Work, DLC & DRM

Posted by | Posted in Game Development, Life | Posted on 22-01-2015

So, back from Xmas I get my PC working again at long last, several parts later but what the hell eh?

This means back to work too and immediately I am reminded of just how clueless this industry can be. Take our DLC releases, or rather the DLC we’re releasing for other companies for our game. Confused yet? Not as confused as I was since this wasn’t supposed to be on the cards for quite some time yet. However due to the games success it’s been pushed forwards from “many weeks” after launch to… well we’re about to release the 3rd DLC pack on Tuesday! How’s that for a change in timetable.

Maybe it wasn’t a change and the client are simply goddamn awful at communicating with us what is going to be happening, or indeed when it will happen. Having dealt with this now for a few weeks, and through my exhaustion, I can confirm there’s nothing malicious just sheer ineptitude.

The reason I am exhausted is because I’ve been implementing the initial DRM system we’ll be using for future DLC. Yes even whilst we’re releasing DLC that I have to double-check for problems I am writing the DRM for that same system. This is a DRM setup that I explained could take upto 3 months to write, but they wanted it in a hurry so I stripped it down and said “How about 3 weeks?” to which the reply was “Great! We’ll start testing it in 1.5 weeks then!” … that’s not how it works, 3 weeks means it will start working in 3 weeks. No I am of course now committed to doing what was initially a 3 MONTH task in 1.5 weeks because some people can’t read who sadly are also the ones who pay the bills :(

Then there’s the DLC, I’ve had them turn up without you being able to see outside of the plane, then to get a “fixed” version, where the plane was completely invisible. Or when asking for the raw original why is it that we nearly always get the installer? Meaning we must install the thing, get past it’s DRM / license then extract the changed files then build the DLC from them and hope we didn’t miss anything? That’s assuming that anything works. We’ve fixed issues in each and every DLC we’ve received, issues that were in them when they were sold as standalone products for the last 8 years! Simple text file and naming issues that take seconds to fix.

All the while I’m trying to create this whole new DRM system and my mind is staggering under it all.

Thankfully Rocco has finished most /all of his bugs and has taken the DLC checking off my hands, Steve does the initial unpacking/packing and testing, then Roc’ does a sanity pass on it in the Debug build to see what asserts, which given that they’re mostly conversions from an even older version of the game means that lots of things assert.

The lack of professionalism is confusing, nevermind staggering, and tiring to deal with. Files arriving at the very last possible second when testing them properly is impossible because it’s so late in the day, or last minute changes the morning before launch abound. It’s risky and it’s unnecessary.

Mostly I am enjoying this work but as ever the parts that suck are the parts where your deadlines are driven by those who don’t have a clue and don’t seem to have the nous to acquire one.

Back to work.

What to do when your PC goes Kablooey on you.

Posted by | Posted in Game Development, Life | Posted on 06-01-2015

Obviously your first response should always be to panic.

By “Panic” I don’t mean furiously try and solve your problem. I mean that you should take a long time to just sit there, scream, cry, wail, gnash your teeth at the wall of horror that is the demise of years of effort and a couple of thousands of pounds of hardware. Really wallow in that despair because lets face it: You’re fucked.

Just before Christmas I was faced with this and I made the classic mistake: I didn’t panic. No what I did was carefully diagnose the issue, then the reality crept up on me. The costs to fix it began to mount, the work and personal data I had that could be irreparably lost followed by that absolute sadness that is the demise of your personal PC.

Maybe I should explain that last item. I built my PC. I didn’t make the chips and circuit boards that are in it I just picked them, carefully and after lots of choice. I weighed up all of the costs, the implications for the future, the path that choosing a particular chipset would set me upon. Those decisions were heavy and the impacts are still being felt now.

When everything was chosen, bought and delivered I sacrificed my old machine. It was another custom built one but I couldn’t afford to buy all-new and had to re-use certain components. This is fairly typical for the budget tight PC builder but it does have one terrifying downside: fuck-up and you have no PC at all, and no money left to get one. Things went well though and I built my new PC. it was awesome compared to the old. Over the years there have been numerous upgrades, memory, GPU(s), harddrives and even the CPU. An attempt at water cooling using a closed loop cooler is best forgotten but hey, I tried!

It’s been through 3 operating systems too and a couple of monitors, and multi-monitor setups, I’m probably missing out a lot of things. I think I had SLI GPUs for a while, I forget, there’s been a lot of things. Things I have done, with that machine, we have spent time together. More time than anyone spends on a car, more personal than any static musical instrument, more involved and consuming than anything I can think of beside having children. I don’t have children.

I’ve earn’t money with that machine, it has been my personal PC, my work PC, my hobby PC, my gaming PC, my learning PC, my development PC.

Right now it’s switched off. Inert, inoperative, lifeless and waiting for me to make it function again. People that I discuss this with tend to think I’m a bit special, then harp on about there own hobby, the one they spend the odd evening once a week/month doing, and how it makes much more sense to feel involved with that despite spending a tiny fraction of the time and energy on it. Yes it is “only a  PC” in much the same way someone might say to a musician that something is “only a guitar” – I wouldn’t, I have at least half a fucking clue.

The last time it turned out that it had fried the GPU, an expensive component by itself but thankfully under warranty.

By the way customer service were great, I phoned, told them the problem, they immediately sent me the return information and issued an RMA. They sent me a replacement card the same day that they received the broken one. I couldn’t have asked for better. They gave me the option of a refund too but I chose the replacement. Cheers anyway if you ever read this.

This time it’s looking like it might actually me even more serious, and more like the problem I initially believed it to be before Christmas. I think the motherboard might be toast. Not completely toasted yet, but getting a bit crunchy and too dry to call bread anymore at this point… I may have to abandon that analogy. The motherboard being the most central component of the whole machine means replacing other parts like the CPU and RAM too. At this point there are only a few other parts I’d want to bring across. That shiny-shiny GPU, the harddrives (2x SSD, 1x HDD) and erm… that’s it actually. Even the case is old and newer ones have some much better layouts and… I’m justifying aren’t it? I can hear the imaginary pound coins being sucked out of my bank account “full” of imaginary money.

When it initially went kablooey before Xmas, once I’d stopped not-panicking, I priced up a replacement machine. Then I went looking for how much a loan would cost me.

Time to dig out those figures and get a PC built then? Something a lot less Personal, less PC more Computer. Something with … a warranty.