Creating Brand You

His brand is clear

To the tune of: Morecambe & Wise – Me And My Shadow

I wrote this: http://www.techradar.com/news/internet/why-you-must-keep-track-of-your-online-profile-709345

“You might not realise it yet, but you’re a brand. All this time you’ve been walking and talking and posting on the internet, thinking you were a person, when you’ve been a brand all along. Who’d have thought it? All of your activities have been contributing to the brand, building a profile for it and even advertising it.

Why is it important to think of yourself as a brand? Because as information about individuals becomes increasingly available online, you want to make sure that information is not only accurate but also positive and succinct.”

That Song Meme – part 1.

There was a meme travelling my friend’s pages a couple of months ago, infecting time-rich and socially-starved brains as it went, and it was a music meme. I don’t have the musical erudition like Mister Gillen to write my life story into every song, but here’s a selection of my musical gems, shoehorned into this damn trope.

To the tune of: That Song Meme

day 01 – your favorite song
Ewan MacColl – Dirty Old Town
I heard it covered on the Pogues guts-sodden album Rum, Sodomy and the Lash. Ewan MacColl wasn’t his real name, and there’s a suprising amount of self-creation and revanchism in folk music in general, pulling lost traditions out of your arse, but, whatever my feelings about the autochthonous nation-creating nonsense of demagoguic politicians from the 19th century onwards, I can’t deny that Ewan MacColl got me riled up about English folk music in a way that one else ever managed. This is a great, simple, romantic song about a man’s love for his girl and his city. You can tell he was Mancunian.
test

Music, Yesterday.

day 02 – your least favorite song
John Cale – Fear Is A Man’s Best Friend
Because I love Cale’s misanthrophic solipism, and I love this song until that bit where he throws his toys out of the pram, the pram down the stairs, through the front door, knocking a Queen-mum-reminiscent granny and her Imipolex twinset into oncoming traffic.
test

day 03 – a song that makes you happy
Elvis Costello – The Big Light – Album Version/Live In Studio
It just reminds of that glorious stiff-legged feeling you get in a comfortable soft bed when you know the hangover hasn’t hit yet, and won’t until Dawn rosily fingers the outside of your eyelids. I used to wake up to this every day at university.
test
day 04 – a song that makes you sad
Aimee Mann – One
Hell, it’s just a grim little song about loneliness and mortality, bound up with Aimee Mann’s lovely voice.
test
day 05 – a song that reminds you of someone
Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band – I’m The Urban Spaceman
Sex to the tune of the Bonzo’s is the funniest thing ever. Check out The Big Shot, The Intro & The Outro, and Trouser Press to sample a variety of their styles. Brilliant, quintessentially English (belying my words about the hypocrisy of nationhood earlier) and amazing live performers.
test
day 06 – a song that reminds of you of somewhere
Miles Davis – Sketches Of Spain
When I was a lad, I got confused due to a lack of literature, and travelled the wrong way along the Pilgrim’s Way, walking the North Downs then the South Downs, from Canterbury to Winchester. It was hugely lonely, and it confirmed to me that recognising my misanthropy and wanting to change it wasn’t enough – I just wasn’t going to ever be approachable and sociable, and I couldn’t force myself into that mould. The soundtrack to my idyllic 250 mile month-long solitude was Miles Davis and Gil Evans orchestral jazz album Sketches of Spain, which just burns vistas of golden countryside and endless tree-lined footpaths into my unfocussed eyes whenever I hear it.
test
Please go and see the Bonzos live, before they're dead.
day 07 – a song that reminds you of a certain event
Green Day – Basket Case
Sitting in the back of the school bus, with the cool kids, who were surprised I knew all the words to Basket Case. Acceptance was temporary, but they were friendly afterwards – I’d turned from an object to be ignored, if never bullied, into an amusing if very strange person.
test
day 08 – a song that you know all the words to
Monty Python – Accountancy Shanty (Monty Python Sings)
My brother and I, for reasons unknown, loved these songs and memorized all of them, having copied them from a library tape (apart from the naughty ones about venereal diseases that my mum surreptitiously wiped.)
test

day 09 – a song that you can dance to
Mikis Theodorakis – Horos Tou Zorba (I) / Zorba’s Dance
Everyone can dance to this. You just stick your arms out, and bounce your hips and shoulders in time to the music. Then Kazatzky!  Now you’re Greek, Jewish, etc…
test
day 10 – a song that makes you fall asleep
The Smiths – Asleep
“Sing Me To Sleep” sings the song that sings me to sleep.

Interview: Transgaming & CCP on Mac Gaming

To the tune of: Tim Curry – Sweet Transvestite

Another interview that I felt guilty about woefully under-using in a feature. Still about making games for Apple Mac, but this time I was talking with Transgaming, who convert PC games to Mac for large publishers and developers, and with CCP, who’ve used Transgaming to transfer Eve: Online to Mac.

Gavriel State

TRANSGAMING: CTO, GAVRIEL STATE.

(Which is an awesome name.)

What differences in tech are there between a Mac and a PC?
From a hardware perspective, Macs and PCs are very similar these days – they share elements like the CPUs, graphics cards, and memory. The biggest hardware difference is on the desktop side, where most PCs use add-in cards for graphics, while the iMac has the graphics chip built directly into the system. Only Mac Pros have upgradable graphics cards on the Mac side.

The real differences come in the software side, where the operating system and driver layers for the systems are radically different, as are the APIs used by applications.

What needs to be adapted to make games on it?
TransGaming’s Cider technology makes it very easy to bring PC based titles to the Mac, by bridging the API gap that is the most important thing separating the platforms. For example, Cider takes care of the work of adapting a games’s DirectX API usage for graphics and sound to OpenGL and CoreAudio. Beyond that, TransGaming’s work typically focuses on user experience areas – components such as launchers, patchers and the like need to be rewritten using Apple’s Cocoa APIs. In the case of EVE, we worked hard to ensure that components such as the in-game browser were built with Mac-based browser code, so that UI elements inside the browser on the Mac match what they look like outside the game.

Eve graphs make me happy.

Are simultaneous releases feasible?
They definitely are! Mac updates for EVE Online expansions and patches are released simultaneously with updates on the PC. A close working relationship between CCP and TransGaming, built on constant communication, has been paramount in ensuring that updates are prepped in advance for such dual-platform releases.

What disadvantages and advantages are there in developing for the Mac?
One nice advantage to developing for the Mac is that there are relatively few system configurations that must be supported compared to PCs. Most Mac gamers are quick to adopt the latest OS updates, especially compared to what happens with PCs.

On the flip side, because the Mac OS is so tightly integrated with hardware, Mac users only get new updates to video drivers as part of the OS. This is great for users, since they never have to think about whether they have the right driver version, or finding out where to get updates or what particular version of the driver to get. But for developers, it means that sometimes a fix for a game has to await Apple releasing that new OS update. It also means that its much harder to support older versions of the OS which are no longer receiving updates.

There are dangers in closed systems – do you know whether Apple will implement a system similar to the iPhone’s app store?
On the contrary – traditionally, closed systems have been much easier for game developers to deal with, since they tend to further reduce the complexity of having multiple configurations to deal with, whether on the software or hardware side. That said, while Apple may well at some point in the future introduce an app-store type system for the Mac, the Mac is by its nature an open platform where anyone can develop software. That’s something that will never change.

The old barriers to entry for Mac development were the alien processor architecture for PC developers, the limited RAM & the lack of DirectX. Are there any more barriers that still cause problems?
While some of the old barriers such as CPU differences are behind us now, there are still many significant impediments to developers who try to do traditional porting. Doing so can require massive changes to a game’s source code just to get the game to compile on the Mac, especially when complex middleware is being used. In some cases, developers don’t have source code access to their middleware, making a traditional port impossible. And all of that is still ignoring the need to write new graphics and audio paths in the game, which in some cases can require changes to the actual content data.

This is where TransGaming’s Cider technology really shines, since developers can maintain their existing build systems, continue using the same middleware they’ve adopted, and fully use their existing graphics paths. At the same time, areas that touch on user interface can still be customized for the Mac, and other places that need attention require much less effort to deal with than a traditional port. Finally, some of the changes that TransGaming recommends developers undertake to improve the Mac version of a game are just as applicable for improving the Windows version, so the code ends up remaining the same for both platforms.

Spaceships, yesterday.

Are there middleware licensing issues porting to Mac?
While we can’t speak to specifics, it all depends on the middleware provider. Some have platform restrictions in their licenses while others don’t. Aside from middleware components from Microsoft, we have yet to experience a situation where a middleware issue made it impossible to bring a game to the Mac.

Are porting houses still necessary? What’s this Cider app we’ve heard all about?
The kind of porting house that used to be typical of the Mac gaming world is likely to have little place in its future. As the Mac becomes a bigger and bigger percentage of the overall PC market, more and more game developers and publishers are looking at getting into the platform directly, rather than trust their IP and profit margins to third parties. For more and more of these players, Cider is the technology they turn to when they want to go this route. By engaging with TransGaming and licensing Cider, game developers and publishers can bring their games to the Mac far more quickly than was ever possible before, and they can be directly in touch with their customers instead of going through a third party.

What’s more, the same technology behind TransGaming’s Cider is now being deployed on next generation TV set top boxes through a platform we call GameTree.tv. So developers who move to the Mac with TransGaming also have the opportunity to reach an even bigger audience in the future!

Gabe Mahoney

GABE MAHONEY, VP OF ENGINEERING AT CCP

Will CCP continue to develop all its games for the Mac?
As long as we have a strong contingent of players playing on the Mac, then absolutely yes. And there are no signs that are Mac subscriber numbers will do anything but continue to grow. We have more and players using the Mac client as time goes on as OSX gains market share and becomes more of a gaming platform.

Do you find any differences between Mac Gamers and PC Gamers?
To be honest, not so much anymore. While the Mac used to be more of a specialty OS for graphics designers, musicians and other creatives it is now gaining a lot of traction with business and general home users. This means that more people are using Macs as their general purpose computer and are expecting it to run games as well as their PCs. I think this trend will tend to create homogeneity between Mac and PC gamers and wise developers will embrace both platforms equally.

Interview: James Brown, Ancient Workshop

This is an interview I had left over from a feature, and it seems a shame to waste it. It’s with a Mac developer, James Brown, who is the entire staff of Ancient Workshop and it’s about Mac gaming.

To the tune of: Belle and Sebastian – Funny Little Frog

The Frog Prince

Tell me about you.
I worked in the mainstream games industry for 10 years (including stints at EA & Lionhead) but recently went indie. I have a game called Ancient Frog which is currently out for the iPhone and, in expanded form, iPad. Internally I also have versions running on OS X, Windows, Android and Palm Pre, each at a different stage along the release pipeline.

What differences in tech are there between developing for Mac and PC?
I develop simultaneously on Windows and Mac – they’re side by side on my desk like something from a Stevie Wonder song, and so far neither of them has managed to completely oust the other. I prefer OS X as a general development environment (it’s funny how the Mac ended up with a far better command line, given the history of the two platforms), but there’s still nothing to touch the Visual Studio debugger on Windows.

In terms of developing for them, they’re only as different as you allow them to be. Apple wants you to use Objective C, Microsoft wants you to use C# and DirectX, but in neither case is this enforced. If you develop in straight C++ targeting OpenGL, the differences are entirely superficial.

What needs to be adapted to make games on it?
Games are probably the easiest type of application to adapt from PC to Mac. Where you run into difficulty porting an application from one platform to another is in the user interface. If you’re making a traditional utility application, you have to either make something generic (which feels clumsy and wrong on every platform), or you have to bite the bullet and rewrite huge swathes of code for each version.

With a game, though, it’s different. A game pretty much is a user interface – it exists solely as something to be interacted with, and that interaction is something which shouldn’t be shoehorned in to the platform’s general look and feel. Imagine writing a puzzle game that conforms to the Mac OS human interface guidelines; it would just show you the completed puzzle – after all, users shouldn’t have to fiddle around solving problems that the computer can solve for them.

So it’s a given that a game handles all of its UI in its own way. Everything else is, to a certain level of abstraction, identical. You have a C compiler, a file system, a graphics unit that will draw triangles with textures on them really quickly. The higher level stuff that each operating system can do for you doesn’t really come into it.

Are simultaneous releases tricky?
From a technical point of view they needn’t be tricky. The easiest way to handle multi platform development is to make sure you’re building on each platform right from the start. One of the reasons I’m constantly switching back and forth between the Mac and PC is that I catch any non-portable code immediately, while it’s still fresh in my mind and it hasn’t burrowed its way to the heart of the codebase. It’s a natural extension of this development approach that when the game is finished on the Mac it’s finished on the PC. (I also target iPhone, iPad, Android, Palm Pre and so on, but the tighter constraints on performance and resolution mean that they each need a bit of individual care and attention before they’re ready for release.)

Marketing is a bit trickier – a big publisher is able to reap the benefit of one big marketing blitz covering every platform. As a one man indie, I’m chipping away trying to get reviews within my particular niche, so I feel I’m better off releasing one version at a time.

There are dangers in closed systems and Apple love them – do you think Apple will ever implement a system similar to the iPhone’s app store for Mac? Or has Steam already taken that function?
I really can’t see them implementing an app store in the same form as the iPhone / iPad store, where it’s the only way to install applications – Microsoft failed to achieve that with Palladium, and I’d expect any attempt by Apple would suffer the same fate.

An app store in the Steam mold is another matter, and in fact I’m a little surprised they haven’t already done it. (I can’t see Steam itself being any barrier – they already have the iTunes infrastructure in place, and it’s not as if they’d have any difficulty attracting developers.)

The old barriers to entry for Mac development were the alien processor architecture for PC developers, the limited RAM & the lack of DirectX. Are any of them still problematic? Are there any more barriers that I’ve not mentioned?
Pre-OS X memory management was a pain, but endianness and the specifics of the graphics API were never the real difficulty. Or at least, they were only a difficulty when the Mac was an odd niche market that publishers didn’t look at until they’d finished the game and wondered if there was any more cash to be squeezed out of it.

If you develop with multi-platform in mind from the beginning, you just need a slim little abstraction layer and it’s all pretty straightforward. The real change that’s happened here is not so much the hardware as the general resurgence in Apple’s fortunes. It’s no longer a niche; it’s something you develop for as a matter of course.

Are there middleware licensing issues porting to Mac? Do you use any middleware?
The less middleware I use, the happier I am. My current engine has no external dependencies – if a platform has a C compiler and something resembling OpenGL, I can build my games on it.

Are porting houses necessary with these changes?
If you’re a Windows developer making Windows games, then a porting house will save you an awful lot of work. But you’re paying someone else to do what is really your business, and for your next game you have to get them in again to do pretty much exactly the same work.

I’m definitely a believer in controlling that side of things myself. If you have a codebase that builds on two platforms, you’re most of the way to having something that builds on absolutely anything. There are odd little devices popping up all over the place at the moment, and I like being in a position to take advantage of them.

That’s the case for games at any rate. As mentioned before, while a game UI is a game UI, a native application really needs a native UI. If your target platform isn’t also the computer you use every day, you’ll probably make something that feels all wonky and wrong to people who do use it every day. That’s where a porting house can shine.

Do you find any differences between Mac Gamers and PC Gamers?
Of course! Mac Gamers are smarter, wittier and more attractive. FACT.

Why is GSB going to be SO AWESOME on the Mac?
Well, GSB is indeed going to be SO AWESOME, but you’d have to ask Cliffski for the specifics.

The Mac version of Ancient Frog is going to be startlingly prettier than the iPhone version. I’ve re-shot the textures (some of the iPhone originals were captured using a little 5MP compact digital – the new ones are hot off the full-frame sensor of a Canon 5D mk II), so it really shines fullscreen on a hi res Cinema Display.

Thanks and stuff!