The spinal analysis, and what it means for OGRE

For 18 months I’ve been told by a succession of doctors and physios that I didn’t have anything structurally wrong with my spine and that my bouts of back pain were simply ‘standard non-specific back pain’ – ie muscle problems that I should just take NSAIDs for and exercise more. I’d been a bit skeptical because the problems were occasionally quite extreme and seemed to be always centred on one particular location (the joint just at the bottom of my ribcage), but after getting many opinions and one set of x-rays I went along with it.

Things have been quite good recently, up to mid-February when I had a bit of a relapse for a few weeks after doing a little too much. I raised it with my doctor again, explained that I’d been doing all the exercise and going to the gym as recommended, and yet it still flared up at what I considered to be fairly minor provocation. He scheduled me in for another set of x-rays which I expected to not come back with anything conclusive since the last set didn’t (and you can’t get into the MRI scan here unless you go through this step again first, allegedly). They took more pictures this time but I didn’t expect much given all the opinions so far.

Imagine my surprise therefore that when I got the results today, they actually had a concrete explanation for me. Apparently in my lower thoracic (ie exactly where I’d been pointing all these months) I have some disc degeneration and calcification going on, which is what is causing the stiffness and pain. This is something that happens with age anyway, but given my relative(!) youth (36) they thought it looked like it might be a result of either a trauma such as a sports injury – I can’t think of anything – or sometimes they see it in people who were child gymnasts – again not something I can attest to! Basically, something has happened to make my spine degenerate in that area faster than it should have done for my age. Too many hours spent stressed out at a desk may have been a contributing factor in that, although he thought it would have to be a lot of hours and probably combined with other factors.

So anyway, the ‘good’ news is that I actually have a reason now, an explanation for why I’m so susceptible to strains and stress on my back these days. In a way it’s nice to have something to point at. The bad news is that this isn’t fixable, it can merely be managed via careful exercise and lifestyle changes – many of which I’ve made already but I probably need to go even further. The prognosis is that I should be able to live pain-free so long as I manage it carefully over the long term to stop it degenerating further.

Following this analysis, I’ve been prompted to make a decision which I’ve been reluctantly considering for a while anyway – I’m retiring as OGRE Project Lead. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my 10 years leading OGRE from unknown personal project to where we are today, but leading an open source project requires an enormous amount of dedication, passion, and above all an awful lot of time spent at a keyboard, most often in addition to a ‘regular job’ with which to pay the bills, and I feel I just can’t give that to the level that’s required any more. It will be with no small amount of sadness that I finally take off the leader’s hat – which by now is quite battered and worn in. 😉

I still intend to be around and involved in the project – I’ll be contributing some code, giving advice when it’s wanted, and overseeing the establishment of an OGRE Foundation to handle the donations and funding side, but the days of me living and breathing OGRE, vetting every change, and being the person with whom the buck stops when there’s a bug, will be over. I’ll basically be contributing what and when I can, but shrugging off the responsibility and expectation that is inevitably associated with being the lead developer.

We have a great team and community around OGRE and I’m sure the project will be fine with me taking a more back-seat role – time for younger and less physically challenged developers to step into the limelight :)

  • Aras Pranckevi?ius

    That must have been a hard decision to make… But totally understandable. Here’s to hope that Ogre will soon have a new project lead of your caliber :)

  • spacegaier

    Hi Steve,

    sad to hear that, but totally understandable. Health and real life goes first and if “leaving” Ogre is needed for that, it’s okay. As long as you still stay with us a bit, it’ll be fine…

    I am also sorry that hear, that there can’t be much done for getting rid of tha pain exept the life style changes that you have mainly done already. Really hope for you, that it will stay as it is or even get better :)

    So long and all the best!

  • spacegaier

    BTW: What will happen to your TorusKnot Ltd.? As far as I know that is what you earn your living with, right? So will you just retire from Ogre Lead (= development) and focus on the customer support/wishes with your company?

    Or what is planned in this direction?

  • Steve

    Thanks for the kind words.

    I’ll still be running the company the same way – this is how I make my living anyway. That’ll no doubt continue to involve some commercial work related to OGRE, and as I say I still intend to contribute to OGRE as a developer. It’s just that I can no longer try to combine doing commercial work and also being in charge of the open source project too – doing both is hugely time consuming. I’ll basically be just like all the other people doing OGRE commercial work while not being the project lead too :)

  • Liam Anderson

    Hi Steve,
    Sorry to hear about about your health problems. Must have been a very hard decision for you to make. Although health comes first and got yo say you have done one hell of a job over the 10 years and made our life’s a hell a lot easier.

    Hope it all goes well

  • Mirko


    My condolence for being forced to make this hard decision.

    From what I´ve seen from you so far you won´t bury your head into the sand though. I wish you a rich and happy time in your next phase of life and hope that you will still be around in the forums from time to time to paint the great project with some of your colours.

    Good luck,
    See you at your blog and twitter!


  • Stodge

    Sorry to hear this Steve. I suffer from major back problems too (undiagnosed despite many tests/scans etc.) so I know where you’re coming from. All the best.

  • Brad Dehnert

    Hi Steve,

    Very sorry and sad to hear both pieces of news. No doubt your legacy will live on through the community, and I hope to still see you ’round the forums!

    – Brad

  • tuan kuranes

    You definitely made the good choice : health first.

    Thanks again for the incredible level of dedication, the insane amount of work you put into making Ogre the beast it is today.

  • Nicolas Goles


    Thanks for the huge effort you made, I have learned a lot from the design of Ogre ( as a Software Engineer, and engine programmer ). I’ve never thought about the existance of a project like this when I was younger ( now 24 ), and well, you made this happen.

    Good luck and I really hope your health improves.

    Thanks again

  • Dan

    Great to hear you have a solid diagnosis. I also get aches in my back, sometimes to the point of stiffening up where it feels that I’ve been slammed in the middle of the back with a bat. My problem stems from an incident on a playground when I was only 7 years old. I stretched out my back while holding onto friends going down a slide. Hurt like the dickens for a short while, but I soon forgot about it and didn’t start to feel chronic pain from it until I reached my mid-twenties. It can take a long time for really old injuries to resurface. In my case, almost 20 years.

  • Dan

    For the record, I’m 40 now, and with the on-going back stifness, I’ve also had to slow down on spare time programming projects. I just can’t sit in one position for too long, especially after a full 8 hours at work. On the other hand, I find myself doing more with the kids, and excercising, which definately helps.

    OGRE will not doubt miss your tireless efforts, but you’re definately making the right quality of life decision. Bravo!

  • leedgitar

    Hey Steve. I’m glad to hear that you finally got a solid diagnosis. Being a desk jockey definitely has it’s consequences, as I’ve had back issues over the years as well. You made the right choice though. Take care of yourself, and thanks for the hard work over the last 10 years. Rest well knowing that your “retirement” is well deserved, and that you certainly far exceeded your own goals for the project.

  • Jon Jones


    Thanks for all the work you put into Ogre! You have made my life/job 10x easier by crafting such a great engine.

    Good luck with all your endeavors and I hope your health improves.

    Jon Jones

  • Raiden

    Hi Steve!
    I am very sorry that you have to leave, but it is good to hear that you’re back pains will be manageable.

    OGRE is simply the best project I have ever seen and I’d love to see it growing without you as a leader in the same way, although I think it won’t be the same without you.

    I think it is our role as a community to not let OGRE die because it would be such a pitty given the hard work behind it and the amazing level of quality it has.

    Take care of your back and don’t dissappear from the forums!

    A thankful OGRE fan.

  • Kencho

    Oh, this is a bit sad, but certainly the right choice given it’s either this or your health. I’m sorry to have been away from Ogre for such a long time, specially missing all the latest changes, and unfortunately can’t tell when I’ll be back on track :( But it’s absolutely an honor and inspiration to have met you there. Hope we can met many times in the future though 😀

    My best wishes for you :)

  • Kezzer

    Good luck with that, I know you’ve got some good outside-of-OGRE interests now also such as your drumming and guitar, so still plenty to keep you busy most probably 😉 Hope all goes well with that!

  • Brandon J. Van Every

    If you haven’t already, try abandoning desktop / desk-based computing in favor of laptops exclusively. At least with a laptop you can sit or lie in many different positions and you can change your position regularly. There is not really any such thing as an “ergonomically correct” chair – some chairs are better than others, but all chairs will wear you out after several hours in them. The only good position is the next position, i.e. you have to keep moving. Laptop + yoga is how I’ve been protecting myself. Good luck!

  • Paul

    Sorry to hear that mate. It cant be easy to come to terms with a permanent ailment like that and then having to pass over control of something you’ve been so close to for so long. All the best for the future, and I’m sure Ogre will find itself in safe hands.

  • Eric

    Wow. It’s sad to hear that you’ve had to make such a difficult decision. That said, I’m certain you’ve made the correct call and I wish you a smooth transition as you update your priorities. I hope that this is will simply be the start of a long period of excellent health and fulfilling work. Best of luck Steve!

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  • Scarpelius

    Sad to hear this. OGRE was for me nice intro in the world of game dev. I hope you will get well and continue to contribute many years in OGRE project.

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  • John Parker

    Aww, I’m so sorry to hear that your back problems are incurable and that you’re stepping down from the lead position.

    I’m so very thankful for Ogre. You probably have no idea the benefit that it’s been to me. Ogre took me, over many years, from a somewhat clueless 2D game hobbyist to a self employed 3D professional who makes a comfortable living.

    Thank you and good luck.

  • Rapchik

    Thats so sad steve.. I have always looked up to you for inspiration to make something decent opensource for the community.. and as i can relate to the backpain, i think its about time i start to make the changes required before making the damage permanent.. best of luck steve, i hope the pain goes away for you :)..

  • Paul Evans

    Glad you feel like you’ve built up a strong enough team to take over in your absence. A mark of a good leader :-)

  • kamaliang

    Steve, best wishes to you…
    Although you are going to take off the OGRE leader’s hat, you are the best Caption in our heart, forever… !!!

  • nikki

    That’s sorry to hear! I hope your back gets better (even though it’s ‘incurable’)… Take care of it. :-)

    I’ll miss you! :-(

  • Merimbula

    Hi Sinbad,

    Sorry to hear the bad news. I was in a similar situation about three years ago (different problem though). So, I can only imagine how you feel.

    Any news on who the new lead(s) will be?

  • Meh

    The beginning of the end of ogre :'(

  • Danien

    Hi Steve,

    As a fellow back pain sufferer, I’m glad you finally found the cause of your pain and have made the decision to take care of yourself.

    Thanks for all the tremendous work and contributions you have made to a lot of people. I think you’ve helped more people and indie studios than you’ll ever realize.

    The OGRE community will certainly miss your leadership but it will do well because of the strong community that you and the other community leaders have built.


  • kinjalkishor

    @steve, This is good news and I am really happy that, you realised the need of hour of putting health first. no health = no steve = no ogre. So really you are actually not going anywhere but just kind of going in back seat and contributing what you CAN, which is perfectly all right given your health. You are still doing what you can in best possible way. Do not get sad at this, instead be happy for life is full of changes and nothing is for always, if not now then you may have done it latter so it was going to happen one day or the other. You are not even in middle of something, as Ogre is quite mature now. And OGRE have a great team and someone quite able will take on the role. For past some time major development was done by the team anyway. And one person can real handle only a limited amount of work and complexity. And throw in problems of health.
    Best wishes, live a healthy life with this new decision, fulfill your other hobiies which you may have neglected and can now do, can give more time to family and friends and be more healthy.
    It is just awesome how much great work you have put in OGRE and it is really super cool :)

  • typist

    Although I do not follow OGRE development on a daily basis, I read
    your blog regularly and I had to check the date of your blog post
    (twice) to know that you were serious about the decision to retire –
    it is after all the month of April.

    This is yet another example where your leadership shines through as an
    example for others to emulate, because there are not many founders who
    can walk away from their own projects especially when they realize
    that those projects would be better off without them (for whatever
    reason). Truly, hats off to you!

    Being an extremely difficult decision: I wish you well and hope that
    you find a way to become pain free. I am curious whether you looked at
    alternative treatments for back pain like Yoga or Tai Chi. As always,
    take any unsolicited advice like this with heaps of caution.


    Mark Fernandes.

  • ike

    that’s a terrible, terrible thing, but i guess it has to be that way. i just have to say that i dont think i’ve ever seen anybody filling out the position of “benevolent dictator” as awesomely as you did, i really admire your patience, social intelligence and objectivity in some situations where other people would feel personally insulted.if i may put it this way. i dont think the ogre forums would be as hospitable as they are without this.

  • ike

    but hey, 5 more years and we’ll get vat grown spinal disks, youll surely be back then, right? :)

  • joewan

    Hi steve,

    Bless you and thanks very much for your great jobs.

  • Steve

    Thanks all, I’ve been overwhelmed by all the kind remarks people have been making about my time as lead, it’s nice to know I had a positive influence.

    As regards the situation going forward, the team has decided to not appoint another official lead for now and continue in the consensus model that tended to be the case anyway even when I was notionally in charge. More details here:

  • zonder

    i’m also in a similar thing my self had major back pain which was undetermined which i had physio to resolve and recently i’ve just had it again but been having muscle twitches (it’s weird feeling) so i’ve got a MRI this thursday.

    I’ve been following ogre for a long time prob 7 years now (i’m quite on the forum) and the time you have put in has always impressed me you deserve to take a back seat and watch you baby grow.

  • Brian

    It’s awesome that you will still be around, I’ve never been by here, but I’ve known about Ogre for some time and am involved with which uses your and your community’s excellent rendering engine and I know through David, our project’s lead (only) programmer, that you’ve helped a lot with it, and all over your forums and all that. You’ve done something awesome, and I hope that your health becomes more sustainable and thank you for everything you have done for Open Source then, now, and even if more lightheartedly, in the future.

  • Duncan Mac Leod

    Sorry to hear that, Steve!

    On behalf of our Team here at Tucan Entertainment, I wish you the very best and that you’ll get well soon…

    Thanks for all the tremendous work! Take care – our prayers are with you..!

    Robert Richter (aka Duncan Mac Leod)
    Tucan Entertainment, Coburg (Germany)

  • Christian Boutin

    Oh my God! I’ve been away from my Ogre-related project because of a burn-out and I hadn’t seen that you’re leaving. You were my hero, and you still are. Health is what matters, man! I was looking to get myself a new chair and I thought back about the business week article you posted on twitter. Thinking of getting a swopper. Have no back problems yet but I’m 35 and the best is probably not to wait for them right? So thanks for retweeting that, and, thanks a million for all the hard work you’ve put into Ogre. I had a blast using it and contributing (2-3 tiny patches) to it. I will continue to do so soon. Cheers and take care! You rule.

  • Kris

    As long as you the visionary keep the (quality) control in your hand and will overview the OGRE3D project in the future, everything should be fine. Do the necessary lifestyle changes, then sit in the captain’s chair, let the sailors do most the “hands on” work but never leave the Ship. As far as I understand that’s the plan right?

  • JCuz

    Sorry to here the bad news Steve!

    This issue sounds significantly similar to an issue a coworker of mine had a few years ago. He was able to get in touch with a Doctor / researcher at UCSD who performed a surgery that dramatically improved his back (night and day difference)! I’ll try and get the name of the Doctor and post it ASAP.

    Thanks for all your hard work as the Ogre Team Leader!

  • JCuz

    Ok got it…

    Dr. Garfin, UCSD Orthomed.

    Hope it helps!

  • Peter

    I pray you get a miracle cure. Its very depressing to know this. I hope Ogre is lead next by someone as good as you! God bless!

  • http://na itsover

    it’s game over for ogre3d. it’s game over i say. ogre3d may you rip.

  • Neptune

    Oh, man.

    I was just on the forums and was going to register and say how absolutely blown away I am by Ogre3D (I still will). I’m a professional (non-game) programmer and dabble in games on the side, just as a hobby. I’ve been looking into Ogre3D lately for the graphics engine and have been very impressed. Thank you and thanks to all the contributors so far.

    I am so sorry to hear about your pain. I wish you the very best in the future and hope that your lifestyle changes won’t turn your whole life upside down.

    Thank you for what you’ve done. I hope it lives a long, long time.


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  • Mauro

    hi simbad

    first of all
    wishes for speedy recovery and thanks for your great free for all programmer and gamer :)

    i hope that you can a day return to you creature 😀