The Animal Farm

August 31st, 2008

Castle Crashers and Dexter: Season 2

I expected Castle Crashers to be mostly Alien Hominid but a tad different. About the only real similarity they share is the art style and an unnerving difficulty, but Castle Crashers is easily the superior game. Castle Crashers is your standard side-scroller beat em up with some very polished, fast-paced gameplay and a nice quasi-RPG feeling. It’s got some vile, nasty humor in there that I didn’t appreciate, but I’m willing to overlook one disgusting level in light of the very fun multiplayer action. Bri came over and we did some two-player (after becoming frustrated with Mario Kart, which has become nigh impossible), and even she got into it. Now I just need to find some people who want to give online a shot.

Dexter: Season 2 is considerably different than season 1. The most noted difference is the almost lack of killing, which is surprising coming from a show whose main selling point is that its main character is a serial killer. This season focuses mostly on the hunt for our killer as he tries to evade detection while managing relationship problems, dealing with a crazy British fox, and coming to terms with himself… again. Aside from some very high-school pseudo-philosophy, it’s just as good as season 1 if not quite as humorous.

Also picked up Californication on a whim and some basic magic books. I’ve only glanced at the books and watched a few episodes of Californication, but I’m liking what I see on both fronts.

I’m just talking to your husband up there.

June 9th, 2008

GPU Gems 3

In my search for Mario Kart (which I still haven’t found), I ran across GPU Gems 3. I also ran across Boston Legal season 3 and Carnivale at a criminally cheap price, but those are topics for another time. Back on task: GPU Gems 3.

The first GPU Gems was a phenomenal book. Advanced, very advanced - and admittedly there are a couple of articles that I outright don’t understand. It’s the series you turn to when you want to look for cutting-edge graphics research without wading through hundreds of potentially irrelevant academic articles. It had stuff in there that could be directly applied to a next-gen game discussed extensively. Struggling through some of the articles in it helped push me forward with my graphics knowledge.

I never purchased the second GPU Gems, but this third one is definitely good. Right off the bat, it starts out with a paper in line with my interests - procedural terrain generation. It moves into realistically rendering trees, advanced lighting/shadowing, a crazy method for rendering human skin, a neat section on physics on the GPU, some general GPGPU stuff, and a bunch more. It’s not all pertinent to games, of course: some of it is very research-centric or isn’t quite fast enough. And it’s not all stellar; I didn’t like the article on True Impostors at all, and the bits on procedurally animating trees really didn’t do much for me. By and large, though, there’s some fantastic stuff in here.

I’m just now reminded of the ShaderX series, which runs in a very similar vein to GPU Gems. I think they should have a new book coming out soon, or maybe one came out recently, I’m not sure. Worth picking up, I hope.

How very crepescular.

June 2nd, 2008

The Road

An update. Because you deserve it.

I’ve been working for a week now, reading documents and tinkering with code and fixing bugs. I’m learning Max modeling; simple stuff, of course, at the end of the day I still have no artistic talent. The coworkers are good fun. I really can’t complain about anything.

Chapel Hill is good. Better than most places I’ve lived. I still haven’t expanded very far, but I’ve stretched out a bit. Got lost a few times. Whatever.

Read The Road by Cormac McCarthy at a coworker’s recommendation, and I didn’t much care for it. It’s about a father/son duo traveling through a post-apocalyptic world. It’s main failing, I think, is that it’s too descriptive. It gives very thorough detail about the depressing and morose world, but the world is so depressing and morose that most of those details feel pretty similar. It’s like reading the same thing every two pages or so.

Watched Doctor Who season 1. It’s certainly not as good as the old stuff, and every episode - every one - written by Russel T. Davies is a damn insult to the series. Sometimes another writer steps in, and that’s where you find the gems. The Empty Child 1 & 2 were good, if I recall. Netflix doesn’t have Season 2 up yet, which is unfortunate because I’d like to see what the new Doctor is like.

And we can never talk about it again.

February 5th, 2008

You’re OK After All

I managed to work around my GLSL problems. One thing required a rather ugly hack, but I’m not above dirtying my hands if it produces sweet nectar. A few additions to the grammar I made may have to be scaled back to coincide with some GPU limitations, but most of the standard features should remain in place. Now I just have to find a decent way to implement a fast random number generator. A linear congruential generator may be just the ticket. I also wish there were a faster way to read from a vertex buffer, which seems to be the bottleneck in my system, although I need to put a more accurate timing mechanism in place to be sure.

I finished Smoke and Mirrors, a collection of Gaiman short stories, and found it to be largely pleasing. His poetry does little for me, but otherwise the bulk of the work is stellar. We Can Get Them for You Wholesale, Murder Mysteries, and Snow, Glass, Apples were three of my favorite stories in there. There are also some tasty homages to Lovecraft thrown in. I still have Gaiman’s Fragile Things collection to work through, which I’m hoping will be equally pleasing. Afterward, I’m thinking of switching up authors, maybe trying Donaldson again.

All of them.

December 15th, 2007

American Gods

When I went into American Gods, I already had an impression of Neil Gaiman’s writing in my head. I had recently finished Good Omens, co-written by him and Terry Pratchett, and I had joined the two together in my mind. I expected something funny and relatively simple which leaned heavily in Pratchett’s direction. This is not at all what I got; Gaiman is not Pratchett, but he’s not worse-off for it.

American Gods is the story of Shadow, a newly released ex-con who loses everything the day of his release and is quickly employed by Wednesday, a shady one-eyed grifter in need of an errand boy. The two start journeying through various parts of America while Wednesday attempts to recruit people in preparation for an oncoming storm.

And that’s all I’m going to say about the story. I’m leaving a whole lot out in the interest of not spoiling major plot points, but in the interest of giving you something to chew on: there are some gods, there’s a growing tension between factions, there are a few murders, and there are a lot of weird characters.

I liked the book. It had an interesting story told through a series of events, all of which were good on their own. There were a series of solid twists, never terribly jarring, but always just enough to change the mood. There were a lot of good, well-crafted characters who were unique and charming. There was a main character who drove things along nicely, talkative and smart enough to move the story but never annoying.

About the only thing I didn’t like was the “Coming to America” chapters, which, although they gave some background and fleshed out the concepts of the gods, seemed to yank me away from the story proper. There were also a few throw-away characters which existed long enough to be introduced, have an awkward sex scene, and vanish.

It’s not an overly humorous book, as I was kind of expecting, but that’s fine. It’s still very well written, and I enjoyed reading it.

I know it’s a rigged game, but it’s the only game in town.