Archive for March, 2006

UMD (unwanted media dies)

Posted in Tales from the grind-stone on March 31st, 2006 by MrCranky

GI.biz covers in their weekly newsletter this week the announcement that most of the major film distributors are cancelling or massively scaling back their future UMD format releases, and talks about the death of an unloved and mostly unwanted format. I think most of us were saying that right from the start, when they announced the format the PSP would use, and then touted it as a portable movie player. Why would I pay money for another (lower quality) version of a film I already have on DVD, to watch it on my PSP on the few occasions where I have a couple of hours to kill? How it made business sense to Sony in the first place I have no idea.

I also had the pleasure to attend a BCS lecture given by one of my old colleagues from VIS, who was talking on the nature and history of the games industry. He brought up some points relating to the exponential growth of the size of game team needed to produce a top flight title, and it struck me just how bad things actually are these days in the games industry. Anyway, in the post lecture drinking session, I found myself expounding various different problems in the industry today, some of which have solutions which we [the industry] just aren’t doing, some of which I can’t see a fix for.

Anyway, I think I’m going to write up some thoughts on my stance on the whole she-bang, and make a new category here called ‘Industry Rants’. Don’t get me wrong, I love the games industry and am dedicated to it, but some things about the way we work today are just stupid.

CPU fan

Posted in Tales from the grind-stone on March 20th, 2006 by MrCranky

Man, just installed the new CPU fan on the server machine, and the difference in volume level is astounding. Its almost quiet enough that I’d be happy leaving it on 24/7. :-)

Pop

Posted in Tales from the grind-stone on March 19th, 2006 by MrCranky

Hmm, just fired up the server machine, only to have it emit a loud electrical sounding pop midway through the boot process. Its a blind machine with no monitor or keyboard, so no telling what it was doing when it happened, and it’s booted fine after checking for any obvious fuse or chronic failures inside. Still, time to double check the logs to make sure the off-site backup process is working as expected. Oh, and to find a torch and some fuse-wire in case the next pop takes out the fusebox as well!

I think its time I considered retiring that machine. It was only a couple of years old when I got it, but something’s been not quite right with it since the start – erratic failures, constantly having to boot it twice due to random disk failure checks on startup. Plus the fan-noise is awful. There’s a replacement CPU fan in the post at the moment, but I don’t know if it will be enough, or whether the PSU fan is just as noisy.

Anyway, totally unrelated, but interesting too: SketchUp. Great, user friendly little building tool, easy to use, and just what you need to quickly knock up 3D concepts for game maps, buildings, etc. User licence is 300 and some dollars, sans VAT, but as an intermediate tool between nothing and Max or Maya, it seems worth the price. Which reminds me, really need to look into getting VAT registered…

Thoughts on software development process

Posted in Random Stuff on March 12th, 2006 by MrCranky

To be found here at Lost Garden. Worth reading, if only for the comedic diagrams near the start.

Bertie

Posted in Tales from the grind-stone on March 11th, 2006 by MrCranky

Okay, I’ll fess up – Alfred the Oranda is now fertilising the plants in the rockery, and was replaced by Bertie the, well, Common. Yes, I know, Bertie the Common doesn’t sound as fancy, but he seems to be a bit hardier than his predecessor, so we’re not going to hold that against him.

In more relevant news, I’ve been talking with people at a rather large games company down south about working with them on projects coming up after my contract at Barco ends – nothing confirmed as yet, but very interesting prospects nonetheless. It would be nice to get my hands dirty with some next-gen kit anyway, as I’ve yet to play with any of the new toys which my contemporaries have been working on, and I have a variety of interesting avenues I’d like to investigate with regards to multi-core programming.

The game proposal I mentioned previously has been worked over a couple of times to the point at which I can see a real game in there, interesting and definitely one I’d like to make. I think its got real potential to go places, if I can find enough time to develop a prototype to test out the core mechanics.

And in other news, looks like Atari are looking a little shaky. I recall this happening to BAM just before they bought VIS, although I think Atari are in a stronger position (mostly due to their size). Can’t help that Infogrames are struggling either. This is the same company that was supposedly going to grant VIS a contract for SOE2 which would bail us out of a hole, shortly before that disintegrated because they were ‘restructuring’. And speaking of the kiss-of-death which is BAM, what happened to them? Their web site’s disappeared, but they’re still being tentatively traded (okay only a fifth of a cent per share, but still). All very strange.

I guess my point is – what’s with all the publishers? Developers are always complaining about how the publishers take all the money; and yet it seems there’s always one going under or about to go. Do you think that their cut-throat treatment of developers is finally coming back to bite? Run roughshod over the developers until they go under, then find yourself short of quality products by Q4 a couple of years later? Well, its probably a lot of things, but I can’t help but thinking that the publishers who are on the brink are there because they keep churning out bad games which don’t sell; maybe a little more nurturing of developers would get them better, more reliably good products to sell.


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