This Grand Life – Analysing The Stock Market

Firstly, what an exciting two weeks it’s been! Watching people play the game has given me feedback on things to improve, and I’ve released many small game updates as a result. I think the new system with lots of small updates will continue for a while, with the occasional big update for major features.

I’ve also made some progress on the Stock Market feature so here’s a quick peek.

Each listed corporation on the stock market is influenced by economic conditions. The better the economy, the higher the corporation’s earnings. Higher earnings means they are able to acquire assets faster (and have higher equity) and use those assets to earn even more money.

You can see in the above charts the stock price and equity of two corporations changing over time. They both follow the same general dips and rises based on the economy. However, MONEY Group has only increased its equity by about 15% while Horizontal Corp. has increased its equity by around 80% in the same time. The performance difference of these two stocks is due to company management. Good management leads to higher earnings over time.

If a company has bad management in a bad economy, they even have a chance of going bankrupt. Do you stick with the company and hope the economy improves or leadership changes before they go bankrupt? Or do you sell your shares now and recover some money? You won’t know for sure how good a company’s management is, but you can stay informed when a company changes leaders by subscribing to the Financial Dimes subscription.

There are other aspects such as dividend payouts and taxation of your trading profits, which are calculated on a first in, first out basis. You might want to delay selling your shares for a profit if you already made a lot of money this year and expect to make less next year. It will help to reduce the amount of tax you pay.

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By |October 12th, 2017|GameDev|0 Comments

Alpha 1.6 Update – Polish and Paint

I’ve been focusing on retesting every existing feature and fixing issues over the past week. With the Steam Early Access 3 weeks away, I’ll be sending out press builds soon and want the game to be as stable as possible. This means the Stock Market feature won’t be ready until after the Steam version is live. Having said that, Alpha 1.6 is now live and there’s a few new things in addition to those mentioned in the last post.

You can now buy Lottery Tickets from the Mall. This probably sounds strange in a game about smart financial decision-making. The lottery is drawn at the end of each week. If you lose, nothing happens except you wasted your money, but if you win your happiness increases. On average you will lose money just like in real life, so playing the lottery is only useful as a way to increase happiness.

Next, I found some flaws with the way I was calculating repayment rates for home mortgages. I was using the same formula that was used for personal loans, but this made the monthly mortgage repayments very unaffordable. I’ve changed it so now when you take out a mortgage, it will always be paid back in 30 years (unless you pay off the principle early). This makes the loans much more affordable and realistic.

Improvements have been made to the personal loan and mortgage screens as well. They will indicate the current monthly repayments so you can work out whether you can afford the loan. You can compare the repayments with current rent prices to see if it’s cheaper to rent or buy a house.

One thing to remember is that all loans are variable rates. This means if interest rates increase, then your repayments will increase as well. This is yet another reason to keep an eye on the Economic Charts I introduced in the last blog post. If you see interest rates are on the rise and economic growth is falling, be careful you don’t borrow more than you can afford to repay.

Finally, you can now paint your Collectible containers! Just buy Cans Of Paint at the Mall like you would for your house, and then a Paint Container button will appear under the collection display.

Here’s a list of all the changes 1.6:

New Features

  • Added super cool loading screen at start
  • Added image for losing game
  • Added economic indicator charts
  • Added life goal history tracking and charts
  • Added shortcut key configuration to Options
  • Added details view for real estate in Possessions
  • Added Financial Dimes subscription
  • Added lottery ticket possessions
  • Added painting Collectible containers

Gameplay Changes

  • Reduced impact of some needs-based events
  • Modified economic growth update rates
  • Added capital gains tax for sold real estate
  • Added separate Real Estate index and history tracking
  • Decoupled house price index from economic growth index
  • Changed mortgage repayments to 30-year terms

Bugfixes/Improvements

  • Edge scrolling only happens when window in focus
  • Made banking popups and alerts more consistent
  • Fixed able to apply for home without home selected
  • Removed Real Estate label from Possessions panel unless we have real estate
  • Overhauled Statements display
  • Lots of minor UI tweaks
  • Fixed missing Coin Collecting Album from Collector’s Store
  • Split tax return into more specific income/expense categories
  • Added estimated monthly repayments on mortgage and personal loan
  • Fixed missing Bachelor Of Arts and Philosophy from university
  • Fixed withholding tax not taking into account inflation
  • Fixed yearly tax calculation not taking into account inflation
  • Fixed medical bills not taking into account inflation
  • Fixed missing sound effect for ‘free’ actions
  • Fixed possessions not appearing in Possessions panel when hidden objects purchased
  • Fixed repayments too high on mortgages
  • Fixed loan principle increasing faster than repayments
  • Fixed real estate investment interest being treated as tax offset instead of tax deduction
  • Fixed Interest income going into tax payable instead of income column on tax return
  • Fixed deadlock when processing transaction history causing game to hang

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By |September 27th, 2017|GameDev|0 Comments

Keeping Score – Adding Charts to This Grand Life

Firstly, a minor update Alpha 1.51 has been released which fixes some bugs that were found:

  • Fixed missing Coin Collecting Album from Collector’s Store
  • Fixed missing Bachelor Of Arts and Philosophy from University
  • Fixed withholding tax not taking into account inflation
  • Fixed yearly tax calculation not taking into account inflation

Now, onto the topic of Alpha 1.6. There are several steps to take before we can have a functioning Commodities/Stock Market.

The first step is adding charting functionality to the game. I already have the ability to store historical price data from previous features, now it was just a matter of presenting that information to the player. Here’s a look at the new charts for economic data in action:

I can also use this to show the player’s progress. When you click on the Life Goals buttons now, you’ll be able to see charts showing your progress towards each goal.

In the future, I’ll be able to use this same functionality to display stock price history and other information.

Secondly, the Statements window received a face-lift and is divided into two parts – Personal and World. Personal statements are things like your Income Statement and Tax Return that are already in the game. World statements will include information on interest rates, economic growth, real estate prices, stock prices and more.

You will notice that World statements are locked behind a paywall. A subscription to Financial Dimes is required, which has been added to the usual subscriptions window. This is so new players aren’t overwhelmed by the amount of information thrown at them.

Once you subscribe, you will get access to information to help you make informed decisions. For example, the Economic Indices charts will help you to determine whether it’s cheaper to rent or buy a home. Rent prices are affected by the Inflation Index, whereas house prices are now affected by their own Real Estate Index. Depending on which index is higher, renting can be more or less expensive than buying.

On a separate note, I got a bit carried away in the last update with adding random events. There were some events that affected your needs levels, and after play-testing I found they were a bit unfair. They took away from the pleasure of barely surviving the week using proper time management, which would happen naturally from time to time. About half of them will be removed in Alpha 1.6, but I’ll be keeping some funny events like coming last place in a beauty contest.

Also, I’m still thinking about ways to implement some automation of needs in the late game. I want to do it in an interesting and balanced way, and I prefer not to attempt it until I have a clear vision of what it looks like. It’s always on my mind though. Maybe one day I will have a flash of brilliance like I did with the Subscriptions and come up with something great!

Itch.io | Twitter | Website

By |September 21st, 2017|GameDev|1 Comment

Alpha 1.5 Update, Steam Announcement and New Trailer

Lots to talk about! Firstly, the Steam page for This Grand Life is up and there’s a new trailer to go along with it. I’ll be launching on Steam Early Access on 23rd October and aim for a full launch in the first half of next year. If you purchased on Itch.io, you will get a Steam key.

Alpha 1.5 includes the new theme feature and Comic Book collectibles discussed in the last article, new career paths, education courses, traits, random events, balance changes and more.

When adding new content, I try to keep things varied by using existing game mechanics in different ways. Two examples are the Law and Accounting careers.

For the Law career path, you start out as a Paralegal after you get your Law degree. When you have gained enough Law Experience, you get access to two further occupations. You can become a Legal Officer, which pays more. Or you can become a Community Lawyer, which has the unique mechanic of increasing your Happiness every time you work. The next tier up is the Corporate Lawyer, which requires the player to take the Bar Exam as a prerequisite. It pays a lot more money than either the Legal Officer or Community Lawyer.

The Accountant career path is different. In this career, you can start gaining Accounting Experience as a Payroll Clerk before you even get your degree. Once you have your degree, you can then become an Accountant. After that you take the CPA Exam to become a Certified Accountant, then finally complete a Diploma in Management course to become a Comptroller. So lots of courses to complete to reach the top of this career, but it pays extremely well.

In this update we’ll also have more random events. Some examples are stepping on chewing gum and having an old friend call you, which changes your needs slightly each week.

Next we have more traits. Here’s a short list of some of the new ones:

  • Deal-hunter – You’re always looking for a great bargain. All Subscriptions cost 25% less.
  • Optimistic – Your Happiness recovers faster when it drops below 50%.
  • Lazy – It’s hard to get out of bed. Lose 7 hours each week.
  • Short Legs – Travelling between locations takes 20% more time.

I’ve also made some slight adjustments to the Happiness need. One of the aims of the Happiness need is to kill off the player if they haven’t been managing their money properly. For example, if you can’t afford food then your Hunger need goes down the zero and then your Happiness need starts decreasing. However, this could also happen if the player wasn’t paying enough attention to the needs bar (even if they had plenty of money).

I didn’t want to punish the player too much for inattention. So I’ve significantly slowed down the rate of Happiness decrease when this happens. In practice, this means you will be less likely to go into a spiral of depression and ‘moping around’ by accident. It also means if you have run out of money, your journey to insanity will take slightly longer.

Finally, last time I mentioned the Commodities/Stock Market feature was in second place in our online poll. Well now it seems to have taken the lead by a large margin!

Here’s the full list of changes for Alpha 1.5:

New Features

  • Added traits Marketeer, Coupon Clipper, Deal-hunter, Lazy, Short Legs, Speed Walker, Optimistic and Pessimistic
  • Added Paint Home and Business functionality
  • Added Fast food coupon – Buy one get one free
  • Added Jesse’s Jokes and Generous Giving subscriptions
  • Added 10 new random events
  • Added Law career path, Bachelor Of Law, Bar Exam and 4 related jobs
  • Added Accountant career path, Bachelor Of Accounting, CPA Exam and 4 related jobs
  • Added Office Clerk job
  • Added Skyscraper and Collectors Store locations
  • Added Comic Collectibles and Storage Box
  • Added location color themes
  • Added ‘Light Reader’ and ‘Hoarder’ ambitions
  • Added Can Of Paint possession at Mall
  • Added two music tracks
  • Added border around game map
  • Added Investment Manager to top of Finance career

Gameplay Changes

  • Refactored events system so only one random city event per week
  • Reduced rate of Happiness decrease when another need is at zero by 50%
  • Moved all collectibles from Mall to Collectors Store
  • Allow maximum 4 educations on character creation
  • Removed Work Experience requirements from Culinary career path
  • Added Bachelor Of Finance requirement to most jobs in Banking career path
  • Reduced fun and job openings from Social Services Manager and Licensing Examiner jobs
  • Reduced Cooking Exp requirement for Sous Chef and removed Cooking Exp requirement for Restaurant Cook
  • Increased experience requirements of Security career path

Bugfixes/Improvements

  • Slightly adjusted existing map dimensions
  • Added commas to all currency displays
  • Added tooltip when hovering over time and needs bars
  • Fixed some low-quality avatars
  • Now storing historical economic indicator data for each game
  • Added auction caller sound effects
  • Cleaned up in-game InfoNet
  • Renamed ‘Ancient Rome’ collectibles to ‘Roman’
  • Enabled random city-based events in scenarios
  • Added player businesses to bankruptcy proceedings
  • Add needs translated string to InfoNet Search
  • Added jobs at each location to InfoNet search and display
  • Fixed bug with time being used on nothing at start of new week sometimes
  • Fixed annoying bouncing location panels when travelling between places sometimes
  • Fixed crash when going bankrupt at end of week with a Business Brand window open

Itch.io | Twitter | Website

By |September 7th, 2017|GameDev|0 Comments

Themes, Comics and more Subscriptions

First on the list of new features is themes. Each location in the game now has a different colour theme to make them more distinct. The Fast Food location is gaudy and bright, while the high-end Restaurant is more subtle and classy.

Even the housing areas have their own theme. If you don’t like your home’s default colours, you can change it. Go to the Mall and buy Cans Of Paint, then go home and select ‘Paint Home’ to choose which theme you want. You can also do the same for any freelance businesses you own.

Next is Comic Book collecting. Comic Books are now available to help achieve your Possessions Life Goal, just like the other collectibles. Own much-loved classics like Startling Arachnid-Man and The Attractive Quartet. The rest are for you to discover.

Also, all the Collectible containers (Stamp Book, Jewellery Case, etc) have been moved into their own Collector’s Store and removed from the Mall.

There’s also two new subscriptions. The first is Jesse’s Jokes, which gives you jokes and observations about life, work and money every week. It’s not really useful, but it’s cheap and I thought it fit in well with the rest of the game. The second subscription is Generous Giving. This sets up a monthly charity donation that takes money from your bank account and increases your happiness. It’s very useful if you have enough money but haven’t achieved your Happiness Life Goal yet.

There’s other content coming as well, including new traits, more random events and two more career paths. Thanks to a recent spike in supporters, we’ll also be adding two new music tracks in the next version.

One of the surprising things in our online poll was a sudden increase in the votes for a Commodities/Stock Market, which is now in second place! I always wanted to add it, but wasn’t sure if players would want such a feature. I’ll be gradually working towards that over the coming months.

Itch.io | Twitter | Website

By |August 25th, 2017|GameDev|1 Comment

Alpha 1.4 and Running Your Business

Alpha 1.4 is out and contains the new freelance/contractor business feature. I gave an introduction to this feature in the previous post here. Today, I’ll talk about some other changes surrounding this new feature.

The most recent transactions are now listed when you click on your main account balance. This is useful if you have multiple businesses and they start generating income/deducting expenses from your account. You can see where the money is going, whether it’s paying for wages or materials, etc.

Your own businesses can also be assigned a hotkey now, so you can quickly access it. Just click “Pin” on the business you want to hotkey, and select a number from the list. This is helpful if you want to check up on your business, accept any available jobs and assign workers to jobs. Then once you’re done, press the hotkey again to close the business window and get back to your life.

There’s a new subscription, the Businezz Biweekly which provides you with advanced tips on running a business.

Since you’re running a business, you also get tax deductions. For those that are unfamiliar with how it works, a tax deduction is a reduction in your taxable income mainly from expenses you incur from running the business. Any business expense is a tax deduction, so for example if you made $10000 from the business and spent $7000 on marketing, materials, etc then you would only be taxed on your $3000 profit. You can see your total business income and expenses on the income statement of each business.

You can also sell a business if you have had enough of being an entrepreneur. The final sale price is influenced by recent business profits, brand reputation and awareness, and a few other factors. Your business is considered a sole proprietorship, which means its profits or losses are added to your personal tax return each financial year (and you are taxed at your personal tax rate, not a business tax rate).

As mentioned last time, the base price for This Grand Life will be increasing after this weekend. So if you want it at the lower price, head over to Itch.io before Monday!

Remember you can still vote in the online poll for what you want to see next. More content is currently in the lead so I’ll be working on that for the next update.

picture polls

Here’s the full list of changes for Alpha 1.4:

New Features

  • Added Plumbing business and Plumber’s Toolkit possession
  • Added Graphic Design business and Calibrated Monitor possession
  • Added Catering business and Commercial Kitchen possession
  • Added different rarities for different freelance jobs
  • Added job openings taking into account owned possessions and not just worn clothing
  • Added brand reputation, awareness and marketing for freelance jobs
  • Added reputation hit when freelance work not completed on time
  • Implemented economy effect on freelance jobs available
  • Added Business button to profile dashboard
  • Added auto-cancelling marketing and quitting workers if you can’t afford them
  • Added existing names pool as potential employees names
  • Added business startup fees
  • Added Income Statements for each freelance business
  • Added materials requirements for each business
  • Added variation to employee wage negotiation skill
  • Added hotkeys assignable for Freelance Business
  • Added recent transactions to receivables/payables summary
  • Added Businezz Biweekly subscription
  • Added selling business functionality

Gameplay Changes

  • Renamed Beer to Carton Of Beer
  • Doubled happiness penalty from being fired from regular job
  • Added Diploma requirement for Library Assistant and Work Experience requirement for Librarian
  • Implemented business tax deductions
  • Wealth calculation includes business value

Bugfixes/Improvements

  • Reduced size of save files
  • Implemented click to zoom for freelance jobs
  • Moved Hours Spent button from profile dashboard into Statements
  • Fixed Tickets To CatCon not expiring after a month
  • Added Warranty to tooltip when purchasing breakable goods
  • Disable hiding work button
  • Reworked Tax Statement to include more income and deduction details
  • Added windowed full screen to option
  • Fixed Subscriptions adding money instead of taking it away
  • Changed actions on business panel arrangement from alphabetical to data order
  • Switching from main menu to game now instantaneous
  • Clicking on Home or Job on dashboard now travels there instead of camera zooming
  • Fixed crash when pressing load game button with no saved games

Itch.io | Twitter | Website

By |August 10th, 2017|GameDev|0 Comments

Freelancer and Contractor Work

The next big feature – freelancing and contracting! Start your own business, build your brand awareness and reputation, hire employees and organize jobs.

This is a mid-to-late game feature, as the initial capital required to start a business can be quite high. For example to start a plumbing business, you need to pay startup fees, buy a plumber’s toolkit and plumbing supplies, and also be qualified with the right education. Marketing is also expensive, and you’ll have a hard time getting any jobs without it. However once you’ve established your brand, the potential profit is great if you can manage your business properly.

When you first start a business, you will probably be doing all the jobs yourself. Employees are expensive and need to be paid every week, regardless of whether there is work available for them. As you complete jobs successfully and on time, your reputation will grow and you will get more job offers. Once you start getting too many job offers, it’s time to think about hiring workers. When your business is well established, you can hire a manager to take care of everything and let the business run itself!

Every potential employee has a diligence rating. An employee with a high diligence will complete jobs for you faster, but in general will want higher pay. This is not always true though, and it might be worthwhile to fire a low diligence worker and hire a high diligence one if they are demanding the same pay. Potential workers are taken from the pool of preset names, so if you are supporting us at The Supervisor tier or higher your name might show up in this list.

I still need to do testing and add more business types before releasing this update. There’s a large amount of new systems implemented to make it work, so it will definitely not be compatible with previous saved games. Also once the update goes live, I’ll be removing The Student supporter tier which will bring the base price for This Grand Life to $10.

Finally, I’ve set up an online poll. Please vote to give me an idea on what you want to see more!

picture polls

Itch.io | Twitter | Website

By |July 26th, 2017|GameDev|1 Comment

Alpha 1.3 Released and New Scenario

Alpha 1.3 of This Grand Life has been released. This version features an improved education system as discussed in the last post, and also a new scenario! Here’s a video summarising the changes:

The scenario is called “Sue Goes To University” and is about Sue Doku, a nerdy young adult about to start her Science degree at Stanford University. Speaking of which, Stanford is a new town you can play from the custom game menu. It’s similar to Tutorialville in that the town doesn’t contain all the locations that a proper city contains. The focus of the Stanford map is on the University itself.

The scenario also works as an extended tutorial for the education system. It goes through more features that you might not be aware of. There are also some special events that are only triggered when you play the scenario, like going Elf Spotting or attending CatCon.

Another change is the addition of preset goals on the custom game menu. You can click on the Preset Goals button and see a list of goals sorted by length of time taken. The shortest settings are a ‘Walk To The Bathroom’ while the longest ones are ‘Cross-Planetary Marathon’.

Of course you can still manually adjust your goals to whatever you like, although they will now default to ‘An Acceptable Life’ when you first start up the game.

Here is a full list of the changes in Alpha 1.3:

New Features

  • Added Sue Doku scenario
  • Added Stanford town map
  • Added Libarian and Library Assistant occupations
  • Added Library location
  • Added fluff Education courses (Elf Spotting 101, etc)
  • Added some more location background chats
  • Added custom resolution setting
  • Added low hygiene event
  • Added Bachelor Of Philosophy
  • Added preset ambitions to custom game setup
  • Added default goals to preset profiles
  • Added edge scroll and WASD scroll speeds to options page

Gameplay Changes

  • Added Fun increase when eating out at Fast Food/Restaurant
  • Changed working part-time wage penalty from 25% to 20%
  • Removed knowledge gain from town hall courses
  • Added Eat From Canteen to Trade School and University
  • Implemented partial knowledge gain towards goal for partially completed education
  • Major reduction in price of diplomas and degrees

Fixes/Improvements

  • LOTS of internal changes to allow more versatile scenarios
  • Added checks to prevent crashing when invalid xml
  • Internal changes to scenario triggers to allow branching storylines
  • Internal cleanup of start menu pages
  • Fixed end of week crash randomly happening
  • Changed Bartender avatar
  • Added some missing sound effects
  • Fixed wearing clothes from possessions panel removes table headings
  • Reformatted Apply For Job and Quit Job windows
  • Added more details to knowledge goal breakdown in weekly summary
  • Current studying now displays as a progress bar

Itch.io | Twitter | Website

By |July 10th, 2017|GameDev|0 Comments

Education Changes and the Knowledge Life Goal

I’m making some changes to the way education works to make it a more rewarding experience. Hopefully it will feel less like you are grinding towards a distant goal that’s still years away (like in real life). Here’s a summary video:

Courses at the Town Hall (Alcoholics Anonymous, First Aid, etc) will no longer contribute towards your Knowledge goal. I thought it didn’t really make sense to have someone who attends an Alcoholics recovery program gaining Knowledge, since someone without the Alcoholic trait would have no reason to attend.

Instead, there is now a new Library location. Here you can study interesting courses such as ‘Elf Spotting 101’, ‘Identifying Llama Droppings’ and more. They aren’t useful for your career, but they are cheaper and shorter to complete than a degree or diploma while still giving you Knowledge. If you only need a small amount of Knowledge to complete your Life Goal, these are a better alternative to the more serious courses.

Previously you only received Knowledge when you completed the entire course. Now it will be gained gradually while you study. There will still be a large boost to your Knowledge when you finish the course, but it won’t be as dramatic as before.

I’ve also added an Eat From Canteen action to the University and Trade School. Now you can eat while studying at the same place. However this change would have discouraged the player from attending the Burger Joint and Restaurant. To counteract this, eating from those places now also increases your Fun.

Itch.io | Twitter | Website

By |June 30th, 2017|Uncategorized|1 Comment

Changes to Supporter Tiers

I’ve made a few changes to the reward tiers to hopefully provide better value to supporters.

Firstly, I noticed some people were happy to support us at the Worker tier, but had no interest in getting their name in the credits. So I thought, what could I offer instead?

One of the unique things about This Grand Life is the city maps you play on, which are created from real cities. I go through a special process to create them and it took two months to figure out how to do it.

I thought I could offer an insight into this process, so I wrote a manual describing how to create the game’s maps using satellite data. You can even follow the instructions to create your own home town!

The manual will be available to all Worker tier supporters and above.

Secondly, after a request I have added a tier called ‘The Manager’. In addition to the other stuff, it also gives you a custom portrait in the game of you, your friend or your pet. You get a high resolution version for your personal use as well.

That’s it for now. I’m still working on changes to the Education system, which I’ll talk more about next time.

Itch.io | Twitter | Website

By |June 22nd, 2017|GameDev|0 Comments