Graphics Cards

•30 October, 2010 • Leave a Comment

As a PC gamer, amongst many other gaming-related hobbies, my GPU is something that frequently comes up in conversation with fellow tech/gadget geeks.

While the battle is certainly still on between Nvidia and ATI – after a long list of Nvidia cards which kept me entertained over the years, there was a certain incident (it only takes one, when dealing with this kind of expense) where a friend bought an Nvidia which held terrible (non-)performance with awful stability, for a modern game we both wanted, from a reputable Publisher. This was the turning point, where we’d both start spending less money per card on a less familiar brand (maybe “less familiar” wasn’t true; just less… trusted), and it would seem I haven’t looked back.

It has since become very clear that I’ll be sticking with ATIs, and I’m still very happy with my ATI Radeon HD 4870. Despite my complete lack of comprehension of the illogical names and numbers on the devices, I’ve been looking today at the 5870, starting at £270. The Nvidia equivalent, the 480, starts at £357. Perhaps it will be a little while longer until I upgrade after all, but it’s clear which manufacturer I’ll be sticking with!

Now, do I trust Steam to update the drivers?…

Windows Phone 7 Series update

•12 October, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’ve just read that the launch phones in the UK will be:

– HTC 7 Mozart (Orange only)
– Samsung Omnia 7 (Orange, T-Mobile, 3)
– HTC 7 Trophy (Vodafone only)
– LG Optimus 7
– HTC HD7
– Dell Venue Pro

From those, it looks like the Dell is the only one with a physical keyboard, so I guess that’s the phone for me!

I’ve decided to wait until early next year though, when the promised early features (e.g. cut & paste) are all in. By then, there may well be other devices in the range. Looking at the suggestion that they’ll all be very similar hardware to the minimum spec (gsmarena.com is a fantastic source), I can’t see the devices being massively different, unless any of the Operators break them with poor embedded software…

Perfectly good old games…

•10 October, 2010 • 3 Comments

Hmm, it’s 1.10, 10/10/’10!

Anyway, I thought I’d post about an idea I’ve recently put a bit of thought into – something I might even pursue (well, at least look into) as a specialist if I don’t have much luck with my other endeavours.

It’s not exactly a new idea; Square Enix do it to some extent with some of their old gems, and Team Ico are doing it now – but it’s an idea I’ve been thinking about since reading the news yesterday about a new ‘Shenmue’ title coming soon; something that came to me after reading the heated excited/disappointed debate following the news that it won’t be ‘Shenmue 3’.

There are now plans for remastered versions of ‘ICO’ & ‘Shadow of the Colossus’, bundled together (announced at Tokyo Game Show 2010); a re-release of Medal of Honor: Frontline is coming soon in HD, and there’s always been speculation (and huge demand) for Final Fantasy VII on the PS3 – but why don’t all giant companies with a long list of popular older IP set out a separate team, or hire an external small team (a couple of artists, a good engineer, and an experienced sound guy) to port their back-catalogue to newer hardware?

The Shenmue reference earlier was specifically because the news got me thinking – Sega could finally pull a profit from the games, and consider funding the third game that every Sega fan of a certain age has always wanted. There’s tons more source out there that people must be sitting on, too, which surely could be put to good use, or be given to another team for them to put it to good use…

I don’t believe that fans even expect many enhancements (but would potentially appreciate them, so long as they’re not forced on them) – and on the other hand, it could be the opportunity over-optimistic developers have been waiting for to use the visual effects that they never could when initially developing the games…

With this idea, there’s no need to worry about the expense of boxed products – enough people are online who would buy their old favourites, before taking even a moment to consider the lack of trading value and required bandwidth, or how much real money those console store-points cost. Remakes don’t even need to be full HD – new hardware like the 3DS, and even the modern highest-powered mobiles (iPhone 4, Android, and the HD2/Windows Phone 7 Series) offer some serious power for portable ports. If developers can’t/won’t port to any of these devices, there are plenty of DS/mobile developers out there always looking for something to do… It’s time the publishers dug up those old licenses and made use of them.

Anyway, remakes could well be the next big thing. I don’t mean ancient DOS games necessarily (even though I’d love to see that), or even real ‘retro’ games that could do with a facelift for any sequels, rather than being dug up in its traditional limited form – but I’m suggesting PS2 and XBox1 games which can stand their ground for replayability – and maybe other more niche games that saw limited releases on alternative platforms, that (surely?), apart from potential pricing issues, only failed to sell due to being exclusively for failed and doomed consoles – like Shenmue…

Looking for work

•10 September, 2010 • 1 Comment

It’s now been a little over a month since I took my redundancy and left Elite. I’ve spent that time reviewing the last ~6 years, applying for exciting roles, exploring further education options, and writing my own concepts. I’ve also taken this time to enjoy my music collection, research and discover new technologies, and enjoy local events and art facilities, etc.

This weekend is ArtsFest in Birmingham, where today I particularly enjoyed some solo acoustic guitar and an incredible pianist (Rich Batsford). I can’t wait to see what else the (giant, free) festival has to offer.

However, despite enjoying taking a little time off, I can’t help but feel a little like a failed rock-star at the moment. A rock-star who’s spent years in his first band – a band that has decided they’re not selling any albums, so they don’t need a guitarist anymore. But, looking on the bright side, they didn’t play my favourite genres anyway (keeping with the wonderful analogy) so while I very much appreciate the opportunity to get the experience, I’ll just have to find another more interesting band. I’m looking forward to my persistence paying off…

Windows Phone 7 Series

•27 August, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’m fascinated by WP7. I’ve been keeping a close eye on Engadget for news, and I’m considering that my next phone will probably be an LG or Dell (I need a real keyboard for my own phone – I hate the way mobile input seems to be changing to be exclusively touch-screen).

The windowsphone7.com backstage website posted a long list earlier this month of the lineup of games, and I applied last month to find out more information about the jobs being advertised at MGS Mobile. (I haven’t yet heard anything back)

Most interestingly, regarding that list of games, is that it’s not the same guys cashing in on the iPhone. I guess we’ll see some the big Publishers testing the water, alongside Zune developers (a set of devices I’ve always wanted to try, but have sadly been excluded from being able to, thanks to being stuck in the UK), XBox 360 developers; and a ton of content from Microsoft themselves here. If there isn’t a cascade of terrible games and apps, like on the iPhone, I can see them really getting somewhere with a quality App Store.

I see a potential success story in the making… if only:

  • half of the OS features weren’t all ‘coming soon after release’. If they can release the new features quickly (and they all work!), I believe WP7 will have a fast-increasing slice of the market-share pie chart very soon.
  • they set up an excellent QA team, and they’re clever and careful about whose games they sell. The excellent quality Indie games should definitely be allowed to shine, but they should definitely turn away anything that has no purpose, no polish and little effort.
  • the price is right. Nothing has been announced, but the minimum specs the manufacturers have to stick to, as required by Microsoft, sounds like some very expensive hardware.

We’ll just have to wait and see!

Compilation

•8 July, 2010 • Leave a Comment

It doesn’t look like Elite will be taking on the concept I’ve had since March, which is a shame, as historically it is a tried and tested concept, which I’d personally love to have  an attempt at, as it’s something I’ve not seen brought to modern devices very well.

Instead, we’re looking at compiling a collection of same-genre popular games. I’ve not had a lot of the Developers/Publishers that I’ve approached take to this opportunity yet, which is a shame, but perhaps we’ll have something to show for my work in the coming weeks.

I’m working my notice this month – this may be recalled if we can find a way to make money on the iPhone/Android platforms (potentially making the current projects our last attempts) – but ultimately I’ll be applying for more secure roles, and I’ll be suggesting I’m available from October.

Football Fever

•27 May, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I spoke a month ago about a new concept I was working on – well, sadly that’s been put on hold. I’ll be looking at it again next week.

However, we’ll soon be formally announcing our new ‘Come On England’ Football pack, in time for the World Cup.
Essentially, we’ve customised, rebranded and packaged together existing products to make one very good value pack.

Main Screen

Come On England - final Launcher screen

Finding the games

The first task was to get some games. We looked at getting developers of existing football games and apps interested, and producing our own. Researching existing titles was no small task – we had to build a database of games, contacts and details with just iTunes and an iPod Touch at our disposal. There was also a considerable up-front expense to consider when licensing or creating these titles.
We initially set out to create a six-app pack, but it soon became obvious to us that we were very quickly running out of time, and there were multiple issues with some of the titles we’d chosen which would need resolving first. The pack soon became a 3-in-1 ‘kit’.

Making a Launcher

The second task was to find someone who could make the Launcher for us. This was no small task either – the Launcher had to make sure that any resources still in use by an App in the pack are released when returning to the Launcher. This is not something developers normally need to worry about, as the iPod/iPhone can’t generally multi-task, and on pressing the button all memory retained by each app is released; but in our pack we decided we need a ‘Home button’ in each app to return to use the others.

This image was part of my Specifications mock-up:

Launcher mockup

Concept / Mock-up Specification

Branding

The third task was to have our in-house artist rebrand each of the apps, and the Launcher.
Re-arranging the screens with new assets seemed to take a while but helped maintain continuity between the apps.

Improving

The fourth and final task was to customise/’upgrade’ each of the apps, with new features that we felt were important. Our ‘Footy’ game was fine as it was, and the ‘Flag’ looked great, but we had a lot to add to our Stat ‘Tracker’ app.

Submission

Anyway, in the coming days we’ll be submitting these to the App Store in variations of Packs, with Lite versions and Promotional versions; I can’t wait to see them on sale!

6 years!

•19 April, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Today I’m celebrating 6 years at Elite!
This past year has seen more problems arise with platforms, developers and IP holders than we would have liked, but there have still been various mentionable successes, particularly earlier in the year. The demise of the platform I’ve been focussed on for a considerable chunk of the last 6 years has of course meant that I’ve had to consider other new platforms and projects, but we’ve been careful not to have ‘all of our eggs in one basket’.

I’ve spent the last fortnight researching for the project I mentioned in my previous post. I’ve looked at all of the existing and the latest relevant applications that are available on other platforms, and I’ve looked at every existing application on the target platform to see what’s already been done, and to see if there’s anything available that we can look at adapting; as opposed to porting content from a different platform, or making it from scratch.

New concept

•30 March, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I think I’ve found a gap in the market – a type of app which has proved popular since the days of the Spectrum – which has never been brought to handheld devices. There’s probably a very good reason (and I can think of a few good reasons) it’s not been done, but it could be done a lot simpler, at least at first (with more elements being added later, perhaps with a small fee to the end user), and be made easier to pick up for any user.

It would be counter-productive to go in to much detail on here at this stage, but it’s time for me to start researching this game-related ‘genre’ of app. It’s also a brilliant excuse for me to play with related Windows-based apps for a few days.

Writing GDDs

•23 March, 2010 • Leave a Comment

“Implementation Considerations Matrix?! What on Earth is that?” most people would probably ask.

We’ve already spent days on our latest GDD. What started as a ‘simple‘ Platformer, for which each of us had our own image of the final game, based on our own ideas, and influenced by; other games we’ve seen and played, my annotations, our own suggestions along the way, and the difficulties and suggestions encountered along the way for the target platform and hardware, along with maintaining an ‘arcadey’ feel.

It will be great to see some of my ideas appear in the final game. I hope they all come together nicely. There will be plenty more left out 😦

Ultimately, we’ll end up with an excellent GDD (I hope), which we can also recycle for future projects.