Saturday, 28 March 2009

Get out of the bloody way!!

It's been said, that Holland is the most densely populated country in the world. Even more so than Japan. It can be hard to believe this of course when you're cycling through the wonderful flat countryside. But the proof of this can be easily verified, by taking a quick Saturday trip to Ikea.

No where is Hollands dense population better represented than a relatively cheap furniture store on an off work day.
It's not the density that bothers me though, generally speaking its fair that Holland is a very small country with a lot of's the rather strange Dutch quirk, that they have absolutely no sense of spatial awareness. As soon as you get into a crowd of Dutch people they have this "never give an inch", attitude.

We Brits tend to be a little deferential, if we are in someones way we move, we check behind us before we stop dead, etc. In other words we are always aware that our presence in a particular space may impact on someone else's progress and we move. No problems!

The Dutch....don't.

It's just that simple. They weave around, walk (slowly) 5 abreast, they stop dead in their tracks, they think nothing of walking right in front of you, or blocking your clear route down an aisle.

Its a strange thing...Of course even stranger is the variation of looks you get when you say "excuse me" as you try to get past them. Ranging as they do from horror and disgust, to sympathy for the clearly deranged foreign person who can't negotiate his way around.

It's probably the only Dutch trait I find annoying. I like the bluntness, I like the openness, I like the honesty..but for pity sake....get out of the bloody way will ya!!


Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Normality returns but...

Well GDC is in full flow, I got our demo off on Sunday night with pretty much all the features requested by our client and am hoping to hear some good things from him soon as he shows it around.

Personally there were a few things I wanted to get in that didn't work or didn't work as planned but these things happen. I'll work on them this week.

That major spurt of work the last 2 weeks, did have the effect of helping us to catch up on lost time, that was caused my my "sneeze" and subsequent can't be arsed cos I'm stoned on painkillers work ethic.

All this means that things can return to a degree of normality back to working 6-8 hours a day or so and weekends.

It also means I can at last get out and see Watchmen...might pop over to the new local cinema tonight.

In other words my Quality of Life is coming back to normal. This is a topic I want to touch on soon, but its too big a topic to post today on the hoof, it needs some thought.

But briefly..QoL is a major issue in our industry and is a once again coming to the fore following some major issues at one of our "representative" trade bodies(IGDA) where a now ex board member, who is also the boss of one of the biggest dev companies in the games industry , made it clear he actively encourages and would not hire anyone who is not prepared to work large amounts of unpaid overtime

This is frankly an appalling situation, because IGDA main raison d'etre is the improvement of developers QoL. Its members pay subscriptions to it annually expecting them to actually get out there and do something to prevent something which has frankly become endemic in the games business. And yet the board of IGDA themselves is largely composed of CEO's and development mangers whose very businesses rely on the practice of enforced (by various means) unpaid labour.

This so called "crunch" is generally a failure of management, project management in particular which has always had problems quantifying the amount of work needed in a project and then tying that into the time/resources formula.

I've done project management myself, its not an easy job, I was pretty good at it on smaller projects at a mobile phone game company I worked at, and managed to ensure no-one ever crunched. But I do agree the projects get exponentially harder the bigger they get and that makes it much much more difficult to estimate timescales and so on. I wouldn't really want to be a PM on a major project.

But the standard "practice" of estimating timescales on big projects appears to be stick a wet finger in the air, pick a date then make people work masses of unpaid overtime in order to achieve that deadline...When done, throw aware the dead/burnt out developers and repeat.

It's not uncommon for people to work 10,12,16 even 20 hour stretches, 7 days a week 52 weeks a year, in an attempt to get milestones hit etc.

Why forced you may ask, game developers are well paid, etc etc etc.

Well yes, they are, usually, but when you are paid x amount of money for 40 hours or so a week. You're doing well, when you are paid however the same x amount of money for 80+ hours a week, then things start to sound a bit fishy.

Now in my case I've been crunching because I lost some time due to illness and lack of focus (due to being stoned on painkillers for a couple of weeks). But since the project I am working on is entirely my own (working with Dino and Steve) we are the only people who are suffering. If I don't deliver I don't get paid...simple.

If however I was an employee of a large company, perhaps run by an IGDA board member, and my boss insisted I stay till 2am to get a milestone hit that I knew was completely unachievable and most likely I had no say in setting, I'd say no..sorry mate, I'm off to see Watchmen and have a life out of hours.......that "attitude" though could get me fired.

That is wrong.....I've tried very hard in my various incarnations as a boss to avoid crunch, I've not always managed it, but I've also made a point of making it voluntary.

IGDA is supposed to be working to stop fails, it's been failing for a long time, and it looks like its going to continue to fail. Meanwhile, the IGDA board of largely management types can continue to bleat about the importance of eliminating crunch in memo's and white papers while quietly ensuring their own companies make full use of crunch to maximize their profits and salve their conscience by insisting they throw people out at 2am....(I wonder if they get written warnings when they turn up late at 9pm???)

As I say, a long topic...and one that needs thought before posting more info on here. But read the IGDA forums, and if you are able, the TCE forums to get more insight into this ongoing issue.


Friday, 20 March 2009


eh...oh where was I?

s'cuse me while I just wipe the drool away dsfghfgjklasdghds;ogfhdlfgnshgu;dl/f ngsg.njklso;ikl.kdrjgts hsdas;oihrtuyoijgsdrhfj

Ok, so some news. I got my health insurance policy in today and yeahhh its dated August 2008 which is when I signed it. It does look like I'll have to pay 6 months premiums to get it up to date, but thats still a lot better than €3,250.

Work wise, we've broke the back on this job now, all the really annoying tricky stuff is working fine and only the minor bits to put together now. Hoping to have one more final push tonight to get the demo ready for GDC then get back to more regular working times and also finish up some decorating in the halls in time for the girls coming..Oh yes I have instructions to buy more mirrors. Since apparently 1 full length mirror is simply not enough in an apartment with 2 women in it!!

So...better crack on


Thursday, 19 March 2009


I'm tired, my bum hurts (not because of any kind of strange perversions I hasten to add...but from sitting on it for the last however many hours) and I have to stop now before I collapse and end up waking with an imprint of my nice MS 4000 keyboard on my face and the keys all covered in drool (yes has happened)

When I was young..oh so many years ago. I used to stay up all night coding quite regularly, in fact I often did my best work in the wee small hours. But it gets so much harder to stay awake now. I still think I do my best work at these times, away from distractions and locked into a mindset that sounds a bit like...."must code, must code, must code". But the desire to crawl into a nice cosy bed, and escape the bum torture my chair is inflicting has become too strong.

So why am I prolonging my agony posting here...because you build up a kind of momentum when you work like this and you need to take some time when you stop to unwind and switch your brain into time to sleep mode, and not do coding type things. Better to do something mundane and non coding...ermmm like this I guess.

Oh in other news my health insurance card arrived today, so hopefully I can call the hospital, give them my card number and let them fight it out over the bill.

hmmm this mundane stuff isn't working...I might as well resort to the alternative.
Large quantities of alcohol, pity the kebab place is closed...I wonder if there's any cold pizza in the fridge I can nuke..

God...(or whatever non existent deity you happen to exclaim to) I love being a programmer.
Uh oh....sleepy time....ZZZZzzzzzzzzzoerohn;derfg nikdfg;.kd /;.ldgdidfgkdfklgndflkgh;/lkdegbFWE';IE5RT

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

You wait all week

For an update and then 2 come at once....

I've not posted a video for a long time...and thought this was A-MAZE-ING

Bathtub IV from Keith Loutit on Vimeo.


Work work work and GDC

Next week is GDC, (Games Developers Conference) so my recent slippage on my project has a practical impact. We have to get a demo ready for the show, since it will be shown around and commented on. So I've been pulling incredibly long work stretches of 20+hrs at a time to get it together. Fortunately, a few strange sticky points notwithstanding its coming together now and starting to look like a game, just a few more threads to pull together and we'll have a kick ass demo, but I am so busy which is why I've not been updating the blog.

I would normally detest the idea of working such long hours and would never advocate it where I had people working for me doing such hours, but ....well its not as if I have much else to do till Bina and Jodie get here, so working is quite therapeutic.
I am so lucky to have a job that allows me to make so much time available for my other work, academia really is fantastic.

Anyway back to GDC.
Since the fairly spectacular demise of E3, events like GDC have become more about the marketing of games rather than any specific attempt to put together coherent developer type input. Though they still have all the speeches by various luminaries and tech heads, I don't feel its really a conference worth going to, I mean who wants to go to San Fransisco for a week, all expenses paid and mix with friends and collegues you've not seen for ages, goto endless parties and look at all the latest games..hmmm who??

Yes thats right I didn't put a request in to go early enough..being new at NHTV I don't really know how to do these things....Dino is going, sigh!.

back to work.


Thursday, 12 March 2009

Another sad day

Yesterday at school we heard some extremely sad news. One of my 1st year students, Ben Tilma, committed suicide, alone in his *home in Breda, he just turned 19 in January.

Theres really not much more to say is there, when someone so very young and full of promise decides to take their life it just leaves you numb.

Apparently Ben had suffered from bouts of depression at several points in his life and it would seem that again he was deeply troubled.
What makes this even sadder is that not one member of staff or his friends and fellow students had the slightest inkling that he was feeling this way.

To all of us he was a bright happy fun student, good at his studies, mixed well with friends and never gave anyone cause to worry. His last few Internet posts to game sites gave no indication of his pain, and indeed he was apparently very happy and enjoying his time at IGAD.

As someone who has suffered from depression, (I first started this blog when I came out of a period of depression and wanted to keep a journal of sorts)I kinda know the deal here, you put on a mask for others and kid yourself that you're fine, but really you're not. And left unchecked you start to see drastic solutions to what are normally pretty mundane problems.

There only 2 things I want to say about this;
1st of course my sincere condolences to his family and friends for their loss.

And 2nd as I said way back when I started this blog. Depression is an illness you can't deal with alone. Get help. Please...get help. It can be overcome.


*edit I've since learned it was not at his home, but thats a detail that does not detract from the sadness of the facts.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Oh and!

No I still have not been to see Watchmen yet :(

back to work...eating time is over


The worlds most expensive Sneeze

yes the cost of my "sneeze", the one that landed me in hospital for 2 nights and had me quaking with fear at the thought of more to come...had a price.

That price is high.

The totals have been tallied, the expenses factored in, the bed, the nurse, the drugs, the out patients appointment etc

And the final bill comes to.


yup....thats how much my sneeze is going to cost ME!! Though I am still hoping I can get the insurance I thought I'd taken out in August last year to sort it, it does seem likely that I will have to pay that or a large chunk of it myself. wonder people go broke when they are ill!!! At that kinda cost I would have been better off scoring some serious drugs in Amsterdam and booking a week in a piss soaked cheap hotel room attended by 2 cheap crack whores who's job would have been to keep me stoned/distrracted till the pain went away. I'd still have got change from €500

Bah!!! just Bah!!!!

This of course is why I've been away from you for several days, working my touchey off fixing some annoyingly stubborn issues with the DS's texture memory so I can get our game back on schedule as quickly as possible...clearly I need the money.


Thursday, 5 March 2009

Mark this day

Today 2 great things happened

1 The Watchmen movie came I have not been to see it yet...but I will soon

2. Bina got the job at NHTV :)

I'll soon have my ..oh no wait 3, 3 great things happened today

1 The Watchmen movie came I have not been to see it yet...but I will soon

2. Bina got the job at NHTV :)

3. Jodies dad got a bill for the mobile phone he gave her with its fairly heavy price plan and 100's of free talk and text minutes....

You can tell I want to big this up don't you?

Maybe I should make that the top thing?

£636 yep £636 quid.....The moral is of course fairly obvious...Do not give a teen with a recently discovered and fairly unhealthy interested in the opposite sex free unlimited access to a pound munching communication device.

Hmm think so? Oh...oh might be right!

3 great things happened

Something wonderful happened today!

Bina got the job at NHTV :)

I am simply overjoyed that we'll soon all be together again...sniff

(think she'll notice? No? No I think I got away with that.)


Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Kill All Technology

TECH!!!! don't look mum..your bit is below

I finally managed to fix the SVN, though still a couple of very minor complaints with some files, If I delete them from the main rep, then update,then re-add them it fixes. Just have to be careful not to accidentally lose the file as I did before.

I think this was actually a problem on my systems rather than our repo; I had a minor virus attack last week on the laptop, which Norton didn't catch, and it ran through a lot of files doing its nasty thing. Fortunately even though Norton could not kill it, it did report heals and quarantines so I knew it was having problems. I backed it up with AVG which used a brute force removal method to erase all infected files. Virus gone, all good?
But. I think some damage occurred to the SVN log files on the machine

This happened to occur at the same time roughly as our loss of SVN (modem died at server end) so was transferring files to my main computer on usb..including the damaged sections of SVN, So by the time SVN came back on..both my main working machines had damage to their local SVN logs.

So both machines were working in so far as I could write, compile test code, but svn kept dying on "missing files" which were actually there, and no amount of cleaning touching and restoring would solve it...So no updates to SVN and more and more lack of integration.
Not a terrible thing is some ways, we've both been writing code but each of us needs the others code to complete the sections so we've been unable to produce a playable demo.

Anyway...fixed now, meeting Dino later to get hold of the control routines to plug into the two waiting sub games and then some tidy up....well thats the plan :)

Non Tech..ok mum you can read from here.
Nothing to report been busy on tech stuff.


Sunday, 1 March 2009

March already?

Yup there is no doubt as you get older time slips by so much faster. Its March.....March!! I only just recovered from the Hogmanay hangover and its March....Spring is springing, people are starting to wear lighter clothes and that big yellow thing in the sky...which is currently more of a big white thing really, is actually starting to give out some heat.

Really amazing to see the trees here starting to bud and the crocus and snowdrops begin to appear. I'm really looking forward to the summer here in Breda. I caught the middle/end of it last year and it was like stepping back in time to Scotland in the 70's.

Lots to look forward to, lots. :D

Work wise...disaster...the svn conflicts were very hard to resolve, probably cos I wasn't doing them right but either way I lost a couple of files in the process. Dammit. I have partial backups but its still a pain I will have to spend a late night getting everything back in and probably several long sessions over the next week to try to catch up. Dammit I hate getting behind.

My client, Harry is a lovely patient fella but like all clients he wants to see his product and we've got nothing to show for the last 10 days or so due to this idiotic issue...gotta get something in there today or my balls will be part of a programmer kebab recipe he has planned.