Thursday, July 31, 2003

Lots happening today.
Got some cool coding done on StarLines. Lots of code to do at work prior to a big meeting tommorow. Got given a second monitor at work which will be very cool, although it seems to screw up BF1942 unless I deselect "extend windows desktop onto this monitor" when I want to play.
I started bidding on a second Ebay item (its like heroin... this online auction thing).Also some bright spark at lionhead bet everuone he could jump accross Guildford canal and luckily 2 video cameras were on hand this lunchtime to capture footage of the big splash. Most amusing.
Saw THIS ARTICLE which mentions loads of people I know on the indie gaming scene, but not me. bah! I guess I have a long way to go with my humble little games!

Woke up this morning to find my car wingmirrors vandalised. grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. On the bright side I sold 2 games today so thats cool. I have finally met the reserve price for this mystery TV prop I am bidding on at ebay. Maybe I'll even get it one day. hurrah... Once the auction is closed I'll post pics.
Havent got that much done on StarLines, the basic code for displaying lists of starships is in there, and much cleaner than before. I am very close to being able to throw away a whole bunch of older, buggy code now.
Hopefully this weekend the 'dockedscreen' part of the game will be fully functional, and I can have a look at the two big areas that need work which are the tutorial and the save/load system.
Meanwhile at work I am taking a pause from Save/Load to work on some horrifically involved animation management code for shooting movies, which is awkward but nevertheless quite good fun.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Save and Load stuff is still no fun. Plus I am in Macro hell at work. Macros in C++ are hideous. Fear them.
I sold 4 copies of StarLines today, which is of course pretty good, but I'm considering blowing ALL of it on an item on ebay.
I think I started down a slippery slope when I bought my ParksSabers Rogue Lightsabre. From here on, I am going to occasionally blow money on silly Star Wars and Star Trek props... I'll posy details of the silly thing I've bid on ocne I've won it...
Time to get some work done on the StarShips window for StarLines....

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

First day of real work on the save load stuff at work... not much fun, but slow progress is being made. Im trying to intercut it with my normal 'fun' work making the background characters AI better, handling animation selection etc etc.
Had another cool game of BF1942. hurrah.
I'm hoping to get a few more copies of Asteroid Miner shifted in the next few weeks, otherwise my advertising at GameXtazy will prove to not pay its way, which would be a shame, bevause its kind of fun to experiment with advertising here and there. I've also tried google adwords in the past, which worked quite well, so if the gamextazy stuff doesnt work out I'll probably go back to adwords. In any case, theres no point spending any money promoting StarLines until its big rewrite is completed. I must get some work done on that this week... Still need to re-implment the GUi for fueling and starship purhcasing, plus some double-click stuff. I'll post screenshots as soon as there is something to look at ;)

Monday, July 28, 2003

Hurrah I have comments available for my blog now, so You can disagree with me and ask me what the hell I'm talking about etc, just by clicking the comments link below each post. That was very easy to set up as well, no wonder blogging is so popular!
I sold a fair few games yesterday, 4 or 5 I think, which is good news. This week I will be doing Save/Load code at work on the Movies which isn't going to be much fun. In the past I have always done saving and loading in a 'manual' way, ie each object I need to save is responsible for writinbg out the data I need to keep, and reading it in again. I think the Movies is going to use a clever 'universal' system for storing each data-type, which sounds a bit complex to moi, but there you go.
Its very hot again today, and a serious hayfever day as well. dang.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

A wonderfull sunny day here in the UK!
I sold 3 games this morning as well, which is also cool. And I have finally setup the sales stuff for my first affiliate game. I am selling a cool little strategy game called AlterLife. You can see it on my front page here The game was developed by someoone else, and I am basically selling it on commision. Maybe it will be a waste of time, maybe itll be a nice little earner. who can say?

I've spent some time today tearing out and recoding chunks of the CargoManager in StarLines INC. There are a lot of nasty bugs still lurking in the depths of this game, and I think by restructuring the code to make more sense, I should eliminate or at least spot most of them.
It looks like it will take a long time to get this game to the quality I want, but hopefully it will be all the more successfull when I am done.
I already have a new title for it, new splash screen and new domain name, so I'm hoping to maybe double its current sales figures (last month I sold 34 units through RealGames, so Im shooting to sell an average of 60 a month of the new version...).
Maybe if that happens I'll be a step closer to buying my DREAM CAR one day.

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Well there I was playing around with SAMURIZE which I thought was a fantastic idea, but come the next day I just can't be arsed with it. It would be nice to get it so it actually replaced the explorer taskbar, but I hardly ever see my desktop so pinning stuff to the desktop isnt really worth it. I do like the idea of having a real time control panel that tells me the weather and news etc in my area, updated through the web (now I'm lucky enough to have lawyas on broadband). Maybe I'll return to it later.
Sold a copy of Asteroid Miner this morning, which helps pay for the advertising for it I guess, and got a request for features on my explosion generator program. Many many people send me emails about this, but at the moment I'm just too pressed for time... maybe one day.

Friday, July 25, 2003

End of the week hurrah!. Do I take my joystick home to play BF1942? or do I stick with Giants???????? hmmmm its a tough one.
Im setting up as a RegNow affiliate to sell othe peoples games. could be good, could be a waste of time. Only time will tell...

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Building on the triumph of my VB fix Ive been tarting up other things in StarLines. Why be happy just with:
lawlevel = 4
techlevel = 8
When I can have:
lawlevel = "corrupt state"
techlevel = "nanotech"
Which is much cheesier and thus more cool. I think I'll put the numbers in brackets though in case its too confusing.
My advertising hasnt resulted in a single extra sale yet bah!
On the non-shareware side, I've been really enjoying the BF1942 Battle of britain map again, plus had a lightsabre duel with Yoda in the office today which made for some cool photos. Also been programming dog behaviour for the Movies which is huge fun. hurrah!
I've also been having fun playing THIS INTERESTING GAME

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Finally fixed the Vertex Buffer problem. All to do with using a big vertex buffer and using the verts in clumps without taking a whole lock of the entire buffer each time. Much faster now hurrah!
Also found a little strategy/arcade game I really like, might try and see if I can sell it through my website.
And have been playing the Battle Of Britain BF1942 map today which ius absolutely fantatsic. Havent played Giants for a few days now. eeeek.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

I mainly do AI and game code at Lionhead So its a bit of a mental gear change tonight as I work on speeding up the text rendering engine for StarLines INC. I've tracked down 90% of the games processing to the Vertex Buffer Lock in my text engine. It speeds up massively if I use the flag DDLOCK_NOOVERWRITE in the lock, but I'm having problems rewriting the system to use batches within a vertex array rather than reusing the same array... hopefulyl Ill have it sorted soon.

Monday, July 21, 2003

Having trouble putting together an installer for that game i wanted to sell, it uses VB, and using windows DLLs with so many different versions like VB does is just a support nightmare waiting to happen. Oh well, its not as though I dont have enough stuff of my own to do...
Gamextazy is running one of my ads, lets hope it generates enough sales to actually pay for itself.
RealGames say they have accidentally overpaid me and will be clawing back the money over the next 3 months. Jesus, I guess I just have to put up with that.
On the good side I should be getting an egames check next month.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

1 more RealGames sale today. also bought some advertising space, and asked a fellow shareware developer about collaboration on one of his games. (one I'd like to sell).
Also redid a lot of StarLines stuff today, the old backdrop looked too boring so I've jazzed it up a bit. Still a work in progres, but here is an early screenshot:

Still playing Giants:citizen Kabuto. which rocks...

Saturday, July 19, 2003

Just sold another copy of StarLines through RealGames. hurrah. Also dumped a lot of the old code from StarLines. Still lots of minor things to re-implement with the new system before I can really get round to adding or changing features.
Just played Giants:Citizen Kabutu. I got it for £5 (about $8) and its fantastic. At this price its a total bargain, a game thats very hard to describe, original, playable and very funny, and a true cross genre title. If you have never played it, just go out and buy it, you won't regret it.
The debate on about the forums still rages on. There are far too many posts now for me to read them, so I'm just hoping Steve moves over to a subscription service ASAP.

Sold a shareware copy of Planetary Defense today which is cool, as most of its sales used to come through RealGames. I'm not sure why PD isnt as big a seller as I had hoped, I'm thinking that maybe the bar is just too high these days in visuals for shooters (just look at mutant storm), and I should stick with the strategy/sim games I most enjoy.
To that end, Ill get some more work done on StarLines...
I have decided to add some more module types to the starships in StarLines, including a Bridge or control-room module. Of course that involves doing some of my famous coder art, which isnt so cool, but hey its got to be done I guess. I can't justify using real artists for the sales I get.

Friday, July 18, 2003

Actually woke up early enough to both feed the cat AND fix a silly bug in StarLines before even leaving for work. Hurrah. It was a silly bug, my base sprite class that I use in the StarLines engine has a function to check if a point is inside it, and I was doing a simple check that only works if the sprite isnt angled. That means it worked most of the time, but not when I was trying to select a moving spaceship.
Anyway its fixed, and a lot of the old awfull code from 1998 has also gone the way of the dodo.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Today I am experiencing 'ne-pagh' which is Klingon for 'deja-vu'. This is because I am working on the layout of the newspaper in The Movies, which is something I did about 2 Years ago at Elixir on Republic: the revolution. Quite good fun I guess.
Got buckets of work done on StarLines last night, finally getting close to the stage where I can dump a big chunk of old useless code and get on with some more fun stuff.
I have got a number of emails from customers recently who are waiting to get CDs sent to them, even though it says in the registration emails how to enter the codes. I guess I Need to make it more obvious that no physical CD ships with the purchase. Ho hum.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

It seems that the idea of paying to subscribe to the indie game forums at Dexterity.Com has come up. I think this would be a fantastic idea. The Dexterity forum has become THE place for serious minded indies (people aiming to sell more than a dozen copies of a game) to discuss industry related issues, and its in danger of suffering from too high a signal to nosie ratio. I'm looking forward to seeing what Steve does to address the problem, personally I think he is too astute a biz person to continue subsidising 8GB a month of forum traffic. My own site gets approx 300MB a day which is around 9 Gig, I dont think I'd pay what I do unless I was getting something backj. presumably my site generates some sales? ;)

Got another royalty report from realgames this morning. not very encouraging, conversion rates seemed to have taken a dive. I sold 34 copies of starlines with a conversion rate of 0.61% which is very low. (this is formay i think).
The month before was 0.95% and it has been way higher in the past. oh well.
And sold a shareware copy today which is cool.
I saw the famnous half-life 2 videos yesterday for the first time and they blew me away. Methinks I need to get my finger out and improve StarLines. I know its not a AAA shooter, but gamers will begin to expect better and better games as these kind of titles come out...

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Precious few sales today unfortunately. On the bright side, the Movies is being especially fun to code the last few days. Currently working on making people die! Movie stars and famous directors etc will all keel over and die at some stage (from old age). The death animations are excellent.
Im also proud of he AI code that assigns assistants to famous celebs. I call these 'people' as in "my people will talk to your peopls and we'll do lunch".
Its going to be a very fun game.
Anyway, enough of that, time to play StarMonkey or BF1942!

Monday, July 14, 2003

Probably get time to do yet more gui code tonite for StarLines. Looks suspiciously like is gone for good.
I think its worth me promoting this link, even though its nothing to do with games or coding:
Parks Sabers
This is the company I got my replica lightsabre from. Its absolutely excellent. Some might think its sad, but hey, its my money!
It looks fantastic at night, in fact I used it in the garden when I was trying to attract the cats attention.
I have the Rogue model.

Jadzia (the cat) went out late last night and didnt come back... We dont have a catflap, so I have to wait by the patio doors till she comes back... So I was waiting till at least 1AM, when she casually sauntered back in.
pesky cat.
I am thus truly knackered.
However just sold 2 games this morning, so thats good, including a shareware copy of Asteroid Miner. Havent sold one of them for a few weeks.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Trying to work my way through more GUI updating for StarLines in swealtering heat here...
Things arent helped by the incredibly long compile times on my home machine. Not only is it an old Athlon 850, but the way StarLines was originallyt written involved practially all .h files including each other, so the slightest change can take hours. Im slowly correcting all this, but its long tedious work, not suited to a minor heatwave.

One thing I also do with my code now is include a file called "incallcpp.h" in all of my cpp files. I learned this at Elxiir. Basically it has all the commonly used stuff whose headers rarely change, so all the windows files I use, plus a few from my library I use in all my games. Its a big timesaver.

Saturday, July 12, 2003

Looks like gamextazy has been down all day. So much for it being a cool site!. Also my email server is down, although webmail confirms another StarLines Shareware sale today, which is cool.
I am full of ideas for my day job working at lionhead, so Im about to start working on a document for monday which I'm internally thinking of my 'Jerry McGuire' moment, although hopefully it wont get me sacked etc.

Only 1 sale this morning, though a few trickled through last night. Also a royalty check turned up from RegNow yesterday which is cool.
My mornings email included the regular RealGames newsletter. RealGames are a gppd company, but they seem to be painting themselves into a niche by only promoting their puzzle games. Its got bad enough now that anyone that goes there looking for non puzzle games probably leaves the site straight away, not realising there are gems like StarLines and StarMonkey buried in there! There is a danger that many sites go this way, among them.
One site that doesnt have this problem is which is excellent, well organised and has lots of great games. I've spent some money advertising there and got mixed results, but I'll probably blow some more cash on ads there when I re-release StarLines.

Friday, July 11, 2003

swapped the fan last night, and this morning some hefty bending of bits with the screwdriver means my case is now shut. I think it is noticeably quieter. especially the hard drive. Not quite worth the money though somehow. Added to this I feel awfull. combination of hayfever and other ills I reckon. At least work will be cool today, lots of fun new stuff to add to the code. Luckily Lionhead starts work at 10am, so I miss most of the Rush hour traffic and get to surf a bit before work. Hurrah.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

I have sweat running down my back and the room is full of screws and acoustic foam.
Thats what it means to install this case. jesus, talk about a tight fit. so tight in fact that i cant close the damn thing, so at the moment my totally silent PC is LOUDER than it was 4 hours ago. jeez what a downer.
I think I might summon the enr=ergy to hammer the thing shut in the morning but Im knackered...
And i had trouble connecting the reset button, LEDS and speaker without it beeping lots and not shutting dwon.
at least the hard drives and Mobo survived though. I had to swap processor fans because my 2 fan-array knocked up against the case in its original state. methinks I now have the noiser fan running, so Ill try swapping them in the morning...
so no code done tonite...

while my code burns to a backup disk prior to the big case swap I thought I'd waffle about my background etc and how I got to be doing what I'm doing now:

I've been writing games as a hobby for eons, starting with the 1k RAM ZX81 when I was about 11. I didnt get serious about writing games until about 5 or so years ago. Initially I did it as a hobby while I worked in IT, eventually I had a few games selling well enough on the web that I thought I could do it full time. This lasted about a year, during which I burnt through most of my savings from my IT days and basically failed to make enough money to live on. At that point I ended up working at ELIXIR, which was at the time my dream job, as I was keen to work on Republic : The Revolution.
I was at Elixir for about a year and a half but eventually got sick of the four hours a day commute!
I then went indie again for a few months, during which I wrote Planetary Defense, which doesnt sell that well, but I'm very proud of. I was then lucky enough to get the The Movies is an excellent game which is huge fun to work on, and Lionhead is certainly one of the best places I have ever worked (and believe me, I have worked lots of places).

My current 'hobby' project is to rewrite my Space Strategy game StarLines INC so that it looks and plays better, and hopefully even sells better. I've learned a hell of a lot since I originally wrote it, so there is lots to be improved upon. I've gone back and improved the game many times since I first wrote it, and have always thought it sold better afterwards. I dont have concrete figures to prove that theory unfortunately!
I'll post some more codey thoughts once I've moved past the current work, which is moving the code for the starport GUI over to my new classes, and is a bit tedious.

This acousticase ships with twenty gigatons of foam and plastic sheeting. might take all night...

Case arrived yesterday. The IT dudes presumed it was theirs because it was a case... ho hum. anyway I have it now. Must remember to back up everything important before I switch the components over tonite...
Air conditioning at lionhead kicks ass. Its seriously hot here at the moment, but as cool as a cucumber at work. W00t.

Sold 2 copies of StarLines this morning... Trying to track my acousticase from dabs, using parcelforces website. What a disaster. Firstly why have they sent it as 2 packages? and why does their website say both have been delivered yesterday? maybe it will be waiting for me when i get to work, but I just KNOW it will turn out to be one of those nightmares where you end up on hold to customer service for hours. Some companies customer service is just a joke...

spent some time last night updating the GUI for StarLines. Under the old system the windows all shared the same class (GWindow) using a horrid switch() statement to draw different contents. This was back in 1999 when I knew sod all about proper class hierarchies. So now GWindow is more of a base class, and each window is a custom object derived from it, which means more source code, but allows me to apply custom effects to each window whilst still keeping the code structured and organised.
Its a long struggle though, I expect to finish updating the StarLines GUI within a month or so. Lets hope it boosts sales!
Wish me luck with my acousticase!

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

A total of 3 copies of StarLines sold today through RealGames. About to start coding the new interface for it again..
I got one email today from someone who bought my 'super games bundle' and is waiting for a parcel to arrive. I need to make it clearer to people that I deal in downloadable games with serial numbers... Waiting for a physical CD to ship is totally unneeded these days, but I think the word 'bundle' confuses people on this point.
Anyway as promised... heres my cat jadzia (yes named after jadzia dax from star trek). This pictures quite old now... shes more mature and less innocent looking:

We need more women working in the games industry. Some of the sexist drivel that gets released as videogames, especially on the X-box makes me cringe. No wonder women dont play games. bah!

hmmmm Battlefield 1942 can be fun... but sometimes people are soooo good at it (or so determined to win) that the fun dissapears. After you have been divebombed for the tenth time you end up bored rather than entertained... oh well, at least I played StarMonkey a bit at lunchtime. that was fun...
So my new intellimouse has turned up (in a mostly empty box) but no acousticase.... methinks they should have shipped together?
whats up with!

bah! Turned up at work and our source control software is down. dang. cant do anything till its fixed, not only that but I left my bag of maltesers on the table at home. I'm sure my cat will eat them before I get home.... Only sold 1 game this morning, sales of the shareware games are pretty low at the moment which is weird, as sales through Realgames continue as normal. Also at the end of the month I can expect a check from egames, which sells a number of compilations with my games on. Their royalty split is pretty dire, but they shift enough copies that its still a good deal, and I dont get any grief or tech support from them, just a quarterly check which is how it should be. Its a big contrast with some of the idiots I have dealt with in the retail sector. In some cases I actually have more christmas cards than royalty checks from them, which goes to show how long it takes to get any money out of retail publishers.
Ho hum.
I will do my best to add the obligatory cat picture to my blog tonite. She was playing with my lightsabre last night which would have made a great photo...

Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Just heard that I should get my acousticase tommorow. hurrah!
Checking my email also tells me that I've sold 3 copies of StarLines INC today through RealGames, which isnt bad. Its my best-selling game so far, having sold over 1,600 copies, although not all of them were at the full price (and I dont get $17 a copy through Realgames, which I do get when I sell a copy as Shareware.)
I'm currently redoing the interface for StarLines in the odd evening now and then, and its looking better than ever. Its quite scary to look back at code you wrote in 1999 and see just how shoddy your code design was. ho hum.

Time to plug a few products I guess. I can't recommend Visual Assist highly enough! I use this at work all the time, and am seriously considering shelling out for the full version at home too, as it saves so much time. Basically its intellisense for Visual Studio, and totally invaluble when you get used to it.
Secondly I'd plug SmartFTP, which is the best FTP program I've ever seen, putting stuff like FTP Explorer or Leech to shame. Not that its that importanat to me now I have broadband, but still good to have.

Lunchtime. W00t! Time to wade through a few more levels of Elite Force II, not that its any good, but hey, its something to do. Its a real pity that a game like this hasnt progressed past the 'find the key to open the door' kind of puzzles we had in games when I was at school over 20 years ago... ho hum.
And another major bug fixed just in time for lunch. So far so good!

My day is occasionally punctuated by checking to see the progress of the cool super-noiseless PC case I ordered in a flurry of excitement last night. Its ordered from dabs, but made by acoustiproducts. check it out:

My Home PC sits in the living room, so I'm hoping to quiet it down to the decibel level of a sleeping field mouse. I already have a super quiet PSU, but the poxy CPU fan and video card fan make enough of a racket to justify a quiet case. Plus it puts me off buying a new PC for another few months, which is good.

Wow its the next morning and I am still motivated by my blog. Truly amazing...
Heres something that made me chuckle this morning:
Preacher asks for a sign

This morning someone in the office has offered everyone apples and oranges. How strange. Doesn't he realise this is a games company? we live on donuts my good man!

Also some good news... I have faith that the bug that was plagueing me most of yesterday is close to being crunched. oh yes... victory will be mine.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Wow I am genuinely amazed at how easy it is to set up a blog. If only all online dealings were so easy... Anyway time for a brief intro I guess...
My name is Cliff Harris, I'm a games developer living not too far from London in the UK. I currently work for Lionhead Studios, one of the UKs most famous game developers, and am a programmer on the game 'The Movies'. Theres all sorts of stuff about lionhead here:
Before I got a job at lionhead I worked at Elixir Studios, and before that I was a shareware developer working from home making PC games as a kind of 1-man company. This company was called positech, and you can see my efforts here:
Not exactly Sim City 4, but not exactly Tetris either!

I'll probably fill up my blog with geeky ramblings about code, star trek and probably the odd reference to my cat. As I understand it, its actually illegal to have a blog without peppering it with cat photos, so I'll probably get round to adding some of those at some stage.

Here we are, its 21.57pm here in the UK, and due to my attempts to play Battlefield 1942 proving dismal failures I have decided to start a blog. Who knows what will end up in here, or whether it will die a death after a few days, but so far so good...