A Climax memento

Avalon coders
From left to right: mAAAt, Sir George of Foot, Smokey, me, Damyan and Shawn.

     From the 10th of November of 2003 to the 4th of April of 2005 (dates inclusive) I worked for Climax Brighton as programmer, err… game coder, err… code monkey boy. Regarded as one of the biggest independent game developers at the time in Europe, none of that shit was relevant to me compared to being able to work with Shawn Hargreaves, George Foot, Damyan Pepper, mAAAt, Smokey and a very long list of excellent coders, designers and artists.

     As a coder I joined a project codenamed Avalon. Soon I felt the horror and pressure of my skills not being good enough. I was calmed down when told that if they didn't think of me as a good enough programmer, they would have sacked me before even letting me know. So all those fears went away and soon I developed too (pun intented) a very weird behaviour of being a very polite guy while being totally arrogant and opinionated about certain topics only discussed through email.

     For some reasons our World Domination Plan (TM) did not succeed, while not failing at the same time, and I was moved to another project called Tomcat. Tom Jones, cats and intimidating aircraft are a good source for logos, interesting conversation and obvious jokes (as if working for Climax wasn't enough: Yes, I work for Climax Brighton, you know, the international independent porn film maker…). But at some point in the middle I just realised that I no longer wanted to make games. Not games at all, just in "industry terms". I guess it's what happens to many amateurs who like to see movies, they finally join some serious company and after the first "Woah!" feeling they realise that there's not much difference from making films to making candy, producing games or digging graves.
Card 1 Card 2
Leaving card artwork.

     As the selfish self-centered self-aware person I am, I decided to say goodbye and chose a day to leave which would not leave any of my work in some sort of middle limbo state. The job is good, the people are great, but the industry part of the equation just doesn't fit very well with my spirit. You could say I was tainted by Free Software too early in my life, and now I'll grow a beard and become a radical extremist (is there such a thing as a conservative extremist?).

     Anyway, while none of the above may be true at all, I had fun at Climax, and I wanted to reflect that in this page, as a sort of memento. Unfortunately for me, my memory tends to loose too much information, usually the relevant parts, and my nearly not updated website has a good record of not losing bits as years pass by. So you can find here a few email conversations I had or witnessed. They are very few for the time I was there, but then, I wasn't trying to keep an archive of every funny thing which was said, and most of it is archived in internal mailing lists, which probably aren't meant to be exposed to the unprotected public. If you don't understand them, don't worry, you are not a programmer, just normal.

Date: 2003-11-25Subject: Quote of the Day
Damyan Pepper Shawn: "I now know what a computer feels like when it is out of memory and is thrashing its hard drive."

Date: 2004-01-08Subject: About two pragmas in chase2_tracker.cpp

Damyan Pepper I think the general rule is that if you press a camera related button (ie right-thumbstick or B) then you have a non-smooth transition - everything else should be smooth. I'd imagine though that there's lots of exceptions to this rule, and is probably wrong.
Grzegorz Adam Hankiewicz I like the way your last sencence sounds :)
Damyan Pepper First rule of anything generic - there'll be at least one exception which fucks it up.
Matthew Hill Second rule of anything generic - the first rule is over optimistic.

Date: 2004-04-15Subject: A game in 96k

Shawn Hargreaves Only beginning? Tell me, what more do I need to do?
Grzegorz Adam Hankiewicz You have to start saying things like "I now know what a computer feels like when it is out of memory and is thrashing its hard drive." all over and over in an endless loop.
Shawn Hargreaves I do indeed know exactly what that feels like…
Hasn't happened to me for a while, but when I was working on the tesselator caching stuff I kept running out of registers and was thrashing temporary storage values to and from the stack for a while.
I tend to get a lot of cache misses when working on the CaffRender shader framework, too.
Peter Pimley Something all programmers get is when all of a sudden you go from very very deep into the stack with loads of nested data, perform one instruction, and suddenly back right up to the top level.
It's a nice feeling :)
Shawn Hargreaves Kind of like the instruction sequence:

Gavin Norman can u just throw; ?
i thought you had to throw something. but i've not used throw catch for a very long time! and i didn't like it when i did.
Shawn Hargreaves Dunno, never used it myself.
longjmp() is better anyway.
Grzegorz Adam Hankiewicz Yeah, throwing leaves the stomach in bad shape.
Shawn Hargreaves But longjumps risk scraping yourself across the sandpit if you land badly…
Gavin Norman most sandpits are full of dead beef in debug builds, which isn't too bad
it's nasty coarse release builds you need to worry about
Peter Pimley Throwing in Java is nice because you get garbage collection so you don't have to worry about leaking.
Gavin Norman yeah fuck, that is why they're so annoying in c++! you have to clean everything up that might still be half made laying around, yuck
i think i only ever really tried retro-fitting them to code as well, which is obviously a nightmare

Date: 2004-07-27Subject: Expoting cameras

Grzegorz Adam Hankiewicz Shawn, I thought you stopped using computers at home long time ago?
Shawn Hargreaves I did.
Don't even have a computer at home any more.
I can send emails by telepathy, though.
Damyan Pepper I believe you.

Date: 2004-07-29Subject: foreach

Shawn Hargreaves Aha!
It is indeed possible.
Not exactly trivial though.
Damyan Pepper My brain just dropped out of my nose.

Date: 2004-10-19Subject: This is too surreal

Damyan Pepper She does think you're a dribbling, prion infested spongey brain typed person though…

Matthew Hill mad_cow_disease.jpg (Note: more pictures in the photo section).

Damyan Pepper Prions are quite cool things - nearly as neat as viruses: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prion

Date: 2005-03-03Subject: I'm leaving Climax
Grzegorz Adam Hankiewicz Yesterday I told the VIPs that I'm leaving Climax, looks like the 4th of April. If you have to ask why, I don't know. To sum it up, yesterday after a few pints Jay asked if I was looking forward to coming back to Spain, and I said "no". Really, the only thing that was missing in that dialog was Jay answering "You cunt!".
And that's how it is. This is the best job I've had so far. From what I hear, one of the best places to work in the game industry. And all my life I've wanted to be a game programmer. And now I'm leaving. I'm such a cunt.
If you want to know what I'm going to do in Spain, I'm sure I will arrive there, find myself a nice corner, and cry like a baby until my mother hits me hard with something. And then I'll stare at the walls, occasionally looking through the window or at the ceiling. Yeah, that's going to be life for me from now on.
The job here is great, and the conclusion of that is that I've changed, possibly for worse. Whether I'll come back or not, I don't know, but you shouldn't hope so. While I do stupid things like this from time to time, I have also a good history record of not correcting such mistakes.
So this is good bye. Anyway, one last favor I have to ask is that you don't collect any "dosh" or make some leaving present/party (unless the party is to celebrate you got rid of me!). I really dislike those things.
Peter Butler Well can we just celebrate you being a "cunt"?
Alys Elwick which you clearly are
Shawn Hargreaves Who, Grzegorz or Fizzy?
Alys Elwick Grzegorz in this case
Fizzy as well though, but that's just an everyday thing

The Katanas from Hell

Pretty katanas from Hell
My precioussss.

     They wouldn't accept me leaving without some sort of psychological torture, so the last day they called me to give me a goodbye present, which ended up being a set of katanas (Japanese swords). Excellent present. Instead of people grouping around the present to see how it is, you could just wield the big one in your hand to have everybody put a few steps in between just in case. Hey, after all, he's leaving, so he may have no remorse… Later, six pints of Guinness in a pub and lots of nice things to say was of course part of the deal.

     How can you carry such a weapon to another country is another story in itself. The next morning before leaving by plane I went to all couriers in Brighton and none of them would allow me to send a set of katanas. Hell, wouldn't they even allow me to send a knife? All of them answered: no. Well, you can't blame people for being stupid, after all, katanas are meant to slay down people at the minimum disrespect to your family's honour. And since nowadays honour doesn't mean a thing to most people, it would mean you have to kill nearly everybody in your path. Hmmm… quite convenient present, indeed.

Breath in... out
Admire my indomitable warrior spirit explosion!
    My phone line was cut off that same day, so I had to return to work, surprise everybody ("hey, what are you doing here, already changed your mind?") and keep some time on the phone waiting for a human person at the other end to answer if the people at the airport would allow me to carry a set of weapons of massive damage. In the end they said it was no problem, I would have to check them in as special luggage. Fair enough. Jay also called the Samurai shop and verified you have to say they are not swords, just sports equipment. You can imagine it yourself, can't you? <old man voice> theeese are not the katanas you are loooking for</old man voice>

Holding two katanas
Using two katanas at the same time is more difficult than one.
    After clearing up the confusion, I gave my final goodbye to the few souls I saw that day and went to the bus station mariachi style. Walking with a Spanish bad-ass face, knowing that just pressing the button on the handle of the box would deliver definitive marital solutions to anybody crossing my path. The taxi driver probably had similar thoughts when he chose a narrow street to drive through and found some guys at work with big machinery blocking the way. Eventually I reached the bus, and finally the airport.

Holding katana
I love cutting cheese!
    I was quite surprised to see that the second terminal at Heathrow was nearly empty. Later it filled up. Looks like most flights there take off in the afternoon, so I was lucky to arrive four hours before departure. That would give me time to allow security to perform enough cavity explorations and other stressing tests to check I'm not carrying any more katanas. The woman at the luggage checking point clearly had the "God, why do all the freaks come to me" look when I told her about the sport equipment. Must have been a first time for her too, since she had talk to a few people face to face, on the phone, and go somewhere else to ask for advice.

     Finally after some waiting she came back and told me I could go, just take the katanas and send them through the X-ray section. This taught me something I didn't know about terminals. They are all nice and with good lighting, maybe even soft music and friendly faces. But the X-ray section goes through long cold corridors of undecorated white walls with several security cameras. Really felt like going to a toilet in a suburb frequented by criminals. But finally the guy at the X-ray machine was friendly, he even told me he wanted one set of katanas like that for himself. I guess he can be friendly there. After all, most people probably never have to check in weird luggage, and staring at white unclean walls doesn't strike me as something entertaining. But they joy of finding weird shit in luggage, oh boy…

Friendly katana with cat
Playing katana-golf with the cat.
    Boredom, annoying people I would like to chop in two, and two hours of compressed legs later, I find out at Bilbao that the katanas have not arrived. Shit happens. With a dead calm face and feelings of hatred I walked towards the baggage service to report that one item of my luggage didn't arrive. It really helped that I had gone through this experience in one of my previous flights (meaning, luggage items not arriving). In front of me was a pair of teenagers (surely in love) who probably just wanted to dance together in a disco. But there he was, the guy, jumping up and down, red face, blood vessels at the verge of exploding on his forehead threatening everybody with his stain of delicious red juice (oh man, katanas do change the way you start thinking of people as sprinklers).

Slick pose
Look at that lateral fat.
    I felt so sorry for him I would have loved to end his misery. Not that we cannot show our fury and utter some obscenities at everybody. That's sometimes a necessary escape mechanism. But he was playing all this drama in front of the girl who probably saw something different from the idiot she was trying to calm down, while trying to explain the situation to the women behind the counter. I bet the girl will leave him after their planned holidays. Eventually they left, and I could ask for my luggage. Here I discovered some things:

  1. The women at the luggage checkpoint are usually clueless about what kind of stuff passengers can carry on the plane. The women at the mishandled baggage services know not only what is acceptable, they can deal with outraged cunts.
  2. Apparently, katanas take a few days to reach their destination, but guns don't. If you carry a bazooka, seven uzis, four revolvers and loads of ammunition, they will arrive with your flight, just in time for your planned robbery. On the other hand, if you try the same with katanas, they are just delayed for days for no sensible reason at all.
  3. Loads of motherfuckers from Japan go to Bilbao with katanas. This is especially interesting, and somehow disturbing. What could these people want to do with so many katanas in a relatively small city? Who knows.

Crossed katanas
You won't advance this way!
I look like David Hasselhoff. Sexy.
    A few days later they still had not arrived. Finally, four days after my arrival we finally received a phone call asking if somebody was going to be at home. Yes, I would. But nothing happened. Yeah, the delivery guy got lost and forgot his mobile to call and ask for directions. How cool. I decided to end all of this going myself to the airport. A few signatures there to come in, some waiting, and finally the pleasure of holding the box with katanas.

     After unpacking them, I picked the big one and started doing some weird movements in the air outside of the house. Katanas are really cool. Doing a few quick moves scared the shit out of my cat, who panicked and ran for cover to the garage. Happy with this result (I hate cats, and it's not my cat, but my mother's) I called it a day after some more swinging. Shortly I'll be flying elsewhere, and there are a few strange bureaucracy issues I have to deal with, but I will make a few photos of the katanas and me using them as soon as I can. Muahahahahaha!