The Animal Farm

October 25th, 2005

Cloth Simulation


This is a screen capture of the cloth simulation system I spent most of the day implementing. Ignore the “blocky” lighting - I haven’t averaged the surface normals so that lighting appears smooth.

The simulation works by essentially dividing the ‘cloth’ up into a bunch of ‘masses’ connected by springs. When you apply the forces the springs exert upon each other along with the force of gravity, you end up with pretty convincing cloth flow. This simulation technique can also be used to simulate strings and jelly-like structures.

There are two main areas of improvement for this simulation. First, the integration method used for motion is the Verlet method, which works alright for small values of gravity and k (a spring constant), but breaks quite completely for larger values. Every time this break happens, I get a little scared. Second, creating the spring networks can be a little complicated (I spent a good deal of my time debugging the cloth network). It would be nice to read in vertex/edge information from a 3D model and treat each vertex as a mass and each edge as a spring.

Springy

October 25th, 2005

I hath abondoned thou

Well, well, well, look who decided to update. I know you are all thinking that right now. I apologize for my intolerable crimes against you, the readers. It isn’t that I haven’t had much to say, believe me, I could probably BS novels for this site. I guess I just never remebered to update.

Well, today I got the news that I no longer have to work Saturdays but instead will work Sunday nights, this means I can go home and see Morgan for an extra day, and that is awesome. It also means I have 2 days to sleep in a week as opposed to just 1. This is also a good thing.

I’ve been programming a lot lately. Two different projects actually. One for class and one for fun. The Space Shooter( class ) is coming along nicely. We have random enemy creation, and sort of working collision detection. As it stands now though, the collision is a bit to perfect and only the homing missles actually hit with any efficiency. The other project is of course, ZT. This project is coming along nicely. I’ve written a spell editor app for me to test out the spells, I’ve rewritten the map editor that wtfpwns the old one, and the OO approach to the game is really turning out nicely. That project is sort of on hold right now though due to school, but it is always there in my heart.

On to more pressing matters, I may start up WoW early this year. I think I can get a wireless connection where I work. This means that if I play there for about 2.5 hours a month, the game pays for itself. This is awesome to know. Not to mention I need some video game action in my life. I am probably gunna install it tonight and d/l the patch when I go to bed, then it should be done by the time I wake up. Tomorrow is my long day, but I can manage.

~Zach

October 23rd, 2005

Fine, I’ll Update

I received an IM from Alex demanding I update. Normally, I don’t respond to such brutish coercion, but he is my second favorite red-head. Which leads me straight into discussion about my current favorite red-head - Michelle. She baked me cookies, which is all I think I need to say.

I took the GREs Friday. 740 on Math and 550 on Verbal. Personally, I’m quite displeased with the Verbal score. WVU’s CS department doesn’t even look at it, but I know I’m better than that. If the test weren’t so expensive, I’ve half a mind to take it again to redeem myself.

Development is going pretty steadily on our Graphics project. It’s actually turning out well - we’re creating a space shooter similar to Star Fox. I don’t know how much we’re going to have finished before class is over, but I’m considering extending the project further afer that just because it looks so nice. I’m even considering added some cloth simulation, which leads me to the next point of interest.

A few weeks ago, a small Japanese man by the name Takamitsu taught Graphics class. This basically served as a way for him to show off what he was doing, especially in the realm of cloth simulation. He explained that if you have a spring-mass network connected properly, you can actually simulate cloth motion pretty easily. This lead me to research the topic a bit further, and I found an amazingly descriptive, easy-to-follow Gamasutra article on the topic. Sometime soon I’m going to try implementing it.

Thanks to Christina, I saw Final Fantasy: Advent Children. If you’re looking for a story on par with Final Fantasy 7, don’t bother. The plot was there only as something to talk about between the five or six amazing battles. They were really amazing battles, though.

Those chosen by the planet.

October 17th, 2005

MySpace

People have been pushing me for years now to get a MySpace account. I refuse on moral grounds - I have a web site. What on earth do I need a MySpace account for? Nothing, that’s what. It’s never going to happen, kids. Let it go.

But today I got bored, and I happened to be looking at someone’s account. And - anyone who has ever looked at one of these accounts will attest that this next bit is completely normal - I saw a total babe in the account’s friend list, so I clicked on that. Then I saw another attractive woman on that friend list and clicked on that. I kept going, routing through the network until I was looking at people who resided somewhere in California. By that time I wasn’t really even looking at the people; I was just seeing where this whole thing would lead me. When I finally got to a mock entry - the Steve Zissou entry - I stopped.

And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Like a bag full of a ton of bricks being swung by the Jolly Green Giant.

All these people are the same person.

That’s right, folks. Everyone’s an attractive troubled artist, listening to emo music and having some warped free-verse poetry which represents who she really is. There are a handful of blog entries that tell of fun times which were had with friends or of opinions which - and this is what they tell me - deviate from the norm. And so what other observation can I make, but that this is actually the same person with a bunch of different pictures posing as a group of females?

I’m on to you, women. I’m on to your little game, and you will not win.

I haven’t observed the men yet. I will leave that exercise for someone else.

The game is on.

October 14th, 2005

Ohio Game Conference

I went down to a conference held at the Shawnee State University. Before I begin discussing the event, I would like to say this: Ohio drivers are the worst in the world. I can’t count how many people I saw run red lights or pull weird maneuvers.

On to the main event: James and I arrived at around 9:40 and registered quickly. We went to the keynotes, which were entertaining and mildly informative. Then we went to our first presentation, which covered Normal Mapping. I actually learned quite a bit here and came out with some nifty ideas that I might try applying to games sometime. The second lecture was on what it actually takes to be a game developer. This was a throw-away lecture, since all the information was basic stuff I have read before. The presenter, however, was quite saucy. The third presentation was, by and large, the worst. The title was “Core Concepts for Games and Simualation” or something of that nature. It basically seemed to be a bunch of mis-information from someone who appeared horribly unqualified.

The expo at the conference was quite small, showing off only a handful of games and companies. None of the presenters here seemed at all eager to talk to you - the most outgoing were the Army. There was, however, one nifty game with some equally nifty hardware being shown off. Some students were showing off stuff, and theirs was suprisingly the best by far.

Overall, the conference was decent. I would’ve liked a better expo and more time to explore it (we had to rush in after lunch, because that was the only time). I wish that the two presentations I most wanted to see (the only real technical ones) weren’t being held concurrently. But I don’t regret going. Not even for a second.

Shouldn’t that be a plus?

October 12th, 2005

Dell Can Go to a Place That Rhymes with Dell

This is going to take a while. If you’re hungry or have to go to the restroom, do it now.

I used to like Dell. I’ve had good experiences with them. My grandmother’s computer, my aunt’s computer, and my laptop are all Dell made. Never once had there been a problem, and they were all reasonably stable computers. So when it was time to purchase my next computer, I naturally looked to them. The machine I eyed was the Inspiron 9300. It was a beautiful machine with a 17 inch monitor, 128 MB graphics card, 1.6 Ghz processor, and 1GB of rhyme. Making the deal even sweeter was its silver color and sparkling shine. The price was right, and I was ready to go. I ordered it online.

And that’s when things went downhill.

First were the billing issues. I’m not sure exactly how Dell manages pricing, but I know that at one point money was taken out of my account and then suddenly it was back in and then it was gone again. I didn’t ask questions - I just let things slide, and they resolved themselves.

And then the laptop came. And I turned it on.

Or at least I tried.

The funny thing about me is that when I hit a computer’s power button, I expect it to turn on. I think the new laptop thought this was funny, too, because I could hear it laughing at me as it did exactly not that. There was a short period of about half a second where something lit up, and then nothing happened. I read the technical manual twice to make sure this wasn’t supposed to happen, and I even ran a google search. Just to be sure. My initial suspicions as a computer science major were correct, however. The machine was, in fact, dead. Right out of the box.

So I called up Dell’s tech support, which is apparently located in India or at least employs a lot of Indians. Now, I don’t inherently dislike people from India. I had a coworker who was Indian, and he was a very nice fellow. Oh, I remember how we used to laugh. But that is neither here nor there. The point is this - India is now one of my least favorite countries. I was on the phone for easily seven hours, plugging my computer in, unplugging it, removing the battery, closing it, opening it, petting it gently, calling it “Sweets”, and doing all manner of worthless things. I talked to three different tech support people who all had me do the same thing despite me telling them I had already tried that. And then they gave me a phone number, which they told me would be used to get a replacement machine, but actually just got me back to freaking tech support. I talked to some managers and some people from international shipping and, ultimately, got absolutely nowhere. In frustration, I gave up and took the computer down to the tech support people here on campus. They managed to get me a new computer in a few days, and all was well.

For about three months.

Which leads me to yesterday morning when I woke up. I looked at my computer to find that every application had shut down with a weird, cryptic error. I tried to hunt down the problem for a few minutes, when the dreaded Blue Screen of Death materialized. Okay, no big deal, this sort of thing happens. So I reboot. I login. Blue Screen of Death. Things are a tad weird at this point. I reboot. Blue Screen of Death. I reboot. Blue Screen of Death. You’ll notice a pattern. So I take Zach’s Windows XP CD and prepare to do a re-installation. Before it starts, it scans my disk and starts deleting files from my computer (on a screen that I have never seen before and didn’t look like part of the normal Windows installation). I thought, okay, maybe that fixed things. So I refrain from reinstalling Windows while I reboot. Success! I get in, play around for about twenty minutes while I think everything is peachy, and BAM. Guess who pops up? I think you know who. I try every variation of Safe Mode, System Restore, reconfiguration, and what-have-you. The Blue Screen of Death stops me every time.

So I finally resolve to try reinstalling Windows. I reformat the hard drive, which is typical. Then the installation begins, and our friend Blue Screen says hi. You’re smart people. I should’ve have to tell you that that’s not supposed to happen. So I try again. I get through the file-copying portion of the installation, and then the system goes down once more. I try a few more times to no avail. I’ve given up. It’s time to go see the tech support guys again.

So I travel down to the Mt. Lair to thrust my shiny paperweight at them with orders to repair it. And what do they say?

Three weeks.

Three weeks.

I gave the clerk the most wide-eyed, sad look my face can manage without caving in, and slumped away. Maybe in three weeks I’ll be happy again. But I doubt it.

That’s all. Now we’re going to move on to another topic. Again, if you’re hungry, now is the time. I’ll wait.

I’ve grown tired of people saying that video games are going downhill. Did any of you ever actually play the NES? A good 90% of the games for it were crap. Was there more originality? No, not really. Count the number of side scrollers/beat-em-ups/run-and-jumps. Or space shooters. I swear, half of them look identical. The SNES/Sega generation wasn’t much better. Yes, both systems had amazing games, but they also had their share of trash. So when people tell me that games now-a-days are all the same, I want to ask them what magical world they’re from where innovation leaked from faucets and beautiful gameplay rained from the heavens. Games haven’t changed. They’re just a little easier and they look a little better.

I think I’m done now.

October 10th, 2005

Oh SNAP

Buy one of these now!

Now, I say!

October 10th, 2005

Demos

It amazes me that one of Devry’s major selling points in their commercial is that they offer free game demos.

Game demos are always free.

This makes me wonder just what kind of education Devry could possibly offer.

It also amazes me that Tom Goes to the Mayer was ever created. It may be the worst show ever.

No, I take that statement back. It is the worst show. Ever.

SPRITE!

October 6th, 2005

This just in

People are idiots
I know that 14 or so people can’t accurately represent the rest of us Am’ricans, but come on.. Austraila is in NO WAY Iran. I hope the people that have the power to invade Iran at least know where it is. God.

~Zach

October 6th, 2005

No, I’m not dead.

Though if you asked me right now I would tell you I feel dead. I drank last night, I drank a lot last night. I wanted to go out drinking with Roomate( my old roomate ) last night, but I wasn’t expecting him to pay for everything. This was good because I saved some money, this was bad because I had no control over how much was bought. Once he found out I liked Jeager it was over. I had planned on having few beers and that being the end of it, I did have class and work the next day( where I am now ) afterall, but he decided that idea was crap and ended up buying me 6 shots of Jeager on top of 2 beers. I am sick right now, and it needs to go away.

The main reason it needs to go away is because I am going home tonight to see my love, Morgan. I decided that skipping my classes on Friday to see her 2 extra nights was a very good idea. I know I am right.

I’ve been messing around a lot with object oriented coding and how I can apply it to Zakarus’ Tale. It seems that I’ve gotten a good grip on it now and I wrote the game’s first complete component, the Spell Subsystem. I’ve written a few spells so far and they seem to work great with the engine. The first few spells took me a while to write because the engine wasn’t actually completed so I was debugging that while creating the spells. Most of the spells in the game use particle effects( Brian mentioned them last post ) in order to create the effect I am going for. I am not an artist by any means, so I had to come up with another way to make my spells look pretty. Particle effects were the obvious answer. I can control the behavior of each particle and each system of particles to make some really neat effects. The game has 60 spells all together and some of them have no real particle effects to speak of, so it shouldn’t be too big a task creating all of the spells.

~Zach

“Hangovers are so gay.” - Dan