Posts Tagged ‘Games’

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The Game Industry in Vancouver

I went to an industry mixer, last night. Met some good people, ate some food and drank a little wine. This was the general take-away message from all the people I talked to: Vancouver’s game industry is currently in a shit storm.. That is pretty much verbatim. A shit storm. If you’ve been following along with the news recently, you’ll know that many companies have been laying off employees and even closing entire studios.

Major job cuts

Business is business

You see, there is this little thing wrapping up called the Fiscal Year. (Canada’s fiscal year starts on April 1st, where as the United States’ fiscal year starts on October 1st – I love you, Wikipedia). When a business sees their expenses were higher and their profits were lower than expectations, they get nervous and pull out the axe. This softens the blow to shareholders, but doesn’t really seem fair to the people whose jobs were cut, does it? But hey, that’s business, I guess. And due to the economic situation, most companies will be picking up the axe. Some companies (I won’t mention any names) are known for doing this and then hiring the people they need back again in the next fiscal year, with new budgets. So once April rolls around, there will be some hiring again and the industry will recover a little. But since we’re in a “financial crisis,” (despite some in the games industry doing quite well: Nintendo, Valve, Blizzard) I don’t think budgets will be as big nor as many people hired back. This means the job market will be flooded with experienced people looking for jobs. Which is pretty much the current situation.

Get in the game?

So how can some fresh blood such as myself get my foot in the door of a full house that’s shrinking? It’s still certainly possible, it’s just not going to be easy. One person I spoke to today said she had to start as a tester and make her way up to Software Engineer (SE) – “which was pretty ridiculous” (her words). Did I mention that EA cut testers EA cut testers? Another person I spoke to suggested giving away services… or an internship to gain some experience. Another suggestion was working with a small outfit (or a couple friends) on an iPhone app. Most of the people I talked to were experienced (10-15yrs), had recently been laid off, and were also looking for jobs. Personally, I’d love to make a WiiWare game. That’s something that would be really cool, but then you have to do the entrepreneurial thing and raise money (I’ve heard investors are less willing to take risks, these days..) – plus there’s that whole experience thing…. I’m not ruling anything out. I’ll keep looking, but now does not seem to be the time to get involved. And I’m not going to limit myself to the games industry, that’s for sure. Or even the IT sector. I decided a while ago that I need a change in my life, so I might do something completely different for a little while. Collect some pennies, meet some people, and gain some (life) experiences, hopefully.

Positive Outlook

Whatever comes, I’m looking forward to it. I have a good feeling. And I’m also looking forward to the industry picking up steam again soon! =) Hey, Ubisoft just acquired Action Pants, and should be expanding – that’s some positive news! 🙂

(Read a related post, from someone in the industry here. Update: Then read the author’s own accounts of her employer, Nexon, shutting down. Fantastic blog with a beautiful range of topics, all of which I enjoy. Subscribed.)

WiiWare and WordPress Update

It was a nice fall day a couple days ago. I really enjoyed this sight, in my backyard. 🙂 Quite overcast and dull, the last couple of days, though.


I updated my About page with my Tetris Party friend code. (Add me!!) It’s pretty fun, but I say that as someone who has never owned a Tetris game before, so I’m not a Tetris vet… (unlike Shirley and Alex, who think the DS game is far superior, apparently). My only real complaint with the game so far is the music – they could have done AWESOME things with it. I want a hoppin 8bit remix of these classic tunes… the included midi, even the classic stuff, is pretty dry and slow. Need something with a faster pace. The computer moves at seemingly impossible speeds at levels above 12, but I suspect that some people out there can play like that, as well. Scary. (Especially the top ranked in the Americas, Java AI … hmmm…) Anyway, I can’t beat level 13 yet. And I think I still like Dr Mario for VS more… so fun. … but Tetris Party offers tonnes of modes, including 4-player vs! That’s pretty cool. Maybe I’ll become a Tetris snob, yet.

While on the topic of Wii(Ware), I also got World of Goo. It’s a really great physics based puzzle title. I really love the dark and comical graphic design (reminds me of Tim Burton’s stuff). The music in Goo is epic, as well. I can’t believe everything was made by two guys (+1 for Wii optimizations); two guys in debt! They’re my heroes. Seriously. Both Tetris Party and World of Goo are the most expensive games on WiiWare ($12 US, $15 US, respectively), but I haven’t been disappointed. And with Goo especially, I don’t have any problem supporting the little guys making great stuff. That’s where I’d like to be. 🙂


I updated my wp-upgrade script to display a big warning to deactivate all your plugins before continuing (wouldn’t want to damage your database!). Then I used it to update to WordPress 2.6.3. I think that makes me largely up-to-date.

Getting Fit

Over the last few days I’ve purchased the following:

New Rollerblades

They seem good, but yesterday I went for a long ride around the Sea Wall (Stanley Park), along English Bay, and around False Creek to Science World and the work-in-progress Olympic Village (which looks nice!) and back to English Bay, then to Pender and Granville. I quickly made a rough route:

25.5km. Not bad! But I my feet and legs were quite sore, in ways they shouldn’t be.. including a couple small blisters (ew). I think I still have to find the right socks/tightness adjustment combo. The rollerblades themselves are 2007 K2 Moto Speeds. I couldn’t find this model on the K2 website, which I found a little strange…. I got them for $130. Getting 2007 vs 2008 (had to go all the way to Metrotown for my size) saved me $30 and apparently they were originally $180 or $190 or something. Oh, it sure is nice having a brake again! 🙂

Wii Fit

I tried this out for the first time, last night. I tried to document my body test, but the video on my camera isn’t that great (another thing I need to look at replacing). Unsurprisingly, it called me overweight with a BMI of 27.95 and weighed me at about 168 lbs. BMI is not a very good measurement for my obesity because I’m rather stocky (heavy for my short height – all this muscle, you know), and height and weight are the only factors. However, I could definitely stand to lose a few pounds, so I set an 8 pound goal over 1 month. It gave me an initial Wii Fit age of 41, which basically means I haven’t gotten used to the balance board yet – I’m sure I could get a better age doing the test again. So far, I’ve only tried a few games and a couple exercises, but I enjoy it! I really like how it tracks and graphs your progress.

I attempted to make a couple annotated youtube videos:

Recent Geekiness

Hmmm… I’ve been pretty quiet on the blog front. Better write something. Show some sign of life. Well, officially 2 weeks of not being gainfully employed and I’ve been making pretty good use of the time, I think! (I know, you’d expect more blog posts from someone who has more time – I’m weird). Even though I haven’t been blogging much, I *have* kept fairly active in Twitter, so if you follow that, it’s kind of like my mini-blog.

So what have I been doing? Naturally, most of my time has been spent on the computer. I finished a tool (written in Python) that I had started in the last week of employment – both for personal satisfaction and for the benefit of a (ex) colleague. I think it will be useful, and that makes me happy. 🙂

Warning: the following is quite long and geeky. Feel free to skip to the end.

Distributions and Open Source 3D

I’ve done a lot of poking around with my computer, fixing lots of problems (and creating a few others). The most serious of these problems was my wireless connection, which appeared to die somewhat suddenly. I ended up trying multiple other Linux distributions over the course of resolving it. OpenSUSE had a nice polish to it, but I found the interface kind of cluttered. They seem to use their YaST back-end for everything configuration-related. Fedora 9 was really well organized and pretty, I was generally very impressed. But the best thing about Fedora 9? 3D acceleration worked when I booted it up! Even on the live CD! Not only that, but because of Fedora’s “Free” motto, this was the open source (ATI Radeon) driver! WHAT?! I couldn’t even get the proprietary (Catalyst) driver to work on Ubuntu!

Obviously, I had to do some more research. I found out that Fedora runs a lot of software that hasn’t been released as “stable” quite yet. Well guess what I’m running on my Ubuntu now? That same software. I’ve noticed my computer crash a few times when I leave certain other experimental software running for a while, but other than that, it’s stable enough for me to keep and enjoy the perks of 3D every now and then. But I certainly can’t advise it unless you’re willing to suffer the consequences – of which, there could definitely be. (I can’t use the closed source drivers, they somehow break my computer.) You could make a bootable thumb drive to test it out first. I did. Start here.

Performance, Games, and Screencasting

I guess I should talk about that. I read someone say the performance of the open source driver (radeon) is about 40% of the closed source driver (fglrx). 3D effects on the desktop work pretty good, but I can’t play FPSs (First Person Shooters) like Sauerbraten – an open source Quake-like game. In fact, I can barely play “Extreme Tux Racer.” Kinda sad. 🙁 But I can play Neverball and CriticalMass! 🙂 Oh, and I can kind of play Frets on Fire, an open source Guitar Hero clone (has a pretty funny tutorial). So the open source drivers aren’t as feature complete or as high performance as the closed source ones, but since AMD/ATI have become more open, releasing documentation and helping out the community, the open source drivers have been quickly closing the gap. This is very exciting for me. 🙂

Anyway, enough of that.. I spent a lot of time playing around with 3d and getting my wireless to work again. And the primary solution to my wireless problem? Turning the wireless router upside down. It still cuts out every now and then, but it’s mostly solid now (although maybe a bit slower, due to some buggy drivers). yay. No Internet makes Steven cry. (I really wish I could run a cable to my room….)

I resolved connection problems with my printer (yet again). Oh, and I also set up mic recording and tested making screencasts. I want to use Istanbul, but it seems to have more problems and fewer options than gtk-recordMyDesktop. I was considering making screencasts, as video tutorials for introducing people to GNOME or other simple things. I’ve written down a few ideas, but I’m not sure where that will go. I would like to do it as a kind of mini series with a bit of polish, but I’d have to look into the somewhat shady world of Linux video editing.


For some reason (perhaps I’m a bit of a masochist) I decided to learn about Debian packaging (creating those lovely .deb files that us Ubuntu users find so handy). My pain was further enhanced by choosing to package a library (Clutter), rather than a normal application. I found the documentation available to be overly verbose and not particularly plentiful – I suppose I wanted something concise and never found it. When I had finally produced two packages (the lib binary and the accompanying dev package) I could install on my system, I didn’t bother because a few other libs depended on the library I was updating, and I was tired of packaging. And I didn’t really want to create an even more unstable system. ^.^ But even though I didn’t use my packages (which I’m sure were far from “Debian” standards) I found the whole thing quite educational and I’m glad I went through it. I have a new respect for package maintainers and perhaps I can now package my own software (if I get around to writing something worth packaging). 🙂

The non (less?) Geeky

Aside from all that geeky stuff, I’ve been spending a bit of time with friends and family, and doing lots of rollerblading. Played RockBand at Jeremy’s birthday on 360. Sung til everyone’s ears bled. Drums are fun. That game is seriously fun. It just came out for Wii, but I think I will wait for the next Guitar Hero which promises even more and should be out in Fall. More is better, right? I like more. Oh and I still have to push out that blog post about my roadtrip….


After a nice brunch with Ben and Mayu (and Emachan!) in the Cove, today, I went and picked up Smash Brothers: Brawl. I called EB and asked, “Do you have lots of copies of Brawl in?” They replied, “Yep!” So I said, “Great!” and went to pick up a copy. When I get there, they say unless I reserved a copy, they’re sold out. Wha…? They had 170 reserved copies and got 24 extra, so they sold out of the 24 extra, but not everyone had picked up their reserved copy yet. Anyway, the trip wasn’t totally in vain, as I signed up for a tournament. (Yes, 10 year olds will hand my ass to me.) Luckily, Superstore (which received 88 copies), was on my way back and had a few left. Whoooot!!

Find me online! Here’s my friend code: 2964-8264-9474. I’m not great. Yet.


I’ve mentioned previously that one of my favourite games on my Amiga computer was Turrican II. Frantic. Platform. Awesomeness. Hard as hell, but awesome. (The difficulty could have had something to do with the fact that I was playing it with joystick meant for flight simulations….) Also, the music is phenomenal. Anyway, I was reminded again of this classic with this week’s release of Super Turrican for the SNES Virtual Console. I had tried Super Turrican due to my fondness of Turrican II, but I remember feeling a little disappointed, so I won’t bother getting it for VC. But Super Turrican II looks a little better, and I might consider that if it comes out. And, if you have a Windows PC, I really recommend checking out this fan-made game, Hurrican. It gets awesome reviews and it looks really sweet. You can get a level editor for it, too! Free. Go get it. Now. While you’re waiting for it to download, you can watch Street Fighter: the Later Years.

Hmm.. While I’m mentioning classic Amiga games that have been remade for Windows, I should also mention Warblade (Shareware), a modern take on Deluxe Galaga.

Less than a week until Brawl (May 9th, 2008)… Yum.

Something Terrible

If you heard someone crying in Deep Cove last night, it was probably me as I formatted my Gamecube memory card. I had got one of those official Nintendo 64MB (the biggest official size) memory cards with the idea that I would never need to get another. When Eric, our current Korean student, was playing Resident Evil 4 and went to save it, a bunch of files said that they were corrupt. That was the first sign. I checked it through the wii menu and it said the card had to be formatted. Faaaan-taaas-tic. I gave in and did it. No sense having a corrupt memory card. All my save files… all those games… RE4, I hadn’t fully enjoyed the rewards from finishing the game, even. Anyway, it was done. Then just now, my sister tried to load her Eternal Darkness game which she had saved since-this-incident, but it said it was corrupt. I guess the memory card has completely died. I’ve never had this happen on my N64… and now I don’t have a Gamecube memory card!! Should I get a new one, real cheap? Still plenty of use for one, I guess…. Man, this sucks. Nintendo wants wifi-integration? They should host backups of users’ game-save files.

Check Mii Out

That’s the name of the new channel available on Wii. I gotta say, it’s much better than the other channels we’ve been getting. After you download the channel (from the Shop channel), go in and look at all the “Popular” Mii’s. It’s pretty amazing what some people can do with the limited Mii palette. Moles are mouths. Sunglasses are cheeks. Eyes are eyebrows. Eyebrows are horns. Characters that you wouldn’t think were possible have been done. There’s also a contest aspect to this channel. The first contest is to create Mario without his cap. After seeing what others could do, I spent quite a bit of time getting my Mario submission just right. Oh god, I spent a long time (over an hour, I think) making a Mario Mii…. help me. The channel might not be revolutionary, but it’s kinda fun. 🙂

And, of course, the contest seems to be a way Nintendo is promoting their latest game: Super Mario Galaxy ships today. It is being dubbed the spiritual successor of Super Mario 64 (which you should have either on N64 or Virtual Console) and is pretty much unanimously the best Wii game. Get it. Now.

Steven runs out the door.

Wasn’t in my plans, but…

So I haven’t been working too much on PhotoFile, like wanted to, but I haven’t really been unproductive, either. Giving in to my friend’s incessant nagging to play (and thus, set up) UFO2000 on my computer, I updated the Ubuntu set-up guide I wrote on the forums after doing it again with the latest version on both my laptop (Gutsy beta) and my desktop (Feisty). I’ve played a couple games, so far, and they’ve been fun. But it still doesn’t work flawlessly. On my laptop, with default Gutsy settings, ALSA is used to access the audio. UFO2K uses the Allegro game programming library, and it accurately detects and plays sound on my laptop. However, there is a huge memory leak somewhere when running on my laptop (known issue, I think). Luckily, the game is saved on the server, so if you crash, you can log back in and you have the option of resuming the game. Cool.

On the Desktop side of things, there’s no memory leak, but it doesn’t work with the PulseAudio sound server. This irritated me last time I was looking at UFO2K and put me off of it, but this time, I was determined to figure out what the problem was, exactly. First of all, the problem can be resolved by killing the pulseaudio (pulseaudio -k) daemon before launching the game. But that may mess with your existing applications a little and it’s annoying. Good news: I think I found what the problem was. Bad news: I’m not sure when or if it will be fixed, but the developers are at least aware of it and started talking about it.

I don’t normally do much low-level stuff, so I actually learned quite a bit from the debugging. Unfortunately, I don’t have massive amounts of code to show for my efforts, but I’ve learned a lot and a potentially important bug has been well-documented. So it was well worth it. These are some of the things I did when debugging this problem:

  • Communicated with both PulseAudio and Allegro developers on bug trackers, mailing lists, and IRC.
  • Built the Allegro source and used my own custom (debug-enabled) version without disrupting the installed stable version.
  • Attempted to debug using ‘gdb’ mode in emacs, but I was never able to jump into the ALSA specific functions. I think the debugger wasn’t able to trace the threads as they were mapped with pre-processor statements according to the sound driver. I was able to switch to the thread, but the debugger couldn’t find the associated source, which made stepping rather pointless.
  • Eventually giving up on the fancy way, (but content I had learned something) I resorted to good ‘ol printf statements, and was eventually able to find the values (I think) are causing the problems. (Allegro uses unsigned sample formats, and PulseAudio doesn’t support those.)

I must say, using gdb in emacs is much easier than on the command line (but then, maybe ddd or another graphical debugger is nicer still, depending on how often you debug things). Okay, directing my attention back over to PhotoFile…. Or maybe upgrading WordPress…. or maybe…. 🙂

My First Computer was an Amiga

My family’s first real computer was an Amiga 500. I was 6 or 7 years old, and already had a healthy interest (or unhealthy obsession) in computers, at this time. I’m sure I was a big reason why my dad chose to get this device for the family, that Christmas. I remember my brother and I opening two gifts at the same time, and they were computer games… maybe Barbarian and The Faery Tale Adventure… but we didn’t have a computer! Anxious, we were led downstairs to a newly set up computer. I was a very happy boy. We later upgraded to an Amiga 2000 HD. That’s HD for Hard Drive. You know, something you can store stuff on, and leave it on the computer? No need for those troublesome floppy disks! Anyone else remember games coming with 12 disks? Online manuals were unheard of, so a meaty manual was usually included. Computer game (and application) boxes were heavy!

This was some parallax scrolling, baby! (image from

I’ve put countless hours into playing games like The Faery Tale Adventure, Barbarian, Shadow of the Beast, Sinbad, Archon, Deluxe Galaga, R3, Turrican II, and Warlords. I purchased super expensive European Amiga magazines and wondered why the Amiga didn’t catch on in North America. And I was endlessly doodling and creating simple animations in Deluxe Paint (2 and 4)…. So it’s understandable that I have a bit of a soft spot for all things Amiga. 🙂 There’s a very interesting article on the History of Amiga at Ars Technica. If you don’t want to read a lot, go to the last page of the third (and final) part: which I found the most interesting. Here’s an interesting quote describing the engineers bringing their prized prototype to a Consumer Electronics Show in 1984:

Amiga, Inc. didn’t have a lot of money left over for shipping its prototype to the show, and the engineers were understandably nervous about putting such a delicate device through the rigors of commercial package transport. Instead, RJ Mical and Dale Luck purchased an extra airline seat between the two of them and wrapped the fledgling Amiga in pillows for extra security. According to airline regulations, the extra “passenger” required a name on the ticket, so the Lorraine became “Joe Pillow,” and the engineers drew a happy face on the front pillowcase and added a tie! They even tried to get an extra meal for Joe, but the flight attendants refused to feed the already-stuffed passenger.


  • One of my favourite pieces of Amiga shareware, R3, is now available for full download! Dual screen deathmatch with ships called The Fart! Good times.
  • Apparently, UAE is a very good emulator and many things can be played on it. Even legally! I tried it on windows a while back, but I should give it a go on Linux.
  • Lemon Amiga (links for most games above)
  • Amiga Music (I LOVE Shadow of the Beast and Turrican II music!!)