The Animal Farm

February 29th, 2008

Focus On 3D Models

I’ve recently found Focus on 3D Models to be somewhat lacking in descriptiveness (and at least in two vital places, correctness). I was hacking together an MD3 loader, just a toy to play around with since there are a lot of MD3 files floating around, and the description in the book contained pretty big format inaccuracies which might’ve been exposed on the book website if that still existed. I couldn’t find it. wotsit.org has a much better description. Surprisingly, I couldn’t find much in the way of information on the format - there’s at least one other description on the internet that’s a bit difficult to digest, but not much elsewhere.

I may switch over to the Milkshape format sometime in the near future, since it uses skeletal animation and is also fairly popular on the internet.

Bender! You’re all red!

February 28th, 2008

Recent Happenings

Over the past few months I have been talking with Dr. Menzies and Dr. Ostrand about a trip to Newark to visit Dr. Ostrand at the AT&T lab there.  The purpose of this trip is to use the tool that I developed to get some results using their data.  The reason they can’t send me their data is because it is all proprietary to AT&T and they aren’t just going to trust me.

The back story here is that Dr. Ostrand et. al.  have what Dr. Menzies and I believe to be the current state of the art in results in one of the areas we believe Which excels at.  Their research papers that they published use an evaluation metric that we cannot mimic with our data, however, so I need to get down there and use their data to get some comparisons.  If it turns out that the results are good, I think my thesis will be something very profound, so it makes me happy.  If the results are not so hot, we still have results from two very different data sets that are good, so I am not worried about that.

Penny Arcade recently did a comic on Professor Layton and the Curious Village that at first I merely chuckled at.  After hearing Ricky mention it again and thinking about the comic, I laughed a lot about it.  The guys at Penny Arcade offer a service that lets you buy a high-res print of virtually any of their comics for 10 dollars.  So I bought it last Friday and it came in the mail today.  It is 11″ x 17″ so I think a frame would be easy to get since it is a pretty standard size.  It is going in our living room, so if you ever find yourself in our living room, check the comic out.

Speaking of Professor Layton, it is a really good game.  I’ve put about 4.5 hours into it and I’ve enjoyed nearly all of the 60+ puzzles I have discovered.  Some are really just annoying and gray, but most have a definite answer that once you figure out you feel like a moron for not getting before.  I recommend the game to all who liked the puzzles that used to be on place mats at restaurants when you were younger.  You know the kind.

Brawl comes out on March 9th, I may not be able to play it until a little later in the evening or even the 10th, but I am really excited about the situation.  The Smash Bros. Dojo that Nintendo hosted was a brilliant idea for keeping me informed on the new game content/mechanics.

~Zach

“I haff tvelve metchsteek

February 28th, 2008

It’s a Boy…cott

I have recently been displeased with Delta’s service and organization, and I’m blogging about it now such that the entire world can know and act according to my will. Due to various scheduling mishaps, I was pushed from flight to flight, having layovers timed such that I couldn’t possibly make the connecting flight. At one point, I was booked for a flight at the exact same time it was scheduled to leave. There was a considerable line at the customer service desk (which I had to run back and forth to three times from the other side of the airport), and the gate attendee (poor guy) was harassed a lot for things beyond his control, so I am certain I was not alone in my grief. The only reason I avoided staying overnight at the airport - given a tiny little hotel discount, mind you - was because a plane broke down and was delayed leaving. On a related note, I would’ve flew a lot happier without that knowledge.

But! I got a job offer from Emergent, which is awesome. Had the interviews, which were mostly good - there were a few questions thrown in that I just didn’t have an answer for, but I imagine that’s normal. They made me realize that I should probably buckle down and learn the proper C++ casting operators and brush up on my C#, at any rate. It seems like a great company, the people seemed cool, and I definitely like the location. I imagine I’d be a lot happier in NC than somewhere on the west coast.

Wow, it’s taken me forty five minutes to write the above two paragraphs. I think I need to go do something non-computery. Like go to my complexity class.

So that’s what that keyword means.

February 25th, 2008

Blogging is Hip

I’m waiting in the Pittsburgh aiport for my flight to Chapel Hill. I’ve been waiting for five hours now. I have five hours to go. If there are experiences that try the human soul, that push it to a limit and then push it beyond such that the underlying person is fundamentally changed, I can imagine them happening to someone else as I pass out of tiredness in this godforsaken place. Lord, I feel awful.

I spent a fair amount of time practicing my coin palming techniques; the coin is absorbed into the abyss of my hand, unobservable by human eyes. So long as my hand is at the right angle and I move it fast enough, which I rarely do. I dare say that if there is a prototype for suspicious, it involves a solitary man shifting a coin in his hand repeatedly for upward of an hour.

Au Bon Pair? Let’s talk about that for a second. It might be French. I don’t f-ing know. I know that, so far as I am concerned, the literal translation now reads Best Cheese Danishes Ever. I meant to buy one and accidentally picked up two; as far as accidents go, this falls squarely in the divine providence category.

The internet here moves slow, where slow is simply the euphemism I use because English lacks the linguistic tools to properly express this speed. Imagine that a snail runs into a brick wall, and then divide the snail’s speed - in km/h - by twenty million, and you’ll have a slightly fast-forwarded mental image of what I’m referring to here.

I tried to rent a hotel room for a few hours to get some sleep. That was cute. Here’s a run-down of the dialog:
Me: “Bit of an odd question. Is it possible to rent a room for a few hours?”
Gravely Serious Man: “Yes. It’s possible.”
Me: “About how much would you say that costs?”
Gravely Serious Man: “One moment.”
Assistant: “One hundred thirty four fifty. Plus tax.”
Me: “Yea, nevermind, thanks, sorry.”

It would seem that in their native tongue, “rent for a few hours” roughly means “rent for a night.” He looked at me with the most serious, humorless face as he quoted me that price, which he no doubt had to train for. By god, he had to train his entire life for that moment.

Off hunting the beast of London. Be back in time for supper.

February 20th, 2008

GDC XNA Announcement

I learned on Richard Fines’s game dev journal that Microsoft announced that indie developers will be able to push XNA games onto XBox Live for anyone to get at. Microsoft also recently made the XNA Creator’s Club available to students for free. These are both pretty exciting; I just downloaded my XNA stuff and am toying with the idea of porting Penguin Push over.

Well, I was six. So I got third.

February 18th, 2008

Assortment of Goods

Freezepop concert was pretty fantabulous. On the trip up (and most of the trip back) I was crammed in the backseat with Nessa and John, which wasn’t too bad; there are worse people to be crammed next to. We got a picture with Liz Enthusiasm, my dream girl, and took a bunch of other horrible photos. I knew most of the songs played and a few of them (Science Genius Girl, Bike Thief) were some of my favorites. The finale was excellent, with covers of Final Countdown and Don’t Stop Believin’. On the way back, I unceremoniously slammed my head into Nessa’s face, which I still feel a bit crummy about. We also nearly got taken out by a car moving faster than light wishes it could move, but Ricky pulled into a drift slide and got us out safely. Bits and pieces of that are a lie.

We played through Gears of War co-op, which was very fine. Deserving of all the praise it has received. The normal shoot-outs were high quality, and the bosses were really crazy. Berserkers are always stressful but fun. The story (if you can call it that) was throw-away. The ending was, well, anticlimactic; I’m starting to wish companies would make self-contained games instead of shooting for the blatant trilogy. It’s all good and fine to leave yourself room to expand, but when you don’t actually cover any ground in the first place there’s something wrong.

I’m getting on a plane again next week to North Carolina. It’s not my first trip on a plane, obviously, but I don’t think I’m ever going to come to terms with flight. I’ve had two dreams where a plane comes to an early demise - one of which I was on, the other I was not - which I remember with a kind of crystal clarity not normally found in my dreams.

It looks like the blog carnival is going to see an early end. The first few issues were OK, but now I’m seeing mostly spammers and people trying to push their non-gamedev-related blogs. I’ll give it one more issue after the next, but if the quality of entries doesn’t pick up there’s not much point in continuing.

The kids are so young.

February 11th, 2008

Poker Smash

Poker Smash is a really cool idea for a game that I wish I would’ve thought of first. It basically mixes up the match-three genre by including poker elements, which can only be described as ingenious.

On a related note, I would like to play more poker. And I would also like to learn the actual rules. Anyone out there have a weekly poker game that could use a green, easy-to-swindle rube?

Looks like you… got… shot.

February 11th, 2008

Design Rants

Charles Bloom’s Design Rants are very good and practical. Not trying to wrap things in some obscure, overly abstract theory, but providing to-the-point principles that are helpful and relatively straightforward to follow. Of course, the rest of his site is also filled with some good stuff, a lot of it technical.

That was Buster. That’s my point.

February 8th, 2008

Better Event Handling

I came upon this post on GameDev.net which talks about Sneftels event handling library. From my understanding, it’s more reminiscent of a signal/slot approach rather than my monolithic master-dispatcher approach. I’ve followed a few of Sneftel’s posts on GameDev, and from what I’ve seen he’s a much more experienced developer than I, so I would definitely recommend his work. At the very least, the thread is worth a read to watch Sneftel and SiCrane (another very talented developer) at work.

I’d like to take this time to suggest a promotion.

February 8th, 2008

Tao Troubles

I recently ran into a bit of a quarrel with Tao. The old version of Tao did not (to my recollection) automatically put its dll files in the bin directory of a project, and in my naivety I failed to include any when distributing a program. When another person got the program, it didn’t work at all; the error message given gave no indication that dll files were missing, and I failed to ever fix the program, whether missing dll files were actually the problem or not.

Recently someone asked to see a program, and - hoping I’d have better luck - I put Tao on this machine and built the project. I immediately noticed that my bin directory had a bunch of dll’s thrown in. To be safe, I sent the program, complete with dll’s, to Zach first; and guess what? Didn’t work.

This time it was nice and did give descriptive error messages about missing Ilu.dll and Ilut.dll. I have to wonder why certain bits of Tao use those libraries (and require them) but the dll’s are not included anywhere in Tao. I also have to wonder why the program ran fine on my machine, which doesn’t have those files anywhere on it to my knowledge.

After tracking down an older version of Ilu (1.1) and Ilut, Zach was able to run the program, and I’m hoping other computers can run it too. Maybe I’ll release it publicly in a few days, since it is a pretty cool program.

This is not a random quote.