Tuesday, 29 September 2009
I've been delighted by the amount of feedback we've received, but not as delighted as the members of Moviestorm's QA department, who spend each day eagerly aggregating the responses from our Pioneers, and diligently recording them in our issues database.
The guys in QA are very, very good, but we know we won't be able to catch every single bug: there's only a few of us, and Moviestorm is huge. So, the abundant feedback from the Pioneers has been incredibly useful to us. The comments and bug reports have come in all shapes and sizes. Overman kicked things off with a short movie demonstrating some of the new features of 1.1.7. He sneakily hid a bug report at the end of the movie - not the first time he's done that, the little scamp.
Other pieces of feedback ranged from the mundane to the bizarre. In general, the Pioneers seem to be very pleased with 1.1.7, and excited by the new features. forgeuk made a post with a title which simply read "Whooosh! It's damn fast!"
There's no denying that it was a beta release, though. Some of the errors have been very strange. czechboysonic found a bug with a custom addon that didn't seem to load in 1.1.7.
Ben eventually tracked it down to a case-sensitivity error - just the sort of thing we might never have spotted without help from the Pioneers.
A release as big as this one inevitably contains new code and fixes which we haven't explicitly talked about. Sometimes, though, things get fixed that even we didn't know about. act3scene24 has never been able to quit Moviestorm properly on his Mac, and always has to force-quit the application in order to exit. Not any more:
We'd look terribly unprofessional if we admitted that we have absolutely no blasted clue how we fixed that bug (since we have no blasted clue what was causing it in the first place) so in order to save our blushes I'm happy to lie and say that I fixed it. Yup, that was all me. Thousands of lines of late-night coding have paid off.
Monday, 28 September 2009
Friday, 25 September 2009
So I’ve been at Short Fuze for two weeks now and I’m glad to say that I’m surviving. Now I’ve got over those first week jitters, I’m feeling a lot more settled as part of the group. That's mostly due to the great hospitality of the Moviestorm team, who have welcomed me with open arms (and an open dev build). I began to feel at home right away, and fell straight into the work - despite having to make an hour and a half commute morning and night. Thankfully, today's Friday so I get a well earned lie-in tomorrow.
For the second week in a row, I’ve been placed firmly in the QA department. I’ve been giving new user experience input for the latest version of Moviestorm, finding bugs, submitting feature requests and generally trying to break the software. I have to say the work can be repetitive and sometimes frustrating, but if anyone knew my circumstances beforehand they’d know how much I’m enjoying it. As this version is close to being released I found myself somewhat thrown in at the deep end, but as we all know, beggars can’t be choosers and I love a challenge. Andrew has requested that I help him design some of his sweet-looking movie gifts so I’ve definitely not run out of things to look forward to. That’s much better than writing DVDs that each take an hour and a quarter to burn, yawn.
As my placement with Short Fuze is open-ended I have no idea how long I will be working here. I would very happily work here forever, so fingers crossed that investment starts flooding in and Moviestorm becomes bigger than The Sims! I guess as long as I’m making myself useful here there'll be a place for me, so its eyes down, tea in hand and tappity tap tap on the keyboard.
For me the significance of this placement is huge. Moviestorm isn't a game, of course, but I still consider this to be my first experience working in the games industry. It's built my confidence and taught me that I can work in one of the most competitive sectors of the media and make a name for myself. On a more constructive note it's inspiring me to start kicking down game company doors (metaphorically) to get my voice heard and my face out there for all to see (no matter how unpleasant).
In conclusion, this has been an amazing experience for me so far. Despite sitting in an office all day staring at a monitor screen, I’m relishing every moment of it. Perhaps it's because I’ve began working in the industry in which I want a career, or maybe it's because I’m working with a great bunch of guys (and one gal). Either way, I’m definitely richer for the experience.
That's got to be better than playing Counter Strike: Source all day. Hmm actually...
Thursday, 24 September 2009
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
We're busily logging every one of your comments and issues in our database. It's been really useful to get reports on some of the more obscure aspects of Moviestorm, particularly where it relates to user-created content packs or your existing movies, as those are areas where we really can't test very much at all.
We may not have time to reply to every one of your comments, but they're all much appreciated. Please keep 'em coming!
Thursday, 17 September 2009
Once upon a time we used to watch movies by shining a light through pictures moving very fast. Then we had this bright idea to start shooting electron beams at a magic tube and moving that back and forth very very fast. Then we decided to convert everything into 1's and 0's, turn that into beams of light, fire them around the planet, under the sea, up into space, and into your home, and read them very very very very fast indeed. This required us to invent a bunch of file formats, and then perform strange black magic rituals over them called compression and decompression so that we can squirt even more 1's and 0's around and read them even faster.
Which is where we get to codecs. (Compression and Decompression, you see. Clever, huh?) Codecs are one of the Great Mysteries of Life when you're a video editor. You use a codec to make your video file smaller (or maybe two, one for the video and one for the audio), and then the person at the other end uses the same one to read it. You can usually tweak your codec settings to give you different results: you can opt for bigger files and better quality, or smaller files and lower quality, or if you're really clever, dedicated, and willing to persevere, you can mess with keyframes and all sorts of settings to get the perfect balance.
So, why are we going on about this today? Well, we're not happy with the video uploading to Moviestorm. We support lots of video formats, but we don't support as many codecs as we'd like, and the end results aren't good enough. Low-quality video, sound sync problems, some videos simply not encoding... yeah, we know.
So we messed around, tried various things to make it better, and gave up. Then we brought in a bunch of specialists, encoding.com, and we'll be using them to encode videos uploaded to Moviestorm. This should enable us to support more videos and give us better quality streaming. It'll also enable us to move to a two-stage encoding process, the same as you get on the big video sites like YouTube. You'll get a low-quality version of your video pretty rapidly, and then that'll be replaced a higher-quality version a short while later.
It's worth taking a look at the video formats they support - and the ones they don't. (Seriously, take a look, and see how many obscure or archaic video formats you don't even recognise.) And, significantly, even though this is their area of expertise, they don't promise to support all codecs for any given video format.
We're not sure when this will be up: we're still testing and ironing out a few bugs. Last word we had from the team is "if it goes really well, maybe this week, if it doesn't, then maybe next week, if it goes really badly, then it won't be next week." We're also working on assembling a list of known good (and bad) codecs and settings. However, this is a mammoth, time-consuming, mind-numbingly tedious task, and there's no way we'll get through all known codecs. So far, we've tested the following, and are working our way through a bunch of others that we can get out of Premiere and Pinnacle (and Vegas if we have the time):
- X-Vid video codec
- MPEG-2 codec
- MP4 codec
- MP4 AVI Wrapped
- 3gp codec
- HD WMV
- MP4 AVI Wrapped with space in title
- Indeo 5.1 Codec
- Quicktime sample
- Cinepak codec
- WMV with WMV9 & WMA10
When we get the new encoding up, we'll post the list on the forums and/or wiki - if you want to add your own codec experiences, successful or unsuccessful, that would be hugely, massively, mightily appreciated, by other Moviestormers as well as our QA team!
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
- The catalog now takes up the whole of the screen so you can see more objects at the same time. This makes browsing quicker and easier.
- The lower ribbon now shows you which objects you've already got on your set, so if you want to clone something, it's much faster now.
- When you hover over an object, it tells you what content pack it's from. Certainly I've had the experience of building a set, and then someone says "where'd you get that doodad", and for the life of me I can't remember what pack it came from. Now it's simple to say "it's from the Bedroom Blog pack" or whatever. OK, that in itself may not be terribly exciting, but it means we can also do this...
- All those greyed out, crossed out icons? They're from packs in our store that you don't yet have. So you want a piano in this scene, but you don't have one? Well, would ya look at that? There's one right here in the Music pack that'll do just perfect. Phew!
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Monday, 14 September 2009
No, this isn't the next stage of my odyssey around Florida (though I do hope to make the journey down to South Florida and hang out with Phil Overman Rice shortly). It's a preview of a couple of new buildings from an upcoming Moviestorm pack that Paul Kelley's working on, inspired by Miami beachfront locations. These are only quick Max renders, and the perspective's a bit odd, but you get the idea.
And, of course, you can tint them in all sorts of ways, like our other buildings.
No release date yet - but we'll have some announcements about what's in the pipeline later this week.
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
Monday, 7 September 2009
Michael had already seen Moviestorm 1.1.6 (which was the version we were showing off at the conference) so I booted up the development environment on my laptop and gave him a quick tour of version 1.1.7 - well, I did promise, after all. He seemed impressed. Sufficiently impressed, in fact, that he took some sneaky snapshots of my screen and posted them on his blog.
So that just proves it: if you want the scoop on what's coming soon for Moviestorm, bump into me in a corridor somewhere and have your camera at the ready.
The FreePixel blog, incidentally (to which Michael posts, along with Erik Champion and Friedrich Kirschner) is a great read. If you're interested in studying machinima as an artform and as an emergent movement, add it to your reading list.
Friday, 4 September 2009
Machinima is on the verge of stepping beyond its chaotic mix of artistic, ludic and technical conceptions into established traditions and vocabularies of contemporary media. As machinima invents itself, the flexibility of its form poses an interesting challenge to academics as well as artists and critics. We want to offer an inaugural reader for the further development and critical discussion of Machinima, one that charts its growth from several angles and also provides a foundation for critical studies in the future.
Thursday, 3 September 2009
When Dave and I arrived at the HCI2009 Festival Of Interactive Technology yesterday, we were delighted to find that we'd been allocated table #1 on which to run our demo. Arbitrary? Perhaps, but we'll take the kudos anyway. Altogether now: "We're number one! We're number one!"
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
Dave #1 and I are leading the charge. What that basically means is that we stand behind the front-line troops, shouting encouragement and not doing any real work. We like to feel that we contribute, though, so it's sometimes frustrating when we have to occasionally leave the office to do other things. Today's procrastination excuse - erm, I mean, important business strategy occasion - is the HCI2009 Festival Of Interactive Technology Open House. Dave and I will be in attendance, demonstrating Moviestorm in all its glory. We've spruced ourselves up as best we can. Dave has even had a haircut.
We're in prestigious company at the HCI conference. Some of the best research labs and startup companies in our local area will be showing off their latest shinies. When you bear in mind that "our local area" is Cambridge, UK, one of the tech innovation capitals of the world, you'll understand what I mean.
So, if you happen to be going along to the conference, give us a wave, a hug, or even a big sloppy kiss. We'll be showing Moviestorm version 18.104.22.168, but if you ask me nicely I might even give you a personal tour of the in-development 1.1.7. We'll be in the William Gates building. Demonstrating a piece of Java software. On two Apple Macs. With a Linux-powered netbook for note-taking, and Open Rights Group stickers on our laptop bags. 'Cos we're rebels. Booyah.