Thursday, June 27, 2013

Working class zero

What's happening here? Lost your typing-thumb, Rick?

Yes, I know there aren't much updates lately, and that I'm recycling the same room screenshots over and over again (so, no screenshot this time). And if you have followed other "hobby" projects or Mods before, than your doctor instincts may tell that these are the typical symptoms of a slowly dying patient.

Does that mean...? Nah. Nelson Mandela might pass away (peace is with him), but this project isn't dead yet. It's running almost three years now, and I've been programming the engine for at least six years. You don't think I would suddenly stop now, do you? My girl has to ask for two years before I finally fix a plank or paint the shed. And if I say "I'll do that right away honey!", it can be translated into "What were you saying honey?!". I’m lazy. But, when it comes to programming my babies, I’m very determined.

No the reason that you read and see little here lately, is simply due the amount of work. Real work I mean, a job. It's always busy during the summers when the harvesting season starts (one of my jobs is making agricultural machines, for Ploeger), but usually I can find some free hours during the nights or weekends otherwise. Or fantasize a little at the office when it’s not too busy.

This time however, it’s insane. And if I say “insane”, it really is insane. I never complain about doing overwork, but let’s just say the working days don’t stop at six รณ clock. Waking up and going to bed with work (and yes, I wake up early and go late to bed). Also in the weekends. Since I’ve been doing that for two months now, my mind is 200% focused on the job. So switching to another complex project such as Tower22 in the few free hours, is simply not doable right now. DJ Bootsy can’t mix Shania Twain with Sepultura either. The few free hours are to drink beer, or demolish a “new” old house a friend just bought. Or to see my daughter. Last time she fabricated full diapers, now she is almost five again, has tattoos, smokes cigarettes and comes home with other (5-year old) boy scum.

On top of the regular summer-work (= programming new features & helping our service guys & visiting (angry) farmers), new prototype machines have to be made. New design, new diesel engine, new cabin, new controls, new electrical lay-outs, new touchscreen, new controller modules, new graphics, new everything. And of course we didn't just plan a single prototype machine. Nope, two other machines are made by our partner companies (Oxbo & PMC) as well, and there is still another one planned a bit later. But besides just programming whatever needs to be programmed, these particular tasks brings a whole new challenge as well: working with other people!

Normally I program everything on solo (same for T22). Which is a lot of work, then again it gives you full control over the project, and you decide the tempo. When working with other people, you have to trust and rely on them. The obvious advantage of having multiple puppets working on the same thing, is that you can spread tasks and work in parallel... If you have a well oiled team at least. Luckily Tower22 gave me some experience when it comes to teamwork, though my partners here are artists instead of technicians... Artists might be more “lazy”, but technicians on the other hand are (far) more stubborn. So quite a lot time is spend on sharing documents, explaining new technologies and trying to convince them. And swallowing your own ego sometimes. Having them living on the other side of the planet, and never met some of them doesn’t help much either. Be patient and keep smiling!

All right, one screenshot then. Otherwise this post looks so boring. Diego has been drawing all kinds of decals lately. Switches, wires, cracks, stains, dirt, rotten leafs, more dirt... Oh and this environment still looks pretty clean for a horror game. Not everything needs to look like puke of course.

Always look at the bright side of work
Oh well, I’m sure things get better when we know each other a bit longer, and when we manage to finish the first machines as a team. It’s always satisfying to see the giant monsters in action as an end result. It’s just that there is a bit (too) much information, work, and new faces are coming on my plate from all directions. So that leaves no time for T22 now. I also have a second job as well, so the head simply is full. The problem with programming is that you can't just start for 30 minutes and leave it behind again. Well, you can, but putting unfinished code back on the shelf is bad mojo. Do it good / finish it, or don't start on it, that is my experience.

Anyway, fortunately, this whole situation is only temporarily. We’ll be back in action when the farm manure settled down. The other good news is that, even though they’re busy as well, some of the T22 team guys are working on an awesome monster as we speak. The mesh (by Julio) is pretty much done, and this time we have a rigger (Stephen Wong) and an animator (Antonio Yanez) to jolt it alive. No more shitty Milkshape animations from my hand! Also the environment for the next demo is almost done. And Robert made another monster we can play further with after the upcoming demo. The planned summer-release of this demo might not be realistic with all the summer-work, but hopefully we can surprise you this autumn.

And when we do that, I’ll push the demo towards a popular Dutch gaming magazine as well. The teamwork on both Tower22 and my job, learned me a valuable lesson: face-to-face. You can email, Twitter and Skype all you want, but in the end people are best instructed and motivated if you just work in the same physical place. Despite all the technology, some things will never change. So hopefully this demo + note in a games magazine can bring me in contact with Dutch artists that can come over here for a beer. No matter how late I go to bed, a better structured team is really necessary to get Tower22 done.

Another little plus of all this working, is that I earned some extras. So, let’s stimulate our lousy economy a bit by buying a Wacom Cintiq ! No, not the huge ones. Just a 12” (used) one to start with. I can’t draw for shit on my Intuos due the lack of practicing, so it would be a bit stupid to buy a professional (expensive!!) tablet and expect everything would suddenly change. If you hardly hit the road, you don’t buy a Ferrari either. Unless you have too much money… ah never mind. You get the point.

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