2020 Update

Okay, so it’s been 4 years since I wrote a blog entry on my website. FOUR YEARS. I’m surprised to see that my crusty old site has retained a steady flow of visitors. Like me, it’s started to show it’s age. And I apologise for this tiny font – the WordPress theme explodes if I try to change it.

According to Google Analytics, the most visited pages are the long-obsolete TIPS & TUTORIALS. In 2020, it seems people are still trying to work out how to add a rule-of-thirds grid to their 3DS Max Viewport.

Imagine it’s 2016…

So my intension back in 2016 was to start developing my own products in Unity. I had it all mapped out. I was on a mission – but as is often the case in business, funding this mission proved difficult. A fella needs to put food on the table, and it’s hard to focus on making games when your fridge only contains greek yoghurt and a couple of malformed carrots.

It turned out that spending all that time learning Unity JavaScript wasn’t a complete waste. I managed to get a seasonal job at a large corporation close by where they processed the UK’s examination papers. I was initially extracting data from the various systems and running reports, but that migrated into doing some Excel Macro scripting (Visual Basic). It was quite enjoyable. Very corporate though, and dull. And, being a zero-hour contract, it offered no security.

I did some gardening for a local company. I was assigned the role of ‘Principal Gardener’. ‘Principal Gardener’, it turns out, actually means ‘Unpaid Driver’. The job paid around £blimey per hour and they didn’t pay me for driving the truck full of tools and a colleague from job to job, unless it was a long haul. Driving was arguably more stressful than pushing a lawnmower. Having worked a week of long hours, I averaged something like £crikey a day. I worked out that this was the average wage in 1979.

Examples of some tortured greenery. I can’t remember where these are.

That was the least amount of money I’d earned in 20 years, but gardening is actually a pretty good income generator if you do it for yourself. I built a protective deck for the floor of our hatchback that secured a mower and some tools. And I actually made some money gardening. And after being stuck behind a desk for 23 years, it was a nice (and more healthy) change of environment.


Eventually, I spotted an advert for a vehicle photographer. It was part-time, so perfect for funding my game development work.

On my first day on-site, the two other photographers arrived with expensive DSLR cameras and heavy-duty tripods. I arrived with a 2004 bridge camera and a £10 Hama 75 Star tripod. Needless to say, I felt a bit under-equipped. I recall telling my boss that the camera was like an ‘old friend’ – and him responding that my friend ‘needed to retire’. I ended up replacing it with a Fuji XS-1 which, while old, is still an excellent camera.

The job itself was a new contract for a major manufacturer. It’s possible that you might be able to guess which one by carefully studying the photographs below. The company hiring me had promised the client double the number of vehicle images in the same time-frame as the previous photo provider. So no pressure there then.

On the first week, the photographer who was supposed to be working with me fell ill, so it was left to me solely to shoot an endless stream of cars while under the intense scrutiny of the people running the site. I had 12 shots to memorise with strict framing rules. I had to figure out how to get good quality shots. My kit was getting soaked in the freezing January weather. It was pretty intense.

At the end of a week of running, crouching, shouting and clambering in and around cars, I’d actually took quite a battering physically.

“Big Simon” – Photo Driver and avid player of Elite Dangerous

I’ll spare you the details of the injuries, but needless to say, I wore ‘armoured support underpants’ for the next two years.

It didn’t take long to become proficient at shooting cars, which are tricky at the best of times. I dropped around 10kg in weight and ate a lot of steak. The plans I had to develop games on the days off just didn’t materialise as the job seemed to take over all my weekdays. I did, however, spend some time programming tools that helped me and the other photographers process the hundreds of images in the evenings.

I learned a lot from this job. You can get great images from an inexpensive camera. The Fuji XS-1 cost me around £250 and it easily matched my colleagues DSLR cameras. And the £10 Hama tripod – it got crushed by a BMW X5. But I bought exactly the same tripod to replace it.

I also learned that trucker’s toilets are one of the most inhospitable places on Planet Earth, often requiring breathing apparatus before entry.

My fellow photographers and the drivers were great, and I do have some good memories of working there. We did eventually achieve double the photographs of the previous supplier. The solution was to hire twice as many photographers.

Custom Paint BMW i8

The photography role ended at the start of 2018. The photographers were replaced with an iPhone app and an automated turntable. Being a mobile app developer, I can see the irony here.

Since then I have worked on some game projects for the guys at Soccer Manager, among other things. I have also amassed a workshop full of tools for fixing houses and repairing cars. But that’s another story.

And I’m happy to say that I’ve picked back up on my Unity development. I’ve almost finished writing a new game engine and am currently prototyping levels. The project has been written in C# and I’m confident that the code is robust enough to be used in a published product.

Let’s just hope there are no more hiccups. Oh wait, what’s this COVID-19 thing?

Stay Safe Folks.

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