Archive for the 'Links from the In-tar-web' Category

Coffee Morning

Posted in Links from the In-tar-web, Tales from the grind-stone on April 26th, 2008 by MrCranky

Aleks from The Guardian Tech Weekly

Quick rule of thumb for anyone wanting to court Scottish games (or regular) developers: If you promise coffee and/or breakfast, make sure 1) the coffee doesn’t run out, and 2) the breakfast consists of carbohydrates. And no, chocolate Hob Nobs don’t count as breakfast. Bonus points for the saw player though, she was good, and it was a suitably random intermission!

Some pictures from the mingling here. I’m not in any of them thankfully, as I was somewhat hung over (and the short supply of coffee wasn’t doing anything to help matters), but you can spot Mr Baglow of Indoctrimat/SG.biz and Andrew Richards of CodePlay in the background of one picture at least. Still, some interesting mingling and people to meet, including the folks from Glasgow-based WeeWorld and some other small local developers who I didn’t know existed.

Jake World

Posted in Links from the In-tar-web on March 25th, 2008 by MrCranky

Don’t be put off by the pictures which make him look like Vic Mackie from The Shield, this is in fact another game developer blog, written by Jake Simpson. (Sorry Jake, I couldn’t resist). Much like Dopass, this blog is heavy on the opinion pieces – but Jake has been around the block enough times to give those opinions weight. Midway, Maxis, Raven, and now Linden Labs (on which he wrote a great write-up on The Chaos Engine – sounds like a great place to work). Jake’s opinion pieces tend to be written whole cloth rather than just opinion notes on articles, but they’re all worth reading, and again I find myself agreeing with much of what he has to say.

Dopass

Posted in Links from the In-tar-web on March 24th, 2008 by MrCranky

Continuing our trip down our blog-roll: Dopass, written by Snipehunter who always seems to make insightful posts on The Chaos Engine forums. A designer for games, based in the US – the blog has plenty of opinion pieces, based mostly on articles from the web. It’s an interesting take on games in general, with a generous dollop of insight. Of course, like most people, my opinion of authors is generally based on how much I agree with what they say, and in that respect, Dopass does pretty well.

Headlam

Posted in Links from the In-tar-web on March 22nd, 2008 by MrCranky

Next up in our game-dev blog linking frenzy: Headlam, written by my old associate from VIS, Larry Docherty. Larry and I worked together on Brave for a long while, and we was a great guy to work with. As he was a filthy weegie ;-), he trekked through to Edinburgh every day – a trauma which I certainly didn’t envy. But he more than made up for that affliction with stories of neds from Glasgow which kept us all entertained (and a little worried). Since then he’s moved on to pastures new with SCEE in Liverpool and Amsterdam (lucky bugger), He’s always had a passion for music, and so his blog (while just getting started) promises to cover games development and music trivia in equal measure.

Bruce on Games

Posted in Links from the In-tar-web on March 17th, 2008 by MrCranky

The currently running set of articles on Bruce’s blog are focusing on his time at Codemasters, from its humble beginnings on the home games machines of the 80’s up to its less than illustrious current state (it’s drawn criticism in industry circles for its treatment of staff and management decisions widely seen as poor). But aside from that the blog covers industry topics far and wide – pretty much whatever Bruce thinks is interesting at the time. He is a marketer by trade, so the blog is well written and updated daily (whereas most of the blogs in the sidebar update far more sporadically like we do), and while I don’t always agree with his views, there’s no doubting that the blog is written from a wide range of experience and covers topics of importance to game developers with insight and detail.

More crucially though, Bruce is the one who has been poking all of us with game-dev blogs to cross link and raise each others profiles (hence the impetus for this series of linking posts). In general we’ve shown ourselves to be pretty poor at getting ourselves noticed and heard, and for small developers and indeed individuals at larger studios, a higher profile is rarely a bad thing. I’ve always been a fan of championing the people behind the games, so it’s good to see some ‘class action’ from my colleagues in the industry.

Chris’ Survival Horror Quest

Posted in Links from the In-tar-web on March 16th, 2008 by MrCranky

Not just, as the title might suggest, all about survival horror games, this blog covers some wide ranging points on game design, horror movie reviews and other topics. The articles about the evolution of the horror game genre are the most interesting though, and cover a massive range of games dating back decades. Although I must admit, the only horror I remember feeling when playing Alone in the Dark was horror at the camera that insisted on changing angles just when I was trying to sneak somewhere, and leaving me unable to see my character while it was ripped apart by dogs or some such fate.

Definitely worth a visit, although I’d say take the time to subscribe the feed in something that allows you to keep posts as new – the posts can be quite large, but it’s worth saving them to read for when you have the time.

A Path Through Possibility

Posted in Links from the In-tar-web on March 10th, 2008 by MrCranky

A development blog from PillowFort Games, makers of Goo, a fun looking game that made it to the 2008 IGF, nominated for Technical Excellence. It’s all based around fluid dynamics, which I’ve always thought had good potential for game mechanics and had been sadly under used till now. I remember trying a demo of a different game a while back, also based around fluid mechanics – it looked fantastic, but ran like a dog even on the fastest machine I could find. When I get a chance I’d like to try it out, but it seems (like a lot of the Dare to be Digital entries too) that it wants a 360 controller to let me play. Don’t get caught out like me though and just download the patch – the link you want is the “Download Public Beta” one on the right on the download page; oddly it’s not given top priority on the page.

The blog itself is a diverting read; it delves a lot into the ins and outs of the actually developing the game rather than just technical details or coding rants. It’s something sadly neglected in blogs from staff at bigger developers. The nice thing about being an independent developer is that you get to pretty much do and say what you want on your blog. Working with bigger clients always means that you have to worry about what you can say and when, so it’s nice to share those details when you can.

Busy February

Posted in Links from the In-tar-web, Tales from the grind-stone on March 3rd, 2008 by MrCranky

Apologies for the brief hiatus from posting – what can I say other than that there haven’t been enough days in the week to do all the stuff I need to do as well as blogging. While it’s nice that we’re busy with stuff, I could do with getting my weekends back. And on that note we have good news – a third employee! More about them when they actually start next week. Anyway, they should be able to take the load off me a bit, and we can get back to sensible working weeks and take care of all the other things that mount up when you are busy with development work.

I’ve gotten clearance from our two clients to post a bit more about who they are and what we’re doing with them, which is good! It should free us up to mention things a bit more, and I don’t have to be so close-mouthed here about the stuff we’re working on. More about that later this week, although I won’t be posting straight away as I want to pass our initial posts by the clients to make sure they’re happy with what I write.

It seems there’s been a bunch of incoming links from associates in the games industry who also have blogs. Rather than simply regurgitate the original post from Bruce On Games, I’d like to take some time and give a little review of each out-going link and give them each their own post. In the meantime, they’re all in the right-hand sidebar, if you’d like to visit them before I write about them.

My name is Inigo Montoya…

Posted in Games, Industry Rants, Links from the In-tar-web on February 12th, 2008 by MrCranky

Well, someone must have been taking pity on my and my excruciatingly long train journey filled day yesterday, because I found this little gem on my morning news trawl. I’ve been a Princess Bride fan since the first time I saw it, years ago, so it’s a bit of a no brainer that I would happily shell out cash to play a game version, so the pre-order went in about 5 minutes after finding the site. Looking at the trailers and concept art, I think I’ll be pleased with the end result – definitely looking forward to the release date later in the year.

On an unrelated note, my train journey down to our client’s site yesterday was capped by a mother and her kids joining me at my table, a boy of around 6 and a girl probably 9 or 10. The boy had a PSP and was playing away, engrossed, but he would keep banging my laptop in his efforts to show this or that to his mother. So I asked what he was playing, and he replied “Grand Theft Auto”.

“Hmm,” I said, “Liberty City Stories?”.

“Uh-huh”, with an eager nod.

“That would be the 18 rated Liberty City Stories then?”, which I accompanied by a look for his mother which I hope conveyed the level of my disgust and disappointment in her parenting skills.

“Oh, ” she says, a bit flustered, “is it?”

“Yeah”

And with that the conversation died, thankfully. Anything else I could have said would have boiled down to “you’re really just a bad parent”. Really though, come on: you wouldn’t let your five year old watch The Exorcist, or Goodfellas, what on earth makes you think that letting them play an 18 rated game is okay?

The government is apparently planning to ‘clamp down’ on unsuitable video games. If I believed that it was anything other than a cynical vote-grabbing ploy to pander to Daily Mail readers I would heartily endorse this, as I’ve always been in favour of proper age regulation on games content, just as there is for films and television. Thing is, it’s already there. The games industry gets a BBFC/PEGI age rating on pretty much every title that goes out there. The console platform holders (Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo) insist on it as part of the publishing process. Big publishers would never think about not getting their game rated, it’s just part of making games. All in all, we’ve got a great record of self regulation – we are open and up front about the content of games, and we’re not trying to sneak games into the hands of younger gamers.

None of that makes a blind bit of difference though, as long as irresponsible parents refuse to accept that games deserve the same level of care as films. So you’ve found your 14 year old playing Manhunt, or GTA with the Hot Coffee mod – you think it’s outrageous that the developers can make such games. Well here’s a newsflash – we didn’t make those games for your 14 year old. We didn’t sell them to your 14 year old (high street retailers thankfully do pay attention to age ratings). But if their gran bought them the game for Christmas and you said “Oh, that’s nice, now go play” without ever actually checking what the game was like, then I’m afraid that the blame for your child’s emotional scarring lies firmly and squarely with you, the responsible adult. Stop trying to blame others for your actions.

Morning of the walking dead

Posted in Industry Rants, Links from the In-tar-web, Tales from the grind-stone on January 28th, 2008 by MrCranky

Or so it feels – I can barely keep my eyes open. A combination of a very long couple of weeks and a cat who my girlfriend has somehow trained into believing that scratching on our bedroom door from 3:30 am onwards is a good way to get food has left me more than a bit bleary. And today was the day that I was supposed to try out some decaffeinated filter coffee in the machine. Yes, I realise it’s breaking the cardinal rule of programming, but I can’t seem to get the balance right between coffee that’s so strong it makes my teeth jump by mid-afternoon and weak watery rubbish that tastes of nothing. Anyway, I just can’t see that happening, so it’ll be the regular coffee today, at least until I can perk up a bit.

We kick off on the second of our work for hire jobs this morning, so now we are splitting our time between jobs. Not many details to share as yet because I haven’t cleared it with our clients, but I hope to rectify that soon and have something to say here about it. Still not heard back from our licensed developer application yet, but I’m putting that down to applying over the holiday season introducing an extra delay. Admittedly, we’d have little time to do any solid work on it right now, but I’m hoping that things will settle into a more forgiving routine soon.

Interesting piece here with quotes from Jon Hare (ex Sensible Software) that popped up in the Google Alerts for my name (yes I know, how vain is it to be searching for myself, but it throws up the ‘other’ Chris Chapman as well). Two major points I agree with:

1) the quality of programming has dropped with the move to larger teams; I think that is somewhat inevitable though, you just can’t sustain the same team dynamics that you get with less than a dozen team members. Personally I think the approach of scaling up not by having a larger team, but by using multiple small (<12) teams has merit. Of course, the ability to do that hinges on being able to break up the development effort into tangible pieces that can be tackled by the teams.

2) British developers are continually being forced to ‘globalise’ (i.e. Americanise) their products in order to try and maximise sales in the North American market. But to do that, I think we are selling ourselves short – not just in terms of making the most of the British sense of humour, but also the culture we have here. There are a lot of stories to be told, and game ideas which could only come from a British team – but I think they are being passed over because the publishers think that they won’t sell in the broader marketplace. I’m very hopeful that reduced barriers to market from downloadable content will help the balance shift back towards interesting titles (and not just be an excuse for more shovel-ware)


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