I once fought two days with an arrow through my testicle.

So, a post that isn’t about bloody books – it’s taken long enough!

I may be a tad inebriated, so excuse the spelling mistakes (I’ll do my best to correct said mistakes before I hit the pretty ‘publish’ button). I’ve been thinking a fair amount recently about what the future holds for me – I’ve been offered some paid work by another mod, which I’ve happily taken in an attempt to get me through the dry summer months without a wage from the university. Perhaps I should’ve saved some money while it was coming in? (hah, where’s the fun?)

But at the same time, I desperately battle to ensure that the companys (Calibre Studios that is) projects actually reach a point where we’re happy to show them off to others during the process of getting them published (note, I don’t talk about “possibly” or “maybe”, this game will get published on XBLA).

Though I’m also somewhat weighed down by the need to get the next version of the hidden out the door, much as I like the game, I often find myself struggling to work on it – it’s been over two years since we first released and the returns have been minimal (we’ve built up a good core community, but in terms of money or other returns, we’ve had fuck all) in terms of ‘reknown’. That starts to sap the soul somewhat after a while, we were the first ‘big’ mod out for HL2, we’ve outlasted our first ‘competitor’ Plan of Attack, but still we get little recognition from anyone but our fan base… It’s all a bit depressing!

Hopefully that’ll change with our next release, the new game type will provide the extra ‘umph’ we need to get ourselves known solidly… Of course, we also face the issue of increasing competition, there are way more HL2 mods out and about the place now then there were when we first released many moons ago. Mods like Iron Grip, Insects Infestation and Dystopia have come along providing wider experiences (I won’t say deeper, as that’s not true) which provide more immediate appeal to a wider audience than we do.

What I am looking forward to is the release of UT3, which’ll allow us to finally unveil our next modding project – which is fucking cool as fuck in all honesty and which will allow me to get my teeth into UE3 properly (rather than through a vaguely broken version of RoboBlitz, I mean honestly, why does it not support transparent materials properly?)

Not that you heard that we’re working on a UT3 mod from me, if I hear that rumour spreading, I’ll be sending the lads round to break legs and take names, ok?

#10 – #13

#10 Gates of Fire – Steven Pressfield
A beautifully crafted tale of the battle of Thermopylae (yes, the same one that features in the recent epic film 300). Told from the point of view of a spartan servant captured after the battle, it covers a great deal of ground over several years before the battle took place. The characterisation is excellent – you certainly feel the pain when the final defenders make their last stand after seven days of hard fighting.

523 pages
New Read

#11 The Field of Swords – Conn Iggulden
Yet another entry in the “Emperor” series, covering the sky rocketing rise of Julius Caesar as a Roman General. The main topic in this one is his invasion of Gaul and the various political issues that arise from his domination of Roman political discussion. Yet another awesome read – I just need to finish off my stack of extra books so I can get on and read the final book in the series!

656 pages
New Read

#12 The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins

A slight deviation from the historical novels of late – but I’m always interested by what Dawkins has to say (I tend to share many of the same views as he does). The God Delusion doesn’t fail to deliver, with striking arguments against the very existence of a god and against creationism / intelligent design specifically it’s an excellent read for people on either side of the religious battle lines.

416 pages
New Read

#13 Alexander (The Virtues of War) – Steven Pressfield
Following in a similar vein to the Emperor series, this singular novel covers the meteroic rise to power of Alexander the Great, covering his invasion of the East from Macedonia and the many trials it brought before him as he battled with his beliefs and the safety and happiness of his men. Alexander may have only lived to 32, but he did more than nearly anyone else has ever done in his lifetime, then or now.

490 pages
New Read

So, that’s a total of 7215 pages – I’m currently about half way through the centenary collection of Robert E. Howards conan stories, which is why I’ve slowed down slightly (it’s close to 900 pages of giant hardback bookness – it’s a nightmare to read on the loo or in bed!) and after that I’ve still got a stack of five books left to get through before I have to find new ones or re-read old ones.

#9 The Death of Kings – Conn Iggulden

The continuation of the story of Julius Caesar, started in the Gates of Rome – Caesar is now a young army officer on board a Roman galley hunting pirates… The story follows his capture by said pirates, his vengeance and the following story in Rome (it even covers Spartacus!) once again, I was barely able to put it down – a truly awesome read!

688 pages
New Read

#3 – #8 | Dragons, Magicians and Romans, oh my!

#3 Eragon – Christopher Paolini

It’s interesting, a lot of people hammer the “Inheritance” trilogy (well, the two books so far) for being utterly derivative and to some degree plagiarisms of existing tales (LOTR and Star Wars in the main). But on the whole, it’s an enjoyable story if you don’t over analyse it. I certainly didn’t really notice the Star Wars / Lord of the Rings comparisons until I was told about them. But it’s certainly one for the younger readers in all.
497 pages
New Read

#4 Eldest – Christopher Paolini

Not much different from Eragon, it continues the story and introduces some nice (if obvious) twists. Thinking about it further – it’s pretty obvious that the author may have wanted to wait before he actually had this published and looked at the entire series with a somewhat older eye (the guy is younger than me after all!)

704 pages
New Read

#5 The Magicians Guild – Trudi Canavan

The first in an excellent trilogy from Trudi Canavan, featuring an interesting take on the world of magic (though perhaps a bit generic, why must they wear robes?!?) with a good flow and story that keeps you intrigued throughout (and forces you to read the rest of the trilogy to discover the fate of the characters).

480 pages
New Read

#6 The Novice – Trudi Canavan

The continuation of the story begun in “The Magicians Guild”, picking up the story after a break of only a few months in “story” time. The story continues to be riveting, with an excellent flow and good character development.
492 pages
New Read

#7 The High Lord – Trudi Canavan

The final part in the trilogy and a worthwhile ending to this part of the story (though a further trilogy, following the characters after these events is in the works!) I was disappointed that I couldn’t carry on straight through with the new books, as I certainly enjoyed the world and the characters throughout the series and look forward to seeing how they develop further.
656 pages
New Read

#8 The Gates of Rome – Conn Iggulden

Following the story of a young Julius Caesar as he is introduced to life in Rome and it’s many risks. It’s interesting to note that you never find out who of the two young men discussed in the book is Caesar until the last few chapters. The entire story is incredible and not only because it is based in truth (the author includes some notes that explain the differences at the end of the novel) but also due to the beautiful characterisation and description. I’ll end this one by pointing out that I read it in a day, I quite literally couldn’t put it down!
640 pages
New Read

So, eight books so far – all new reads and I’ve got four more new ones in a stack to get through before I have to either look at getting more or re-reading some old ones. Interestingly, the 8 I’ve read so far combine to 4442 pages, so an average of about 555 pages a book. Not bad progress in 5 weeks!

#2 Empire of Dragons – Valerio Massimo Manfredi

A fictional account of a small group of roman soldiers that find themselves thrust into a life outside of the Roman Empire and battling for survival in an attempt to return home.Enjoyable read – though I was hoping for a slightly better climax (or even the possibility of a continuation, I’ll have to look into it and see if there’s a sequel). The characters were well developed and the storyline well paced and, of course, you can’t go amiss with a bit of Ancient Rome!

397 Pages
New Read

50 books in a Year

This intrigues me, the idea of setting a target to read x number of books in a year – I’m curious to see just how many I manage to read. So, I’m giving myself a target of 50 within 2007, with at least 20 being new reads. If I make that by half way, it’ll be 100.

As of today, I’ve managed one so far:

Rat Run (576 pages)
Gerald Seymour

But I’m a good distance through my second – I’ll try and keep a running commentary on how I’m doing, mainly for my own interest really!

Boys, that girl hasn’t worn panties since she was twelve.

So, what’s been going on?

We’ve been hard at work developing a portfolio video to send out to development studios who may want to make use of our freelance art services – it’s looking very pretty, so I’ll throw up a link shortly.

It’s been an interesting time with the Hidden, Valve have been busy updating the SDK, so we’ve been playing catchup with that while also implementing the Evacuation Point gametype – I’ve made good progress on that so far, I think I’m at the point where it’s down to visual additions and tweaking the core gameplay following feedback from testers. Of course, to let the testers actually test, I need to dive into Linux and try and figure out why the server isn’t running properly.

Aside from that, I’ve been working on a 2D vertical shooter as a way of giving us a game to add to our portfolio that’s all our code – progress on that is going well, I’ve got the basic gameplay sorted, but I need to tidy it all up, add a menu and start getting some more advanced gameplay features in; pickups and the like. I’m also still working on the Pseudo-3D platformer, but that’s taken something of a back seat at the moment as I was working on the editor but realised I needed to implement picking / selection code and wasn’t sure how to do it! (I’ve since figured it out, I just need to get back into it and get the code working)

Finally, I’ve finished my Masters, graduation in about 6 weeks! I’ll put up some examples of what I did over that year over the next few weeks – with that out of the way, I’ve taken up a job with the University as a “demonstrator” and “help desk technician” – which helps me pay the rent and keeps me in touch with the faculty and some of the help they can provide (like hardware for the office!)

One last thing before I sign off – take a peek at the Great Games Experiment (link) – an interesting new networking site from the guys at Garage Games (link), it’ll be interesting to see how it kicks off once it leaves Beta!

Only after disaster can we be resurrected.

Right, bit of an odd one we’ve had around here – I’ve given up trying to sneak out a little update, instead we’re just dumping 4a out the door to avoid confusion.

The Hidden – Source

It’s been a hectic time around here, not only have we dropped Beta 4 out the door, followed by me running around remaking installers, compiling windows and linux builds – remaking the installers again, uploading the installers, remaking the installers, cancelling the upload and doing the whole lot all over again. I’ve also finished the last of my ‘taught’ units, getting the assignment done by the skin of my teeth (I’ll try and get the final product of that, a slightly broken MD5 viewer, uploaded soon), alongside which we’ve secured ourselves free office space for a year thanks to the sparkhouse, the universities business incubation setup – due to winning their “Business Ignition” Competition, which garners us the aforementioned offices, free of rent for a year, support from a local accountant and solicitor along with £2000 in funding to help get us off the ground.

This is awesome news – it means we can really settle down and focus our efforts, rather than being diverted by working out of our bedrooms! Of course, that’s once we find the money to get ourselves set up with the various bits of hardware and software we need. Which equates to roughly £15,000 all told (we can use the £2000 towards that, but it’d be nice to get some extra to cover any other costs we may encounter) I need to sort out the majority of that over the next few days, hurrah!

In other news, I’m off on a holiday soon, wewt! Week and a half at me dads place in France, hope to get me an NLP diploma while I’m there (his wife does courses, I get to sign up for them when I’m about) and get some writing done for my dissertation.

That’s a very fine Chardonnay you’re not drinking!

Ways to make money -

  1. Sell your soul
  2. Create, Market and Sell a successful product
  3. Sell your body
  4. Get a job
  5. Sell someone elses body
  6. Sell firearms
  7. See Two
  8. Start a game development studio
  9. Sell drugs
  10. Win the lottery

Of those 10, I need to do at least one in the coming months – basically, I need a job… Something that will let me do 15 – 20 hours a week at above minimum wage, enough to cover rent and hopefully monthly costs… Possibly even let me buy some food.

Of course, I’d prefer 10, that’d just be easy… But it requires investment of the aforementioned cash, which I lack and as such cannot afford to invest in something with such astronomical odds of not winning! (A vicious cycle)

Apart from that, the replacement 360 from the nice Amazonians seems to be working a charm – at least I’ve not had any horrendous shearing polygons in PGR3 yet, hurray for decent returns policies! The new unit I’ve started seems to be an interesting one and far less taxing on the brain than AI!

In the odd spare hour or two I’ve been writing a bit of Hidden based fiction (does it count as fan fiction when it’s the project lead writing it?) which I may eventually get around to finishing and posting here – though it’s getting to be a bit epic considering it’s only meant to be a short story!

Thinking of posting on here, I’ll be sorting out that reviews section soon, filling it out with some bits and pieces – I need to talk about the 360, DoA4, PGR3, Black, Oblivion… I’ll also throw in some films that I’ve enjoyed recently too, speaking of which, I recently organised my dvd collection into alphabetical order and I’ve laid down the challenge to myself to try and watch one a night until I’ve gotten through them all.

It’s proving tougher than I thought, not due to a lack of time, but due to the fact that I keep finding stuff I want to watch on normal TV, tonights viewing was stopped by “In Hell” with the Muscles from Brussels (Van Damme) – who can resist the temptation of an unseen Van Damme film? Not I!

Right, if anyone figures out how I can make lots of money, well, not lots, but enough, without doing any real work, let me know… Most suggestions will be seriously considered!

I had my cell phone on vibrate, I was busy – didn’t wanna get disturbed.

Ok, It’s been nearly 2 months – I’ve been lax!

However, all is not lost, we had an awesome time at IGF / GDC, we didn’t win, but we made good contacts and got some good feedback. While I said that we were pushing for a release in time for GDC, we didn’t make it, we delayed the release so we could crush the last few major issues that we knew of – including a (completely unsurprising) linux problem.

We’ve brought on board a new coder – who’s been doing amazing work fixing up some of my more horrendous code and making it all a bit safer. This has let us move forward quite well in regards to fixing bugs, though we somehow managed to release a bug riddled version of code that was seemingly stable mere days beforehand (hah, what a surprise!)

The PS2 Linux unit went quite well – the project didn’t have much visual flair, but the code was fairly solid – however, it really started to drag on a bit, especially without ‘decent’ debugging tools and a frustrating tool chain. It’s another of the units that didn’t really fit the “four week block” structure of the course. I may grab a screen shot and / or video of the game if I get a chance / put the code in.

We’ve moved onto the Advanced AI unit, which has been interesting – especially since it’s given me a couple of ideas for my dissertation project! The coursework for this is creation of a bot for the TORCS open source racing game using any of the AI paradigms we’ve discussed, but with the recommendation of Neural Networks.

I’m going to create a new section – Reviews – where I can drop my thoughts on new shiny stuff (such as the 360 I finally got around to picking up and Black, which I’ve been meaning to talk about for months!) – that’ll prolly happen over the weekend (he claims) and may or may not be interesting.