And so it begins….

July 5, 2007

We started work in earnest on Monday (2nd July) Paul came over to my house and we sat down and started planning out what ‘the site’ will look like and do. We also ordered a new server to run it all on and started the process of creating a completion to design the sites logo on worth1000. We will be sure to post on here and in our forums when the comp is open so those of you who are a bit arty can enter and have a chance of winning the $200 top prize. EDIT: the comp to design a logo will start on the 7th, I will post a link when I have a URL.

I kicked Paul out early as I got a call over the weekend saying my new PC was ready for collection, superb! Bring on Crysis & Alen Wake. On Wednesday Paul came over to mine again, Paul started work on the first of our new games and I laid down the sites database and account creation system. I got all in a twist with Regular Expressions and Paul had a bit of a headache with some game code, but that’s the way it goes some days.

I think it is about time we told you what ‘the site’ will be. You all know it will be a place to host our games but that is only the tip of the iceberg. We want to bring the social side of gaming to the forefront of on-line Flash games with a site that has everything built around groups and friends. When the site is ready we will move Element TD and Desktop TD on to it so they benefit from the new features as well as helping to test it and iron out any kinks. We feel that both our TD’s and flash games in general would be so much better if they were multi player, with this in mind our first new game will be Multi Player Desktop TD! I don’t want to give away any details of MPDTD at this stage other than that it is ‘vs’ not ‘co-op’ play and will be real time multi player using only the Flash plugin, for the rest you can use your imagination :)

I leave you with a screen shot of our servers task manager, we went to town with the specs as we both hate sites that take ages to load and we want to give you the best experience possible. Sweet looking ain’t it ;) That’s 2x Quad Xeons sitting there waiting for you to all come and play!


Flash Piracy

June 12, 2007

One of the problems of delivering copy protected content via Flash is that it is a semi-open platform and has no built-in copy protection mechanism. Flash game files (or SWFs) are just like any other file that can be copied from machine to machine. In fact when you play a flash game your PC has already downloaded the SWF file to your hard drive and is running it from there. Copying the SWF file back onto a different web server and adding it to another website is straight forward. 99% of the websites that have Desktop TD simply took a copy of the SWF file and rehosted it on their own site without asking permission. It’s technically theft but is tolerated in the flash community as a form of advertising for the developer, especially if the developer wants to promote their flash portal website. This process has worked very well for DTD due to the fact that the game redirect players back to my site when the game ends and they then tend to stay there. Most games are a little more polite and do not redirect, so maybe they are missing a trick there!

There are various things that can be done in code to lock the compiled game (or SWF) to your own domain but it is relatively straight forward to use a decompiler to turn your compiled game back into source code and the unscrupulous can simply remove any locking code and recompile. However software that encrypts the SWF file can be effective at stopping decompilers. DTD used such protection from version 1.21 onwards but the lack of protection for the earlier versions has turned out to be a problem as I will discuss below. Another problem is ‘hotlinking’ where a site is linking directly to the SWF file on your own server thereby using your bandwidth instead of theirs. Serving the SWF file dynamically and authorizing it via keys and the like is a good response to hotlinking. The multiplayer version of DTD will be domain locked and will use such a technology to ensure that it remains there!

Unfortunately both Desktop TD and Dave’s Element TD have been victim of a more serious type of flash piracy, reskinning. Reskinning is where the game is decompiled and the graphics and/or sound replaced with different versions. The game is then distributed as someone else’s work. A real slap in the face to the original developer I can tell you. Element TD was stolen by (compare with the original Element TD). And in the last week Desktop TD has been stolen by (compare with original Desktop TD). Admittedly they have put some effort into the DTD reskin but it doesn’t have a single feature in it that wasn’t already in the code they pinched from DTD. If anyone knows a good way to deal with this type of piracy please get in touch!

Piracy and hacking prevention are now taking up a significant portion of my development time at the moment and I am learning as I go. It would be easy to blame Flash for these problems but they are really caused by success and human nature. I bet even Valve’s Steam protection gets hacked occasionally!

DTD Update

June 7, 2007

Work on version 1.5 continues… broke out my marker pen and the scanner to produce some more leet artwork for the new towers:

New Ink Tower Ink / Blob Tower

Boost Tower Boost Tower

Finally plumbed in the Boost tower so it now err boosts. My request for translations on the HDG forum has gotten a good response – someone even posted Chinese. ApparentlyChinese Creep is ‘Creep’… but it looks more like someone bending down to insert a dvd into a dvd player to me! The problem with asking for translations is that I actually have to put the text into the game. Meh. French and Spanish have been completed after a marathon copy & paste session.

This is all a big experiment (and not a small amount of effort) to see whether an independant game can generate significant extra plays when translated into other major languages. I’m hoping yes, or oui, or ja, or hai.

On a side note the site’s eCPM has doubled since the start of the week. Result.

I quit!

June 4, 2007

Following the success of Desktop TD and Dave’s promise, nay blood oath, that we can make a living from making games, I have decided to quit my job. I handed in my notice on Monday and they decided to let me go there and then! Fair nuff.

I am currently working on the latest version of DTD but once that is complete it will be full steam ahead with Novel Concepts. We have a lot of ideas, plans & schemes and first up is too find a good domain name to hang them all off…