Steampunk Road Rag Finished

August 30th, 2013

I have updated the Steampunk Road Rag music on the home page. I added a ‘B’ section and a ‘C’ section, wherein I take the rag to places it has never been before, and perhaps should never have gone.

Steampunk Road Rag

August 29th, 2013

I was inspired to write some music for the home page of Steampunk Road. Although the piece is not yet complete, I have uploaded the ‘A’ part of Steampunk Road Rag. To listen, head to the home page and click the “Play” icon toward the bottom of the screen. It was while developing the piece that I decided that the perfect steampunk instrument must certainly be the calliope, something I am certain most everyone already knew.

Beta Launch Delayed

August 28th, 2013

Dear Friends of Steampunk Road,

It is with great regret that we must postpone our beta launch previously scheduled for September 2nd. Looking at how much time is left and what we have left to do, there is just no way that it can all get done in time. We apologize for the inconvenience.

That does not mean that there will not be something new and interesting September 2nd. We still hope to launch the Guild Wars on that date. In addition, we have a new game (with a very steampunk pedigree) which we hope to debut then as well. Finally, we may unveil the easier-but-still-challenging puzzle we wrote about earlier.

Once again, our apologies for this temporary setback.

On Being a Game Designer

August 27th, 2013

I, dropping the royal “we” again for this more personal post, am not certain when I decided that I was a game designer. I never decided to become a game designer. I just woke up one day and decided that I was, by default, a game designer.

I more readily think of myself as a computer programmer. It was just that I had programs, like Steampunk Road and my mobile apps, that I wanted to write and there was no one telling me what they should look like or how they should work. Since the games needed to be designed before they could become games, I became a de facto game designer.

Now, I won’t claim to be a good game designer, but I have had some time to think and read and explore what makes for good game design. I am trying to incorporate all of that learning back into Steampunk Road.

For example, one of the things that you want in a good game design is a gentle ramp of difficulty. A game should start out relatively easy, but then start increasing in difficulty as the player learns more about how to play. The difficulty should challenge the player without frustrating her or him. If the game is too easy, or the difficulty stays the same, then the player will quickly become bored.

Steampunk Road has been a puzzle game from the start. The challenge has always been how to write a good puzzle in the era of Google and Wikipedia. I decided early on to expect people to use those resources and started writing puzzles with that in mind.

Surprisingly, writing difficult puzzles has not been a problem. For example, I have recently come up with a new puzzle that, while perhaps easier than our earlier puzzles, may still be quite difficult even with those resources. What has been difficult for me is coming up with easy puzzles! But there is still a lot of room in which to work, so I think perhaps we are working our way back from the end to the beginning.

Currency and Trade Survey

August 26th, 2013

The Marketplace is where you can view your inventory in Steampunk Road. Eventually, you will be able to trade items with other Captains. All trade will be through barter. There will be no currency.

In order to trade items with another Captain, you will both have to be docked at the same port. When you are docked, you can propose a trade with a specific Captain, put your trade up for offer on the market board, or accept another Captain’s offer for their trade if you have the necessary goods.

It is hoped that a natural currency will emerge – some common item that is readily acquired and exchanged for goods. Perhaps a certain item will serve as local currency in one port, but another item as local currency in another port (due to the proximity of the items’ sources).

Do you think Steampunk Road should have a common global currency, or is barter good enough? If we need a common global currency, what should it be? How much should Captains receive at the beginning of the game? Can currency be earned or created? If so, how?

As always, please leave your comments below, in this survey, or in the forums.

50 Issues Pending

August 25th, 2013

Almost daily we think of something new that can be added to enhance Steampunk Road. We keep track of these issue, as well as the occasional bug, in an issue-tracking system. We just hit our 50th issue. Of those fifty issues, three have been resolved.

We have resolved far more than three issues in the past, of course. The tally only counts those issues since we moved to our new issue tracker about a month ago. Even still, it looks highly unlikely that all of these issues will be dealt with before September 2nd.

Many of those issues are enhancements you will not know you missed out on if they do not appear. They are nice, but inessential, enhancements to the system and the game. But there are a few major issues still undergoing development. We hope to complete those this week.

Theatre Chat Stress Test Update

August 23rd, 2013

Unfortunately, I was the only one stressed during our live stress test of the Theatre Chat system in Steampunk Road. Perhaps we picked a bad time? We will give it another go sometime in the future. In the meantime, feel free to try out the chat stress-free.

Theatre Chat Stress Test Update

August 22nd, 2013

This is a reminder that we will be performing stress tests on our Theatre Chat subsystem tomorrow and that we absolutely need your help to accomplish this. We regret that we will not be available for the 4 PM UTC/12 noon EDT Friday, August 23 stress test. Please do participate in that chat if you can not participate in the later chat. Otherwise, please join us for the 2 AM UTC Saturday, August 23/10 PM EDT Friday, August 23 stress test, which we will be attending. See this post for more information on how to participate. Thanks again for you assistance, and we hope to chat with you online tomorrow!

Facebook “Insights”

August 21st, 2013

We have a Facebook page for our Facebook fans. Mostly, we post brief updates about the game and links to this blog and the surveys. Today we turn the tables and write a post about what we wrote on Facebook.

A few months ago, Facebook encouraged us to increase our number of fans and held out the carrot of receiving “insights” into our fan-base if we did. So we explicitly asked for “Likes” among the steampunk fans of Facebook. We exceeded our goal of 35 likes (thanks again to all of our Facebook fans!), so we thought perhaps we should share our “insights” with you.

There is not much there, but what is there is interesting. For example, 54% of the people on Facebook claim to be male. That is all of Facebook, not just those who “Like” Steampunk Road. Our fans are more evenly divided male/female at close to 50% each. Somehow both of those numbers surprised us, as we tend to see more posts by females.

The other interesting tidbit is not so much interesting as a bit depressing. Less than one-fourth of the people who “Like” Steampunk Road on Facebook will ever see any given post there. At most, one-half of them will see it. As far as Facebook is concerned, unless a post is ‘Like’d or shared, it may as well not even exist.

We are not going begging again though, and we are not going to engage in any shenanigans designed to get you to “Like” or share or comment on our Facebook page (or here on this blog). Rest assured, if you feel like clicking “Like” or sharing or commenting, it will be because of a genuine post designed to inform you, not to manipulate you. But if you are on Facebook, don’t forget to stop by occasionally and check out our latest posts, because chances are that most of them are not showing up in your feed.

Lost In Translation

August 20th, 2013

You may have noticed the foreign languages at the bottom of the home screen of Steampunk Road: German, Spanish, French, Italian, Russian, and Portuguese. If you select one of these languages, you will see most of the menus in that language.

We write “most” because far from all of Steampunk Road has been translated. Our translation method consists of putting words and phrases into Google Translate and then working back and forth between English and the other language until we appear to have a stable translation. We are still not certain about “Russian”, a surprisingly difficult word to translate into Russian. And ask us sometime about the joys of trying to write Cyrillic in PHP.

We would like to add Chinese to the list, but we decided to stick to languages that 1) we could actually see their words’ connection to their English counterparts, and that 2) read from left to right. We don’t want to end up like all of those people with tattoos on the Internet who have no idea what they really say.

In short, translation is a very time-consuming task. We can not afford to purchase help from a translation service. So our choices are: English-only, the time-consuming Google Translate and a limited number of languages, or volunteers. If you have a passion for translation and want to help out in the language of your choice, drop us a line at Thanks!