How to damage your brand image beyond redemption.

This whole story comes down to the fact that you are your brand. Braun in this case have undone themselves with their New Zealand service.

You use your toothbrush a lot. Twice a day if you are a good person in regards to tooth care. The Braun toothbrushes come with some great features like timing, pressure sensitivity, digital displays etc. There is this thing that has always bugged me - the cost of the toothbrush heads. That is one of the typical scenarios like cheap printers and rip off toner. But these toothbrushes for the more top tier models are worth hundreds of dollars - as much a decent laser printer these days. So in that space of small consumer goods worth anywhere from $99-$399 we don't want them to be disposable items like printers have become.

When the toothbrush does not hold it's charge for as long, and dies mid brush on two bars of juice - what do you do? If you are like me you look up "replacement battery" for your model of toothbrush. Then the penny drops a bit for me then - they take Ni-MH batteries. This is an older technology which suffers from a shorter life due to the memory effect. So with that in mind you should never charge your Braun toothbrush before it is nearly dead if it has an Ni-MH battery. 

So that was a revelation but a solvable problem - so I contacted the local Braun distributor and got through to their help line and this was their response which for me killed any respect I have for this brand:

  • I described my problem and due to the research I had done then asked about battery replacement.
  • The assistant then said the "power packs" in those toothbrushes are not replaceable.
  • They offer "free servicing" to check for issues - on products they can not fix at that point by saying:
    • We can service your item and if it is deffective and outside warranty we can suggest a replacement product for you.
  • This is where I pushed back:
    • "So you can not replace the battery?" I say
    • "It's not a battery" says the assistant repeatedly as we discuss
  • So please look below....

So it is a battery, just a special type of battery that's soldered to the logic board. 

I took it upon myself to do this, you can get the replacement batteries easily online landed here in New Zealand for around $25, and all you need is a bit of electronics skill - the guides are out there for you to follow. YouTube has a lot of them of course. So no need to post them here.

So what this means and what has killed the Braun brand for me is they appear to:

  • Lie and deceive.
  • Dupe customers to re-buy.
  • Price-hike components.
  • Use outdated battery technologies for their own gain.

It's a sad day when these values come to the fore for a company. And it is these actions that have hurt the brand for me. So this is another example where how the logo does not show values - the actions attach values.

Changes in Life

2015 was the year we had our first child - game dev has taken a big sidestep away from the focus for a while - games are close however and will be keen on getting Quadraslam out first. My little gamer is such a joy to behold. I am always thinking about my games, playing them and concepting ideas while the dev sits idle.

It's just an update here as you can understand a year of supporting the family working on my business as a designer has been pretty full on - tough financially and busier than ever.

I have also been playing a lot of BattleCamp - enjoying the community of the troops and growing a strong battling team.

The reason I can even take the time to make this post is our son is now at Daycare, so it is quiet around the studio now, there's time to think about things again. 

Stay tuned.

Kiwi Jam 2014

Kiwi Jam is a 48 hour game making festival that crossed over with Ludum Dare this year and had over 60 local game developers, artists, writers, musicians and students all taking part.

I went along as QuadraSlam is 85% complete and I was aiming to finish the game over the weekend. That was the goal and I was getting a solid block of time to do it in. Work has been crazy for the last month. Being busy actually helps me. But being too busy is frustrating because I can't do any game dev!

So when the Kiwi Jam came up I booked in this weekend to do game dev. Here's how it started, kind of nervously from my perspective. I sat down and set up. Then Asta came and sat next to me - she was about to go on a great journey, while I stayed where I was - physically anyway.

On my screen Gyron is being redrawn to become a boss. One of my favourite old school Spectrum 48k covers.

So after this awkward setting up not knowing what was happening, Ben Kenobi of AUT who was running the event got us to introduce ourselves and then play some improv style games to get us mixed up and talking to strangers. That was cool, and the end of it I had to explain QuadraSlam to a bunch of people around me so they could tell everyone else about it.

Friday night ended at about 11pm, I went home at 10.30 with not much to show except for:

  1. A Gamesalad update
  2. Update of iOS preview app for GameSalad via XCode
  3. Open up games after duplicating and testing them in the new version
  4. Get all the fonts I needed installed on my laptop
  5. Update CS suite to the latest versions
  6. A Windows update that I was scared of as the last one killed my desktop
  7. Getting back into the game logic - well getting my head in to it really, that was not that easy after a couple of months of little work on it.
  8. Drawing my latest boss to completion.

Galaxy four work in progress.

While I had not really achieved all that much, I did get organised and was ready to plow in to it the next day. Which I did. One of the things I started on this day was my final galaxy map - I worked on this for hours and it turned out a complete disaster. I wanted a full-on version but it just looked like vomit. Really it did. So I stripped out the 2000+ stars I had painstakingly mapped with pixel perfect sizes and started all over again. The view from the position in space is one from Andromeda, looking back on the Milky Way. Some of it is real, some made up, but it's going to change some more to be made as awesome as the previous galaxy is.

I sat with Ben, a programmer, and Tyne, a teacher from up north, which was fun. Ben was working on a RTS system in Unity and Tyne was building a Great Food Game concept with a template he was already developing with Corona.

Day three, sitting with Ben and Tyne and Lemo popped in later.

So I felt like day two was a bit of a waste - I did get some stuff done, but I lost a few hours on some awesome star vomit, had fun working with Ben and Tyne and recovered my disaster somewhat. I had to shoot early, to see the All Blacks play.

Then came day three, the day I had to get as much done as I could really.

There was lots going on around us:

  • A Smash Bros type game with NZ vs Aus theme that had a big team working on it
  • A game made about making games where you were locked in a room and needed to satisfy all the bodily needs
  • A network game of shoot the blocks or the person and be champion in a puzzle blocky line world
  • An object linking game with hand painted artwork call Dwarf Forge
  • Then Ludum Dare started up and a lot of people started that challenge
  • The Swordy guys at Frogshark did not show after day one choosing to work instead on their PAX entry trailer - which on viewing is awesome :)



There was heaps going on, some of it seen, others not at all until the end.

So my progress by the end of the day? Well I had made it all the way to Galaxy four with completion of Galaxy three. I then made some decisions around the conclusion of the game.

I designed the goal of the game which had not even been considered until now. Sure, destroy the alien horde, but why? Well that is the answer you gamers will need to find.

I spent the final day tidying things up. There is a lot to manage as all the galaxies are in one scene and the way it works is based on a colour integer. So tidying up everything I did that as much as possible so galaxy four could get underway. One thing that has happened over the course of the last few months is that I have made the aliens much more than just basic geometric patterns. Now a lot of them come with a message, a secret message of course as they move too fast to be seen. This is bringing everything together.

Time counted down until the end and then it was time for some presentations. It was great to see everyones progress and ideas from the weekend. Some I knew, some I did not know - man there was lots going on but so focussed it was hard to track and this was the time to just relax and see them all. I showed my game, played it and did pretty well playing it. My talk was crap and nervous but that comes with the territory.

Right - so the Jam was done. It was outstanding, many thanks to the organisers, NZGDA, Ben Kenobi, AUT, and Microsoft, for hosting and food, and The Good Food Game for putting a challenge up for people who were interested. I made some new contacts, acquaintances that make the gaming meetups a bit more interesting. Nighty night.

It started in October 2011: An introduction

I am sitting here starting this blog double-about-face really which is hugely ironic for my main nickname online "@matarua". But that is another story... here's how my gaming career got underway.

In 2011 I went on a year long sabbatical with my partner. Travelling around the world and living for a month in Sri Lanka in October I came to the realisation that after 20 years of doing design work for clients I wanted to do some work for myself. That is what I had been missing.

I grew up gaming first on the Vic 20, Astro Wars, Simon, Merlin, the Rubix Cube and various cheap knock off LCD games before getting my very own Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48k. I had to use my best mates one before that. We played games like Ant Attack, Atic Atac, Sabre Wulf, Minefield, River Raid, Harrier attack, Raid Over Moscow - that got me hooked on the ZX Spectrum. Gaming was a huge part of my time growing up and I later realised that it had shaped my own aesthetic which came through in my design career as a love for minimalism.

I played my Spectrum games on a monochrome black and white TV and the ones that impacted me the most were the filmation games from Ultimate "Play the Game" and the many other similar games that followed. It is from this crop of games, Knight Lore, Alien 8 & Pentagram by Ultimate and then Highway Encounter, Quazatron & Head Over Heels that really imprinted on me and spawned a love for all things isometric.

I lived in a leafy green neighborhood, played a lot of sport and took regular imaginative adventures. But what captured my visual psyche most was grey and geometric. I still have a strong love for this look today in design, games, movies, illustration and architecture.

Is my outlook for gaming grey and isometric tho? Well not really. It is something that I may pursue in the future. Why? Firstly I was exposed to games in the arcade full of colour and that was a massive impact on me as well - Tempest, Galaxians, Scramble and Zaxxon! Secondly my career has now spanned 23 years of interactivity and colour.

Through that time I have created design for print, interactive CD-Roms and websites. I started coding my own websites in the 90s while working my way up to Senior Art Director. I formed my own studio Mata in July 2001 which continues to evolve in this App based society today.

One thing I have always done through my career is answer the brief with a design solution to suit the user and try not let that suffer to the whims of my own design aesthetic. My first game concept I took that approach but this time I was the client and the user too.

I wanted to make a game that I think is missing from the iOS app store. That game is a platform game that puts playability at the forefront and had mass appeal. That was my own brief to myself. I had a few ideas based on the limitations of the device and while in Sri Lanka I started my game concepts.

The game would use a long lost project that never got very far. But I had always hung on to hope that I would do something with this game name and concept I came up with a long long time ago.

As I said I loved grey isometric and this is what GemBugs looked like in 2002 when it was going to be a browser based community project.

The original idea with GemBugs was a flash based community where the bugs were actually gems. By day they looked like your normal gems, but at night, or online they come alive like little crabs or spiders and go on adventures. The user could choose the colour of their gem to whatever they liked.

I got the gems animated and walking in isometric using Flash back in the day and it pretty much stopped there.

So here's where we end this story and start the next one. The first step was to take GemBugs and create a game concept using that name which needs to be a kick arse platformer for iOS.