I made this!

Posted by | Posted in Game Development, Pioneer | Posted on 19-01-2013




Kick Me?

Posted by | Posted in Game Development, GLSLPlanet, Life, Lua, Pioneer, red ship | Posted on 11-01-2013

I wonder if you could use KickStarter a bit differently, to fund individual developers? I haven’t really contributed much to Pioneer this last couple of months since starting at Crytek, it’s just consumed all of my time.

I’d like too contribute a lot more, in fact I have a fecking long list which doesn’t even include all of the things that I’d like to do with it: https://github.com/fluffyfreak/pioneer/issues?state=open

This must be the same for some of the other Pioneer team too but our “real” jobs get in the way of the fun things we actually want to do.

So, how about KickStarter campaigns for individuals?
You list what you want to do, time estimated, and in priority order with whatever you think is a fair rate of pay for doing something you love.
Let say I did it, since I’ve just thought of it and don’t mind publicly discussing my finances :)

What if I could risk working for only 6 months next year (Hah! Again that is!). That would put my minimal funding for it at about £15k before tax to cover my mortgage and bills etc. Stretch goals would take you further through the list of things you hope to cover so I’d have:

  • GPU terrain,
  • orbitals,
  • water,
  • Faction Trade value differences.

For the first 6 months, and that would take £15k to get funding, if I got £15k then that’s what I’d deliver in that time before I bugger off and find more paying work, but stretch goals could also be:

  • 3D cockpits,
  • Threaded Job Scheduler,
  • Atmospheric Heating and re-entry effects,
  • Temporary decals showing shield hits,
  • Rewrite noise system to use graph/nodes.

They could take the rest of the year and require another £15k divided into £3k chunks for each stretch goal.

All of that is just an example list, I think I’d be doing a lot more than that in a year of solid development on Pioneer for a start! :D money is just a guess as well as I haven’t taken taxation into account or indeed how that would even work :/

What I’m wondering from you lot however is what people think of the idea itself? Getting people to pay for individual developers on Open Source projects isn’t a new thing, there’s lots of examples of companies paying developers fulltime, bounties are a common way of funding large features too so it’s not that odd an idea.

Any obvious problems or flaws in the idea?

It’s not me, it’s you…

Posted by | Posted in Game Development, Life | Posted on 06-01-2013

The new job is quite a big let down, well not all of it, but I’ve been neatly corralled into a role that no-one else wants because it’s so bad. So whilst I can see all the fun things that others get to do it has been confirmed that I will never be doing them. This is because they need someone to be doing the very annoying shit that no-one else wants to do. There’s no obvious route out of this role, or promotion prospects for anyone doing it (i.e: me), there’s no learning or development to the role, there’s not even any relief in the form of other minor tasks so that I’d be doing something else occasionally, in short, it’s the shitty end of the stick.

That’s not what the deal was when I took the job, but it’s what they had in mind all along.

So, dusting off the CV again and starting to look for jobs whilst I’m still in the probationary period.

Canada looks nice! Lots of people I know have been heading over there in the last few years. Although I’ll also just be hunting around the UK for random contracting roles or work just about anywhere I think.

It’s a shame as it’s not an awful place to work. It’s got some fairly crap bits though and I don’t think they realise it. The UK studio has a very unfortunate attitude in that they believe they’re really professional, but they’re not, they’re very childish, disorganised and amateurish about some things which is quite an unfortunate schism. It’s ok when a place is rubbish and knows it, but quite difficult when they don’t. I don’t think I’ll talk about it more right now. I did have a big rant partially typed up but decided that it just isn’t worth ranting about really.

On being accused of eating a dog…

Posted by | Posted in Life | Posted on 30-11-2012

This is a true story from half my lifetime ago when I was 16 or 17 years old and attending Yorkshire Coast College in Scarborough.

I was into metal, I wore black, wasn’t bothered that my clothes were literally falling to pieces, programmed constantly, partied, drank too much, and had long hair almost to my waist at one point. So much has changed in all those years… now I have short hair.

Read the rest of this entry »

Ah Lua, how do I loathe thee… I mean Love, yeah Love…

Posted by | Posted in Game Development, Lua, Pioneer | Posted on 25-11-2012

I’ve never understood the love given to scripting languages embedded in a game engine.

I’m going to take Lua in Pioneer, or in anything else for that matter but it’s Pioneers that sparked this off. You have a system written in C++, you expose it to Lua with C++ side functions that get presented to Lua scripts, you then program in Lua.

You are still programming, it’s just another programming language. Lua is not King, neither is C++, they’re both just programming languages.

Now, inevitably, the next step occurs: Everything has to be done in Lua.

What was a convenience, or a way of rapid prototyping, or a way of scripting light data handling routines, or for displaying data in a GUI is now doing heavy lifting in the engine at about 1/35th to 1/50th the speed it was being done in the traditionally compiled code.

Of course by this time only experienced programmers can actually write or modify the scripts because to make Lua useful you’ve extended it with home grown libraries & since the purpose of Lua is usually to make designers and non-coders lives easier it has fundamentally failed in this regard by this stage.

Whole systems are exposed from C++ meaning that you’re maintaining code twice except that you’ve exposed the worst bits of C++ via the wooley type unsafe Lua where the most advanced editor has all the sophistication of “Notepad.exe”.

Lua is not king, Lua quickly becomes a ball ache most of the time because it grows out of it’s usefulness, rapidly doubles the amount of work required to maintain engines, and slaughters anywhere it’s used in a performance critical subsystem.

I say this as someone who has programmed using it at several companies and Loves Lua for scripting. I just don’t think it’s anything other than a helper and best if it’s regularly pruned to reduce what it’s used for.

Some things should be moved out of Lua in Pioneer entirely and into some form of structured data generated by a tool. All the LMR stuff is obvious, ship definitions, spacestation configuration info, and ANYTHING to do with vectors/matrices/quaternions.

Other stuff is perfect Lua fodder: missions, trade pricing, defining factions, the GUI and probably a few others.

It’s just so annoying writing something in one language, then everyone wanting it in Lua too. Fuck off. It’s written already. Why have it in yet another language? It’ll be doing the same thing! Only then it’ll be in a language that I can muddle by in compared to C/C++ which I’ve been doing for 18 years (33 now, 15 when I started). What bloody good will that do? Will it mean more people can use it? No. There’s already a load of people who can write in C++ on the project who don’t know/use Lua. If anything it will reduce the number of people who can use it to only those who know/use Lua!

Does anyone really think that something has been done in Lua that couldn’t have been done in the C++ side? No. It does mean however that there’s a shitlod of C++ code, then a shitload of C++ interface code, and then a shitload of Lua code to make the C++ do what would have taken at least one shitload less of interface code to just do directly in C++.

You know what? If you find yourself embedding Lua to make your life easier and to get away from C++ then Lua isn’t the answer.

C# is.

Energy bill delays setting carbon target until 2016

Posted by | Posted in climate change, environment, government, Life | Posted on 23-11-2012

So a government, this one not that it really matters, has failed to achieve the hopes of meeting the minimum targets hoped for on the environment/carbon/climate-change (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-20451189).

These weren’t lofty goals either, these were the minimum goals that we’ve legally agreed too.

Those legal agreements weren’t the best course possible either, they were the minimum required to provide a 50/50 chance of avoiding “catastrophic” climate change and keep temperature rises below 2C by 2100 (it’s 2012 btw keep that in mind) and then only if we were following the best-case predictions.

Then recent reports have indicated that the rate of change and it’s effects might have been underestimated by up to 5 times, i.e. things we expected not to happen until 2100 appear to be on course to happen by 2020-to-2035 (http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21628923.100-we-are-leaving-emissions-cuts-too-late.html & http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21628914.700-estimates-for-future-global-warming-narrowed-down.html).

So this is the situation… we’ve just failed to set policy which would let us meet a weaker-than-required agreement, which was targetting the bottom-end of a best-case scenario which we already new was wrong, which has recently been shown to be out by at least 2 but possibly up to 5 times.

Remember that was the target to have a 50/50 _chance_ of stopping “catastrophic” climate change. Not, merely “a bit bad” but “catastrophic“. Severe damage to the environment and changes which make it difficult for us to do useful things like grow food, prevent flooding and storm damage to our biggest cities, survive summer heat waves, yet not freeze to death in the winter. Not exactly little things are they.

This isn’t a post about the environment by the way.

No, I’m just confused by the way that governments, companies, even individuals decide what to do about the things they face.

The above case is drastic but a perfect example: We’re failing to prevent, or even slow, the race to “catastrophic” climate change. We’re failing because of a series of things which all aim to do the bare minimum for the most cheerful and optimistic predicted outcomes that meet our hopes rather than face our realities. Then to compound the error we seem to accept that falling short of the commitments we’ve agreed is ok.

All this seems to mean that we’re setting ourselves up for inevitable failure. I bet we do it in a range of things, I can think of several on my own personal scale where I do the same, where I fail to commit and then eventually abandon stuff because it’s not working… of course it’s not working, I’ve identified something that will take 100% of my effort to do, then I  allow myself 20% of that in time or money, then when “real-life” gets in the way I accept that I can only meet 15% really. Then I fail.

In my life that might mean the bathroom needs some work that I’ll eventually have to get someone to pay for. Or that the oven really stinks sometimes because of something bubbling over.

When the governments of the world give 15% to prevent something like climate change.

Then it seems that we’re all fucked.

So why do we go into these things half heartedly? Why do we pick the most optimistic outcome? We all know the maxim or preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. Yet repeatedly we prepare for the best, hope for the best and then have to rush and panic to deal with the worst that we’ve allowed to happen by doing so.

We could turn the fact that we’re building whole new energy industries into a major bonus, new energy industries, new infrastructure, new jobs!
We could be investing in things like Desertec (http://www.desertec.org/) (I mean in technology like it not the company necessarily) and then reaping the benefits in owning the suppliers of energy to ALL of Europe and Africa. Just like Russia does with it’s gas supplies to Europe, an industry worth many billions of pounds to it’s government.

If something like Desertec ever does happen we’ll just be another customer, we’ll pay, but we won’t earn.

We could be going into these things 100%, whilst accepting that the worst case might not happen, but it’s so bad that we should be preparing for it. We can all hope that it works out just fine, but that’s not what we should be prepared for.

Damn, it did turn into an environment rant.

This whole “working for a living”

Posted by | Posted in Game Development, GLSLPlanet, Life, Pioneer | Posted on 28-10-2012

We as a species have fucked up, I can prove it too, just listen… or read; We have to work to live, this is clearly a cock up since as anyone can tell you our working lives are a clusterfuck. No-one really manages anything, your boss gets paid more than you for seemingly doing a lot less which works right from the bottom up meaning that the person at the top is essentially paid to play golf… badly and what you’re actually doing is, for most of us, a worthless crock of pointless shit that if anything actually detracts from the sum total worth of our species.

On an unrelated note I’ve just finished my 2nd week at my new job. Too pessimistic?

Try again: It’s not actually too bad, the people are nice… hmm, no that’s a bad start, I mean the people are always nice. Andys top tip is; if you ever start a job where the people aren’t nice, explain to the not nice persons boss that they’re reason you’re not taking the job and then walk out, possibly whilst also flipping the not-nice-person the bird. Starving to death on the streets is ok kids…

Ok take 3; The new job is ok, it has exactly the problems I expected, MFC, no real direction at the moment, MFC, the settling in, MFC, being told that “It’s not like those little projects you’ve worked on” … like 2 MMOs, numerous console titles etc. Piddly little things. Had to smile nicely, nod to that and just… ignore it, MFC, and of course I’ve already been asked to things that would be a piece of cake… if we weren’t using MFC. I think the worst things are that it looks like I’m going to be focused on one specific area for quite a while and that the office politics permeates everything. There’s a certain amateurish approach that makes things harder, ironically some individuals think it’s actually very professional, that leaves gaps in the development process wide enough to drive a lorry through. No-one seems in charge of the tech’ so there’s no direction that it’s heading in. I can’t see it as a long term career place at the moment but we’ll see how I settle down in the coming weeks. There’s a trip to Frankfurt to meet the team over there coming up too so I’m hoping that something about all this reaches out and grabs my attention. At the moment and mere 2 weeks in, nothing has really done that.

In more awesome news though, which isn’t job related, someone else has started hacking away at the Faction stuff I added to Pioneer in Alpha 27 :)

I haven’t had time in the last month to do much so seeing someone else come in and extend it is very good news! I think Pioneer is where I’m going to continue to find the reward side of programming and work is just going to be 9-to-5 from now on. Although I have done some more on the slightly separate GLSLPlanet code that I extracted and am working on – it now renders a limited set of terrain tiles at once, I need to do some work on that really and I think I need to prevent the root node from having any tiles of it’s own which would make the sub-tile grouping for processing a lot cleaner.

One thing that I am happy about with the new job is that I’m allowed to work on all of this and possibly on my own company, although there are several clauses covering IP and any title I’d release of my own. I have assured them that I won’t be releasing any multi-million pound First Person Shooters whilst I work for them…

Not much more to tell, so far have avoided doing anything for Halloween. I’ve tried to join in before but I just don’t feel anything for it, the dressing up has never amused me that much and I just generally don’t get it so, meh.


New job.

Posted by | Posted in Game Development, Life, Pioneer | Posted on 14-10-2012

A little nervous this evening as I’m starting at a new job at Crytek tomorrow.

No news is good news…

Posted by | Posted in Game Development, Life, Pioneer | Posted on 27-09-2012

This may be a little rambling as I don’t really have anything solid to discuss but it seems some people read this now more than LJ or G+ so here goes!


I had an interview at Crytek last week on Thursday, actually a week ago today – go me and my ability to remember what day it is! The interview seemed to go well, the programming test was apparently good too, we chatted and got on ok and although I vacillate about absolutely every single decision I ever make I would like to work on their tech in the tools department. It’s got lots of upsides compared to regular gameplay coding, the possibility of going home at a reasonable hour regularly being one of them, but more than that it’s because the CryEngine tools are fucking amazing with lots of shiny shiny cool things in them!

They were supposed to get back to me at the start of the week to let me know if I’ve made it through to the 2nd stage of interviews but erm… they haven’t. I guess this is just because they’re very busy, which they seemed to be on the day of the interview, but of course it does leave you hanging in limbo for a while.

This is becoming a bit of a theme actually and yes, I am getting bitter about it. Of the last, ooh, 9 jobs applied to Crytek were the only ones to actually reply at all. The others? I don’t even know if they received my application, my CV, anything.

So that’s the job front covered, 1 interview, 8 places ignoring me, ooh no sorry, 9 places ignoring I forgot about another one near Leamington Spar!


Hows the money situation going then? Well I, along with many other ex-Monumental Games Ltd staff, finally received the compensation claim from the liquidation of assets. At last some cash eh… I was owed ~£980 so I was really hoping this would come through and maybe help out with the mortgage a bit and when the cheque arrived I ripped open to envelope to discover I had been given … £13.78! Yes, amazing eh, what a waste of time that was. Dave was owed over £2100 so he got about £30, just… so pointless. Mortgage still screwed then.

Which is a double shame because I really bloody want the new Halo 4 which is due out on November 6th! Dammit need a job FAST!

Fun stuff:

Danni and I went to the National Space Centre down in Leicester last weekend. I’ve been wanting to go ever since I discovered it was there a couple of years ago and finally we got the chance so Danni treated me. It is totally aimed at kids from 5 to 13 it seems but that’s fine with me as my mental age is probably somewhere between those two figures (do be kind in your judgements). I got some photos and played on lots of the exhibits AAAAAAND there’s a cool planetarium which made me feel dizzy and queasy but was worth it anyway, there’s also a couple of rocket assemblies, boosters and things which sit above the food hall area. Skipped the last bits with a simulator ride and some other bits as I was getting a bit worn out (past my nap time obviously). I can recommend taking along a child or any adult like me :) I wish we’d been able to take Tom actually – for those who don’t know him, Tom is not a child, he’s my age but… similarly… brain-ed.

Other than that I’ve been hacking away on Pioneer and trying to get my brain around water/ocean rendering from space (SPAAAAACE) which is a fiendishly tricky thing to understand actually, which is why I’m still working on it. On the plus side I’ve gotten lots of other things into the upcoming version of Pioneer so that’s keeping me motivated and coding away. I should probably be making a log actually because there’s a bunch of Pull Requests that have made it in like these:

  1. Commodity Icon Size
  2. Add the Achernar star system from FFE
  3. Fix the VC2010 project files
  4. Another fix for the VC2010 project files, this time re-adding Lua!
  5. Vertex cache optimisation and GeoSphere render call reduction
  6. New Visual Studio 2012 Express Edition solution and projects.
  7. Add support for compressed textures.
  8. Updated the vc2012 3rd party libs/pdb files for ogg and vorbis

Then there’s the ongoing work which is only:

That ones taking a while because of a few reasons, the simplest one is that I want to make as small a change as possible that enables the minimum functionality and get it into the game. This is because I just don’t know where the idea/system is going to go design wise. No-one does which is why no-one has wanted to do the work in the first place. The trouble is that it means there’s not really a lot there to discuss other than the choices I’ve made which I’ve only made to give us a minimum working system to then build on. I fully accept that it’s probably not what we might eventually want, but it’s meant to be a starting point rather than an end because currently… there just isn’t anything.

There’s a load of branches that I’m playing around with too but they’re just work in progress stuff and me pratting around trying to figure things out.


Summary? Wtf is this a report or a blog? Oh right yes this is a bit reporty isn’t it, damn.

Well that’s my life at the moment anyway, awesome isn’t it, behold the life of a games programmer, please leave a donation in my upturned hat on your way out :)

In response to critique of a title I worked on…

Posted by | Posted in Game Development, Life | Posted on 15-09-2012

So, today I have been digging up reviews and information on games I’ve worked on. Right the way back QA on Super Skidmarks Megadrive.

Along the way I inevitably got to MotoGP 10/11, this is one of those games that’s so wrapped up in a very painful set of events that it’s hard to tell whether I love the game because of how great it is, or because of the events that came long behind it. Nevermind all that though, I’m out looking for reviews!

When I find this: http://www.randomprodinc.com/moto-gp-1011-review/

Now the review might be “fair“, a bit harsh giving only 6 out of 10, marked down quite hard by the graphics it seems. Not really fair to compare MotoGP 10/11 against other games out, they ran at half the framerate, it’s very easy to make one game look better than another when it has twice as long to draw each frame but then stutters along when anything happens on screen.

So I go to make a comment on this long dead review when I see the reply from “SpeedEight“… and I laugh my arse off.

I know *exactly* who “SpeedEight” is and the two responses to his post just make me grin so wide I think the top of my head might come off. Sadly he never replied any further, I’d have paid money to read that thread.

Anyway this being the internet I posted my own reply, a lengthy one of course but with a much calmer head… of course the internet ate it and it’s gone for good due to it wanting me to enter the captcha phrase, if you try to comment on that review you’ll see that there is no captcha system. Odd.

I’m not actually going to go into the MotoGP 10/11 review… well I might but first I wanted address another comment from the reviews author.

I would like to point out that I am studying Computer Games Technology so I know what goes into making a game and this is my honest opinion of this game.

Good, we wouldn’t want a dishonest opinion, and perhaps he’s striving to keep reviews around the 5 out of 10 range, excellent goal, noble even, misguided and doomed to failure but can’t fault it idealistically anyway. Then there’s the rest of that sentence:

I am studying Computer Games Technology so I know what goes into making a game

Yes… and I’ve read Shakespeare therefore I can write better books.

I’ve also been into games development since I was 15 and programming for even longer, I did a degree (BSc Visualisation with honours) at Teesside University, I had worked at GAME on the high-street and have played quite a few games across many, many, many systems, I’d even made a few games using Shoot ’em up construction kit, and AMOS and until I’d actually worked in the industry and shipped a whole game I knew absolutely fucking nothing.

This might be an effect related to the fact that the less you know the more you *think* you know, like how teenagers know everything, small children think houses cost £6.85 and because government ministers have never had jobs we’re all doomed. The effect gets thoroughly bludgeoned out of programmers during their first time working with another coder, artists the first time they hold a pencil and designers the first glorious time they try to get a programmer to implement that “one little thing“. Oh, no that’s just a bludgeoning.

It’s the realisation that you really know nothing about something until you’re the one who has succeeded in doing it.

We can try and communicate that love is all consuming, how beautiful a view is, how cold and lonely the middle of the Atlantic was at times, how exhausting that 3rd week doing 7 days a week from 8am to 2am but until you’ve done it you really only have this shell or outline of the experience and a bit of text saying “fill-in-later“.

I’m not sure exactly when I realised I knew nothing, but by the time MotoGP 10/11 had finished I knew I’d learn’t a huge amount since that time and now I was certain, absolutely certain, that I would never be capable of learning it all because none of us are.