computer games conferences massively multiplayer web 2.0

GDC08: Web 2.0 + Games meetup

After the success of the totally unofficial and informal meetup at AGDC, I thought I’d ask around if anyone wants to do another one of these at GDC…

a couple of us are going to get together and chat about the head-on-collision between games and Web 2.0. Come along
and see if you can outdo everyone else by picking an even larger number and sticking it on the end of a word (why stop at Games 3.0? Let’s go to a hundred!).

There will be no free drinks. No free food. And definitely no cabaret/live entertainment/superstar DJ’s. But hopefully there will be some interesting and friendly people with a shared interest here.

Have a look at the quick report I did for the AGDC07 meetup to get an idea for what this might be like.

At Austin GDC, I expected about 5-10 people, and we had about 30. I have no idea yet how many people would be interested at GDC.

EDIT: details…

Time: 20:00-22:00
Day: Wednesday 20th February

Courtesy of Mike Leahy ( The space is called “The Bubble” @ 73 Langton St. SF 94103 which is near 7th/Folsom.

If you’re coming and haven’t emailed me (amartin at please drop me a mail to say so – we should have plenty of spare room, so RSVP isn’t required, but on the off-chance we get lots of people, RSVP’d will get priority.

Nice and easy from the convention center: go south-west along Howard St for 3 blocks, then take a left on Langton St (circa 10 minute walk) :

Google maps directions


Leaving myGDC

To: every “friend” on the GDC08 myGDC system
Subject: Quitting this

myGDC sucks donkey. It keeps deleting my pasword, the system seems to be a hand-crafted proprietary nightmare, the usability is awful, many of the links are broken even months after the site went live.

And, of course, this is a CMP system – so you can guarantee they will delete it and start again from scratch next year. Just like they have done every year since I can remember :(.

So, I’m deleting my account on here. Bye-bye!

NB: yet-another-stupid-bug from the myGDC system: it is impossible to mail more than one person at once.

Even better, if you click “compose message”, you get taken to a compose screen with an empty to box and *no way* to select target friends.

Hey, CMP! – the 1990’s called; they want their pre-gmail user-interface-designer back.

amusing games industry

I now work on The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen … Online!


Hmm. Maybe not.

alternate reality games computer games photos

Perplex City 2005 launch

I was just formatting an old hard disk over xmas, clearing out old junk, and found some files from when I was working at Mind Candy on Perplex City – probably a backup of my USB key when I was re-formatting it while still working there (we tried a couple of different keys for doing passwordless auth which we were thinking of rolling out to all staff to make life easier and in some areas more secure).

computer games games industry web 2.0

What Web 2.0 means for the games industry

“In reality, one size has never fit all, but when players didn’t have so many choices, they had to put up with it. Now they don’t. No longer can publishers rely on retailing strategies designed to make money by forcing players to buy what the publishers want them to buy, when and where the publishers want them to buy it. These strategies are aimed more at wooing retailers with slotting and promotion allowances than at wooing customers, and they just won’t fly anymore. In the future, retailing strategies are going to have to be like those of or the one-hour eyeglass shops, which are designed to sell the consumers what they want to buy. And they do it by making it easier, better, less cumbersome to do so.”

games design massively multiplayer networking system architecture

Entity Systems are the future of MMOG development – part 3

Also known as: Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

(because I’m now deviating from the original schedule I outlined in Part 1; what the heck, it was only a rough agenda anyway…)

Questions, questions…

First of all, there’s a bunch of good questions that have been raised in response to the first two posts:

  • what data and methods are stored in the OOP implementation of an entity?
  • where does the data “live”?
  • how do you do object initialization?
  • what does the ES bring that cannot be accomplished with an AOP framework?
  • what’s the link between entity systems and SQL/Relational Databases? (OK, so that one’s my own question from last time)
  • what, exactly, is an entity?

Let’s start with that last one first.

conferences web 2.0

Nothing to see here, unless you care about culture?

Too busy to write at the moment (if I weren’t, I’d be working on followups to the entity systems posts).

So, in the meantime, go listen to the ever-brilliant Lawrence Lessig. I’ve just been listening to his 2006 talk on Free Culture. There are too many memorable, insightful, or funny elements for me to be able to sum it up; I’ll just say it’s one of my favourite LL talks amongst those I’ve seen.

“This is not about (quote) “piracy”. If I thought this fight was about your right to get access to Britney Spears music for free, I’d be on the other side, because I don’t think you should get access to Britney Spears music … at any price”


Spam Karma 2 rocks

(just because it’s brilliant, and I wanted to say thank you)

Still using Akismet? Why?

You do know that Akismet rejects genuine posts, don’t you? Sure, it’s not its fault – spam filtering is hard.

But since Spam Karma is free, integrates easily with WordPress, and offers much safer filtering of spam, with multiple levels of fallback, isn’t it time to try an upgrade?


An example of how NOT to do software updates

I upgraded Firefox only a few days ago (I didn’t get a choice – it was set to autoupdate, and updated when I was halfway through doing an install on my new computer; it broke most of the plugins I was halfway through installing because the new version wasn’t backwards compatible) and now a new upgrade just appeared. I wondered what could necessitate such a sudden new upgrade, so I clicked on the “View more information about this update” link in the dialog box.

This took me to a page which said nothing other than:

“Stability Update:
This release corrects a problem that was found in the previous release, Firefox”

WTF? How did that even seem to them to be a reasonable explanation? So, I sent them some feedback. Which will no doubt get filed in /dev/nul

Someone at firefox needs to reconsider the messages they’re sending out. It’s as bad as Microsoft in the bad old days of System Updates that had no reason beyond “critical”, or “this update is necessary to ensure your copy of windows continues to function correctly”.

Considering how dangerous updates are for the user (c.f. the fact that the last one nuked most of my plugins :(, and there’s no way to downgrade – for some reason, they don’t support that, and they don’t allow you to download old, working, versions, only the latest, even-if-its-broken, version), this approach to forcing them on users without explanation is both antagonistic and irresponsible.

/me is now forcing firefox to “never” upgrade, and will refuse to run any more upgrades of it.

I’m sure this is the complete opposite of what they intended, as my machines will now theoretically be vulnerable to every security flaw that comes along, but I think I’ll use MSIE 7 as my main browser, despite it’s many flaws, and stop using FF for everything except testing, rather than suffer more of this stupidity from the Mozilla Foundation. I never thought they’d manage to force me into the hands of Microsoft :).

agile computer games programming

Estimating timescales and effort for software and games projects

Is it a completely hopeless task, caused by a fundamental lack of understanding in how to ask the question appropriately?

computer games facebook games design

The rest of the world is not like us…

Andrew Chen has a great post on how people use Facebook and why MySpace pages are so ugly

I particularly liked the straightforward comparison between the opposing viewpoints on design, i.e.:

Facebook / Google / “modern” web companies:

  • Simple, Functional, Easy

Myspace / GeoCities / “poorly designed” web presences:

  • Lots of options – perceived as complicated
  • Entertaining – perceived as lacking a point
  • Layers of complexity – perceived as difficult

So. Scrapbooking. A $2.5 Billion industry, huh? Serious food for thought for game designers trying to think up ways to take advantage of Web 2.0, but struggling to break out of the boring “chat”, “friends lists”, and “character pages” ideas…

bitching fixing your desktop

Fixing the blurry fonts in Outlook 2007

(do you have fuzzy text in Outlook 2007? hard to read fonts? System settings for fonts broken in Office 2007? Help is at hand…).

You have to do a couple of things to fix the one bug, and I had to find all the different parts of the solution in different places, so I put them all together into one post here.

computer games conferences games industry

Games industry conferences versus blogging

I’m not happy with the direction games industry conferences are going in; I specialize in online games, and I’ve worked at the forefront of monetizing online entertainment, I’ve actually *made money* out of Web 2.0 – so I have real expertise in making use of the internet – and I really think we (as an industry) are missing a trick with our conferences. There’s an opportunity to do something really valuable and re-invigorate the conferences.

The previous entry outlined what conferences profess to offer their speakers, and what it costs the speakers to attend. Now I’m going to talk about the real, untapped, value of conferences to the speakers, and what we as speakers should be demanding, and how in the end it benefits all of us, including the organizers just trying to turn a healthy profit.

computer games conferences games industry

Problems of speaking at games industry conferences

I go to GDC every year, and also to 2-3 other conferences, but apart from GDC I vary which exact ones from year to year. These days, I’m a speaker at nearly every conference I go to, and I’ve never yet been paid for speaking, so it’s fair to say I have a pretty big time investment in each of them. I don’t make the choice to go to a conference lightly (especially given how long I’m out of the office for a typical conference, and how exhausted I am by the learning, the networking, the partying, and the international travel).

But I’m getting increasingly dissatisfied with the conferences themselves, especially as a speaker. And it seems to be getting worse, not better – and that’s particularly worrying. The conferences are still great, but the problems are significant.

First up, the costs of speaking, and the ever shrinking advertised benefits…

entity systems games design massively multiplayer programming system architecture

Entity Systems are the future of MMOG development – Part 2

Part 2 – What is an Entity System?

(Part 1 is here)

Sadly, there’s some disagreement about what exactly an Entity System (ES) is. For some people, it’s the same as a Component System (CS) and even Component-Oriented Programming (COP). For others, it means something substantially different. To keep things clear, I’m only going to talk about Entity Systems, which IMHO are a particular subset of COP. Personally, I think Component System is probably a more accurate name given the term COP, but then COP is improperly named and is so confusing that I find if you call these things Component Systems they miss the point entirely. The best would be Aspect Systems, but then AOP has already taken ownership of the Aspect word.

An entity system is simply a part of your program that uses a particular way of breaking up the logic and variables of your program into source code.

For the most part, it does this using the Component Oriented Programming paradigm instead of the OOP paradigm – but there’s subtleties that we’ll go into later.

computer games games design programming

More SFE Screenshots…

Another couple of days since the first one-day effort, and SFE single player is now working, albeit with a seriously crap AI:

Eggs dropping


Bored of boring shopping sites

In case you hadn’t seen it. Now, if this were done in HTML instead of flash, and the site still worked…

computer games games design networking

Screenshot of Super Foul Egg remake

Years ago, I found the spritesheets + source code from the author of SFE, who was offering them up if anyone wanted to improve it, make it 4 player multiplayer again (like on RISC OS) etc (or something like that).

Last Sunday afternoon I was very bored, and found just the spritesheets lying around on an old disk, so I wrote the gamecode from scratch. Didn’t quite finish it that day, but I think one more boring Sunday and I’ll have over-the-internet multiplayer and highscores server working, which would rock.

Kevglass asked for a screenshot, so…

computer games conferences games industry

3D Business: Reality or Fantasy?

Speaking at this panel session tonight. Should be interesting. I get to be the bad guy, the one saying that online businesses in other people’s virtual worlds are morally corrupt, and that all Gold Farmers should be hung, drawn, and quartered, and that the world will end, fire and brimstone, cats and dogs living together, etc.

Or something like that :).

games industry recruiting

Creating a New Game-Development Studio

How do you create a new game studio from scratch?

The topic came up recently when someone asked me what I’d do if I had the responsibility to create a new dev studio – what would I do, how would I go about it, etc? I’ve founded a couple of small startups before (both as CTO and CEO), and worked as everything from a secretary to a CTO (Chief Technical Officer) at other people’s companies, so I have some idea of how to do this on a practical level.

I also used to co-run a very successful business-plan competition, where we gave away hundreds of thousands of pounds of startup capital every year. Many of the finalists became good friends of mine, and we continued to work with and help some of the companies for a good few years after they won or were finalists as part of our ongoing support programme.

So, here’s some initial thoughts. I don’t know if this is right or wrong, good or bad, but it’s something I’d like to work out better because I may well find myself trying to do it someday.