And I must say I'm impressed by the work put into some of the entries. While a couple on the "short list" didn't really push my buttons, there were a couple that were just outstanding. People put some serious effort into their entries, and it showed.
That being said, here are a couple of general comments. They're not just contest-things. They're general statements that you should follow if you plan to make your game commercial-quality.
- Using NSIS or MSI as your installer is just fine. Both work very well. Just make sure that you script it so that the uninstaller uninstalls everything completely. When I run the uninstaller for your game, it should clean up every trace of your application, leaving behind only the fresh scent of pine. That means all directories, config files, high score tables, registry entries, etc. must be gone. Leaving stuff behind after an uninstall is rude.
- In your install, if there's only one check-able option during the install. . .
[X] Install Super Robot Whatever
That's rather pointless. Unchecking it makes no sense, so get rid of that step.
- If you change my resolution to go fullscreen, don't squinch up all of my underlying Windows so that all of my windows are the size of postage stamps after I quit your game. That's just rude.
- While putting your resources out in easily-changed and hacked formats (WAV, MP3, BMP, etc) is okay for a quickie demo, it's verboten for anything with non-trivial distribution. Try to work out of a resource database of some kind (there's one built into your Windows executable, so really you don't have to look too far) or at least put your sounds and visuals in a non-editable format. Otherwise you should not be surprised when a goatse version of your game hits the download sites.
- Don't launch your game with a batch file. Not only is it unprofessional, but WinXP SP2 pops up warnings when you double-click batch files. And if Grandma starts up your game and immediately sees a box saying that horrible things could happen if she continues, she ain't gonna run your game. Figure out a better way.
I am so friggin tired of the "good ole boy network". We had to start out there because bootstrapping an engineering firm requires a client (lest you sit there forever), and generally the only clients who will go with new untempered engineering meat are the troublesome ones. Unfortunately, we're still having problems shedding those clients.
And let me be honest here. By "good ole boy network", I'm not talking about the occasional down-to-earth fella who took his own company up from the roots and knows that the way to keep talented folks around is to keep 'em happy. We've had several of those throughout the years and couldn't be happier with 'em. I'm talking about the hillbilly-developers who consider engineers to be a necessary evil who's sole purpose is to try to keep their projects from being shut down by those meddling city workers who stand in the way of progress with nitpicky enviro-wacko rules like not allowing houses to be built in flood-plains, requiring minimum amounts of water-pressure on fire-hydrants, etc.
To quote my management classes (of which I have 18-hours in college and must occasionally quote just to make me feel like it was time well spent), there are two ways to manage employees. Employees can be viewed either as costs that must be minimized or as resources that must be maximized. Draw your own conclusions as to how the "good ole boy network" views talented design engineers like Shelly.
We actually had a client say "Dang, you guys charge lawyer rates!" when Shelly quoted 'em a price on a project.
First off, our rates are about a third of what lawyers charge around here. Second off, when you need to have five different kinds of insurance, S-corporation status, three rooms of high-end office equipment, software maintenance fees tallying thousands of dollars a year, an engineering tech, subcontracts with licensed surveyors, 15 credits of continuing education a year, and at least a dozen different licenses with state agencies and trade associations that all require new forms and maintenance fees every year, you won't exactly be able to make ends meet if you charge the same rate as the guy sweeping the floor at Taco Bell.
But I digress. . .
Back to the "good ole boy network". Basically the ones we've dealt with in the past (some of which are still attached to us today like recurrent butt-warts) like to dictate payment terms ranging from "I'll pay you X percent of construction costs" to "Don't worry honey-cakes, I'll take care of you".
Both sets of terms reduce to "bend over, this is gonna be a bumpy ride".
We've gotten away from those terms in all of our projects, and we've made it very clear to our clients that we no longer work for the big "we're all gonna be zillionaires once a builder buys our lots" because it always ends up making the client a zillionaire and screws us, either by hiding construction costs until our X percent is reduced to $1.25 or by a project going totally bust and making the rewards of our hard work a set of construction drawings for a site that'll never be.
And I can show you a couple of those piles of paper if you'd like. They're quite impressive. Although one of those worthless piles did finally emerge from its cocoon as a 1.6 acre commercial strip-mall site when a client realized that "sorry, folks, outta cash" wasn't a good enough settlement for us. In ten years, I'm gonna own me a Starbucks :)
But I digress again. I only say all this because I had the pleasure of giving another a thorough tongue-lashing a couple of days ago (while I was still recovering from the stomach virus, thus giving me a super-double-reason to be annoyed) when he had the bigass scary balls to tell Shelly that she was trying to "gig him" on a project that required nearly 200 hours of work but for which we had not received a nickel. This same client also owed us half our bill on a project from January that fell through. He made it clear that his terms were that we'd receive X percent of the construction costs when he got the money. Mind you, I'd been sending him invoices for two months that stated very clearly that our payment was to be hourly and was to be paid upon receipt of the invoice. He condescendingly stated that absolutely NO ONE does business this way, and that we'll be taken care of when he gets the money. That's when I laid into him, telling him that our terms had been very clear and in writing for months, and if he had a problem with 'em he had more than ample time to let us know, and that if he thinks that the best way to get "drop everything" service is to delay paying bills until your account is ready to be handed to a collection agency accompanied by accusing the client of stealing (which he insisted that "gig" does not mean but is actually something else that he was unable to describe) then he's on a yet-undiscovered plane of existence. I then explained the obvious --that we were a subcontractor and not an investor and should not be expected to carry the risk for a project for which we had no expectation of greater profit should it succeed beyond expectations. And that we ourselves employ several subcontractors and surveyors, all of whom would be more than happy to sue us should we ever call them to explain that since our payee stood us up that we planned to pass the savings on to them.
I was about to ask him if he also shorted his electric bill by ten bucks on the months that he did the project (since he can't be expected to pay for the electricity that powered his computer if the project for which he used the computer didn't pay out), but I didn't because he had suddenly grown strangely quiet.
I then asked if he intended to at least pay for the rest of the January project. His statement was "I'll have to pay that out of other funds, and I'll do that. . .if you think that's the right thing".
THE FRIGGIN' NERVE! I just gave this hillbilly a two-minute lesson about how the service industry operates and he still doesn't think that it's right that he pay Shelly for the work she did because she should be expected to shoulder the risk for his bad judgment.
Honestly, the guy just didn't get it. My initial impression was that he wasn't really cut out for the business world, and those impressions were 102% correct. He's the kind of guy who works best in a cubicle farm where his foot enters his cube at 8:30 AM, he works or doesn't work for N-hours, he leaves the building at 5:00 PM sharp, and he collects his paycheck every other Friday. In his universe, concepts like payment for services and risk-management and such aren't really things that you can control but are things that are dictated by the business gods(tm) and are immutable. And if a client pays you, you eat. And if a client doesn't pay you, you shrug your shoulders and try to do some more work in the hopes that he might pay you some other time.
I then dictated some new (and unsatisfactory to both parties, so they must have been fair) terms for our payment. He agreed, but I get the impression that he now thinks me to be an unreasonable meanie. Which is fine. To quote Gordon Gekko from "Wall Street", if you want a friend, get a dog.
Anyway, I just can't handle these hillbilly clients. I realize that we're in Texas and our main focus is doing engineering work on the vast stretches of cow-land surrounding Dallas/Fort Worth, but there's just nothing more galling than trying to maintain a professional relationship with clients who just wanna clap you on the shoulder and condescendingly re-dictate payment terms when you tell 'em that it's time to get out their checkbook.
. . .ohh, and he also told me that he never opened any of our invoices, because he just trusted that the big final zillionaire payoff would more than cover anything we billed. Friggin' liar.
In the past three days I've screamed at deadbeat clients, balanced the CivilGrrl account, paid bills for the house and company, prepared all of the reports for the accountant, sat next to Shelly for eight hours dictating spreadsheet numbers to her so that we could re-plumb a complete subdivision in record time, took care of printing bid books and getting em out to clients for a different project that's gone to bid, finished the long-standing settlement for the 1.6 acre commercial property that we now own, and generally kept this whole friggin' enterprise from being eaten by the legions of jurassic raccoons that live in the woods behind the house.
. . .all while recovering from a stomach virus that's been laying out teachers at my daughter's school for a week at a time.
. . .and my mother-in-law tells Shelly that she should leave me because "John doesn't do anything".
She and anyone who agrees with her after reading this far should empower themselves to kiss my black ass.