TLDR: Spinnortality.com (which I’m using to send you this email) is shutting down, so you’ll no longer get updates about what my studio is up to. If you’d like to to still get those updates, just sign up to our current newsletter here.
Why is the site shutting down?
Spinnortality came out a few years ago, so this landing page doesn’t see much traffic. In the last few years I’ve only really used it to keep you folks informed about my more recent projects, but it doesn’t make sense to keep paying for this domain if it’s not really needed.
But I still want those precious updates!
No problem, I want to keep you in the loop about them! Since making Spinnortality I’ve founded a two-person studio called Clockwork Bird, and we made a cyberpunk interrogation game, in case you missed that one.
We’re interested in making games with a narrative focus that are a little off-beat. Maybe not the sort of game that plays to the masses, but does something a bit quirky or interesting. Spinnortality did that by being more than just a numbers-crunching conquest sim: I tried to design it to actually teach people about how late-stage capitalism operates, and I wrote a fair few popup events that are meant to challenge players’ assumptions. Silicon Dreams, that interrogation game I mentioned, asked “How can we make a game about connecting with someone despite having an entire corporation looking over the player’s shoulder? Can players sneak some information past the censors to make that possible?”
We’re looking forward to making more unusual, kinda artsy games, but we’re not ready to talk about them just yet. If you’d like to hear about it when we are, just sign up to our current mailing list here. Don’t worry, we promise no spam! You can also follow us on twitter here if that’s more your thing.
Just a quick note to let you know my new cyberpunk game, Silicon Dreams, is out now – and to celebrate, Spinnortality is 30% off on Steam! Since you showed interest in Spinnortality, my last cyberpunk game, I thought you might like to know. You can grab it here.
What’s it about, you ask? Three words: tears in rain.
“The best Blade Runner game that we’ve gotten in years” – TheGamer.com
Silicon Dreams is a narrative cyberpunk thriller about interrogating rogue androids. In a corporate-controlled dystopian future where the lines between the real and the artificial have blurred to almost nothing,you play an interrogation-model android who becomes caught between big tech and a brewing revolution.
It’s a Papers, Please style bureaucratic thriller with a Blade Running soul.
Speak, or forever hold your peace – Carefully control the flow of information. Decide what to reveal, and when, and to whom.
Facts vs feelings – Monitor interviewees’ emotions in real-time: joy, sadness, anger, disgust, shock, and fear. Use this data to plan a strategy & draw conclusions.
Live and let die – Choose to spare deviant androids, or condemn them and secure your own survival within the corporation.
Branching paths – Move through a vast web of dialogue options and experience multiple endings depending on the path you choose.
If that sounds up your street, you can get it here! And if you enjoy it, a positive review does wonders for the Steam algorithm – we’d love for you to tell the world your thoughts on it!
If you’d like to be notified the second it’s out, or if you’re catching up on your emails and it’s already April 20th (we’ve all been there!), you can wishlist or buy it here.
a narrative cyberpunk thriller about interrogating rogue androids
In a corporate-controlled dystopian future where the lines between the real and the artificial have blurred to almost nothing, an interrogation-model android becomes caught between big tech and a brewing revolution. Players can intimidate, manipulate, betray or befriend; they can aid the insurgents or bring about their downfall. They can adhere to their strict programming – or succumb to deviant emotion.
Speak, or forever hold your peace:
Carefully control the flow of information. Decide what to reveal, and when, and to whom.
Facts vs feelings:
Monitor interviewees’ emotions in real-time – joy, sadness, anger, disgust, shock, and fear. Use this data to plan a strategy & draw conclusions.
Live and let die:
Choose to spare deviant androids, or condemn them and secure your own survival within the corporation.
Move through a vast web of dialogue options and experience multiple endings depending on the path you choose.
We can’t wait – but we need your help!
If this sounds like your thing, great! We’re only two developers, though, so we need all the help we can get. If you’d like to help this game succeed out there in the harsh indie game hinterlands, any social media help you can muster on twitter, facebook or instagram would be really, truly appreciated. If you haven’t already, a wishlist on Steam can be a big help: it tells the Steam gods that our game is worth highlighting on launch day.
Greetings Spinnortality fans! I just wanted to let you know I’ve just launched my next game, “Silicon Dreams”, on Kickstarter! Since you were interested in my last cyberpunk game I thought you might like to hear about it.
“Silicon Dreams” is an android interrogation sim; think “Blade Runner” meets “Papers, Please” meets “NeoCab”. Question androids; learn their life story; gain their trust. Will players expose their subject’s secrets to the company, or risk everything and help their fellow androids escape decommission?
We’ve been working on it for a few months now and we’re thrilled to launch the Kickstarter campaign! If we make our goal then we’ll be able to make it the game it deserves to be; if we make a little more then we have some really fun stretch goals planned.
Sounds cool, what can I do?
We’re a tiny studio (just me and a friend) so this campaign will succeed or fail based on your support!
So if you have any spare change, it would be amazing if you helped us out by backing. And if you don’t, no worries, we get it! But we’d be eternally grateful if you shared our announcement posts on twitter or facebook.
If you’d like more info you can also read our full launch blog post, which talks about some fun streaming/live events we’ve got planned for the next month. It’s gonna be a lot of fun! 😀
I have big news: I’m going to run another Kickstarter!
Cool, what’s the game?
It’s Silicon Dreams, a Blade Runner-like game where you interrogate androids to figure out if they’re broken or not. It’s a bit like Papers, Please meets Neo Cab.
We’ve been working on it for about 4 months, and we really think it could be something special. It’ll get made regardless, but if this Kickstarter does well we’ll be in a position to add a few features that we think would make it really shine, and (stretch goals willing) add more characters and polish than initially planned!
When’s this Kickstarter, then?
We’re launching on
April 7th, at 6pm UK time.
We’ll need all the help we can get – we’re still a small studio, so whether this succeeds or fails will be largely up to you guys! We’ll spread the word as far as we can but without word-of-mouth support from our fans we won’t get far.
Can I help, then?
Yes! You can do this stuff:
Share our tweets and social media posts as often as you can, especially just after we launch. The best way to get notified of those is to follow us on twitter and facebook.
Once the Kickstarter launches, back the game if you can afford it! (But, honestly, we know these are weird times and we understand if you can’t right now.)
Generally do what you can to spread the word. Do you have a friend who’s crazy for cyberpunk? Maaaaybe you could send them a link?
Thanks so much! If you’d like more info, here’s a bit more information about the Kickstarter, and here’s more info about the game itself.
Hello devoted Spinnortality players! I’m stoked to be announcing that I just finished localising Spinnortality into French! If you have friends who would enjoy this game but don’t speak English or German, now is their chance to control the course of humanity in their native language. Share the good news with them, or better yet, why not gift them a copy? And if you happen to have the ear of a French streamer or blogger, it would be insanely helpful for you to toss this their way.
I’ve been quiet for a few months, but it’s with good reason: I’ve been setting up some pretty big changes for how I do game development! I’m super excited about what lies ahead, and can’t wait to tell you about it.
The free Automation update is now live! What fun improvements does that entail?
New mechanics for workers! They’ll demand higher pay, especially if you’re raking in the cash. Don’t give them what they want and they’ll strike! Of course, you could weaken their union with your class contacts… or just intimidate them with threats of violence.
No more mid-game tedium: assign Automation teams to each nation to launch products, push media and weaken laws automatically! Research “AI consultant” to unlock this feature.
Victory goals: achieve general goals to unlock more authority.
Once you’ve finished the research tree, use the “Corporate Dominion” project to dominate your company and gain endless authority.
Custom icon support. Wanted to roleplay as a real-life company? I can’t put that icon in the game, but now you can! Or you could design your own if you’re, like, an artist or whatever.
And, of course, there are general fixes and tweaks. Patch notes for those are below.
How do I get this update? If you’ve got the game on Steam, you’ve already got it! Your game has been automatically updated. If you got it on itch.io, you’ll need to download the latest version manually (31.07.2019).
If you don’t have a copy yet, grab one from Steam or itch.io!
Thanks to all the fans and friends who tested this update before it went live: without your help, this wouldn’t be the same release. 🙂
Added automation system: assign workers to nation teams to automatically launch products with best available slogans. Also pushes culture if media push is available, and weakens law if political influence available.
Rebalanced some events.
Corporate Dominion project: research to gain authority. Workers now have a purpose once the research tree is exhausted.
Players can now import their own custom corporate icon.
Added worker unrest, strikes and pay rises. You can avoid these problems by weakening union with class connections, or intimidating your workers if you’ve got the Armed taskforce agenda.
Tweaked balance of climate crisis.
Added victory goals: achieve them for an authority reward.
The game checks if a board member will die before you end the turn.
Tweaked board member ages so you need to research immortality sooner.
The game should play a bit nicer on 3:2 resolutions (ie. the nation list in the top-right won’t interfere with the hovering nation boxes)
Cancelling nation actions now really cancels them. @_@
Fixed the Ayisha event chain to it can properly conclude (sorry, that achievement is now definitely possible!)
Corpornation shares are now more expensive, but also more lucrative.
All story events more likely to occur now, especially Ayisha’s.
Once a crisis triggers, you’re more likely to get more crisis events instead of random, irrelevant ones.
Players should all experience a crisis before victory.
Spinnortality’s free update is drawing closer than a corrupt CEO to a poorly secured pension fund. So what else can you expect?
The base game had a fairly compelling gameplay loop: research product, research slogans, click around trying to use those slogans to market in different nations. That’s fine for the first hour or two.
By the mid-game, though, things have changed. You’re manipulating media: that involves checking which nations are media-ly manipulable, choosing a culture to target, and clicking to commit to that culture. You’re manipulating laws, which involves checking any nations where you aren’t already manipulating laws, donating money to parties, then choosing a law to deregulate. And on top of that, you’re still doing that original gameplay loop: checking each— you know what, this is getting tedious to explain, let alone do every turn.
It got a bit much.
And the biggest problem was that, by this point, you were usually not interested in launching products any more! By the mid-game you’re not that bothered by the financial side of things, and more interested in the politics of the world (and how to manipulate them, of course). I was holding the mid-game mechanics hostage behind early-game tedium.
Is there a place for this sort of design? Absolutely. If a game’s trying to convey the tedium of repetitive work – maybe it’s a game about working a dead-end job, or balancing a day-job with your weird passion – this would be fine. But Spinnortality is about the fantasy of becoming one of the most powerful people on the planet.
This dovetailed with another design problem: once the player has researched everything on the tech tree, there’s no reason to keep their workers around. Why not design a solution which solved both problems?
So I decided that each nation would have an “Automation team”, a group of workers who try to take care of any busywork in that nation. That means launching products, deregulating laws and manipulating culture with media.
Workers already have a “research” score and a “creativity” score, so I figured the more research a team had the faster it would run, and the more creativity it had the better it would do its job. (This was originally really complicated, before I realised that “your team needs creativity to launch products well” was perfectly adequate.)
But what I found most interesting was how this improved the game in unexpected ways:
This system values creativity. If you just assign loads of normal workers to each team, you’ll get good research but poor creativity. This means you have a reason to hire creative (mutant) workers. This was in contrast to the base game, where creative workers were a little sidelined.
Numerically speaking, a level 5 worker is more efficient than a level 2 worker in terms of “how much labour you get for the money they cost”. But Automation teams need about 1.5 top-level workers to operate at full capacity. In the past, you were incentivised to hire more top-tier workers and fire the old, obsolete ones. Now it’s more efficient to keep a mix of low- and top-tiers to staff those teams.
Since worker unrest only applies to organic workers (see last week’s post), it’s possible for a player to fire all their organic employees and only use AIs, and not have to deal with worker strikes. Or it would be… but that won’t work if you want to use Automation teams, because AIs suck at creativity. Now players have another reason to pay attention to the new mechanics.
One thing I chose to not automate, though, was donating money to political parties. The player might not always want to spend that money: if you need to buy a new clone for $200m, and you would have had $210m this turn but that nonessential law change just cost you $16m… It could have been frustrating and caused people to lose for no reason. I also didn’t want to automate away the entire game.
So I’ve got my Automation teams. How does the player access them? Should they be available from the start of the game?
I eventually decided against that: the game’s complex enough for new players, and it isn’t necessary. So now, once you’ve researched the product “AI consultants”, you get an event where your new AI consultant has created these teams for you. Since AI consultants gets researched at roughly the point where you start to really want these mechanics, that should work fine.
(It’s possible some players won’t research AI consultants, which is a concern, but I really like how this weaves the narrative into the tech tree mechanics, so I’m keeping it.)
The Automation Update is coming on August 2nd; hope you’re looking forward to it!
The Automation Update is right around the corner. In fact, it’s coming on August 2nd! (Woo, it’s exciting and stressful to set release dates. )
I thought you might like to hear how I designed a key new feature: worker unrest.
So at launch, Spinnortality had a problem. Players would make waaaay too much money. This is a screenshot from one player in the late-game.
That’s, like, over 10 times the maximum amount you’d ever ever need. This might be considered the definition of “too much”.
So I figured “Ok, that’s an issue, can I do anything about it?” I’d already written some random events to punish you with a Public Opinion hit if you got too much money, but obviously those hadn’t tackled the real issue.
There was one area, though, that I hadn’t developed much, and was already integrated into the finances system: workers and worker happiness. Some facts about workers:
You pay them
They are sometimes unhappy
They provide labour, unless they are unhappy.
Fine. But in the real world, workers don’t like it too much when their bosses make the kind of money we’re seeing here, and they sometimes go on strike to demand higher pay. I decided to introduce some new rules:
Let’s create a new stat called “Worker unrest”. Unrest rises over time, and it rises faster the more money you’re making.
If unrest gets too high, workers will start striking.
You can reset unrest to zero by giving workers a pay rise. This means the amount you pay them will be permanently increased.
Oh hey look, a feedback loop! If you’re making loads of money, your workers will complain; you need your workers to not complain; the only way to appease them is to give them a raise, ensuring you’ll make less money in future, hopefully bringing the system back into balance.
Once I’d got that system in, I decided to flesh it out a bit, and tie it into the existing “worker happiness” mechanics:
If your workers go on strike but worker happiness is more than 100%, the strike will fail (nobody wants to strike because they’re happy), but you will lose 10% worker happiness. This means high worker happiness – something that I achieved easily in every playthrough – could be “spent” as a sort of emergency strike buffer.
Giving workers a pay rise raises worker happiness a bit, because why not.
At this point I realised it was a bit inflexible to only give the player one way to solve the “unrest is too high” problem, though. I didn’t want to make it easy for players to reduce unrest – that would defeat the purpose of the system. But what if a player needed a quick fix for just a turn or two, to buy them some time? What if a player made loads of money in the past, raising unrest, but was now broke?
Players can weaken the workers’ union. This costs class connections, and lowers unrest a liiiiiiittle bit. (10%)
Players with an Armed Taskforce (ie. they can already blackmail people, rig elections etc) now have an “Intimidate union” option, costing them a fair few military connections. This reduces unrest a lot, but takes several turns, can fail, and while you’re doing this you can’t do any other espionage projects.
This gives players an opportunity to juggle military and class connections to lower worker unrest. I’m happy with those trade-offs: those connections are scarce, but most of the time money isn’t. If the problem I set out to fix – too much money – were happening, players would have zero reason to use these options. But if players run into money trouble (which is very possible, your money-train can stall if you’re not careful) they now have an out that doesn’t focus on penalising them for having too much of a resource they no longer have.
Playthroughs with testers seem to have had less of a “piles of money” problem, and my income in test runs has remained consistently low, so I think this was a success. Even if it hasn’t perfectly balanced the game, I think it’s an improvement and adds a little extra depth to the game’s systems.
Remember, the Automation Update will drop on August 2nd but you can also help me test it before it launches!