Comment On The Cool Cam

Brand G. got his start in the game industry working at MicroProse, famous for classics such as Civilization, the X-COM series, Masters of Orion, Pirates, and Dark Earth (one of my personal favorites). MicroProse was also known for its military simulation games, such as Gunship, Pacific Air War, M-1 Tank Platoon, and Falcon 4.0. Brand was brought on to work on such a simulation, European Air War. [expand full text]
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Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 15:38 • by RafBar (unregistered)


MMM i kinda like the wingless nazi Shuttle launcher game.


Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 15:39 • by Hans (unregistered)
And rightly so. Technology is very important, but presentation doubly so. I once worked on a project that was in a bit of trouble (not quite as bad as this, but it was behind schedule and somehow everybody hated it).

And then one day I made a cool logo, and put that on the desktop of every computer I could get my hands on. Now this may sound weird, but almost immediately things changed: the program was still (almost) the same, but people mentioned it was useful to them, that they liked working with it, that they appreciated that I was working hard to get it finished.

My personal theory is that because I showed confidence in my work, they figured it could not be quite as bad as everyone thought. But maybe I'm wrong - maybe they justed liked the new desktop backgrounds ;-)

So remember this everyone: it is not enough to write good software, you must also sell it. And to sell it you must present it in a good way. And to do that you need something like the coolcam, or even something silly like a desktop background.


Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 15:40 • by Llama King (unregistered)
Surely planes hitting the ground is just the Japanese team?

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 15:44 • by Zygo (unregistered)
149646 in reply to 149644
Llama King:
Surely planes hitting the ground is just the Japanese team?


Bouncing your plane off the ground and into outer space was the only way pilots could take out the orbital weapons platforms in World War II.




;-)

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 15:47 • by pauluskc
phew! I have to say that this is the first post in a while that actually had me laughing out loud (no acronym needed).

I hurt from laughing with the description of the enemy AI bug where they'd reject their mother country.

Thanks for the laugh!

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 15:55 • by Michael (unregistered)
149650 in reply to 149643
Hans:
And rightly so. Technology is very important, but presentation doubly so. I once worked on a project that was in a bit of trouble (not quite as bad as this, but it was behind schedule and somehow everybody hated it).

And then one day I made a cool logo, and put that on the desktop of every computer I could get my hands on. Now this may sound weird, but almost immediately things changed: the program was still (almost) the same, but people mentioned it was useful to them, that they liked working with it, that they appreciated that I was working hard to get it finished.


I had a similar experience, I joined a team developing an internal web app for project management. Since it wasn't management-decreed, we had to sell it to every department to get people using it. It was generally an uphill battle getting people to switch, people complained that it didn't work like their current program, was unintuitive, slow, etc. One day I added the ability for users to change the "theme" (CSS file), and suddenly, people thought that it had a very user-friendly interface.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 15:57 • by Anon (unregistered)
Ah Microprose. So many classics and they all came with manuals you could choke a donkey with. I miss those days.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 15:58 • by bstorer
149653 in reply to 149643
Hans:
And rightly so. Technology is very important, but presentation doubly so. I once worked on a project that was in a bit of trouble (not quite as bad as this, but it was behind schedule and somehow everybody hated it).

And then one day I made a cool logo, and put that on the desktop of every computer I could get my hands on. Now this may sound weird, but almost immediately things changed: the program was still (almost) the same, but people mentioned it was useful to them, that they liked working with it, that they appreciated that I was working hard to get it finished.

My personal theory is that because I showed confidence in my work, they figured it could not be quite as bad as everyone thought. But maybe I'm wrong - maybe they justed liked the new desktop backgrounds ;-)

So remember this everyone: it is not enough to write good software, you must also sell it. And to sell it you must present it in a good way. And to do that you need something like the coolcam, or even something silly like a desktop background.

One of the reasons F/OSS struggles. It is often just a case of not looking polished, regardless of the quality.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:05 • by Thomas (unregistered)
149654 in reply to 149651
Anon:
Ah Microprose. So many classics and they all came with manuals you could choke a donkey with. I miss those days.


Yeah, one must agree with you.
Great games by those folks.
:-)

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:05 • by Patrick (unregistered)
Where is the WTF? It's an industry that thrives on the look and feel of the product, not necessarily how well it's coded or how stable it is. Tim delivered exactly what the execs were looking for, props to him.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:08 • by ronj (unregistered)
Microprose Gunship. Many an afternoon spent playing that on my C64. By the way, it did play like an arcade game . . . if you were good enough.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:08 • by pauluskc
149657 in reply to 149651
I have to say... Silent Service is still my all-time fave. 5.25" Yeah! Why do I need a DVD to play a game nowadays, dangit??

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:09 • by rycamor (unregistered)
This is one of the best WTFs I have read in awhile, because it's actually a positive WTF, or maybe it should be called a "reverse-WTF". (I'm not talking about the hilarious bugs, but about Tim's seemingly counter-intuitive decision.)

Instructive, too. "Tim" obviously knew something that some developers never learn: It's not just about the code, it's about the people, and their perceptions.

Those of you working on a project that is slowly dying from lack of management support, or "vision" would do well to reflect upon this tale.

(And with that in mind, I've got some cool-camming of my own to do...)

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:09 • by me (unregistered)
The one "proverb" that I've used since the manager of my first project out of school told me is:

Perception is Reality.

This doesn't just apply to software, but it is definitely extremely important in the software development world.

Live it and love it. Perception is reality to those who make the decisions. The cool cam is a perfect example. Tim was able to show the execs just how "cool" what they had was regardless of it's problems.

Perception is reality.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:18 • by rbowes
So is it just me, or is the whole "bouncing into space" thing probably just caused by the altitude falling below 0 and jumping up to INT_MAX?

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:22 • by unklegwar
okay, exactly HOW is this Worse Than Failure (ugh)?

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:26 • by KattMan
149664 in reply to 149658
rycamor:

(And with that in mind, I've got some cool-camming of my own to do...)


Cool-Camming

I think we just got our new term for doing the seemingly stupid that ends up saving a failed project.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:27 • by Anon (unregistered)
149665 in reply to 149656
ronj:
Microprose Gunship. Many an afternoon spent playing that on my C64. By the way, it did play like an arcade game . . . if you were good enough.


Loved Gunship. I still remember struggling to limp home at low altitude with shells exploding all around you. A flight sim that really felt gritty.

Another thing I loved about some Microprose was the hall of fame features and how it encouraged you to push the difficulty level up to score more points. Pirates! springs to mind for that.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:28 • by genki (unregistered)
149666 in reply to 149663
unklegwar:
okay, exactly HOW is this Worse Than Failure (ugh)?

I think it's a wtf because despite the bugs and known problems, the creation of a superficial 'cool' feature managed to distract the executives enough to allow them to finish the project successfully.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:31 • by Spartacus (unregistered)
149667 in reply to 149660
rbowes:
So is it just me, or is the whole "bouncing into space" thing probably just caused by the altitude falling below 0 and jumping up to INT_MAX?


Most likely not, as at the point in the next refresh of the screen, the plane would be off the screen completely and appear to have disappeared. Also altitude was properly measured in signed floating point. My guess at the bug would be that for some reason the collision with the ground touched some very bad collision math and set the airplane's velocity to something large at a reflected angle.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:31 • by raylu (unregistered)
149668 in reply to 149655
The WTF is what the execs were looking for.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:32 • by yetihehe (unregistered)
149669 in reply to 149657
pauluskc:
I have to say... Silent Service is still my all-time fave. 5.25" Yeah! Why do I need a DVD to play a game nowadays, dangit??
You don't need. WinXP Minesweeper has only 117kb. Oh, you wanted 3d graphics, then maybe you'll like .kkrieger. But maybe you also want music and some better graphics, more monsters, more vehicles, multiplayer and cinematics? Then you really have to go by with dvd's, sorry

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:33 • by OJ (unregistered)
149670 in reply to 149660
Maybe, maybe not. 4D Sports Driving had somewhat similar bug that was certainly no integer wrap: when crashed hard, the cars would fly into sky in a spectacular backwards spiral. If you waited long enough, they would also fall back to ground and maybe bounce for another flight. The game had a number of other interesting bugs, too: you could drive through walls and even on water if you knew the tricks.

BTW, the message edit box is kind of small on Konqueror. Forum software...

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:41 • by stfu (unregistered)
149673 in reply to 149663
unklegwar:
okay, exactly HOW is this Worse Than Failure (ugh)?


It's not, dipshit.

They're not trying to preserve some forced purity here, they're just giving us some daily content to keep us entertained for a few minutes out of the day. Whether or not it's a "real wtf" or whatever isn't really that important. As long as it fits under "curious perversions in IT" and is interesting, what's the difference?

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:43 • by KattMan
149675 in reply to 149670
OJ:
Maybe, maybe not. 4D Sports Driving had somewhat similar bug that was certainly no integer wrap: when crashed hard, the cars would fly into sky in a spectacular backwards spiral. If you waited long enough, they would also fall back to ground and maybe bounce for another flight. The game had a number of other interesting bugs, too: you could drive through walls and even on water if you knew the tricks.

BTW, the message edit box is kind of small on Konqueror. Forum software...


This kind of bouncing seems to be a common theme in driving simulations.

The MS dirtbike one (can't remember the real name) did this if you started at one corner of a map and hit the throttle real hard across flat terrain until you hit a good hill and flew off the edge of the map on the other side. You would bounce off the invisible barrier and fly around the screen.

Another one (sorry can't recall the name or manufacturer) was a car racing game that allowed you to build your own tracks. Just create one with a nice long straight track so you could get up to 220 MPH then a slight hill off to the side of the track would cause you to spiral-flip wildly hundreds or even thousands of feet into the air ending an a spectacular crash. Oh you had to have damage turned off for this to happen, but I spent more time flying cars then racing them in that game.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:45 • by Kemp (unregistered)
149676 in reply to 149670
I've seen lots of games with similar bugs. Carmageddon (all versions iirc) comes to mind, there were certain bits of scenery that if hit at the right angle would launch you into space having sustained the maximum damage possible. Eventually you would land, repair, and drive off (in the first game at least, this could easily kill you outright in the second). The affected bits of scenery were identical to those around them, often a particular (small) piece of a building wall around the 2nd-3rd floor, we usually found them by doing a jump off the crest of a hill and hitting the building. Didn't happen every time, but it was always particular areas.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:49 • by Jake Vinson
149678 in reply to 149675
KattMan:
OJ:
Maybe, maybe not. 4D Sports Driving had somewhat similar bug that was certainly no integer wrap: when crashed hard, the cars would fly into sky in a spectacular backwards spiral. If you waited long enough, they would also fall back to ground and maybe bounce for another flight. The game had a number of other interesting bugs, too: you could drive through walls and even on water if you knew the tricks.

BTW, the message edit box is kind of small on Konqueror. Forum software...


This kind of bouncing seems to be a common theme in driving simulations.

The MS dirtbike one (can't remember the real name) did this if you started at one corner of a map and hit the throttle real hard across flat terrain until you hit a good hill and flew off the edge of the map on the other side. You would bounce off the invisible barrier and fly around the screen.

Another one (sorry can't recall the name or manufacturer) was a car racing game that allowed you to build your own tracks. Just create one with a nice long straight track so you could get up to 220 MPH then a slight hill off to the side of the track would cause you to spiral-flip wildly hundreds or even thousands of feet into the air ending an a spectacular crash. Oh you had to have damage turned off for this to happen, but I spent more time flying cars then racing them in that game.


In Trespasser, you could slap dinosaurs to death with your bare hands. Once a dinosaur was dead, you could shoot its corpse which would make it move a little bit, but if you kept shooting you could get it to start rolling faster and faster until it hit would hit a bump and fly off into the horizon.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:50 • by DavidN (unregistered)
That was incredibly annoying in Carmageddon 2, particularly if you'd just spent the last half-hour exterminating the zombies - it was particularly bad with Pinball Mode on, so I was sure to hit Recover and then just sit quiety for 30 seconds whenever I picked one of those up.

This is a fantastic post, by the way - it's good to see that somehow, some things turn out all right.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 16:52 • by Matt (unregistered)
this is my favorite post in a long time.

"European Wingless Plane Amidst Nazi Battle Simulator." that is so funny.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 17:03 • by Migala (unregistered)
149682 in reply to 149666
genki:
unklegwar:
okay, exactly HOW is this Worse Than Failure (ugh)?

I think it's a wtf because despite the bugs and known problems, the creation of a superficial 'cool' feature managed to distract the executives enough to allow them to finish the project successfully.

The cool-cam feature set the game apart from other games. First it was yet-another-game-but-with-more-bugs-and-way-over-budget, now it was an all-new-shiny-and-flashy-game, with just a few bugs left.

(captch: paint)

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 17:17 • by Bob N Freely (unregistered)
EAW was a great game. I wasted many an hour shooting down Luftwaffe bombers with that title.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 17:20 • by PeriSoft (unregistered)
149684 in reply to 149649
pauluskc:
phew! I have to say that this is the first post in a while that actually had me laughing out loud (no acronym needed).

I hurt from laughing with the description of the enemy AI bug where they'd reject their mother country.

Thanks for the laugh!


"Scheisse! I've had it up to here with all of you! You, Sturmfuhrer Hans! And you, Schlinkopf! I'm through with it! You never treat me right, you take my skill for granted - Honestly, you're all just a bunch of goddamned Nazis!"

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 17:22 • by Ben (unregistered)
149686 in reply to 149675
KattMan:

Another one (sorry can't recall the name or manufacturer) was a car racing game that allowed you to build your own tracks. Just create one with a nice long straight track so you could get up to 220 MPH then a slight hill off to the side of the track would cause you to spiral-flip wildly hundreds or even thousands of feet into the air ending an a spectacular crash. Oh you had to have damage turned off for this to happen, but I spent more time flying cars then racing them in that game.


I bet you're thinking of "Stunts". I spent way more time with the editor than with the real game...

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 17:28 • by PeriSoft (unregistered)
149687 in reply to 149678
Jake Vinson:

In Trespasser, you could slap dinosaurs to death with your bare hands. Once a dinosaur was dead, you could shoot its corpse which would make it move a little bit, but if you kept shooting you could get it to start rolling faster and faster until it hit would hit a bump and fly off into the horizon.


If you've still got a copy of the original Unreal Tournament around, find a multiplayer map with some Nali books on it. Knock a book onto the ground, stand on it, and shoot it with the sniper rifle.

The sniper rifle has an enormous damage in a very concentrated area, so all of the energy goes to the book. And the book goes flying in the direction of the impact. But since you're standing on it, you're firing from above, and the physics engine erroneously treats the book as still being separate from the ground and from you. So the book travels 0 inches at high velocity into the ground, bounces off the ground, travels 0 inches back up to your feet, and continues, carrying you about 200 meters high.

You can then shoot the book again on your way down, and repeat. You don't take damage when you land, either, because landing on a book isn't the same as landing on a ground (a book doesn't hurt you when it hits you, so it doesn't hurt you when you hit a book).

If you practice a bit, you can fly around on the books. It's pretty awesome.

Normally I wouldn't mention the CAPTCHA - but in this case it's Quake, which is just a little TOO appropriate...

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 17:30 • by John W (unregistered)
That is FREAKIN AWSOME!!

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 17:32 • by RafBar (unregistered)
149689 in reply to 149686
Ben:
I bet you're thinking of "Stunts". I spent way more time with the editor than with the real game...


Same here... it was a BLAST of a game... and the track builder was very very intuitive, I played that game litterally for months for that feature alone....

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 17:35 • by Codejoy (unregistered)
Awesome write up, I love reading stuff like this especially from classic developers such as micropose.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 17:36 • by Khim
149692 in reply to 149670
OJ:
Maybe, maybe not. 4D Sports Driving had somewhat similar bug that was certainly no integer wrap: when crashed hard, the cars would fly into sky in a spectacular backwards spiral. If you waited long enough, they would also fall back to ground and maybe bounce for another flight. The game had a number of other interesting bugs, too: you could drive through walls and even on water if you knew the tricks.


Ah, Stunts! (same game, different name - apparently)

The game was great fun, really, and the space launch bug was just a bit of fun that could be exploited well if you knew how. Not "well" in the sense of being useful for scoring high in the game, just good for lots of fun watching replays.

This bounce thing happened if you managed to hit the landing ramp right on the edge, for example.

Addendum (2007-08-14 17:48):
Wikipedia link

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 17:40 • by titusbyronicus (unregistered)
I've been reading WTF for at least a year now and this is the first article that I've felt compelled to comment on.

I really enjoyed this one. The WTFs that video games developers suffer through are really fascinating. This was in some ways even better than reading a post-mortem in GameDeveloper Magazine. Please post more!

Thanks!

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 17:52 • by James Schend (unregistered)
I had a F-18 sim on my old Mac with a strange physics bug. If you crashed in the ground with your gear up and just the right angle, your plane would get 'stuck' in the ground and never be able to take off again... however, at the same time, you were in a frictionless environment so it suddenly accelerates faster and faster until you're traveling miles per second. If you hit a hill, it'd glide for a second, then fall down until it was stuck in the ground again. I loved that game.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 18:00 • by ZSB (unregistered)
Cool story. I don't even see it as a WTF on the executives' part. With all the neverending bugs, I'm sure it was easy to overlook what the game did right, particularly if no one was showing off the positives to them.

Tim showed them that there was a baby worth keeping in there with all that bathwater. I'm curious if Tim planned than all along or if he was just lucky.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 18:07 • by retnuh
149699 in reply to 149667
Spartacus:
rbowes:
So is it just me, or is the whole "bouncing into space" thing probably just caused by the altitude falling below 0 and jumping up to INT_MAX?


Most likely not, as at the point in the next refresh of the screen, the plane would be off the screen completely and appear to have disappeared. Also altitude was properly measured in signed floating point. My guess at the bug would be that for some reason the collision with the ground touched some very bad collision math and set the airplane's velocity to something large at a reflected angle.



Oh you and your facts and logic.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 18:09 • by durnurd
That really was a hilarious writeup. Now why don't people who work on F/OSS get it that design is important? They have professions for it! Is it just that F/OSS is a programmer-centric sort of thing that designers don't really get into?

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 18:10 • by Guido (unregistered)
149701 in reply to 149699
Just another proof that execs and generally people don't want to know what's under the hood with a program, but they want to know how it looks. Fancy = good.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 18:38 • by Spikeles
I work on a framing fabrication program for houses, and one of the things i did while i was sick of fixing endless bugs was implement a 3D view of the house. The 3D view is completely useless to the guys who actually USE the software(they only care about 2D views of walls and accurate measurements), but their boss loved it, their clients who they build houses for loved it, other visiting companies loved it, so it stayed in, and i got a pat on the back for spending a week on it.

It reminds me a bit of how Google allow you to spend time on personal projects actually, in that what you do for fun, may end up being a really good idea.

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 18:41 • by nigel (unregistered)
That is possibly the most beautiful story i have ever read on WTF!

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 18:53 • by coolcam (unregistered)
149706 in reply to 149705
http://gamecoder.mindsay.com/the_cool_cam.mws

based off of the above article?

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 19:03 • by blunden (unregistered)
149707 in reply to 149686
Ben:
I bet you're thinking of "Stunts". I spent way more time with the editor than with the real game...
Yeah, really fun game. The editor was fantastic. Aaah, the memories...

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 19:05 • by dubbreak
149708 in reply to 149666
genki:
unklegwar:
okay, exactly HOW is this Worse Than Failure (ugh)?

I think it's a wtf because despite the bugs and known problems, the creation of a superficial 'cool' feature managed to distract the executives enough to allow them to finish the project successfully.

I am a fan of bad analogies.

Imagine the pinto was the first consumer car with an electric sunroof (not the case and I'm not sure you could even get it with one).

Project Management: Is it true that the rear structure of the car is basically devoid of any reinforcement so any rear collision could damage the fuel tank possibly causing a fire or worse yet explosion?

Vehicle Designer: Check this out! (opens sunroof all the way with the touch of a button. PMs ooh and ahh. VD closes sunroof with push of a button)

PM: We have also heard that any rear end collision could cause the doors to jam, due to the lack of reinforcement, making this a virtual deathtrap..

VD: Have you seen this!! (Pushes button to show tilt function of the sunroof.. more oohs and awes)

As I said, bad analogy. The game software isn't life or death, however if the software were medical imaging software and you were distracting from the 1 in 10 radiation overdoses with the "amazing 3d imaging that can be rotated in 6 axis in real time!!" then you need to quite your life as a developer and get into marketing.

What was the point I was trying to make again...?

Re: The Cool Cam

2007-08-14 19:18 • by Mark (unregistered)
149709 in reply to 149700
durnurd:
That really was a hilarious writeup. Now why don't people who work on F/OSS get it that design is important? They have professions for it! Is it just that F/OSS is a programmer-centric sort of thing that designers don't really get into?


The problem is that F/OSS design tends to degenerate into design by committee.
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