Shazzan!

Where's my genie then?

Monday, October 25, 2004

In Like Flynn

Lot's of people say they hate Mondays, but this one's been a good one for me. Not only did I actually manage to get up in time for my interview, but the whole thing went very well. It went so well in fact that I've been offered a job at Ideaworks3D as a network programmer. If you bother to look at there site you may stumble along a product they call Airplay. This apparently will be my first assignment, maintaining the old code base of the first Airplay incarnation. This should prove to be a good programming role even though not in the 3D graphics or game engine department. Much to my delight I've been offered more than the meager £25k I was expecting, instead I'll be earning a respectable £30k per year. A very nice figure I've decided, and I shouldn't have a problem living off of that even in London. Next I'll need to sort out a bank account and some more permanent accommodation, then on to the two essentials; broadband internet and volleyball.

I got a chance to see one of Ideaworks3D products coming out in the UK next year, Colin McRae Rally for the N-Gage. In fact it was on an N-Gage QD which actually looked quite good (they've got rid of the stupid "hold it sideways to talk" thing. I saw someone at a bus stop talking on the original version and he looked like a right moron) and more impressive was the game running. Still a working version (I assume) and it ran brilliantly, graphics were of course low res but the game ran without a hitch, very smooth and easily on par with a playstation running it. I'm told Korea have phones that use hardware acceleration so it'll be unbelievable what can be done on them.

So I'm quite happy for the time being, I start work next Monday and hopefully can continue to make a good impression. I'll be like John Carmack in no time guys, just you wait.

Wish me luck.

Friday, October 22, 2004

A bite at last

Well it's been a while for me looking for work, at least it seems like it. I've registered with many online recruiters and I've had quite a lot of phone calls. There was the interview with KBC, the large investment bank that would have payed me lots of money but worked me hard in something I'm not really sure I'd like to do. There were a couple of other calls that were related to the financial market as well (Anvil Software was in the works, but I don't know what happened with that). A couple of days ago I got a call from Probe Games, a games recruitment company, saying that they had something I might be suited for. It's a job with Ideaworks3D who basically produce games for mobile platforms, that mainly means mobile phones of which the Nokia N-Gage seems to be the most prominent. From what I'm told, Ideaworks3D produce 3D graphics engines and network systems for mobile platforms, then they port established games (like Tomb Raider, Tony Hawk and The Sims) onto that engine. They also often add multiplayer modes to games that don't already have it to take advantage of the networking aspect of the phones. Apparently they also do some original titles, but I'm not sure what they are.

Programming games onto mobile phones was not exactly my idea of working in the biz, but they do work on mainstream games (even though it's port, there's still a lot of work in that and I'd get to see the guts of top selling games) and a lot of it is engine design anyway, so that can be pretty universal. Since this is for mobile platforms, it may be considered Embedded programming too, which can be very beneficial for other jobs outside of games programming. And this company works with some brand new hardware too, so it all sounds really good. I'm told I might get around £25k to start with, I'd like a little more but beggars can't be choosers. I've done some little quiz thing for them, a mix of brain teaser type questions and some actual job related questions. The recruiter said it went down well and I'm set up for an interview on Monday at 11am. Unfortunately it's a grilling type interview, even worse they mentioned C questions. I thought it was supposed to be a C++ job, so we'll see how we go. Also, they're interested in filling a position on their Airplay team (the networking product they've made) so they'll also ask me about network programming. I'm not against doing it, but I'm not sure what they're hoping I'll know.

So I'm pretty pleased with how that's going, it'll be my foot in the door for games programming and I'll soak it up to hopefully move on to bigger and better things, either within Ideaworks3D or some other company. I did hope that the Sony job panned out a bit better than it did (I haven't heard anything) but I'm just happy that something happened that I'm interested in. I'll let you know what happens, Ciao

Monday, October 18, 2004

Syndicate Wars

In regards to the comment I got from an esteemed colleague of the Department of Snuggling, I do have a feed for this site. It's just the Blogger auto-generated feed but it works. It's tucked away in the meta tags so at present there are no links to it on the page (here's one if you're really interested). Of course if you were using Firefox 1.0 PR or Sage (I think it's just a Firefix extensions) you can get them to automagically "find" the site feed. I'll put a permanent link in the side bar a little later, maybe even use Feedburner as Damien suggested to me.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

A little let down

I'm not long back from going out and while I had a good night (I'm not usually a night owl) I guess I'm a little disappointed. You see after I got all excited about going to the Ministry Of Sound, when we call Karen about meeting up with her she mentions that she's not really a Ministry Of Sound fan and doesn't really like their music. This comes as a bit of a surprise as a) I always kinda assumed that she'd be in to that type of music, and b) she didn't protest about it when we initially made plans. Instead we arrange to go to On Anon, meet up with her flatmates and then go to Ministry Of Sound later (since they're open so late we could afford to do that). I think "fine, no charge for On Anon then on to MoS whenever." But again when Karen's friends turn up it's all "Why in the world would you want to go there," "I don't like that stuff, it's much better here" which I guess is fine, they can like what they want to, the only thing is now that they won't go anywhere including Karen. So this pretty much screws my MoS plans, even with people saying that they didn't mind going or staying, it was totally my decision. I don't know about anyone else but this made me feel like I'm in a bad situation (one of the other girls agreed with me here, thanks Rachael) because after being told constantly that they didn't want to go and would rather stay here now the decision lays firmly on my shoulders to tear Karen away from her other friends and a place she already likes to, more or less, an unknown place. I decided that we should stay since the music was pretty much what I liked anyway and everyone was already happy plus it would save us all a £15 cover charge. The wierdest thing was that after everyone protesting about the MoS's music, the DJ at On Anon played a set that was pretty much like either of the MoS CD's I've got (2004 Annual and Sessions One, both Australian releases since that seems to make a difference, there's a lot more MoS releases here in the UK). I'm not sure that any of them have actually been to the Ministry Of Sound club and I think on the right night they'd really enjoy themselves. I'll have to do some research and turn them all around on the idea. Can't really do much about the cover charge though

Having said all that, I don't want to lay any guilt trips on anyone (if they read this) because I did like the music. Hopefully I didn't insult anyone by keeping my distance from the dance floor and/or talking a lot. I don't go out all that much and still find it a little tricky to hold conversations in noisy places, well any place really, my chats are usually short but sweet. And as strange as it sounds, I rather listening to dance music than dancing to it (dancing is probably a bit of a stretch anyway, most people/guys just stand and sway or bob or some combination of both. Girls really do the dancing). I'll just ease into the scene and maybe after a few nights out I'll feel more at home on a dancefloor. So any mini review of Ministry Of Sound will have to come later. Rest assured I will be going there, hopefully it will live up to my expectations.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

T.G.I. Friday

My post really doesn't have anything to do with the restaurant chain T.G.I. Fridays, but I can say I've been there. Before Paul and I left Glasgow we did go for a meal at what I assume is Glasgow's only T.G.I. Fridays. We both had burgers (Paul's a simple Bacon Cheeseburger; mine some kind of double burger with everything including onion rings. I've got to stop ordering those kinda things) and the acclaimed desserts also lived up to expectations. But rather I refer to the fact that it is now the end of the week. Maybe it's not such a good fact though, since this leaves me high and dry for a couple of days as far as job hunting goes. Speaking of that, it's been going good and bad. Good in that I've been having a reasonable amount of interest. Bad in that it's been either for Delphi programmers (which I am reluctant to program in again) or for Investment Banks (which isn't bad in itself, the money's good, but I don't want to commit to 2 years or so working for them, especially because they want 4+ years really). In fact just this morning I pulled myself out of the running for an investment bank job because they stressed that my staying here for a year sounded like too little. The job itself sounded ok and payed quite well but I couldn't bring myself to saying that I'd definitely be here for even 18 months. I might well be here for that long given the right job/sequence of events, but I couldn't guarantee it and I found it quite difficult to even bend that truth too much. Too honest for my own good I guess. So instead I will redouble my efforts to find a job within the games industry (fingers crossed for Sony) or some short contract work, but like I said, I think I'm on ice until Monday.

This weekend I'll be catching up with Karen before she goes on a Contiki Tour (again) and not long after returning I believe she's returning to Australia. Paul of course is coming along too since she's a mutual friend, in fact they sort of decided where we'll be going, to the Ministry of Sound nightclub (located here). I've been reading the website, and it seems we'll be turning up for one of their Saturday Sessions which is fine by me, probably a good night to see what the club is like. From the looks of it you can even book your tickets early for the Saturday Sessions; I'll have to check with Karen if we should do that. All in all, should be a good night out and the rest of the weekend shouldn't be too bad either.

For any arcade buffs out there, I know there aren't many, the other day Paul and I went to Funland Trocadero. It's a large arcade in the London Trocadero shopping centre just off Piccadilly Circus. It's a couple of floors and filled with all sorts of things, arcade machines, pool tables, bowling lanes, dodgem cars, and a sports bar. As with many of the arcades around here (the UK in general), it's also filled with gambling machines. Kinda like pokies but all different sorts of ways to lose your money. What's even worse is that only some of them are in the "18 year olds or over" section so anyone can use most of them. Rather terrible in my books, if you're going to lose your money you may as well hear some music, jump around a bit or watch 2D animated sprites beat each other up. I saw all my old favourites, DDR especially (of course there's a lot of EuroMix's here, I cut my teeth on the home version of Dancing Stage: EuroMix so I have fond memories of it) but there were some new games that I'll mention just now.

Firstly there was Guitar Freaks. This was the first time I'd actually seen the machine in real life. In a Jackie Chan film there's a crime boss playing the home version (I think it was Who Am I, correct me if I'm wrong), and I also remember Lost In Translation has a punk-esque Japanese guy playing the arcade version complete with leather jacket and cigarette in his mouth. So drawn to the Bemani series that I found myself compelled to play it, paying my £1, holding the "axe" controller and instantly choosing the very easiest level. This was a little bit of a mistake since after a short practice/tutorial session, I was allowed to play only one song instead of the 3 song norm for the music based genre. Still, I got most notes spot on and even "wailed" by holding the guitar vertical for the indicated notes. Quite fun I thought if not a little silly, I even found myself taking the stereotypical stance (legs apart, one in front one behind. I have images of Slash with his big hair rocking rhythmically backwards and forwards to the music).

Secondly was EZ2 Dancer 2 or something. I think it may have been the Korean version, but I don't know. Anyway it's very similar to my old friend DDR, but each player has only 3 step panels (very large and very smoothly placed, no nasty metal clips do snag your feet on) and 2 hand sensors (like Para Para Paradise or Dance Freaks) which are used simultaneously during each song. This sounds like the arcade machine you saw Dave, can't remember if you knew what it was called already. Again I felt the need to play this since it adds another element to a game I already enjoy. Once again I chose the easiest setting just to get used to the idea. The game plays along quite well and is very enjoyable, needing some hand/leg coordination which is basically unnecessary (but not unheard of for the free stylers out there) in DDR or Pump It Up. Because it's more to do with coordination (I guess) the songs seem a little less taxing than what DDR has evolved into. I'm quite happy with that since my legs seem to fill with lactic acid at an unprecedented rate while playing something like Paranoia or So Deep on DDR. There were some hot Asian chicks (if I can be a little crass) playing it there too and quite frankly they made me look bad, especially the one girl who played the Club difficulty (basically the Double setting for DDR and the like). Obviously she's been playing it for a while as she was quite fluent at it, probably would have drawn a crowd if it was a little busier. But apart from being outclassed on it (I did well for a beginner, and it's nice to be at the beginning of a game again) it's very enjoyable; I think I might be going back to that one for a while. My only problem with it was that it doesn't seem to have the difficulty selection that DDR has. It only has 3 difficulty settings, which actually seem to restrict you to certain songs, and only 1 difficulty setting if you want to play double. A little disappointing, but I think it was the same with Pump It Up, so maybe it's a Korean thing or something.

My final arcade machine note was another music game, this time drumming. Not the Bemani game Percussion Freaks though, this one I hadn't even heard of before, something like MTV Digital Drummer. I didn't play this one as it was getting a little late in the day so I can't really comment on it, but it looked new, it looked fancy and I hope it has some cool songs on it. I really started getting into the drumming section of the Bemani games, but Magic Mountain's crappy machine stopped me from really playing very much. Now that looks like it isn't an issue, instead it's a time and money barrier I face. Well, once I have a job there's always the occasional weekend to visit the arcade :)

Time to call it a night, so I'll let you all know what the Ministry Of Sound is like, it's supposed to be world renowned or something.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Back in Sunny London

Hello all, and I use the word 'all' optimistically since I don't know how many people actually read this (maybe I should use some hit counter site?), as you could guess by the title of this post I am back in London. The "Sunny" part is somewhat sarcastic, it's been drizzling since we got here but I won't let that get me down. It's good to be here and I've found some recruitment companies that specialise in games jobs.

So far I've got some interest from Datascope, the one that I'm particularly excited about is the Sony job. I got an email from one of the recruiters from Datascope saying they'd like to forward me to Sony (they seem to have an exclusive Sony hiring deal), I said "Sure" in that casual and thus interesting way. You know how these companies don't want you to come across all needy, that's a real turn off. Apparently I had actually applied for a position at 3DLabs, I just saw a job saying the company made there own graphics chips. I thought of Advanced Digital VLSI and thought that might be cool and I could use Magic again. I always downloaded that, installed in, played around with it for a while then forgot about it until the next operating system reinstall I did. It's probably more of a device driver/demonstration development role but it still sounds cool. Another promising position is a contract role in Brighton, 9 months from November or 6 months from January is advertised. Rate is pretty good too (I think) only that the start time might be a little too far away.

Soon I hope I'll meet someone at one of these recruiting agencies and I can get a better understanding of where I can fit in to the games industry. Again, I have a few concerns that I'll be underpaid especially if Paul gets a higher paying job than me, sibling rivalry plays a part in that. But judging by what's happened so far, me working in the South East of the UK seems highly likely.

A big hello to everyone reading my post from BAE Systems Australia. Hi John, hi Jerry, hi William, hi Serge (where's that reference you were going to write me? ^_^), hi everyone else I don't realise is reading this (that's assuming that the first lot are reading it). That reminds me, if anyone can send me Justin Nussio's email address that'd be good. He said he was coming to the UK some time before the end of this year. You guys should have my email address, so I won't post it here (you must know my phobia of spammers ... I did see some Javascript email encoder you can get, but that's a little too fancy for me just now, this may do as well). I'm also trying to get friends postal addresses in secret so I can send postcards and/or Christmas cards when possible, but it's not going so smoothly. I'd appreciate if people could email me their addresses so I can send them stuff (no junk mail or direct marketing I swear).

Saturday, October 09, 2004

What's in a name?

This isn't too encouraging, I just found out what Dictionary.com thinks my name means. The first thing that comes up is

A long riding coat with a small cape, worn by women in the 18th century.

Later on it also comes up with

Joseph, increase; addition

Now, I always thought that Joseph meant the same as Joshua which meant the same as Jesus, he who will save. I'm just not sure what to believe now. Woe is me.

Web Album

My gallery is sort of up. It's not very well put together, I just bundled it into one big album using Picasa and let it make a web page. In a perfect world I'd write a PHP gallery, but I'm lazy, so deal. Enjoy the pictures, I would have put a comment for all of them, but again I'm lazy. I'll put a perma link in the sidebar later, and maybe reorganise it into different groups, we'll see.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

BlogThis!

I used to install the Googlebar for Firefox mainly for the BlogThis! button, but since I've been using my brother's laptop I was hesitant to install an extension. But with the wonders of Bookmarklets I have the use of BlogThis! again. This may or may not increase my posting frequency (probably the latter) but it has made me a happy chappy as I couldn't get it to work before. In typical computer fashion, I didn't actually do anything to get it to work, it just does now. I'm not complaining though.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Taking Care of business Part 2

That last post was getting rather long, so I stopped for a while. Now I can write about what I actually started posting for. Soon I'll have worn out my welcome here at my brother's flat so I'll need a really good idea of where I'll be staying for work. I've been getting some good activity from recruitment agencies but I've been rather dismissive about a lot of what they've said (either they don't want contract or they wanted a Delphi programmer which I plan to avoid being). I did get one call about a games programming job in Newcastle, but now I've found GamesIndustry.biz which has a rather large jobs section. I've registered on the site with my CV, hopefully I'll get some more calls and I can decide if this games racket is worth pursuing.

Today Paul and I went to Glasgow Green and saw Nelson's Monument and the People's Palace. The People's Palace has a nice historical display of Glasgow and even does a little bit of a piss-take of itself with how the Glaswegians speak, some very funny stuff there. There was also a little display on "The Demon Drink" (it wasn't called that) with some writings on the Temperance movement, which was like voluntary prohibition, that had some great kitschy posters in it. One was great, I forget the text at the top but it was something to the effect of "Drink is bad for your health" then a picture of a pint followed by ABSTAIN in large letters. I thought it was great, there was also some advertising at the time of the temperance movement ("Taking the pledge" I believe it was called) that poked fun at it too. I've taken to the uniquely Scottish soft drink Irn Bru, it seems to be everywhere here. It looks like Lucozade, but tastes like Creaming Soda (supposedly with some kind of citrus but I can't taste it). It's Scotland's second most popular drink, after Whiskey or something. That's probably completely false, but Irn Bru is everywhere and I'm drinking it too much. I'd drink more water but I miss my Puratap from home. Instead I have to buy bottled water everyday which I think will end up being very expensive.

Well, that's it for now. Hopefully I'll have a job soon and somewhere to stay.

Taking Care of Business

Show's over, move along, nothing to see here. Back from Paris and I guess I'll be looking for work a lot more now. But first, let's talk about Paris. When Paul and I were "planning" this trip so long ago, we really only said "let's go to London, I know someone there and do whatever. Then we'll go to Wales, we know someone there and we'll do whatever. Oh, then we'll go see our brother in Glasgow, and do whatever." Pretty freeform holidaying really. So a while before we got here, Damien called us up and said that RyanAir had 50p flights to Paris, so he booked tickets for all 6 of us. You still have to pay airport taxes, but that worked out to £25 each ticket. Judging by the airports we went through, they're making some money from those taxes for sure. So it's a 1 1/2 hour flight to Paris which seemed strange since it was an international flight but felt more like a domestic flight. Queues didn't turn out to be a problem thanks to my brother's children. RyanAir also showed why it's a budget flight when we were leaving Glasgow Prestwick; the flight was delayed 30 minutes while an engineer was on board trying to fix a minor electrical problem, the navigational system! I guess it wasn't the worst thing that could happen and at least we were on the ground.

We got to Paris late in the afternoon after catching the airport coach and the Metro to finally reach our hotel, Residence Monceau Etoile which we booked cheap from Wotif.com. It's a nice place, but the rooms seemed to be stinking hot all the time and our shower was in the corner with only a shower curtain. This meant that whenever we took a shower, we ended up practically flooding the bathroom. Luckily we got fresh towels everyday, so we just mopped it all up using the extra towels we had.

The French experience was very good, nice place to visit and probably live. But not knowing how to speak French made things a little difficult. Annmarie was the closet thing to a translater we had and quite often was not with us when we needed some French lessons. This lead to a few funny misunderstandings. My first whole day in Paris was actually spent in the hotel since I'd picked up some bug from my niece Willow a couple of days before. I didn't feel like walking a lot so I stayed indoors and used my brothers laptop and The Rosetta Stone to learn as much French as I could. While I could say "A Red Car" reasonably well, there wasn't that much real conversation in the lessons so it was of little use. When the others got back, Paul and I decided to go out for dinner to a little French restaurant. We didn't really think too hard about it until we sat down, picked up the menu and didn't see a single word of English on the whole thing. Enter my vast knowledge of French (now I was the closet thing to an interpreter, God help us) I recognised "Meat" and "Fish" and Escargo. The back had Rouge and Blanc, which helped us seperate the Red wine from the White. A couple of other words that looked similar to their English counterparts also stuck out so after a while of furrowing our brows we felt a little more comfortable. The waiter that took our orders confirmed what we thought of the menu and made sure we didn't accidentally order some monkey brain puree with our veal so the ordering went as well as could be expected.

As the various parts of our meals were delivered (Paul ordered Prawns while I had the Veal with Pasta side, we shared a plate of snails ... quite nice, they're salty which was surprising) a new waiter was at our table. He brought Paul's drink then turned to me and started talking in French. I could only guess what he was saying; at first I thought he was asking if we were waiting for something to eat, so I struggled to remember the French name for the prawns (I said prawns and he gave me a puzzled look). I said the most useful phrase I know "Par le vous Anglais?" only to hear the response "Par le vous Francais?" and my heart sank, I was in way over my head. Somehow I thought he was asking about a drink for me, I think he asked what wine I want, I said "No, Evian". A glint of recognition from him, "Ah, Water!" pulling out the bottle of Evian I ordered, opened it and poured some into my glass while saying in a thick french accent "I am joking, I speak very good". Quite a cruel but funny joke that kept me amused for the rest of the trip.

The next couple of days before we left I was up and about, saw the Eiffel Tower and went to the top observation level. Unfortunately it was a little foggy in Paris that day so we couldn't see too far, not even to the Louvre. Damien thought he could make out La Défense in the mist, but definetly couldn't see La Grande Arche. The rest of the day was Hôtel des Invalides (where Napoléon's body is held), Arche de Triomphe, and Obélisque de Luxor. The last day was a little relaxing, we bought some excellent french pastries and ate them in a park, wandered around a little bit, had some excellent Doner Kebabs at some out of the way place (there was something we think was buckwheat. However they cooked it, it was delicious), back to pick up our bags, off to the airport and back here to Glasgow. It was very nice to visit there and I could easily go back, I'm even thinking of learning French (just so those waiters can't pull any more practical jokes on me anymore)