the online ramblings of a generally confused game designer

Thursday, March 30, 2006

uv mapping

Well, after writing up my blog post for yesterday I went shopping, then got on with turning all the dev diaries you've been reading into a document for submittal. It came to 5300 words in total... shocking.

Oh, and then I watched the copy of Serenity I bought in Tescos. It was the most fun I've had watching a film in ages. Incredible, and my copy of firefly is already in the post.

This morning I put together the presentation slides for the SIFE people, came out pretty nice. Then I moved on to entropy

Dev Diary: 52 - 30/03/06
A UV test

Our attempts to get something together for deadline continue. I timed the cutscene for Jules, why he was incapable of doing this himself remains a perplexing mystery to me. After that I put together a test UV map and sent it to the forum to get dave to test it out on the model. Definitely not the sexiest image I've produced yet.

my character background (the close up portrait) is now working as a menu screen, and the level design is comming together. This should make for a very professional presentation

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

bad blogger

I am sorry for not updating in a week

My university is sorry for pulling out the wrong plug and disconnecting internet access for almost a week

The protestors yesterday are sorry for prolonging my disconnection for a day

So.. no internet access, but plenty of work done... my SIFE brochure design is chugging along, along with the presentation they need. I'm waiting on all my other projects for people to get in contact. Here's my dev diary for the last week...

Dev Diary: Day 51 - 29/03/06
Textures, textures everywhere.

Another week without updates I'm afraid, here's a break down of the time I've been gone

Meeting at Jules', mainly spent the session looking around Adam's map, then trying to get some kind of swarm working in game, as Ed had been unable to do it. I suggested a swarm made of brushes, which works pretty well in game. It won't be done for the deadline, but at least shows we were going in the right direction.

Dave seems on top of UV mapping, and should have something for me to work from next week.

Ed has agreed to try and alter intro hud for our mod

I had scheduled a lot of work on sorting out the texture for the bike for today and tommorow, but due to internet connection issues at the university this is impossible, as I'm unable to get the UV maps from Dave. (These problems continued through to Wednesday morning, preventing me from doing anything on the project

Met with the team in Caerleon Campus, as strike was enacted at Allt-yr-yn. Ed's changed some text on the HUD, but beyond that very little has been done by anyone, largely because of the internet issues. Dave gave me the UV maps on usb memory, so I will be able to work from those later in the week. My task list for the week is...

Intro length info for Jules, re-arrange intro sequence, texture work, prepare for presentation, folder

That's all for now....

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


And so another day is half gone.

Today started with me waking up and going to have a chat with Barry about my Dissertation. He's okayed my proposed bibliography, and is keen on the first draft of the proposal. I have to also produce an essay, to prove my ability to write on the the subject, for the examination board. I've chosen to do a pretty brief deconstruction of Metal Gear Solid, so I've been working my way through Twin Snakes on my gamecube, as well as rooting through my games collection for the PS1 original (which I believe I may have lost). I'm about to go off to the uni library to do some more specific research to bring into the essay.

After discussing the work with Barry I came back to the studio and worked on the Sheffield SIFE brochure, as the client wanted a couple of cosmetic changes made.. that's fine now though, and completed. I still need to make some assets for a presentation, but it should be fine... here's one, just to cheer up the blog a bit

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

3 weeks from deadline

ok.. haven't really done anything except the Diorama project today... sooooo....

Dev Diary: Day 43 - 21/03/06
Harsh Realities

So we had another day of meetings today. The first took place in our base room with the design team and Barry. It went well, everyone discussed what they had done, and the usual checks were made that we were on top of all our work. I was surprised to be reminded that I'd missed a job, putting together the spec for Ed to work from in order to make the particle effect based enemy units. I have since done this job, but I was embarassed to have dropped the ball. My image for the background of the options screen went down well, so all in all I was happy with how this meeting went.

The meeting in the afternoon was a very different experience. For the first time in months we were all present at the meeting. Dave has produced a bike model which will do for placeholder, in the comming week I will texture it (once he sends me the stuff I need). Jules is on top of what he has to be doing, dito with Adam. My real fear is Ed. He told us today that he has done nothing this week on the project, due to other commitments, he was also non-commital as to his work for next week. His attitude seems to be going a little down hill, and frankly I'm a bit worried. A key problem is that he rellies heavily on help and advice from Mike (their course leader) who is unreliable, and has very little knowledge on the software he is apparently in charge of teaching them.

We will have another meeting on Thursday at Jules' flat, so hopefully my worries will be sated then.

My only remaining job for this week is the texturing of the bike, which I have to wait on Dave for.

A little bit of a moody post, sorry. :)

Monday, March 20, 2006

bithell update

OK, sorry for the lack of posts... have been focusing on my dissertation proposal (more later).. here's a breakdown of where all my projects are at

Sheffield SIFE
Brochure is done, and available at so I just have to do all the disperate jobs I promised.. problem is that I must do this before I go home for Easter, as I won't have access to the software I'm using. Recieved my pay check today (yay!) and am currently picking out whether I'm gonna upgrade to CS2 and Flash 8 or get a new screen first... decisions decisions

Haven't done anything on this since the painting I uploaded, but it's chugging along, and hopefully I'll be able to sit down and have a go on it tommorow. More in my dev diary tommorow

TV Project
Probably won't be starting production on this for a few weeks.. but I'm rearing to go
I continue to sketch designs for it, this will be a summer project

I'm putting forward a proposal for my degree dissertation, entitled 'Brecht and the Videogame: verfremdungseffekt in the post analogue'... Still drafting and researching it, but it's looking like a really interesting subject area. My hope is perhaps to get it published in an anthology after the exam, it'd be great to have something in print

thats all for today, hopefully there'll be a more interesting dev diary up tommorow on my recent project. Oh, and i'm writing my dissertation in OpenOffice... it's fantastic, and well worth a download. I actually prefer the feel of the interface to Microsoft Office. Plus, of course, it's free

Thursday, March 16, 2006

painting and brochure making

have been getting on with work on the brochure, not a massive amount more to do now, just getting on with the clear up work.

Other than that....

Dev Diary 38 - 16/03/06
Tony Hart eat your heart out

Today I was greeted with the news that Dave has returned to the fold. He brings with him a bike model complete with rider. Far from perfect, but it will do the job. Therefore we don't need me to model the bike, therefore I have needed to take on a different job. I've decided to start doing artwork for the menu screen. My plan was to get this into a HL2 mod for tonight, but it wasn't to be, as there was a problem transfering files from uni to home (where the SDK is).

The image here will be used (hopefully) on the front interface. It took 6 hours, and is the first attempt I've made at representational wacom painting

I've put up both a 'work in progress' and a completed image

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

a page done

I've spent the morning on the brochure for Sheffield SIFE.. the first page is at

I'm happy with it so far, and if I get the OK from the client then I will continue on with it. Not the most exciting subject matter in the world, but it pays the bills and adds to my portfolio

and for those worried about the state of my PC.. it's working fine at the moment.. I continue to play Black and White 2 with no problems. Oh, and Lost Coast.

as for the Diorama project...

Dev Diary: Day 37 - 15/03/06
The mystery of Dave

So me and Jules went to our meeting at the other campus yesterday. We'd both done everything we were expected to... so no problems there. Afte an incredibly relevant play on their VR machines (and much oohing and ahhing) we sat down with Adam, our only member to actually show up, and discussed our progress. Adam has made working vehicle code, using brushes. This bypasses Ed's research, but is frankly neccesary to have playable code by deadline. Dave is still not around, so it was agreed that I would have to take over the modelling of the bike. I am fearful of this, but will have to learn. I've worked in Maya before, but that was a while ago, and I'm sure to be very rusty with it. Thats my only job on the game for this week, so I'm hopeful.

As for the game in general, we now have good solid level geometry. We are also well on the way to enemy implementation, and rudimentary bike code. We just have to pull everything together now for a final product.

here's a link to some level design I cannot take any credit for

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

the first of two...

Sorry for the lack of post yesterday, was a busy day.

The guy from PC world came out, and he fixed the fault, my graphics card works perfectly now and I played Black and White 2 for a while last night without any problems. Great, I hear you exclaim, how unfair I was to insult this great and illustrious company. But wait. The reason for the fault?

6 months ago a PC world technician stole my shiny graphics card and replaced it with a crappy smaller one.

I have no record of the person involved.. but I'm gonna try and track down the information. Whoever it was has lost me a lot of time, and money.


The TV project remains silent, the website is done, and SIFE is chugging along. I'm gonna post two dev diaries today.. one for yesterday, and one later on to cover my meetings later with Barry (he's still 2 people away as i sit in the studio writing this) and my dev team.

Dev Diary: Day 35 - 13/03/06

Today I only had a couple of hours free to work on the game, so I took the time to produce animation for the follower sprite characters. They are 2D mapped onto planes, which move through the world chasing the player. Here's a video

Take a look.. speed on the animation may change, we'll see. It's only 5 frames, but it does the job

Not a lot more to report for now.. but another post later after my meetings

Sunday, March 12, 2006

lazy sunday...

...or not

right.. I see there are no posts since wednesday.. mainly due to a very busy timetable and a still hanging-on pc. I've had to be walked to my uni workstation by a burly security gaurd wearing big boots (because of the snow you understand). If anyone asks me to push an anomolous material into a particle accelerator, or i see even the slightest hint of a headcrab, I'm off.

Well, the website I was working on is now online.. at I'll add a link to the sidebar for posterity on that one. I've had a chat with someone about doing another site.. so we'll see if that brings in a new project. I always love those weeks where you can kiss goodbye to a number of ongoing jobs, theres something very rewarding about a week filled with happy clients. That said, I am running behind on the SIFE work, despite recieving an envelope of stuff to work from. This is due to all the clean-up work on those projects, and, not to a labour a point, the helpful staff at a certain highstreet computer retailer.

On to the diorama project...

Dev Diary: Day 34 - 12/03/06
Working through it

A couple of days to report on here...

Had a busy morning of lectures. Spent the afternoon researching the areas I needed to for the project this week (laid out earlier). Then it was a quick bite to eat before jumping on a bus to Jules' flat for our weekly 'not in the uni' group meeting. I showed everyone my research, which also included a couple of tutorials on vehicles, the main sticking point for Ed, and the now entirely absent Dave. One had already been attempted, but the other, which made use of brushes instead of .mdls (i know, i'm not entirely sure what that really means myself) was a new and intriguing solution to the problems we were facing. We all sat down, and i read excerpts from my lecturer's book to our level designer as I had it in my bag, whilst our programmer attempted to compile the code for the bike he had been working on.

It crashed Jules' computer, as well as setting all his files to read only. I stopped reading, and then the level designer attempted my brush tutorial, as I read out the numbers and code he needed to enter. I had to leave to make the bus, but he plowed on, and it would seem we have a very rough working prototype, I won't know until I play it, so more on Tuesday.

Friday & Saturday
Working in other areas

Got in to the university for some catch up work on the project. My remaining job for the week is to create the sprite images for the game's enemy, the swarm. Here's a first attempt... I've asked the team member's to give me their thoughts. on it before I continue, and animate it.


More tommorow

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

pc world.. my own personal heroes

Today I awoke to the sound of my mobile phone ringing (the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy theme tune, fantastic). Leaping from my bed I picked up the phone

me: Hello
strange voice: Hello, is that Mr Bithell
me: yes mate, yes it is
strange voice: Hello, it's xxxxxx from PC World, I'm just calling about the job later today
me: Oh right, yeah, great
xxxxxxx: Just a quick question, I have two addresses for you here, one in Haywards Heath, Sussex, and one in Newport, Wales... which one is it the job is at.
me: Yeah, as I said to the guy last week, it's the Newport address, I haven't lived in Haywards Heath for 2 years now
xxxxxxx: Right, yeah, ummm, I was worried that might be the case
me: My graphic's card's 130 miles away isn't it
xxxxxxx: ummm, yes... i'll book you in for another day
me: thank you

fantastic, that's another week without a working PC. In the meantime, just getting on with the SIFE documentation today... here's a logo I've put together for the client, more to follow once i get hold of their typeface.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

html is easy

the tech support guy comes round tommorow, so I'm litterally on tenterhooks :)

until then though, a very productive day.. had a meeting with the dev team on the diorama project, a dev diary will follow. I have also started putting together the website I'm producing, and have passed on the URL for a partial build to the client.. still awaiting some more data though. That one will be finished within the week.

oh, and i'm buying doctor who series 1 (the new one of course) for £20.. yay!

Dev Diary: Day 29 - 7/03/2006
Submitals and Jobs

Today's meeting was done without the overseeing of Mike (Programming lecturer) or Barry (my games design lecturer) as both were away as part of a university wide lecturer strike. My group met in Allt-yr-inn anyway, so that we could sign off on all our jobs and work out our new ones. Dave was again absent, and I can only assume this is because he has still not finished moddeling the bike. Adam is still attempting to bring him back on board so that work can continue. This is however a major sticking point, and one that worries myself and Jules greatly. Ed is definitely back within the fold though, pressing on with coding the bike.. a gargantuam job which he is being forced to do alone due to a lack of support from his lecturers.

I have completed the sound dub on the video, a massive job as I had to redo a lot of the animation in order to make it fit. this video can be seen at (sorry mac guys, I will be one of you soon). I also added new imagery, which I aim to add to using other imagery Jules has found, once he secures the copyright on it. I have also organized studio recording time for a few weeks time

My jobs for the following week are:
Research implementation of intro cutscene into hammer, make intro changes once jules gives me the needed imagery. Swarm sprites, attempting sparkle effects

I will probably start work on these jobs on thursday, unless of course the tech support guy actually, like, fixes my computer or something.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Back in the stone ages

You may remember my warnings a couple of weeks back that my computer may die at any moment. Well that day came on a cold winter's afternoon last tuesday. I had just come back from town, where I had thought to myself 'hmmm, I haven't backed up any of my ongoing projects since, umm, I started them' and lo and behold, my computer refuses to log on. It also refuses to run any 3D software. Luckilly, thanks to the crap security of windows computers, I managed to get access to my old files and copy them off to a dvd just before it all self destructed. I spent 3 hours on the phone to my tech support company the following day, trying to get them to admit that the computer was unsalvageable, and 3 reinstalls later I'm waiting on an engineer to come out on wednesday. For the time being I have to use the game suite at the uni, but access is limited and I've already used up all my allotted disk space. So blog posts may be infrequent for the next couple of weeks. That said, in 6 weeks the company has to give me a refund in vouchers if they can't fix my pc (which they won't), and I have my eye on the new iMac... we'll see

anyway, back to business

Road Safety
As I work part-time on Fridays to keep the wolves from the door, my girlfriend volounteered to present the finished film to the main client. Apparently their happy, and I even got a few oohs and ahhs. Payment is being handled by one of my lecturers, so I'll see that in a few weeks (i'm upgrading to photoshop CS2). So that project is now officially done, will put up a link if the client decides to put it online, if not then i'll put it on my website (more on that later).

Family Crest Reconstruction
The client agreed to the design I put up earlier. As I was paid in advance I've already spent my earnings, but it's still a good feeling to have completion on that too

Election Website
The client likes the mock-up I posted, so I'm just waiting on the data he wants it to contain, should be able to bash that together this week

SIFE documentation (new)
I've been contacted by a friend I produced the SIFE website for to produce a pack of brochure, business cards and assorted paraphinalia for an upcomming conference.. i quoted him low as he's a mate, but this one is definitely gonna help with my CS2 upgrade. The job won't start for another couple of weeks

TV show
I've been contacted by the producer, who's currently organizing the sound, and a storyboard artist.. So full production should, conveniently, start when I get my new PC. I am going to have to ask him in our next meeting if I can spill the beans on here and finally show you guys what I'm up to on this (new)
It's about time I established a web presence, beyond the crappy site I made for myself about 5 years ago (i won't post a link, as I'm embarassed, but you should be able to google it if your heart desires). I have a really cool idea, which would present me through an interactive and hopefully fun, web toy. I've started sketching concept art, but as I have no access to a scanner here I am at a loss to show it off. Don't expect the site till sometime in the summer, as I'm gonna take the time to make it really special, and link it to a bit of mail-out self promotion I have planned.. if you work at a game company I like then you will be getting a neat little parcel from me.. as Bli is the only reader I know I have that fits that bill, I may have to gift wrap his :)

Wow, I see that I've gone another week without an update.. sorry about that. Here's another Dev Diary then....

Dev Diary: Day 27 - 5/03/2006
Machine Failure

Due to a the death of my computer, I have fallen behind with the diary, luckilly I have signed up for weekend access to H2, so I have been able to push on with my work. Here is a summary of the week

Had a meeting on Tuesday with the group. It was short and brief. Adam had continued his sterling work on the game, creating a train system, and really beginning to polish the level builds we had seen before. Ed returned to the fold. He seems very worried about the implementation of the bike code, but we've all got behind him and I'm sure he can do it. Dave was not present, so we are still missing the bike and main character models. Myself and Jules were on top of the work. Doctor Mike seemed happy with the intro, so I now have to combine that with Jules' audio

my task list
editing sound to video track and adding additional scenes, organising sound studio time, building sound asset list, beginning to collect resources for our use

I did the sound asset list first, a very small job. I've also had a number of conversations with our sound guy, as long as I give him a week's notice he's glad to help us out. Therefore, my main job for the week is the sound and intro scene editing. Jules also wanted a couple of extra frames to show the swarm and facilitate the transition I mentioned earlier

Worked in the studio adding the extra frames to the master photoshop newspaper, ready to animate. Then headed over to Jules' flat to see Adam's build of the game and have a chat with the team about where the bike code is heading. Ed had still got big probelms with the implementation, I doubt we'll have a bike in game for Tuesday. Adam's level is going from strength to strength, and also featured a very early attempt at the swarm code.. It's starting to come together.

Sat down with the audio file in premier, and worked out the timing for the camera pans over the newspaper, put together a cue sheet in my sketch book which means I can animate it all, hopefully tomorow. I may have to burn the midnight oil, but it'll be worth it to get this done.

Right, i'm back in the studio tommorow, so you can probably expect another post.. fingers crossed it will contain the sound edit.. we shall see.. sorry about the lack of pictures :(