A small salute to our technical heroes

Posted April 13, 2012 by pcgtim
Categories: games

Tags: , ,

Valve’s Michael Abrash has started posting a little bit about what he’s working on day-to-day. Reading his piece is one of those moments where you peek behind the curtain and gawp. It’s a brief glimpse of a very shining future.

That post led me to his .plan updates from back in the day. And I mean the italics: the day was the development of Quake.

There’s a great segment in his notes where he remarks on John Carmack’s focus, his drive to find a neater programming solution to a particularly hard problem – how to cull the most amount of work from the game’s renderer to let it run at as fast a frame rate as possible. As Michael put it back then: “Generally, if you find your code getting more complex, you’re fine-tuning a frozen design, and it’s likely you can get more of a speed-up, with less code, by rethinking the design.”

At id, John Carmack, really, really, really wanted to solve the problem. All manner of solutions were tried. I don’t understand a third of what that entailed. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure I understand the principle of the problem. But I love his determination.

“When I came in on Monday, John had the look of a man who had broken through to the other side–and also the look of a man who hadn’t had much sleep. He had worked all weekend on the direct-BSP approach, and had gotten it working reasonably well, with insights into how to finish it off. At 3:30 AM Monday morning, as he lay in bed, thinking about portals, he thought of precalculating and storing in each leaf a list of all leaves visible from that leaf, and then at runtime just drawing the visible leaves back-to-front for whatever leaf the viewpoint happens to be in, ignoring all other leaves entirely.”

Here’s a thought. Right now, we’re in a pre-launch holding pattern. There’s a new generation of consoles coming, and with it, a new generation of technical challenges. At this very second, some of the brightest minds on the planet are looking at the silicon arranged in front of them and are asking themselves, “how do we make THIS do THAT.” And they’ll answer “have you tried…”

One of my favourite memories of E3 this year was interviewing John Carmack on camera for a good half-an-hour. There’s a moment in it where John talks about why his tech matters: because if he solves the problem, artists can be let loose to create something incredible. The engine isn’t just for the engine’s sake: it’s to create a moving picture, and a place, and for an artist to come in and sculpt it into something beautiful

I can’t wait to see what next-gen games can look like. I can’t wait to see what our worlds can play like. And I can’t wait to hear about how it was done. Even if I’ll only understand a fraction of the details, I’ll understand the effort.

Oh, and wearable computing, eh? Valve <;3


For my next prospective hire

Posted May 27, 2010 by pcgtim
Categories: Uncategorized

You’re probably better than you think you are. But that doesn’t count for that much. You really shouldn’t be looking at this as a day job. As a sideline, it’s wicked fun.

Don’t start thinking of yourself as a journalist, until you’ve delivered fresh, verifiable, and newsworthy information. New screenshots don’t count. Until then, you’re an entertainer. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of. The best writer I know just turned in 21,500 words on a game he’s yet to play. Every one of his sentences made me smile. That should be your aim.

I used to think that the best writers were writers first, gamers second. But I’m less convinced by that argument every day. That sounds like an argument for not understanding the power of games, and the passion of those who play them. I used to care more about the undiscovered games – indies, mods, art. But now, I’m happier reading about the mainstream. Someone who can produce a fresh take on the most played games on the planet is just more fun to read.

The best writers I know are the most entertaining people I know. Stop being shy, start being expressive.

The time you spent reading this was time spent not writing. Stop procrastinating, and get on with it.

How to write a single page review for PC Gamer

Posted January 16, 2010 by pcgtim
Categories: Uncategorized

As part of your application for the PC Gamer staff writer role, you’re required to submit a single page review of a recent game, written to the standards and style of the magazine. This must include the following elements:
” Title (four words maximum, that does not include the game name)
” Strap (10-15 words, to include the game name)
” Byline (your name)
” 480 Words body copy (to include a three word or less crosshead at a central paragraph break)
” Need To Know boxout
What is it – two short sentences that sum up everything the game is about.
Influenced by – the name of a precursor, ancestor game
Play it on – the developer recommended system specs (see style guide for details on how to write technical information for PC Gamer)
Alternatively (the title of an alternate game)
DRM – the name of the DRM/digital distributor protecting the game.
” Details boxout
Expect to pay – rounded to the nearest pound.
Release – release date, or out now.
Website – the game’s official website/community page
Multiplayer – e.g. Upto 10
” Verdict box – 25 words
Score – out of 100
For example:

//bigwords: DRACHEN AGE

//strap// Take off with two pairs of wings, land with
one? You’re probably playing RISE OF FLIGHT. By Tim Stone


It’s several years since I read Flying Fury, James McCudden’s account of his time in the RFC, but one passage remains lodged in my memory. McCudden is heading home after downing a Hun plane, when he notices blood on his windscreen. He assumes he’s had a nosebleed. It’s only when he gets back that he realises the crimson splashes are on the outside.

You won’t find horror like that in Rise of Flight. Here the brutal honesty is confined to the physics, damage models, and virtual cockpits. Russian outfit Neoqb have created a fleet of fake Fokkers, Albatrosses, Spads and Sopwiths that deceive the inner-ear as consummately as they deceive the eye. I’ve flown every WWI sim since Red Baron and never experienced anything quite this raw, exhilarating, or believable.

The first air warriors perished in numerous hideous ways and RoF lets you try most of them. Burn alive after taking a petrol tank hit, drop to your doom after shedding your wings in an over-eager dive, break every bone in your body after spinning out of a turning duel with a Dr.I. Piloting these wiry war machines is actually pretty straightforward, even with realism options like engine management active. The challenge is flying them at their limits while some bedroom Boelcke riddles your tail with sizzling lead.

Multiplayer is at the heart of the sim and currently most of the servers are ‘full realism’ and crawling with canny aces. The good news is half those aces are going to be on your side. Until Neoqb patch in a dogfight mode all scenarios are team-based.

Sadly there are a few lice nestling in the seams of this exquisitely stitched sheepskin flying jacket. Louse number 1 is the DRM. To fly RoF, even alone, an active net connection is required. ISP playing silly buggers? Oak tree KOed your phone line? You’re grounded old son.

Louse number 2 is the spartan single-player facilities. Call me old-fashioned but I like my sky sims to come with configurable dogfight generators and enveloping dynamic campaigns. A mission editor, a sprinkle of single sorties, and a campaign engine that randomly generates its challenges but doesn’t encourage freelancing or foster a sense of squadron, doesn’t quite cut it. If you demand a  rich, colourful career mode, stick with Over Flanders Fields or the venerable Red Baron II, or wait and see what external DCGs the community cook up (there’s already one in the works).

You may also want to hang back if you like your hangars well-stocked. RoF ships with just four flyables: the Fokker D.VII, Spad XIII, Albatross D.Va and Nieuport 28. Extra birds like the iconic Camel and Dr.I cost a fiver a time.

Ah Oleg, how we miss thy generosity.


Has all the ingredients required for sim greatness except
the strong SP campaign.


//Need to know:

What is it: The WWI equivalent of IL-2, but with more
realism and less planes.

Influenced by: IL-2, Dicta Boelcke

Play it on: Dual Core CPU, 2GB RAM, 512MB 3D card

Alternatively: Over Flanders Fields (not reviewed)

Copy protection: Log in to fly

//Expect to pay: £24

Release: Out now

Publisher: Neoqb


Multiplayer: 32 players

Link: http://www.riseofflight.com

Transparency: my MP’s expenses

Posted June 18, 2009 by pcgtim
Categories: News

I think he might be a Sky subscriber.

Great research!

Posted June 12, 2009 by pcgtim
Categories: Uncategorized

Future Publishing’s PC Gamer, a magazine covering news, reviews and previews of PC games and products, recently lost Editor Rob Atherton. Deputy Editor Tim Edward has since been promoted to Editor and can be contacted at tim.edward@futurenet.co.uk. The title are yet to replace Tim’s former role.


My new job…

Posted June 11, 2009 by pcgtim
Categories: games, Me, News, Work

Srsly. Don't mess with the coach.

… is to edit this beast of a magazine. Pretty cool, eh?

Graham sucks

Posted May 28, 2009 by pcgtim
Categories: Friends

Look at his face. He sucks.

My enormous head

Posted December 22, 2008 by pcgtim
Categories: Uncategorized

24″. Jesus.

Me on the tellybox

Posted December 3, 2008 by pcgtim
Categories: Uncategorized

By popular demand. Me on the sofa. SEXEH!


Posted November 21, 2008 by pcgtim
Categories: Uncategorized

To: Ross Atherton.
Subject: Things that are brilliant
1. Druids
2. Editing PC Gamer

I’ve had an amazing month.

We took a holiday to Mexico. We swam with dolphins. We swam to swim-up bars and drank cocktails. And then Anna and I (the we in the previous sentences) got engaged. 

Then we came home, and my nose was crushed against the grindstone. My boss, Ross, has been taken off the magazine, leaving me with the day to day management.

It’s basically brilliant. I get to work with a team of writers and designers whom I respect and trust. I get to influence and direct what remains my favourite magazine in forever. I get to travel, meet the cool people who work with games everyday. I get to solve problems, personal and practical. And all this running against immutable, terrifying deadlines.

And, once in a while something mad happens.

Like last week, when I was sat on the BBC breakfast sofa, talking about my favourite game, with regular tv personalities, and an elf.

Or this week, when I left a package on a train and accidentally caused a security alert. 

Now, all that stands between us and huge success is deadline week. 

But, here’s the thing. Even if the issue explodes, even if disaster strikes, even if it all goes off the rails, I know I’m going to be just fine. I’m engaged. I have Anna.