Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Game Mythos

Working on the intro animation for my game has led me to do a bit of development of the game mythos.  What I mean by mythos is basically the rules and background that governs what goes on in the game world - other than normal world stuff which we already know.

When it comes to normal stuff like "how big is a loaf of bread" - that is certainly the rules and the background, but where it does not differ from our  normal world you can just take it as read.  Where your game world is different - magical, super, silly or just plain weird - that is where you need to start work to figure out just how different.

Think about any game that features vampires for example (no vampires in my game by the way - this is just an example).

  • Do the vampires get to go out in the sun?  
  • Does garlic or crosses work on them?  
  • What about their powers - are they super strong, or super fast or both?  

When you ask those questions for any game, about the characters, the world and so on you are defining the mythos.  I chose vampires as an example because it seems like almost every game, TV show, movie or book that deals with them has a different mythos.  Just saying "this game character is a vampire" doesn't answer all the questions - and its always good to answer them upfront.

Pragmatics also comes into it.  Sometimes in your game you want a particular mythos element but it is just not practical for the development of the game.  If your vampires (to extend the above example) cannot go out in the daylight does that mean absolutely all your game scenes/rooms/levels have to be at night?  That might be a bit limiting.

It's important for any game to nail down the mythos elements early on to avoid continuity problems.  This is especially the case if you are building the game with help from others.  Keeping and updating a mythos document can help do this.

In my game, EthEx 2080, the setting is a near future planet Earth.  At this time, medical technology has advanced so far that almost any ailment or weakness - real or imagined - can receive treatment, at a price.

Many of the problems this brings about exist today in 2013: trafficking in body parts, illegal sales of medicines and therapies, illegal or ill-advised cosmetic and surgical enhancements.  And of course performance enhancing drugs and therapies - such as blood doping, and steroids.  You don't have to look far to see this stuff in the news today.

The hero of my game is an Agent in the Ethics Executive - she is an Eth-Cop.  Their motto is Dignitatem tutando Hominis which translated from Latin is Defending the Dignity of Man.  The dignity of man is a key idea in the field of Bio-Ethics.  I came up with the ideas for the crest above, and the motto from my reading.  Then working them up like this using my tablet and a vector drawing program starts to make the idea of the Ethics Executive come alive.  By the way the above is just the basic design - I have not added any color or lighting to this - but you can see the idea.

I used Google's translate service to go through a few variations on the English version of the motto until I got one that came out sounding good in Latin.  I'm planning for one of the cut scenes that the camera will zoom right in and come to rest on the crest so the detail is not just an exercise.  And likely it will also probably feature on an Eth-Cop's badge which will be an inventory item in the game.

Working on some elements for this globe-spanning bio-ethics justice group has involved trying to nail down who they are, what their powers are (legal rather than super) and what kind of an appearance they have.  In the crest you can see some of these elements: the UN style globe & wreath - symbolising peace and international reach; the medical profession (although the staff of the Caduceus is replaced with a sword) - also the hand (symbol of human rights) and the scales (for justice and the legal system) appear here.  Interestingly there is some history around whether one snake or two should appear - one snake is actually correct for the original Greek mythology, but recent history has led us to use the two serpent version.

It's good when looking at mythos to examine other great mythos makers in the same genre.  For the dystopian sci-fi near-future you can't go past Phillip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep" which was realised in movie form as "Blade Runner" by directory Ridley Scott.  I've been watching a great documentary on sci-fi writers which has a good discussion of Dick and his writing.  In particular the paranoia and ethical conflict that Dick was trying to portray.

The thing about the future world of Blade Runner is that there was no new special group of cops, or legal framework for dealing with the massive scientific advances it depicted.  Dick's hero Rick Deckard was an independent; a bounty hunter, although he took his work from the Police department.

I will need more structure in my game.  For EthEx 2080 I want collecting evidence to be an important game mechanic.  Also I love procedural cop dramas and wanted to capture some of that too.  So I needed to know more about the Ethics Executive and what they stand for.


So far I'm thinking of some thing a bit more like the real-world FBI, but with a bit of the British MI6 thrown in for good measure.


I took the above shot of the MI6 building from the Lambeth Bridge when I was in London in 2004 on holiday, and this building has captivated me for ever since.  Looks menacing, secretive and bunker-like doesn't it?  It's pretty impressive in real life.  Makes you wonder what goes on inside.  I'll probably never know for sure, but soon I plan to lift the lid on the Ethics Executive and give us all a view of the life of an Eth-Cop.  :-)

I am hoping to have the title animation done this week with any luck so stay tuned for updates.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Poser 9 and Mountain Lion - Serial Reg Failboat

Here's a quick brain dump of a few findings and fixings after a frustrating day trying to get Poser 9 working properly on my MacBook Pro running Mountain Lion.  If you are just here for my fixes scroll to the bottom.

I bought Poser 9 when it was on sale by Smith Micro, some time ago.  I've been using Manga Studio for quite a while for my line work and cartoon style drawing.  I needed a good animation product and bought Anime Studio recently as well.  Both of those Smith Micro products are great and get a lot of use.

However I had not really needed Poser - I just bought it because it was cheap enough on the special deal Smith Micro was offering.  Its normally quite pricey - and I had a plan to use the modelling tools in it to basically give me a pose-able artists dummy that I could use to draw from.

Anyway I pulled out the DVD from its case, checked out the ReadMe - which did not mention any of the known issues with Lion listed on the Poser site.  I installed, and before the UI came up I got the "Please enter your Poser Serial Number" dialog.  Filled that out, and then - first problem - no content library.

Instead there is a weird message saying that I had to install Flash from Adobe before I could use the content library!!  Gaah!  I absolutely do not want to have Flash on my laptop, but apparently if I want to use Poser there is no choice.  Sigh.  What I had always done on Mac is use Chrome for those annoying sites that require flash, and had a nice Flash-free browsing experience for general web-use with Safari.

I quit out of Poser, and ranted and raved and shook my tiny fist at the air.  Poser has Flash!?!?  I hate Flash!!  You might not have realised it if you're a long time Poser user.  Try right clicking on the Poser Library and you'll see something like the dialog to the right.

Why they feel the need to embed Flash in their UI I don't know.  I guess its using the so called "Flex" programming system.  It seems (based on a bit of inspection) that Poser was originally written with wxWidgets and some other fairly arcane technologies - so maybe they though Flex might save some development time.

I checked the Smith Micro website and found that there was an update - the SR1.3 update for Poser 9.  It was 114MB in size and took a while to download.  But maybe this would fix some of the issues!

Nah.  Still needed Flash - and weird - I had to do the registration again too.

So then I installed Flash from Adobe's website, and also before doing anything else, the "ClickToPlugin" extension for Safari, which blocks all attempts by web-pages to load flash or other browser annoyances.

Since later versions of Safari do not support the old faithful "ClickToFlash" add-on, the baton has been picked up by the fantastic author of ClickToPlugin.  Same great features but it now also works not just for flash but also Java, and a range of other noxious things that are trying to make your Safari slow, unstable and annoying.  I also love how it blocks flash movie players and subs in the Safari native HTML5 media player instead.  Very nice - means that those YouTube embeds now play just how you'd like without using an instance of Flash.

Note that if you "always use Firefox" or whatever, fine, but you should consider using a flash blocker for Safari anyway - its just so much more secure.  I bet that you'll find yourself viewing web-pages through Safari quite a bit because of its integration with programs on the Mac.  Its also faster and more lightweight than Chrome (my default browser of choice when I know I have to use Flash on Mac) for most usages.

Anyway.  With Flash on-board, and feeling a bit dirty - I fired up Poser 9 again.  Guess what I get another "Please enter your Poser Serial Number" dialog.  Filled that out, and then - just for giggles - quit out again - started up Poser - you guessed it - "Please enter your Poser Serial Number" dialog again!  Something was defeating the Poser serial number registration process.

I googled around a lot, checked forums, and even sent in a support request via the Smith Micro support on-line form.  The response was fairly lack-lustre:
Thank you for contacting Support. This is a Permission Issue.
Try this...
Create a new user account on your system with Admin Rights. Reboot and Log In to that new user account. Launch and activate Poser.
This will resolve the issue with having to activate on each launch, even after rebooting and returning to your normal user account, but also indicates that your user account is corrupted. If that does resolve the issue, you can either start using the new user account, or try to repair your current user account permissions using Disk Tools.
Well, my user account already had Admin Rights.  And I did not want to create a new user id.  But this got me thinking - Poser is probably trying to persist the registration of the Serial Number somewhere, and having trouble.

I fired up XCodes "Instruments" app which allows me to trace the execution of programs, and ran Poser under its watchful eye.  I used a File System monitor so I could check for attempts to open a file that failed.  Sure enough - I saw it attempt to open the following file:

/Users/Shared/Library/Application Support/Poser/9/PoserReg.dta

Somehow when "Installing for all users of this Mac" Poser had set up a lot of files under the "Shared" user.  The known issue web page about Lion (which I later discovered by Googling for the above path)  had a sort of fix for this issue - but it talked about the "root" user, not the "Shared" user.

To fix the issue I opened up my trusty Terminal and typed the following at the command line:

sudo mkdir -p /Users/Shared/Library/Application\ Support/Poser/9/
find /Users/Shared/Library/Application\ Support -exec sudo chown sez \{} \;

Now, one more Poser 9 registration and the issue was fixed.  I gave the Smith Micro support guy the information so maybe it will filter back through their knowledge base.

There are still a number of really annoying issues with Poser 9 on Mountain Lion - as described on the known issues page, and the most irritating is the one where you cannot use the color palette controls for any of the materials.  Instead you have to use the tiny button at the top right to open the Mac native color picker, which does work.  Another one is the "flashing black" library - I guess another issue with Flash.  As per a hint I found for a similar issue with Poser 2012, docking and undocking the library (drag by its bar at the top of its window) seems to fix the issue for that session.

So if you have Poser 9, and are about to install on your MacBook (which does not have Flash installed) your recipe becomes
  • start the download of the SR3.1 update from the Poser updates page
  • download the Flash player from Adobe
  • create the /User/Shared/Application Support/Poser/9 folder
  • install Flash (and I recommend a Flash blocker for Safari or your browser of choice)
  • Now finally install and register Poser 9 using your Serial number
  • Prepare for color picker, library and other frustrations
Note that for the 3rd step you can just use the Finder if you're not comfortable with the command line.

Good luck with Poser!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Animation begins

Screen grab of the Neural Probe character that I'm working on currently in Anime Studio.  This is for the title sequence of the game which is non-interactive (basically a movie that rolls while the game title and intro is being displayed).  This little guy is so much with the lamprey and menace vibe that I just have to find other places for him to show up now.

I'm going to try to do a bit of animation every week I think, so I don't have a huge pile to do at the end. It's really intense work, and so different from coding.  I will pretty much need to mix it up, or my spine will be a pretzel from all the concentrated tablet work.

video

This is a part (can't give everything away at once) of the scene the cute little guy above appears in.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Adventure Games on the iPad

Broken Sword is a genre defining title for the modern adventure game, proving that point-and-click adventure games are still with us, and didn't die with the upsurge of gaming in the last decade.  What's interesting to me about Broken Sword as a game is the way it moved from its origins on the desktop and console platforms to iOS, and in particular iPad.

The above "Let's Play" video is the first in a series show-casing the recent reboot of the game franchise "Broken Sword: Directors Cut", played in this video on the Windows PC platform, I think.

The 2D visuals, that is the lovely background images and Dave Gibbons outstanding comic-style 2D animations, are the big investment (not being 3D or requiring fancy mechanics) and make it a no-brainer as a business proposition to port to new platforms.  Check the Wikipedia entry for lots more interesting trivia about the game including its first publications in the late 90's.  Broken Sword was released on iPad in 2010 in a HD version, and in 2012 on Android.  It's available on the Mac OSX desktop store as I write this for $AUD8.49 - not bad for a game that's been around for over a decade.

On the PC the cursor based hot-spot interaction makes sense - part of the challenge of the game is moving your mouse cursor all over the rich images on-screen looking for objects to interact with.  When you find one, the cursor transforms into a gears icon to tell you that you can "Use" the item, or a eye icon to indicate the look command.  There's similar UI idiom features for other gameplay aspects associated with classic point-and-click adventure interaction.

"Proves the iPad Ultimate for Adventure Games"


Not much of this PC interaction works very well on iOS, or touchscreens in general.  Not only do you not want to be dragging your finger around the tablet and seeing a cursor change, as it would be a horrible UI usage, you also don't want to spend that time.  That's not how you use an iPad.  However according to Chris Reed's review in Slide to Play Broken Sword demonstrates how iPad is the ideal platform for Adventure Games.  So clearly when they ported to iOS and the touch-screen interface they must have gotten something right.

Chris Reed says "proves that the iPad is the ultimate platform for adventure games"
Well, as it happens I agree with Mr Reed, and that is why my current game under development EthEx 2080 is targeting the iPad.

As Reed points out it is not all upside - the constraints of game size meant that the magnificent voice acting that is seen on the PC game does not make it to the iPad, and I guess not to Android either.  Those constraints don't just come from the storage on the iPad, they are a function of download times as well.  If you're on a packet-data connection with your iPad you don't want to be downloading massive sound files and the store has its own ways of dealing with game authors who want to put up huge games.

So what is it that the iPad can offer writers (like me) and players of the modern adventure game?  And how is it that these game designs can still attract premium game buyers on the AppStore over a decade after they were first inked?

Immediacy 


I think this is why so-called hidden object games are so popular on iOS devices: as a player you can just reach out and touch the objects in the scene in a very intuitive way.  I love adventure games and because of that I don't like hidden object games - they seem like a dumbed down version of a genre that means a lot to me.  But hidden object games seem to do very well on the AppStore and on mobile in general.  I think a big part of this is because of the "reach out and touch it" immediacy that object-interaction on the touchscreen gives you.

Other games which involve moving a character around the screen always have to have some indirect way of controlling the character or camera movement.  Racing games can use the accelerometers, the screen can show virtual joy-pads - there's lots of ways to use the touch UI to approximate interactions from console and PC on a touch device.  But in my view, adventure games are the native ground of the iPad and its touchy-feely cousins.  Really the point-and-click adventure game becomes just the touch adventure game.

Iconography


Another feature of adventure games for iPads and other tablets is iconography.  Typically with a game if you have some UI feature that you want to expose to the player you need to come up with some clever graphics to indicate to the player how to interact with it.  You need trash-can icons, up-arrows and so on, or worse you need whole tutorials to explain it.  Where adventure games win is that the screen can show an actual door, nicely rendered, and its totally obvious that tapping on it can cause the character to go through it, to the next room.  As well as being part of the scenery the door is also automatically part of the UI, in a very seamless way.

Of course as the designer you have to be aware of expectations of interaction that  you are setting up when you put things like this in the scene, and if its not going to work like the player expects you better be ready to handle that.  For example, if the door is locked your UI must show this clearly with some suitable in game text, maybe a "clunk - its locked" sound effect, and so on.

Then it can be part of the game for the player to over come that "Huh?  I tapped the door and could not go through - where is that damn key!" if done properly.

Hot-Spots


In the iPad adventure game Yesterday, by Pendulo Studios which I played through recently the issue of on-screen hot-spots was handled in an interesting way: with a "find hotspots" button.


In this 3D (Unity I think) point-and-click game you can highlight all hot-spots visible by pressing a "cross-hairs" icon button at the bottom of the iPad screen.  This causes a visual ping effect to be displayed for each hot-spot.  It's a little bit irritating because you press it, the effect activates in some random order for one hot-spot, then the next, then the next - when there are a lot of hot spots it is hard to see where all of them are, and to know if you've visited them all yet.

If the guys at Pendulo were wanting to make it a bit harder to find the hot-spots they achieved it by making the hot-spot-target button feature quite a bit harder to use than it could have been.  It does make it possible to locate that hard to find hotspot, and less likely that you'll leave a room having missed some crucial clue.  Still I did exactly that on one or two occasions.

Character Animation


In Yesterday as in a number of modern adventure game titles they have chosen to use 3D animated models for the characters.  Since today's modern mobile hardware is pretty capable in the OpenGL hardware department you might think this would be a good way to get beautifully rendered characters that are far more compelling than their 2D counterparts.

Not so much.  As with other games simple models have to be chosen, so as to get smooth animation on mobile, and also to reduce the size assets take up on flash.  To make this work, even with a involved and dark title like Yesterday, the characters are exaggerated and cartoony.  I think this is done in part because with an exaggerated character, we are less likely to comment on the blocky polygons they are made up from.  Don't get me wrong, I think Pendulo have done an amazing job with Yesterday, I absolutely love the game.  But going for 3D does not buy a "cure-all" pill for character animation.

When you compare it to the animated ink and cel-colored style characters of Broken Sword, the immersion and compelling nature of the characters is a feature of both games.  Despite Yesterday coming from a larger Indie studio (I think Pendulo is around 15 guys) and being over a decade more recent, the characters are very comparable to Broken Sword.

Characters Explain Scene Changes


Can you get away without character animation?  No, I don't think so.  The Slender man indie games meme shows that with enough atmosphere and the right type of game you can explore from the first person without showing a protagonist character.  Old games like Myst and the Seventh Guest did the same.  However these modes don't translate well to modern expectations.  In a recent review of Riven for iPad, Jason d'Aprile is very critical of the game and how poorly it translated to 2013, and the expectations of iOS game play.  Of course Riven is the sequel to Myst put out by Cyan World after the huge success of that unique adventure game, with its beautifully pre-rendered 3D scenes.

As d'Aprile points out the game feels very empty (Myst and Riven had no protagonist character) but more importantly the scene changes seemed clunky - if you have no character then your cues for moving to scene to scene are gone and the change of view point rather than feeling cinematic, start to feel arbitrary and jarring.  When you see your animated character walk to a window and turn to look out, its completely natural when the scene changes to show what is out the window - but without the character the change does not work.

Again, you don't need 3D characters for this to work.  Check how beautifully the 2D characters in Broken Sword take you through the door into the next scene in that game, by viewing the "Let's Play" videos or playing the game itself.

Casual versus Hard-core


I just had to come back and edit this article as I had previously used the term "serious games" to refer to those more involved and deeper titles like Yesterday and Broken Sword as opposed to casual games.  Apparently the correct term is "Hard-core" game, and the usage "serious game" has come to mean something more like "educational game".  Confused?  Me too.  Anyway, now edited for correct usage.

I would love to see more real point-and-click adventure games on the iPad, and I mean not just hidden object games, with a bit of window dressing.  In that category I put games like Valerie Porter and the Scarlet Scandal:


The writing, creative assets and even the UI & animations of the hidden object games are such a pale imitation of something like Broken Sword that I cringe to mention these games in the same breath.  In Valerie Porter for example when two characters are interacting on the screen their un-animated portraits slide in from each side of the screen, and exit the same way.  It is visually very disappointing.  But really, this is just Sudoku with salad-dressing.  This is a popping bubble-wrap kind of game where you tot up the number of items you can click on crowded screens.  There is no "use the paper clip on the door lock" kind of logic here.

What I do believe is that the existence and popularity of such hidden object games means that there is an audience of players out there waiting and hungry for the next quality adventure game titles.  Games like Broken Sword show also that 3D is not necessary:  consider putting aside your Unity engine guys and go back to basics.  As Dave Gibbons showed you can do awesome character animations that are darker, richer and more compelling in 2D than many 3D offerings.

To date games for iPad and iOS have been by default casual games.  These games are easy to put down and pick up, play on the bus, and not get too involved in.  But for real adventure games to come to the iPad players must be ready for more hard-core games.  The fixation on casual gaming on iOS is why hidden-object games are so far the big preponderence of "adventure games" on the AppStore - and in my view its something that good game developers need to break through.  Games like Yesterday (see above) are part of this redefinition of what an iOS game can be.

So bring on the iPad adventure games!

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Swing

Mentally its taken me a little while to adjust to being my own boss, and running my own schedule.  This post is about learning to manage time and motivation when doing game dev.

From recent Indie Game Dev events I've been to in Brisbane and looking online many many Indie Game Dev's work a day job and then come home to do their development work at night and on the weekend.  For me over the past 6 months, when I was working on contract during the day and hacking fun game stuff at night that just was not working at all, so I saved up and got myself to the point where now I can work on my games wholly and solely.  Its something I always wanted to do and now can afford to do.

But to make that work I found I needed to get into the swing of things, in my own way, and that meant figuring out how to get my work done - getting my energy happening - when Game Dev was no longer just some super fun sideline from my main job.  If you have a day job, then folks are not really going to give you a hard time if whatever you're doing as a sideline doesn't work out.  But if its your main gig, then the pressure is on and its a different thing.

Yesterday I went down to the Kelvin Grove Urban Village which is our local "town center" about 4 blocks from home, and I sat on a park bench outside the coffee shop drinking a flat white, and drawing this sketch of the KGUV complex - or part of it.  Drawing in real life (not inside, from photos) is one of the things I need to do - likewise getting outside, and interacting with people: even if its just "Flat white, no sugar - thanks".

Taking time out to look up, and really see, I guess you could say.  Drawing makes you look at and understand objects in the real world, how they are lit, how they are constructed in a way that just strolling through really just can't.

I saw the movie "Indie Game" and how those guys handled the pressure of developing ones own creation.  There really wasn't much else in their lives outside of the game, although I think the creator of Super Meat Boy really had a better perspective than most of the developers depicted there.  He put energy and time into his relationship with his wife, and also into his home life - as well as focusing all his creative output into the game.  Actually watching that movie and how gritty and real it was (or at least it seemed) made me feel inclined to include the personal side of my game development experience here.  None of us are machines, and the more creative we are I think the harder it can be to force that creative energy when it doesn't want to happen.

Some of those guys in the Indie Game movie I don't think ever did any grocery shopping, and though we don't get to see inside their refrigerator I'm guessing it was tumbleweeds in there.  Except for the cases where they had someone else to pick up on the chores of actual life for them as in the case of one of the guys who was still living at home.

Having my home be a nice cheery place with food in the refrigerator, and the dust bunnies pretty much under control is something that is part of who I am.  So skimping on running the house is not a way for me to find more time in my day.

I also know from bitter personal experience that if I don't get a fair amount of physical exercise I don't deal with pressure of any kind.  In short if I don't train 2-3 times a week I quickly start going quite a bit mad.  I'm very lucky because I personally know quite a few very intelligent software developers and creative people who struggle with psychological issues and who are on medication for it.  Me, I have my own challenges - not ones I like to talk about and nothing compared to the challenges faced by my acquaintances that I just mentioned - but I have always been able to deal with that stuff by hitting the gym.  That has pretty much always worked for me.

When I was travelling for work, I'd land in whatever country it was break out my shoes or whatever and hit the hotel gym, find a track around a river somewhere, or even do laps in the hotel pool.  This was the only thing that helped me not to go stark raving mad with jet lag, and the weirdness of having 300+ people in a conference venue in Munich waiting to hear what I had to say about software engineering.  No pressure, right?

So - gym/exercise, keeping house & home together - that's two big things.

But numero uno is making time for my partner Raymond - who I've already mentioned in this blog as being a total saint when it comes to my work.  One thing that is tough, is for some reason I am super-productive and motivated to work when Raymond is around the house.  And I find during the day when he is out at work, that is when I find my focus drifting.  Sigh.  I feel like when we're home together is when I should down tools and spend time with him, but right now its not completely working out that way.

You can see why hacking in my "spare time" wasn't working.  When I had a full-time job, "spare time" really did not exist.  I could make time for my game dev only by neglecting other really important parts of my life.

Edmund, the creator of Super Meat Boy and other games, and also probably the most together of all the developers depicted on the Indie Game movie I think was as successful in life as in game development because he made his time with his partner work as a thing, alongside and in train with working on his game.  I guess this kind of thing is very individual.  And maybe the maker of the movie cut him a break here, as he was kind of depicted as a god of the Indie Game devs with all the answers.  I dunno.



I've always done my best work nights and evenings.  The darker and the more rain and cold there is, the better I work.  Unfortunately its the evenings when Mr Smith is home and I am trying to make time to slot him into my busy schedule somewhere.  Same again on the weekends - I again seem to be very productive during the weekends when he's around.

One good sign is that last weekend worked well where we made time to do some active stuff together: headed out on our bikes for a few hours up to Mt Mee and back on Saturday, and went for a walk around Southbank's new cafe district on Sunday.  Actually making some active things to do together I think is better than just "time", which can wind up meaning just blobbing.  And between those activities  I also got quite a few hours of hacking done on the weekend, in between times.

Productivity:  here are some sinks - TV and the Internet.  I've kind of cut back on doing stuff on the internet, like Google plus was becoming a habit.  There are people wrong on the Internet!!

But I'm going to have to cut back on TV.  We don't get broadcast TV but we have a bunch of SciFi and other shows cued up on iTunes and on DVD's - its all too easy to watch a show over dinner, and then press the button to watch the next one instead of heading downstairs to get a few more hours work done.

Still its starting to shake down into some sort of plan - I kind of goof off a little bit in the mornings, go walk and draw, get a coffee or go to the gym: then its in the evenings I get most of my work done.  I still have a long way to go before I get a really good productive routine going, but we'll see.

I'd be interested to know:  what do you skimp on to fit game coding in?  How do you schedule your time?