Thursday, 16 December 2010

We live………..AGAIN!!!

It’s been a while! So much has happened since our last post, and I’ll try to cover it as best I can.

Me cheesily sat on our first day of work. Yes that is a bottle of ketchup behind me.

I’ve now relocated to West Yorkshire, to Alex’s hometown. I’ve actually moved in next door to him and his girlfriend. My living room is basically our office with a sofa in, and it’s here that we spend our days, 10-6 Monday to Friday, toiling away.

Alex hard at work in the office

There’s so much involved in something like this this it’s unreal. We have to deal with both making the games and the nuts and bolts of making ourselves into a legitimate business. Add to that all the different stuff involved in moving house and its no wonder that sleep is a distant memory to me.

Only kidding, I’m loving every minute of it. Being creative lead in my own company gives me more freedom and flexibility than I could imagine. It’s a big responsibility, as Alex’s job necessitates that he’s told what to do by me, even though we have an equal ownership of the business. The guy’s a coding god, but ask him to make a creative decision and you’d have more luck asking a dog with a bucket on its head.

Our first game is in early alpha now, we have it in engine and are currently tweaking it to perfection before we enter the beta stage where we’ll begin playtesting. More on the game itself in an upcoming post.

We’ve used Unity to create the game, an excellent engine that we’ve found really easy to use. It has fantastic support in the shape of Unity Script Reference, its online resource centre, and we will be using it for most if not all of our upcoming projects. I am interested in switching to UDK now that Epic are integrating native iOS compatibility, but the pricing structure is not as appealing as using Unity.

Now that we are set up and with a somewhat reliable internet connection, I’m intending to fulfil my aim of providing at least weekly updates to the blog…….promise!

Merry Christmas Everybody!


Tuesday, 2 November 2010

A costly mistake.

So I've recently had a major problem which has halted our progress slightly. I claim some responsiblity for not doing my research properly, but I think Apple could have made things slightly more clear.

Now, I don't know if I'm alone in this, but I always associated the PowerMac (the big, professional looking one) with serious things like software development. So, with this in mind I bought one to work on our iOS titles, unfortunately for me I bought one that was a few years old which caused me some unexpected problems.

I downloaded a copy of XCode (Apple's development environment) and the iPhone SDK. No problems so far.

The issue came when trying to install the above software. The installer package had a list of components that could be installed, puzzlingly for me all the iPhone options were greyed out.

I went online to find out what was going on. It turns out that the iPhone SDK requires an Intel based processor. The PowerMac I'd bought runs on PowerPC architecture as it was made before 2006.

There is a way to work around this problem, but it involves a lot of fiddling with config files and there isn't a guarantee that the app you compile will actually even run on the iPhone hardware. You may recall from my earlier blog post "What are we using?" that the whole reason I was buying a Mac was to avoid complexity that I didn't need, so much for that.

In conclusion, the Mac I bought is completely unsuitable for our needs, so I'm having to resell it and buy a Mac with an Intel processor. If there's anything I've learned from this somewhat costly mistake it's to do proper research on the hardware you're buying before you invest.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Where we’re at 25/10/10

Happily I can now confirm that the Noisy Badger’s business plan is complete, I’ve sent it over to Alex who is proofreading it in between shifts at his hateful day job. I’m actually really happy with it, it’s completely comprehensive, so much so that the sales forecast covers nine pages of A3 and takes into account a whole host of different pricing structures and release schedules. Looking at it now it may actually be too much information, but better to have too much than not enough I suppose.

Writing the document has really made me focus on what I want the business to be. Obviously I had ideas and a loose vision of the sort of entity it would become, but putting everything on paper really galvanized Noisy Badger in my mind. Writing a nine year plan will do that to you, and I’m not just talking business related aims.

I want Noisy Badger to be big enough to eventually allow me and Alex to be quite philanthropic in terms of helping raw talent get their ideas to market. Yes of course this will benefit the badger, but my motivation is probably borne from seeing so called “industry types” who really just run a two-bit operation come into universities and take all the ideas they can, not even being courteous enough to give proper feedback. You might be able to tell, I was personally involved, as a student, in a situation like this. When we help newbies we will provide clear and concise briefs, accurate feedback, and we will never EVER demand that the student sign away the rights to their idea for any time period unless we have reached an agreement with the student that we will definitely take that idea forward. Ok mini rant over. I’m getting way ahead of myself here.

I had Barclays Business division ring me up and arrange for Alex and I to meet a business manager there next Wednesday. I’d signed up to get my hands on their business plan templates (which I ended up never using) and from those details they called me. After a small chat, the guy on the other end of the phone sounded like he thought we were a good bet, and importantly said the money we are asking for isn’t that much so I’m really hopeful. A business loan would be a great alternative to investment as well, which we were really reticent to offer as the investor would make a ridiculous and unfair amount when compared to how little we need.

I’m also on the verge of securing what could be quite a substantial contract, which I unfortunately can’t go into just yet but would, if successful, happily support Noisy Badger for its first few months at the very least, at the very most it would be a rolling deal that will underwrite some of the more entrepreneurial ventures that the studio will undertake.

Exciting times indeed.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

What are we using?

With the company's purchase of a Mac yesterday, I thought it might be of interest to some people to briefly outline the technology we're using.

On the coding side I'm using a PC built around the AMD Athlon64 X2 5600 (~2.8GHz) processor, 4GB DDR2 RAM and an nVidia GeForce 8800GTS graphics card.

I built it mid-2007 and its definitely starting to show it's age now. Having said that, it still performs well on code compilation and doesn't slow me down in any development work I'm doing. Unfortunately it does mean that playing the latest releases at a decent framerate is difficult.

Oliver doesn't suffer from framerate performance with new games because he took the phrase 'future-proof' and ran with it when building his PC last year. He built it (well he bought the parts and I built it, because he is technologically inferior to me) around an Intel I5 quad core (~2.4GHz) processor, 4GB DDR2 RAM and an nVidia Geforce GTX 295 graphics card. He uses this mighty machine for various design tasks, from 3D modelling to image manipulation.

Our newest addition to the family is a PowerMac, this had to be bought as Apple's iPhone SDK can only be run on an Apple. Well, there are ways to emulate a Mac on a PC but it requires an Intel processor, which I don't have, and a lot of messing around which I quite frankly couldn't be bothered with. The end result would also run a lot slower than on actual Apple hardware so the decision was made to bite the bullet and buy one.

The machine is a PowerMac G5 with a 2GHz dual core processor, 2GB RAM (considering upping to 4) and an ATI Radeon 9600 graphics card. It's quite an old machine, but we considered the merits of buying a brand new one and we simply don't need the extra speed. The iPhone/iPad hardware is still inferior to the Mac we bought, so we won't have a problem with the iPhone simulator running slowly.

You now have an insight into the hardware that we're working with, in future posts I'll discuss the many software packages we use. I'll also keep you updated with any programming related news while Oliver keeps you up to date on the design side.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Augmented Reality

Just a quickie to link this video -

Its the Augmented Reality work that we did for Harvest digital, for use in a pitch to Renault UK.

Many thanks go to Richard Johnson, former Harvest Digital employee and his site for mentioning us.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Idea Generation

Included in the business plan are six concept documents, all of them my original ideas, and this had me thinking. What, if it exists, is the most productive method of generating ideas? I suppose this branches out across all creative media, but I'm obviously going to focus here on idea generation in relation to games.

Toward the end of my second year at uni I had an assignment based around the Unreal engine. We were given a list of elements to include (a switch operated mover, a constantly rotating mover, etc.) And we had to use all our own assets, but other than that we had free reign. Now personally I know a problem of mine is a tendency to take the first half decent idea I have and run with it, and so I now work hard to try and explore as many different ideas as possible before settling.

This wasn't one of those times, and as such the first thing that had popped into my head was the idea of playing the Easter bunny causing havoc in Santa's workshop, and I ran with it. Now that I write that down it actually seems like a pretty cool idea and something I might actually do in the UDK, but at the time I hated it. Because I'd just gone with this first idea, not really looking at whether my heart was in it, I found myself just plodding along, paint-by-numbers style, and ridiculously bored. So fairly late into development I thought "screw it." Without another idea yet I figured I'd just relax and take a break, another idea would come to me surely?

It didn't. After a week I began to panic, racking my brain for inspiration. Leaving my student house I decided a walk would clear my head and maybe something would come to me. Making my way to the docks, I saw from a distance the masts of all the boats. They looked a little like cranes on a construction site, and bingo! I had my idea. You can see what I ended up making here -

The lesson I took, and the point I'm trying to make, is that this stuff will come at you from wherever and whenever, and as creatives its important to be able to take note of it when it does. You never know, you may encounter the right combination of environmental elements for your brain to take and twist into the next big thing.

My process that I turn to when I need to generate a new idea, indeed the process by which I came up with all the Noisy Badger games concepts, I call, "The Wikiway."

I pretty much just try and relax, sit down at the computer with a pad, and head over to wikipedia. Once there, I hit the random article button repeatedly, and really just let the articles wash over me. I don't read much of what comes up, just do a quick scan, spending no more than five seconds per article, and jot down anything interesting that surfaces. It could be a place, an event, even an obscure Russian name that rhymes with something completely irrelevant, but it might spark something.

I find this method equally useful for generating completely new ideas and also cultivating existing ideas, like when you've come up with a cool game mechanic and need a story or world to "wrap it" in.

Hopefully this has been informative and provided an insight into the start of the creative process at Noisy Badger, has anyone out there got any other idea generation methods they'd like to share?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Hello World :D

Ok so with Noisy Badger, mine and my business partner Alex's new games development studio being well into the setup period, I figured it was about time to start putting together some form of web presence. Obviously we'll have a full on website in the near future but in the meantime I'm going to keep anyone who may be interested in us informed via this blog.

So, what is the Noisy Badger? We started out while still at uni, doing freelance work that wasn't necessarily games, but allowed Alex and I to use our relevant skills and get a taste for the business side of things. We both did computer games relevant degrees, me on the design side of things, he on the coding, and we decided that putting together our own studio would really make sense.

Our studio is going to initially make games for the iPod touch, iPhone and iPad, and so since graduating we've been hard at work developing games design documents, business plans, and we've even got a functioning engine ready to go. We're now looking towards sourcing some start up capital, which is proving to be a bit of a nightmare. In our business a large part of any investment we'll be asking for will go on our salaries, as we have pretty much everything we need to start work, except for a means to live while we develop our first game. We've only actually set ourselves the minimum wage for this, but its still unappealing to investors.

The princes trust would have been ideal in this situation, but I got an email from them saying that as we are graduates, we have to wait at least 6 months from the date of our graduation before they can help us. You read that right, our degrees are actually hindering us. Idiots.

Anyway, rant over. As you can tell, this blog is going to be pretty casual, i'm not going to fill it with hyperbole on how awesome we are (we are pretty awesome though) but just try to provide an insight into Noisy Badger as a studio. I intend to update weekly, and please get in touch with your questions, comments, insults, whatever.

Follow me on twitter-!/themightyodog

And follow alex too-!/Amlach

Righty then, I'm off to write up a competitor comparison analysis. The FUN. It never ends.