14 March, 1999
Too much to do. I hate university. Well, that's not entirely true, but now that I've absolutely decided that what I want to do is write / design video games, this whole psychology lark just seems to be getting in the way, big time. Still, I owe it to myself to get a decent mark (here's hoping for a 2:1) and I really have to get my arse in gear to make sure I do.
This will be the last diary entry until I graduate in mid-July. Now, in case anyone's thinking "Aaaah, Nick F - who was one of the keenest gits a year ago - has finally given up the ghost", I can only reply: WRONG!!! In the next few months (after I get my dissertation finished - due in 2 weeks and not even started yet) I'm going to be starting a strict timetable of revision and Yarozery. Not strictly Yarozery, either - I'm hoping to dip my fingers into the wonderful world of DirectX (esp.Direct3D) and OpenGL programming at some stage. I'm also going to be looking through some "Teach Yourself" books, dealing with all the wonderful math I missed out on while I was learning to quote great chunks of Shakespeare at A-Level (how very useful that has proven) "Elementary Linear Algebra" here I come!
What has caused this much-needed kick in the arse? I don't really know. The Yaroze Meet in Edinburgh (more on that later) certainly had an effect, as has knuckling down to writing application letters to games firms. I'm also thinking about what to do after uni - I could go home (shudder!) and spend a good few months getting my programming skills up to scratch, working on design stuff and keeping up my writing skills (i.e. Loonygames) just in case a "Staff Writer" ad appears in EDGE. Heh heh.
The other option lies in further further education - more specifically, the PGDip/MSc degree in "Software Engineering (Games and Virtual Environments)" at Abertay University. You know, the course that Dave Jones was involved in setting up. I've already been in touch with some of the staff there, met a student on it, and I think that it might be a good idea. Who knows, maybe there's only so much I can teach myself? The news that almost everyone from the last class got a job in the industry was pretty encouraging - but do I want/can I physically afford to spend another year to a year-and-a-half at university? I'll be popping up sometime in April to have a look about, at any rate. We shall see!
In the meantime I have an MA in Psychology to get, which should at least prove I have a brain. This will require some serious revision to get a decent grade, as I really know F-A about my subject compared to many people in my class (they have the advantage of actually caring a lot about the subject). Why couldn't we have had more coursework (instead of 5 three-hour exams determining 70% of the mark)!?!? Part of me feels that no subject can be that interesting when you have to cover it in such detail. Except games programming, obviously! At least I have a month travelling in the US after my exams finish in early June to take my mind off things (and hopefully catch Star Wars before you lot).
I seem to remember saying I would talk about my trip to Hong Kong in the last diary entry. Well, it was unusually perfect weather for my last ever holiday there, and I was in such a great mood I spent a ton of cash. I bought bits 'n bobs to upgrade my PC to a respectable P2 350 with 64MB RAM and a Riva TNT graphics card. I can run Half-Life respectably at 1024x768, so I need never go outside again! I also procured the Ridge Racer Type 4 box set (including JogCon and t-shirt), a GOLD copy of US Zelda 64 (at great personal expense), US Turok 2 (with the 4MB N64 memory expansion), and my brother got me N64 Rogue Squadron for Christmas. I also picked up a Color Gameboy with Tetris DX and a US copy of GB Zelda - which is absolutely the best thing I got out there. Color Gameboy rules!
I saw plenty of Dreamcasts, and although I was impressed it felt nothing like the first time I saw the PS or N64 running (or MPEGs of the new 'Emotion Engine' - cheese - in action). I'll probably get a Dreamcast when it comes out (if I can afford it) but now I'm really looking forward to the PS2 after the recent announcements (I was wandering about in a good mood for days after hearing about it)! Dreamcast Sonic Adventure looked good (if a tad glitchy) and VF3 was pretty much arcade-identical as far as I could tell. So far, my impression of Dreamcast is of a hi-res N64, but I did leave Hong Kong before Sega Rally 2 came out - since everyone says that's the most impressive DC game, I suppose the jury's still out. I was pleased to see that Sony completely blew my expectations for PS2 out the water - I was sure that it would be much more impressive than Dreamcast, but they really have taken things to "the next level". It's definitely a good time to want to work in the games business, I feel.
I'll miss Hong Kong, but I'm sure I'll return some day. Let's face it, if I was going to buy a PlayStation 2 on the launch day I'd probably save myself some serious cash flying direct to Hong Kong and buying one on a shopping weekend, rather than buying an import one here (what do you mean, "Wait"?)! I recently discovered that buying US games (and DVDs) direct over the net is practically as cheap as getting them from Hong Kong, anyway.
The Edinburgh Yaroze Meet a fortnight ago was pretty successful, I thought. George Bain and Robert Shand came down a day early, and I met them Friday afternoon at the train station. We spent the afternoon chatting and drinking (after a v. brief tour of Edinburgh's town centre). Trivia facts: Bob Shand had a work placement QA testing at Bullfrog, and George Bain was a renowned SEGA fan before working for arch-rivals Sony! After a night of intense conversation and yummy Mexican food, I handed the guys over to Mr Frosty who "entertained" them by taking them along to a night of improvised comedy at the university theatre.
The next day, everyone else turned up at Waverly Station for the official meet and we started well by trotting off to Burger King (George Bain managing to overcome his fear of British beef for a moment). Then we walked along to H.P. Mather's pub in the Edinburgh West End (which is emphatically NOT an old man's pub. At all. In any sense). After one scary drink with the locals, we ventured on to Sega Park (a semi-dingy arcade with about 20 games machines and 100 fruit machines). I wasted a pound on a 45-second long shot on Sega's Star Wars Arcade, but my bitter humiliation was tempered when I won a 4-player race of Sega Rally 2. "I am the master!", etc. We didn't spend too long in the arcade; it always surprises me when people who profess to enjoy writing and playing games don't seem into arcade games (which are the most fun way of playing games with a large group of people). Maybe that's something I've picked up from Hong Kong, which is a bit like Japan with respect to "arcade culture"? Or maybe arcades are just too bloody expensive! 8 player Daytona - I say "YES"!
After that we trotted up through Edinburgh's Grassmarket (famous pub area) and into the Cowgate (less famous pub area). A lot of places were packed out because of the rugby international, but student "favourite" The Living Room was suitably empty. Good! A few hours worth of hardened Yaroze boozing and wenching (hmmm) ensued. James Rutherford - who couldn't make it till later - was meant to call us on George's mobile, but it turned out he couldn't get through (due to the pub being under a good few tons worth of stone). At this point, we also lost Graeme Evans who had (gasp!) "other arrangements". The hurt
The situation improved when we trotted up to my place for some much-needed food (handily, I live just next to a Domino's Pizza). I finally got in touch with James to say where we were, and surprised my flatmates by barging into my humble abode with 12 or so Yaroze members in tow. Whilst waiting for the pizza I forced everybody in my room (13 people! Flat record, everyone) to watch the Ridge Racer Type 4 intro (and me being shit at playing it), then "challenged" people to Goldeneye. I must apologise for coming across as a bit of an arrogant arse at that point - sorry, but the prospect of thrashing victims at multi-player Goldeneye makes me like that.
After the 6 extra-larges were devoured (and my limited-edition Mario Kart N64 pad took a bath in the Meat Feast), we decided to head off to the Tron Ceilidh Bar to "crash" a meeting of DMA people (Alisdair Huston - Yaroze Meet member and lecturer at Abertay - used to work for DMA). What actually happened? Drinking! Tomfoolery! Misidentification of Dave Jones (it was one of the Body Harvest guys, everyone) and my alleged sighting of DMA's PR guy, Brian Baglow! Needless to say, we weren't invited to the party later that night (huh - last time I shell out for a DMA game).
It was about this time that people started to filter away. The last trains back to Dundee and Glasgow left at about 10:30, and the momentum of the evening was slowing a bit. George, Bob and myself had some chips and a final drink before the night drew to a close. And with that it was 'Game Over'.
I'd like to thank everyone who made the effort to come through, and I hope that we can do it again sometime. I'm thinking that the best time for the next meet would be during the Edinburgh Festival (i.e. August), when Edinburgh is undoubtedly the coolest place to be in the entire universe.
A salute to the Edinburgh Yaroze Meet v2.0 heroes!
Robert and James R. now have the photos that they took online - check them out!
Since then I've been pretty busy with university work. I did find the time to buy myself a cheapo second-hand Mega Drive and a bunch of games - including some of my favourites (Desert Strike, Strider and Another World). If I find Earthworm Jim 1 & 2, Flashback, Terminator and Aladdin, I think I can die happy (for the next few months, anyway). I also found Dixons selling PlayStation Abe's Exoddus half-price for twenty quid, which was a great deal. I'm hopefully getting the Nintendo fighting game Super Smash Brothers and PlayStation Resident Evil-beater Silent Hill over the Easter "holiday", and a review copy of X-Wing: Alliance from Loonygames. That should be enough to keep me entertained until I finish this year, in between coding and revision of course! I have this nasty habit of playing games in my free time instead of working on Yaroze stuff - I think it probably has to do with the amount of money I've spent on games in the last few months.
I was pleasantly surprised to find out I had been mentioned in a games magazine. I was sent a scan from the Australian rag 'Hyper' which mentioned Mr Frosty and myself, and carried a picture from Mud N Blood! The picture was copied from my public page (it was pretty obvious that the guy who wrote the piece had no access to the official sites), but I was still chuffed to see my name and game in print (it would've been nice if they'd contacted me about it). One for the "press cuttings" file, I think! You can check out the article by clicking here.
Although I say I'm not going to be about much till after I finish university, I am still going to be looking at the newsgroups and updating other areas of my homepage (including the Member Demos Hub - keep 'em coming guys)! Also, if anything exciting happens on the jobs front, I'll put a special message up (and maybe even a euphoric diary entry). I've spent today sorting out my PC's Yaroze directory - getting rid of any useless files, old programs, and any member demos that don't come with source. I've also uninstalled all those pesky games (i.e. Half-Life) that suck up my free time.
My Net Yaroze is finally moving back from a "fun toy" into an "educational tool". I'm quite excited about the prospect of finishing university and being able to devote a lot more time to programming games. Hopefully, I'll have a few decent 3D demos for you in my next big update. See you in the summer, everyone!
Nick F will return - smarter, stronger and much more relaxed - in July 1999
Or return home?