Camen Design

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Kroc Camen Writes: #5

This is one of a series of personal letters written to / from Tanner Helland during 2003–2005. These letters cover—in immense detail—events in my life during that period, including many unfinished and aspiring designs and creations. As a person however, I have changed from the inexperienced, often immature person I was and my skills in programming and web-design have changed just as radically.

These letters have been republished to give deep insight into the way I tick, and to show a lot of background work that lead up to the concepts and skills needed to produce this website, which ultimately I failed to do so back then.

About the Letter

This letter is largely centred around creating Tanner’s website. I was working at a computer superstore at the time and in trying to think of the right design for Tanner’s website I would listen to his music on the hour long walk there and then back. I still remember exactly where I finally got the inspiration for what I wanted. I was working on a till during a quiet time and scribbling with biro on receipt paper when the design suddenly struck me. The scribbles on the paper itself bore no relation, but the act of drawing the lines had triggered off the vision in my mind and I immediately started work on the design when I got home.

Whilst I had been holding down the job at the computer superstore I decided to buy my next computer, a £1500 Sony laptop. Because I worked at the store I was able to get a 12 months no-interest option. It was a lot of money (still is now; approx. $2700 at the time), and I did end up losing that job (like every job) several months down the line. Not sure how, but I did pay the remainder off in time. That laptop I used up until 2006 where upon I accidentally dropped it (very frustrating as it was only a couple of years old and still in good order) and had to claim on insurance. The money from the insurance (after 6 months of waiting, mind) paid for my current laptop—a MacBookPro—just as Apple had begun transitioning to Intel chips.

When you read this letter bear in mind how little the Internet is mentioned. This is one of the most surprising things about all the letters; they are written in a way where it is simply given that the Internet is not omnipresent like it is today. The way you worked was that you sat in front of your computer and focused entirely on your work and then in the evening dialled-in to the Internet for as short as time as possible (usually 1 hour)—because it cost you per minute—and replied to e-mails and checked the forums you frequented. Being able to look up anything at the drop of a hat like you can today is useful, but it’s a terrible damper on productivity. I could work on things continuously for 18 hours a time easily back then, and now it’s not an hour before I’m interrupted by e-mail or RSS, IM or what-not.

Kroc Camen Writes

OK, I got your letter today (04/10/03)—much sooner than I thought I would so I was dead happy :D Before I do anything else, I’m going to reply to the bulk of your letter—and then get on with a whole load of stuff I need to do for you and report back my progress in section two.

It seemed that the questions in this letter were more along the lines of “I just want to get this out” rather than “answer these”, so I provide no reply as per your request :)

DemonSpectre

Yup—completely right :D

Just be careful not to have too many projects running or you’ll never complete any of them (Alas, that was another valuable lesson from TLA). My suggestion would be, as always, to focus on two or three (or even one) and divide and conquer.

DemonSpectre

Ah-ha, I work very differently to most—usually when I’m inspired by something or have a bright idea—I work on it non-stop until I’m completely burnt out and leave it for a short period whilst I recover and get the enthusiasm back. Thus, in order to get more done, I often have several projects going at once so that I work at one frantically, tire of it, move onto another and do the same and then return the first to continue :S

And I know you don’t want to hear this, but I seriously won’t be able to check out your webpages in full until 2005. I just don’t have the access or the time or the ability to do so. Sorry! :( I would if I could, but I just can’t. Alas, someday…

DemonSpectre

GAHH!!! So unfair, :\ you’re really missing out on the most important part of the site—the animation. Camen Design is the first site that I’ve heavily included flash files and integrated them closely with the design (like the header frame and AquaSpheres). Worse off is that you can’t see the NN3 sub-site, the text actually pulses and vibrates to the beat of DF’s “NoEscape” and when the mouse floats over a link in the header, the little bars appear and rise/fall like an equaliser thingy.

If you happen to walk past an Internet Phone Booth on your travels—pop in and visit www.computerbitsuk.com/kroc/camendesign

I like how each subsite is unique but similar enough to the original that you retain that sense of familiarity. Brilliant! I don’t know if you planned it that way or if it just happened, but it’s great.

DemonSpectre

Hmm, well yes and no—certainly it was key that people realised that the NoNonsense3 sub-site was only a small section of a larger site, so I included the blinking Camen Design eye to entice the user to click it. The similarity factor really boils down to my laziness, in that I just copied the flash animation for the Camen Design logo and inserted it somewhere in each sub-site rather than designing new objects and code :P

2
Screenshot of the Vacant Brains website

Yes, here for your pleasure it’s VacantBrains—since you requested it. Still good looking now, still fun, still cool, still—well the first description that came to mind when I saw it recently, after over a year being left hidden away on my hard disk, was “epic”. Vacant Brains is just such a great web-site that really reflects the incredible amount of effort, dedication and hours I poured into it—bear in mind that VacantBrains was my first hand-typed website, from only one hour learning HTML and one and a half hour learning JavaScript. In fact I still remember the 32-hours straight programming stint I did creating that 300-lines-of-JavaScript-code assistant (starting the very day I had my first JavaScript lesson, no less)—and then everybody calling it “annoying”! lol

In fact, I have to-date, not poured as much soul and effort into any website I have made as much as VacantBrains. Despite its age, I still love the graphic design of it, and would not doubt placing it in the much, much newer Camen Design at all.

Regarding TLA:

Re-creating TLA really does depend very heavily on every body else’s enthusiasm, which I think is close on nill-point. However your description of how it would work is very inspiring and certainly better than what I could write in a thousand lines. I shall e-mail the team with this idea and your quote and see what response I get. If everybody is good-to-go there’s still the problem of the time it takes to do the necessary changes to the TLA site to get it running, and moreover my time is limited and I’m busy with Camen Design and what-not so can’t spend the vital amount of time to be with the team and get them back into the mood. I’ll have to leave TLA for the moment and track everybody down once they’ve had time to rest.

Update: Whilst others may have not, I remembered that the 25th of October 2003 would be our second anniversary of the team. I spent a while writing a celebratory e-mail and sent it to all members, I’ve included this e-mail on the next page. I’ve had responses from DragonFyre, Clint and Vegeta—also included on the next page. I’ve been let back into the forums, and I have to report that only two—count them two short threads have been discussed since my leaving months and months ago!

3
Kroc—2 Years of The Gathering Project / The Lost Alliance

Good morning, Good afternoon, Good evening everybody.

I start this email on a positive note to give a sense of confidence to the rather dreary contents. It all depends on your viewpoint either way. Today, as you may well know is the second anniversary of the Team’s formation as The Gathering Project, now The Lost Alliance since February this year. I still see this as a date to be celebrated, to celebrate our friendship and to appreciate the skills that we have in the team. Now comes the dreary part.

Is the project dead? To avoid the truth would be a far worse travesty—I do not deny the truth that the project is dead, but as I said earlier—it depends on your viewpoint. Although the project we have come together to make may be dead, our confidence felled, our team spirit lacking—I don’t believe that the “team” is dead. Regardless of what we work on, the team remains the same strong, intelligent and defiant souls. I fear that we all will be losing something important in our lives if we never met up again.

It’s been a moot-point between me and DS through snail that there’s life in the team—but not in the project. I think that trying to cajole the team into a new project would only be flogging a dead horse :) Rather,

DemonSpectre

I don’t see TLA as any kind of failure, though in fact quite the opposite. I learned many, many invaluable lessons about life from the project. I also made some wonderful friends—like you!—and I have no doubt that I'll keep in touch with some of the team members for years to come. I also learned a lot about leadership and working on a team; skills that I now find indispensable well born our of the trial that began as TGP and ended as TLA. Oh, so many memories…

Kroc

I was thinking of something—TLA is inevitably close to death. I don’t want the team to think that just because the project is dead—so is the team. Consider a block buster film. The writer has an idea, he writes the script and then the script is used to plan the visuals and then the film is actually made. You don’t hire the light riggers, special effects guys, stunt men and make-up artists to help you write the script do you!? So likewise the TLA project (not TLA itself) was inherently flawed by the fact that we had to write the game as we went along. I don’t think that just because the project is dead, the team should be also. Like I said earlier, or was it in my previous letter, I don’t remember—We could re-design TLA into a clubhouse for it’s members, where we can meet up and talk about our own individual projects instead of working on one single project.

DemonSpectre

But regardless of this ending that would happen sooner or later, I am really liking this idea of merging TLA from a team project into a community of sorts. I think it is far better instead of TLA being a single project, it could instead be a hub for talented {VB developers across the net who help each other out on their individual projects. For example, Asuka could ask me for a battle theme, I could ask you for a 3D tile algorithm, and you could ask Asuka for a DX render engine. We all help and get help from each other.

Each of us always has the time for our own pet projects, regardless of how busy we may be—and with our own projects we make the decisions ourselves so things can get done quickly. As DS said, the team can still be a team but help each other with their pet projects. I myself have a cool game in the works, Badly Drawn Adventure as well as the mind-bogglingly huge, yet incomplete site Camen Design. Go see what I've been doing since I left at www.computerbitsuk.com/kroc/camendesign/

So tell, log in, (let me back in also please), let’s goto the TLA forums and tell each other what pet-projects each of us is working on and show off our proudest work. Let’s invite Wuta back—what’s he been doing since? We’re no longer working on a project together, skills or experience is no longer a necessity—it’s about friendship.

The server will be going down in February, as I won’t have the expenses to keep it up along with the very expensive (like £300) Camen Design server. If any of the members would like to pay the £100 to renew the server, they can—but to save cash I was going to move it to a sub-domain on Camen Design, like “tla.camendesign.com” or “camendesign.com/lostalliance/”—Problem is that when I buy the Camen Design server, it doesn’t support PHP. So I've decided to write my own forums, which are already 15% complete. We’d also need a new website as well, or at least alter the current one. So I think it would be best if the team took a break until February when I'd have the new site complete.

And in other news, DemonSpectre has expressed his interest in pursuing a music career full-time when he gets back. As such he’s asked me to re-make his tannerhelland.tripod.com website. He’s still got over a year and a half before he returns, but I'm working full time now so my time is severely limited. If there’s anything you want to say to DS, just reply to this mail and I'll forward your comments to him.

And now to recap our time together at The Lost Alliance

What’s been happening:

The Lost Alliance has been less about work and more about testing relationships, correct? Myself, moreso, but when you’re going through a severe depressive episode at 19—you can be a bit edgy, careless and reckless—so I take this chance to apologise for ranting at the team without thinking before I shouted. The team has also seen Wuta and Interest being ousted. Clint himself felt guilty at the loss of these members, but mine and DS’s decision was based on very long term factors and nothing to do with the short-term happenings. We’ve seen Clint, come, go, come, go again, apologise…, we’ve seen me leave after some assinus attitude and of course, DemonSpectre leaving for two whole years, without e-mail or Internet access. An eventful existence, no?

Here’s to the team—in some form or another, whatever we choose to do with ourselves…

Happy anniversary everybody!

4

We did get some replies to this, but the forums were up and down like a yo-yo so it’s been difficult.

Vegeta101:

Hey Kroc, happy 2 years (and 16 days) TLA anniversary. TLA Project was flawed but I sure did enjoy being in the team and working on something together with the rest of the TGP / TLA people and have learned a great deal on how to work with and get along with the team. So I think it’s a great idea to make TLA a clubhouse for us and others to keep contact and even help each other. say, how does the rest of the team think about it?

NinjaStalker:

appears

I would have to say… I saw the ending coming early… Although I have a saying for such things. It is something along the lines of “To every sunset there is a sunrise, equally beautiful and predictable.” It means that to every end, no matter how much we want to hold onto it, and no matter how beautiful it is, we must let what we can’t have go. However, something else, equally valuable and beautiful will inevitably appear. After the sun sets, the sky is a beautiful velvet color, as the sun has stained it… This project has left us with something much more valuable than a game… it has left us with knowledge, experience, and much more importantly: friends.

I have missed you all, and have poked in every once in a while to see how everything was going. As you may or may not be able to tell… I have changed a lot these last few months… I applaud you all for your talents and efforts. I hope to keep you all as my friends as well.

Ninja backs into the shadows and disappears

DragonFyre:

is here as well

Hello and salutations to you all once more. Yes, I did catch the email, and for those who have been wondering what I've been up to, please check out fyehroqs-fugue.deviantart.com. I recently found Bryce four so have been doing some 3d art myself, Kroc. Oh, and Intrest I believe is working on a new project, a computer version of DDR I believe.

/TannerHelland:

DemonSpectre

…With me wanting to seriously pursue music upon my return, I want this site to be just mind-blowing…

…I'm thinking some kind of mix between the style of your NN3 page and the curves and non-linear look you mentioned…

…If the site could look futuristic and ground-breaking but still be simple and ergonomic…

…I want this to really stand out in a crowd but still be simple enough that anyone with half a brain could navigate it…

…modern, simple, sleek, dynamic, defiant :), interactive, ergonomic, unique…

…I'm hoping that when you’re done you can call this your biggest masterpiece yet…

Sooooo, you’re not asking much then? lol Now I’m drastically afraid that no matter what I do, it won’t be good enough—or that, as good as it is, it’s not to your taste :S Some conflicting concepts are in there also—futuristic and non-linear contradict as the stereotype and implied image of Futuristic is very linear, cubic design—although it’s not entirely impossible to reinvent the wheel.

You’ve also mentioned that you wish the site to have a very detailed design, but wish to update it often. It’s likely that I’ll have to develop a few new coding standards in order to organise the code in a way that a detailed design can be maintained once edited. Mostly the use of a database means that to add songs, rather than edit the web-pages, you run a script to insert the data into the database. I’ll create a simple-to-use admin page for you to upload files and then add them to the database.

Speaking of databases, your comments on organising the content were a start, but it’s got to be taken much further to merit the quality the site has to be. Limiting content to “members” is only inhibiting your chances of impressing people—after all, when it comes to music, it is very likely that out of all your songs—one, just one would impress a particular user more than anything else.

5

Indeed, part of being ergonomic is avoiding irritating the user—notice that in TLA’s Art section that the ‘add your comment’ box requests only a nick name and a comment, to entice people to respond as nobody, but nobody likes filling in more than three fields. The BDA forums registration page again pleases the user by requesting absolutely minimum information and making most things optional.

How many times have you been searching for a download and come across a site where before you can download the thing you’ve been searching hours for, you have to go through an immensely-irritating sign-up process, that takes you through six pages and has you checking your e-mail twice—just to download one bloody file!!! }:[

It’s ultra-bad-design experiences like this (naming no names, pointing no fingers—FilePlanet, Cough, Cough) that makes Internet surfers “Lazy”, and thus to please and to cater for your audience, they should have to type as close to next to nothing. I strongly believe that with a database and clever organisation you could easily fit many, many songs on the site and still give the user easy-access to what they want to hear.

For example—Have a drop down combo box with:

And also a second combo box with:

So that the user can find certain Genres. Then combine the code for the two combo boxes so that the user can select “List top ten ‘Battle’ songs by number of downloads” by choosing option 1 in the first box and option 2 in the second box.

Next add a search function that finds all songs with the search words in the song description and user-comments attached, with certain given rating, number of downloads, release date—if they need to hunt down a very particular song.

Next use the date of release of each song to put “Latest Release” at the top of the page, to highlight the newest song / songs that have been added, so that return-visitors can see what’s been added—in fact why not use the cookies to store the date of the user’s visit so that when they come back, the website can return a list of “New releases since your last visit”

Getting return-visitors is important also, so add somewhere a link so that they can receive an e-mail or “notification”—same thing—when new songs come out.

As I said in the Good GUI Guide—“Properties” and “Events”—adding a feature is changing a Property on an Event, simple as that. In order to entice plenty of feedback, voting and commenting will be quick, painless, pageless and anonymous as possible. I.e. they don’t have to register to do something so simple as vote—that’s how it should be (cough, FilePlanet, cough).

Related links will help guide the user around areas of interest—I.e. “Users who voted for this song, also liked…” and “remixes available: …” oh and not forgetting “Songs with similar rating (1-5 stars) …”, “Other popular songs (by number of downloads) …” and “Other songs in this Genre…”

By simply monitoring a certain piece of data about an item, you are able to produce many functions for your sites, in this way I will be making your new site as “Dynamic”, “Interactive” and “Ergonomic” as possible, oh and this will be all automated by the database—so you only ever need add a song to the database and dates, related links—the entire works are generated without need for your input. The less HTML you have to ever edit—the better my Job has been done. After all—user friendly is my forte.

6

I’ve started on recording the MIDIs onto CD. Using Window Media Encoder and a cross-over audio cable, I routed the line out to the line in and got WME to capture the audio. It took a good hour or so to configure the 20-odd volume controls to stop the audio ‘topping-out’. So far I’ve recorded the entire Music Extravaganza into WMAs—45 songs, 35.6 Mb, 76 minutes. The second CD will hold all the MSPs (Hopefully). I was surprised at how a 300 MHz computer could capture—and compress to 64 Kbps WMA—without batting an eyelid. As I only had WME to hand for capturing, the songs are recorded in the XP sound fonts—but I think they sound better anyway.

Hey, regarding the name—fss (Fractured Sound Studios), I instantly read-ahead and chuckled when you wrote …thinking of names for it…. You’ve obviously realised that “Tanner Helland Productions” is a bit, well “97” as I call it. I was thinking of some names myself, things like “Defiance Sound Studios” or “Gone to Lunch Studios” lol

Since “Futuristic” is one of the most poignant requirements out of the list, I’ll be using my natural futuristic style I’ve been holding back since I was 13. Below are some futuristic logos I created six years ago. Ever since I’ve never had a proper outlet for my natural futuristic designs as all the sites I have made have not been really futuristic. Things like the Camen Design logo show through though.

Various logo designs in a The Designer’s Republic / Wipeout style

Futuristic does not necessarily mean simplistic though, if you are worried about your site being just a plain grey square and a bit of text :P Indeed, the site should have great graphics also. Problem is, that with me working full time – I don’t even know if I’m going to be able to get anything done.


Today a logo suddenly came to me—what do you think?

Stylised “TH” logo for Tanner Helland

It’s futuristic like I wanted, based on piping. I also was thinking about a possible name “this”—“Tanner Helland International Sound” (or any other ‘i’ word you can think of). The header would be interesting—“Welcome to ‘this’.” I could expand the logo above to add an ‘i’ and an ‘s’. What do you think? I think it’s a good idea because for futuristic styling you have to have abstract concepts—most notably a certain character that’s used as a pointer—e.g. ‘/’, ‘::’ or ‘>’. I also intend to include a pointer character to give the site a technological futuristic feel. I’ve not decided what character yet though! Alternatively the site could be could “thss”—“Tanner Helland Sound Studios”, but it loses it’s futuristic and ‘over-thought’ edge.

The website can be seen as a “system”, since it involves inputs, processes and outputs. If you will be earning money from your site, then you will also need things like letter-header paper and e-mails, branded to the site style and also an invoice/invitation to tender.

If you do think of anything what-so-ever for the site whilst you’re walking around, please write it down in your letters, even if you think I may have thought of it already. I need as much creative feedback as possible—if you’ve got an idea write it down, even if you think it’s stupid, because I might think it’s a genius idea, or at least make something of it.

7

Midi Editor:

Given that it takes an hour to walk to work, I get plenty of time for thinking and one thought that suddenly struck me is that, given that you want to pursue music proper when you return, you should create your own midi editor! You can get the MIDI format from wotzit.org and I’m certain that you could easily find some example code for using the MIDI mapper API calls.

Just like me, being a web-designer, who’s written the perfect HTML editor in his own eyes—you could write your own midi editor, that has all the functions you want, and is geared toward the needs of a music-writer in the same way HoTMeaL is geared toward hand-typed web design.

Thirdly, you could use the website graphics to “brand” the program, similar to how I’ve “branded” NoNonsense3 with the website graphics.

Screenshot of “NoNonsense3 Playlist Wizard”

On another note also, this got me thinking about PhotoDemon. I realised that PhotoDemon has one major problem—it’s not focused. What is it? A web-designing tool, a photo-enhancement tool (I assume this one is correct) or a game-development tool. With Paint Shop being affordable, or any-number of people downloading PSP / PSD illegally, your software needs to be focused in an area that no other graphics tool occupies. HoTMeaL is an editor designed squarely at file-management and Hand-Coding. No other professional application comes even close to being as simple and friendly as HoTMeaL—therefore HoTMeaL’s strong focus means that people will favour it over the professional tools. To continue PhotoDemon on its current path would be competing directly with PhotoShop and PaintShop, both programs well ahead of you due to the number of people working on them. Therefore I suggest that in order to continue PhotoDemon you should think of a strong focus for the application that the other professional applications don’t adequately cater for. For starters, I think putting a HoTMeaL-esque project pane in the application would be original and focus the application a bit more towards “File Management”, something that all professional applications are severely lacking in.

8

You’ve Got Mail:

Someone sent you a piece of mail, I’ve included it below. I replied to them stating that you were in Canada and that I would snail his message onto you. If you want to make a reply then I’ll e-mail him your thoughts.

Hi Tanner, First of all I want to say that your FastDrawing class is realy fantastic! But while using it I found a problem with image widths not aligned on 4 bytes. The fix to your class would be (only one function shown below:) I've attachted a picture of my program to show you the results when the byte alignement is wrong. In case this bug is already solved, trash this email!

Best regards, Alain

Public Sub GetImageData(SrcPictureBox As PictureBox, ImageData() As Byte)
    Dim pwidth As Long, pheight As Long
    Dim arraywidth As Long, arrayheight As Long
    
    'Get the picture box information
    GetObject SrcPictureBox.Image, bmLen, bm
    'Build a correctly sized array
    
    ' make sure alignment to 4 byte (LONG) for windows memory copy/handling
    pwidth = (bm.bmWidth \ 4) * 4 + 4
    
    pheight = bm.bmHeight
    
    arraywidth = pwidth
    arrayheight = pheight
    
    ReDim ImageData(0 To 2, 0 To arraywidth - 1, 0 To arrayheight)
    
    'Create a temporary header to pass to the GetDIBits call
    bmi.bmHeader.bmWidth = pwidth
    bmi.bmHeader.bmHeight = pheight
    
    'Get the image data into our array
    GetDIBits SrcPictureBox.hdc, SrcPictureBox.Image, 0, pheight, _
              ImageData(0, 0, 0), bmi, 0
End Sub
Screenshot of a garbled image according to incorrect image processing code
9

Work, Work, Work:

Damn working full-time is a joke! It has taken the last 4 days to write two paragraphs of text—and now on my actual day off, I’m too burned out to do anything meaty :( This letter is very fragmented because I’ve been working all day, coming home and writing one or two paragraphs before I have to go to work the next day. The hour-walk there and hour back has given me lots and lots of time to think about your site. Now that I’ve recorded your MIDI’s into WMA’s I’ve put them on my MP3 player and have been listening to all your music during my journeys. I’ve been concentrating on the site really hard, using the music to help throw ideas into my head, I’ve been waiting for your music to suddenly inspire me, to literally hit me with an idea so hard that I don’t know where it came from – it’s the only way that I can create a site that really is “mind blowing”.

Already I’ve had several ideas about the look and feel of the site. I’ve started coming up with concepts for linear and non-linear layout combined, by having arcing curves then lead off into a rectangular bar stretching across the screen. One thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot with this site is using “brushed metal”, much like the sword on the picture of Clint I sent you. So far what I’ve sketched is a thin bar atop the screen that has that brushed metal effect across it, buttons etched into it on the left side and a white diagonal shine nearer to the right-end, a bit like the texture on Clint’s sword. Colour wise, since the very second you said “Tanner Helland Website:”, the colour olive-green-grey has stuck with me - a grey colour that looks like normal grey but has a very slight olive-green tinge to it. Then I’ll contrast that with the slight-blue-tinge brushed metal effect.

Wow!

That’s it—I’ve finally gotten it! For the last couple of weeks, I’ve dared not start working on the site until I felt that I could start a template that wasn’t going to be just “average”. I came home today (18th Oct) and suddenly the confidence hit me. It’s not very much, but here’s just a start and already it’s the best thing I’ve made yet. I’m cramming mass-detail into the design to really produce something top-quality. TLA good?—pah, wait for THIS.

There’s a metal bar across the top of the screen and the time will display in the top-right. The drop down menu will unclip and slide-down to produce a menu. Here I’ll put useful direct links to places of interest in the site.

A very early website design showing just the title and a date / drop-down menu on the right

This is the top left of the web page. (This is still very, very early, like two days old—so it’s not as good as it will be) The space just below the top-metal bar will contain a free-form wave or something similarly non-linear to break up the square-cut style, as well as the full title text “Tanner Helland International Sound”, or whatever you choose. (watch this space for that) and the pane at the left will hold the links to the sections of the site. So far I have decided on 6 sections of the site:

Home		- Welcome, Introduction and News.
Music		- The complete music database.
Portfolio	- Portfolio of your previous contract work.
Resume		- Resume or CV of yourself, your experience, education and hobbies.
Contact		- Contact form for queries, invitations to tender/quotes etc.
About		- About your aims, aspirations and goals – also about the web-site design.

If you can think of more areas of the site you would like to include, don’t hesitate to tell me! The music database will include in-built message facilities, but I’m pondering about whether I should include a forum on the site also – that’s for the back-burner though; I want everything else finished first! I think a forum would help people critique your music in general, and get to know you better also.

10

When in the music database, the side pane will contain the music controls, similar to The Lost Alliance Music Extravaganza. The site will not use any frames. I would have locked the bar at the top, but the fade out on the left and the drop-down menu means frames are not possible, but I’m sure you prefer it frameless anyway.

For updates, I’ve decided that a VB application would be best. It would allow you to add a song to the website by choosing the music file, entering the details and it will upload the song and add it to the database. Oh—and of course, the GUI will be skinned to look like the website. Each song online will be available in “Dial-Up” quality or “Broadband” quality—where “Dial-Up” plays the midi and “Broadband” streams the WMA file at 64Kbps. My admin program will convert the MP3 version of the song into streaming WMA before uploading automatically. The plan is that for each song, it will be available as MIDI and streaming WMA—this works out at 790 KB on average for each song. (WMA’s are half the size of MP3’s) Which won’t be a problem for me as I’ll have unlimited space on the server plus unlimited bandwidth. The only problem is the upload time for you :/

Oh, and in other news I decided to check on TannerHelland.tripod.com to see if there was anything important there that needed to be included. Can I be frank? TannerHelland.tripod.com is terrible! Nasty black background, with luminous text! It wasn’t all bad—well at least most of it—the “Midi Composers Ring” is a good idea, so I’ll include that in the new site :)

Early design of Tanner’s website including the header and introductory paragraph

The menu on the left is now nearing completion, the indented item represents the page the user is currently on and the menu items extrude when the mouse floats over them. The large blue title will be fully animated in flash with the waveform pulsing and the large almost transparent title scrolling past. (Can you see the letters ‘tern’ from ‘international’?) The “Tail” on the right means that the website will be viewable in 800×600, as the drop-down menu is positioned on the far-right of the screen regardless of resolution. (The tail of a webpage is the right hand side of the page that fills the blank space left in higher resolutions). For personal sites I always use 1024×768 since only people smart enough to use 1024×768 would really want to visit, but for any sites where “customers” are involved, it’s important for the site to work in 800×600—plus the biggest problem with a lot of sites is that text is allowed to stretch too far across the page, making it more difficult to follow.

I’m working on combining “non-linear” with “linear” as requested, by sectioning free-form waves into boxes, as well as small things like the indent / outdent style of the menus. I really hope this is to your taste. I was browsing the web and the pages for Radeon ATI and Alias Maya were very good—they used a white background though. I feared that your site was far too dull and grey so I decided to add the brilliant blue bit to it. Either way, I believe that you prefer “darker” sites :/

DS, I need to tell you that every minute spent agonizing over every note was well spent. Your music has actually made a real difference to someone’s life, I want to thank you because every time I saw something better than what I could do, instead of falling into un-breakable depression because I feel I’m not good enough—your powerful music has given me such grit-determination to succeed, to prove myself wrong. I do not lie when I say that your music has helped make me who I am, has inspired many of my works and has driven me to where I am today. Without it, I would be stuck in a depressed vicious circle, never attempting anything in fear that I would not be good enough. You may be in Canada helping the needy with the word of God, but you are also right here with me, helping me through my own troubles and I can’t thank you enough for that. Keep composing.

Is this my “biggest masterpiece yet”?
Damn straight it is.
For now.

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New Laptop:

Yippee—I’ve gone and brought a new laptop. Since I’m working full-time I can afford a decent laptop and finally gained my freedom back. It’s a £1499.99 Sony VAIO, 2.8GHz, 512MB RAM, 60GB HDD, CD-R/DVD-R, 64MB DX9 GeforceFX5600 and 15” ultra-bright screen—perfect for web-design :P

3DS Max:

Now I’ve got a fast computer, I’ve been working on learning 3D Studio Max 5 since it’s an area still un-explored. I doubt I’ll ever work out how to create characters and artwork stuff—I plan to use it to create 3D Props for web design, like a stack of metal cubes etc, for THIS. Below is my first ever 3DS file, a brilliant shining metal cube that spins like a penny on its axis. I’ve worked out how to use motion blur and field-depth filters to make it ultra-realistic. I’m currently trying to work out how to add sparks flying across the scene spraying lighting effects across the reflections!

A metal 3D cube spinning on a rusty-textured floor

It’s now the second of December, I last modified this letter way back on the 23rd of November. Since working full time gives me close to no free time, and also after a very long and hard days work I really don’t have the energy to push on with all my personal work. And also after 5 or 6 days in a row of this, my weekend is better spent trying to avoid all work what-so-ever. I have pretty much on every day, been staying up to midnight or after playing a game or something—just to try and grasp back some free time (at the expense of my sleep!) Thus, T.H.I.S. has progressed nowhere and the current full-time situation means that it is highly likely it will take another 19 months to complete, if ever.

I really hate having no time for my own work, I feel like I’m getting stupider and stupider every day because compared to before, I’m c…. F***, S***, A*** SEE! The damn next word just literally dropped out of my head and now all I can think of is a lamen’s acronym! Basically I’m not progressing with my skills as fast as I was before, it makes me feel stale, stupid and worthless. There is nothing more annoying than having none of my websites progress an inch in a whole week—A total waste of my time as it were.

Badly Drawn:

19th December—Your Christmas card arrives! Also have spent much more time working on Badly Drawn rather than avoiding it to pursue Camen Design first. The editor has progressed quite a lot and it’s shaping up to be the most ergonomic program I’ve ever written with a fantastic GUI. I’m such a perfectionist that I’ve even added code to make the Hyperlink Hand cursor appear when you float over anything clickable—like the status bar panels, toolbar buttons, scrollbars, and even menus.

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Screenshot of the Badly Drawn Object Editor
DemonSpectre

Hopefully a music score for any game you design will be a little in return…

Product box shot for PCMark’04

As a matter of fact, I could really do with some help completing Badly Drawn Adventure. My knowledge in DIB sections is very limited (I would love to know how I could, efficiently enough for real time, mirror an image) and of course there’s one thing in BDA that I could never do myself even if I had limited skills—Music. Almost all of BDA I know I could do myself, even if there were 10 people I knew that were better than me at doing it (which I do)—like art and programming for example. But music is so far out of my domain that I’d have no hope in hell stumbling through a soundtrack myself. So I ask you a favour, could you please be part of my team and help make Badly Drawn Adventure a complete reality? I’m going to definitely need your expert skills in optimising the engine to nigh-on-perfection once written and also, obviously, some kind of soundtrack. I’ve also wanted to try and earn at least a few bucks from the project by offering the game as a free download, but charging for a registered version of the level editor and also selling the game and level editor on CD with a professionally designed CD case/cover. We could also throw a load of extras on the CD to entice sales. To the right is a stunningly beautiful case design by Futuremark. When the game is done, I want to design a CD case cover as well that can be proudly shown off on the website. Also should help entice sales.

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Secondly there’s one more thing I’d like some input from you on, and you don’t have to wait until you return to help. Obviously with the Internet the way it is, I want to try as far as I reasonably can to copy-protect the Badly Drawn Level Editor so we don’t get one person buying it and then distributing it to a million other people :/ Now you know more than me about encryption and what not so here’s what I’ve proposed so far:

The Free Version of the Badly Drawn Level Editor is a physically cut down version of the editor—that means that unlike Macromedia Trial Products—it does not contain the full version but with just a 30-day limit that anybody with Kazza could download an unlock tool for. Instead, once paid-for the user downloads an “upgrade patch” with a new full executable. Therefore it wouldn’t be possible to “crack” the free version because the lines of code for save, export etc are physically not in the program.

The next step is to stop somebody copying a Full Version onto any number of computers and using it. I’ve decided to go with my HKey system in some form or another (as seen in MapApp:BuildOne) which creates a completely unique key for the computer it is licensed to. Therefore the program cannot be run on any other computer, but problems arise with people who upgrade their computers because as soon as you change a piece of hardware on the computer the program believes it’s a completely different computer. The best idea I could come up with is that with each purchase of the Editor the user gets a 5 client license that allows them to register the Editor on five separate computers or through five upgrades which-ever comes first. What happens when they run out of licenses? Unfortunately at some point you have to say no, so I decided that after the use of five licenses the user can purchase extra licenses individually for a small fee, like $5.

To stop people from creating their own license files, I’ve decided to do the following. When they pay online for the Editor or Game & Editor on CD, the user can sign up for a Gold forum account or have their current forum account upgraded to “Gold User”. The number of licenses they have purchased are stored in their forum account so when they run BDLE on a non-licensed machine it prompts them to use up a license. The Editor communicates with the website passing their HKey to the server, which does an MD5 one-way encryption to create the license key which gets sent back to the computer. Because communication goes through the server, the number of licenses they are allowed is controlled by me and not by a local file or some such. Downsides are only that the computer must be connected to the Internet—but I might also offer an Offline way to register by displaying the HKey so that the user can copy it to another computer with Internet access and retrieve the license file through e-mail.

The great thing about the HKey system is that it doesn’t matter if the user knows their own HKey or License Key—or even how the HKey is produced because the number is unique to each computer. Even if they could produce their own HKey—only my program and the server will contain the code to one-way encrypt the HKey into a license file. That means that there is only one part of the entire system that must stay secret rather than three and that is—the algorithm used to turn a HKey into a License Key. All that involves is a bit of string manipulation to jumble up, append to and generally disorganise the HKey before Encryption. I’ll make it as complex as possible so that nobody could guess-work it.

Of course all of this protection is not invincible but it will certainly stop one person passing it round to everybody in college. Now it doesn’t stop Warez teams creating a patch-crack, key-gen or re-exe to get around the HKey system totally. This is probably where I’ll need some input from you but what I’ve decided is that it’s impossible to avoid people producing cracks but it is possible to make it difficult for the general populous to actually make use of one. Here’s a good example:

StyleXP is a piece of software for skinning windowsXP, it’s shareware and as you can imagine with anything that is shareware —someone has made a crack for it. Problem is that when StyleXP1.0 came out a crack was made and several hundred copies are now spread across the net—however whenever TGTSoft discover somebody’s made a crack for their current version, they just twig the code and release v1.01 etc so that all key-gens no longer work, all patches don’t fit and re-exes are not compatible with the DLLs. Quite smart really. And since the Internet cannot update the several thousand webpages with v1.0 cracks on quickly enough, they win. So imagine any old user coming along—having never seen StyleXP before, downloads v1.5 or whatever and then searches the net for a crack—all they can find is millions and millions of damn 1.0 cracks lol

So I intend to—after release—search the net monthly for crackz, serialz, keygens and whatnots for Badly Drawn and if I find a working one—change the Editor code and change the website so that people can only download the new version. I feel that it’s very likely that some team somewhere, when they get whiff of the final game, will want to crack it and sell it on compilation CDS for £5 down the nearest boot-fair. What I want to ask you is if you can see any major sized flaws in this proposition and to add your knowledge of encryption to the recipe if there’s anything you want to add.

I was thinking of selling the Full Editor by download at about £/$15 and the CD package at £/$25. I’d program the site so that if they pay by British Sterling I get an e-mail so I can print and burn a CD and send through the post to the British and if in America you can get an e-mail for you to print and burn a CD to send across America. To avoid costly cross-continental charges we’ll offer the CD only in Britain and America? Would $25 cover the cost of one CD, one CD slip, a small amount of Ink and mostly the P&P for anywhere in America? I know £25 would be plenty as it would cost me no more than £10 for all expenses and P&P. The simplest way to divide funds for CD sales would be I get all funds for British orders and you get all funds for American orders since it gets complicated when one person is spending more money on printing and sending but only getting half/half of income.

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So far, input on Badly Drawn Adventure has been good, with everybody having seen it so far asking me to hurry up so they can play it :D It’s because of the very positive critique on Badly Drawn so far that makes me want to complete it utterly and totally, and I want your help to achieve that. I certainly want to complete at least something commercial-scale in my lifetime and of course as we all know—dish a big up-yours to all ye who doubteth me. :P

Small screenshot of toolbar buttons ‘Play’, ‘Pause’ and ‘Stop’

One thing I’m sure I had said in my previous letter (goes off to check) but didn’t, is that I’ve decided to integrate the game-engine into the editor so that in VB style, you can edit the level whilst playing it! I’m going to put Play, Pause and Stop buttons on the toolbar so that within the editor itself you can press the play button (or F5) and immediately begin playing your level in the editor. Then press pause and you can move objects around and do all the editing stuff and then unpause the editor and carry on! I decided to do this because since my editor is not tile-based it will be difficult for a user to work out exactly how high, how far, the player can jump and it would be very annoying to place a gap in the level and have to compile and run the fullscreen game several times just to get one measly gap the right size. With the play button the user can pause before he misses the ledge, move the ledge inwards and press the play button to ensure he makes the jump! Also in Quake-style the game will have a simple console, so that when playing in game, full screen I can execute Badly Drawn script commands and access the program internals from a compiled executable and it won’t be difficult to implement as all it does is take the commands I’ve typed and hands them to the script engine for normal processing the same way the game-scripts are handled.

The problem with many, many level editors—and I’m talking every editor I’ve used (like Tomb Raider Level Editor, MaxEd, WorldCraft, Qoole…) You need to read a thrity-page manual before you can create a new map file. So it’s important to me that Badly Drawn Level Editor can be picked up and used by anybody without reading any manuals. To do this BDLE will make use of a “useful status bar” lol that will tell them what everything is and what it does—like status bar help text for every menu, toolbar button, status panel and level-object. I’ve also had the idea of making objects in the game use speech bubbles for tutorials. I.e. When the user places an object in the editor for the first time, a bubble comes from it saying “Click here for more information about Instances”. I’ll use my HyperTextLabel code so that the bubble can contain friendly formatting and hyperlinks.

With all editors the biggest “learning” issues come with communication to the parent program. At some point you get terminology and programmer-level-knowledge references to do the most complex stuff, like scripting. So the idea of the help bubbles will be for people to understand this terminology as they reach it. For example, in Badly Drawn Level Editor—you do not insert “objects” into levels, but you add “Instances” to objects into levels—so that all instances can mirror a parent object and any updates to an object are reflected in all instances. The term “Instance” is easy for me and you but it worries me if a non-programmer wants to play my game and has to understand that an Instance is not an Object, simply a reference to an Object.

Screenshot of a help pane in Badly Drawn Level Editor

To facilitate this, its-in-the-editor style I’m going with—I’m keeping the amount of sub-forms down by creating some really cool “editing-panes” in the Editor, this means that you don’t have to cover up the object you’ve selected to edit it’s properties/script etc.

My favourite though is the Help Pane, whenever you request help, it’s shown in the side pane here (as HTML files) so that you don’t get a silly window covering up what you’re trying to learn about. And more so it’s real easy to get straight back to your editing and to edit-by-example as it’s similar to having a set of post-it-note instructions stuck to the side of your monitor rather than a stupid help window covering everything up and having to flick back and forth between the editor and the help window (cough, 3DSMax, cough).

Second best is the Scripting Pane, which allows you to type scripts in for an object, but still be able to see what you’re scripting for and the objects surrounding it. There’s no ultra-messy window organisation where just to bloody do anything you have to pull a million floating windows out of your way (Cough, PhotoShop, cough).

My Third favourite, inspired by Qoole, is the “Structure” pane. It’s not massively useful but, it allows you to really organise your own navigation and understanding of your project. The Structure pane is simply a Tree-View of the objects in the level. (Similar to the layer-palette in PSP) where objects grouped together are shown grouped together in a collapsible node. This gives you the following benefits:

  1. By clicking on an object in the list, the editor window jumps to that object centring it in the screen and selecting it ready for you. Saves you scrolling through the level for ages trying to find “AcidTower_6”

  2. You can hold Ctrl/Ctrl+Shift to select multiple objects, right click and select “group” rather than selecting the objects in the editor pane, say if they were spread across several screens which would involve lots of scrolling around!

  3. You can then select the objects within a group, because clicking on an object which is part of a group in the editor window—selects the entire group. Also you’ll be able to delete several objects together—even if spread screens apart

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Well I’m not saying that the “Library” pane is rubbish by being Fourth in my list, just that it’s a lot less innovative than the others. Basically contains pre-built, multi-instance groups that can be dropped into the level. Good for example if a user wants to use a quick pre-built rig system rather than make an entire one from scratch.

The Project Pane isn’t new, it’s been there from the start but since I’ve explained the rest of them, I might as well explain this one. The Project Pane is where the Editor stops being a “Level” editor and starts being a “Game” editor. Here a list view provides you with a simple list of the levels in your game, you can add, rename, delete, levels and insert cut-scene animations between levels using a cut-scene animator program (yet to even be designed!). The level pane has two headers—levels and secret levels. All the levels in the levels section are played start to finish, when you complete one level you automatically go to the next level in the list and if any cut-scenes are in-between, they get played. The player does not progress to the secret levels section once completing the main list, rather, a secret level can only be played when called by a script command in another level—i.e. if the player finds a hidden warp-point or whatnot in one of the main levels. Upon completion of a secret level the player returns to the main level they were previously on. With a double-click the user can load another level into the editor, but the editor won’t support MDI as there are too many variables to store, I decided that RM2K style—it’ll automatically save the level you’re editing when you open another one.

The levels themselves should take up hardly any memory what-so-ever since all they contain is a list of instances, each made up of ParentObjectID, ×, y, w, h and compiled script. Therefore, once actually programmed it’ll be easy for me to include loads of levels and secret levels in Badly Drawn Adventure. As the editor nears completion, I’ll give you a copy so we can start making levels for the main game. See—I’ve got this thing all thought out :)

Screenshot of a scripting pane in Badly Drawn Level Editor

This here is a very, very, early pre-conceptual idea for the scripting pane. I’m hoping to use a coloured syntax control and use window-hooking to paint a background texture into the text box—as shown here as a classic piece of school-dayz writing paper. Totally cool :D (NB: that paper texture is entirely digital—I did try scan in a real piece of old school paper but it didn’t come out too well, so I built a piece of paper in the computer)

When you click on an instance in the editor, the scripting pane shows the relevant code attached. There’ll be tabs either at the top or bottom for choosing the event (on_Initialise, on_Frame, on_Collision etc) and a toolbar for saving, compiling and exporting the scripts.

Scripts are stored in the parent object so that all instances can mirror a piece of code—however if the user wants just one instance to have different timing, or to do different things they can enter code into the instance. The RFR assembly instruction tells an instance to ReFeR to its parent object code. So you can add a small bit of code to an instance and then return to running its normal code. This could for example be used to make a particular enemy stand, point at you and shout out a speech bubble—before continuing their normal AI.

Gameplay:

I’ve included a basic description of gameplay in the website, but haven’t expanded it much. Since you probably haven’t seen that page let me give you some more info on the gameplay of this game I’m talking about so much! :P

The Story:

As you know the game will be a non-tile based platform game. The player will play the part of our main character Yokozuki (Japanese for “Crazy, but not good at it”). He gets kicked out the back door of his current job for being incompetent. He worries about what he will do for a living, and next to him he notices a poster. It reads “Join the Army”, “Meet nice people, then kill them.” He decides that joining the army would be a positive career movement. He gets off a bus and lines up with the other hopeless recruits at the army camp. The very loud, brash and obnoxious army general in charge of training this group of weakling sissy boys (If you’ve seen Full Metal Jacket – think of him) gives the row of misfits the break down. In the intro animation, I’ll have the camera pan across the row of stick men, one will have knocking knees, another will piss himself just before he pans off the screen, another will be asleep and standing up and at the end—Yokozuki—with a stupid big grin on his face, like always :D

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Each level in the game is an army training course. The player must get from start to finish as quickly as possible, avoiding the traps and enemies laid out to hinder you. When you get to the end of the level you are graded by the time taken, number of enemies dispatched and the number of times you died. You have infinite lives in this game, but dying too many times will reduce your grade and you may not get the points needed to pass the level. One hit kills with all enemies/traps so timing and speed is critical. To avoid it being too much of a nuisance to the player once killed, the player will reappear where they are standing to avoid having to re-do loads of traps just to attempt to pass the next one. The irritancy of dying will also be alleviated by having very comical death sequences. For example, in one level you are being chased, Indiana Jones style, by a boulder. If you get flattened by the boulder instead of just being rolled over, the player’s head explodes outward as it is too big to fit under the boulder—something the player would not have expected and thus very funny to see. The same will apply with many death animations.

Drawing of a stick-man being rolled over by a boulder with his head exploding outward in comical style “BAM!”

In similar fashion some of the enemies will have funny deaths also. For example, the dog, when jumped on top of, gets flattened and a turd squeezed out of its butt leaving a pile of smelly stuff behind. Very comical to see.

Now what’s different about Badly Drawn Adventure from other games is that I’ve started with what is essentially a bad idea for gameplay, where the player is irritated by being killed by one hit – but I want take what is already there and perfect it so that it no longer has any flaws. The player of Badly Drawn will be rewarded by their mistakes with comical animations and no need for retracing traps you’ve already done. Importantly with this game – it must scare the player, since one hit kills, the player must feel that with each level they start that they have no hope in hell of surviving, but somehow they manage to get through, frantically almost like by pure fluke. This feeling that the odds are stacked against you will actually be part of the game design. The traps will be nasty looking, resulting in nasty deaths – but will not be as hard as they look to defeat.

I’ve been thinking from the start what I should arm my player with. Early ideas were to use a stick, as all great games have had a stick as a weapon (Zelda on GameCube and SNES for example), but I’m reluctant to give the player a gun as it’s not the personality of my character to brandish a gun. Based on this I decided that in the intro Yokozuki will ask the army general in charge “When do I get a gun and get to blow stuff up, and stuff” – the army general replies (in a windy shout) “You’re too much of a sissy-boy to handle a man’s weapon”. Thus the player has to jump on top of enemies to kill them in the tongue-in-cheek “old-fashioned way of killing people” (This is then where I got the idea for the dog pooping it’s guts out when the player flattens it).

After some consideration, I’m still thinking of giving Yokozuki a gun once he’s completed half of the training courses and gets onto the weapons training course. But keeping in the style of Badly Drawn Adventure and Yokozuki, every time he tries fires the gun, his weakling arm waves everywhere in a blitz as bullets spray in all directions lol—Thus the user can’t just shoot enemies on the other side of the screen and breeze through the level. The gun would only be effective at short range.

The website will be a key part of my “Grand Plan” (It’ll be world-domination next lol) Already as you know, it will include a set of forums for players of the game to meet up and discuss strategies and levels they are building. But also with the level editor being available online I will offer an online community of Badly Drawn Games made by our purchasers of Badly Drawn Adventure as well as an online high scores table with the first person to ever complete the game, listed at the top of the page. (And no, it won’t be myself, or you – let’s give the public a chance :P).

That’s all on Badly Drawn for now (almost 5 pages) but I’m sure I can come up with more next time.

Music on the Go:

iPod 3G

And in other news, I’ve bought an iPod with my Christmas bonus! Now I can carry around 4 weeks of music in my pocket :P I’ve got the 40GB model, which means I can clone my 40GB documents partition on the laptop onto the iPod. I decided to get one since I really need a decent backup solution as I never have an up-to-date backup of my laptop and if I was going to get a portable hard disk, you couldn’t get a more stylish one then an iPod :) I’m working on a backup utility that - hopefully – once finished will backup only the files that have been modified since last backup automatically as soon as the iPod is plugged into the system.

The CDs:

This whole letter would’ve been sent out sooner if I had the time to complete the CD’s but it’s taken weeks to get the recording finished proper. Luckily I’ve somehow managed to get the weekend free so I’m filling in all the details on the files (Author, Album etc) so that if your CD player has a display you should see your name and the song name scrolling past! Also I’ve been designing some excellent CD inlays with the track listings on. Have a look! (Although there is a printing mistake which I don’t have enough ink to fix, on the first CD the total time should be 1:13:15 instead of 1:31:11

A page is skipped here, it contained an e-mail to Tanner I was forwarding to him.

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And in Conclusion:

Bet you didn’t think this page would ever arrive, well neither did I but here it is. This has taken so long to write because I’ve not had enough time to spend an entire day burning and printing the CD’s, luckily I did manage to find the time only a few days ago so now I’m spending a Sunday morning tying this letter’s ends up and getting everything ready to send your way.

Since my last letter, not much has happened but a lot has been achieved. You can see the progress in Badly Drawn Adventure even though there is still an infinite amount to do as well as what small, small amount of work I’ve done on your site (attached is an up-to-today print of the website design). I don’t know if I’ll ever get the site completed, it’s such a huge amount of work and I’ve so little time, but I’m hoping that I will have translated the home page in to full HTML in the next 3 or 4 months :/ I’ve also managed to somehow afford £2000 pounds worth of equipment (My new laptop and iPod) so I’ve now got something to do all this work on and a daily backup of my entire life’s work. :P

There is much still under development on the new site. First, the metal pane on the left will be expanded to fit more menu items as well as a whole host of other things down the side – such as music controls, mini-polls, news items and links to Copyright and Privacy Policy pages. The Water picture in the middle of the page will be an animated flash intro that explains each section of the site and provides a front-end to the site and also the “Latest Releases since your last visit” section will have more detail, as next to each song will be it’s rating and the description will scroll past when the user mouse-overs the item.

Two of the “>” buttons are grey and one in blue, this is to show the highlighted (blue) and un-highlighted (grey) states of those buttons. If you have any comments or suggestions to make on the site, no matter how small and insignificant, please tell me. I spent a good two weeks listening to only your music for 1 hour there and one hour back from work, concentrating rock solidly on the music for 2 hours a day just to come up with this design – it is my absolute best attempt (and it’s not finished yet) to make something that represents yourself and your own style, IMHO. I have asked the opinions of some of TLA and other’s like Idiom and whilst NJ likes it and Clint’s words were “Totally sweet :D”, Idiom thinks it’s average. I’m not concerned though as even though others may not like it – I really think, or more appropriately, I hope that it is, to you - “Just mind blowing”.

Kroc