Archive for August, 2006

Tuesday thoughts

Posted in Links from the In-tar-web, Tales from the grind-stone on August 15th, 2006 by MrCranky

This piece can basically be summed up as: “we need to find more ways to make money out of games, otherwise we’re screwed”. A sentiment I can heartily agree with, although its possibly just my biased spin on the article.

Also, this news on Visual Science is uplifting, if a little late. Hopefully the staff stand a better chance of getting some of their unpaid wages/redundancy on the back of this.

A quieter week this last week, thankfully; mostly dedicated to laying the groundwork for future development. You know the sort of thing, getting all the tools upgraded to the latest versions, sorting out a development structure, and so on. Okay, well if you’re a programmer you know the sort of thing. Suffice to say it’s an interesting challenge to make old code sit nicely in a structure which promotes re-use. So new code doesn’t disappear into a bottomless pit and become wasted work.

Some experimentation was done also to see if a C#/Lua mix would work well in new tools. Short story – it would, but it won’t integrate very well with C++. So tools which need to co-exist with the current engine will have to stay as Lua/C++ instead. There may be scope for a C# tool in the future, but not just yet.

I also spent an hour or so answering questions for an old compatriot (Phil Vaughan, now a lecturer at Duncan of Jordanstone in Dundee) on the old art/code divide, and what it means as team sizes grow larger and larger. I’ll probably polish up and condense what was said and post it up here as a rant, although the gist of it is “agile yay, monolithic management in big teams nay”. I’m a firm believer that game development teams just don’t scale well beyond 20 people, and any project that needs more resources than that should be worked in such a way that it can be done with several smaller teams.


Posted in Industry Rants, Links from the In-tar-web, Tales from the grind-stone on August 8th, 2006 by MrCranky

This item from Charles Cecil (Revolution) I thought was interesting. Of course, Revolution have been saying this for a while – they’ve gone radically to the other end of production, and adopted a similar model to the one William Latham was presenting in his talk at Develop. I.e. Creative input coming from a tiny core team of IP holders, with the main body of development work being outsourced to work for hire companies. But the fact that the probability of making money from high end development is extremely slim is undeniable. Even the companies that don’t expect royalties and are making all of their profits from up-front publisher advances will die under that model, because even if they survive for a while (by allowing the publisher to accept the risk/loss), the death of the publishers will leave them without anyone to front for their next big project.

Anyway, enough ranting. I’m feeling ill enough this morning without dwelling on depressing subjects. I blame the hot sweaty venues I was in over the weekend watching the Festival preview shows. Some good, some bad – I’d definitely recommend Jason Byrne though.

On a more games related note, I’ll be attending the EIEF this coming 21st/22nd of August, on the grounds that any opportunities to get us noticed and more business is good! Some more interesting talks there, and the fact that its about 10 minutes from my front door is just an added bonus for my lazy self.

Yesterday was Pete and my first visit to the IC CAVE office in Dundee – they are involved in our new project, so we’ll probably be spending a bit of time there over the next six months. Very nice office, although the building itself gave me flashbacks to University. No exams to pass any more though, just games to make.No news from Brave NTSC as yet, although I’m told it’ll be at Sony America in California today. Oh, and as a final note, we are no. 1 in Google, with a page ranking of 3/10! Take that Lionhead.

Name and shame

Posted in Tales from the grind-stone on August 3rd, 2006 by MrCranky

Right! Just finished making submission discs for Evolved so they can submit Brave for SCEA approval. What a nightmarish process its turned out to be. I could blame Sony for insisting that title submissions are done on certain hardware (that’s invariably out of production by the time it’s added to the approved list, and thus very hard to find), but I understand their submissions department’s reasons; they don’t want to be wasting time trying to test and approve builds burned on shoddy media, or worse, putting titles through to the duplication process only to find they have a minor flaw which results in thousands of useless discs.

No, the people I have to blame are the online retailers and couriers that have repeatedly messed up, and been thoroughly useless. So in no particular order:

  • Virtual Direct
    Ordered: 30x Verbatim 8x DVD-Rs (#43273), promised next day delivery
    Arrived: Next afternoon, 30x Verbatim 16x DVD-Rs (#43521).
    Customer service: Took 5 minutes to grasp the fact that they’d delivered unacceptable goods, promised next day delivery of correct discs, only to send an email 2 hours later saying they had none in stock and they’d canceled the order
    Time wasted: 2 days
    Overall score: 0/5
  • Rambox
    Ordered: 1x Pioneer DVR-110D (the only approved burner still for sale outside of eBay), promised next-day delivery
    Arrived: Next afternoon, 1x Pioneer DVR-111D (not approved)
    Customer service: Took 10 minutes to grasp the fact that only particular burners were okay, and that a substitute wasn’t acceptable. Was unable to tell me when more stock would arrive, but promised to check and try and ship one before the end of the day, which to their credit, they did manage.
    Time wasted: 1 day
    Overall score: 1/5 (points off for making me pay to send back the unneeded 110D, as well as using a rubbish courier – see Interlink Express)
  • Snip-PC
    Ordered: 30x Verbatim 8x DVD-Rs (#43273), promised next day delivery, including 10 minutes on the phone, clearly and carefully explaining to the sales girl not to ship me any other kinds of DVD. She insisted they had those particular DVDs in stock, and that I would recieve them on Friday.
    Arrived: Wednesday, after being ordered on Thursday, 30x Verbatim 16x DVD-Rs (#43521), and failing to deliver once (see Parceline). The package wasn’t even dispatched until Monday.
    Time wasted: 4 days
    Overall score: 1/5 (given a point to reflect the fact that they apologised and refunded the money without requiring the items back)
  • Parceline
    Failed deliveries: 1 (noted as failed to deliver because the recipient refused the package. When I queried the Dundee office, no-one had been asked to sign for a package. Apparently trying to deliver to entirely the wrong address counts as ‘refused’. Calling the helpline not more than 5 minutes after the website showed the failed delivery finds the driver didn’t know where he was going. Despite giving clear directions, the driver refused to turn round and return to Dundee and deliver that day, insisting on waiting until the next day)
    Overall score:1/5 (at least it got to where it was supposed to eventually, and was at least attempted delivery next day after dispatch)
  • Interlink Express
    Failed deliveries:2
    1) Didn’t even find the street given the address on the package first time. Customer services was called, and after speaking to the driver, explained where he was supposed to deliver it. Although apparently not…
    2) Armed with explicit directions, driver delivered the package to a completely different address – the janitor at the student halls a few streets along from 4J signed for it (don’t ask me why). The driver didn’t query the fact that the building bore no resemblence to the directions he’d been given, nor the fact that there was no 4J Studios sign, or that the person there had no knowledge of the addressee at all. Apparently those things aren’t important these days…
    Overall score: 0/5 (not even an apology when it was determined they’d delivered to totally the wrong place and I was personally going to have to go down the road to locate the package that they’d lost for me)
  • Federal Express
    Failed deliveries: 0
    Apparently Dundee is considered the arse end of the world for international shipments, incurring an entire extra day’s delay in any package delivered, despite the fact its only 2 hours max from the depot in Edinburgh. In the end, it was easier for me personally to go their depot near Edinburgh airport and pick up the package containing (finally) valid media for Sony submissions.
    However, they get the best score of the lot, because unlike the others, they were friendly, helpful, and actually did what they said they were going to do.
    Overall score: 3/5

So thumbs-up to Fedex, thumbs down to every other muppet I’ve had to deal with who has made this little job into a horrifically long and drawn out process. And thumbs-up to me as well, for writing this post without all of the expletives and fist-shaking that have come with dealing with this.

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