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?

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.

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 can’t afford to have an independent program monitoring me.

We’re going to GDC – WOOOOT!

It’s taken much wrangling of hands and the odd debt but 5 of us are off two GDC in March (well, we will be once I’ve booked the tickets tomorrow – a simple yet important step!) We’ll be showing off the Hidden at the IGF pavillion as part of the Mod competition finals.

Myself, Keith, Rick, Gus and Ben will be running off on the 20th of March to spend 4 days in San Jose, California. Spending 2 – 3 hours a day running demonstrations of the mod and generally networking, perhaps sneaking off for the odd hour to catch the occasional presentation.

It’s going to be fairly intense I suspect, we’ll have about 12 hours from landing to get ourselves sorted out, get some kip in and make ourselves presentable – a tough job for 5 people sharing one hotel room! (2 double beds, we’re going to have to rota the floor!)

We’ll be taking a stack of business cards along with us, just so we can palm them off to anyone and everyone we meet – it’d be especially awesome if some of the valve guys turned up to say hi! (Though I fear that Keith will tear into them for the shocking art pipeline they’ve made for Source.)

It should be cool – it’s a bit scary, but cool all at the same time, even if we don’t win, we’ll have hopefully made some important contacts!

Side note : I’ve leapt upon the podcast wagon – woot! Grab it here. It’s obviously a newb effort, but it might improve with time, you never know!

That was a real kick and good for laughs and lashings of the old ultraviolence.

I’ve got physically simulated curling stones, woot! However, they aren’t affected by friction, so they never slow down – this is a slight issue… With that resolved, along with the current bizarre behaviour of the “camera” I’ll have a nearly functional game, I need to throw in the swapping of players and the brushing input – some form of figuring out who’s winning might be useful to!

That will hopefully be done in the next couple of days, then it’s on to working on networking with the other guys. Get that sorted, implement it and a wifi 2 player mode and I’ll be well and truly sorted!

Hidden work on the other hand has taken something of a beating – I’ve been away the past 4 days visiting my dad and I’m heading away again at the end of the week to see friends from back home so I’m having to put most of my efforts towards my uni work for the next few days. Though hopefully, I’ll find some spare time and be able to do a bit of work on finishing off the weapons.

Enjoy your date with data, don’t forget to use a conduit.

From what I can tell – I’m 25% done on my list of things needed before our next release – which means I’ve done 50% of my main implementation tasks; I need to finish off the weapons and sort out the new class stuff.

FN2000 world w/ beam

After that, it comes down to fixing up the spectator system some more (with help from valve). At least the fixed cameras are working more reliably, things don’t seem to vanish anymore! Also need to tweak the LAM units, as they’re currently only working properly on the P90 and FN2000 (at least, world model wise) since they share the same basic code I’m not entirely surprised – need to figure out what’s different between them and the other weapons though!

FNP90 world w/beam

Some other tweaks are in the pipeline – a larger delay for starting the first round and a general re-jig of the round system (it’s currently a bit spacky, what a surprise!) Which may also lead to fixing up the hidden round limit too (though I’m not sure why that’s gone wrong in the first place, it’s a fairly simple bit of code!)

FN303 world (beam behind player)

The scoreboard is working properly, showing a full 9 players which is a first – I won’t mention just how easy the fix for this actually was, just take it as given that it was in fact easy (just not very obvious).

870 revised world (beam bottom of pic)

The pretty pictures show off the new world models (the p90 just to show the fancy beam effect) – all of these weapons had their beams active, but some of them don’t work quite right (as I said earlier), in fact, you can see the shotgun beam at the bottom of the image… Oops!
In other news, I’ve started a new unit at uni, which has led to me working with a PocketPC based PDA – gotta make a fun little multiplayer game over the next 3 1/2 weeks… I’m thinking of converting my curling game from a unit I did during my undergrad course.

Is this going to be a standup fight, sir, or another bughunt?

Thing’s I’ve done this weekend :

  • Confirmed a bunch of them
  • Fixed a couple (noted others as resolved where we can’t do anything)
  • Implemented the sonic trip alarms, couple of issues left but they shouldn’t be too bad
  • Finished implementation of FN2000, nearly finished FN303
  • Talked to guys at Valve about the spectator issues, gotten the fixed camera issue resolved. Marine Cams are next on the list (woot)

Thing’s still to do this weekend

  • Fix more issues from the bug tracker
  • Figure out what’s “essential” for the first mini-release
  • Create a timeline (estimated, of course) of future mini-releases
  • Set out what each mini-release should feature

To help me do this, I’m looking into php|Overlord – which is a project organisation tool created by a guy over at GarageGames.

Figured I’d throw in some pretty pictures from my current version of the codebase – please excuse the purple and blackness, I only need the models, not the materials! (thankfully, all new weapons have working world models, so it’s not quite as hideous as it was)

Sonic Trip Alarm Flaming Hidden!

The first image show’s the sonic laser alarms in game, the nicest thing is that the beam isn’t rendered for 617 so if you can get it in a dark enough spot the only thing to give it away is the blue gleam from the lens.

The second image shows the current effect of the FN303 (which is to trigger the Ignite() function) – obviously, this isn’t what we want it to do, but it’s a good temporary position (in that it does damage over time) to stop at while I work on some other bits and pieces.

Well, that’s – that’s difficult to – it’s all math…

Ok, so the maths unit is done with, thank god… While it wasn’t actually as bad as I feared it might be, I’d be quite, quite happy to never happen to see the words “differentiation” or “integration” again in regards to maths for a very, very long time!

We’ve made some more (slight) progrees in regards to Revolution, nothing amazing but the art team are a bit happier with the tools at hand. Now it’s down to actual gameplay coding, which is going to be an entertaining journey – the style of the game is now more towards prince of persia than marble madness, partly due to technical limitations that we don’t much want to overcome on our first game in torque and partly down to laziness (or are they in fact the same reason with slightly different ways of saying it?)

Anyhow, take a look at Boxyweb for a shot of test level that he’s putting together for it. I’ll keep shots of that one coming as and when new stuff drops in. It should ultimately be a fun little platformer, with distinct kiddy appeal… Here’s hoping we pull it off and we sell at least 2 copies! (We should get that from parent sales alone!)

GingTorrent has been pushed to the back burner somewhat, I’ve got to the point where I can read torrent files, I just need to parse them out and store their information, which is the job for over the xmas holidays (ok, I know I said it’d take a week but I’ve never been good at time tabling!)

I’ve updated my portfolio section (the real reason behind this site) – a link can be found up at the top of this page, it currently shows up Hidden Source and a Rubik’s Cube simulator (exciting, I know). But I’ll get more stuff up there as and when I get it done. I may have to finish off the prototype I made for the first unit and get that up there, as it showed promise.

Current Work : Small bits of Hidden, Revolution, GingTorrent and a Wipeout Clone using Renderware Graphics.