Archive for September, 2005

Manifesto Games

Posted in Tales from the grind-stone on September 30th, 2005 by MrCranky

Well, Greg Costikyan seems to have caused quite a stir with the announcement of Manifesto Games (a new independent games portal site). I think he’s hit a common chord with a lot of the disillusioned game developers out there with his articles bemoaning the state of the games industry.

Anyway, I’m glad to say the Company will be helping out in the construction of the site; as I’m keen to see the project succeed. Of course, the fact that it gives us a better avenue to publish any games we develop (which would no doubt be niche market and thus hard to get out to potential customers) is a fringe benefit. ๐Ÿ˜‰

EVE infrastructure

Posted in Random Stuff on September 30th, 2005 by MrCranky

Interesting article here on EVE/CCP’s use of IBM server tech to sustain their scalable server technology. I must admit I’ve always been impressed by their ability to grow the universe without having to break it into shards. Since massive universes have always been my thang, I’m curious as to the mechanics behind their scalable technology. I can see where the game mechanics help hide the boundaries between servers and where load balancing can be achieved, but I’d still like to poke around under the hood to see the little tricks they do to make it practical.

Slowly climbing

Posted in Random Stuff on September 18th, 2005 by MrCranky

Well, the site’s finally starting to show up in a standard Google search for Black Company Studios (previously you had to enter “Black Company” in quotes to find it). Hopefully we’ll make it onto the front page soon. Still don’t quite understand why Lionhead is ranked number one on that search though. Meh, the intricacies of Google’s ranking algorithm are not for the likes of us mere mortals to understand. ๐Ÿ™‚

Update (25/09): Onto the front page now! My surreptitious linking from other places seems to be working. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Oh my…

Posted in Random Stuff on September 16th, 2005 by MrCranky

Looking at some fuss on The Chaos Engine about the newly released information on the Revolution controller. All I can say is “wow”. Seriously. If its as usable as it seems (and judging from the people relating first hand use accounts on TCE it is), then its got the potential to really appeal to a wider market than your average console.

For a brief synopsis, basically it’s shaped like a TV remote control (a rather small one) so it fits in your hand like a wand or a mobile phone. There are buttons all over it, and a d-pad, etc; but they aren’t the primary control mechanism. The primary control mechanism is internal sensors which detect the angle the controller is pointing. So full three degrees of freedom rotation, (including twisting). That immediately elevates it above the PC mouse as a pointing device (as mice can only support 2 degrees of freedom). So you’ve got a pointing device as flexible and instantly usable as a mouse, but in 3D. So all of those lovely fun little games that work well in 2D with a mouse (Pong, Tetris, point-and-click titles, etc.) can have their game-play mechanics extended into 3D without having to worry about controller dynamics! Not to mention, its apparently even more usable for first-person-shooters (a genre typically crippled by the average console controller) with the addition of a light, attached joystick to be held in the other hand. And I don’t think I really have to dwell on the coolness of a light-saber game based on a controller you can swing like a sword. Time to get that accidental damage cover for the fragile things in the living room…

Here’s a link to an external site with an advert for the controller (immediately underneath the main picture). Sorry the text isn’t in English, but I haven’t seen it copied many places yet. I’ll probably upda
te this entry if I find better links.

Anyway – wow again – I’m hoping other console manufacturers come up with clones or that this catches on. I’d certainly buy one for the PC in preference to my mouse for FPS games.

EDIT: more links


Forum layout

Posted in Tales from the grind-stone on September 15th, 2005 by MrCranky

Okay, I’ve now updated the forums to look like the rest of the site also. I must admit, the difference in code quality between WordPress (which the development blog runs on) and phpBB (the forum software) is marked. phpBB is much uglier, with comments and nasty hacks all over the shop. Still, its great at running forums, so I’m glad to stick with it. ๐Ÿ™‚

I suppose I should try and do the same for the two wikis as well, although I’ve never looked at the guts of those before. Hopefully it should be as simple as the other two were…

Visual Studio/IGE

Posted in Tales from the grind-stone on September 12th, 2005 by MrCranky

Well, I’ve finally bit the bullet and started to migrate from my old Visual Studio 6.0 install over to the new beta of Visual Studio.NET Express. I stuck by 6.0 until now because all I really need is a decent compiler, none of the other fancy features that .NET tried to introduce. Of course, I could simply have kept 6.0 and switched over to using GCC as a back-end, but I thought that would just introduce unnecessary complications. Its tempting though, just because I wanted to put Jam/SCons through their paces as well. Anyway, while the VS.NET beta is still free, I’ll stick with that, and maybe migrate back to VS6/GCC later.

Immediate thoughts on the beta? Well, the compiler ‘just works’, and doesn’t have the template handling problems that were troubling me with 6.0, the UI is nice if a little sluggish. Learning new terminology and layouts is always tiresome, but it doesn’t seem that there’s anything majorly different. They’ll really have to work on the usability though – it turned out you can’t make standard Win32 applications out of the box, you have to install the MS Platform SDK seperately (another 60MB download and seperate install); that was awful – 20 minutes just to install/copy files (not including download time), plus lots of niggly little hand editing of files to make it integrate with VS. I suppose that’s part of still being in beta, but they’d better get a more integrated solution for the end user. If I buy an IDE, I expect it to be able to make all the applications I need straight out of the box; I don’t expect to need to work just to get to square one.

I’ll probably download and take a look at the Visual Studio C# package as well – it seems a lot of people are d
eveloping with it, and it never hurts to add an extra language to your skill-set. I’m told its quite effective for tool building, and takes a lot of effort out of the basics of making a Windows application (grind that I’m sure we could all live without).

Anyway, now I have VS.NET installed, I can get to playing with IGE (a nice clean middle-ware library written by PeteM) and churn out a simple game or two. I’ve been suffering a little because few of the things I’ve been doing in the last month have had any tangible results – it’ll be nice to make something that I can see I’ve achieved something.

More web tweaking

Posted in Tales from the grind-stone on September 5th, 2005 by MrCranky

This time to make the development blog page homogenous with the main front page. Its also a fairly radical change in colour scheme. While I liked the black/yellow themes, they didnรขโ‚ฌโ„ขt work so well on pages packed with text (e.g. the blog and the forums). I got some complaints about the forums mostly; however the nature of phpBB means that its not nearly so easy to rectify the colour schemes. So for now, the blog and the rest of the site is well integrated, and Iรขโ‚ฌโ„ขll work on making the forums fit in with the theme. If you spot any rendering errors or other problems with the new layouts, please let me know.

Oh, and we’re also upgraded to the latest version of WordPress, for anyone who cares about that sort of thing. ๐Ÿ™‚

New front page

Posted in Tales from the grind-stone on September 2nd, 2005 by MrCranky

Well, you might have noticed that your old bookmark for this blog takes you to our shiney new front page now – its a bit of a different colour scheme, but I think its nice and crisp and clean. Certainly adds to the professional feel of the site anyway, rather than everyone just happening across my ramblings as their first exposure to the Company. ๐Ÿ™‚

Or possibly you haven’t noticed, as you’d subscribed to the RSS feed, which used to be located at, but which is now located at But, if you’re only listening through the rss feed, then you won’t know that this entry is here at all. Um. Let me go hack up an xml file which simply redirects to the new RSS feed.

Anyway, entertaining few hours spent making up the new Home and About pages – certainly it reminded me how to write web-pages. Since I don’t have FrontPage or any other web page editing software, I was doing it by hand editing the HTML/CSS. Not as time-efficient as using a tool, but it really brought back all the nuances of coding HTML that I’d forgotten.

CSS and CSS2 are great things – you can build some really great things with them, but its incredibly frustrating to make a great page which ‘just works’ in Firefox, only to find that Internet Explorer gets it totally and completely wrong. Now these aren’t even really strange things – in terms of CSS I can see exactly what I’m describing in the language, and it makes total sense. Firefox gets it right and does just what I expect; its just that IE’s implementation is just plain wrong. There’s no other way to describe it. Its like the developers heard of CSS and said “oh, that sounds quite good, lets mash something like that in”. Its nominally the same, it has all the right keywords, they just don’t do what they’re supposed to!

So anyway, my lovely clean pure CSS layout which scaled and clipped nicely with whatever size the browser window was got trimmed back and trimmed back until its basically a fixed layout website, with the only cool feature being that the black band that forms part of the logo extends all the way to the right edge of the browser. A little disappointing, but many lessons learned for any other web development work I have to do.

Black Company Studios Limited, The Melting Pot, 5 Rose Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2PR
Registered in Scotland (SC283017) VAT Reg. No.: 886 4592 64
Last modified: February 06 2020.