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:

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?

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.

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.


The two faces of Capitol

Posted by | Posted in Game Development, Pioneer | Posted on 05-09-2012

I MADE THIS! …and it’s awesome :)

Essentially I translated the old Achenar star system, and seat of the Empire, from the Frontier/FFE details into the system we use for Pioneer and placed it out at the real system “Achernar” upon with it was based (the names are interchangeable). It gives everyone who used to love the old games a bit of a buzz and it’s an interesting star system in it’s own right. Future modifications will give the star it’s correct bulge due to it’s rate of spin.

Just to be clear, there is no Empire faction with it’s seat of power here in the Pioneer-verse, this is just the system made to look like the FFE one and it’s located at sector (4, -9, -16) so it’s a long way to jump out to it.

Really happy whenever anything I’ve done makes it into the main trunk on Pioneer, it gives an overwhelming sense of achievement, even if it is only using some Google-fu, doing some simple maths and then a bit of typing.

One side is lit by Achernar, the other is lit by Achernar 9 (a brown dwarf sub-stellar object).

This should be available in the next Alpha build and probably in the nightly ones pretty soon.

September, still unemployed but happy update!

Posted by | Posted in Game Development, Life | Posted on 03-09-2012

So it’s been 2 months since I finished my last contract, well, 2 months and 3 days. It’s also now 3 months (+3 days) since I was last paid! Neither of these things is great news but I’m doing surprisingly well right now.

A quick recap just to get my brain in order:

*Sept->Dec (2011)* – Sony London (soho) studio worked on the Harry Potter Book of Spells using their new WonderBook platform, top secret at the time and I can still only mention that I worked on it. That was ok, frustrating at times as they were really hunting around to find the best bits so a lot of stuff fell on the cutting room floor. At the end they offered me another contract on more money beginning when I returned from sailing.

*Dec->Dec (2011)* – Sailed across the Atlantic with my Dad in a slightly broken boat! You can see the photos if you look in my photo archives. Scary, a bit dangerous but not too much – certainly seemed and felt dangerous at the time in places. Good experience, I can’t believe this is already 9 months ago.

*Jan (2012)* – Sony didn’t contact me before/over Xmas – total panic as I needed a job and thought I had everything lined up. Thankfully Rik had been trying to contact me about doing some mobile development for Android & iOS for his new company AppCrowd. This was interesting, I’d be able to work from home a lot and the pay was good enough, nowhere near Sony but not in London and working from home lots meant it was about equal. I took the job with AppCrowd.
Of course Sony contacted me a couple of days later and it was all down to a slight snaffu with HR etc, it’s always HR that screw things up but I’d made my mind up and stuck with the AppCrowd decision.

*Jan->Jun 29th (2012)* – The AppCrowd contract came to an end after a 1 month extension. In some ways I was glad because the publisher we were working for were becoming a real nightmare. It was like they simply had no clue about how to do game development despite being in the business for years before. I think they were just too used to being able to make big changes very easily in the older J2ME games. When the games get bigger and the resources required balloon you need to plan out those changes before work gets done on them or you end up paying multiple times for a single task.

*Jun->now (2012)* – the publisher decided to withhold payment for work done so they could negotiate a better deal, that meant AppCrowd don’t have the money to pay me for the work extra month of work I did in June…

So as you can imagine things are a bit tight money wise right now but they couldn’t be better on other fronts.

Danni is awesome, we went on holiday for a few days and did lots of Shakespeare related stuff (saw a play, visited museums etc), then she was away for 2 weeks travelling around Europe but I got her back this weekend :) she’s gone back to work (teaching) today which is a bit of a bummer as I’d have liked to have her around for a bit longer all to myself!

I have a new niece (see my photos) called “Poppy Isabella Lydiatt” who is, as babies often are, quite adorable. My other niece Amelia Joy is being a good older sister, she especially likes the fact that all of the babies things are pink because this means that she can be the boy and have everything blue… I’m buying her a Transformers toy :)

Also I’m actually getting interested in programming again rather than just doing it because I feel I must to keep my skills in shape, or for programming tests or indeed for work. Mostly this has meant doing things to which I’ve just been submitting various little patches covering some basic icon scaling and keeping the VC2010 project compiling etc. However I have also been working on the Factions code that I started months ago and it’s coming along nicely now.
In other coding news I have been working on the Syndicate level viewer and adding pathfinding too it and the GWEN UI etc but that’s gone on hold once more :)

…so there, end of braindump!