Monday, March 31, 2008

Car Seat Fun

Well the big day is getting close, so finally gotten around to installing the base to the car seat.

We got a pushchair that included a rear facing child seat that is good for up to 25 pounds, this car seat has a base that gets installed in the car that the seat attaches too.

Following the instructions though is one thing, but it really needs to be checked out by someone in the know to see if the movement of the seat is way to much or just right and as it's pretty important, it's worth doing.

This is where the National Child Protection Safety Certification (CPS) site is handy. This site will help you find a CPS officer that will be able to do these checks and is currently certified. You can usually find an officer either in your local police station or fire station. Sometimes they have an open day where you just show up on a certain day of the week or month, or in some places you need to make an appointment.

It is something that shouldn't take to long, but should be done a couple of weeks before the due date so that you are comfortable with installing the car seat when you need to and not have to worry to much about it when you first take your baby home, which is going to probably be stressful enough.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Diaper Changing Classes

Nappy changing to us Brits.

Did a class lastnight, it was a free class by BabiesRUS, sponsored by Pampers. It lasted about 20 or so minutes and involved watching a short video about products ranging from nappies, wipes, creams and changing sations. Also we were shown how to change a nappy, clean the baby and help deal with nappy rash. We then got to practice on a doll before being shown around the store, pointing out where the nappies, wipes and other products related to the class are kept.

Even though the class was sponsored by Pampers, the person doing the class wasn't that bothered by brand to much, though did recommend the pamper line of nappies from personal experience, saying that Huggies weren't so popular because they tended to leak and more people had instances of nappy rash for some reason. When it came to wipes, and creams, we were shown a good variety of makes, though a personal favourite had to be the Butt Paste line of creams, the name is great, you know what exactly what it's for and it's supposed to work really well.

It was a worthwhile class, certainly for free and I would recommend any expectant parents to check one out, certainly to see what other free classes are available, because our local hospital do similar classes, but they certainly are not free.

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Crib...

This weekend saw our landlord finally getting around to replacing the broken window we had in our dining room, which will now be the babies bedroom. It's only taken him a couple of years, even though it was cracked all the way across even before we moved in apparently.

With that done, I got around to putting our crib together. We got an Ellis 4-1 crib by Simplicity a while ago on sale for a pretty good sum we thought from Baby As it turns out, it's always on sale. It also is supposed to be a 4-1 bed as the name suggests, being a crib going through to transitional and day bed through to full size bed. What is failed to be highlighted on the product description is that in order to turn it into a full size bed, using the parts and tools included in the box, would be additional steel bed frame, wooden side slats and mattress support slats all sold separately which is a bit cheeky.

Anyway, on towards putting it together. The directions were fairly good, though important notes could have perhaps been placed a head of the section direction, such as where to place the mattress support for the crib, the directions say and show the bottom set of holes, then in the notes afterwards you are told you can place them higher up instead to make it easier to reach the baby and adjust the height as the child grows. Well sod that, it's at the bottom, and that was way to fiddly to put in so not much chances of that being un-done and put back in at a different height. So apart from that being a bit awkward, and setting the crib mattress support together at the start, the rest of the assembly went quite well. You certainly do need more than one person to put it together though or you'll go barmy, ta to fiddly for one person alone, but it didn't take that long, an hour or so.

It looks good and has a nice finish, so I'd recommend it, certainly for the money.

So yay, we have a babies room at last, lacking in a comfy feeding chair and has a cheapo student fold out fabric bubble chair from Target because we're now very skint and watching the pennies.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

On the job hunt?

Well it's a tough thing to do, but something that always needs to be done in this industry, either because you've been made redundant, the work atmosphere just isn't very good, or you need to bump jobs for a decent pay rise as well as for any other reason.

Connections are a great way to find leads, so sites like Linkedin are a great way of keeping in touch for colleagues as they move around in their careers. There are numerous job sites from the general to the more direct, Gamasutra is quite a good source for game industry jobs, but other sites can be handy too, such as Creative Heads.

If you get a selection of places, you'd probably want to find the skinny on them to see what they are really like. There are quite a few sites that review companies, such as the new site, RevYr and the Workplace amongst others. They all have their pros and cons as to how valid the information is and how current they are. So asking around on the Chaos Engine is a good thing too if you are a member because chances are, if someone doesn't work there, someone will know someone who does.

And whilst your at it, give us a job cos I'm in the first camp.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Duels as a Casual Game

Duels an online game that is vaguely a strategy game with some vague action involved. When I came across this, I thought it was a great little casual game that you could play a little over lunch, have some fun and have some immediate feedback. The first few days were a lot of fun, and the over all concept is quite a good one, but after a while, it becomes tedious, there is less draw to bring you in and you lose interest.

The game. Well you sign up, it's free, you create your basic character, there are quite a few styles to chose from. You have a bunch of ability type points that you can put towards certain character strength, the usual such as stamina, strength, perception, speed and others. How you use them affect how your character performs and which kind of path you want to follow from being a warrior to a magician typer person. This is all quite fun and you can build on this quickly by gaining experience points from having fights.

Fighting is down to a few groups, basically a skirmish which is a quick one, doesn't affect your win/loss ratio but you also don't gain as much experience or gold. Fights, which allow you to gain more. There are also tournaments and ladders, they are basically the same thing but you can gain more gold etc.

You gain tokens which you can use to "buy" packs that include potions and weapons etc, theses you can either use or trade for gold allowing you to buy other things such as armour, animals and weapons. You can only carry so many things and equip your character with so much depending on the level of experience, this is where the balance is a bit lacking.

When you begin the game, it doesn't take long to level up, allowing you to use more items and get a better character. This is quite satisfying. As you go along and reach certain levels you are then allowed to wear more types of armour and follow certain paths to get more skills such as an assassin. Level 25 allows you to use what is called action scripts, these are spells or abilities that you buy and when used in a fight can gain you a huge boost in experience points. The problem is, by this point in time, it is taking more and more experience points to level up, so it becomes less of a thrill for a quick lunch time thing, and as your character gains more and more health, the fights which you have no control over but are pre-calculated based on your stats that you can view take even longer to accomplish. They were a lot of fun to view to begin with, but after a while, they just took to long so personally I couldn't be bothered which took a lot of the fun out of the game. I was only playing during lunch after all, if you were a kid at home it might have a larger hold where you could spend more time trying to perfect your character, but I lost interest as it became a chore to go through. I still check in on my character for a quick couple of fights because I do want to reach level 40, the final level to see what happens, but I really don't care any more.

Other points that make this game interesting is the idea of "noble stones", these are things that you can buy with real world money that can be used to enhance your characters abilities, or change abilities that you have previously selected. You can also use them to buy weapons and armour. These can be bought as one offs, or as a pack. You also have the option of a subscription, this provides a number of these stones a month and depending on the level of the subscription gives you more features.

I don't think it adds anything to the game and playing it for free is just as much fun, but it is an interesting concept, it could do very well especially if the game was very engaging, allowing you to tweak your character much further than you could by playing it without a subscription. The only problem I see is that the game isn't that engaging that those with the money would be willing to spend the money. Those who seem to get into this are under age to pay for the subscription, so they are losing out on the core market. On the plus side, there are no google adverts, which is a plus to you the player I suppose, but for the makers, a loss of revenue perhaps, but as the game isn't quite as engaging as Desktop Tower Defense which has a huge volume of people clicking too on a daily basis, which really does earn the maker a good sum of money from google adverts.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hospital Tours and Baby Classes

It's been a few weeks since we did the baby course at the hospital, pre-natal classes that is. The option to do a few hours over several weeks or all day over a weekend, we opted for the latter.

Apart from going all the handy stuff like breathing exercises and the whole process of giving birth, there was a lot of other little practical bits of advice that you might not even think about like what to bring to the hospital, including phone cards because you can't use a mobile phone there and the phone in your room is only good for instate calls, which to some might not be a problem, but for us, when family is either in another state, or country, makes quite a lot of sense.

Another great advantage to this course, for us at least, it included a tour of the hospital, to see the birthing rooms and where everything is and how to register and all that fun stuff. That was great, because if you didn't do this course and wanted a tour, that would have been $45 a person, cheeky buggers.

This is another thing where it's worth checking out the details of your medical insurance, because our policy allows the mother to claim her costs of the class back, which is $90 a person. The husband or who ever else turns up doesn't, but it's better than nothing. Some plans won't give you anything back, some others will cover the whole couple.

Other hospital classes include basic baby medical classes, breast feeding classes, how to wash/change baby etc. Your insurance might pick the costs up for these classes too. Ours doesn't though.

Breast pumps we found, can be covered if you get a subscription for as a medical need, other wise you'll have to pay out of pocket, and for an electric one, those can be very pricey.

Getting reimbursed by the medical insurance can be pretty quick, we already received the cheque after a few weeks of sending in the forms.

Friday, March 14, 2008

What hardware?

Small and compact but with more options to upgrade than a lap top, the Shuttle, for the money, it is pretty good and it is a nice small machine that can pack a lot of punch.

Quad cores were played around with, but got way to hot, duel cores were the way to go, but graphics cards were an issue, can be quite tricky getting a good one that'll fit.

Also sticking parts inside can be tricky as there isn't much room. There is plenty of usb sockets which is handy.

Placement of the thing is important, because it gets hot, really hot, well to be more precise, the air it kicks out. If you keep it by a desk and keep sweets in the draws, they could well melt.

Using the machine as something to take home if you have the option of working from home with work hardware works quite well, but it's a lot more hassle than originally expected, mostly because there isn't much room to plug and unplug the stuff out back, perhaps if there was a quick interface thing along the KVN line that would be great.

As it is, I'd prefer a dedicated work and home rig, but I wouldn't want to use my home rig for work purposes, software licenses being one of the problems, that and it is just easier having a rig all set up to work with source control that IT can figure out etc without being your responsibility.

Working from home is great option, especially for people with families or those who have a long commute, but just allowing it isn't enough without offering to really support it.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The importance of Networking!

There can be no under estimating the importance of networking. There are many ways of getting that job from hitting the usual job websites such as Guru, Careerbuilder, Monster etc. there are loads of them around and you probably already know most of them. There are even more specific games websites a plenty.

They all can work, as can recruiters for some people, though some people have a distaste for them, I personally haven't used on in the past, but I've heard some horror stories, but also some good things so it's a case of checking the small print on that one and using a recommendation.

Which brings me onto the most important aspect of the job hunt, recommendations from friends, colleagues and acquaintances. With such a relatively small industry, knowing people can help with passing on contact info to apply direct or having someone that can pass on your information to who ever needs to see it rather than having to filter through human resources.

Linkedin is a great resource, hook up with as many of your co-workers past and present, hook up with people that you went to school with etc, you don't know where the contacts might lead and it's also a good way of keeping in touch with people as they progress along their careers. Other websites are around for this sort of thing, but they tend to be gimmicky or not as valuable as a professional resource. Facebook can also be another valuable resource with keeping in touch with friends, though I tend to look at this as more of a social network than a professional network, it can still be handy asking your friends for leads, and the marketing section to the site is worth a peak as well which has job listings.

Inside the games industry, there's no better site to be a part of than The Chaos Engine, this site is for industry insiders only and you have to go through a verification process to get in, or be vouched for if you don't have a current industry email. The wait can be long, but is very much worth it. Resources available are so valuable from finding the skinny on various companies, job postings especially those that might not be widely advertised. Plenty of information is available from art, code and other disciplines within the industry, and even quite a lot of business information if you wanted to become a start up.

The good folks inside also can be a big uplift for your spirits if things go downhill and will help out with contacts which is really helpful, so the more you put into the site the more you probably get from it, but it's a great place to catch up on the buzz of the industry during your morning cup of tea or coffee.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Industry websites

Here I will list a whole pile of websites that are useful to the game industry professional. Some I have mentioned before, but putting them all in one place is pretty convenient. This is information overload.
There is enough information there for even the keenest budding game industry professional. Please add any great industry sites you may know using comments. Bloggers and journalists feel free to copy this anywhere you want.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Shoot 'em up

The movie, Shoot 'em up, random, weird movie that felt very much like it should have been a FPS video game with it's dark style, cheesy dialogue and linear play out and awful story line.

It was both terrible, cheesy and yet fantastic all at the same time. A pointless movie that is just a bit of fun, something to enjoy if you don't want to think about anything, which hit the spot for me.

Monday, March 10, 2008


Well we've all been there, especially in this industry. Why? It's complete and utter bollocks.

We've just ended a few weeks worth of crunch to meet the alpha milestone and we're expecting to crunch a bit more in a couple of weeks before beta and gold, this is a lot more crunch than on the previous project.

It should not be that hard to figure out how to avoid crunch if your experienced enough, especially on an iterative project. You've got x amount of assets/features going into the game. You've got y amount of dev staff. Z amount of time expected to complete tasks = z(x/y) in a very simplified fashion. That means you have three options to get stuff done to meet the mandated deadlines if that doesn't match up -

  1. Hire or contract more people in house
  2. Cut features
  3. Move deadlines
Otherwise you are scheduling for crunch, this should not be happening in this day and age of developement, yes it's a fairly young industry, but it's not that new to have worked these kinks out so why haven't they?

It still happens mainly because we're pillocks and they can get away with it. If your lucky, you've got laws protecting you from slave labour, which is what unpaid work essentially is such as in the EU. We don't have that over here in the US, and being in a right to fire state means your job is more of a commodity and your easily replaced for some other eager beaver. That'll help keep the trend going, that and having new people so happy to be in the industry that they don't mind so much.

There is a time and a place for it, shit happens and you've got to get the product out of the door, you can't help it if everyone gets sick or people get poached en-mass. You should how ever plan for contingencies, people will get sick, especially in this cold part of the country in the winter. People also have babies and people just plain move on.

The last project, I didn't mind so much about the crunch because a couple people were off work for a long time with various illnesses and the like that couldn't have been planned for and with bad timing and over all it wasn't that much crunch.

At the moment on the other hand, after spending time looking for contract people that we could call on a bind, the place just hasn't been calling those people. People have been sick for the long haul, people have left for bigger and better jobs, or because they are just sick of the cold, mostly everyone that's out of state, so people I had something in common with, so friends leaving. That is across the disciplines from code and art.

We were until the new year looking for more staff, that doesn't seem to be happening any more, and we're not contracting out, that means we're expected to crunch, not exactly the family friendly face that the company puts out and to be fair is generally quite good about. It's made all the more worse that there's no milestone bonus, no project complete bonus, no annual bonus, no performance or sales base bonus and no paid over time. I'm not sure if I like this honesty or the usual carrot and the stick that is offered, at least there is hope in that situation I suppose. They did do a bit of flex time for people working the weekends on the last project, but they haven't done that this time around.

Shall have to see how this pans out when my review comes around in the summer. Made balls all for difference last year and that pissed me off, so we'll see, but then again, held hostage to the job because of the medical insurance benefits and with a baby on the way that's even more important. That's such a sad state of affairs.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Getting things ready...

It's been a few weeks since we had a baby shower, which is a weird thing, especially for the guys, well I wasn't invited anyway, but we got some swag, not much of the important big things, but handy little things.

I've spent the last few weekends putting things together so it won't be totally over whelming having to do it at once. The pushchair, that wasn't that bad, still need to send off the registration for the car seat attachment so we can find out about any re-calls and the like, and still need to figure out how the base bit attaches to the car and find the car manual to figure out the latch system, but that's another weekends project.

Boppy seat thingy, that's great, also not that hard to put together and supposedly hours of fun, I'm not so sure about that myself and it takes loads of batteries, which are a pain in the arse to put in.

Got the baby changing station put together too, that was interesting. I don't get why expensive furniture needs to be assembled, requires screws and still gets a crap manual. Anyway, that's done, so we've got some place to put the baby clothes, which we've been washing in small batches over the last few weeks.

The cot is next weeks task, and that should clear out the hall way that is filled with boxes of various bits and pieces. The recycle man is going to love us this week, shame it only gets picked up once a fortnight.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Finding out it's time to grow up

So obviously its been a while since I found out the missus is pregnant, what with the baby due next month.

Scarily my first thought on finding out, I think should either be happiness or a bit of fright, but I was thinking "fuck, how much is this going to cost..." Being so used to the NHS, and not being sick, I've not had much use for my medical insurance and have tried to avoid dealing with doctors over here, as they aren't cheap, and before moving to this neighbourhood, were pretty shite, taking ages to get an appointment and all that, but around here, it's been pretty good. This was the time for me to really look into the small print of my medical insurance, as it's really the one big benefit I have to be honest. It turns out to be really good.

On the cost side, we're spending a small fortune on parking costs at the doctors office, and a couple of $15 co-pays. Since then the costs have gone up, but that's another story. The cost of delivery will be with the new costs will be $250. It's pretty good, and that thought is scary, because in reality, that's still crap because it's free on the NHS (minus tax, blegh). Anyway, I shouldn't complain because a friend else where has paid $750 for pre-natal check ups so far and a simple delivery will be a few grand.

So that's the hook, the insurance is really good, the salary is pretty mediocre, actually crap, but I don't want to lose this insurance because it's only costing me $65 a month, and that's the family plan including dental, part of why I haven't accepted an offer to move else where and part of why I haven't been looking, though I know I probably should.

I'll rant some more tomorrow because it's good therapy, and no one else is reading this anyway.

Intro rant?

Well after a couple weeks of crunch, I figured it was about time I started a blog, especially since I'm supposed to be grown up now with a baby on the way, hence the snappy blog name. I'm not much of a writer, so this will probably be more along the lines of incoherent ramblings of some geezer going insane.

I'm some bloke who moved over to the US from England after uni thinking it was a great idea, well ain't all crap, but it certainly wasn't the paved golden roads to finding an easy job, helpful and easy immigration and cheap living that the tele soaps certainly make it out to be. Those Eastenders researchers need a kicking.

So here I am, a bunch of years later, living in Mass, broke as they get, but it ain't all bad, I keep telling myself that at least, but I'm happily married, the job is okay and there's a baby on the way.