Thursday, March 13, 2008

RAID raided by demons

So I had the new server set up, and all seemed happy in Skill City.. until weird things started to happen.

I have never in my life, ever, had a drive go bad in a RAID array. I know... wtf?! I must be born under good stars.

However since starting work at my new day job I have never seen so many drives go bad at random before. Granted we have a lot of them here, so the odds are good that at some point one will fail.

But seriously I think my office is haunted by some kind of evil magnetic demon presence that just annihilates hard drives during it's poltergeist rages.

I logged on to Skill City and noticed that it was being cranky. Games wouldn't start, things seemed slow, but clicking on a game numerous times would eventually get it running.

"Are you having these issues?" I asked to Drew, who is currently fitting the software for the company who bought it. Oh didn't I mention that? We sold the code to a game company for a piece of cash. More on that later.

"No everything is fine here" Drew responds.

Indeed it was fine, for I discover today that my RAID 0 has a bad drive, it was going nutty, and today it finally ate itself. For those not technically inclined, a RAID 0 is the one where the R in RAID is pretend, because nothing about a RAID 0 is actually redundant. It just spews your data all over two drives or 100 drives and if one goes out, they all go out. Somebody was fond of Christmas Tree Light strings and followed the same basic principle I guess.

That means I have to re-initialize the array, then run disk checks to find out which hardware is bad (the controller, or the hard drive) and then probably toss both in the trash and build a new server with new drives and this time make it RAID 1 like I should have to begin with.

As if my new job wasn't already sucking out my every waking moment, it is nearly triathlon season and so I am starting to train more at the gym. I walk out the door to go to work at 8am. I usually walk from work at 9 or 10. I sleep at 10:30 so... I have about 30 minutes a day to devote to extra stuff like getting Skill City working.

Weekends you say? Piffle! Weekends are for mountain biking and binge eating girl scout cookies in front of Anime while I ponder a new game mechanic with my yellow legal pad and this little clicky pencil. This has done a lot to reinforce the fact that I can't draw, at all.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Remember me?

Hi there.

Remember me? If not let me introduce myself.

I'm the guy who gave up on this place... went and did something else, and then discovered to his horror that you can't actually turn your back on a dream.

They tend to keep begging you for your attention.

I know. "How cheesy. This guy just dreams about running a puzzle game community? Lame."

Well you dream about having sex with dolphins. So shut up.

I put the game servers back up, this time on a much better connection to the internet and with much better hardware than they ever had.

Step 3: Profit

I'll post more. I promise.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

He's dead Jim.

Here lies the Skill City blog. It's creator attempted to start a game company and nearly grasped it, but things were set against him and his dream now lies mashed to bits on the jagged rocks.

Good thing about dreams though... you only need to fall asleep to get a new one.

Sorry I just can't do this anymore.

I have tried to make time for it but I'm so over the video game thing I think I'm just gonna focus on something else for a while and let this blog die. My mind wanders to new and more attractive shores.

I'm sure I'll be back eventually. Until then, so long, and thanks for all the fish. Keep those indie games coming, you gotta start somewhere.

Friday, December 7, 2007

She'll blow apart!

Ok I really would like to post more than once a week here but I honestly don't think I will be able to.

My new day job is with a company that is in a sorry state, and as the new golden child of the IT department (that means I have the Scotty Syndrome) I find it hard to write in my blog after working 12 hours a day on Linux administration and other arcane hardware stuff.

Wait wait... you don't know what Scotty Syndrome is? Ever watched Star Trek? The old ones with the campy pained ladies and the stupid styrofoam bad guys... yeah that one. Scotty would never tell the captain or crew what was really going on, instead he would just say "It will take more time than we have." or "I don't have the power." but in the end he would do it anyway. Eventually he told LaForge "How do you expect people to think you are a miracle worker if you tell them how long it will really take?"

I haven't had to lie about timelines to anybody yet, at this job or at any other game development task in the past. I just get things done that fast... and with the glut of slow untalented morons on the market it is easy to appear to be amazing.

Perhaps my musing on that subject has indeed turned in to some more sound advice for game developers, and many other people in many industries too.

You see, people are in a rush. The game biz is very much similar to movies and film of all kinds. Once you get that big idea, you have to sprint to the market because the odds are good that somebody else has the same idea and they are working on the same product.

Didn't you ever wonder why the movies Comet, Meteor, and Armageddon all came out the same month? Most of it is called "me too!" by those of us who took marketing 101 back in college and learned that term. They try to ride off the hype and buzz created by one, but they are also often similar ideas that blooming in different minds at the same time.

Maybe the universe shoots ideas out in a linear fashion and while your head may get in the way and thus receive this celestial knowledge, like a gamma ray the idea beam continues onward and strikes some other guy's head too. This explains why people with good ideas often go insane, or are awkward at parties.

The game business is young, it has that youthful energy and hyperactive exuberance that screams to get everything done now in a rage worthy of Veruca Salt. I'm often amazed at how long it can take somebody to cement a deal when all around people are trading signatures on contracts using a chair as their table. This really actually happened to me TWICE at Casual Connect.

I eavesdropped too, hey it was my booth space they were encroaching on I had a right. The game design was awful. It made the guy a few grand. Kudos to him!


Probably because he had a reputation already as being a guy who says "It will be done in 3 months" and then delivers in 2. I bet he also delivers stuff that is solid and works.

This is a statement on how to succeed. The market loves a superstar, but most often is easy to impress just by being slightly better than mediocre because of the huge amount of talentless hacks that everybody considers "normal". Check out coding horror someday and read their article on how many people fail a fizz-buzz test that call themselves programmers. You have met people like this. You might even be a person like that...

So regardless of the fact that it takes me 30 seconds to setup the CEOs Treo 650 and it took their old admin 3 days, I am still very busy pulling my new company out of it's suicidal nose dive perpetrated by about 5 years of terrible administrators.

I'll write more on game design as I can, and share some of the ones burning a hole in my notebook.

By the way, I would like to get you involved more in this blog. Yeah, you, the 18 to 35 year old male with a PC or Mac computer and more than just a passing interest in video games.

Where do you do your best design work? What environment do you find you get the most ideas in?

For me it's airports and planes. Seriously. I look back at my little red notebook with my ideas and designs poorly scrawled all over the pages and I can recall the smell of the recycled air as I wrote those words on a flight to somewhere.

Why is that?

For me I think its because that space is dead, there is no distraction or sound or motion, I can just sit there in a void of activity and let my mind wander around and create in itself a game that would be fun to play. Then the creation of the idea itself becomes a game a I try to balance rules, systems, interaction, and then encase it all in a story so that you aren't just scalded in the eyes with raw math when you load my game.

There-in lies a new game: Eye Scalder! Throw boiling hot Math at your players in a game so horrific it feels more like a time share seminar than entertainment!

Now you answer. Where is your idea place? Why?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What should I do?

Well... as I work a day as a linux admin I keep having all sorts of fun ideas for something that would make a great game.

Then there is of course all the games that I designed that will never see the light of day.

I was wondering, what should I do with this blog?

1. Leave it here to get bit-rot, the knowledge it contains is worth something but without constant updates it is worthless.

2. Post your game designs so that all 5 to 10 of us can read them and either steal them for our own or by our collective might finesse them in to something truly amazing that nobody will ever program unless they steal the idea off this public forum.

3. Go back to flexing my imagination at instead. "Nathan, your insight and clever wit were fun for a while but you just don't have the stuff to be in the game biz."

4. Stop talking to myself, nobody reads this anyway.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Thoughts on keeping things the same.

I left my position at Skill City feeling a bit downtrodden that I was departing what was basically, at it's root, my dream job.

I had left a position of comfort and power (and paycheck) to start Skill City, or at least to chase some unformed dream that during my resignation I hadn't yet named.

It is nice to know that the responsibilities I held at Skill City were not totally wasted. I earned quite an education working there.

I walked away from it with the sense that I needed to go find work right away to pay my bills, and to pay the bills of the now dead Skill City Inc. because it was about 900 bucks overdrawn. I said was, because I paid that now.

I also walked away from that endeavor having gained a sense of command of my own destiny. I wasn't just being buffeted by the winds of chance any more, my own personal success or failure was totally up to me. Even the people I rely on because I lack skills they have, I am still responsible for hiring them or keeping them on.

I'm gonna go out on a limb here, and hopefully I can shore up the limb with some boards... maybe some bits of string and tin foil.

I think failing at a startup business taught me more than being successful. I got to learn all about the negative side of the business world. Some people say "Well my boss is jerk, I know all about the negative side" but they are stupid because they aren't running a company, they don't know the real despair you can feel.

I entered a new job, but I still had that empowerment that I found by working at my own business and falling flat on my face. At times I think I felt a little like a drug addict who has hit Rock Bottom and realizes they have nowhere else to go but up, or dead. I met death once, and he was wearing expensive shoes.

I climbed up and got myself that new job but I see it through a different lens, and I know that it is just a waystation on my climb upward to try chasing a dream again. I will chase it with much greater care this time, and attention to all the spiky bits that tear at skin along the way.

To that end I saw my new job in a state that was similar to me, I sensed that decay that was setting in here like it was at Skill City, only this was a slower doom here at my new job. I went to the CEO and shared with him my thoughts and perspective and was amazed at the response I got. He agreed, 100%, and now I'm the manager of the IT department here.

I honestly think that without the wisdom gained from Skill City imploding, I wouldn't have had that meeting, and I certainly wouldn't be the department manager after only having worked here for 3 weeks. Some perspective for you, my co-admins have been here for years, one of them for over 5 years.

So I have carved out a little niche of happy again, and when I am not gloomy I tend to think of ways to entertain people with games. Ideas for systems of rules and colored things start to fill up my brain. I even had another dream last night about a puzzle game.

Ok because it was a dream I was actually IN the puzzle game... and that was kinda freaky and unpleasant but I still woke up feeling quite good about it.

I wonder if I should just start posting game design docs here and do something like give away all my game designs to the public. Just to see if anybody makes them.

/me goes to find the GPL rules on releasing IP to the public...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Need a job?

My friends over at Gameshastra appear to be hiring. I thought I would do my part and spread the word out anybody interested. It's a really good chance to get in to the game biz with a company that won't treat you like dirt.

You would end up working with some of the coolest and smartest game developers I have had the pleasure of knowing.

Company: Gameshastra
Job Title: (1) Technical Lead - Console Games and (2) Technical Lead - PC and Casual Games
Description: To apply: Please email your cover letter, resume and comp requirements to

Job listing (1)
Department: Game Development
Position: Technical Lead – Console Development

Gameshastra is currently looking for one additional Technical Lead with a focus on Console Development for our US and India game development operations. In addition to being a brilliant senior coder on AAA titles, the ideal candidate will have several years experience as a Senior Developer for “current-gen and next-gen console hardware” in a midsized or major development studio, ideally with a recent specialization in Xbox 360 and/or Nintendo Wii development.

Showing expertise in a broad range of development areas – such as understanding console specific hardware issues, memory optimization, managing PC-to-console downsizing and porting issues, expertly wringing the most out of console rendering and graphics pipelines, physics expertise, AI knowledge and most importantly – having the ability to communicate efficiently with your team members – all will be key to your success in this position.

Job Responsibilities:
• Manage all key technical decisions in one or more 10-20 person development teams, each working on different aspects of various titles for different publishers.
• Have the ability to communicate clear standards and provide direct coaching and mentoring to individual developers as well as to large engineering teams.
• Solve the peskiest problems when they show up in the game development pipeline – no matter what they may be.

• Expert C/C++ developer and problem solver (7 or more years of professional C++ experience preferred)
• Uncanny ability to find problem in other people’s code – and the grace to communicate these discoveries efficiently, and to turn every one of these instances into a learning opportunity.
• Ability to lead, manage and direct technical development teams full of strong minded and creative development personalities.
• Very deep console hardware system programming experience.
• Game physics expertise
• Rendering and 3D API mastery (D3D and OGL) across all kinds of hardware.
• Infinite patience with everyone in the team.

Job listing (2)
Department: Game Development
Position: Senior Developer or Technical Lead – PC, Mac, Casual and Mid-Core games

Job Responsibilities:
• Manage all key technical decisions for each "mid-core" or episodic title that we bring to market – including engine decisions, development and OO architecture approaches, and the ability to these decisions through to the final delivery.
• Have the ability to communicate clear standards and provide direct coaching and mentoring to individual developers as well as to large engineering teams.
• Solve the peskiest problems when they show up in the game development pipeline – no matter what they may be.

• Expert C/C++ developer and problem solver with 5 years of C/C++ experience.
• Extensive experience with at least one major game engine (UE, GameBryo, Tringy etc.)
• Exposure to Casual C++ game development frameworks (PopCap, HGE, PlayGround etc.)
• Some exposure to online casual games (AS2, AS3, Lingo etc.) is also a plus
• Knowledge of various server side technologies (.NET/PHP/Ruby) can be helpful
• Game physics, AI and Networking/Sockets experince strongly desired
• A clear understanding of graphics rendering pipelines and 3D APIs (D3D and OGL)
• Ability to lead, manage and direct technical development teams full of strong minded and creative development personalities.
• Infinite patience and a good attitude.

If you are interested then you can email me for the contact info. This way I can screen out the evil time wasting headhunters who will see this listing and then call people claiming to be a rep of the company just so they can extort a finders fee once you get hired.

I fucking hate recruiters. I have never in my life gotten a job through one, or hired any of the dross they bring me when I am hiring. I don't know why they even exist any more, with the prevalence of do it yourself job hunting tools on the internet nobody needs these people to get in the middle and charge fees for no real value added.

Recruiters are the spammers of HR. Shun them.

Anyway these jobs for Gameshastra are located in El Segundo (thats near Los Angeles for those out of town) and requires a lot of travel to their HQ in India (which is freakin awesome).