The sun is shining, the rain has stopped (just), we’ve seen people out in shorts even though it’s 5 degrees outside…. winter must surely be over. Which is of no odds to us as we’re inside in the warm, drinking tea, making levels and generally doing gamey stuff. It’s been some week, though!
Monday was review day. We try and be professional here(!) and so every few months we take a day or two out and see where we are personally, and also where the project is. I could see the fear in Will and Anya’s face as I told them they had a “one to one” with the boss i.e. me. They had nothing to fear though, as they’re both been doing a really great job. It also seems they think I’m doing a good job as well. Which is nice and I’m sure nothing to do with the fear of being sacked.
So with the personal reviews over, we moved onto the code and art review and that was both constructive and fun. The big problem when you make games is that you keep putting things in, quite often without being sure where they should go. And as time goes on, you tend to find some things just aren’t used any more. Given time, these lead to problems both in how much memory you use and also how easy it is to handle the project. A day of tidying (and many many problems later) we had cleaner and less memory-hogging product. It’s like spring cleaning, only it’s winter and we didn’t need to use any cleaning products.
As part of our review process we realised that certain little problems kept on popping up and causing problems. Things so simple that a quick drag-and-drop would fix them, only which thing to fix? Step in the debug console. We have a load of debug systems in place and one can pop up whenever the code thinks there is a problem. A few minutes of putting in little checks and it should save us hours of hunting for those annoying little development problems. This is the key to making games as far as we’re concerned, get the process streamlined so you’re working on the fun stuff and not the annoying little bugs.
By Wednesday we were back to normal development. First job: getting a new title screen in place. The old one was put in quite a while ago and looking a bit lame. We had plans for disco floors with dancing robots, but we never really had the time to get it done. Instead we’ve started on a new one which will showcase our bot behaviour in various comic ways. It’s early days, but it’s showing good promise.
Thursday I was out of the office, lecturing and mentoring. Met some new students and saw some nice new projects. Always happy to pass on any advice I have (which is normally in the “how it can all go wrong” vein). Only one more week of lecturing to go now in this semester, which is kind of a shame… It’s been fun trying to work out what I should lecture. I decided on “things you probably weren’t taught about C#”. Lots of little tips about how to make games in C# and Unity and also all the problems that can get in the way. I think if you can pass on knowledge to the next generation, you really should do it. Everyone has to learn sometime and the more help you can get, the better you’ll be.
While I was out lecturing, Andrea and Anya were also out, at a training morning provided by UK Trade & Investment, which is a UK Government department working with businesses based in the United Kingdom to ensure their success in international markets. This was about using the web to communicate better with an international market, which was very interesting and provided some valuable information to keep in mind when we work on the site redesign that we’ve got planned in the near future, as well as information for our long-term business plans. Not only that, but being forced to come face-to-face with our hastily made and much-neglected website has given us the motivation needed to put some time aside for it. Andrea and Anya also met people from a lot of interesting local businesses, including Gavin from Elixel, a Plymouth based digital creative agency who once upon a time had space in the University Formation Zone we now occupy. He came in for a great chat today, where we discussed how underrated our good city of Plymouth is.
Next week, we may be having TWO blog posts as it may be finally time to talk about the ‘hows’ and ‘why nows’ of all this MagNets business. But for now, here’s a screenshot of our new title: