Portfolio

So I’ve been around a while now, here is a bit of history….

Just some of the software and hardware products I can put my name to. Chronological order.

G-ORB (1991)

My first released game I wrote as a kid, and when I say released it was “budget ware”, not free but really cheap! It was called G-ORB. The name was short for “Gravity Orbital Research Ball”! Controlling a spinning space ball you used your jet propulsion to get around and a hammer to turn switches on and off, all whilst avoiding various aliens that would damage your shield if you collided. You had no weapons, just your hammer for the switches, a limited amount of fuel and three lives.

g-orb

Recently found a long play of the whole game on YouTube. It’s sped up twice as fast as in real play to get through the whole game.

You can play G-Orb today, all you need is an Atari ST emulator (try here) and a copy of the game (available here). Let me know what you think!

 

Fun School 4 (1991)

I worked for a company related to Europress in my school summer holiday of ’91 (yes, really, most people have a paper route). I was busy programming on the Commodore Amiga some of the games from the Fun School 4 packages “under 5’s” and “5 to 7”. Each software package had 5 or 6 fun animated learning games.

fs4

University (1991-1994)

Computer Science and Software Engineering BSc Hons. For my dissertation I designed a language systax and implemented a compiler for the language (an LLR parser written from scratch in C), it just happened to be a language designed for writing games. You learn all sorts of interesting things at Uni as well as improve in all aspects of programming and computer science.

My past experience and education landed me a job at…..

Datel (1994)

I went straight from University to Datel, good for me!

First off, let me mention that GameShark and Action Replay were both “game enhancer” products developed by Datel UK and distributed by Interact in the America’s (originally). Same product, different name. It was also called “GameBuster” in Germany, but that isn’t so well known, unless you a German!

PC Action Replay (1994)

This was for PC’s running Dos and Dos4GW, pre Windows 95!

An ISA card and software for your PC. I’d only just started at Datel and this was one of the first Action Replay products I worked on. I started at a time Dos4GW was prevalent in gaming (e.g Doom had arrived) and the Action Replay didn’t support Dos4GW. I developed the 386 “protected mode” system which breathed new life into the product and allowed to work on all the latest games like Doom, you soon had the ability to fire 20+ rockets in a few seconds and other fun cheats.

300px-PC_Action_Replay_1994

Comms Board (internal dev system and product, 1994)

Datel being an unofficial product developer needed to create our own dev system and software tools. For this the comms board was made, at this time PC’s used ISA slots (PCI was just coming in). I developed command line tools as well as Dos window tools to handle development and eventually a product for end users. The software allowed people to upgrade (flash), search for cheat codes, edit memory, copy gamesaves to and from the Gameshark / Action Replay product, and also led to home users being able to dev on their own!

commsboard
Comms board, used for as an internal development kit on Saturn, Playstation and others. Also sold as a product to end users along with software tools for them to use.

Sega Saturn Gameshark / Action Replay (1995)

Generally for all the Gameshark products I was involved with, I developed the engine code, the user front end interface, any other software like PC Windows applications to support the product (internal tools and tools like the comms board software – see below).

saturn-gs
The Saturn Gameshark and Action Replay was a cartridge that ran from ROM. A connector in the top could be used with the comms board product.

The above video is a customer reviewing a V2 Saturn Gameshark

Playstation Gameshark / Action Replay (1995)

The Playstation took off and so did the Gameshark / Action Replay product. The product itself very similar to the Saturn version, a cartridge that plugged into the back of the PlayStation console.

I developed the user interface, the code engine that booted and ran in the background of games, tools for development, tools for communications with the PC Comms system. These tools would not only aid development but also find cheat codes, upgrade the flash memory and eventually be the software product given to end users who invested in a cartridge and the comms board.

PS1_gameshark_1
The first cartridge for the Playstation, included software versions 1 through 2 (upgradable via the comms board product). The comms board connector is on the back.

Playstation Gameshark Pro (1996)

The second version became “Pro”. Slightly higher in stature it included RAM chips and new features including a built in code finding system.

PS1_gameshark_1_pro
Gameshark Pro / Action Replay Pro. Built in trainer and extra memory.

Playstation Gameshark CDX (1997)

So Sony decided to save build costs by removing the cartridge port on the back of the Playstation! Hence GameShark had to become a CD!

PC Action Replay for Windows 95/98 (1998)

I had always been into the more technical side of programming, from beginning in assembler languages on Atari ST and Amiga, to 8086 assembler on PC, to protected mode on 386 PC. It all made Windows low level programming seem well – quite high. Lots of documentation and API’s. It only made sense to make an Action Replay that would work on all Windows games.

I can’t seem to find any images on the internet, but it was a nice multi page dialog utility with tools for hunting down the cheat codes. You could make your own codes in this one too. The product still worked well into the life of Windows ME and XP but wasn’t popular enough to keep working on, not with more games consoles round the corner.

Here is a nice readme I wrote for one of the updates: http://web.archive.org/web/19990218081023/www.datel.co.uk/pc.htm

Max Media Managers (Various Platforms)

Windows software applications that let you manage you media (saves, videos, photos, MP3 music, etc). Usually came with some form of cable to connect to your memory card, or as in the case of PSP just a USB to mini USB cable.

Now this is a time people are just discovering that they can watch movies on other devices, IF they can re-encode the video say from a DVD to the memory of the device (or a memory card). The Max Media Manager software was one of the first, most complete and much cheaper than the competitors (mostly official software).

maxmedia
Just three of the many versions of the software for different platforms

Max Media Manager Pro PSP

The PSP was by far the most popular multimedia handheld and multimedia player, hence it also had its own “Pro” version with extra features. An advanced video edit mode that allowed features such as trimming, resizing the frame, cropping, advanced bitrate+quality settings. It also featured the most active online saves community with people swapping their game saves (e.g. start on the last level with this save, in this save you have the secret gun, etc).

maxmediapro

Playstation 2 Optical Disc (2002)

This was the beginning of the end of my involvement with Action Replay/Gameshark engines and front ends. Times had changed in the industry, all consoles were now disc based optical media, all consoles use their own proprietary optical formats and advanced protections to prevent piracy (the public were copying PS1 discs with CD burners left right and centre so something had to be done).

So, Datel needed to be able to release products, by now Datel built its own CD duplication factory. It was now my job to figure out how to make a bootable PS2 optical disc…… oh!

I’d be reading all the optical media specification books multiple times and anything else I could find, I’d write full decoders and encoders which would work not only on EFM but HF signals too. Tools to capture high resolution HF waveforms digitally, tools to decode HF into EFM, then to sector data, then back again. Tools to search for patterns and anomalies in masses of analogue and digital data. Use numerous high spec hardware including Audiodev testing equipment, high resolution A to D capture, microscopes, a replication plant!

12 months and 100+ presses of CD stampers later, it was done…..

Gamecube Optical Disc (2003)

Just when I thought I knew everything about optical media and protections, Gamecube and the 3.5″ Gamecube happened. The format of the data was mostly DVD spec, just not quite, let alone a different sized disc. The WikiPedia has a detailed look at the disc and even mentions “six additional evenly spaced small cuts” in the discs data area which are related to one of the protection mechanisms and the BCA mark; there is a lot more going on but unfortunately I can’t say more due to contractual issues!

The numerous protection mechanisms on the disc would mean another this took 12 months of hair pulling too (I have no hair now), challenging and very satisfying work!

Gamecube-disc-BCA

The above is a photo I actually uploaded to WikiPedia BCA article (see it here)

Wii Optical Disc (2007)

Luckily for me, the Wii optical disc was much the same as the Gamecube disc, some tighter protection checks, and we had a working disc within a couple of months.

PSP Gameshark / Action Replay (September 2008)

My interfaces were always nice I think, even the Sega Saturn had scrolling and opening windows even though we were limited to graphics (I was literally plotting pixels back then with no access to hardware registers). Now with more powerful hardware and a hacking scene emerging Datel had a bit more ability to find out more about the hardware and actually draw some nice graphics for the front end. I dare say the PSP interface, as an interface for selecting from lists and toggling items on and off, is a 60fps joy. Every bit of interface design from detecting direction presses to scrolling titles to the next screen for continuous fluidity is in there.

I even added features to allow people to skin the menus and backgrounds (the public weren’t told in the end but could choose from a selection in the options screen). You could update your code list from the internet direct on the PSP (probably one of the first pieces of software to update like this at the time).

ar-psp

I didn’t code the engine or in game interface for this one, that was down to another Datel programmer (if you’re reading this and want me to write your name here just say). Products were taking a lot longer to produce at this point what with the better graphic interfaces, larger more complex games to make cheat codes for, lengthened time to reverse engineer hardware and develop ways to supply the product (in this case a memory stick, the disc in the package was for your PC, the media manager software).

The above video is a customer reviewing the PSP Action Replay, it shows some of the user interface.

XPort 360 for Xbox 360 (2009)

There weren’t many non-Microsoft approved products for the Xbox, but this was one and very popular it was too! Connect your memory card or your hard disk to your PC and copy any file to and from the device. My previous research of Xbox (1) data formats as well as formats like FAT32/NTFS/Zip and for other devices left me in good stead for developing new tools to read and write to Xbox 360’s latest EXFAT system. This product opened the world to the users who wanted to backup their old save files, free up room on their device, swap save files, … it even led to some tech savvy users upgrading their hard drives.

xport360
The XPort 360 is the base unit, it plugs into your PC USB port, then plug in your Xbox 360 memory unit (front) and/or your hard disc.

xport360-soft
The XPort 360 utility. Not much to look at but a lot going on under the hood with a full ExFAT implementation, auto backup of special disk sectors, lots of extra tools to backup and transfer files, folders, disk images and memory card images.

XPort 360 for Xbox 360 (2009)

There weren’t many non-Microsoft approved products for the Xbox, but this was one and very popular it was too! Connect your memory card or your hard disk to your PC and copy any file to and from the device. My previous research of Xbox (1) data formats as well as formats like FAT32/NTFS/Zip and for other devices left me in good stead for developing new tools to read and write to Xbox 360’s latest EXFAT system. This product opened the world to the users who wanted to backup their old save files, free up room on their device, swap save files, … it even led to some tech savvy users upgrading their hard drives.

xport360
The XPort 360 is the base unit, it plugs into your PC USB port, then plug in your Xbox 360 memory unit (front) and/or your hard disc.

xport360-soft
The XPort 360 utility. Not much to look at but a lot going on under the hood with a full ExFAT implementation, auto backup of special disk sectors, lots of extra tools to backup and transfer files, folders, disk images and memory card images.

Other Products at Datel

I’ve missed out a lot of products from this list, just too many, too numerous, or products/work similar to others.

I left Datel end of Dev 2010 and headed off to Canada for a 12 week break snowboarding in Banff…..

Snowboarding, Contracting …. Hello Canada!!

The next few years saw me galavanting around the world. I spent a winter season in Banff snowboarding, then headed back to the UK and setup GMT Development Ltd.

Contract Work: iOS, Android

iOS and Android app design and development. Work for large and small clients including Roche, Medtronix, Great Fridays, Vodafone and Medex Media. Applications deployed and supported at numerous large events. Development of apps and server side data collection & serving, installation and setup on location, support. High pressure jobs to meet clients deadlines.

Local small business services including system setup, website design, hosting, email, print design and IT.

Contract Work: Business Media, IT Support, Websites, SEO

Design services for businesses including websites, web hosting, email setup, logo design, business card design and printing, leaflets, posters, SEO, social media site setup, photography and video creation.

mmap  Websites-saclaw  Websites-bcedu  Websites-gmtblog  Websites-law  Websites-am  Websites-sbm  Websites

Arrow Mania (2012 – 2013)

I spent about 12 months creating a game, Arrow Mania. Arrow Mania released on iOS initially followed by Android and Kindle Fire.

It took so long as I did the whole thing, including the concept, programming, graphics, sound and marketing. There is also a lot of behind the scenes work mostly for promotion, release and support. Video trailers, banner ads, posting in forums, fixing bugs and adding features, adding all sorts of SDK’s and additional features after release in order to get downloads! Arrow Mania did pretty well, it even got to number one in China.

Arrow Mania 2 (2014)

Then I made a sequel to my game (2014):


At this time, I’ve vowed to myself to hire an artist and other help in the form of promotion for my next release. It is just too much work to do on your own!

Nova Law Corporation (2016)

Setting up a law firm from scratch isn’t easy. From finding an office to following all the Law Society rules and setting up the computer systems, office equipment, furniture and even buying staplers! No really, there are a lot of things to research in today’s digital world especially when it comes to security and privacy.

Building a successful business also means marketing, from signage and business cards to websites, SEO and online marketing campaigns to compete and be found by your customers.

Snaky Squares (2016)

Releasing July 29th on iOS App Store and Android Google Play Store, other platforms to follow.

Snaky Squares is a Snake in a World of Squares, Platforms and Yellow Dots.

Snaky can turn on squares and only in four directions.  Help Snaky by tapping the screen in the direction you want him to head, one tap and Snaky turns 90 degrees. Lead Snaky to the yellow dots. As Snaky gets longer Snaky also gets faster, you’ll need all your skill to not fall off the platform or hit your own tail! Win power up items by watching videos, or buy permanent powers in the shop, use the power items to control your speed and tail length.