The Animal Farm

November 29th, 2005

DS wishlist

I had gotten the Nintendo DS last year and once the novelty of the Hunters demo wore off, the Mario 64 nostalgia wore off, and I was mostly done with the mini games that come with Mario 64, it basically just collected dust on my desk for about 10 months. My brother played it for a while and towards the end of the summer I didn’t even think to bring it to college with me because there were just no games for it. I recently purchased Castlevania for the DS and essentially wore my battery out 3 times almost in a row. Once I beat that game I went on to buy Mario Kart DS. Between Morgan and I, we basically played my DS constantly. I am still playing the game, but looking for new ones. It appears the DS is finally getting good games worthy of being a Nintendo handheld. I am rather pleased with this. I have been looking at video games that I want for this system for Christmas, or when they come out. This list is pretty nice in size.

The words in a pair of these () are when the game comes out.
1) Mario Brothers Super Star Saga 2( Before Christmas )
2) Metriod Pinball( Before Christmas )
3) Age of Empires: The Age of Kings( After Christmas )
4) Sonic Rush( Before Christmas )
5) Metroid Prime: Hunters( After Christmas )
6) Advance Wars: Dual Strike( Before Christmas )
7) Meteos( Before Christmas )
8) Kirby: Canvas Curse( Before Christmas )

These arent listed in any order, but I want them all. I will probably end up getting most of them, too. This excites me.

~Zach

November 27th, 2005

0rly?

This is for anyone who gets annoyed at people complaining online. Just post this in your reply and it immediately destroys any arguement they have with anything.

~Zach

Where you just first-basing it with that loose-leaf!?

November 26th, 2005

TODO

I post this list mostly for my benefit so that I can keep my head organized throughout the following days:

1)Compiler Construction Yacc Assignment
2)Compiler Construction Term Project
3)Database Project
4)Database Homework
5)Grade CS110 Papers
5)Senior Design Test Document
6)Graphics Project
7)Research for work
8)Study for the following tests: Japanese, Database, Graphics.
9)Write battle engine for Noadi
10)Port Funny Faces to Java

I think that’s enough to keep me busy for some time. Not caring, however, I went on to Amazon last night and started scoping out all the books I want. Many of the books I can now get for less than $10, which greatly surprised me. The really good ones are still upward of $30, which does not work in my favor. Still, I calculated I can get about 12 solid books for $150 (including shipping). If I want to get any of the books beyond that, I start going into the $40-$50 per book territory, which I’m going to stay clear of for now. I won’t be making these purchases until I see how much money I’m left with after Christmas, but I imagine my book shelf is going to crumble under all the new weight when the time comes.

“I once knew a man with a wooden leg and a real foot.”
–Alex’s away message

November 23rd, 2005

Technical Stuff

For the last few days I’ve been researching interesting things to add to our Graphics project. The first thing I came across was cubic environment mapping. Cubic environment mapping allows you to take a ’snapshot’ of your scene and then map this onto an object, thus making the object seem reflective. It has the benefit over spherical environment mapping - its predecessor - in that it is more suitable for real-time scenes where reflections need to be recalculated. Unfortunately, to make the reflections truly real-time, you have to redraw your scene six times (correlating to the six sides of a cube) each frame. When I checked just what impact this would have on our engine, it brought our FPS down to 13 (and that was before I actually created the texture to be mapped onto the reflective surface). I imagine if there were some dynamic level-of-detal algorithms in place and perhaps better space partitioning, we could get the reflections running at an acceptable rate. Also, I read about one person who “cheated” by only updating one side of the environment map each frame, thus making things slightly less accurate but ultimately unnoticeable. I couldn’t find any good articles on exactly how to generate the environment map, just a few uncommented demos, so it will have to be left undone.

I also read a good deal on shadow casting. The newest method is done completely in hardware, which is great, but also requires a redraw of the scene three times. One of the older methods seems very nice, but would require a whole new way for us to represent our models. It’s a bit late in the game to do this.

Finally, I read about full-screen anti-aliasing. Surprisingly, this seemed the most easy and straight-forward to implement, since it’s nearly entirely done in hardware. I didn’t read it particularly closely, since I don’t think it will add a lot to our game.

So, yea, I read about a lot of stuff that won’t do us any good. I have no idea what the status of our project is, since Zach’s the last to touch it, and he has made himself completely unavailable. I imagine our lack of organization within the team is going to lead to a very frantic last week of trying to pack everything we possibly can into the game. Fun.

I saw the new Harry Potter last night with Whitney. I enjoyed it. It seemed to lack the focus of its predecessors, and Rowling does her clever “reveal a true villain who you thought was good at the very end” which she has done in every single Potter book she has written so far. Seriously, if I were Harry, I would consider not making any more friends. But complaints aside, it was solid; one of the better ones of the series.

Sunny D! Alright!

November 21st, 2005

I Shot Abraham

My facial hair gets mixed reviews. When I was working at the VEL, I was very sternly scolded for shaving. The word “ew” was tossed around maliciously, and there was a definite scarring of egos. So I haven’t shaved since. The moment I came home, however, everyone I knew laughed at me. They actually laughed at me. There were many jokes at my expense, and the name John Wilkes Booth has been tossed around to describe my appearance. But I’ve done my research, and I’m absolutely certain Booth did not have a beard. So shove it in your respective pie holes.

So I’m on vacation. It’s not much of a vacation, really, since I still have mountains of work to attend to. But until that work slams me in the face with a bat, I’m going to avoid it steadfastly. In the meantime, I watched football (you read that right) and went to a bar (yes, still reading right). I should elaborate: football was not my choice; it was the only thing available at Riese’s, and there was nothing to do for hours. The bar was also not my choice, and you’re correct if you recall that I don’t drink, smoke, or like most people. But Keri insisted - very assertively - I come, so I took up the role of designated driver and tagged along. It wasn’t a bad time.

Oooooo snap.

November 21st, 2005

Reviews and Stuff

I’ve been somewhat occupied lately with a few things. I guess I should start with Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. Now, Brian warned me that this movie had a very weak storyline. I believed him. I want to blame the dialog on the fact that it was fan subbed, but somewhere in the pit of my stomach, I know it was correctly done. I want to blame the rediculous shifts of location and speedy pacing on poor compression. But I don’t think entire minutes worth of frames managed to get lost in compression. I must say I was a little dissapointed in the film. I was really hoping for a decent addition to the storyline that would leave me feeling satisfied. Instead I got an action-packed colletion of fightscenes that amazed me during them but left me feeling empty afterwards. I liked it though, just not for the reasons I was expecting to like it.

Next up is Mario Kart:DS. The sinlge player experience is nice, but nothing remarkable. If you’ve played a Mario Kart, you’ve played it. The new Mission Mode, which is just a series of moderate to difficult tasks you must complete on a truncated version of a track. The final mission in each “level” is a boss battle. It is a really fun diversion. Now, the real bread and butter of this game, the multiplayer, is just incredible. There is just something about playing 3 other humans as opposed to bots, that adds a level of satisfaction to winning. It also makes losing that much more painful. I just played some of the final set of missions… this may take a while. My only complaint with Mario Kart:DS is that they changed the timing on the boost at the beginning of the stage. I can’t seem to get it. Morgan has gotten it once, but she hasn’t been able to recreate it. I am really inlove with this game though.

SpaceAssult, our graphics assignment, is turning out pretty nice. Shame WoW and Brian’s computer breaking slowed down our progress a lot. The little that I did program turned out pretty nice, though. We have a very simply enemy emitter, one AI type( and a bad one at that ), and I’ve recently implemented a mine field. The mine fields are very scary. As far as guns, we have the basic laser, a spread shot, a homing missle, and a gravity gun. The gravity gun coupled with the mine field is scary. I think we have enough time to get a few of the things we wanted in the final game in. It is due in about 3 weeks.

~Zach

November 16th, 2005

Too Busy

I apologize for my absence, but in my defense, I am busy. It’s not uncommon for a day to run from 9 AM - 9 PM. So here’s what I’m doing:

1) My new job at the Virtual Environments lab is going well. The short version is that I’m doing a lot of reading. Mostly academic papers, but there are a few tutorials and guides tossed in there. I’m learning about clustered systems, MPI, image composition, scene graphs, load balancing, and everything else remotely related to parallel rendering.

2) School is becoming quite… abundant. Between tests and projects, a lot of my time is spent doing some kind of class-related junk. On the bright side, I’m involved in some interesting projects that make the time more enjoyable. And I learned how to program with asynchronous sockets, which will come in handy for future games.

3) Independent projects are sparse, but I’m trying to do something non-obligatory. Noadi has me looking at her game (created with GameMaker) to see if I can write a battle system for it. Dustin has me looking at Funny Faces to see if I can port it to Java. I’ve been toying around with re-writing an old general-purpose engine and applying it to a personal game.

That’s pretty much everything. It’s not too remarkably exciting right now, but hopefully I’ll have remarkably exciting things to show for it later.

It takes flare to be square.

November 13th, 2005

Chillin’ at State College

I got a call from Raytheon 2 Wednesdays ago asking me if I would be interested in a second interview. I gleefully said yes and then got the contact and travel information necessary to partake in this interview. The jobsite I am to interview at is in State College, PA, home of Penn State for those unawares. The flight lasted a grand total of 30 minutes. It would have actually been faster to drive from home to here instead of fly. This is of course due to you having to be at the airport 2 hours early, it taking an hour for me to get to the airport, etc. I don’t mind though, they bought and paid for the ticket and hotel room, and that’s good. I am really excited for this interview tomorrow. It is really my first technical interview. The initial one I had with Raytheon was just a behavioral-describe-a-difficult-team-project type interview. This one promises much more technical and major-specific questions that I hope I have the ability to answer. There may even be a test involved. The interview is 5 hours, 8am to 1pm, and I can’t imagine just talking to my future bosses and managers for that long. What the hell would we talk about? But yeah, I am quite excited for this interview. Just being on my own in this place is interesting. Wish Morgan were here though.

In other news, WoW is treating me well. I am now the proud owner of a level 46 Night Elf Hunter. This is good. Some day I will actually make it to the level 60. I am hoping that day is before the expansion when the level cap is raised to 70. Not much to say on that topic though.

SpaceAssult, as Brian named our Starfox-like final project, has not advanced at all in some time. I blame this mostly on Brian’s laptop breaking. Hell,if his laptop didn’t break, he would still be working on it, which would inspire me to work on it, which probably means I wouldn’t have started WoW again. Oh well, I plan on banging most of what is needed out during Thanksgiving Break. I should have some time then.

November 5th, 2005

WoW hurts so good

Yesterday Brian told me that his post would create a rage in me that would by many scholars be considered the reason man died off. He was wrong. He actually approached Miyamoto’s case with some good concerns and complaints about his cult-following. Besides revolutionizing the 3d platformer, defining what an action/adventure is and then utterly perfecting the transition from 2d platformer to 3d fps platformer, he didn’t really do all that much for video games. Sure, now he probably doesn’t do that much, but he was the spark. Oh, and did Beethoven ever hear his works? What does enjoying your creation, as opposed to enjoying the process of creation, have to do with making excellence? Honestly though, you hit ocarina -> wind waker dead on, that game was rubbish.

Oh yeah, Happy Birthday!

I originally titled this post because I was intending to post about WoW, but really I don’t have much to say. I play it at work, so after the first 3 hours of play, I get paid to play it. Brian may try to feed you garbage like I have no soul because I play it, but he is just ticked because his laptop has been in the queue to get worked on for 3 weeks. Laugh at him when you see him next.

I’ll change the site to have just November posts on the main page when I get back to a computer that has WinSCP because last time I tried it in shell I deleted October ‘04.

~Zach

“Sex is only healthy if it is outside the confines of marriage”
- My Soc101 teacher. Brian - 11/4/05 - Shigeru? Who cares
I was reading an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto the other day when he revealed that he never plays video games. You read that right - the figure head of Nintendo spends practically no time playing the very things he creates. After I contemplated this for a moment, I came to only one (tangential) conclusion:

Why is Shigeru so special? I can’t figure it out.

Let’s look at Zelda 1, a game hailed by many as one of the greatest games in existence. A game where the primary form of finding things involves pushing blocks in random directions or burning everything on the screen until something special happens. Am I the only person that sees a lack of inspiration behind this?

Now let’s look at Zelda 3. I can’t say anything bad about this game. It was beautiful. I only mention it to segway into my next point.

Moving on to Ocarina of Time, I think I can imagine the conversations that led to the design of this game. They go something like this:
Person A: “Hey, we need a new Zelda game.”
Shigeru: “Hail me!”
Person A: “What’s this game going to be about?”
Shigeru: “You remember Link to the Past?”
Person A: “Yea, I, yea…”
Shigeru: “It’s that. But in 3D.”
Person A: “What? That won’t fly! We have to change something!”
Shigeru: “Alright, alright. Um, let me think. You know that thing that took you between the light and dark worlds? Well, let’s make it a flute instead. And instead of two different interconnected worlds, let’s make it the same world only at different times!”
Person A: “Is that it?”
Shigeru: “Put link on a horse, too. He’ll need something to travel between the giant amount of empty space.”

You don’t believe me? Let’s look at Wind Waker’s process:
Person A: “Hey, we need a new Zelda game.”
Shigeru: “Pizza!”
Perosn A: “What’s this game going to be about?”
Shigeru: “You remember Ocarina of Time?”
Person A: “Yea, I, yea…Not again.”
Shigeru: “It’s that. But we’ll get rid of the two world idea. We’ll just stick with one world.”
Person A: “What makes this world so special?”
Shigeru: “It’s nearly covered in water!”
Person A: “Right, of course.”

Still don’t think I’m on to something? Fine, we’ll look at the design process I absolutely know went in for the next game. I have this on good authority.
Person A: “Hey, we need a new Zelda game.”
Shigeru: “Your mom needs a new Zelda game.”
Person A: “What’s this game going to be about?”
Shigeru: “You remember Wind Waker?”
Person A: “Yea, I, yea… Jesus.”
Shigeru: “It’s that. But put Link back on his horse. And let him swing his sword on it!”
Person A: “Brilliant, sir, just brilliant.”

In fact, if you look at his entire collection, Mario excluded, you see that he hasn’t really innovated or even made anything ‘new’ in quite some time. And I’m not even sure how much he influences these games anymore. Are his games fun? Yea. Am I still going to buy them? You bet. Is he any more talented than the folks who run Capcom or Blizzard? No, not really.

I like to swim, too.

November 2nd, 2005

VEL

I have a job in the Virtual Environments Lab again. I’ll be working on a distributed visualization tool sanctioned by the Institute for Scientific Research. The technology behind it seems awfully cool, and I’m glad to be back in the lab. Of course, the first thing we did is setup a techno rave with trippy patterns playing on all the computer monitors.

Otherwise, stories of my heroism are sparse. I’m a busy man, it would seem. But I’m having fun.

And I’m still pretty, if you were wondering.

Get on the cheese… wagon?

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