Archive for October, 2008

Heat exchange

Posted in Links from the In-tar-web, Tales from the grind-stone on October 30th, 2008 by MrCranky

While rummaging around in my backlog of things to post, I found this link to an article I’d seen on Linux Journal. Definitely the best form of re-use I’ve heard. Everyone these days seems to be going on about recycling of goods we’ve used, and that’s a fair point. But I’ve always been more concerned about the impending energy shortages. It has always jarred a bit that in some places we’re using millions of joules of energy cooling our local environment down, when not too far away there are other people spending similar millions of joules warming their’s up. So much of the things we waste is because it is simpler to just use or make another than to try and re-use something already made. A case in point – we spend lots importing fuel to burn and keep our homes warm, but happily throw out heavy furniture made of wood. Once upon a time we would have thrown it on our fire and killed two birds with one stone, but our modern lives no longer make that easy.

Anyway, ecological rant out of the way for today, here in the office we’ve probably burned quite a few kilo-joules of energy keeping ourselves warm, as a cold snap here in Edinburgh has alerted us to the fact that the radiators in the office are no longer working. While I used to happily sit and work with a fleece and fingerless hobo-gloves on, I’d feel bad about making the team suffer the same. So instead we’re all kind of clustered around a little electric fan heater that must be costing the earth (literally).

We’ve had a stay of execution on the move away from this office however, previously we’d been told we’d have to move by late November, but now we are safe until February. That said, we’re looking at a nice new place in a basement on Rutland Square that fits our needs quite well – not sure if we’ll be taking it because I don’t know the cost yet, but it would be not too far from our current place, and crucially much closer to the nice pubs of the West End. Not that that affects my decision at all, no. That would be bad.

Fustian Future

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

Funnily enough, whenever I come back to the blog to write up a new post, one of the first things that jumps out at me is the monthly archives posts over on the right which I have to scroll past to reach the ‘site admin’ button. Whilst in my head I know fine well that we’ve been going for three and a half years now, it is another thing entirely to see all those months collecting up in the sidebar. Going back to some of the early posts still makes me laugh, as we’ve certainly come a long way since then.

It’s with that in mind though that I’m throwing up a link to Fustian Future, a relatively new (3 months or so) indie developer whom I know via The Chaos Engine (hang out for games industry folks from all over). Yacine Salmi, the one man team behind Fustian, is of course far more dedicated to updating his blog than I wasam, so there’s a lot more to read over there. He’s mixing up the regular indie developer chat with some interesting stuff on new and potential technologies, and more general games industry stuff. In particular I’d point you to this post on a GDC talk/round-table on unions in the games industry that sadly won’t come to pass. It’s certainly raised some interest on the Chaos Engine forums as it’s a contentious subject; however pretty much everyone is open to more discussion on the issues, so it’s sad to note that it won’t go ahead. GDC organisers take note – this is one more voice suggesting that you do the talk next year!

That being said, I’m always torn on the unionising issue. It’s been done to death on the TCE forums, and very little new gets said about it. There are a few (quite vocal) advocates of unions as a serious answer to the issues of overworking, crunch and general poor employee rights that plague some of the larger (and not so large) studios. There are others who a) don’t see the value in a union, b) don’t trust any of the existing unions to properly represent our issues, and c) don’t think that game-developers on the whole are the sort of people who would organise into a union.

But there is a definite chicken and egg problem, which the discussions we have make readily apparent. Most game-developers have little to no knowledge of unions, so their objections are rarely based on informed choice. There is no union which caters specifically for games developers, although several of the more general ones would happily expand to cover the industry (BECTU being the most obvious choice). By and large though, not enough employees at games studios are members for the union to actually properly represent them, so no-one can relate stories of how being a union member was obviously advantageous. Because there is no anecdotal evidence that being in a union is useful, not enough employees join. And so on.

At this point in the discussions, the cry is usually “why don’t you just join and start the ball rolling”, which for me is equally frustrating. Of course, I am in fact management, and not just an employee. So it doesn’t make sense for me to be a union member. And my team, not being generally mistreated, feels no need to join a union either. Many of the voices on the TCE forums echo similar stories. Those employees who might actually benefit are the ones that need to be persuaded by the discussions, and for some reason they are absent from the debate. So while I’m still ambivalent about the idea of unions in general, I’m keen to see the idea discussed more widely and openly amongst developers, so the people who could benefit may consider it an option, or discount it as unsuitable once they know the facts!

On trains you meet the funnest people (part 2)

Posted in Tales from the grind-stone on October 6th, 2008 by MrCranky

Truly it’s the belligerent passengers that are the worst though. Most often on a British train there’s a sense of shared suffering, and people usually pitch in to help the doddery old lady to her seat, or the mother with a child and a heavy bag. If the train is packed or the air conditioning is broken (and in summer it’s usually both at once), there are quiet jokes shared amongst strangers at tables about how crazy it all is. The mad passenger fighting with their huge luggage up the carriage gets an exchange of knowing looks and a smile, from people glad that they’re already settled in their seats and don’t have to get involved.
The belligerent passengers though, they can spoil it for everyone, even those already installed in their seats and trying to block out the world with earphones and a book or laptop. Inevitably it’s a grumpy passenger looking to take out their frustrations on someone else, be they deserving or not. The luggage rack isn’t big enough. Someone stole my seat. The train is late so I’ll miss my connection. And so because they are suffering, the rest of the passengers must too. Complaining loudly and bitterly of course is known to accelerate the train and make up that delay, and expand the luggage rack. Or maybe it just compounds the misery which is probably already being felt by the other passengers, who have already accepted the fact that they are running late. And as for finding someone sitting in your seat, apologetically pointing this out will get you far further with a minimum of fuss.

I’m fairly sure that I’m not an especially lucky traveller. I have a decent share of missed or late trains, and while it doesn’t exactly make me the cheeriest soul in the world, I try to bear it with good grace. But I’ve never had a problem with luggage space, or seat reservations, or half of the things that plague these passengers, so I can’t help but feel that there’s some sort of karma working itself through there. It might seem petty, but I find myself thinking “Good”, when someone has missed a connection and has decided to take it out on a conductor who clearly has nothing to do with their problem.

As troubling as it is to witness the sheer unbridled ignorance and lack of concern for the effects their actions have on others that some of the passengers show though, it is at least comforting to see that the majority of my fellow travellers are actually just nice people. They just want to get to their destination with the minimum of fuss, like me.

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