Thursday, January 19, 2012

In the year 2012

Time to write a new love letter to this blog, don't you think? The video got received well so far, and maybe, with a bit luck, we may even appear in a real paper magazine! Isn't that just awesome? I remember reading those Club Nintendo and game magazines (PU in Holland) every month, carefully sucking up details because who knows... maybe your game will be reviewed some day! Ok, since this is a game-programming magazine, the article won't be a real preview of Tower22 where the writer played the game and makes pictures with funny jokes of it. It's more focused on the development, the team behind it, and getting some facts about the game. Anyway, I keep you updated!

As for the Uncle Sam-needs-sick-horror-fans-with-drawing-or-3D-skills recruitment session, we got about 12 offers so far. It's less stormy than a year ago, but maybe that's also an indication our requirements are formulated better. Previous year the offers would vary from good to very bad, and from 3D artists to Peruvian panflute bands we didn't ask for. So, I can't complain. so far three candidates have been selected. Still not the uber-artist I may have dreamed off, but it's probably a bit unrealistic to expect Pixar-dudes to browse the "Unpaid jobs / MOD help" forums, looking for an extra hobby project. Previous time I cheated a bit by placing the request on a "Freelance" forum (per accident) instead.

Skills and some natural talent are surely important. But maybe an even more important factor is devotion. Like most skills, artists will improve themselves if they work long enough on something. We programmers need art, them artists need a challenge, so we help each other out. But the amount of work (or will to work) we spend on it, differs for each person. You could have 10 supertalented people, game-Ronaldinho's. But obviously, if all those talents only have a few hours on unreliable random intervals, it's still going to fail.

And just maybe... maybe the somewhat less experienced boys & girls have more time on theirvhands. They're not spending 40+ hours on Toy Story 4 each week. So while a professional comes home with a headache of being creative all day, a starter loves to spend all his free night hours on drawing / modeling / composing... And where a professional may get bored quicker cause he's been there and done that, a starter may be more passionate about a project.

We'll see. I think the guys who mailed me make a nice addition to the team. If it really works out can't be foreseen by looking how talented someone is. Their love and devotion for the project is what excels them in the end, not skills alone. Some are enthusiast and helpful. Others join a team, then come up with excuses every week because they found out they rather spend their free time on something else. Playing World-of-Warcraft, sleeping, girls, whatever. Personally I don't believe the "extremely busy with work" excuses that much. Of course work(+family) can eat all your time, leave you dead-tired and incapable of doing anything productive. But not for weeks/months in a row. And yes, I have a kid and two jobs as well, so I know what I’m talking about. In the end it's your decision how you fill up the hours before going to bed or your weekends. There is always some time for the things you truly love!

But you can't force anyone of course, unless you pay their salaries. Neither can I expect a newcomer to share the same enthusiasm and love for the project. They just want to apply & improve their creative impulses on something useful... like a promising game project! So it's my task to keep them locked & loaded with challenging, fun-to-do assignments. Makes sense right? Most people just do what their boss asks on work. If the boss has nothing interesting, some will suggest or create their own work... but most others start Mine-Sweeper or take a nap at the job. Can't really blame them either...

This was one of the things I had to learn in 2011 (and still have to learn); keeping them at work with satisfying tasks, following a good strategy. It's not that I had nothing to do for them. Christ no, there are thousands of objects, textures, drawings and sounds I can think of. But you have to dose it in a good way, at the right time. No one likes modeling a stupid Ming vase that *might* be used for a map in a far future. No, distillate the tasks that are relevant and have to implemented right now. Don't bombard them either with 40 assets they can choose from. Just don't bother them with details that aren't important yet. If they really wanna know, they ask you anyway

At the beginning, I thought it would be gentle to let the whole team think with every decision. Democracy you know. We can do A or B... or C if you like. Then half of the team has a different opinion you hoped for, or just doesn't reply which makes everything hold up. Since I was afraid to pick a direction that the others may not like, I asked and shared everything. And since I don't want "my artists" to spend their time on jobs they don't really like, I also gave them pretty big lists so they could pick their own tasks, allowing them to make their own schedules. Now that's sweet, right? Too bad it doesn't really work though. To compare with the chief at the office again, what would you do if your chief gives you 100 tasks that need be done "some time", "maybe"? Exactly, it would be chaos. Everything will be delayed as long as possible, tasks will be forgotten, et cetera. If the boss doesn’t really care about task-X, then why should you? It's not your responsibility to create a strategy and vision for your company. That's what the boss is for! What else he gets paid for?!

It's not I'm leading Tower22 on Stalin-style now. I still ask what people prefer, and allow them to think with me, if they like. But at the same time, I must prioritize and make a clear plan for the next half year. If there are doubts or no answers from the team, then just follow your intuition. Don't stand still at each intersection point, and don't always try to find solutions that each and everyone likes. Keep your project going, and keep your artists doing what they really like; modeling, drawing, making sound, et cetera. And if they can't, just move the task to someone else.

This is how the monster looked in earlier versions of the room

So captain Costa Concordia, where are we heading to? I tell you.

1.) Game-time. So far the T22 TechDemo movie got praised for sound and graphics. Nice of course, but that still doesn't make a game a game. So as for programming, I will focus on making it playable. A full-screen "game.exe", a human player to control, physics that CAN climb a stair (damn that's hard), a basic GUI (menu's, bars, inventory) and animations. That's why "GUI Designer" and "Animator" we're mentioned in the movie as well btw. That probably takes me at least half a year. Robert will try to finish the player model as well.

2.) Demo 2. The artists will focus on drawing and then producing the contents for a next (and possibly last) demo. This demo will show real T22 gameplay again, not just a flight through some wacky radar station. So, that gives me a also a good testcase for goal 1.

3.) Tower22 preparations. Hopefully we will get enough concept-art time this year. The concept-artist(s), Brian(writer) and me should develop the ideas further for T22. The whole thing is already done by me, but I need input to fill in the detailed spots. Plus the long boring texts have to be transformed to pictures. Most important to get us started on the game content, is to have the first section of the building designed, so after Demo2 we can start on that.

4.) Graphics? Not much planned for the next months, but I should improve the performance. One trick is to optimize passing shader parameters. So I'll be looking into OpenGL's "Uniform Buffer Object" some day. I let you know.

5.) Programming help. It hurts the ego, but I may need 1 or 2 (Delphi) programmers to get some load of the shoulders. They will be making specific parts of the GUI, and improving the tools the our artists use. I let you know once it’s needed.

6.) Blog. I'm planning to write a "Radar Station" making off, and a Newton physics tutorial that handles character controls. But only if I succeed in making a controllable character myself! Luckily Julio Perez, the creator of Newton (the engine, not the guy) noticed T22 and is making a demo already. That should help me getting on the tracks.

Sounds like a lot? Never said making games was easy! Ship ahoy.


  1. I'm sorry that i can't help you, because i have enough myself w/ FARC. But i whish you good luck to find these 2 team members. Delphi dev aren't legion these last years.
    Keep it up !

  2. Thank you! Hopefully the review in the PGD magazine will show Delphi/Pascal isn't dead. It stops where your effort and imagination stops, not where a programming language stops.

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  3. Hello. I would like to help, but lately I don't have the time (full time job + exams at the university). But maybe in the summer ... if I had more time, I will answer to you :) good luck in project.

    1. Well, I'm still charmed by your drawings, so your welcome whenever time will be on your side. Good luck with thise exams!