider the other.

How I sourced the art and music for my games

Posted December 14, 2006 by greyaliengames
Categories: Game Development

Someone just emailed me and asked me how I sourced the art and music for my games, and I sent back a rambling reply that I thought might be useful to others – so I’ve posted it here for all to see 🙂

For the first game, Xmas Bonus, I bought in some cheap art from IStockPhoto.com and did some of the shapes in Corel Draw, and did the menu text myself too.  Indiepath gave me some free music and I found some more by browsing the net (proper royalty free for commercial use stuff).  Everything I use is above-board, no pilfering.  However, I wouldn’t recommend this piecemeal approach as it’s a) time consuming b) doesn’t really give a consistent/pro feel to the game.  It is cheap though.
 
For Easter Bonus I think I posted on the Blitz Basic forum to find out what artists were interested and Quicksilva ended up doing the job (great job too, just not the style that portals really want I found out afterwards) – I paid him for the job.  I also got more istockphoto art (title screen + menus), and more net music + coolly Cynus offered to help and he made a few nice tracks that we worked on together with Skype (well he did most of the work, I just interfered).
 
For Oz I was a contract programmer and the producer supplied all the art and music (but not sound, which was a pain, so I had to be the sound engineer on top of the 500+ hours of programming).
 
Finally for Holiday Bonus, I posted on the Blitz forums again about needing 3D rendered or hand-drawn backgrounds and 3D shapes for the game and got a few responses.  Most were overpriced and didn’t have a lot of examples to back themselves up.  However, in the end IPete2 (and a friend of his) did the job brilliantly for a good price.  Music was by CS_TBL for a very reasonable price + a royalty + a secret “deal” regarding future games, and has turned out nicely.  So basically I have paid out, and have to recoup a good sum before I’m in profit. It’s a risk, and at the moment I am broke, but you’ve got to speculate to accumulate as the saying goes…It’s also why negative comments (non-constructive) aren’t helpful as my family’s finances are on the line here and I got 2 kids, house, car etc so I don’t need some stupid flaming about something that I’ve worked my nuts off for (/rant over)
 
Since Xmas Bonus I actually get approached by people on the forums who want to work with me, which is nice.  I guess this is because, as someone once called me, I’m a “finisher”.  If you’ve got finished games behind you and you say you need artists/mucisians etc on Blitz and list your games, you should get lots of responses.  I was going to post on Indiegamer (and search the Art Portfolios thread and post in Help Wanted) if I didn’t get anywhere on Blitz, but I never needed to.  I’m not really an expert at finding these resources at all, I’ve just needed them and the Universe has provided.  Helps to have friends on the forums too + I have lots of people who have bought my BlitzMax Game Framework.
 
Oh and to put things in perspective, the graphics took >50% of the time for Holiday Bonus (>100 man hours – I log everything), that was talking to the artist (via Skype/email) and then coding the graphics in (mind you the match-3 engine was already in existence) .  If you think your game is finished, well you are still going to have to “plug in” (makes it sound so easy) the graphics/anims and particle effects and so on and this will take quite a while unless you’ve got animated placeholders particles etc. 😉
 
Right, anyway, hope that this ramble is of some use and that you are successful in your quest – and good luck with your next game!

New material follows

Thought I’d post this from a forum where a discussion about this thread ensues. I wrote:

I think it’s going to get harder and harder for people to make competitive casual games unfortunately. Basically 3 years ago Xmas Bonus would have look RAD, but last year it just look OK, and this year it definitely looks dated.

So what if you don’t have much art skill or much money? All you can do is make a game that looks like Xmas Bonus OR try to convince someone good to do the art for royalties (not easy). And if it looks like Xmas Bonus, unless it’s radical, got something really new, it won’t sell very well (still may not sell even if it is radical!), and then you’ll be put off making another one and have no money to reinvest. But at least you’ll have another “practice” game under your belt to hopefully attract more royalty-based team members…

It’s like a few years ago Indie games were more one man band things, like the old 8-bit days. But now they’ve gone all sophisticated (well in the graphics/sound/polish department) and require small teams to make so it’s harder to compete. I don’t want to put people off, but I see it going more that way as the customers and portals now demand polish – it’s just a hard fact. So maybe it’s best to either a) code games for fun (that’s what I started doing originally, hmm) or b) actually get some investment from somewhere and do it properly. Or I guess c) build up with mini-games and get people at low cost or on royalties, but this could take a while… or wait there’s d) join an existing team based on your merits or get headhunted/hired (but again this requires some kind of track record). So it all comes down to FINISHING something even if it’s not great. And then doing it again, but better and so on…

An approximate guide to selling Indie games.

Posted November 9, 2006 by greyaliengames
Categories: Marketing

Welcome to my approximate guide of how to sell an Indie game that you have made.  This article is aimed at the developer/producer of the game (not at publishers and portals as they already know what they are doing (mostly)).

There seems to be all sorts of detailed information out there on various forums and blogs about the nitty gritty of how to sell Indie games, and lots of it is very useful, but I haven’t really seen an overview guide, and that’s what I’m aiming to provide.  So without further ado here goes:

1) Finish your game!

I mean properly.  Make sure that it has a menu system, an options screen including full-screen/windowed mode, a profile manager, some instructions, a proper icon etc.  Check out other mainstream Indie games and compare them to your game to make sure that you have all the “normal” features in it (this is what I did with my BlitzMax Game Framework).

A small point here; if you have done all the graphics, music, sound and code for your game by yourself, then you are either extremely talented and have spent years on it, or the game really doesn’t look and sound very professional (this seems to be more common).  To make a professional level game you either need to a) buy in art/music/sound from the various resources on the web or b) pay proper artists/musicians etc (or offer them royalties).

If your game looks and sounds rubbish, it won’t sell very many copies, no matter how good the gameplay is, this is a sad but true fact.

2) Alpha Test

Get friends and family (your mum!) to alpha test it.  You need a mix of gamers and non-gamers.  When they test it, sit there with them and ask them to speak aloud as they play it (and explore the menus).  Ask them to say what is good, and bad and confusing.  Then watch them play the game carefully, don’t give them any prompts.  You will learn a lot from this.  If the same issue crops up more than once, you probably should consider changing/improving it.

If, after alpha testing, you don’t make any changes to your game then a) you are an expert developer hugely aware of how other people think (what are you doing reading this article?) or b) you haven’t been thorough enough or objective about your own game – do more tests.

Also at this stage (or before) you need to test it on a wide range of PCs to check that it actually works and what the minimum specs are.

3) Beta Test

Ha, so you thought your game was finished at step 1!  If you are a member of a programming or gaming forum, post a beta demo (limited number of levels or security wrapped) and wait for feedback.  You may get some deliberately negative responses (from jealous individuals or Indie “idealists”) but hopefully you will gain some useful feedback and may want to consider tweaking your game again.

At this point you should be fixing minor bugs (if any are left) and improving the accessibility of the game (clear menu system etc), but if you need a major redesign because some element of the game just doesn’t work, then fair enough – go and do it, don’t just try to release the game anyway and hope for the best.

4) Self-Publishing

You don’t have to self-publish, you can go straight to the portals or a publisher if you want to avoid loads of hassle and focus on your next game.

What are the advantages of self-publishing?  Well when you sell it on your own website you’ll keep ALL of the profit (after whatever payment service you use has deducted their fees).  This sounds great and it might be, but only if you can attract a *lot* of traffic to your site.  You’ll need to do marketing, press-releases and advertising to get the required traffic to generate sales and this is a big job in itself (also quite boring in my opinion), not for the faint hearted!

What do you need to self-publish?
– Well, a website for a start and some web programming knowledge (or find someone else who knows).
– An installer program.  There are plenty of free ones out there.  Make sure that your installer is nice and flexible e.g. give the user the option of putting an icon on the desktop or quick launch bar (don’t force them).
– A licence agreement.  You need to show this during the installation process.
– A security wrapper.  You’ll have to spend money on this (gasp) unless you code one yourself (and what a waste of time that would be).  This wraps your software so that it becomes a time-limited demo.  The player must purchase a key from you to unlock the full-version.  I’m sure that you are familiar with this concept.
– Hide the media?  Some people are worried about having their game media in a nice visible data folder and prefer to get it all built into the exe using something like Molebox.  I personally don’t care because if I see my media in another game (unlikely) I’ll just sue, or ask them to desist, or maybe even ask them for some money 🙂
– A payment service/provider.  To make sales you have to be able to take money in as many ways as possible.  You could try and code all this stuff yourself but it’ll probably be horrible, limited and bugged.  You need to choose a payment service/provider like BMT Micro, Plimus, ShareIt etc and register you game with them, then plug their code into your site and also make sure that it all works with your security wrapper so that the customer is given a key automatically.

Once all that’s done and you are ready to sell the game from your own site you need to get marketing!  Also get it on tons of shareware sites (and download.com) that list your game for free.  You can pay a 3rd party to register your game with tons of shareware sites using a PAD file, and this service should save you hours and hours (try Glimmer Games).

I’ve probably missed something out from this section as it’s quite a big topic, but that’ll do for now.

5) Find a Publisher

If you can’t be bothered with self-publishing, it may be best to find a publisher who can do all of that for you and get the game on portals too.  They may also make suggestions about how to improve your game to maximise sales – it’s probably a good idea to listen to them.  What’s the catch?  Well money of course.  You won’t have to pay a publisher, but they will take a large percentage of every sale (it varies, but 50% or more is the sort of figure I’m talking).  However, if they are any good, they’ll make you both some money whereas on your own you may fail to even pay for your webspace!

6) Put your game on the portals

Portals are sites that sell all sorts of Indie games, and good portals get tons of traffic meaning tons of downloads and hopefully quite a few sales for you.  Big portals include (but are not limited to) Real Arcade, Big Fish Games, AOL, Yahoo, MSN, IWin, Reflexive Arcade etc.  There’s tons, some small, some large.  Some of the larger ones are very fussy about which games they will accept and they may not accept yours; in fact they may not even reply!  Also some portals are more geared towards action games than puzzle games, so you have to choose the right ones.

Anyway, first you have to make contact with a portal (check out their websites for contact info – sometimes it’s an email address, other times it’s a web form) to find the right person to talk.  Then send them an “unwrapped” version of your game.  They will wrap it themselves and use their own installer IF they accept it.  They may just say “NO”, but don’t be deterred, ask them why not so that you can improve it (they *might* reply).  Some nice portals sort of give you a stock answer as to why they won’t take your game, and some just say “thanks, but no thanks”.  Also, if the big portals won’t take your game, try some smaller ones.  However, if the big ones won’t take it, you have to ask yourself how you can make your next game much better so that the portals *will* accept it – remember graphics and “bling”/polish are *sooo* important.

Don’t forget that the portals will take BIG cut of your profit, normally 60 to 70%!  But they will get sales figures that you can only dream about – so it’s worth it in my opinion.

7) Improve/Refine!

Keep on marketing, get reviews, try different adverts and techniques – don’t give up!

Also listen to the feedback of players and make some more improvements to your game.  It’s quite hard to get a new version on a portal, so save up several sub-versions and only send them a major release.  Some developers have carried on improving their game based on customer feedback and really improved sales.

Consider releasing a level pack.  Some types of games are really suited to level packs, and these may not take long to make at all and can generate lots of income.

Alternatively you may just decide to write your next game.  Make sure this one is better than the last one in every way.  Reinvest your income from the last one in quality graphics and music.  Keep checking out other Indie games for ideas, keep abreast of what the current standard is and see what is selling and what is not.

When dealing with the portals again, use your old contacts and improve your communication skills to really “sell” your game to them.

This whole process is a learning experience.  Never stop learning and trying out new things.  It could take years to get the formula right, and then you’ll have to keep changing the formula as the market progresses and changes.

Conclusion

And there you have it.  Not a definitive guide, but hopefully useful to beginners.  I haven’t really talked about web versions of your game, that’s a topic for another day, sorry.  I’ve probably missed out tons of stuff and I deliberately haven’t gone into detail because it would take days.  Nevertheless, I hope that you find the article interesting and useful.  Please leave comments to let me know your opinions, thanks!

Why I made a match-3 clone

Posted July 24, 2006 by greyaliengames
Categories: Grey Alien Games

Indie game developers seem to be divided into two camps: cloners and non-cloners.  The cloners are doing it for the money and the non-cloners are doing it for “art”.  I fall into the cloner category at the moment, but there is a reason for this – read on.

In December 2004 I started making a kung fu platform game with BlitzPlus that I thought was going to be pretty interesting.  Then, after around 6 months development, I realised that the target market is (potentially) tiny, plus my game was realistically going to take years to finish at the current rate (I was working on it during evenings and weekends).  What I really wanted to do was complete a game and actually sell it, and I knew that the platform game was too complex and that I should start with something simpler and more marketable.  So I changed “game” plan, so to speak, and made a Tetris clone as a practice piece, and a couple of other free games/demos: see http://www.greyaliengames.com/games.php (scroll down a bit)

Then I made a match-3 engine to see if I could get it to commercial standard in a quick(ish) time period; however, it was still HARD work. The idea was to get experience in the Indie market with a couple of easier-to-make, and popular games, before finally venturing down more interesting paths. Then hopefully my more wacky games (that I’ve yet to make) will be accepted by the portals, and if not, I can fall back on the skills that I have learnt and sell the games myself via my own website.

What I have done is a means to an end; a sound business plan – clone to gain skills, then release the cool stuff later. You’ll just have to see whether I do that or not, or maybe I’ll just become REALLY good at cloning (the match-3 “King”), or making clones with something different in them …who knows.

In fact the idea of making clones with something different in them is interesting (to me) because you think “hmm, here’s a cool idea, but why isn’t in the other clones, maybe the players won’t like it, or it’s too fiddly to implement, or maybe it is just plain cool and should go in after all” etc. Plus you get to explore FULLY how a certain game engine works and what is good about it and what isn’t so you can either a) duplicate or b) remove or c) improve. Many people fail to do both b) and c) with their clones I have noticed…  I think one of the key skills in making good games is the ability to criticise your own work and to improve it accordingly.

Anyway, watch this space, the match-3 “King” will rule one day soon…

3 Months Later …

Posted June 30, 2006 by greyaliengames
Categories: Grey Alien Games

Well it’s exactly 3 months since my first blog post, so I didn’t exactly get off to a flying start.  However, many things have happened since then…

Easter Bonus

Easter Bonus carried on selling in April but then slowed right down (as is to be expected really).  In the end it did quite well; not as well as Xmas Bonus in terms of numbers, but I still made roughly the same amount of royalties due to a better deal with the publisher.  I learnt several useful things from Easter Bonus:

– Christmas Games get more downloads, and therefore more sales, than Easter Games.  I feel that Easter Bonus was a better game, more polished etc, and this was reflected in the conversion rate, which was better than Xmas Bonus’s.  If Easter Bonus had got the same number of downloads as Xmas Bonus, then it would have done much better.

– Some (but not all) portals are getting fed up with match-3 games and won’t accept them unless they really have something new.

– Many portals don’t want to accept seasonal games due to their limited shelf-life.  This includes Real Arcade, which I was really hoping to get Easter Bonus on.

– The retro pixel-art look in Easter Bonus is not wanted by the portals (at least not for puzzle games, it may be acceptable for certain types of arcade game.)  They want more “polish”.  This means games need to have smooth anti-aliased graphics (cartoon, hand-drawn or pre-rendered 3D); modern graphics card effects like transparency, scaling and rotation; fancy particle effects and glows; transitions, fades and other extra little features that make a game look more “bling”.

– My marketing tactic for Easter Bonus failed.  Based on sales of Xmas Bonus, I reasoned that if I got Easter Bonus on a lot of portals each making an adequate number of sales, the total sales would be significant.  However, as only 3 portals accepted it, this plan failed to bear any fruit 😦

– I paid an artist for some graphics and he did a great job.  This saved me tons of time and looked way better than I could have done myself.  However, I communicated with the artist by email and this took up a *lot* of time.  In future I will try to communicate via Skype because talking is so much quicker than typing.  It will still be worth typing up key points so that there is no misunderstanding, but the bulk of discussion doesn’t need to be typed.  In fact I communicated with the musician via Skype and even helped (in a small way) to improve the music tracks live over Skype – this was a very interesting experience and has led to a good friendship with the musician.

Grey Alien BlitzMax Game Framework

During the development of Easter Bonus I was contacted by an American game producer who wanted to use my match-3 engine to make a new game (more about this later.)  Originally we were going to use my BlitzPlus code and just plug in some new graphics and sounds, and do a bit more code.  However, based on the ambivalent portal response towards Easter Bonus, we decided that it would be best to port the code over to Blitz Max so that I that I can use all the fancy modern graphical effects in my games that the portals want.

Rather than converting the match-3 engine immediately, I decided to do all the boring “framework” code first which would allow me to learn BlitzMax properly and to test out its capabilities.  I had to go through quite a few technical minefields before I got a decent smooth timing routine that worked on a wide range of PCs.  Also, I spotted quite a few bugs in BlitzMax that I had to make workarounds for (many of these bugs have now been fixed by Blitz Research.)

To help develop the framework, I incorporated it into a mini-game demo called “Attack of the Mutant Greys”. This also helped me learn how to use 32-bit .png files with an 8-bit alpha channel (for transparency etc.)  I had to change from using Paint Shop Pro and Corel Paint to Gimp (which is Open Source) because the older paint programs didn’t support proper alpha channels in pngs.

After a month’s worth of problem solving and development, I realised that the framework was actually pretty damn good and I thought that people might actually be interested in buying it.  So at the start of May I began selling it for $39 (£21.50).  It started selling immediately and kept on selling.  This was a very pleasant surprise – people clearly recognised its value from the AOTMG demo.  Since then the price has gone up twice and now sits at $55 or £29.95.  These price increases were made to reflect the extra features that I added to the framework.  I’ll see how I get on with the $55 price as it may be too much for some customers, even though it’s worth it 😉  However, I’m loath to drop the price really, and if I do, then I may have a separate higher price for commercial users.

Sales have slowed down a bit since the initial rush, but have not stopped.  This product is non-seasonal of course, so it should continue to sell.  The amazing thing is, it’s generated more income than both Xmas Bonus and Easter Bonus put together!

I was initially getting people to pay via Paypal, but some potential customers expressed distrust in Paypal so I added a Share-it! payment option.  This was definitely worth it as 20% of my sales have come from Share-it!  Perhaps those customers would have bought from Paypal given no other option, but maybe not … who knows?

Anyway, all major work on framework is done now (with the release of V1.00).  I only plan to release minor updates with fixes and other tweaks that I make to it whilst developing my next match-3 game.

Platform Game

Towards the end of April I was talking to a couple of forum members about making a platform game – a genre that we all love.  We formed a team (with myself as the leader) and began to chuck around a few ideas.  The aim is to expand my framework to have a platform game engine and related tools like a Level Editor etc.  Then we’ll make a simple but good platform game and if that goes well, either enhance it or make a new one that will be commercially viable.  However, with me being busy with the framework and other members being busy with their own projects, nothing much has happened yet.  I would still like to make this happen, and the other team members feel the same way – so watch this space …

My Next Match-3 Game

As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve entered into a contract to produce another match-3 game using my existing match-3 engine, but done in BlitzMax instead.  The game producer will be supplying all the graphics and music (made by professionals.)  So far, the graphics I’ve seen are amazing – good enough for the portals, for sure!  I can’t discuss the theme due to an NDA, but hopefully a demo will be ready by late July, if all goes to plan.

I only started proper full-time work on it last week, but things are going very well.  It’s very easy to plug into the framework and converting the old BlitzPlus pseudo OOP code over to BlitzMax real OOP code is quite good fun.

One of the nice things about Easter Bonus was working with other people; an artist and a musician.  I’m enjoying being in constant contact with the game producer for the current match-3 game.  We can bounce ideas around, and I have someone I can keep showing progess to, which makes me feel good (this also happened with Xmas Bonus as the publisher (www.indiepath.com) was very helpful.)  Feeling good about your work is an important motivational tool, in my opinion. So a good team, or supportive friends and family is vital.

Fruity Loops

Towards the end of May, I got a bit distracted.  I’d been listening to a lot of trance music whilst programming and some forum members pointed me in the direction of some really good modern(ish) trance.  I used to make techno/trance tracks years ago on the Amiga, and a few on the PC too.  The thing is, I was always limited by the technology (or lack of) and so, although I enjoyed it a lot, I never really made anything that sounded “professional”.  So I downloaded demos of Renoise and Fruity Loops and was amazed by what they could do and how easy it was to make professional sounding tracks.

I ended up buying Fruity Loops and really getting into it.  The ability to apply filters, reverb and delay, and to automate panning, volume, filters etc. is brilliant!  Then I discovered the Sytrus plugin and was gobsmacked, so I upgraded to the XXL version of Fruity Loops, which wasn’t cheap.  Since then I’ve purchased a 4-octave MIDI-keyboard with 8 sliders, 8 dials and a pitch wheel (yay!) because using the PC keyboard was horrible, plus it was stifling my creativity – particularly with regard to playing chords.

The whole setup is brilliant and I love it.  My first few mini-tracks mainly focused on getting the drums and build ups sounding good.  Since then I’ve been focusing on chords and getting bass, chords and lead working together.  I’ve made some pretty good snippets of music, if I don’t say so myself.  Some of the earlier ones are in the AOTMG demo, but I feel confident in making my own music for sci-fi type games in the future.  However, I probably need a lot more practice at making music for casual games, so I’m best off buying that in for now.  I’m also aiming to get good enough to get some finished and polished tracks together to put on CD and/or sell on the Internet. We’ll see…