Author Archives: Steve

Lightweight Linux Revival

I have an old laptops not being used anymore (2gb RAM , Intel Core 2 Duo 1.73 Hz), which needed to be revived. It originally had Windows 7 installed on it and despite a fresh re-install, was slow to boot, and when it was ready to use, would  plod along like OAP donkey carrying a load of bricks. So I’ve taken Windows 7 off and have tried a few flavours of lightweight Linux distributions on it. This is what I have tried, and eventually settled on:

Zorin – installed ok. This distro is not necessarily a lightweight Linux distro, but one designed to match the MS Windows experience more closely, which is why I chose it first, as I am really a Windows user. I was using it for several weeks. It comes installed with Wine so can run MS Windows apps fairly well. I gave up on this in the end, only because it started to really slow down when I was multitasking with 3 or more apps open at the same time (spreadsheet, word processor, PDF reader, web browser). I liked the OS and would certainly use it on a more powerful PC, but for my lowly, ageing, laptop it was just too demanding on resources. All the other Linux distributions I used below could handle the same multitasking well enough so perhaps comparing Zorin to them is a bit unfair. I would certainly recommend Zorin for a mid to high spec PC/laptop.


LuBuntu – Installed ok, but I spent a couple of hours trying to fix an error message on boot. It turns out that lubuntu does not install Intel graphics drivers by default (which my laptop has). I also discovered that the package required to install those drivers is not setup by default in lubuntu so you have to go into the command line, link to the package then download the drivers. Esay enough if you know how, but if you do not know how to do this (as I did not) it’s a long, time consuming job trying to work out what’s wrong and how to fix it. After so much messing about on the command line, I did get it working. But this did not fill me with much confidence, what else might not work ? As I have no interest or time to become a Linux command line expert, I gave up with LuBuntu, too much command line nonsense on my laptop.


Bodhi Linux – Installed ok. Minimal set of apps installed by default. Worked well, but while I was getting familiar with the interface, I somehow deleted the menu bar at the bottom of the screen. I did manage to get a toolbar back, but not the one I saw originally. Also, I use the Synology Disk Drive app , but this new toolbar would not show the icon for this application, despite trying to add various modules to the bar. However, the app icon was displayed in the original toolbar. I  gave up with Bodhi, as I just don’t have the time to learn enough about the desktop environment to get that original toolbar back. This was completely my fault, so I’m not knocking Bodhi, apart from saying that the desktop menu interface could be more intuitive, otherwise I would have found how to get the menu bar back. If I could not figure out how to do that simple task, then I did have much confidence that I could quickly fix or adjust anything else in the future.



LXLE – This is the distro I am currently using and will stick with. Installed ok, user interface is very intuitive, has a very good selection of apps installed by default. I found customising the interface much more intuitive than Bodhi as the naming of menu options and features just seemed more along the lines of what I would expect. Even with a nice photographic desktop background, my little laptop could handle multitasking very well. This is the distribution I felt more instantly comfortable with as a windows user. However, I am not including Zorin as that’s an unfair comparison on my old laptop. My only gripe is (and it’s a very small one), the option to display the menu bar at the bottom of the screen is greyed out by default. You can place the menu bar at the top, left, right , but not the bottom ???? I’m sure there is a way to fix this, just need to find the time to search the forums for the answer. LXLE is the distro I am sticking with for the moment.

RPG World Building – Introduction


Welcome world builders.

I am going to be blogging my experience of world building for RPGs, in the hope the experience may be of some help to others. This is generic world building so will not be specific to table-top or video games.
I will be working through the process of building a world from the beginning, using pen & paper and various bits of software. I will also be pulling together a list of resources which will hopefully be useful to fellow world builders.
As for the end result, well, I have no idea at this stage what that will be, but I aim to flesh out the world map and the main themes of the world. Then, focus down on one continent…country…town…dungeon, leaving the rest of the world undefined. I will blog my experiences as I go along. The first post will be pulling together some of the main resources I will be using.
Hope you find this useful.

Map by Pär Lindström

Unreal Engine 4 Introductory Tutorial

Here is a brief tutorial to introduce Unreal Engine 4. It assumes no knowledge, and would be ideal for a High School classroom activity, all I ask is that credit for the tutorial remains with myself. The tutorial takes you through creating a basic driving game and custom race track using the terrain editing tools and should last approx 45 minutes.

Download: DfP Tutorial

Graduate Employability: Start Early !

It’s approaching that time of year when final year University students are beginning to think about looking/applying for jobs. There are many websites which can give good advise on how to do this and how to prepare your CV and prepare for an interview. But I do feel that University students need to prepare for job hunting as soon as they start their course. So here are a few tips on what to do BEFORE your final year:

1. Game Jams

Get involved in as many game Jams as you can, for example the Brains Eden Game Jam in Cambridge, or the Global Games Jam. These are very intensive but great opportunities to practice and learn. And a great networking opportunity.

2. Get Networking

This can be intimidating for students, but do your best. Chat to guest lecturers, ask them questions, tell them about the game/project you are working on. A great way to get chatting is to tell them about a tricky problem you have had and how you have overcome it. Leave them a business card (always worth having a few good business cards with a link to your portfolio website). The chances of securing a job after just talking to someone is thin, but if your name comes up again in the future, at least they will know who you are.

3. Get a CV ASAP.

Get advice on how to polish up your CV as soon as you join the course and get yourself on a CV writing course ASAP. All good Universities will provide this service to students.

4. Get a Portfolio Website ASAP.

Start as soon as you join the course. I’ve heard too many student say “oh, I’ll do that in my final year’ but when they get to their final yer they find they are too busy to do it. When they do talk to employers, and the employer asks to see some work, they don’t have anything ready.

5. Spend your Freetime Wisely

If you are straight out of school, once you see your University timetable, you might think…. wooaahhh… look at all that freetime…. cool…. If you are already thinking like that now, then you are already on a path for failure. University is not about being told what to do, how to do it, when to do it, why to do it. You need to be pro-active, spend that non-timetabled time practicing, making your own games/app etc. One thing University WILL teach you is to become an ‘Independent Learner’. That might sound a bit fluffy, but in Industry, you are not going to have someone looking over your shoulder helping you every day. At least at University you will have tutors there to support and direct you, but over time wean yourself off their support and “Learn to teach yourself”. that’s the one most valuable lesson I learned at University.



I came across my Raspberry Pi at the weekend, plugged it in and started it up and found myself playing around with SCRATCH. By co-incidence, my daughter came home from school  a few days later and told me she had started using SCRATCH at her High School. As we were sitting watching TV together, she sat next to me on her laptop and started a new SCRATCH project. 20 minutes later I was playing a basic Pacman game she had made, which even included an animated Pacman created be her. As I was watching her build the game, it was clear that she had a plan in her head of how she was going to build the game, (keyboard movement, collision detection, scoring..) and she was naturally applying an iterative design process by constantly testing each new code addition.

This made me think back to what it was like for me when I first started to teach myself programming in the early 80’s, with few books, no internet and certainly nothing like SCRATCH kicking around, it was very much ‘teach yourself’. I remember buying computer magazines with audio cassette’s stuck to the front, full of games, and spending hours upon hours typing out the complete source code for a game in the magazine into the computer, only to find it didn’t work, then spending hours trying to track down the bug, usually my own typo. I wonder how quickly my programming would have progressed if I hadn’t had to spend time doing all that and could just get down to the ‘real stuff’.

SCRATCH can really accelerate grasping the concept of ‘computational thinking’ and help take those first few steps faster than we did in the 80’s. Although I am of the opinion that the 2D environment is not very inspiring in relation to the quality of media/graphics which youngsters are exposed to now. But what interests me is the step from these visual programming tools to ‘real’ coding. There must be a better way of making the transition from visual programming to text programming, other than picking up the pupil from SCRATCH and dropping them straight into a text based language. I’m not talking about a code generator for a SCRATCH project, perhaps something like SCRATCH which gradually removes the visual metaphor and exposes the code behind it. Interesting…. so I’m going to see what is out there already….


Books & DVD’s

Free Books and Magazines



A FREE book on game design: TEACHING GAMECRAFT, by Da ughtry et al.

Develop 134 - Dec 2012/Jan 2013             

Develop Magazine, highly recommended


Free Book: C# Essentials

C# Essentials


Other Recommended Books

Ten Books Game Designers Should All Read

Updated UnrealScript Setup Article

I have updated “Setup the UnrealScript Environment” tutorial to the July 2012 version of UDK, now using Visual Studio 2010 which is the latest version of Visual Studio with which the nFringe plugin will work. Hope you find it useful.

Blog Update, UDK & CryEngine

Well, my website has been very quiet for the last few months. I’ve spent the last few weeks working with CryEngine, very impressed so far, I especially like the LUA scripting and having access to the C++ code. But not sure I will continue to use it as I have found a bug with the AI system, a very simple component, called the Interest System. The bug is here, still cant get it to work even by following the instructions very carefully. This doesn’t fill me with much confidence if such a simple component doesnt work, so I’ve had to decide to switch back to UDK in order to get my project for my PhD making some progress. As much as I dont like UnrealScript, I’ve had less problems and more forum support with UDK than CryEngine.

Will now be updating my website more regularly now, and posting on twitter, see right of page, so keep coming back !

Employment and Employability Event at ARU, Cambridge

‘Employment and Employability’ event is taking place Wed 25th April, from 5:00 pm in LAB003 at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge.

Speakers will inform students of skills and qualities expected of ‘computing’ graduates as well as what range of careers the students might like to consider.

After this session (app. 1 hour) there will be 1-2-1 venues e.g. desks ;-( where students can talk to companies on an individalbasis.

Speakers and companies attending so far include:

The Cambridge Network
Red Gate Software
Frontier Developments
Cabume (Cambridge Technology Cluster – HiTec Start ups)
Cambridge Consultants

Computer People


Your Games Industry Needs You


Your Games Industry needs YOU!

Brains Eden 2012. Pre-Event Seminar.


A programme of talks focusing on what it’s like working in the games industry.


Location: LAB 002 at Anglia Ruskin University, Wednesday 25th April from 2pm, followed by a social gathering at the Tram Depot, 3 Dover Street.


James Sweatman – Senior Games Designer, Jagex ‘So you want to be a Games Designer?’


David Walsh – Managing Director, Frontier ‘An overview of Frontier and its ethos’


Mark Brassington – Senior Artist, Jagex ‘Games Industry guidance for Artists’


Mike Ball – co-founder, Ninja Theory ‘Games Development’


Matthew Power – Graphic Designer, Sony (SCEE) ‘Graphic Design for the Games Industry’