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11:55 AM on 01.15.2013

Duck Tales, or how I ended up in Norway and say hello.

I have recently watched the very first episode of "Duck Tales" on Netflix. I'm going to tell you how it's one of the greatest things that have happened to me in years. Please also consider this blog a very elaborate way of introducing myself. But first, I'll need to drop some history on you.

In the beginning, back in 1945...

I come from Poland, which had the misfortune of being invaded by Germany in 1939. Bummer, I know. After having the Red Army plowing through Poland on their way from point A to B near the end of the war, when the dust settled, they announced "I herd u liek kommunizms", so we ended up on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain™. Amongst many side effects (which included the 80s being the complete opposite of Miami Vice) was the fact that copyright laws didn't exist and neither did legit video game consoles. If you had an uncle in Western Germany that visited you one Christmas, then you might have ended up with an actual NES. If not, your best bet was a counterfeit 2600 with a few preloaded games. After Roger Waters single-handedly tore down the wall between the Soviet Union and the rest of the world, we got a freshly baked loaf of Democracy™ in 1989. It still took us 5 more years to have some actual copyright laws, but during that time our console line-up was extended to include a Famicom clone called Pegasus, which I got soon after my 9th birthday.

I was disappointed there were no actual Terminators.

It was a curious device, as it had a Nintendo label on its box somewhere, and I firmly recall once buying the second controller and asking for "a controller for Nintendo" - and I got one for this particular Pegasus model. I had only two cartridges for it (which were in the 60-pin Famicom form factor): "168-in-1" - which had 30 or maybe 40 actual games (Duck Hunt, Contra (not Probotector), Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros, Hogan's Alley, Wild Gunman, Battle City, Tetris (the better one), Donkey Kong and some others) and the rest were variations on them (ie. SMB with super high jump, Contra with 99 lives, etc. - basically preloaded Game Genie codes), and Top Gun 2 (I never managed to land my plane). It was a damn neat machine, one of the extremely rare instances where I played something with my dad (Battle City to be exact), and since at that time home computers like Commodore 64 or Atari 800 were the most popular gaming devices, press coverage of consoles basically wasn't there. So, lacking teh interwebs and the genuine article, I had no idea there was a thing called The Legend Of Zelda, or Mega Man, or Superb Mario Brothers 3 (or 2, for that matter) until much, much later.

A friend

A few months after getting the Pegasus, I somehow talked my parents into getting an Amiga 500. This was my equivalent of many of your Nintendos/Super Nintendos and Sega (Genesi?) - this was my childhood "system". And boy, was it awesome.

Best computer of all time. OF ALL TIME.

With still no copyright laws in sight, I amassed a box full of floppy disks quickly, with such classics as Lemmings, Lemmings 2: The Tribes, Push-Over, Syndicate, Another World, Flashback, Deluxe Paint (I'd argue this is EA's best piece of software to date), Alien Breed, Sensible Soccer, Cannon Fodder, and many, many more.

Pictured: many, many more

It was also on the Amiga where I took my first steps in programming - one of the floppy disks with the OS came with a BASIC interpreter, and one of my friends kindly trusted me with backing up his copy of AMOS (which was Basic made by the bloke that went on to create Klik & Play and The Games Factory).

Five years later, I did one of the dumbest things in my life: I sold my Amiga. A few weeks after that, I got a PC for Christmas. My home computing experience got expanded with games like Doom, Doom II: Hell On Earth, Duke Nukem 3D, Blood (cough cough wink wink), The Secret Of Monkey Island, The Secret Of Monkey Island 2: Le Chuck's Revenge, Grim Fandango, Theme Hospital, Dungeon Keeper, Half-Life, Rainbow Six, Quake, Quake 2, Sin and the proverbial many, many more. It was at that time where the internet started to become a thing, albeit in the dial-up flavor, so my time on it was limited, phone bill astronomical, and the modem noises unforgettable. I was also experimenting a little with level making (Duke 3D, Blood, Quake, Quake 2) and advancing in programming (Pascal). I also never bothered to look up on classic gaming outside of what I knew on the internet. I was young and stupid like that.
My college years were also revolving around PC - learning new programming stuff (despite majoring in Sound And Picture Engineering™), playing PC games and remaining oblivious to a lot of gaming history. Then I started working.

Wee'd like to play

In 2008, I bought my first console for my own money - the then-often-talked-about Nintendo Wii. Then, through a combination of research, post-breakup free time increase and stumbling across AVGN (and in turn ScrewAttack), I started catching up. I learned about Mega Man, Zelda, SMB3 (and 2, for that matter), that my Pegasus was in fact a knockoff and Europe's Nintendo looked like the least appealing chocolate box with toast for cartridges, and I started buying old systems and games. Within 2 years from that, I ended up with ab NES, SNES (a US model which my friend gave to me), N64, GameCube, the aforementioned Wii, DS, DreamCast, PS2, XBox and XBox 360.

My collection, around March 2012.

I have also been using a lot more English due to engaging with the ScrewAttack community on the website and the twitters. It also started an avalanche of other sites and content creators I had no idea about - TGWTG, The Escapist, The Spoony Experiment, brentalfloss amongst others. I was entering an awesome world I didn't even scratch a surface of beforehand.
It was soon afterwards that they did an interview with one Jim Sterling - which lead me to The Electric Hydra (and as a result of my curiosity to Ye Olde Podtoid), Destructoid (which has been my go-to place for all things about them videoed games), HAWP and other such creations. I became aware of awesome Western inventions of Netflix, Hulu, Spotify and similar - which were unavailable in here (and still are). Heck, it wasn't until Autumn of 2010 that we officially got XBox Live in here (you'd be amazed how many XBoxes the Polish embassy in London has, if you catch my drift). It was also at that time I re-qualified myself into an iOS developer, something that I still do today.

We got ÆØÅ, you ain't got the ÆØÅ...

In early 2011, I moved to Warsaw. A year afterwards, I realized Poland is not the place for me. I don't like the people (I don't want to get into details here - I'll just say I don't like being around Polish people), I don't like the place, I don't like a lot about it. I realized I will never be happy as long as I live in Poland. I've tried applying to companies in Germany (Crytek was one of them), England and in Norway. In October, with help of my cousin who has been living in Norway for a few years and passed my resume along, I got hired in a small software company in Southern Norway. I moved right before the New Year's. I've got ÆØÅ now.

Size matters.


It was a few days ago, when after watching "Lethal Weapon" on Netflix and being suggested to watch "Duck Tales" (I'm not kidding) it hit me:
I did it. I'm no longer in Poland. I'm watching Netflix. There is no Polish person (that I know of) in my vicinity. I am not stressed. I'm watching Duck Tales.

And that is awesome.   read

5:42 PM on 04.19.2012

First impressions: PlayStation Suite

[I'll do my best to not go too technical in here, a (hopefully useful) glossary is provided at the end of the post]

I am a programmer at work and at heart. I love programming, punching in text and seeing it make do things that work on a computer, iPod or a website is something I draw an immense amount of satisfaction from. Which is why I found the announcement of PlayStation Suite at last year's TGS more interesting than PS Vita itself. As cool as the device sounded back then (and I do like playing it a lot), this particular piece of software really got my attention. Running my own code on an actual console with seemingly no hurdles? C# as the programming language? How do I sign up?
A closed beta program popped up after a few months of radio silence, unfortunately it was restricted to UK, US and Japanese residents with no news on when we, the simple folk of neither, could start making things happen on those delicious screens. Finally, couple months later, the PlayStation Suite beta has been made publicly available and it looks like it delivers on all fronts.
Using MonoDevelop (an open-source alternative to Visual Studio), C# as the programming language and .NET Framework, it provides an environment with a fairly decent barrier of entry - I can see programmers with 6 months (and upwards) experience with C# and .NET being able to create something workable there. On top of that, a device simulator (which I haven't tried) and the ability to run and debug the code on a proper actual device (I tested it with a PS Vita, worked swimmingly well) is included to ease the potential developer into the process further. The membership fee is no more expensive than what Microsoft or Apple are asking - $99 a year - although there is currently no information available on the registration approval process - I imagine registering without a valid company would not be possible.
The open beta version of the software provides plenty of sample code and working prototypes and it's great to see one of my early concerns put to rest - you can use analog sticks, all buttons and the touchscreen for input. I have only tried two demos - one side-scrolling shmup and one third-person monster-slasher (both with simple 3D graphics), and they performed really well on the device .The nature of .NET-developed software adds some extra resource consumption, but it adds memory management - data that is no longer used essentially is kicked out of the memory automatically without the need for the developer to keep track of it. The applications also don't clutter the home screen - there is a separate development assistant app downloaded from the PS Store that manages all user-created software. Another great feature is debugging using the Vita USB cable - effectively turning a retail console into a proper dev unit.
Do I see that as the future of game development? Not really. C++ is still the industry standard, and that is not going to change any time soon. It's a nice alternative, though. The cost of entry is significantly lower than any full-on dev kit, and offers pretty solid amount of possibilities. I think of it as Sony's XNA, which, since they both use the same language, will hopefully lead to some cross-platform integration. I certainly wouldn't mind to have the option of covering PS Vita, Xbox 360 and Windows (including Windows Phone) within the same bunch of code.

A (hopefully useful) glossary

C# - a Microsoft-developed programming language, very similar to Java ("that thing they made Minecraft with"), fairly easy to learn, especially with prior C++ experience.
.NET Framework ("that damn thing every other game needs to install for some reason") - a set of functionality provided for programmers, like creating windows, playing sounds, handling keyboard input, leveraging a ton of otherwise necessary busywork.
Visual Studio, MonoDevelop - those are called Integrated Development Environments (IDEs), which essentially bundle code editing, turning code into target programs, debugging, and installing software on test devices into one (or a set thereof, depending on living up to the "integrated" part of the name) application.

Header image taken from Sony's PSS site, fair use and so on   read

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