Friday, May 25, 2007


I just came across the concept of 'nudging'. Making a small change to how you're already doing things, to make a big difference.

I feel it can apply to the day to day running of a games studio (or any organization). If you can make it slightly easier for people to do the right thing (e.g. report a bug, schedule accurately, not check in compile errors) then it can have a big overall effect in your quality.

It's pretty common sense, but it's easy to lack that sometimes...

Sunday, May 20, 2007


Sketchup is a modelling tool which Google bought a little while ago. It’s used, in part, to create buildings and such for the Google Earth project. It’s not as sophisticated as something like Maya, but it’s easy to use to create simple static models. It comes in two forms, a free version, and a more feature rich version for $500. There’s also an SDK you can ask them for (email and they'll ask you to complete a Non Disclosure Agreement), which allows you to read sketchup files.

It occurred to me that the free version, and SDK, could be used as a level editor for simple home projects or shareware games.

The idea for how to build levels would be similar to how I said that Inkscape could be used. The general level geometry is built using the normal modelling tools, and then gameplay information is layered over the top. For example a box with a spider texture on it, would turn into a spider enemy in game, or an object with a wood texture, would become a wooden dynamic physics object. The limitations come when you want to do scripting, such as configuring a platform to move back and forth, or triggering an event when the player reaches a certain point.

As with using middleware, you should aim to bend your designs to fit with what you're given. Though the limitations might change the game you're making, the time saved in having such a stable and feature rich editor on day one would be massive.

Level editing aside, Sketchup is a lot of fun. If you’ve not had a play, I recommend watching this video, and having a play yourself. Also take note of the huge free collection of models in the warehouse.

There's a great 15 minute video which shows you the features here, and you can download Sketchup here (the free one is the button on the left).

Here's a timelapse view of someone building a house in sketchup...

{Edit May 2009} I just spotted on Jim's blog that exporters for XNA '.X' format are available for Sketchup. More on this at my newer post.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Free Visual Studio - Update

Remember me saying that you can get a free copy of Visual Studio Standard by taking a couple of labcasts? Well I did it, paid the $11 shipping, and received my copy the other day!

It was a little strange at first. You complete the second labcast, there’s no confirmation that you’re going to get anything, and then two weeks later you get a mail with a link to the redemption page. Ohh, and make sure you use IE.

The Standard edition normally costs something like $300, so it’s a good deal. The offer is still running until June 30th / while supplies last, so you can still get your own copy.

(United States Only)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Summer Internship?

Just a quick note to say that Heavy Iron is looking for summer interns.

It's for any Software Engineering / Computer Science students interested in video game programming in C/C++. We are looking for solid C/C++ coders, with good problem solving ability, who can take on any technical challenges from bug fixing, to implementing new game features.

It's a paid, full-time position. I'd recommend it to students who are local (we're in Los Angeles, 5 mins north of LAX), as flying out and finding accommodation is a bit of a hassle.

If you'd like more information, you can mail me at mister_pope (at) hotmail dot com. (I live in fear of spam bots)