The Animal Farm

April 26th, 2009

14 Days Later

So things are moving along; a lack of updates typically means there’s nothing to talk about, but on the contrary, there’s been a lot to talk about and not much time to talk about it.

The zombie game is coming along pretty regularly. I just finished the brunt of the difficult collision detection work. It’s something I never got working right when Ricky and I were developing together, but this time it all came together beautifully. There’s still plenty to do for good collision detection - spatial partitioning and collision with entities and maybe even some GPU acceleration - but it’s work I know how to do. Art wise, Laura has been making a good main character (Mr. Flowers) model and has blocked out a lot of the main level. The blog for the game has been updating pretty regularly, though we took the weekend off.

The weekend was taken off for a side project. Basically, I wanted to try out the XNA Community Games action. So Laura and I blocked off some time to remake Penguin Push (it’s being retitled to not interfere with other games - originally Push, Push Penguin, but that’s already taken, so now I’m at a loss for clever alliteration and will have to use something else). The core programming is all finished; there’s just polish work left. There’s still a bit to do on the art side, and we’ve enlisted Ricky to do the music which will take him some time. I was hoping it would only be a weekend project, but it looks like it’s going to stretch on into the week. Still, I’m dedicated to polishing this up, making new levels/adding a couple new features, and releasing it on the 360, so expect to be able to grab it in a couple months (they have a peer review system that takes some time).

Also my car Jocelyn broke down again. Hopefully it wasn’t too damaged, but if it costs a lot to fix I’m just going to get her back and give her a proper car burial - lighting her on fire and sending her off a cliff. It looks like the Jocelyn Mark II might be a necessity in the near future.

Finally, I ordered a ton of Maya books. They’re a couple years old, so they probably cover anywhere from Maya 7 to Maya 2008 (there might’ve been one or two newer ones in there). Still, I just can’t turn down books where the cost of the book is less than the cost of shipping - I scrounged 8 books for $80. So if anyone needs some Maya reference materials, I got your back. By comparison, I found very little for Max and XSI.

Mean mean pride.

April 12th, 2009

Through the Pipeline She Comes

A couple announcements.

First, the gallery is back up after long last. Gallery was being very finicky about upgrading, and no matter what I tried she wasn’t having it. I was forced to tear the whole thing down and bring it back up (luckily the database was still intact).

Second, a new blog: Oh No, Zombies!. And an accompanying wiki: Oh No, Zombies! Wiki. These are both dedicated to the personal project Laura and I are engaged in, specifically a simple XNA first-person zombie shooter that takes place on Franklin St. It’s a platform for Laura to learn about game art and me to muck around with XNA while producing something worthwhile. We’re keeping it fairly small (though somewhat ambitious given our time constraints), but we look to create something to show off.

Once more with feeling: Oh No, Zombies!

April 10th, 2009

Gripes

Crazy Bump is no longer free. It was a fantastic program, but $100 fantastic? I hear there are nice Photoshop/Gimp plugins for generating normal maps, but those won’t generate AO/displacement/specular highlight maps and won’t give me a nice 3D window to quickly view results. Give me some good reference material on Crazy Bump’s methods and a week and I’ll have something comparable.

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix is too confusing. Now instead of gems falling down, they will fall in the direction you move the gems, which is one of eight directions. It’s unwieldy. Hacking is far too dependent on the initial board layout, and one bad turn of luck can shave 30 seconds off your time before you make any matches. Also hacking is far too important. Still, there are a lot of improvements over the base Puzzle Quest format.

Star Ocean: The Last Hope promotes an overly defensive battle strategy. To blindside an enemy (sending you around the back to get in some safe blows), you have to hold a button and wait to be attacked. There is no offensive equivalent, and charging into battle often leaves you severely wounded. It’s an interesting battle mechanic, but it’s too one sided.

For all its attempts to be novel, Mad World does not have an interesting aesthetic. The black and white nature doesn’t add a single thing and often makes objects/enemies stand out less. But it’s hard to stay mad at a game where you can wrap a guy in a tire, lunge a sign post through his head, and then smash him against a wall for extra kill points.

XNA needs the following things: first-class skinning support in the content pipeline (I don’t want to pull the skinning code in from some external example), a decent scripting solution (there’s no use of the code compiler like I have in vanilla C# for bringing in C# scripts), an event-based input mechanism (no more polling, please!), and access to avatars with the ability to create animations with their skeletons. I could also use a better sound solution than XACT, but I haven’t looked into this since 1.0 and the playing field might have changed since.

Why oh why won’t Google SketchUp load C++ plugins without making me pay money? OK, I know the reason for that, but it’s still lame. It will load Python plugins, though. I’m half-tempted to put together an X exporter and a NIF (Gamebryo) exporter (the latter of which, obviously, I wouldn’t be able to give away). It’s such a great tool for making architectural models. The snapping features are unrivaled.

Things coming down the pipeline.

April 7th, 2009

Google Trends

I am probably very, VERY behind the times on this, but I recently discovered Google Trends.  Its a site where you can type in search queries, and it will graph you out the number of times that search has been done using Google since they started keeping that information (seems like 2004).  Seeing the trends in single searches is pretty neat, but the fact that you can do multiple searches at once, by separating them with a comma, makes it neat to see correlation.  Here’s a couple I did recently that I thought were neat.

Wii(blue), PS3(red), XBox 360(orange):
Wii Three Three-Six

It’s interesting to see the trends in searches for the 3 current-gen consoles  because it shows their popularity compared to each other as well as the fact that they spike, as I am sure all things kids want for Christmas do, right around the winter season.  Doing a similar search for DS and PSP actually returned similar results, only the PSP was nearly twice as popular as the DS, which is not what I would’ve thought.
Cough(blue), Bronchitis(red):
Cough, Bronchitis

This is neat because it shows just how seasonally regular the common cold really is.  Taking this idea and seeing any trends with the flu didn’t not turn up the same sort of periodic results.  Instead, it just had a few very high peaks surrounded by drastic falloff.  I am guessing this goes more with the “epidemic” nature of the flu.

And my personal favorite:
What time is it:

Do you see the pattern there?  Those spikes occur twice a year, right around the daylight savings time time changes.  There are some peaks happening in the summer as well, no idea what those are caused by.
At any rate, I think it is a neat time killer to try and see correlations in searches.

Zach

April 3rd, 2009

Re: Jimmy’s Comment

“I don’t think you’ve told us who this Laura person is, lol.”

I met Laura at a charity event for disabled children from Sudan. She was wearing a 1950’s sundress with ironically large glasses, and I was in a duster and bowler hat. The moment we locked eyes we became inseparable, two intertwining lives. She was an up-and-coming baseball player before a corrupt bookie took a bat to her knee, shattering her bones and more importantly her dreams. This led to a very dark period in her life, too dark for this public outlet. Eventually, with the help of her family and a very special dog, she picked herself back up and moved on with her life. Now she lives in the city teaching inner-city youth how to dance and maybe a little bit about how to love.

Or maybe not. It’s entirely possible all that was fabricated, and that the real story is much less dramatic: she’s a local gal I’ve met and have been spending a fair bit of time with.

Drug Free Zone.

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