Gaming Your Way

May contain nuts.

The cake is a lie

"Don't you know that its worth every treasure on earth
To be young at heart
"


37. Fucking hell. It's such a cliché I know, but I really don't know where there time goes. Sitting in double geography seems at the same time both a million life times ago, and a couple of years ago.

I used to cope with ageing really badly, I was depressed at hitting 18, which I know isn't right. I think though after a certain age though you become almost numb to it, there's no fighting it. You know you're hurtling towards the forever, so you may as well enjoy the ride.
But still, for me there's always that twinge that things are slowly slipping away, I guess that's just built into me, like a fear of spiders ( Nasty bastards ) or laughing at the most wrong things.


"I am slowing down
As the years go by
I am sinking
So I trick myself
Like everybody else
"

Squize.

Don't die on me now, not now!

I think all devs have had that scare. The one where they've deleted a file they shouldn't have. The one where their router died on the day they need to send the most important email ever. Vista fucking up big time.

This story is about the latter.

I was installing Visual Studio yesterday, and there were some updates to .net, the kind where you need a reboot and then Vista tells you how it's all going. My gfx card crapped out mid install ( Of VS, the updates were ready and waiting ) and reset the machine.
Hope no files got corrupted there.
As the box booted back up Vista let me know the progress of the updates, but hang on, 3/3 seems to be stuck at 0%. For a very long time. Ah, and it's rebooted without actually finishing.
Never mind, it'll just reboot and sort itself out.
Imagine my delight when the same thing happened. Over and over and over again. Not ideal. Fired up the installation disc, chose the repair start-up option ( Which it actually offered up to me, Vista knew something was wrong and wasn't ashamed of it ), reboot and... 3/3 0% reset.

Ok, let's try a different option, let's just boot up in safe mode. 3/3 0% reset. Safe mode with networking. 3/3 0% reset. Last good config boot ? Fucking hell. Fired up google on the mac[Book Pro. Yeah after paying £2k for it, I'm going to mention it at every opportunity ) and found that microsoft have the solution in their knowledge base. Seems it wasn't the crash that did it, it would have happened anyway.

Idea #1 was to use the repair start up option. Hmmm
Idea #2 was to boot in safe mode... Cosmic

Although the rest of idea #2 was sound, use a restore point. There were a couple just before the crash, so job done, hurray I can get back to my massive crunch of having to do another 4 games by the 15th of this month.

Restoring, restoring. All good. All good until it came up with a file error. It seems some files did get corrupted during the crash, the files being the restore points. God, is this revenge for all the shitty things I say ? Is karma that instant and that brutal ?

Idea #3 looked complicated, and it's boiling hot here and I want the easy option damn it. I want things how they used to be between us.

The easy option ( In my head at least ) was to install vista on a blank HD and then see if I can't fix the issue from windows on the 2nd drive. Installing Vista is like watching paint dry so I didn't have the most fun day yesterday as you can imagine.
Right, finally installed lets see what I can do... that's odd, windows has just hung again after a couple of minutes use. It never rains and all that. Let's try again. And again. And again. Fuck me.

Idea #3 it is then.

I finally got everything back up and running a couple of hours ago, so that's a day and a half wasted.

Do you ever read a blog, and think "What a waste of time, there's nothing I can take away from that, it's just someone bitching about something I couldn't care less about" ?
Yeah, me too.

Squize.

Want to be our bitch ?

We're in the lucky position of having more than enough work for ourselves, so we're looking to share that out by taking on a freelance coder for initially one project, due to start in the next couple of weeks.

Ideally you'll tick most of the boxes below, and if so please give us a shout via the contact page on the site ( We're more than happy to answer any questions in the comments, but if anyone feels the need to post "mail sent" they won't ever ever be working with us. Ever ).

* Young and eager. We've not got the budget on this project to pay out London day rates, but it'll be more than than an average sponsorship deal. Think of it as a way into the industry rather than a quick [ Huge ] buck. We want someone who's on fucking fire to make the best games possible. We want your enthusiasm to make us feel old and cynical in comparison.

* Available. If I'm being chased up by the client, then I need to be able to get in touch with you. Fitting this in and around your life isn't really an option, it's a job and needs treating as such. Once you've done your 8 hours and everything is on target you can go out and kill prostitutes for all I care, we just need your arse for that time every day.
( We don't care about location / time zone differences, I really just need to be able to fire up msn and see your lovely avatar there at set times ).

* Ability. as3 is a must, and oop as3 at that. We want to see lovely external classes. Flex or Flash Develop will be your dev. environments of choice. We don't expect you to know everything, it's more about a keenness to try and work around problems on your own than a vast knowledge of everything under the sun.
Also at least one complete game under your belt is a must. By complete, we don't count "It's all finished, I just need to add the sounds and the last couple of levels". That's not a finished game.

* Attention to detail. We're anal to the point of ocd. When doing a game for a big name client you can't get away with "That'll do, it's close enough", everything has to be as close to silky smooth as possible. Hopefully you'll bring that with you, otherwise you're going to get fucked off with us pointing things out. We want your imagination as much as your code.

* Deadlines baby. A missed deadline at best means an annoyed client, at worst an annoyed client and us working for free to catch up. You really need to be self motivated and self managed for the most part. You're not going to be left alone in the wilderness, we'll be there to keep things on track and to provide all the help and support we can, but by the same token we're not going to micro-mange you. Partly because it's no fun for us, and just as importantly it's no fun for you. This will be your chance to shine on a project, to run with it and make us pant to work with you again.

If this sounds like the life for you, then give us a shout, even if you think you only hit some of those requirements, you could still have a ton of potential which just needs to be brought out. And nothing brings out your coding potential like having to get a delivery to a client in 4 hours when you've got 6 hours work to do.

We're looking forward to hearing from you.

Oh and just in case: here's the contact form ...

Squize.

We've reached that point

You must have seen that old couple, the ones that look older than time itself and you know they've been together 40+ years. They're eating opposite each other in complete silence as anything new to say has evaporated a long time ago, and it's much easier just to stay silent rather than force something just for the habit of it.

I think the blog has become like that recently. We're in our little ( Tired ? Not yet, not by a long way ) grooves working away on nice things but without much to say about them.

Twitter seems to a better outlet for conveying the day to day little / funny / annoying things and that leaves us with only big things to post here, and right now we're clean out of big things.

The puzzle game I'm working on is coming along nicely. I can't really share the gameplay, and in terms of code, it's a puzzle game. Nothing new or clever there so I can't share some new sweet way of doing things.

We've set our invite only board up too, and I'm struggling to post to that too. Perhaps I have just run out of words of interest. Maybe there are only a certain number and then it's just forced. Like sperm.

If nothing starts happening soon I'll just start posting lies to keep things interesting here, like the time I wrestled a camel. With lazer beam eyes.

Squize.

I feel kind of cheap ( And not for the first time )

I recently did a reskin for a new CGI movie which we're not actually allowed to take credit for due to the nature of the contract ( It's a project which filtered down a couple of agencies before landing in my inbox ) so I can't link to it without giving it away, or even mention that it involved both Aliens and Monsters ( If you follow us on twitter you'll see I've been a bit less subtle there ).

I noticed yesterday that it's been posted to gameJacket, so thinking the worse I fired off an email to which I got a good prompt reply from Simon. Long story short, it turns out Rubber Republic have been contracted by Dreamworks to distribute the game and they're using gameJacket to do so.

Perhaps it's just me, and I'm being naive ( I've been shocked in the past, and still am now and again, about the size of the budget for paid placements. I live in a nice little garden where viral games sit on their own nice custom webpage and people just swap emails about them based on their actual merit as a means of entertainment until they get a nice lot of traffic and everyone's happy. I fear the busy road outside that is all about paying to put a game in the #1 spot on high traffic portals ) but it just doesn't sit too well with me.

An adver-game supported by adverts just feels overly cheap. I've had this before with Brain Voyage, and I really fought against that at the time ( Obviously I lost ).
If you're using a game to sell a product, then surely the game itself should be enough without further ( And random ) advertising before it, that just dilutes the message and to me cheapens the end title.

I think it's because advertising is such a common way to pay for the development of a game that when you see it in any game you naturally assume the same. So when you see a game by Eidos or Dreamworks promoting their IP it gives the same impression, that the games development costs need to be recouped by advertising other products. That's not a great impression to give out.
We don't have ads on here or the site for that very same reason. It's not that we're rolling in cash, it's just that the returns vs the perceived loss of quality to the site massively outweigh each other. We've even been asked to do sponsored articles, but unless it's enough money so we can ignore the feeling of being dirty, then what is the point ?

We pride ourselves on producing the very best work we can, dependant on the budget / timescales / project scope, and I think for the most part we hit that self imposed target. We want our work to be presented in the best light possible, so why don't companies like Dreamworks and Eidos, who at the end of the day are IP driven, feel the same ?

Ok here's what I'd like to do, follow me with this. I'm going to set up a fictional game called "Mackerel Queef" and buy advertising space on mochi and gJ

queef.jpg

I think that's subtle enough. Now I'm not really going to do this, it was partly just an excuse for more dirty words on here, but it is kinda related to the point I'm trying to make.
If I was Dreamworks and I was advertising a family movie, I wouldn't want "Mackerel Queef" ( I've used it again 'cause I want this site to be the number one on google for "as3 fps counter and queefs" ) being promoted in the same breath never mind being seen as earning money from it.

Ok the ad networks are more responsible than that ( And I'm really not critising them, they've made Flash a viable development platform for a lot of people which is only a good thing ) but it shows the lack of control you have over such things.

I guess it all boils down to the figures. If you've commissioned $x worth of game I assume there's someone working out the cost per set of eyes viewing it ( A figure I found for cpm on prime time tv in 2002 is $17.78. Imagine getting that rate from mochi ) so to be able to turn around to your boss and say "$x worth of game was viewed by x million people which works out at $0.0x per person" then I guess your boss doesn't give a shit if it was at the expense of people watching an ad for "Mackerel Queef" first.

Maybe paid placements are a better way of making the whole seeding process feel less cheap. At least then your game is treated more like the art it is rather than as a product like a tin of beans.

Maybe the ad networks who have a great seeding process in place could offer it as an ad free service ? It'll be cheaper than paid placements for the clients, they get to drop a "Distributed by..." in there and it'll make the end game look a lot more on brand and less turned around for the minimum cost possible.

Maybe, but it's not going to happen is it. So developers like us, like you, will be working 'til 2am to meet the deadline and to just force that last bit of love into a project to really make it shine, only to see it a week later on some no-name portal with the size tags in the html wrong ( And a "Play it full-screen" option there, even though it will look and play shit like that ) and an ad at the start.

Squize.

Thank you for wasting my time

This is going to be a rant post - yeah!

If your following us on twitter, you might have noticed my tasks for yesterday:

"Quick update on the CMS then coding on the first unity game"

Well, I didn't get to the unity game part, thanks to some weird flash (bug) that wasted 5 fucking hours of my time and still is inresolved. Here's a quick rundown:

For our new german site I wrote a simple flash based menu/header which reads in an XMl and takes two params. The xml reading was all done, but I needed to pass the params from the asp.net page to the header. I decided to use loaderInfo.params for the sake of a quick and dirty solution and then it all went down the drain ...

Testing params in THE IDE doesn't work, so I published a HTML page withit (I did mention that so far the menu worked very well?).
But opening the file locally in FF 3.0.8 did do nothing ... no menu generated from xml, it just showed the background shape.

OK, lets try in IE (6, 7, and 8) and it worked just fine, params passed, menu displayed.
Chrome worked, too, same with Opera...

FUCK! Why doesn't it work in FF?

Next thing I tried was to upload the whole lot and tried it from the server - and look it worked in FF, too. ONE FUCKIN TIME! After the file was chached it quit working just like it did offline. (All other browsers still worked just fine).

FUCK!

K, let's add some outputs to the loading process - and viola the problem was quite easy to nail down ...

Here's a stripped down version of the code: (I used a document class and a single frame with a few vector shapes on it and some textfields with an embeded font only)

Code:

/**
* ...
* @author nGFX
* @version 1.0
*/


package {
    
    // skipped imports

    public class Preloader extends Sprite {
        
        public function Preloader() {
            
            stage.scaleMode = StageScaleMode.NO_SCALE;
            stage.showDefaultContextMenu = false;
            stage.quality = StageQuality.HIGH;
            
            trace("init preloader");

            this.loaderInfo.addEventListener(Event.INIT, this.initDisplay);
            this.loaderInfo.addEventListener(Event.COMPLETE, this.initApplication);
            this.loaderInfo.addEventListener(ProgressEvent.PROGRESS, this.showProgress);            
            
        }
        
        private function initDisplay(e:Event):void {

            trace("init display");
            
        }
        
        private function showProgress (eProgress:ProgressEvent):void {
            
            var fPercent:Number = Math.round((eProgress.bytesLoaded / eProgress.bytesTotal ) * 100 );
            
            trace("Loading: " + fPercent.toString());
            
        }

        private function initApplication (e:Event):void {
            
            trace("init application");
            
            this.loaderInfo.removeEventListener(Event.INIT, this.initDisplay);
            this.loaderInfo.removeEventListener(Event.COMPLETE, this.initApplication);
            this.loaderInfo.removeEventListener(ProgressEvent.PROGRESS, showProgress);
            
            trace("loading language")
            Locale.loadLanguageXML("de", onLanguageFileLoaded);
            
        }
        
        private function onLanguageFileLoaded (bLoaded:Boolean):void {
            
            trace("language done")
                    
            this.initMenu();
                        
        }
        
        private function initMenu ():void {
            
            // some code here

        }
        
    }
    
}



As you can see there's no magic added to that code.

Running the swf through a a html page using FF showed the following:
- init preloader
- init display

... and nothing more ....

I need teh codes lolz

Anyone who hangs around Flash boards for any length of time will see a pattern ( Usually around school holidays ) of script kiddies turning up, asking a million lazy questions, telling you that in spite of a lack of knowledge right now they're going to see their project through 'cause it's the best idea ever ( It's like Mario, but with guns. And tits. And rpg elements. And zombies ), that if you can just help them with the character select screen the rest of the game will be all but done, and how much can you earn via mochi again ?

I just like to push back on my rocking chair, spit out some of ma there chewing tobacky onto ma porch and grin like a hog that found the shit.

Tweening a zelda sprite isn't going to produce the best game ever ( From the best idea ever ).

So look at me now, I'm playing with Unity3D and I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I'm guessing it's not far away from the Unity equivalent of tweening a zelda sprite and yet I'm really confident about turning out a complete game fairly ( Relatively ) soon-ish.
Unity has it's quirks, and the javascript code is no as3 ( All those posts bitching about as3 being a pain in the ass, well it is, until you get a couple of games out of the way, then it becomes as natural as yawning in meetings ) but... already, 6 days into the trial, I have no desire to go back to making games in Flash again.
To me it's like going back to as1 and publishing for F7 only, it's such a step backward that it holds no appeal at all.

Now hopefully I'm not too much of an idiot to release I can just up and leave Flash. Unity may not be the pot at the end of the rainbow, for all the very lovely demos there still aren't a lot of complete games, which does ring some alarm bells, and perhaps it is a world of difference between having a nice mesh with some physics running on it all at 60 fps in your browser and making that full game ( The gulf between tweening zelda and making a game could be huge ) but... fuck me it's so good.

I've never been a Flash evangelist. I think a recent post I made on FK.games was the first time I've ever really bitched about what Adobe are doing ( And that was in the light of the windows release of Unity in comparison with the upgrade cost to CS4 ).
Basically I couldn't care less. I do like using Flash, but it's just a means to an end, it's a way for me to make games that can generate an income, a tool to do a job.
I'm not passionate about it.
I am passionate about making cool games though, albeit doing that within business constraints ( It is my job, so I can't just go off and do some GBA homebrew just for the hell of it ), and Unity seems to be far and away the best solution to that.
( I'm so glad I've not spent money upgrading to cs4, which is quite an indictment really seeing how I'm professional Flash game developer )

As a quick update to X++, nGFX was sick last week ( Well he was in bed with his nan, and that's pretty fucking sick ! Thank you ) so he's behind on things which means we're a little bit behind on where we want to be, although it'll be in selling limbo for a while even when it's done so I think the next update may just be a "Look it's live, tell us how much you love it" post.

Squize.

Dreamworld

(Update on that):
e-onPotD2009.gif

So that's finally done. My own personal "get away from my beloved 3ds max and start with c4d" tour.

Basically I was a Max user since v1, so it's quite hard to forget about all the nice things it offers, though the deal for c4d was just that tiny amount better (price/what has the software to offer) so we switched instead of upgrading Max to work with Vista.

Now at first c4d was a shock. Nothing worked like it "should" a lot of things where at a different place or worked just plain different due to the very different background/history of the software.

As always it was so utterly depressing to not be able to do the easiest scenes, what should have taken just a few minutes to set up, now took a whole day.
When coding I and getting into a new language, I basically recode a very simple app, this helps to see the differences but I still can compare the code with other languages ... when I first started with AS3 I wrote this (you may have seen it).

Now there is something similar for me with 3d ... and this is the story (and it has pictures, too) ...


Lets start with the inspirational image:
20_walled_garden.png
It's one of my all time favs. An image from Magnetic Scrolls' "Jinxter" (if you have never heard of either the company or the game ... have a look here or here).

Lets start with creating the "guard"
c4d_jinxter_00.jpg
The low poly mirrored mesh.

c4d_jinxter_01.jpg
The smoothed (final) model.

Next to do on the list was the arc ...
c4d_jinxter_02.jpg
The arc with some additional stones, so far it wasn't all that hard ...

c4d_jinxter_03.jpg
OpenGL Display.

Now modelling seems to work quite well, on to scene composing (more images are comming).

c4d_jinxter_04.jpg
Final scene layout.

c4d_jinxter_06.jpg
Preview rendering, way to bright.

c4d_jinxter_07.jpg
Added some trees behind the camera, better now ...

c4d_jinxter_08.jpg
Final mode rendering, earliest scene layout, just some basic textures applied. The trees behind the arc need redoing, the cliff in the background is a joke and the plants in the foreground, well, I don't like them. Sky needs work.

c4d_jinxter_09.jpg
Final mode rendering, sometime inbetween the image above and the final layout. Some ferns update, added some ivy to the walls, remodeled the cliff and added the two statues, still some work needed on the nature part. The sky seems ok now.

guard_finished_small_400.jpg
The final image after a good week worth of work. Most of the plants have been replaced, redone. Done.
Get a larger version here.

Scene stats:
- 29.045.199 polygons
- 1 light (sun)
- 91 objects, 231 plant instances
- rendertime 1600x900 px: 2h26m.
- postwork: none.

And while I'm at it ... we have new shiny pong clock :).

nGFX




Twitter and the blog

That's one of my least imaginative titles ever, nice work.

Regular readers will know we've jumped onto the twitter bandwagon. Twitter, it's an odd thing. Totally pointless and quite self indulgent but very addictive for some reason I can't figure.

One major side effect I've noticed though is that it's given more weight to the blog. Twitter is like our side project, our experimental band with some friends, trite and simple and throwaway, whilst the lumbering beast that is the blog keeps floundering on, that things posted here now have to be justified a little more than before.

I wanted to write about how freelance forums bug me, more specifically freelance forums as part of more generic Flash boards ( Rather than things like elancers and all those nasty nasty ones ). I'm not going to single any out, as they're all pretty much the same level of dire.

I'm not sure what bugs me the most, posts like

"Hi, I'm really interested by your project, I've got 5 years experience in as1,as2,as3,php, ajax,ruby on rails,asp, dhtml ..."

That just rings alarm bells. Unless their Nan is really ill and needs an operation, so they're trying to raise money any way they can ( K, the Xbox is on eBay, I guess I should try and bring in as much extra work as possible inbetween shifts at McDonalds ), or they're shit. Or lying.
My personal preference is that they're shit. 5 years experience at anything ( Even McDonalds ) and you should be aiming higher than $100 jobs on a board.

or...

"Hi, pm me"

That to me reads as "Hi, I'm interested in your job, but not actually enough to contact you, as you specifically requested, but I'm so confident that you want to work with me, you can chase me up".
If you can't get the first part correct, ie contact the potential client, that's not really a flying start is it ? It doesn't bode too well for the rest of the project.
There's a little sub-system of this that burns me too,

"Hi, check out my portfolio ( But it needs updating, that's old stuff there, not my latest work )"

Quick translation, "Hi, I can't be fucked to pm you, you check me out. Oh, but when you do you'll find my work is pretty piss poor, but it's 'cause it's old, the new stuff is really good, it's just that I don't care enough to upload it anywhere. I don't care enough about my own public image to potential clients like yourself to spend an hour of my life to upload this new and fantastic latest work ( Which to be honest is as poor as the old stuff, I just learned how to use a new filter for the latest stuff ), but I'll do a first rate job for you."

...and finally...

"pm sent"

Yeah ? Really ? I'm glad you posted that, because email is prone to being lost isn't it. I'll double check my email every minute now I know I'm expecting something from you, thanks for the heads up, phew.
Is this some sort of pr thing ? Just another reason to post a post with a signuture with your link in ? Is it to ward off others ?
"Shit, I see DeathSlayer49 has gone for that job, I don't have a chance. If he hadn't posted about it I would have gone for it, but not now, now there's no point. His location says 'under your mom', he's bound to get the job, any client will find that a sign of professionalism"

But now of course we've got twitter, we can just go there and post these petty / I'd rather be doing anything than working right now observations and keep the blog free for the high brow things.

Squize.

Just throwing this out there

Since I started on X+++++ I've always had it in my head doing it as a d/load game too ( That's why it's 800x600 ), using Zinc to wrap it up in.

X_psp.jpg

I'm blowing hot and cold about this. I really want to do it, we could do something really cool. All the sounds and images would be a lot clearer and better, the title screen flv ( Which is in the current build, although it's only the first attempt ) could be HD quality etc. Basically it'll be a mega-mix of the game.

So I'm thinking about this, both of us are liking the idea, and the cost to the gamer is going to be a really nominal fee, $0.99 - $1.99. In all honesty, after seeing the game so far, and being friends just by the virtue of coming here, would you pay that ? Would you go through the hassle of getting money into your paypal account and all that extra hoop jumping ? Is it far too much trouble to do ( I'm thinking that no one here registered at the NFL site to play our Gameball Maize Maze game, and that's nothing compared to handing over money )

Is the game not worth $0.99 ? By that I don't mean slag it off ( I've had a pretty dog shit couple of days as it is, don't twist the knife any deeper ) but is just a prettier full screen version no big deal over a free online one which may have ads in ?
Is it the sort of game that is all well and cool to play in your browser, but not one you'd fire up to take over your machine for 20mins ?

Flipping it the other way around, what would you expect from a d/load version of a Flash game ? More game modes, regular updates, some other cool feature ?

Has anyone else given this a try ? To be honest every previous attempt I've seen has died on it's arse ( I was even checking out the donations feature on Kong last night, and games with 5 million plus plays have had about 20 people donating towards them. If I made $19.80 for 5 million plays I wouldn't be over the moon ).

I'm thinking this is a pointless and very naïve idea, I know it is and it's just an ego thing on my behalf that I want to see the game maxed out and sexy as fuck with it ideally paying for that extra love, but with all the talk recently of diversifying your revenue streams when it comes to Flash games, maybe it is worth just throwing the idea out to you guys.

Squize.