Archive for April, 2007

The one true handed-ness

Posted in Industry Rants on April 25th, 2007 by MrCranky


It’s right handed. Get over it. It is an arbitrary decision, but so what? Everyone has their own preference for how they visualise things (I for example interpret +z as forwards/into the screen, and +y is up, and don’t really care about x), in the same way that everyone visualises the flow of time differently. The maths is no easier or harder either way, but it’s a real pain to convert between them when people make different assumptions. DirectX doesn’t insist on left handed (no matter what anyone has told you – it provides left and right handed versions of all the view/projection functions that care), OpenGL assumes right handed, all the big modelling tools use right-handed. The majority have spoken already on this, but every single developer that chooses to buck the trend makes the rest of our lives more painful.

And if I ever have to debug another handed-ness related problem, I think I’m going to cut off my right hand and replace it with a sharpened set of axes, then go round visiting all the games studios in the land, slashing and gouging all those who want to argue about it.


Posted in Tales from the grind-stone on April 25th, 2007 by MrCranky

Lots of beavering away on our first milestone at the moment, hence the quietness on the posting front. We’re not delivering what we’d like to, due to bits of kit and software turning up late, but we’re still delivering! All nuts and bolts stuff at the moment – nothing you could call a game, or even a full engine.

We’ve been following the Scrum process carefully, and it seems to be working out well. It hasn’t seen any real stress yet, but it has been good in that it gives us visibility of our goals in a very physical sense. It is sometimes very hard to get a grip on a software project, given the lack of tangible results of your work. But breaking down the project into stories and putting them on cards allows us to say “everything that is to go in the end project is on one of these cards. Move all the cards onto the ‘done’ pile, and we are finished.” That is a good morale booster, because each of the cards can be more easily broken down into tasks, and we can say definitively that it’s either done or not. And so we get a good handle on what we have to do each fortnight/month, and whether or not we are on target or not.

I’ve always maintained that the best way to improve team spirits and morale is not having parties, nights out, or team building days – it is to give the team a chance to succeed. Teams are filled with smart people, and they’re aware of whether or not the team as a whole is doing well, and they are likely to be down-hearted if it isn’t. Breaking down the project into milestones gives us a chance to succeed every month, even if the overall goal is harder to see, and hard to hit. Conversely, I think there are few things worse than putting a team through a tough crunch period, then when it’s done saying: “That was great guys. Now straight onto the next one,” without acknowledging the value of that success.

2 years

Posted in Links from the In-tar-web, Tales from the grind-stone on April 12th, 2007 by MrCranky

Of course, the end of our second tax year is not nearly so significant a date as the 2 year anniversary of our date of incorporation. But that was yesterday, so I’ve missed it! Gah. In my defence, I was working very hard yesterday, as I was feeling productive. And I still have a wretched viral infection, although I’m not feeling as bad as I was at the weekend, so no celebrating for me. Boo, hiss.

Anyway, here’s a quick link to another new start-up – Power of Two Games, run by Charles Nicolson and Noel Llopis, both of whom post regularly on the game-dev mailing lists and have done some great stuff which we’ve learned from here (not least of which, UnitTest++, a version of which we use at the Company for our own unit testing). All the best to the guys, and it’s great to see that I finally have an office that’s bigger than someone else’s!

Site downtime (again)

Posted in Tales from the grind-stone on April 8th, 2007 by MrCranky

Site was down for a little while again this morning, due to this problem. I realise this particular outage wasn’t their fault, but I’ve been annoyed recently at our hosts (Dreamhost), so I think I’m going to take down the link on the side, until I feel confident again recommending them to others. This post by my friend Gossip sums up my take on it really (yes, this is a ‘me-too’ post).

Anyway, didn’t quite appreciate the fact that it’s Easter holiday weekend, and so have a bored girlfriend hanging around, annoyed that I don’t have more time to spend with her. So I’m trying to do bits of work here and there and the rest of the time enjoy a relaxing weekend. I guess this is yet another case of me needing to remember how to work less and enjoy more!

The end of Ganondorf (and our tax year)

Posted in Games, Tales from the grind-stone on April 2nd, 2007 by MrCranky

Finally finished Zelda: Twilight Princess last night – very good final sections which made good use of all the game-play mechanics introduced gradually over the game. A properly satisfying final cinematic, and end-bosses that weren’t ridiculously hard like some games insist on. Admittedly, I was crippled and hung over, so had no intention of getting up from the couch and going to the PC to consult the walk-through that I’d been cribbing off the whole game, so it was good I could do the last bit on my own. I think all in all I used the walk through for about 20% of the game, which is a good learn-to-cheat ratio for me.

Also, the end of March saw the end of our financial year, which means that I have to go through all of our accounts for the last year and make sure everything tallies and cross-checks. Oooh, paperwork, yeah. Got to love it. Anyway, preliminary numbers suggest we made a small loss this year – which is great! No, seriously. We made a profit last year, but then Mr I-don’t-like-small-businesses Brown changed the rules so that any profit, no matter how small, gets taxed (previously there was about 10K UKP of profit allowed before tax kicked in). So we made a small loss which ate some of the overall profit we’ve made since incorporation, which means no tax for us this year. Yay! Turn-over’s up around 50% on last year, which is about consistent with taking on Pete part-time.

So, all in all things for 2006/07 went all right. Not great, just all right. I’d have liked to see things kick off last summer when they were supposed to, but the project we were angling for stands or falls based on the government’s whims, and getting money out of them is like bleeding a rock. I have much higher hopes for this year, so tonight I will be raising my glass in toast to the future.

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.