Some stuff about …Thingie


This household, people come and go – sometimes it’s full, others just me. So I have two modes, mum mode and splendid solo.  And I like both, but mum mode is the all time favourite, for sure. I like littlies and I’m very happy to see ghastly teenagers, yay. And I have a soft spot for those who are between labels, and I like the older ones just setting out… and… well adults are ok too etc. An ever changing scene. …Thingie stops anyone that stops in here ever getting bored, but it has a serious purpose for mine own – mainly to cover aspects of education that their education doesn’t reach – which are appallingly many.

The UK, and Scotland particularly I find to be distinctly third world all too often. I have lived in countries with clean hospitals, sewage that is processed not just dumped offshore, and an education that has grown beyond producing workbots. This isn’t one of them. At 11, I expect people to know what the periodic table is, be giggling secretly about at Newton’s Laws of Motion, have produced “hello world”,  be capable of changing a car tyre, and well past “spelling” as a subject. Elements of design could do with some attention and math is pretty grim at school here too. It bothers me that the basics aren’t addressed.

The quest text in games, which I wasn’t always available to read, pretty soon cured any “slow readers” around here. I can’t keep up with their kindles anymore and am endlessly putting away piles of books. Exposure to an auction house or two cured any arithmetic woes. The puzzles in Zelda were satisfactory for introducing a few more interesting math concepts and so on. And as an aside, tackling monsters and defeating them is great for nightmares.

In a world where people are valued only for their unit production, video gaming is of course frowned upon – most likely for the time it takes away from more lucrative (mostly to other people) activities – like work and ….watching tv :) hahaha! Whatever, not my problem, I’m not adopting it – video games are terrifically useful for a lot of things apart from just playing, which is great, and I also think playing is completely underrated in a heavily monetised culture such as what we live in. I have no idea when pleasure became a terrible thing. I think it came along with this “work ethic” claptrap that is poured down our throats, I see radio 4 fuzzily in the distance, let me veer fast!

But not before one quick swipe – doubt very much anyone cares for a healthy population, think it’s more like initiatives to force a healthy workforce being endlessly propagated over the airwaves. What a pleasure it has ceased to become listening to Radio 4. You know, I grew up in a police state and I recognise brainwashing when I hear it. Ok I better stop there.

Anyway so we are making our own video game in here (…Thingie), and that’s why. We’re aiming vaguely for the market at some unspecified point, but it’s keeping hobby status for many years I would think. People are at school, I have other things to do – we work on it when we can. It’s intended as a fall-back for the growing workbots when they spread their wings, so it will have all the bells, whistles, legalities and capacities of a fully fledged product developed right from the start.

It’s a brilliant time to be doing this in fact. On the production side, the very gaps in education I so deplore leave the market wide open for anyone that knows how to teach themselves anything. Equipment isn’t hard to come by, nor information. There are some stunning tools out there, if you take the time to research, explore and then the added time to learn them (and sometimes how to fix them) – and many are free. On the marketing side, everyone is doing us a favour by making games that hope to cherry pick the upper end of the market by targetting the upper end of computers which is pretty daft. And the mass churn of used ideas is to our advantage as well. You don’t need any Holy Trinity, to name an old chestnut. One ranged player with a good snare or tank-pet fits all and everything else is an artificial division of that magnificent lonesomeness, which might be desirable but is hardly graven in stone. We don’t need funding, this hasn’t been very expensive, but if we did, there is Kickstarter. We don’t need marketing, but if we did, there is Steam and maybe GoG - it’s just a really good time for Indie games.

So yeah on we go! We have about 75% of the equipment we need to make this thing, enough to be doing with, and most of it is pretty standard home-use stuff. Another advantage showered upon us by the times we live in is that standards for home equipment are quite high. The main work for me has been endlessly reading and researching to see what works with what without spending a lifetime putting it all together and learning it. That’s a journey I imagine would be different for anyone trying to do a project like this, but the information is all out there.

I had a company before. Somewhere along in my chequered past I made one, which broke even in year one. I then folded it since it had become clear to me that I knew nothing about marketing, and went off and worked first in sales, and later in more interesting marketing. It wasn’t as dire a field as I thought it would be, and I surely learned a lot! So the whole company, office systems, project planning, red tape, accounting blah blah stuff isn’t new or news and can be factored in quite naturally and heh heh educationally.

Well, it’s a …thingy!

Currently, we’re fiddling about with things we’ve found to see what we might use. I think I mentioned Blender for prototyping somewhere earlier. After a lot of looking around we’ve decided its a very good place to start exercising our ideas both graphically and in terms of game systems. I doubt we’ll use it for anything but graphics in the long term (which is already plenty), but for now it’s where we are playing most. Our gingerbread men’s legs finally extruded and we’re on our way …It’s a brilliant thing. And so many buttons! I love it to pieces :) Next up will be C++. I’ve looked and looked at open source game engines and although I’m deeply impressed there is always some gaping chasm that makes them unsuitable for us. Think we’ll just have to bite bullets and make our own engine. Can’t see why not. It’ll be fun! It will I tell you!

Ha well fun or not it will get done. Coding, hmmm you know, I see a lot of posturing about it as I read, and I’m jolly glad I already know how to do it. My knowledge is out of date and I’ll be a beginner again for a while, but the valuable thing I know is that it’s not anywhere near as hard as people would like to make out. You have a problem if your language is limited, bugged or otherwise wayward, so I’m not looking to use anything peculiar or arcane. Bog standard C++ for us (unless I spot something better for the task). The rest is just plain work, pretty much the same as anything else, no mystique, no fanfare. Line by line logic at the fundament, nothing nearly as daft as the theory behind calculus or as subjective as art. There are harder, far harder things to master than coding.

Needless to say we’ll be using laptops as the baseline. We might invest in a notebook to try that, but I think the bigger screen and keyboard makes the laptop preferable. The fabulous capabilities of high-enders is too much of a moving goalpost for a setup like ours. We are aiming straight for the most people, and at any given time most people have less than perfect rigs. That means we still need to find ourselves a few bits of hardware to play with later. Things with whatever gpu/s are looking most popular. For now we’ll stick to what a current cpu can handle. I think. Everything subject to change between now and anytime – that’s why it’s staying a hobby. It’s unlikely we’ll be wanting to spend our free hours on photorealistic graphics anyway.

When I’m in mum mode, I’m cheery and feel all happy, just by the way, and when I’m solo I tend to be grumpy in a contented, comfortable sort of way. And eat pizzas at 4am and stuff. So you can probably tell which it is by the tone of the post :) To keep things moving when other people are involved I also keep jargon down, so sorry if you’re ever hoping for anything heavily technical here. I use it when I need to get through to someone that needs it to understand something – Aw, who’m I kidding – I can never remember generic jargon EPz9065 vdingbat.blah gets converted to “cache-doohickey with the older driver thingie on”, which is just as opaque. But works better.

And that’s where we’re at with …Thingie

Categories: Game Design and Creation, Things In General, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

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