October 2013 Update
Oct 5, 2013
11 minute read

My last blog post was an apologetic review of the Ouya. As we had a chance to witness a few more fuck-ups[0] since, I almost regret that it’s the first article new readers stumble upon.

So instead, let me tell you what has happened since.

School’s out!

After 5 long years[1] at EPFL, I’m finally out, with a Bachelor in Computer Science. But wait, you think, there has to be more, right? You can’t just stop to a Bachelor? You gotta go all the way to the Master, at least, and for you probably a Doctorate right? Right?

Wrong-o. I’ve learned a lot there, and I wanted to do a lengthy article, but to avoid both a lawsuit[2] and the loss of a few dear followers, I’m going to spare you that.

Instead I’ll just say that what taught me the most was definitely not in the curriculum. This might come as a duh to some, but what matters about university is not what happens in class but between classes.

Informal chats with your co-sufferers, with profs, side projects oh my the side projects how important they are. I remember getting scolded[3] during my first years of Computer Science for ‘expecting everyone to code on the side’, but to this day, I swear I don’t understand CS students who come here without a passion.

I mean, if you’re going to subject yourself to the shock and awe that is an academic cursus of 3 to 5 to 8 to +inf years of suffering, you better be on good fucking terms with the matter you are going to study, otherwise you’re in for a nasty surprise. Might as well go sell flowers instead.[4]

Which, as you might have guessed, is why I didn’t stick with micro-engineering. There were fun parts and all, but if looking at holes all day and wondering on which page of the 250-page standard is the right part you need that’s going to fit in there isn’t your thing, well, hard time.

And I’m not saying that Computer Science was easy to study either. While I did have quite a bit of babbage[5] in the area, a few tenants of university kept me on my tip toes. Those being:

  • That university is consistently 3 to 24 years late in its teaching compared to the state of the art. Aka, teaching you C89. Or that writing assembly by hand is still largely relevant[6].
  • That a ‘polytechnic school’ really is polytechnic, e.g. the subjects are quite diverse, from pure maths (analysis, algebra) to the detail of network implementations, to more than you ever wanted to know about state machines, to the architecture of processors etc. I couldn’t possibly have learned all of that before coming there.
  • That if you ever fall in love with a single class, you will fail your first year. Because eventually, succeeding at university is not learning what you love, it’s learning to game the system.

And that last sentence is one of the things that comforts me, in the middle of the day, smoking, sitting in my courtyard, when I try to rationalize my exit from the academic world. I didn’t have much to lose because I have thoroughly learned to game the system, and I’m fed up with it.

Sure I could have stayed and complained year after year about all the things they do wrong, and make a few friends and even more numerous enemies, but what’s even the point after a while? I’ve always preached that university was not the graal, and that leaving to pursue your dreams was a perfectly valid alternative and guess what, I finally did it, and it’s everything I’ve always wanted and more.

Bye bye, Switzerland

I’ll miss ya. No, seriously, I do miss you a little. In France, there’s people everywhere and sometimes they even talk to you (bleh). You have to walk 5 streets to find somewhere to buy smokes and only until 19:30. And it’s impossible to find a good plumber or electrician who is not booked for the next century.

But hey, just kidding (mostly). I’ve actually moved in with my fiancée, in a cozy little apartment in Lyon’s 9th arrondissement. We only have 3 direct neighbors[7], one of whom is a professional pianist. So, joy :)

Life, as well as cheese, wine, and beer, is good. However, it’s not the indie life I had in mind when painstakingly making my arrangements to leave Switzerland. I thought I could live on my savings for a while, then maybe buffer a little bit with some web development, and eventually grow an income out of small games and soundtracks.

In reality, France seems to be averse to any kind of creative work that does not fall within the defined barriers of ‘culture’ as seen by the government. Although they have recently warmed up to the idea (fr) that independant video game creation exists at all, they still haven’t made what I am dreaming of: a simple, straightforward, no strings attached statute for independent creators with an easy to understand tax policy that still allows us to pay the rent and buy food and clothes.

Until then, well… I have made some compromises. Since August, I’m employee number three at Memoways, a young company focused on using metadata for good, aka creating interactive experiences useful for touristic or cultural purposes. I already worked for them as an independent contractor back when I was in Switzerland, but I’m now working half-time, as a part of the team.

For me, this is definitely a pay-the-bills kind of job, but the good kind. The team is nice, competent, and I like working with them. It’s not my number one passion but as far as bread-earning jobs go, this is a really nice one. As I always told my parents, when you can be a full-stack developer, you don’t go work for McFastfood.[8]

Plus, small team = responsibilities, and having an actual impact on the final product(s). Good practices, good ambience, I’d tell you to join us but I’m afraid there’s no opening at the moment. Check back later.

Hello devsofa

It’s been live for less than a month and already it seems like a big part of this new life. Devsofa is.. ah, heck, I’ve got some press coverage that’ll bring you up to speed. Pardon the tone, I really, really love both getting and giving interviews.[9]

I was going to round up numbers, but that would be useless, both because they would be outdated the minute I finally publish this blog post, and equally because the value of devsofa can not be measured with numbers.

Obviously, at D+20 days after launch, it’s too soon to tell if it has any long lasting effect on developers, but the early feedback we[10] have gotten is so striking that I cannot help but to overcome my innate pessimism and consider the future with a smile on my face.

I have seen the face of many sofa channels and they were magnificent. From mobile to desktop games, 2D, 3D, platformers, strategy, etc. - there is variety, blissfully developing, safely tucked away from the general cacophony, at least for the time being.

Although the website puts a strong emphasis on privacy and intimacy, a community is developing from under it, on the IRC channel, on Twitter, beautiful things are starting to grow, and I couldn’t be happier with it.

Making games

Of course, the irony of it is, while I have been successfully adding features to devsofa and been delighted in seeing other creators use it, I have been woefully unproductive on my own games.

Sure enough, I have finally shaken up my anxiety at Ludum Dare #27 and released John Quincy Adamant, but it is a far cry from the quality that I wish to attain for my creations. It was fun dabbling a little more on the graphics side of things, learning to use Tiled and to load its file format, and hacking together a somewhat classic shoot-em up, but it’s not what I had in mind when I quit school to start my big gay weddingindie career, you know.

There have been many things preventing me from getting back in full swing into game development. Health, laziness maybe, but also the constant fear of being disappointed with myself. You can’t disappoint yourself if you don’t do anything, except for the shame of, er, not having done anything.

I have also been having a hard time mourning NevarGames, the three-person game creation collective I was a part of. For many reasons that are personal to everyone involved, it has entered an indefinite hiatus, and I am still a bit wounded from that episode.

Is working with a team on indie projects really manageable? Vlambeer seems to do it very well. Maybe it’s just about finding the right persons? Maybe there’s something wrong with me? The real reason is probably a mix of all those.

Yet, for now, instead of relying on other persons to do graphics, story, gameplay and level design, I have been trying to up my own skills in these areas as well. Just to be able to do something completely on my own, should I need to.

And, as mentioned, it’s still a struggle. Isn’t it always though?

A quick ooc update

During the last few months, I have also been hard at work at making life easier for ooc users, adding testing features into sam, fixing bugs, adding features here and there, and what was supposed to be a big surprise: a wholly revamped website with complete manual-style documentation.

I’m afraid the last 10% are as much work as the first ninety, though, and that’s why I haven’t published it yet. I’m also unsure as to where I want to take ooc next — working more with dynamic languages such as Ruby and CoffeeScript has changed my views on some things — but I still appreciate it as much as when I first got that bastard Java ooc-to-C99 compiler working in the first place.

I don’t think ooc will ever be ‘relevant’ for anything, but it’ll always keep a warm place in my heart and I keep coming back to it, giving it some loving here and there, because I like to use it for games at least.

No matter what else I try to make games (OpenFL, *Punk, Love, etc.) I’m never really satisfied. I always want to dig deeper and get nasty with the internals. And ooc allows me to do just that.

But I wanted to share the fun too, and that’s why I have undertook the way overdue task of writing proper documentation. Not because I’ll start pushing it more (I won’t), but because if someone should stumble upon it, or get back to it, I want it to be a more pleasant experience than it was before.

Closing words

I guess that’s it for now. I can’t promise more regular updates as life regularly gets in the way, which is, in my opinion, a good thing. I’ve started to enjoy playing games again[12], which is a big deal for me. Also, playing the piano. I’m still Chopin’s bitch for now, but I’m slowly getting to a point where I might consider releasing proper recordings of Chopin pieces by me.[13]

Until next time, take care!

[0] Like, uh, 90s vomit ad, free the games fund, and oh, mogotxt and friends.
[1] 1 year studying micro-engineering + 1 year wasted because of a few missing % in maths. Grhmph.
[2] I’m kidding, untangle your panties.
[3] Terribly unsure ‘scolded’ is the right word, it was more akin to a ‘let us waste university money on cat piss, you freaking cyborg.’
[4] Which is a very nice profession. Don’t you talk shit about flower sellers.
[5] See what I did there?
[6] I know, I know, if this article falls into the wrong hands, I’ll have a florilège of experts cutting me a new ass on just how useful assembly is in their particular field. I’ll admit to that! But in that particular case, a professor (who shall remain nameless) kept pretending in front of the whole amphitheater that he could beat an optimizing compiler, anytime. My argument was that first, chances are he’d be on the losing end more often than not nowadays, and second, that it’s completely moot for a sizeable codebase, aka any non-trivial piece of software. Needless to say, he did not became a fan of mine. That episode is sadly one of the things I’m known for at EPFL. Oh well.
[7] Our building is actually a small building hidden behind a bigger building, both at the same address. Negatives: sushi delivery boy always gets it wrong. Positives: calm, peace, quiet, grass and little garden outside. Lovely!
[8] Seriously, mom, dad, if you’re reading this, stop trying to make me work for the fast food industry. I’m making money. Seriously. Come visit, I’ll buy you dinner.
[9] Which makes me a rare pearl I guess. Or a special snowflake. I don’t know. Interview me! Also, no innuendo intended.
[10] I say we, because my partner in crime @crackofdusk has been coding with me since the beginning. But I still consider devsofa my brainchild, yet everyone’s channel their own property.[11]
[11] Note to lawyers: the note above is not legally binding. Go fuck yourselves, except if you are my fiancée 4 years from now, in which case come see me in my office immediately.
[12] Spelunky, Electronic Super Joy, Saints Row the Third, La Mulana, and many others.
[13] Because, as a perfectionist pianist, everybody else gets it wrong. Especially Yundi Li. Mostly Yundi Li.