As ever, updating my website ends up at the bottom of my to-do list for months on end. Well, I’ve got a pile or stuff sorted and ready to be uploaded, so expect light flurries of random artwork and other nonsense over the next few days and weeks. The long term forecast is still of significant dry patches, but we’ll see I guess. It helps that I know that at least a few people actually look at this rubbish. Here’s a sneak peek
As a break from the trend of things taking longer and longer. This one came about reasonably quickly. If it’s not obvious from the name it’s a bit Blade Runner themed, complete with cheesy film samples
I’m sure it’ll be less than a week before I decide it’s terrible and start wanting to mess with (or delete) bits of it.
Even if I pick up my ‘iO’ project again, these character concepts will probably never be used. So, rather than let them be forgotten I thought I’d upload them on here. Some are obviously better than others and I do have favourites (depending on the day). It’s been pointed out a few times that they’ve got a little bit of a pokemon feel to them. It wasn’t intentional but I wanted fun accessible characters which all look colourful and different. With those criteria pokemon pretty much draw themselves
It would be easy to think that work on my current personal project ‘Moon’ has ground to a halt. I can tell you for sure that isn’t the case. Though to the casual observer a few hours a month probably looks very much like halted. A great deal of my time has been spent making bits of engine code that do specific but ultimately non-game things like generate voxel based collision meshes so the character doesn’t float about in space, load file from the internet so I can support updates or just a renderer that doesn’t crash at random times so I don’t get angry emails from players. Well, finally after a very productive weekend I now have actual visual results to show for my efforts. These are simply tests of the first parts of the level and block editor so don’t expect Moon to actually look like this. Though I do quite like the stark grey against dark dusty purple. The basic bits of a level editor. Blocks from any of the constructed sets can be placed in the world and saved. Nothing very fancy here yet and so much more work to do. This is a pretty much …
I’m sure every track I make takes twice as long as the one that preceeded it. In this case my decision to do all the music score from scratch instead of relying as much on samples probably had something to do with it.
I’m sure I’ll look back on it at some point in the future and hate it for it’s simplicity but for now I’m pretty happy with the result.
Unless you’ve actually ever made a computer game you may not be aware of how complex the process really is. This isn’t a boast with which I intend to inflate my ego, or some excuse for the time such endevours take. It’s just a stamement of fact about the way things are. Computer games are not alone in the set of all activities that are challenging, nor are they sole occupant of the set of things that when done well appear to the end user (or target audience) as usable and approachable. However, they also occupy the set of things who’s creation feels like it should be simpler than it really is. Who’s creation is filled with little things that on the surface seem simple but turn out to be filled with layers of complexity. I think in that, they may well be alone. As an excercise next time you play a computer game, consider what complexity might hide behind simply making your character move, jump or attack as you’d expect when you press a button (obviously assuming you’ve chosen game that has a character in it). You may be suprised, and unless you’ve ever written the code for it, …
At the start of 2009 I created a simple puzzle game called Efficiency. Despite being a simple project that I put together in a few weeks it turned out to be much more popular than I ever expected. Over time I got lots of people asking me to fix It’s biggest failing. A total lack of functionality on Windows 7. So here by popular demand, is a new and marginally improved version of Efficiency (which to celebrate I’ve added a ‘ + ‘ to). It should work fine on windows 7, it’s got much nicer procedurally generated music and it’s even got a few added bits and little fixes. Download
For the quiet sections of iO I needed a calm track. Something ambient that didn’t get annoying after the fourth or fifth time round. This turned out to be a pretty tricky task.
This track is basically as close as I got to what I needed. It’s ambient, it doesn’t really go anywhere and it’s almost impossible to spot when it’s looped. It’s alright but it’s not as good as the Hectic track I made for. So, if I get a chance (and I go back to iO) I might yet replace it.
There are two main reasons I could never be a proper musical artist.
First of all I’m too fickle and whimsical to stick to a single style. Someone listening to one track might decide it’s something they like only to find every other track I’ve produced to be nothing like it.
Second, and more importantly, there’s no way I could argue that what I do now for my own amusment is anything like actual music creation. I can’t play a real instrument (aside from a bit of drumming and I’m not really sure that counts) I can’t read or write music and I have no knowledge of music theory
Having completed Ferrari Challenge to such a high standard, we got the opportunity to include all the other exciting high performance cars that don’t feature a prancing horse on their bonnet. Supercar Challenge was basically all the bits that never made it into Ferrari, plus lots of new stuff. Lots more cars, more tracks, better multiplayer, better renderer, more game modes, more downloadable content and crucially (for me) better visual effects
As a bit of a departure from the high saturation colour schemes and arcade physics of the game we’d been working on upto this point, Ferrari Challenge was a real racing simulation. All licenced cars and tracks, with the added bonus of the vehicles being smashable and damagable (a first from a car manufacturer I think). By now I’d really settled into my role as lead visual effects programmer. I had lots of code and systems written and the trust of production management to get on with stuff and do what ever I could to make everything look better. I think visually the game is definitly the best looking I’d worked on to date.
This was one of those nice tracks that just fell together easily, all the components came to hand as I searched and the places I put them just sort of worked first time. It’s a great shame that these days such occasions are very rare.
I’m beginning to think that the time really has come to give up on the manipulation of samples and learn to use a synth and some proper music skills. like it’s that easy
I’ve mentioned it from time to time, but as yet I’ve not really gone into any real detail about the development of my iO project. In this post I hope to remedy that a little starting with some history. Some years ago (around 2004/2005) I created a somewhat complex game concept which for lack of a better name I called ‘spod’. It was a robot construction game in which you were tasked to create a team of automated battle robots and pit them against teams created by other people (or and AI opponent). Without doubt it was far (far far) to ambitious, and as such it was never completed. The screenshot below shows the main robot editing area. Looking back at it now It’s clearly a disaster of poor interface design. If you knew what things did and how stuff worked then you could create some really interesting robots but in terms of usability it was a very long way off the mark. Any new player would probably spend a while poking a things feeling generally lost and then just quit. That or just quit in horror at the sight of all those buttons. So I stopped. Instead I decided …
I’ve put aside iO, and it’s now become clear how much it was stopping me getting ideas out of my head. Without doubt, Its constantly changing form helped improve my programming skills and has resulted in dozens of added features to my game and rendering engine, but ultimatly no real (fun) game was going to result any time soon. The engine has (and will continue to serve) as a great test-bed for ideas and tools in my profession but I think for the most part it now has no real use to me for making games. It’s based on the now aging DirectX 9 and targeted soley at the PC, a combination that is unlikely to feature in the future of games creation as a whole for very much longer. Instead I’ve turned to XNA and C#. An excellent platform for making games on a well established platform with excellent tools in a fraction of the time I was taking to write anything in C++. As if to prove my point, I’ve already finished writing the code framework for my new ideas and started on the artwork for my first project. The first thing I’m getting out of my head …
Nothing deep and meaningful in this one, just a girl with an inprobable hammer and a bomb.Originally it was just a simple sketch while I was playing with ideas. I liked it so much I decided it needed colouring.
There’s a lot of poetry. and the tools available to search for good bits amongst the mountain of rubbish are about as poor as they could be
It’s not that I’m against poetry, there are some pieces I really love. it’s just a shame that there is so much and no easy way of finding what your looking for, especially as audio
On the occasion I was looking for an interesting piece to thread through the various bits of a track I was making (some time ago now) I came across ‘I Am’ by John Clare. It falls quite easily in the set of poems I like (though a great many of his do not) so it became the first poem I used in one of my tracks, and to date it’s probably the best
Old Illustration Style.
Pencil Sketch + Photoshop.
Something I’ve been working on for a very long time. It started as a simple pencil sketch. I scanned it, redid most of the line work again digitally and then split the job of finishing it into colour and lighting.
The lighting and correcting of all the really horrible anatomy issues took about 90% of the time. For the colouring, I tried to emulate the look of the old water colour storybook illustrations. I might try a few other colour finishes if the mood takes me.
As the title suggests, I have just spent quite a long time writing a long and interesting post about all sorts of exciting things. Sadly I took so long to write this epic my session timed out and I lost the whole lot when I submitted it. This is mainly as a result of some error in my website code. I’ll put the job of fixing it on my list of things to do once I finish my time machine. So in an attempt to present at least a little of the lost content and avoid the chance of losing it all again, what follows is a simple summary in the style of an FAQ. Why so long since the last update? Shortly after the last update, the site was subjected to quite a significant breach of security (through a hole in the comment entry page) several files were added to my server and my address was used as a platform for a phishing attack on a major bank in America. Don’t worry though; Anybody visiting the site as normal would never have been in any danger from the malign content (you wouldn’t even have been aware of it). It’s …
Outsider is one of H.P.Lovecrafts many short stories. In many ways it’s typical of his style. A running commentary (in the first person) of a mans journey through a series of carefully described ‘indescribable’ events that ultimately end badly for him. The horror. The horror!
I quite enjoyed making this track using a freely available reading of the short story as a base (and inspiration). It’s worthy of note that this is one of the first tracks where almost the entire drum beat track was constructed a single beat at a time (rather than from sampled loops). This was mainly because I wanted something a little odd and couldn’t find any examples of it. if it’s not obvious, I’m pretty happy with this one, even after all these years.
The Hotwheels game was basically a re-imagining of the concepts used in Cartoon Network Racing; only this time we had the chance to get all next-gen with our ideas. Extra weapons replace the special powers and now we had tracks with loops and stunts. Again I got free reign over the special effects and on this occasion I could really go to town on the shiny next-gen platforms. Cue the HDR and bloom effects for the explosions and lightning. Sadly my best efforts in the effects department did not translate to a great game and so, once again, the press mauled it.
When I first heard that we’d be making a game for Pimp My Ride my first reaction was “How?”. Its a little hard to see where a set of game mechanics can be attached to the format of the show. Luckily it wasn’t a problem I had to deal with. Instead I was charged again with the creation of all the real-time effects and this time I had a little help, i.e. I’d gone from a team of one to a team of two. The final result looks pretty enough on all its release platforms (especially the Xbox 360). Though a little short (very short) on depth. As far as procedural effects go, it features everything from fire hydrants and collision sparks to flocks of birds and scatterings of rubbish and leaves.
A very very long project if nothing else. Littered with all sorts of craziness, including a change in publisher and an almost complete rewrite half way through. The final result is by all accounts pretty good if a little short on morality. I must say that street racing is not really my thing, and given the choice I’d not have made a game about it, but as its my day job I tried my best to enjoy the whole thing and do my best on everything I worked on. Since release, SRS has risen all the way up the US XBox charts, so here’s to hoping that some royalties come out of this. (edit: they didn’t)
My first introduction into programming games consoles, I came onto this project after F1 World Grand Prix I didn’t really have a specific area that I could call mine in the same way as I had on the previous project but I wrote a lot of the interfaces and some of the game core. By the time it was finished I was one of the projects lead programmers managing the rest of the programming team. Despite a change of publishers half way through, the game went on to sell over a million units all over the world, everywhere from Japan through Russia and Europe to the USA. it even spent nearly 3 months in the top 5 games in North America.
A sample of my first DirectX graphics engine. Complete with scripted particle system, realtime lighting, 3DS loading, multi texturing and (as is evident here) procedural space distortions. Sadly by the time it was at this stage it could be done better in DirectX 7, and by the time I got round to rewriting it we were up to DirectX 8. something of note; all this was warping was done before the age of vertex shaders and the like. Download
A nearly complete Populous clone I made for one of my university projects, I never quite got around to finishing it as time ran out, it needed handing in and I moved onto other projects (like my dissertation). the 5000 levels are all there though, shame there’s no sound. Notes Populous3D is an OpenGL/Glut program if you dont have glut installed get it here and stick the dlls in your windows/system folder. the map area tends to mess up on a lot of graphics cards. mainly those that don’t like OpenGL fiddling with texture. Download
My second full game, an invaders clone with a ship upgrading twist (not a very new twist i know). It features 256 colour hand draw animations and different aliens with different strengths. Sadly over the years since I wrote it I’ve lost the final complete 200 level version, so all you have here is a cut down 20 level demo version. A shame really. It lacks sound I’m afraid, if you’ve every tried to code for the old soundblaster you may well understand. Notes Invaders runs at 320×200 modeX resolution, also written using the borland pascal compiler, it will also fail to run unless you’ve got a 386,486 or old Pentium. It does however run very nicely in DOSbox Download