A little slice of heaven.

So, my slice finally flowed through the system – I signed up for a 256 slice, which is the low end of what Slicehost offer, but I’m only really using it for playing around with stuff that my “standard” host doesn’t support very well (ruby and other such fancy things in the main). As time goes on, I may make the transfer more complete – as it is, I’ve started a second blog that’s going to be more “technical” than this one. It just allows me to separate the “work” from the “personal” slightly – so no book lists or gamer tag widgets over there.

Continue reading →

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?

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.

Excuses are like assholes, Taylor. Everybody’s got one!

Gah, it’s been ages! My apologies, but I have excuses and notes from doctors… or something…

In all honesty, I’ve been damned busy with Hidden work – preparing for a release pre-IGF has sucked up all my time for the past few weeks. However, there is an end in sight at last – we’ve got the majority of the features we wanted in and working (to various different degrees) and about a week of tweaking, testing and fixing before we ideally want to release.

In uni news, I’m coming up to the end of my fifth unit – which has been planning for my research project for the summer. The title of which is “Swarm intelligence for modern military RTS games” – so I get to faff about with swarms / flocking techniques and make use of military tactics (formation movement, taking cover when under fire, plotting concealed routes etc).

I’ve got to finish off the beginnings of my lit review over the weekend, which requires about 4 or 5 pages of writing and a fair bit of reading, but it shouldn’t take too long if I get a bit of focused time on it. With that handed in on Monday, I also start the limited resource hardware unit which means I get to play with ps2 linux kits – sounds like the assignment will be to use perlin noise and generate terrain with it.

I picked up Black last week – but it’s late so I’ll talk about my views on it later in the weekend (it’s basically going to be a glowing review).

I ain’t afraid of no quake!

I could say that the days of brown and orange have gone, but I’d be lying – the colour scheme of Quake 4 is exactly the same as Quake 2, which I suppose shows that it hasn’t forgotten it’s heritage. It’s introduced normal mapping, dynamic lights + shadows, but it’s still got brown and orange!

It’s a pleasant change from some of the more thinky games that have been hitting the shelves in recent times, the likes of Swat 4 and Splinter Cell are firmly given the finger by Quake 4 – thank god! While I appreciate a realistic game where a single mistake costs the mission, it’s sometimes fun to just charge through an enemy compound unleashing hell with a variety of larger than life weaponry!

It does at first seem like Doom 3 remade, again, but you’ve got torches on a couple of your weapons and there aren’t any enemies that have jammed themselves into cupboards with the fine intention of leaping out behind you! Instead they charge through doors, take cover and spray fire at you. The experience is quite, quite different from Doom 3, which is ultimately a good thing – especially as I wasn’t a major fan of the “dark and creepy” in D3.

The entire thing reeks of classic Quake 2, which is awesome, all the old favourite weapons make a come back in some guise or another (even the BFG, though it’s not called that anymore). I haven’t yet given the multiplayer a try – I’ve just been enjoying the single player so far, so I’ll probably come back and comment on that once I’ve given it a go.

It’s hard to tell if the game would have been picked up by a publisher had it not got the Quake franchise behind it – it would certainly have been a massive risk, but then Croteam got Serious Sam and sequel out and that’s got even less of a storyline than Q4 has! Don’t get me wrong, there is a storyline but it’s not as involving as that found in F.E.A.R or CoD2.

If you’ve played Quake 2, than it’s well worth picking up Quake 4, if only for old times sake. If you haven’t played Quake 2, than it’s still worth picking it up, just to take a break from the realism heady games of today. There’s no slow mo, no tactical movement, just big guns, big enemies and huge firefights… All a gamer could need!

Now, we must all fear evil men.

Ok, couple of new games I’m gonna talk about over the next few days; Quake 4, Call of Duty 2 and F.E.A.R – today’s discussion shall be Monolith’s F.E.A.R – with a bit of extra crud thrown at the end!

First impressions are mixed – the level design is fairly basic, without much world detail and fairly standard concrete textures all over the shop but the models are highly detailed and quite lovely to look at. The atmosphere is however amazing, they’ve done a really good job of using the technical aspects of the engine to best effect (real time lighting / shadowing for instance), firefights leave clouds of dust and smoke billowing through rooms and corridors, often completely obscuring your view, leading to wild firing from both yourself and the AI.

I won’t talk too much about the storyline, it’ll just lead to silly spoilers – it is however interesting enough to keep you generally engaged and playing through to the end. The combination of movie style action sequences with japanese style horror elements is nearly perfect in it’s execution – though the horror sequences can be wasted if the player isn’t locked into the experience. I know one of my housemates didn’t feel the full impact because he was charging through, paying little attention to the world around him.

The technical aspects are interesting, at least to a coder such as myself – there’s a developers commentary included on the dvd that talks about some of the limitations that the designers faced such as 6 AI’s, no water and a limited number of lights. It’s also quite obvious that it went through some fairly heavy optimisation, both in engineering and design.

A worthwhile purchase – if only for the pleasantly fresh and relatively different singleplayer, the multiplayer being some truly tasty hardcore deathmatch fun, it’s fast, furious and completely mentalist when you get a full 16 player server going on!

On a side note; the Hidden’s Beta 2 release went reasonably well, we suffered some horrific server crashes but got the majority of them under control within 24 hours – however, it has left us with the dirty secret nasty ones to track down and fix up over the next few weeks.

Ultimately, I need to keep B3 on the back burner while working on revolution, which is slowly but surely being ramped up across the team. Though it does look like at the very least, a B2b is required within the next month or so. I’m probably going to talk some more about B2b / B3 over the next few weeks as we decide what we’re going to do with it.

The peer mentoring system has finally started rolling at uni, I’m hoping I’ll have my group of 10 freshers to play with, erm, help, in the next few weeks – my ultimate intention is to try and make it even vaguely interesting, perhaps even set them a couple of challenges; game design within a set domain (physics, swarming, growth etc), possibly a mod of some form – I’d quite like to see a decent single player mod started off (I have a year to work with them on it in the role of “advisor” – it should be doable depending on starting skill levels).

There’s also the possibility of a demonstrator position working with 2nd years for their 3D Studio Max work and related projects – it’s caused dismay amongst the art team, the idea of a coder helping to teach Max has them in fits… But I have pointed out that it’s basic Max skills that I actually do have!

Finally, my mini-project for the next week or two is to try and write a basic BitTorrent client, a couple of reasons – learning more about networking, developing my win32 API skills and just writing something tool based rather than game based! I’ll try and keep this place updated with my progress while also talking about some other bits and pieces that may or may not be more interesting!

Expanding – And flowed, flowering for him, fluid neon origami trick

So, Dystopia is out, I’ve played it enough to form some opinions… Which I shall now spurge out into the void! Ignoring the obscene amounts of hype it’s generated is tough, it’s been mentioned everywhere that HL2 has been, appearing multiple times on the Steam updates amongst others.

Dystopia - Cyberspace

It’s ok, not great, but ok – the gameplay is solid, if somewhat unoriginal. The Cyberspace sections are different, but not as amazing as have been made out – it might just be the single level released in the demo but it seemed limited, with only a few “Jackpoints” spread out across the level…

Graphically, the mod does stand out, the player models are high quality and the shader effects are very tasty. However, the level design leaves something to be desired – it might well be that it’s a choice by the dev team to make the levels relatively simple and clear of “clutter” but it does make them look more like a level you’d find in something like Quake 2.

Dystopia - Vaccine

As it stands, playing on public server tends to degenerate the gameplay experience into a muddied Team Deathmatch, rather than a tactical / strategic style that it probably should be / is on private servers. As far as I’m concerned, that may drive away players, especially in these early days with only one map to play. CSS gets away with it because you don’t *have* to play tactically with your team mates to win, whereas the level of coordination required by the attacking team in Dystopia is just beyond the grasp of the majority of public servers and their players.

All in all, it shows promise – I look forward to seeing where they’re going to take it and how it will improve with future “demo” releases, I can but hope that it *does* improve! Otherwise I fear their aspirations of a retail release will be for nought.