Since the end of February things have been absolutely crazy around here to the point I’ve forgotten which was is up a few times. The word “busy” doesn’t adequately describe it.

I’ve been frantically working on a new project at work involving trying to re-build a web application platfom on newer hardware and with more recent software. It’s Java based (not my area of expertise) and involves moving from a very old version of NetBSD to Linux and in the process upgrading the Java VM, Apache, Tomcat and Cocoon. Sadly the old system doesn’t come with a lot of documentation and finding the source code has been tricky at times so theres been a lot of frustration. Of course the fact I only get to work on it part time isn’t helping much.

Evenings have pretty much been taken up with work on Ham and Jam and we’ve had a massive surge of development this month. John noted that this month has seen the
largest volume of commits to our SVN repository since the project began. We recently re-organised our team structure and things have definately improved and I’m really proud of what the teams achieved this month. Thanks to our Wiki and bug-tracking system development has got much more streamlined.

Regarding this blog entry’s title, I came across it on a story at Fox news. In the tired, stress addled state of my mind, it almost describes the Ham and Jam development process at times. šŸ˜€

Other stuff. I’ve been getting a lot of e-mail regarding some my other projects so I thought I’d address them here.

The 3DS Max SMD import plug-in has been put to one side for a while so that I can get some fairly important stuff done on Ham and Jam. With the project having this much momentum at the moment, it would be foolish not to take full advantage of it. That said, the SMD importer isn’t “abandoned” and I fully intend to get back into it in a week or so. As for a when it will be finished, that depends on how development goes.

I’ve also been asked about making my VTF tools 7.4 format compatible. The answer is yes, I fully intend to support 7.4 format and in fact I have versions sat on my hard disk now that do. There has been a slight hiccup though that I’m currently not able to fix in that Nem, who maintains the VTFLib library that my tools use, has sort of “vanished” into thin air. He sent me a pre-release of the next VTFLib update with 7.4 support but then disappeared and all attempts to contact him have failed.

I could release my tools with the version of the library he sent me, but apart from the risk of version “clash” of the DLLs, I’d rather not do it out of respect for Nem and the work he does. Nem, if you’re out there man get in touch just to let me know you’re O.K.

Lastly I got asked about making my GUIStudioMDL2 compiler compatible with the Orange Box SDK beta. The answer is no, i’m not planning to. I only support official “releases” of their toolchain as it’s too much work trying to update my tools to work with something that Valve themselves are constantly changing.

Well it’s time for TPS reports, meetings with the Bobs’ and probably several cases of “The Mondays”.

I’m finally back at work after taking a time-out to recouperate after three long and exhausting years working on the same project. I had never felt so burnt-out in my life and so, on my doctor’s advice, took a break to get my head straight. In an effort to ease myself back in I’m working part time for a while before I kick into full code monkey mode.

There’s been some BIG changes since I was away – namely that my department of about 11 people was sold outright to a much larger IT consultancy firm so instead of just a bunch of us stuck in one corner of a small office we are now a bunch stuck in a corner of some huge cavern of a office building, complete with glass ceilings, glass lifts, pass cards (with an ID photo that makes me look like a hobo) and oddly shaped pieces of “art” all over reception.

Sadly I won’t be working on anything computer game related – a year of interviews and rejection from game companies I’ve come to the conclusion that it’ll just have to stay as an unpaid hobby. So it’s back to coding for the Intarweb again.

Work will continue on my various tools and utilities though.

Sep. 29, 2007 @ 15:47

The past 3 months have been really stressful due to some changes with my job and the need to actually find some paid work to do. Not a lot has been happening, it’s been a struggle with a lot of sleepless nights and a lot of stress. So on the advice of my doctor, I took a short break and came back to England to visit my family.

A week in, I’ve had a phone call asking me if I’d consider working in Sheffield as a network programmer for a “NextGen” (I hate that phrase) game and asked to peruse a game concept and take part in a conference call with Intel to give my expert opinion. Yeah, Intel….

Why doesn’t this happen when I’m home and available instead of out in the boonies of England in a communications blackhole? Gah!

Jul. 2, 2007 @ 19:52

It’s been over a month since my last blog post as I’ve been so damn busy. First was Nordic Game which was a blast, followed by a sprint to the airport for two weeks in England. Home after that and back to work where I’ve spent the past couple of weeks testing software for FLIR cameras. On top of that theres been the backlog of my projects to catch up on.

Needless to say, I haven’t had time to work on my tan…

It’s been over a month since my last blog post as I’ve been so damn busy. First was Nordic Game which was a blast, followed by a sprint to the airport for two weeks in England. Home after that and back to work where I’ve spent the past couple of weeks testing software for FLIR cameras. On top of that theres been the backlog of my projects to catch up on.

Hilmar PĆ©tursson from CCP

Hilmar PĆ©tursson from CCP gave the keynote ‘The Tao of Virtual World Societies’.

Nordic Game was great and I’m greatful to Ben Sawyer at Digital Mill for making it possible. We’d worked together previously on a few projects at Transmodrify and it’s always nice to meet up in person.

The conference itself was an eye opener and a nice change to talk and listen to people from the development side of games than the fanboys/end users. I spent most of my time circulating between tech talks, discussions on the relationship between producer and communities and serious games – using game tech for training and education.

Between session breaks

Between sessions. Time to network and charge up on coffee.

Many business cards were swapped, idea’s shared and thoughts discussed and I made a lot of useful contacts. It was certainly well worth going and something I would recommend to anyone interesting in the industry to do – even if like me you’re “just” an indie game developer or someone looking for a job in the industry. Never underestimate the value of “pressing flesh”.

If I get my act together maybe I’ll get invited to be a speaker one year! šŸ˜€

So to other news.

Ham and Jam has been stuck in a rut the past couple of months or so due to a lot of our team being at school/university and sitting final exams. I’m pleased to say that this past week things have picked up again now that everyone is done and free for the summer. We’ve also found a coder to help us get over a few hurdles and an animator which means that hopefully all the v_model weapons will be get done and animated. Who knows, we might even get a beta out this year!

As for my projects, I’ve hopefully solved a few minor problems with my development environment and can start moving forward. I’ve managed to sort out legit copies of Vista x86 and Vista x64 so I’m hoping that I can have a go at porting some of my VTF tools to work with Vista and try and build a 64-bit version of my Max 9 SMD exporter.

I’ve also been getting a lot of email asking about an SMD importer for Max 9. Yes, I am working on one but I have a lot of other commitments which have to cleared first. All I can say is be patient and watch this space and I’ll make regular annoucements when something more concrete is available.

I couldn’t let the 25th Anniversary of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum pass without paying my dues to the machine that pretty much changed my life. This little slab of black plastic and rubber with its Z80 Zilog processor throbbing along at 3.5Mhz, it’s 48k of RAM, 8 colours and 256×192 screen resolution was my first introduction to the world of computers. It introduced me to the world of modding, programming, 3D and was my biggest time waster for 10 years of my life (until PC’s took over).

For people of a certain age, the word “Speccy” brings on warm, misty eyed feelings of nostalga and a mispent youth fighting with your parents for use of the family TV, Load “” and waiting 15 minutes for a screeching tape to play only to die in the last 5 seconds with a tape loading error. Who can forget Maziacs, Jet Set Willy, Chuckie Egg… the list goes on.

The Spectrum really was the start for me and a lot of current industry professionals who started their careers hacking away in their bedrooms during the 80’s. People like Dave Perry, Tim and Chris Stamper and even Alan Cox. OK, maybe I didn’t achieve the success they did but I left my mark – I got a letter published in C+VG and had a demo I made included on a Your Sinclair cover tape!

VU3D on the ZX Spectrum

Ahhh memories!

In terms of what I do these days, it was also my first venture into the world of 3D graphics and 3D programming. It all started with the program VU-3D by Psionic. Sure it’s pretty crap by todays standards but it let you create meshes, rotate, shade them and was a great introduction to 3D.

A few years later I moved onto Domark’s 3D Construction Kit which was a proper 3D game eninge based around Freescape. Not only could you build 3D worlds but you could script gameplay, event driven logic and ultimately build a stand alone game with it. I still have it in a box at home along with the tape and VHS tutorial tape – I wonder what it’d be worth on eBay…

The Spectrum also introduced me to modding, originally through POKES and then eventually editing huge quantities of hex code to change levels in games like Manic Miner. It actually got easier when I bought something called a Multiface which let me stop the games as they were running, debug the assembler and change stuff on-the-fly.

Of course I wrote my own stuff – most in BASIC but I did a few cool things in Z80 assembler. I wrote a very basic sampler that could digitise sound via the microphone socket but it was a bit crap though due to the lack of memory and slow processor. It could record about a second of sound but when your a kid, being able to record the sound of your burps into a computer was the height of hilarity.

It was also my first introduction to the dark world of piracy. Not being blessed with a dual-deck hi-fi like the posh kids, nor the needed cables I’d come up with a rather odd arrangement for my nefarious deeds. One (borrowed) tape recorder playing the game back over the loudspeaker with the other trying to record it to another tape via it’s built in microphone. With a bit of volume tweaking you could get a pretty good copy as long as there wasn’t too much background noise – like your Mum coming in and asking what that “God awful screeching sound” was.

Oh the memories…

Edit: I think this sums it all up rather nicely…

(c) 1982 Sinclair Research Ltd.