Game Design, Programming and running a one-man games business…

Finally moving to Directx9

Up until my new game (still un-named) I’ve been using version 7 of directx in my engine. How old is directx7 well lets see…

When Directx7 came out…

The Dow Jones was around 10,305 (it's 8,903 today!)
Harold Shipman had just been found guilty of murder.
George W Bush had just won the primaries, along with Al Gore.
Vladimir Putin was about to be elected head of Russia.

so it’s….

March 8th 2000.

So I think we can all agree it’s the time I GOT WITH THE TIMES, and at least caught up as far as DX9. It’s going quite well, I have lots of groovy stuff on screen, with decent frame rates despite zero real optimisations. So that’s cool (still need to get my text engine ported accross).

Why do it?

I wanted to do a game with lots of flashy graphics in, and have decent driver support. DX7 is unsupported now, and the nvidia profiling tools only work with directx9. A lot of cards are now just emulating dx7 using dx9 calls anyway, so it’s silly not to talk to the card in a language it understands.

Why not DX10?

That isn’t as widespread on peoples machines. Although my next game will not be that casual, I don’t want to assume people have DX10, as I certainly won’t be including it in my games installer. It offers no real advantage for 2D gaming over DX9, AFAIK.

Simulation Game of the year 2008


Looks like I got the #1 and #2 spots at the gametunnel sim game of 2008 awards (for Kudos 2 and Democracy 2)

If anyone has a digg account and can digg it here, I’d really appreciate it. Or maybe you have a stumbleupon account and the stumbelupon toolbar? If so can you thumbs-up that page? Actually I’ve really come to like the stumbleupon system, it often recommends some really decent sites to me I’d never find otherwise.

How To Change Career (and why you probably should)

I know someone who works in local government but wants to be a historian. I know someone who works in science but wants to be an author. I know another scientist who would like to be a photographer.

Like most people, they don’t change. They don’t change what they do for a number of reasons. Some are practical, some are emotional. I’d wager that the majority of people out there are not in the career they want to be in. I’m sure all of them can justify to other people, and themselves why they shouldn’t change their career, even though deep down they know they have the wrong one.

Few of us have grand plans for what we want to do with our lives aged 16 (when many people make educational choices that will determine teir future careers). I wanted to be a special effects cameraman, Then a heavy metal guitar hero. Then a computer games designer.

I ended up working as a boat builder, for no more illustrious reason that I happened to be sat next to a kid at college who worked there at weekends and we became friends. I’m sure some of you reading this have ‘fallen into’ a career that way, and it’s never one you would have chosen as your life’s goal, back then, let alone right now.

Of all the reasons to change, the most depressing one is the fact that it would mean a drop in your standard of living in the short term. “I get good money as a senior cubicle sweeper, why would I quit it to be a lowly paid actor doing bit parts in daytime TV?” sounds very reasonable in the short term (and assuming you won’t actually be a successful actor), but when it comes to career, thinking short term is madness. So it might take you five years or ten years to get back to where you are now in your new career, don’t you owe it to yourself to make the best of your life? Do you really want to be sat there aged 50 wishing you’d given it a go?

I quit my boat-building job and was unemployed for eight months, doing the odd manual job when it showed up. Eventually I got a job as an IT hardware engineer for £11k a year. it was hell. Within a year I had a better job for a company in the city for £16. they promoted me to about £22 as I recall. After 2 years I left there to work for an IT training company for £30k, then eventually (after doing an MCSE in my spare time) I got a job as an IT consultant for £48 then £55k. Things were suddenly much better than they would ever have been building boats.

After getting fed up with all that I changed careers again, having taught myself C++ from mail order courses and evening classes. I got a job at Elixir for about half my IT consultant salary.


Then after 2 years I went to lionhead and earned a bit more, then got a bit more. Then I effectively changed career again to run positech and effectively halved my salary again.


Now I work for myself, and I’ve climbed back to where I was before, only this time I have my dream job and no boss. From boat-builder to computer game designer took me twenty years and 3 career changes. It’s not exactly easy.

But it can be done. And if you are sat there thinking your dream job is far too removed from what you do, remember that you read the blog of a guy who used to nail boats together all day and now programs computer games. If I can make that career change, you can make yours.

Game Developers Interviewers Suck

Since when did game developers all become indoctrinate dby marketing and PR bullshit? It seems now that a lot of the interviews you read with actual coders and designers (not the publishers) have stuff like this in:

“It was an incredible thrill and privilege to be able to leverage the awesome IP from that title to provide a compelling and dynamic experience for this platform, and it will be available across multiple SKUs”

Nobody wants tor ead that crap except shareholders.  What I want to know is the honest thoughts and opinions and experiences of people. But you don’t get that, just a lot of marketing speak. People are interviewed, then everything interesting gets censored by the marketing dept until its just character-less, souless mediaspeak.

Here’s some brutally honest comments by me on some of my own games and indieness. if I had a PR manager, he or she would never let me say this stuff:

“Starship tycoon is basically transport tycoon in space. I was originally doing a space combat game, but for some reason I don’t even recall it got converted to a space trading one. I was a pretty crap coder when I made that game, and although generally it runs well 90% of the time for 95% of the people, you should check out the demo first, because it *does* have some bugs in it, and tbh they are not about to get fixed.”

“Kudos 2’s days at work are the low point of the game. I just didn’t have the budget, manpower and time to write enough events for all the differnt jobs, and I was delusional thinking I could do it. When I play the game, I do find myself skipping the text descriptions of my day at work. It’s the one design bit I don’t like.”

“Right now there is a price war going on between the casual games portals, and it’s going to seriously squeeze a lot of the smaller casual game developers out of business. Personally, I don’t care that much, because a lot of them are just churning out diner dash rip-offs for someone else anyway. Would we really give a damn if they went out of business?”

Wouldn’t it be more fun if every develoepr interview was mroe like that? I think so :D