Archive for October, 2008

Bad times for EALA

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

So, the cancellation of Tiberium almost a month ago was just a foreshadowing of more bad news. I hear that LMNO was a casualty today, along with many people on the RTS team(s). Once again, it sucks to see talented developers get scattered to the winds, especially in the current economic climate.

EA has been trying to reinvent itself for a while, and I hope that they can capitalise on that next year. Right now, the EALA offices are looking like a very expensive, fairly empty facility, and with another dev studio just over in Westwood (Pandemic) I wouldn’t be surprised at news of a physical merge sometime.

They have some promising titles in development, but the games label side of EALA is having a very tough year. Time will tell how that pans out for them. Hang in there, guys!

The annual Windows re-install

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

For some reason my Windows install was misbehaving worse than usual lately. It was having problems booting for the last two weeks – hanging at the loading screen and such. I run a dual boot system, but overwhelmingly favour Ubuntu for almost all tasks. I only keep Windows around to run games and to use a VPN to connect to work. Well, I don’t need VPN now 🙂

So I decided to re-install Windows, and while I was at it, I got rid of my FAT32 partition and switched it to ext3. Not really much point in keeping a partition to share stuff between Windows and Linux when I don’t do anything in Windows any more.

Re-installing was quite easy, if a little time-consuming. It took about 2 hours, and of course I had to repair GRUB afterwards, because Microsoft like to take over the MBR. But that was as easy as firing up a live CD and issuing a few GRUB commands. There were the other usual minor annoyances of course: by default, my network card(s) aren’t recognised, so I had to download a driver in Ubuntu and then reboot into Windows to install it; and I had to reboot Windows multiple times to get all the other various drivers installed.

But now I have a clean Windows installation, so I can just keep it that way, and play a few games.

Goodbye EA, Hello Blizzard

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Everything is now sorted, and everyone who should already know knows, so I can break the blog silence on this, as I know my blog friends will be interested.

Although I don’t talk much about work on this blog, it’s something of an open secret that I worked at EA Los Angeles for the past 5 years (as a cursory look at my “about” page gameography would reveal). Recently Tiberium was cancelled, a bold move for the company and probably a good sign in its drive for quality. As lead engineer, I was one of roughly a third of the team who kept their jobs at the studio, and one of just a handful who had a choice of what to do next. But the cancellation of a project is naturally also a time to look around at other opportunities.

My brother-in-law had emailed me back in August, saying “I’m trying to convince the wife to let me go to Blizzcon; it’s just after my birthday this year. Can I crash at your place for a couple of days?” So I had emailed a contact at Blizzard and got us a couple of passes. When Tiberium was cancelled, I got a few weeks off work, so it gave me a chance to attend both days of Blizzcon, get my resume up to date, and be a little more interested in possibilities for me at Blizzard.

So it was that I ended up chatting to some of Blizzard’s senior engineers at Blizzcon, and watching the finale show with my BiL from the VIP rooms above the crowd. And heading down to Irvine last week for an interview process that I found stimulating, fun and challenging in all the right ways. A few days later, I had a very attractive offer from a great company with great people and great games.

So yesterday, I headed in to EA (although I’m still technically on vacation), resigned, and cleared my office. It wasn’t an easy decision; EA have been good to me, and I respect and like my ex-colleagues, who are still working on some promising titles. But the opportunity I have at Blizzard is a great one. So I am starting there a week on Monday.

Stellarium is brilliant

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Stellarium really is a first-class piece of software. It makes me wish I lived somewhere where I could see more than half a dozen stars. One of these days, when mini-Elbeno is older, we’ll have to make a midnight trip out to the desert to do some astronomy.

West LA is a far cry from Narooma, NSW.

Knowing what to search for

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

The Internet has its limits. Sometimes one of those limits is simply not knowing what to search for. There is a book that I read in school which I have been trying to track down for many years. It was an anthology of short stories, called Twisters – each story had a surprise ending, you see. I remembered the title, several of the story plots, and that it was purple; but not the author, nor any story titles (nor the ISBN!). Unfortunately, as you can guess, searching for “twisters” produces about 100 pages of books about tornadoes.

So it wasn’t until today, when I was reading a book of short-short stories that I happened upon a story that was also in Twisters. Adding the appropriate search terms finally led me to a google books listing which revealed the author (editor) of Twisters to be one Steve Bowles.

From there it was a hop and a skip to abebooks, and another blast from the past has been tracked down for posterity.

Rock the mix

Tuesday, October 7th, 2008

Mini-Elbeno has always loved Guitar Hero, especially certain songs. So I’ve made him a mix CD for the car…

  1. I Love Rock and Roll – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
  2. Back In Black – AC/DC
  3. Smoke On The Water – Deep Purple
  4. Sunshine Of Your Love – Cream
  5. You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’ – Judas Priest
  6. Heart Full Of Black – Burning Brides
  7. Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns n’ Roses
  8. Paranoid – Black Sabbath
  9. Ace Of Spades – Motorhead
  10. Tales Of Brave Ulysses – Cream
  11. Jumping Jack Flash – Rolling Stones
  12. Crossroads – Cream
  13. Gimme All Your Lovin’ – ZZ Top
  14. Texas Flood – Stevie Ray Vaughan
  15. Stairway To Heaven – Led Zeppelin

Surprisingly kid-friendly lyrical content; but I did – ahem – have to draw the line at Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine. (The GH2 version is significantly bowdlerized.)

IFComp so far…

Monday, October 6th, 2008

SPOILERS AHEAD

(But for games that are pretty bad, so you might not be bothered…)

Somewhat perversely, I like to try play the worst games first, and get them out of the way. I score not according to a strict system, but vaguely according to puzzle fun, plot, and implementation competence, with a good helping of bias for what I want to encourage and discourage in future competitions. So far:

  • The Absolute Worst Game in IF History – if there is some reason for this, or a hidden joke, I didn’t get it. I decided not to play it for any longer than the author spent writing it. 1 point.
  • Buried in Shoes – well at least there’s some kind of story here, if it is beyond me. Implementation seems to be on the verge of competence. 4 points.
  • Freedom – straightforward linear puzzler. Spartan but completable. 4 points.
  • Lighthouse – uh oh, the blurb says “my very first game!”. Unfortunately, it lives up to this claim. And there’s just not enough here. 1 point.

Thus far, they were all zcode games. But the real seam of submediocrity normally lies in the standalone games…

  • The Hall of the Fount of Artois – ah, the hackneyed “solve puzzles in a spooky old house” genre. It suffers from that basic failure of not handling any remotely interesting (or in many cases, mundane) things I wanted to do. Puzzles are get-X-use-X type, and room descriptions are almost irrelevant since there is no scenery and no searching, just items to be collected and used. 3 points.
  • Nerd Quest – oh dear: again, roll-your-own systems invariably suffer from a) paucity of handled actions, b) spartan descriptions and lack of scenery. I couldn’t even “examine” anything. 1 point.
  • Project Delta – the menu interface robbed the game of thought; then I briefly thought the inventory system was interesting; then the “game” ended. There is not enough here to enter into a competition. 1 point.

    Here’s hoping for some better luck soon. Fairly bad this year so far, and that’s even without any efforts from Dunric as far as I can see.