The Animal Farm

May 31st, 2009


Let’s shoot from the cuff here.

Carrboro Film Festival! Submission deadline in September, I believe. A video has to be accepted first, which lowers my chances… considerably… but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to try. I also don’t have any ideas yet, which lowers my chances even more considerably.

Hacked a random dungeon generator this weekend. It’s pretty snazzy, if I do say so. Takes a template of rooms and snaps them together, where each room can be given a probability it will be selected. This allows for a good deal of control while still making quality dungeons. The hardest part is the post-process; determining which walls are corner pieces and such. I also put together some movement code for a rogue-like.

I’m finally caught up with Lost. Overall it’s solid. It has a significant time travel component which I’m normally violently opposed to (bring up Star Trek, just do it), but it’s mostly tasteful. A lot of the story is sloppy - characters are given most of their motivations through dreams/visions, and sometimes they’re not given any motivations at all besides a ‘feeling’ - but the real stories, the bits worth watching, are when they dive into their characters.

I’m just sad Charlie died. SPOILER. Maybe he can talk to Dumbledore in the afterlife. DOUBLE SPOILER.

My drum set is finally dead. The hi-hat fell off. It’s a fairly significant piece. I’m making due with the ride, but it’s not the same, and I really don’t have the option to record anything anymore. I was looking for a real drum set online, but I don’t want to invest the money (budgets, you see) or the space.

Resting now. For rizzle.

I know that detonating that hydrogen bomb is what we have to do. I just know it.

May 27th, 2009

The iPhone

So I think I am giving in.  My contract with Verizon was up last October and I’ve been going month to month since then.  For the most part I didn’t renew back then because I liked my current cell phone and didn’t care about getting a new one.  I really hate going into the Verizon store because, like a car dealership, it takes forever and I have to sign a lot of stuff.  So I’ve been avoiding it since month to month doesn’t cost any more and I liked my phone.  It wasn’t really a problem.  Now I am glad I didn’t renew my contract.

I’ve recently decided I wanted to drop Verizon and pick up the iPhone.  As much as I love Verizon’s service, they don’t offer the iPhone and the only rumors I’ve found about them getting it involve the switch from CDMA to LTE (or 4G), which is what AT&T will also be switching to, so they won’t need a different model.  This upgrade of the network coincides with the rumored contract ending of exclusivity of the iPhone for AT&T in 2010.

Here’s the deal, I tend to get fixated on something, generally something I shrugged off into the “don’t really want” category when it was announced, and end up getting this driving urge to get it now.  This is what happened with the PSP.  While I have the ability (and the means) to go get the iPhone today if I wanted to, the guys at work at tell me that the new model is going to be out sometime in June.  The WWDC starts June 8th and most of the internet seems to think it will be announced that day and released that week.  That’s what happened last year with the 3G, anyway.  I still kinda want to go out and get the 3G now though.  Silly, childish wants.

Basically though, by the middle of June I will probaby have bought an iPhone.  The only way I wouldn’t have bought it by then is if they announce a release date in July or something, I might be able to wait ’till then.

Also, Brian, please update Oh No, Zombies! more, I needs it.

Thirdly, you should really consider renaming the game Oh Noes, Zombies! I feel it has more kick to it.


May 18th, 2009

Things Brian Likes for $400

I finally broke down and bought a PS3.

I don’t know the exact catalyst. I just know one morning I woke up and really wanted either that or a PSP, and I don’t get a lot of opportunity to do handheld gaming. I purchased four games along with it: Valkyria Chronicles, Disgaea 3, Folklore, and Little Big Planet. I’m pleased.

Little Big Planet is one of the biggest draws for the system. It’s a fun platformer/creativity suite, where the gameplay is secondary to creating your own content. It’s also multiplayer, which is a huge boon now that I’m spending so much time with Laura (did I mention she and I are dating?). For a game about sacks, it’s remarkably pretty. The physics conflicts with gameplay in a few instances, making maneuvering feel awkward, but it’s never frustrating for more than a moment before you get to see and play with new toys.

Valkyria Chronicles is amazing. It does things with turn based strategy that rejuvenate the whole franchise. Real cover mechanics. Suppressive fire. Individual unit characteristics. The gameplay really takes the genre to a new place. It’s also very, very pretty. My only complaint is that there’s just too much dialog, and so far it’s underwhelming.

I haven’t played the other two much. Disgaea is, well, Disgaea; over-the-top and charming. Folklore is a hugely atmospheric RPG. Can’t wait to dive into them.

There are a few other games on my list that need purchasing: inFamous, Drake’s Fortune, Resistance. However, after spending so much I’ve placed myself on a strict budget, so I’m not going to purchase anything new for a while.

I’m on a boat!

May 14th, 2009

Things Zach Hates for $400

The commute back and forth from home to work is a short one, about fifteen minutes.  In that fifteen minutes I think I hear the phrase “in this economy” about 5 times.  I am pretty sure every single commercial out there right now at some points mentions how in this economy a person can’t afford to miss the deals the commercial is offering.  It seems like, since every commercial talks about how in this economy it is hard to do such and such, until NOW, that, in this economy, a person can do everything.  I guess being in this economy isn’t so bar after all.


But seriously, that marketing tactic is really, REALLY, annoying me.  I guess it doesn’t help that I’ve noticed nothing adverse happen to me due to economic fallout.  Being a young person with little invested in stock/money markets/property, I guess I am not the target demographic.  I still feel I can complain about how annoying it is to hear that phrase roughly once every three minutes on my morning and evening commute.


In this economy, the only investment worth taking is in yourself, with plastic surgery.
Actual quote I heard today.  Abridged of course.

May 13th, 2009


There’s no fun way to say this.  Well, there probably is, but I don’t wanna fancy it up;  Update Oh No, Zombies!  Like, today.


May 12th, 2009

Chaka Chaka Pata Pon

Patapon 2 came out last Thursday. I’ve posted about Patapon in the past, so I won’t go into details about how awesome the game play is.  I must say they’ve basically removed what were my biggest complaints from the original.  Getting weapons and armor in the original could only be done in the story-mode stages and each stage could only be played once.  This would be fine except that the gear you got was random.  You could end up having the beaten a level and gotten no gear upgrades at all, or the opposite, one stage could make your army overpowered for the next several stages.

It appears in Patapon 2, gear still drops in story stages, but also in a few other repeatable (albeit increasingly difficult with each play-through) stages as well.  Also, whenever you beat a stage, it no longer just goes away.  The stage becomes some sort of trail where you can play it to get new materials/weapons/mini games.  They really did a good job on this improvement.

Another great thing is the addition of a deeper Patapon creation system.  Before you could say to create a Patapon unit type (spearmen, archer, mounted, tank, etc) and then the base requirements were listed.  If you chose a better version of the material (choosing Super Cedar instead of twig, for instance), you would get a better version of that unit.  This was mostly guess and check though.  Now you have a “tree”  you can advance a unit through.  The best part, once you’ve advanced through a spot, you can, for free, go back to that spot.  Basically the different positions in the tree don’t just represent levels, they each have unique defenses and attack types.  Basically an all around deeper system.

The only complaint with Patapon 2 was the way you had to buy it.  Basically the game was download only, but first you had to go to the store to buy the download code.  So I had to go to Target, buy the PSP game case containing my scratch-off code, go home and scratch it off, then navigate my PSP browser to the Playstation Online site and enter my code to download the game.  Seems really silly and ruins the convenience of downloading.  Not that I like downloading, Memory Stick Duo cards aren’t cheap and taking up nearly 400 MB of my 1GB card is a little annoying.

It did let me finally browse the Playstation Online site though, it seems like a nice place to grab older, hard to find games for the PSP, as well as demos for upcoming games.  I can see myself spending some time on that site.


Pon Pon Chaka Chaka!

May 8th, 2009

Tupac Sighting

So. Let’s jump into it.

Wolverine. I never did like him much as an X-Men character. So why would I like the movie? I didn’t so much. Their stand-in for “drama” was having Wolverine scream loudly into the air. Gambit and Deadpool were lame. Some of the fight scenes were cool, and some were just wire kung-fu and cheap tricks.

Star Trek. In the history of cinema, there are maybe two good Star Trek films. I’m counting Voyage Home - the one where they go back in time to save the whales - if for nothing else than comedic quality. I didn’t really expect much out of this one; I hoped to like it, but history has taught me better. This movie did nothing to change history, but it wasn’t outright horrible. My two biggest complaints are this: first, time travel has become the lazy writer’s motivator. If you can’t find a reason for your characters to move forward other than a character coming from the future and shouting, “Save me,” or “I’m going to kill you,” you’ve failed as a writer. Second, not every Asian knows kung-fu. And no Star Fleet cadet is issued a collapsible Katana.

Lost. How did I miss this show for so long? It’s fantastic. It does storytelling right - it focuses completely on its characters; they drive the story, not vice versa. It’s something Heroes did well in season 1 before everyone was established and every new character they brought in was trash. Anyway, I hear the seasons are of mixed quality, but thus far season 1 of Lost is bloody brilliant.

Oh No, Zombies! That blog is actually updated more than this one at this point, though it’s slowed down. The game has been making solid progress.

Push, Push Penguin. I’m retitling that game, because apparently even that title is taken. I was hoping to have the game finished by now. Programming-wise, it’s essentially done. The art and music aren’t there and it still needs a fair bit of polish. I’m hoping to have something to show… soon.

Other Notes of Singular Goodness:
I purchased eight books on Maya. Will I learn? Who knows.
I bought a new camera but have no script to use it on yet.

Just hit the east side of the LBC.

May 6th, 2009

Heroes makes me sick

Honestly, I know.  I shouldn’t still be watching Heroes.  I just keep thinking maybe it will get better, maybe it will return to how good season one was.  I know I am living in a fairy land when I think that.

First of all, main characters don’t die in this show, all it takes is a little Claire or Adam blood and they are back.  Why then, did Nathan die at the end of this season?  Seriously, it makes no sense at all, they had a passed out Sylar RIGHT THERE, they could’ve used his blood to bring Ol’ double(possible quadruple at this point)-crosser back again.  But instead they make Parkman use his power to force Sylar into believing he is Nathan? Seriously?

It’s like they have no way of writing a story well anymore and need to just ignore previous canon to get things to work.    Noah Bennet was shot in the FACE with a BULLET, but a little Claire Blood and he was good to go.  Hell, Nathan was nigh blown up at the end of seaons one, but a little Adam Blood brought him back in no time.  Getting his throat slit though, end of the line.

Also, Sylar can shapeshift now, so he can move the spot that kills him?  I was always under the impression that the hindbrain(the area that gets stabbed and renders a Hero with healing powers “dead”) was just that, the top of the brainstem or the hindbrain.  Apparently it something a person can move around at will.  So somewhere in Sylar’s body his got a hypothalamus floating around.  Neat.

I seriously have no excuse for continuing to watch this show, but I do.  And I will keep watching it as long as it is on, probably.


“It’s just that this clock’s one and a half seconds fast.”

May 1st, 2009


So I am in Morgantown this weekend.  I was originally planning on coming down today, but ended up coming down last night because there was a Dragonforce concert in Pittsburgh to attend.  That was an awesome show.  The Dragonforce guys don’t take themselves seriously during their performances so it ends up being a great time.  Really, when one of your songs is called Spirit of Ninja, I think you need to be able to laugh at yourself.

They had an “intermission” mid show that basically involved the bassist(on guitar for this portion) and the keyboard player (on Keytar for most of the show, and during this intermission) doing a sort of dueling banjos thing.  It was awesome.

I have been getting into some fun brute-force with heuristics stuff lately to try and come up a general guideline for approaching a game of Klickety.  So far the heuristics the guys at work and I have come up with seem to fall short.

The main problem is that solving one 16×10 tile, 5 color puzzle can take 8+ hours with just a random search brute-force algorithm.  So testing out our heursitics is a little time consuming.  I believe if I were to use a breadth-first search instead of a depth-first search that I could at least solve the puzzle faster (the tree never really gets any deeper than 50).  The main problem there is memory.  Essentially at the higher tiers of the search, you have 39 +/- 3 branches per node.  Doing this in a breadth first manner would quickly kill my memory.  I suppose I should implement a beam-search for this, provided I can come up with a good way of aiming the beam.  Pruning would definitely help the depth-search, but coming up with good early stopping conditions is proving hard as well.

All in all it is a fun project that keeps me thinking about algorithms and the like.  I am hoping I can manage to get some faster runs with different heuristics, and put them through some machine-learner to try and see why things work, as opposed to just that they work.  Ultimately, it is this that will allow me to better make those critical early decisions and more frequently beat a game of Klickety.  Speaking of beating a game of Klickety, I’ve never won a game.