Hey look, a post!

I’ve been with Google now for nearly seven months.  It’s pretty great.  Game development was fun, but I’m glad I’m done with it.  As far as good development practices are concerned, the games industry is just plain immature.  Not as in childish – I’m not entirely sure how to explain it to be honest.  Too intense and political, I guess?  The freedom to work on what I want is probably the best thing about my role.  Right now I’m looking at more automation, to eliminate a tedious manual process and free up more of my seniors’ time.

Reflecting on Space Marine

My time on Space Marine has ended. My first game as a professional game developer launches tomorrow night in North America (though street dates seem to have been broken in Europe already), and I must admit I am glad to have a break from being build guy. The last few months have been very intense: running release candidates, preparing submissions to MS/Sony, dealing with several 11th-hour emergencies, and all the extra hours of finaling. I knew finaling would be tough, but I definitely underestimated just how tough it would be.

I hope Space Marine does well – general reaction to the demo from those who have played it, as far as I can see, is quite positive. The people claiming we’re a Gears clone are finally quieting down, and a following seems to be starting up. I hope it translates into more sales.

What did I learn? Well, I certainly put my Distributed Systems course to work, as I took the build farm from a fault-intolerant eight-node system to a significantly more tolerant 33-node system. The biggest nagging issue I was unable to solve was that for some asset types, on a blade server with no physical GPU, a tool would occasionally fail on a given asset (and then succeed in subsequent executions), and the logging I had in place was not sufficient to track down the issue. Then we went into pipeline lockdown and we let the issue lie.

Besides that, I learned a bit about the file systems on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, and the different methods of distributing content on those platforms. I learned how to publish on Steam, and while I think Microsoft has the best publishing tools of the three, I have to give Valve credit on how approachable they were for any publishing/distribution issues I had. The PS3 and X360 discs, as well as the Steam digital download, are my largest user-facing contributions.

I learned a bit about Flash too, as I fixed some UI audio issues in the endgame.

Overall, Space Marine was great to work on. I proved myself as a programmer, rose pretty quickly from junior to intermediate, and will be moving into gameplay on my next project, on what looks to be a pretty cool feature. I won’t say what, yet, until I’m sure it’s fine to talk about it. THQ has announced and shown it, so it’s probably fine, but I want to play it safe.

Rank up!

Annual reviews at Relic were last week, and, I am no longer an Associate Programmer III. I’ve been promoted to Programmer I, woo! This is awesome on two levels. First, it’s a silent I-told-you-so to the companies that wouldn’t even give me the time of day when I was looking for work in 2009. One company flat-out told me they don’t hire juniors, period. I think that’s a terrible HR decision, but that’s for another post, and I don’t want to sound too vain.

The second is for the major confidence booster. For the past 17 months, the vast majority of the code I’ve written is build server code in C#, then tools in an assortment of languages, and a very little bit of C++ game code. I’ve been worried that when I finish on Space Marine and move into a role more directly involved in game code, my C++ skills will be too rusty, and I’ll take too long to ramp up to a new role and a language I haven’t seriously used in a long time. On the other hand, I’d only touched C# in a single class in university before diving into our heavily distributed build farm, and I picked it up just fine. I’m surely making mountains out of molehills, as usual. The specific language is a minor part of being a good programmer, after all.

Anyway, promotions, woo! An additional woo is reserved for when I finally get over my self-doubt issues.

Random other stuff:

  • The lack of posts on here has been due to the combined factors of not wanting to simply repost everything we officially post about Space Marine (and seeming like a drone in the process) and not having anything meaningful to post about.
  • I am totally going to buy an Emissary later this year once Space Marine is done and we move to something bigger.

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