Monday, December 22, 2008

Modification Success

My class is over (GSP-340, Modification and Level Design). I turned in my "game" level and got 100% so I'm happy about that. The final was easy, but annoying like all the online tests I've taken so far. For some reason I think someone with English as a second language wrote the questions. Though it could be me, I tend to read into things.

I was taking the first session easy and only taking one class. The last few sessions were quite chaotic taking two classes at once. That put me into the full time student category and it felt like it. I decided to do that again this session however, I want to get the degree faster.

Next session I'm enrolled in GSP-130, System Architecture and Assembler and
GSP-280, Simulation Design.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

Insert Catchy Title Here




Now using some structures. I have the bad guys with "laser" type weapons. There are health packs and energy kits laying around. There is also a stupid buggy you can hop in and drive around with equally ridiculous physics. (Adding a vehicle is one of the "steps" for the completed project.) The ammo counter is now working properly (thanks to the TGE community). Most of my modding has been on the graphics side, but that's no big surprise since that's what I do at work.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Put My Face In The Blender

I know the likeness isn't very good, but not too bad for my first head model.

I've been learning Blender 3D at work. I'm contrasting my current understanding of skinning (UVing) geometry vs. the way its applied in Blender. I understand UVing and skinning just fine, but how do materials and UVs work in Blender and how are they saved and used in other formats. From the first apply though, I'm very impressed with Blenders UV capability. The fact that I can drag verticies around on the UV map is a huge win for me.


Even More Torque


I'm still plugging away at my game. I'm calling it BOOTS as in boot troopers. I had thought of an acronym but it escapes me now and it doesn't really matter.

I've got new and improved health and energy bars. Although the player can leap 30+ feet, it costs energy. Energy is replenished by moving, with my concept being the return energy used by the person during motion is captured back into the system. No replenishment unless your moving around, so no waiting for a recharge. I also added a energy kit, like a health kit for energy.

Enemy AI now has weapons. They are still just Orcs with Crossbows, but exploding tip crossbows, ouch! Makes playing a little more challenging and fun. Currently I just randomly place 50 or so, I want to strategically place some as well as use spawn points.

I created a second weapon type, the HDEARifle (high density explosive assault rifle). It fires 1000 rounds a minute. They are high explosive bullets with splash damage, so leaping becomes an aerial barrage. Currently it uses a tommygun dts, but its working so that's a big plus.

I also added a temporary ammo counter and a score (number of kills). The ammo counter isn't working quite right, but I think I can fix it.

I also added some keyboard and mouse control. Right mouse button zooms in, scope like.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I Like Corn Too

Last night, while wife was away at band practice, I had the boys make her birthday cards and wrap her presents. While we were making cards, Nathan wanted me to write on his card. To that effect he had me write something like:

"Mom, I like to play with you. I like having supper with you. I like corn too."

So mom and corn are apparently in contention.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Wii Game Worth Owning

Boom Blox Rocks.

Target had a big 2 day sale which included Boom Blox for $20. Target was sold out, so I went to WalMart and had them match the price.

Totally worth it! It's a Wii game that I actually turned on to play when the kids weren't around. The wife and I played for almost 2 hours after the kids went to bed. My eldest son Aidan (5 years) was so excited to play it some more, he got up at 3:00 am to play it.

Tried to play it with my second son, Nathan (3 years) but he had a hard time aiming and then letting go of the button at the right time. He's not really into video games.


Wii Music isn't so bad


My wife rented WiiMusic for Thanksgiving weekend. Turns out that it isn't that bad of a game. Who knew?

When E3 was on G4 I showed my wife Nintendo's presentation keynote where they debuted WiiMusic. She thought it looked stupid and I agreed. It just had zero appeal at the time. The 40 somethings playing it poorly didn't help either. It's more than what you might expect, though I think its target audience is still young children.

The picture above shows my son Aidan (5 years) trying to figure out how to play violin. He is using my Mii. Note, the Christmas tree lights confuse the WiiMotes quite easily.

However, I don't think it has much longevity. I can't see myself, or my kids, coming back to it day after day. After trying out a couple modes and eventually unlocking the Mario theme song, I had enough.


More Torque

I've got some more custom textures, some animated things and some particle effects going. I've got some enemy AI in there too, but they don't fight back quite yet (for some reason they don't get their weapons).



Saturday, November 29, 2008

Torque Moonbase

I wrote a crazy complicated pitch for my class, something ambitious requiring a lot of determination, sweet and coding. Problem right there, I don't have all the time I need. So I switched gears entirely and spent much of the night getting my world ready.



This is based off the starter.fps project. The character is default, but the terrain and skybox (the planet and space background) are custom. Check out the crater in the lower right, I'm able to paint those around. Looks pretty cool I think.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

African Pumpkins

As part promotion for my movie Bill's Big Pumpkins, we sell pumpkin seeds. A couple days ago I got an e-mail from a customer from South Africa. He said he's having some success and included some pictures.



His only problem lately is that the baboons are getting into his pumpkin patch.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Jumps


Just something I'm playing around with for my Modification and Level Design class (GSP 340 at Devry). Its a modification of Chapter 5 from 3D Game Programming All in One using the Torque Game Engine.

I keep tweaking and changing. This is fun!


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Torque Me

In my Modification and Level Design class (GSP 340 at Devry) we're using the Torque Game Engine to "modify" a game. I'm behind in the class because I don't put my nose to the grind stone until 11:00 pm, and then I get distracted.

Were using the book 3D Game Programming All in One by Ken Finney, and I'm through chapter 5. Chapter 4 and 5 have the template started with running game levels. I couldn't resist and took their default player and put my face on him.



Wednesday, November 19, 2008

XBox Experience



I got the New XBox Experience tonight. I was excited for some reason and started downloading as soon as I got home from work. I thought it would be pretty cool, but sadly I'm not impressed. Perhaps its better than the blades (and in some ways it is for sure), but my initial impressions are ho-hum.

I'm disappointed with the character creator. I really like the look of the characters, but its too limiting for body part selections. It feels very Mii-like, especially the eyes, eyebrows and mouths. I had a hard time making one look like me. Hopefully, unlike the Mii, they'll expand the selections in the future.


XNA W00T!

Got to play with some XNA today at work. I whipped this quick generic gun model up to prove out the content pipeline (Blender and textures). This is a modification to the BasicModel project, but with my parts and textures.



It was a lot of fun, and whoa a lot of learning. I see I have my work cut out for me, bot as a programmer, but as an artist.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

3 Year Olds Amaze Me

My son Nathan is a thinker. You can just tell. He has focus to the point of concern. His creations with legos are developing in a way that makes his engineer father proud.

Today Nathan and I were playing legos and he asked me "remember the time it was you and me and mommy and Aidan in bed with food?" I responded no. He went on to explain in more detail about how we got the food and got a board and brought it upstairs to mom. It took me a moment to realize he was recalling the time we made mom breakfast in bed. That was last December, almost a year ago. He recalled something from a year ago, something we've only done once. He also said he wanted to do it again. Timely! Perhaps mom hinted at this since her birthday is coming soon, though I doubt that because she doesn't like breakfast in bed.

Regardless of her distaste for breakfast in bed (is that a pun?), I think its good for the boys to do this sort of thing.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

haiku

My wife writes haikus.
I really do enjoy them.
I wish to read more.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Hologram BS

Have you seen this? It's CNN's "hologram" technology they used for their election coverage.



I caught a glimpse of it on election day, but CNN isn't HD, so I watched somewhere else. Their little gimmick didn't keep me (though the HD gimmick did, hrumm).

This "technology" is stupid and wasteful for this purpose. You're telling me that the 35 HD cameras recording her for this "hologram" can only make her look low quality, poorly lit with a halo. BS! Come on, are we stupid? It was made to look low quality for effect. What really bugs me is the name, hologram. I'm supposed to believe that this "hologram" is on the stage with whats-his-face, as that is what a hologram is. But no, this is just some fancy overlay BS composite. She isn't there in reality or in some projected image. He is looking at nothing, looking at where she will be inserted/composited, and only the viewing audience can see her in the scene.

Unimpressed because they called it a hologram. Otherwise, its kinda neat though IMO they dialed down the quality to make it look more Star Wars-ish. I think if they really did what they say with all the quality possible it would have looked as if she was really there, perhaps with a little oddness due to lighting differences and such, but still almost seamless.


Behind in Level Design/Modification Class

I've been very distracted lately (damn you Shiren!) and I'm so far behind in my class I'm starting to get worried. Of course that is a good thing but I can't help but get worried. I'm also behind on a project at work, but that's partially because it is super boring and there are some very interesting distractions.

Anyway, week three just started tonight and by Sunday I have to have 2 of the 7 items listed below done, with all 7 accomplished by week 7.

1) The level must be based upon a storyline created and outlined. The storyline should be typed and included in the final presentation of the level
2) The level must include at least 20 rooms or playable spaces
3) The level must demonstrate the appropriate use of textures included in Torque;
4) The level must demonstrate appropriate uses of lighting tools;
5) The level must demonstrate the appropriate use of at least three different sound effects
6) The level must demonstrate appropriate use of at least one vehicle; the level must demonstrate the appropriate use of at least three interactive elements
7) The level must demonstrate the appropriate use of terrain features


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wanderer! Nooooooo!

Upon recommendation from a podcast I listen to, the Video Game Show, I picked up Mystery Dungeon: Shiren the Wanderer and although I love it, its a cruel, cruel game. When you die, you die. When you're battery runs dead, so does your character. Oy!

I'm stocking up supplies now, trying to give myself an advantage.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Android Me ASAP

I've been waiting and waiting for an Android phone to come out, and now I'm waiting to be able to afford one. Although from the sidelines, I had big hopes that Google's OS for phones would change the market. An open source mobile device OS is something I think that could really make a lot of things possible, and stymie some of the greed and corruption and monopolization of this mobile device market.

Now I hear that Android has a GameBoy emulator, something that you don't have to jailbreak your phone to get like on the iPhone. Regardless of any legal issues, I think its a shining example of open source OS and Google's open market concepts for Android development.

Although I think the devices Apple makes are testaments of style and function, I dislike their pricing practices. I think they will soon feel a backlash as other devices start to show up that allow much cooler things to happen without someones pocketbook in mind. (Microsoft, I point at you too FYI!)

All hail Google! Kudos.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Whew!



Sunday, November 2, 2008

Random acts of Comedy

Being infatuated with video games and also a father of three young boys, I'm inclined toward research when the two come together. Violence and video games is often discussed, but I've yet to find something that seems truthful and shows real insight. Anyway, I came across this article at CNN and found it to be more of the same. I found the comments insightful however. It seems the video gaming public retaliates quite quickly. My favorite post, "If kids play funny games do they commit random acts of comedy?"


Friday, October 31, 2008

Garbage RNC

My mom got this weird voice mail the other day she had to play for us tonight. It goes something like this (I pointed my shotgun mic at it so you should be able to hear it too, MP3 here).

Main menu, to listen to your messages press 1... Beep...

Yes, Joe Biden.

I don't know that we can not deny to do it. I'm calling for John McCain and for RNC because Barack Obama is so dangerly inexperienced his running mate Joe Biden says he invites a major international...

If Democrats win full control of government they will once again serve (?) rights to terrorists and talk unconditionally to these terroristic...

Barack Obama and his allies lack the experience and agenda (?) to lead America.

This call was paid for by the Republican National Committee. And McCain Palin 2008.

Yea I have 3 hang ups. 866 558 5599, Thank you.

Garbage.


Bipartisan BS



I'm so tired of this election thing. I'm pretty one sided myself, but I also listen to what the other party says without jumping to defenses and shoving their words back in their face or using them out of context. It bothers me and its stupid, the ridiculous arguments. Today it got bad, which is really the first its happened at work. Some dumb ass in the kitchen are couldn't shut up the rah-rah for his elephant team to realize what an ass he was being. He said things like "Obama will be assassinated because he's black," and "I love messing with democrats, they don't get it." The problem with this guy, and many people I work with, is they are focusing on disliking the teams, not the policies. Part of rooting for your favorite sports team is a total dislike for the other team, but the real truth behind a sport is exhibiting sportsmanship and realizing that its a game and in the end the other team are people doing the same thing you are. Perhaps better or worse. And also that's sports is a game. Politics are bigger issues than "Obama's a terrorist," and "McCain's a bad tempered cheater." Whatever, its Halloween and I hope that is at least fun for my kids.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pass!

I was worried about my math class since I didn't approach the final appropriately. I was nervous about the test and had to wait 9 days to find my grade. I got A's again, so I'm maintaining a 4.0 average. My goal is to keep that.


Friday, October 24, 2008

iPhone Games

I think the iPhone is a really neat device, regardless of my distaste for Apple marketing and consumer milking (which I won't go into). I see the potential for independent developers and wish I had the skills (and the time and money) to develop games for the device. I'm getting close though. I've managed to wrangle a freelance gig doing some 3D level model design and graphics work for a iPhone app. I'm signing an NDA so I can't talk about it and I don't know much yet, but hopefully it will be cool.

If you're an iPhone developer looking for someone to do art, graphics, 2D or 3D models, level design, textures, icons, etc., please give me a buzz and I'll see what I can do.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Math Gone Bad?

Since I was doing so well in my Discrete Mathematics class, I decided to take the final with little to no studying. All the tests through the DeVry online are open book so and I tend to do well this way.

However in this case, with 3 hours and 3 minutes and 15 problems, it didn't go very well. I started on what I thought would be an easy problem, 25 minutes later I was half done and starting to stress. I finished every problem and used every minute I had. Now I have to wait until the 30th to find out how I did.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

AI

Sometimes I feel like I have artificial intelligence, like a boob job on my brain. I don't mean that in a positive way. I just finished taking my final for my class Data Structures and Artificial Intelligence (GSP-290) and I feel sort of robbed.

The class introduced me to a lot of things at a very quick pace with was good and bad. I find the subject really interesting, but the rapid pace and the inability to focus on any particular aspect makes it seem vapid. I found most of the work easy and trivial, lacking depth. As an example, I took one of the quizzes for the class (there were 6 quizzes in this course), a 1-hr test with 5 multiple choice questions based on 100+ pages of reading. I finished the quiz in 12 minutes, got all 5 correct, but didn't do the reading. Perhaps lucky guesses?

I know that part of my feelings are really based on my own misconceptions of what education is and what learning is. In my case, I have a perfect grade for the course up to the final. Granted the final is 30% of the final grade, but I still took it dry (no studying). Two hours later I finished and I'm pretty sure I got an A for the course. I just wish I was confident that I learned something.

On a positive note, I find the book really good. Programming Game AI by Example by Mat Buckland. (Yes, its Mat with one T.)


Sunday, October 12, 2008

!= Tractor

My son Nathan, who's three, is allowed on occasion (after incessant pleading of the ear bleeding variety) to surf YouTube. You just type in "tractor" or "bulldozer" or some variant and he's good for an hour or so. He finds some pretty wacky stuff, but he's figured out a lot in the process, such as the back button.

Anyway, he was doing the bulldozer thing the other day at grandma and grandpa's when I noticed that some of the suggested videos didn't look like heavy machinery. They were clips of girls of some sort or another. (How they relate to bulldozer clips is something I'll have to investigate.)

"Are you going to click on the girl?" I ask Nathan.

Nathan responds "that's not a tractor dad!"

No problem there, 3 year old self content filtering activated.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Flying Colors

My course load has been tremendous lately and I've been lethargic. I keep thinking there is something wrong with me, because I feel so unmotivated and uninspired; tired. Perhaps my younger self brushed off these feelings more easily or, more likely, I'm just not getting enough sleep.

I'm currently enrolled in two classes, Discreet Mathematics (GSP-233) and Data Structures and AI (GSP-290). Being in two four credit courses at DeVry means I'm a full time student. Although I've done this credit load before at DeVry, I was in classes that required very little effort.

Regardless, my math class has been a chore. I'm doing 10+ hrs of homework a week for this class and I still feel confused and dazed. So much so that I was very active in the homework and midterm discussion threads last week. I was trying to find answers, verify my approaches to problems, helping others with their questions, generally wanting confirmation on my solutions. Unfortunately, even though I dominated over 50% of the posts, it wasn't worth the effort, or at least not the intended effort. I suppose I should explain that thought: I mean that although I did a lot of posting, the correspondence I had with other students and/or insight I gained from the posts was little or none. What I did benefit from was the effort of doing it and the formulation required to make sentient and readable descriptions to problems and solutions. Perhaps unlike this paragraph.

Last week was the midterm. Twelve (12) questions in essay format, 3.5 hr time allotted test worth 20% of the course grade. In preparation, I skimmed the book, reviewed all my homework, reviewed the sample exam the professor graciously offered as a study aid, and then some. At 8:30 Sunday night (the last possible moment), I sat down with a cup of coffee and started the test trepidatiously (is that a word). For the following 3.5 hours I did "math". How many possible combination are there if you flip a coin ten times? Put the following set in to set builder notation. What is the probability of... Use Boolean Algebra to prove... Etc. At midnight I was finished and feeling pretty good about the test. I was so wound up afterward though that even after an hour of video games, I didn't get to sleep until around 3:30.

Needless to say, work came a lot quicker Monday than I wanted it to. Ultimately though, Monday disappeared with little acknowledgment from my conscious self. To my surprise on Tuesday my G-Mail inbox bolded a new message from the professor, "Midterm Results" it called from its subject line. I anxiously read the e-mail. The average score from the class of 27 was 137 (68.5%), a D average yikes! Two people got scores above 180. But who I screamed? What was my score? The e-mail didn't tell me my score! Obviously the results were tabulated so I rushed to my DeVry gradebook for the class but the midterm grade isn't posted yet. For the next few hours, I checked the grade book. A day goes by. Another day, and another. Friday morning still no posting. I check again before lunch and behold, my grade has been posted. I got 185! 3 more weeks...


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Super Mario Questions

Have you ever had one of those ideas that you just couldn't shake and the only solution was to just do it?

I do, I did:



If you don't know, its a question block from the original Super Mario Brothers. Its 16x16 blocks, or pixels, just like the original art (or a best as I can determine). Interestingly, the top right and left "pixels" are missing. So what your seeing in the picture is 254 2x2x.5 (really ~1.5x1.5 inch) blocks. I spent about an hour sawing then with Aidan and Nathan helped paint them.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Words from the Young

Aidan, addressing his friend was was just sent home after roughhousing.

"I'm deleting you!"

"I'm putting you on the girls team!"


Friday, August 22, 2008

Overworked, Overstressed, Undersleep

I've spent too much time at work. These silly projects that I can't really attach myself to. The only reason I work is for the money. I've so much as said that although I may only be 75% effective after so many hours, at least I'm getting paid. It sucks that I only get straight time too, not double pay or whatever others may get if they work OT.

Last week I worked 72 hours. This week, I only worked 52, but I took Friday off (kids and wife sick, vomit in my wife's purse to prove it).

In my case, anything over 45 hours gets paid straight OT. So my 72 hour week means I'll make an extra $500 or so after taxes. All that time and effort, lost sleep, lost social life, lost family time. It adds up to so little. Is it worth it?


Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Reformat the Planet

Being an indie filmmaker, 30 something, a love of video games (classic and new), and a love of techno, you can't blame me for finding the documentary BLIP FESTIVAL: REFORMAT THE PLANET interesting.

Tonight I found myself on the internets like usual and landed on Pitchfork.tv. They had a link to a short video playing for one week only so I figured I'd check it out. Little did I know it was the entire movie for the documentary about a niche music culture known as chiptunes. Essentially, geeked out people who make music with old game consoles like the Nintendo Gameboy. Simply put, 1 bit to 8 bit type music. It was really quite impressive. I wish I had some musical skills.

I strongly recommend you check out the trailer.

BLIP FESTIVAL: REFORMAT THE PLANET trailer from 2 Player Productions on Vimeo.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Retro Evolved, 21st Century Arcade

No I don't mean Geometry Wars 2, though I did beat a friend on the first game mode after like 5 hours trying, so I'm pretty pumped about that. I mean a legitimate evolution of the arcade machine. My friend sent me a link to an artist who took inspiration from the old 1971 Computer Space arcade cabinet (an ugly thing IMO) and made it into a modern version. It's really quite cool looking, which means I'm going to have to modify my arcade design to match it.



Sunday, August 17, 2008

Death

There is nothing like a death in the family to put the heavy on. My aunt, my dad's only sister, passed away this week. I've had aunts and uncles die on my mom's side, and although tragic never really felt this way. This is the first on my dad's side (other than my uncle who died in Vietnam). It was really heave to see the whole thing, with all the brothers sort of acting weird, as if it were a family function like normal, but with weirdness maxed.

I'm not a very emotional person, my wife can attest to that. The thing I was able to connect the most with was my aunt's husband Jeff. He obviously loved her and is in a place I hope to never be in. His words at the funeral really sent my mind into a whirl. Death is so heavy. It's a wonder how we all go on. We just keep going, always pushing mortality to the end of the list as we get gas for our cars and go about the drudgery of everyday life.

My aunt was lucky. I don't want to seem morbid about it, since she struggled with cancer for so long, but she was lucky because she was able to take her life into account and put her eggs in the baskets she wanted. That may be a mixed metaphor, but she was able to extend her love to everyone in a proper way.

At the same time, I hate to think she was lucky. Honestly though, that is how I may want to go. Able to extend myself to my loved ones, to express my love, to extend my concerns, to help put things in order. Getting hit by a bus, although quick and potentially painless, leaves more to scar I think.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Working 95

I've been super over busy at work lately. I've got two projects that both come to a head on Aug 21st. One is a video project, which beyond the fact that my job really shouldn't be about making videos, its been hell. The other is a scripted simulation project which also has been hell. 72 hours this week, with more fun to come next week.

The video project is hell because its not mine and my boss thinks I love this stuff. The major difference between playing with video as a hobby and doing it for work (in my case) is that I get to make what I want how I want it. At work, this is not the case. My customer for the video is using others to write the script and has had little control/feedback/input regarding my script suggestions. He's obviously managing hoping that educated parties will make it work, which is fine management IMO, but he does need a backbone to support the guy who's making the video. In the end, sections that I warned would be boring and out of place and phrases that were repetitive and/or confusing, continued to persist in the script regardless of my continued and cordial comments to that effect. So I said fuck it, and gave them what the script called for. A 9 minute video full long and boring pockets of weird stuff. The customers response was "Wow, why so long?" To which the script writers response was to remove all the sections I had previously claimed as useless or repetitive drivel. Seriously, there was 40 seconds of a guy reading numbers that were arbitrary (just imagine imaginary directions to an imaginary building, useless). Essentially, I wasted my time proving that I know what I'm doing.

The other thing consuming my time I call scripted simulation. "Scripted Simulation" is the phrase I came up with for animations done within our visualization software using our scripting interface. Essentially, it isn't simulation really as its just playing out events that are done via keyframing methods, so the result is playback in real time as events occur, but its still just an animation. I hate it when people call my work animation and I hate when I have to make animations. I hate it more when they call it cartoons. This hatred is based in fact though I realize, as most of my work over the last few years has resulted in little more than marketing fodder.


Sound Me


For a video project at work we hired a professional narrator and I got to tag along to the studio. It was really interesting to see how it's done. The picture isn't very good, but you can see Tom, the narrator, in the sound proof booth in front a microphone. Interesting thing about Tom is that he's a narrator who's also blind.

I'm so connected to visual things, it was interesting to hear him work, and talk with him. You could almost "see" the different way in which he lives. He's good at what he does, and can do things on the fly, remembering complex and strange phrases without much added effort.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I'm Cool with Proof

I hit 1600 gamerscore (Xbox 360), aka Nerd Points, last night when I beat Crackdown and with some additional help from Geometry Wars 2.

Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved 2 is pretty dang fun. I had tried the first one in demo form and didn't connect with it, though friends were telling me it was an awesome game. A number of the podcasts I listen too all seem to praise it so I tried it again with my 5 year old last night. Maybe it was his genuine excitement that helped me, but I'm drawn in. I spent about 2 hrs trying to reach/beat my friends top score before giving up for the night.

I think I know where my piece of mind is going (to Microsoft).


Friday, August 8, 2008

Busy Enough

As if I wasn't already busy enough, I won/signed up for a membership in Toastmasters. Toastmasters is a speech club, I think that's the easiest way to explain it. It's at work, which makes it somewhat convenient. Its intent is to help people develop their speaking skills, and even some leadership skills. I hope to do both. I've been in the group for a couple months now, I even won some "impromptu speaking" awards.

On Thursday I had my first speech, the Ice Breaker. It went really well. I presented with a Open Office Powerpoint with pictures and bullets about myself and my filmmaking background. The evaluation said I did really well with a few exceptions: I should be more active with my hands and not keep them behind my back, I should get out from behind the podium (a problem of the room and the projection system makes this hard and was noted), and watch for crutch words like ahh, umm, etc.

All in all, for the amount of preparation and practice (next to none) I think I did really well.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Confucius Says

I just found this and thought it was brilliant enough to remember.

If your plan is for one year, plant rice;
If your plan is for ten years, plant trees;
If your plan is for a hundred years,
Educate children.' Confucius


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Modeling a Minivan


For my class GSP 260 the assignment was to make some models. I went a little overboard here, and put a lot of time into making a minivan. It's game ready: low polygon count with one composite texture.


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Giddy like a Geek

As my friends and family know, I've gone gonzo for audio casts (I hate calling them pod casts, so note that so you know what I'm really referring to.) I listen to about 8 casts about video games. I listen to them on my daily drive, which is about an hour a day, plus some at work or at home if I can manage. I really enjoy listening, its easier than reading. The ones I like the most are more prone to comedy or goofy wit, but that correlates to almost all of them. Anyway, today at work I found myself half listening to some brilliant diatribe, a thought that corresponded much with my own, in fact it was my own.

About a week ago I found myself overly interested in one particular debate. To the point of interest where I e-mailed them my thoughts/experience. I didn't think much of it because time passed and I listed to many a cast in between, but come the next update of this particular cast, after I had forgotten my previous message, I heard my own thoughts read aloud.

Now this isn't something to pat myself on the back about. Its no major accomplishment or anything, but I still found myself giddy with happiness. But in the most geeky way I could think of, I wanted a ham sandwich (that's a reference only the hosts or listeners of this cast would understand).

Here's the cast if you care to hear: http://www.videogameshow.org/news_item.php?id=10528 My e-mail is read at about 22 minutes; I'm gr8rdad. Granted it ain't much, its not resume material, but it put a huge smile on my face.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

E3, Isn't it Mandetory that I Blog About it?

Actually, I don't care to write about E3. There are enough bloggers, game enthusiasts, fanboys and "journalists" out there covering every minute from every conceivable, repetitive angle. No, I don't really want to write about E3. Well at least not directly.

What I will say is that the coverage on G4 has been really interesting. I don't bother with the commentary. I can't stand Morgan Webb, she drives me crazy but I wont get into the hosts since I didn't watch them blather other than in fast motion forward. I've watched the Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony keynotes, which were really interesting. Well, Microsoft and Sony's were anyway.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Back to School

July forth ended with bangs, and the weekend closed out with my Summer session A classes starting up Tomorrow (Monday, July 7th 2008). First off, my grades for my last classes were posted. I got 100% on the final in math so that secured my A (I was slightly worried because I missed a quiz so I spent most of the class crawling back up from a B). I got 98% on the final in my other class (which I've already forgotten what it was) though I only needed about 20% to get the A.

For my classes now, I've already been reading the books for GSP 260. The Art of the Game is a really great book so far. It really fits with my thoughts and interests and looks to be rewarding in future chapters. I don't know why I didn't already own this book. The other book, The Complete Guide to Game Audio is starting off a real snooze. I'm trying not to be down on it because I realize how much trouble I have with audio (I have very little sense of rhythm, and can't "see" the layers in music, let alone tell you what instruments are being used). But this book is coming across badly for me. I've read dozens of books on film making, storyboarding, photography, graphics, etc., some good and some bad. The bad ones read similar to this one. Advice from a guy who has had minor successes in the business, but ultimately is no Spielberg. I'm giving it a shot though, hoping that the intro chapters aren't indicative of the overall take-away.

I've looked over GSP-260's assignment syllabus whatever and it looks like there is going to be a crazy-strange amount of work. I'm slightly disappointed in the assignment approach because its basically asking you to design a game of your choice, so long as it has 3d characters, 3d objects and levels. Most of my ideas, the ideas I think aren't just like "GTA but in Hawaii", aren't necessarily 3D and may not have "characters" perse. Of course, I guess I'll just take one of my clone ideas with a twist and expand on it. Minivan nights is my choice, but we'll see with more time into the class.

The math class, GSP 320, looks like it should be a breeze. This time I'll make sure not to miss any quizzes or assignments. I've already done the first week assignment and technically classes don't even start until Monday.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Round 2 over, Bring on Round 3

I finished my DeVry GSP finals for GSP-220, Math for Game Programming and GSP-240, Practical Game Design with Lab course this week. I have a lot of opinions about the courses, but I'll keep it brief.

GSP-22, the math course, was really easy for me, but that's because I've had it all before with my engineering degree. It was still nice to have a refresher, but I didn't apply myself very well. I still learned some things which is good. I paid special attention to the uses of dot product and cross product as it pertains to many things I do in my professional life.

GSP-240 though was a disappointment. I wish I could say the class was a good one, as it has potential. I think it is way better than its predecessor GSP-110, but the two classes are so similar that its a waste of time to take both, though both are required. My team experience was plagued with inactivity, which cost me what I think could have been most valuable: working with others. The online nature of this degree just didn't work well for group projects in this class, at least not for me. I dislike setups where organizing and coordinating take more effort than just doing. I know part of my issues really stem from my concept of time being demented, I never think I have enough. Here's a tip to anyone out there taking this class, the iLab assignments for the Torque programming is just the Torque tutorials in disguise.

I've registered for my next classes, the first session of the Summer semester starts July 7th (2008). I'm taking the next math course, GSP-320, Math for Game Programming II and one of the more core game classes (I hope), GSP-260, Visual and Audio Design Fundamentals with Lab. I've already registered For session 2 courses too, which start in Sept. I'll be taking the next and final math course required for the degree: Math-233, Discrete Mathematics, and another core game class that sounds pretty interesting, GSP-290, Data Structures and Artificial Intelligence with Lab.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I'm So Busy Entertaining Myself


I feel like I've been really busy lately but I know I really haven't been. I feel this way because almost every night I've been playing video games. The wife talked me into Rock Band, so that and GTA IV have really sapped my free time.

Tonight marks my first online multiplayer console experience and I was super creeped out by it. I had never really thought about it, thinking only that it would be so much fun, but when I got there and started hearing other people talking and we started playing, it just felt so odd. I can't explain it, but I almost felt shy and vulnerable, really out of place. Maybe like standing at a cliff, your body resisting the height like your instincts taking over. It was weird. Then I killed a rockstar and felt better.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

360 Hoy!


I couldn't stop thinking about it so I finally broke down... I own a 360 now and GTAIV! Look at me, I'm out bowling on a date. What game is this again?

W00t!


This is Hard


Big John Games is the developer and Destineer is the distributor of a couple Nintendo DS games, both these companies are MN local. Big John Games seems like a group of people I'd like to support, so I bought Plushee's for my 9 yr. old niece and Spitfire Heroes for myself.

My niece was very excited about Plushees. She played some and was very positive about it, picking out a couple animals as pets or whatever. I didn't get much chance to see it in action, other than her getting to level nine of Whack-A-Troll. Point is she liked it.

As for Spitfire Heroes, that game is hard! I decided to try it on Veteran, the medium difficulty. I finally got to mission 4, and my ass got handed to me again and again so I started over on very easy and breezed through the first 3 missions. The fourth was trouble again, but I kicked serious ass and beat it. All that struggle taught me a thing or two about the game. I beat it on the very easy setting. The boat/destroyer mission was the toughest since there's bullets coming in from everywhere. Luckily the plane you fly is a tank with wings!


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

I'm Big in Minnesota

When I arrived at work late today, 9:30 am, I was greeted by my co-worker Chris. He had a strange grin and a WTF look. I was feeling sorta sheepish since I was so late. Been having a hard time sleeping lately since I've been up playing Final Fantasy XII. (Makes me think of the drinking problem joke in Airplane.) Anyway, Chris says he has to show me something and he pulls out Minnesota Monthly magazine.
Here's a better image from the Solstice Film Festival slide show. That's me second from the left.
Bill's Big Pumpkins red carpet at the June 2007 Solstice Film Festival at the Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul. Pictured right to left: Gail Foss, Ryan Foss, Stephanie Nagel, Bill Nagel


Monday, May 26, 2008

Team Woes at DeVry Online

My team for my GSP 240 Practical Game Design class was a lemon. It really sucked. Luckily there was one person who really helped finish our assignments, and other helped a little. It was still tough because we had 2.5 people doing 6 peoples work.

I wrote the prof as asked him what the deal was, if the team's non-functioning members had dropped out or what. His response was good, that he noticed we were having problems. Then he took our group and pushed us into other groups, breaking up the me and the other guy that started working well together. This makes sense of course, since he divided the groups functioning members up. Still sucks though.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Hail to the Ice From the Sky




Don't need to say much here. We had a storm. Biggest hail I've ever seen.


Monday, May 12, 2008

Trouble in Polygon Optimization Town

Apparently my Inventions and Great Ideas post stirred some mud. I've gotten a few comments and some e-mails. E-mails from people conveying their experiences and also one from an engineer at Right Hemisphere, with a marketing director's e-mail as a CC no less. Hmm...? Turns out some competitor to Right Hemisphere read into my post a little to deeply and wrote a blog post of their own, claiming that I allege my ideas were "stolen". This isn't true. The point of my post wasn't to scream foul or claim theft, it was that I learned a valuable lesson, a lesson regarding my "ideas". I freely gave my idea, a single idea not ideas as the blog suggests, to an engineer at Right Hemisphere and they listened. Is that so bad? No, in fact its good business. And when they came back, they pitched the idea back at me because of my unique problem and its unique solution. The point I was trying to make was that I hadn't thought out the situation thoroughly and I gave up my idea to someone who could use it to their advantage, potentially with no traceback to me. The idea was anything but stolen.

In fact, I contend that the idea still hasn't been implemented. I know of no tool or plug-in, for Right Hemisphere's Deep Exploration or any other, that does polygon reduction the way I explained it. One person responded suggesting my idea was nothing new, as its just a "Hierarchical Z-Buffer". However, what they failed to realize is I'm working in the modeling side of things, not the pipeline. I "concepted" a way a tool could analyze geometry and throw out useless polygons, similar to a runtime cull, but applied to the polygons in the geometry. My intent is to reduce and remove polygons from the geometry before it enters the pipe.

I feel I should mention some details about the second meeting since the situation was somewhat dynamic and beyond the scope of my original post. Really it is beside the point entirely but I feel that I should elaborate given the amount of attention I've received. I mentioned that the original man I explained my idea to didn't work there anymore (presumably onto greener pastures) and I did so because it is truth, but also because it limited my options and perceptions at the time. Since he left the company, their was no option for me to contact him about the details of the tool/idea implementation, which was partially why I described the situation the way I did. Essentially though, the sales-engineers were listening to me when I explained what I do and how I foresee using their products. One of them was astute enough to recognize my situation and realize that something they had in development (or whatever phrase is appropriate) would apply to me directly in a positive way.


Sunday, May 11, 2008

DeVry group projects

Wow, my first group project at DeVry was a disaster. The group was indecisive if not absent. This is probably due to the lack of chatter amongst us, no matter what I tried. In the end, I felt like I did a lot more work than necessary or appropriate for a group project. Since the prof has to review our team discussion area, hopefully he will grade accordingly. This could be good considering if the other group members do bad on this first assignment, they'll need to step it up on our next assignments.

The assignment was to review the packaging of a game and then rewrite it after playing it for a couple hours. We decided to play Gish, a pretty inventive 2D platformer. I'd recommend giving it a shot, since its gameplay is different than anything I've played outside of a physics simulation.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Awarded


2008 Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival
Silver Eddy Award
Pro-Am Documentary
Bill's Big Pumpkins


Go Speed Racer Go?

I took my 5 year old to see Speed Racer in the theater tonight. It was a Friday, 7:15 pm show. I was expecting a crowd. In total, there were 7 people in the theater. Granted it was also showing on the IMAX screen next door, perhaps more people went to that one.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the movie. It was fun and funny and exciting and cool and pretty. My kid loved it and gave the wife an ear-full when we got home. I hope the movie does ok in the box office, to help promote this different approach to films. Unfortunately, as of this moment the tomato meter is at 35%.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Big Pumpkins, Big Surprise


This morning I managed to get up early, which is weird because I was up till 2 am. After the normal good mornings and stuff with my family, my wife told me to get a paper, the neighbor had told her I was in it. Of course, on my drive to work I grabbed one at the local Grab-N-Gas. There's a cute little mention about my movie Bill's Big Pumpkins. Here's a link to the article in the Star Tribune.

Anyway, we're part of the Home Grown Cinema series. Bill's Big Pumpkins debuts on the first night, Monday May 12th! Here's the trailer.



Thursday, May 8, 2008

DeVry cheats?

My class at DeVry right now is GSP-240, Practical Game Design with Lab. It requires the Torque Game Builder and Torsion from Garage Games, Indie licenses. I'm kind of excited about this, it should be interesting and fun. Unfortunately, I hadn't realized the hefty price tag that comes with it. According to instructions from my course, it states:

"Note: the software is discounted through eFollett. If you buy it from Garage Games directly you will utilize your credit card and pay full retail price."

When I checked the eFollett system the price is $158.75! However, when I checked the price directly from Garage Games the cost is cheaper! Torque is $100 and Torsion is $39.95. That's a total of $139.95, almost $20 cheaper.

I know, what's $20? Not much really, but still. Seems DeVry has managed to scam students out of a few bucks, charging them extra for nothing. Take that times 30 students and its money DeVry doesn't deserve.


Saturday, May 3, 2008

Portfolio Woes

I need a portfolio online, I just don't want to spend time making it. This is stupid because I would really like having one place to show off my visual art, I'm just so busy. I hate that I use being busy as an excuse.

I'm considering the catch phrase "I Create." I'm waffling on that though, I don't know what a potential employer/peer might think when they read it. Hopefully it would be good.

I've considered expanding upon it, perhaps "I create worlds" or "I create experiences." I think it could be a powerful message, though I think adding more detracts some from the power and simplicity of the short version. Leave it short and sweet; leave the details up to the imagination, to the individual. Of course, I will need art to back up my claims.

I remember this show from the 90's, a sitcom about college life. This girl, approaching her finals, worries and nightmares about one of them. Her classmates reacted poorly to her uneasiness when she asks for advice, as if they may have some insight into the professor's test they don't want to divulge. Finally, after night after night of worry, and eventual exhaustion to the point where she sleeps through her study time, she arrives at the test in frantic concern. The test is one question. I don't remember the question, but I remember the girl seeing it and the look on her face, the look of pure understanding. She scribbles something in a split second, jumps from her seat and turns the test into the professor, slamming it down defiantly. She leaves the classroom walking tall, while WTF expressions appear on her classmates' faces, as if they were left out of some important conversation. What was her answer? "Brevity is Bliss."

I Create.


Friday, May 2, 2008

IGDA Treat, Big John Games

Last night the Twin Cities chapter of the IGDA (Indiependent Game Developers Association) had local game developer Big John Games present their story, experience and insight regarding game development, in general and as it relates to the Nintendo DS and other consoles, and even local development. It was an incredible meeting. This is the sort of thing that really makes IGDA worth it.

Big John Games is a pretty cool company, one I'm really excited to see located in Minnesota. Perhaps that changes my impression of their games, so take that with a grain of salt.

Ken, the founder of the company (named after his dad, Big John) and his brother Don worked on the IP Spitfire Heroes, a World War II air combat arcade type flight sim game. Interestingly, Don is a published author of young fiction, aimed at boys 5-9 old. When I first heard that the DS game was based off a book (or related to a book in some way), I thought it would be stale. Knowing the DS's limitations (via the experience I've had playing the games on it), I had a hard time imagining how you could capture a book into a DS game. What I realized after meeting Ken and Don is that the books aren't historical, they're fun. I was lucky enough to get a signed copy of Dawson's Down, which I've already started reading to my boys.

Big John Games also has another release, Plushees. Last time I checked I wasn't a 9 year old girl, so it doesn't appeal to my gaming tastes. But what does appeal to me about it is that its a local developer making games for kids. I'm going to pick it up for my niece as an alternative to Tigerz.

I learned that the Nintendo DS has three engines, one 3D and two 2D. In the 3D engine, you can have a max of about 2000 polygons, with very limited texture space. One of their artists said he had to convert his 8000 poly model down to 196 poly with a 128x128 texture. I call that a challenge, a fun challenge!

I got a chance to play Spitfire Heroes and my first thought was that the first level is too hard. Your first objective is to defeat 12 tanks and there are three enemy planes trying to stop you. I tried about 6 times and eventually completed the level, but really failed due to the grading system (took too long, inaccurate, etc.) I was slightly frustrated with it that way, but I agree with their designer when he said they didn't want the game to be too easy either. He said he cringed when he saw someone playing and crashing into the tanks, which is exactly what I did about 10 times. In the end, I'm going to buy this game, regardless of the metacritic score. Both because I want to support them, and because I want to play it more.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Inventions and Great Ideas

As if I needed more to do...

I'm now working with a friend on some invention ideas. He's a real entrepreneur and thinks some of my ideas are worth investigating/researching and maybe even marketing. Being more active in my ideas feels good, especially talking with someone who sees their potential, is not a threat (NDA, w00t), and is willing to invest/investigate them. He's a real hardware tinkerer, whereas he imagines I'm a computer arts tinkerer. I have to mention though, that the idea that got this situation going was my wifes. She's rightfully apprehensive of the situation.

Regardless, this made me think of situation I had regarding an idea I had a few years ago. First let me explain the context. My day to day job was/is often translating Pro/Engineer assemblies into real time geometry. What that means is that the CAD software the engineers and designers used to design in was converted from its engineering 3D data, high detail, high accuracy, parametric model parts and assemblies, into low polygon, simplified representations. As much as I tried automating the processes, and even invented some automation techniques, the results still never looked very good. The computer just didn't know what it was doing, where it was important to keep data (is that hole important or not), or where data could be removed, like the internals of a bearing assembly. Thus I was often struggling in Pro/E removing extraneous small details and then fighting in the low polygon modeler to further reduce details to get my models to adequate sizes, as well as optimized for run time performance. I still do this today, though not as often. You could say I'm a seasoned veteran in polygons. Here's a picture of what I mean, I've come a long way baby!
Anyway, I had this idea to help my process, a way to automatically reduce poly counts quickly within geometry by simply looking at it. (Proof, an old forum post of mine!) Essentially, you loop the observer around your model, looking at it from all the important angles and note any polygons that are never seen, essentially an all encompassing cull. So one day Right Hemisphere was visiting, demonstrating some of their products, including one that supposedly could do this sort of thing for me (I think it was called Granite, Pro/E to OBJ with dial-a-fidelity sliders). The meeting was over for the most part and I mentioned my idea to one of the presenters. He seemed interested, but blew it off to show me something "interesting". So nothing happens for some time, then I'm invited to another meeting with Right Hemisphere (they came back, they were trying to worm into our business, getting us to go with some of their content management solutions which we weren't interested in). At the meeting we do the same thing but more focus on the bigger picture though I do get another demo of their products that apply to me. This time one of the sales-engineers says they have a new reduction algorithm in the works. Do you see where this is going? Yep, he explains the quick premise of how it works and you got it, it was my idea, the one I stupidly blabbed to the guy at the last meeting. Needless to say I gasped and asked if it was GuyName's idea, to which the reply is yes, but he doesn't work for them anymore. Long story short, I learned a couple valuable lessons that day.

Since that day I've continued to have ideas, some good, some obviously horrible (pork chop beer mug, drink then eat), but now if I share them I double check my audience and the purpose of me sharing (do I want to sound smart/important) and more importantly, can they gain from my idea without payback to me. In the case above, the situation provided me with little to no advantage (it was in a product or module/add-on we didn't have or want) and gave them another bullet on their list to help sell their product and no credit back to me. However, I continue to use Right Hemisphere's Deep Exploration product at work, but purely as a geometric conversion tool. At home, I'm still using 3D Exploration for the more obscure/older formats (3D Exploration was what Deep Exploration became, after RH bought it out and before they slopped the multi-hundred dollar price tag on it).

[UPDATE: New Blog Post: Trouble in Polygon Optimization Town]


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Arcade Here I Come!

Since March I've been saving my dollars and cutting costs where I can. I've quit eating at the cafeteria at work due to its outrageous pricing, and I'm hording my money earned from freelance and ads on my website (thank you top 50 and top 80 text tutorials). I've almost raised $300!

I've decided to only buy some of parts I need, and get more once I learn more. I'm going to start with an external one player lap controller, six buttons and one joystick. My bill is $193.70 at Hagstrom Electronics and $46.40 at Happ, though I'm waiting for a check or two to clear first. I'm excited to take a step forward.

Yes, its almost 2 AM.


Freelance Guru, Special FX and Modeling

Every once in a while I'll take a job on the side. I prefer paying gigs, but sometimes I pro-bono if I'm interested or the cause is good. I currently have three "gigs".

The first is a special FX shot for a MN independent filmmaker. I took this job back in July of 07, didn't get the footage until January, and I'm about to finish (April). It's been a slow process, which is my fault to some (probably great) extent of course, but with family, school and other jobs, hobbies (the pumpkin movie) and interests (video games, beer, etc.), I've been less than available and less than motivated. Good news is its done. It was a special effects shot with fire as you can probably see from the image. I lit fire to my driveway three times and my garage five times to get the shot right. And that was after my attempts at "faking it" failed to yield results I was happy with. Hopefully the film turns out well for the director/writer barring my delays.

The second gig is a good one. It's a Guru job. Guru.com is a website for freelancers. I get e-mails about freelance jobs and I look but usually don't apply. This one however was right up my alley. Some guy out there is modifying a Head On arcade cabinet with a SEGA baseball game and needs a custom control panel. I submitted a bid and he took it because I mentioned my current interests and motivations with classic arcade cabinets. Its going well I think, though I way underbid compared to the time it will take me. Course, I will take the money earned and apply it toward my own arcade.

The third gig is a free one. I've been unmotivated to produce any TurboSquid assets lately and needed some inspiration. It came in the form of an e-mail from someone who downloaded one of my free models, a pickle to be exact. This person had obviously read my e-mail asking for response if they use it, so I rewarded them with a reply and an offer for more free models. Turns out he's working on a mod to Fable. To date, I've made him (I'm assuming a him) a low polygon hamburger with texture. Soon I'll be completing a hot dog and additional food items. Should prove interesting in the least.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gradual Decline

An old friend invited my family over for dinner and play time (kids of course) and for some reason they started talking religion and politics at dinner. These generally aren't safe topics to discuss with people, especially people you know you'll disagree with. My wife and I did our best to stay safe, but... To sum up: I was astonished with their opinion of the world. According to their view, the world is getting worse and worse and is in a gradual decline. Kids are loosing respect for their parents, becoming stupid and lazy and their parents are to lazy to care. More and more teens are getting pregnant. The world, "have you read the Bible", is becoming worse and worse. Etc. Doom, right?

Maybe its me but I don't think that. I think the world is becoming a more and more exciting place. Perhaps its my optimistic tenancies (my personality profile says I'm an optimist so don't disagree), or perhaps it is truth. I've heard of statistics saying kids are smarter (or more knowledgeable) than decades past. I've heard that teenage pregnancy is down. I've heard that children are doing more and doing better in school than their parents. Maybe its my optimism getting the best of me. Unfortunately, on top of my optimistic tendencies is my skepticism. I need to know, is the world in a decline? Given the subject matter I guess, I would be referring to a a social decline as we American's narrowly view it.

Teen Pregnancy, up or down?
DOWN! According to this study, the number of teen pregnancy's has reduced significatly. Of additional note and further proof (at least to me) that things are not declining is that the total abortion rate has also declined, in 2002 it was almost half of what it was in 1986. I don't want to start debate, and I'll say I believe strongly in a woman's right to choose. However, I feel the best choice is to choose life.

Drop out rates, up or down?
DOWN! From 1972 to 2005, the drop out rate has decreased (in total) from around 15% to the lowest its ever been, 9% according to this study. This table provides a real quick look at the statistics. (My DW, dear wife to those not in tune with the lingo, commented on this the other night saying its now law to stay in school, but I haven't researched that or how, or when, it may have impacted this particular study.)

As with any statistics, they can be skewed to reflect the views of the presenter. So perhaps I am really, truly seeing what I want to see. Regardless, I refuse to live in a world destined to destruction and decline. I have high hopes for the future, for my children and my grandchildren, and their kids for ever and ever. I'm excited for them to live their lives as much as I look forward to living mine. It brings extreme joy to my mind thinking of the future. The bright shining, lovely future.


Course Books for DeVry GSP

Wow, text books are expensive! Well, they're expensive if you buy them through the
DeVry bookstore. Forget that! You can find the same books on Half.com, new or used. Plus, when you're done with it, list it back on Half.com and get some of your money back, unless its a book worth keeping anyway.

My book for GSP 240 cost $50 through DeVry, plus S&H. I got it new for $27, S&H included.


Course Overload!

In examining my degree courses for my GSP degree, and given the time drain experience with my three previous courses (time drain in a minimal sense, they didn't take much), I decided to kick it up and try two courses this session. I'm taking GSP 220, Math For Game Programming I, and GSP 240, Practical Game Design. The courses opened recently and I had a chance to look over the syllabuses. Hopefully I'm not biting off more than I can chew.

The math class should be easy, considering I have an undeclared math minor, carry over from my engineering degree. I do trigonometry on a regular basis in my day-to-day too. Looking over the course objectives, it also sounds like I've already done most of the stuff before. I was concerned that since my programming courses were over, the classes to pick from seemed to de-emphasize programming. I was afraid that the skill would atrophy some before it came back in later courses. However, I'm happy to see that this math class includes programming exercises and assignments on a regular basis.

I'm very disappointed in the Practical Game Design course though. Looking at its course objectives and assignments, it sounds like a rehash of GSP-110 (the intro to game and simulation programming course I already took). Seriously, we have to review games with what appears to be the same template as 110. We have to write a pitch document, and write a design document. We also have to compare and discuss game generas. Everything I did in GSP-110 again! I dislike these sort of courses, I'm technical by nature and like technical problems. The online learning I don't think goes well with these sort of classes either, where face-to-face discussions could really be of more benefit. One potential positive with this course though is that we get to work in a group, which I'm hoping will help improve my outlook with the online degree. This could be good and bad, depending on the group of course. I'm willing to keep an open mind.


Programming II Final, Another DeVry Course Down

Took the final for my GSP (Game and Simulation Programming DeVry degree) programming class, it's called CIS-247 OO Programming with Lab, C++. The final was easy, though it took me a lot longer than I expected. It had two pages, which I almost missed due to the poor webpage design for the test and my skill at ignoring headings and extraneous looking details. Luckily I saw the link for page two right before I almost clicked submit. Good thing too, because page two was the bulk of the actual final, the "essay" part.


Monday, April 14, 2008

Bob Saget = God


Back in 1994 (plus or minus a year), my friend Bill and I went crazy with some clip art collection, making the stupidest things our 20 something minds could create. One of those creations was "Bob Saget = God" and it became an inside joke that was often of much humor to our circle of friends.

Well Bob Saget was in town this week doing his stand up routine and luckily I got to go with Bill and some of his friends from college. Although he was funny, he was not God. He was somewhat spastic; combining multiple joke/story lines together is a blended mash of humor, confusion and brilliance. His brain must be that of a fucked up pubescent boy, trapped in a 50-something with a history of prime-time family-friendly comedy. I mean: I give the guy a lot of credit for rolling with his history as well as he does, embracing it and telling you to fuck-off with your assumptions at the same time.

The high point for the show was when he pulled out his guitar and played some comedy. This was my favorite:



Thursday, April 10, 2008

Film win, we're big in Iowa

After an eventful weekend at a film festival in IA, and a broken sump pump which required my attention, I'm finally able to post an update. My film, Bill's Big Pumpkins, took Silver in the Pro-Am Documentary category at the Cedar Rapids Film Festival in Cedar Rapids Iowa last weekend. Silver I guess is second place. It feels good to win something.

It was fun. I went with my wife, my BF from high school and his wife. We stayed at the lamest, 1970's remodeled Ramada in Waterloo. It was an adventure that's for sure. We didn't plan much of anything and it was a real stress releaser. We just let whatever happen. We got the last two rooms at the Ramada too, so that was lucky.

We stayed later than we planed, sticking around to see another documentary called FRAG. FRAG is about the (or the theoretical idea of) professional video gaming. It was a really interesting subject, but... it was long and sooooo boring and repetitive. It was repetitive. Really repetitive, saying the same thing about 10 times, unnecessarily. I was really hoping it would be exciting and something to tell people about, but not so. So much potential. Still a good idea, and parts were done really well, but it did drag.


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

char woes and the blight of the console menu

Sometimes, no matter how hard I think about it, or try to avoid thinking about it, my brain finally opens up to a concept that has seemed foreign for so long. Today, while trying to do some other stupid thing with chars in C++ I finally figured out, I mean figured out as in now I understand, the "cannot convert from 'const char' to 'char'" error and I have to say I have egg on my face. But before I get to that, I want to bring up the context that is usually an introduction to programming where errors like this drive noobs batty.

It seems that many programming learning materials, or courses for that matter, tend to introduce the language by having the user make inane, 1970 text menus for some stupid functions, such as inputting names and dates into a database, or doing simple math. These archaic menus require input from the user (who is also primarily the programmer in this case) and then determine the appropriate action based on the input. The concepts are introduced gradually too: first input a single integer, then maybe multiple line inputs, then a single line input with spaces, on up to words and/or names (aka character strings). Things, like inputting your full name, sounds so easy yet causes so much headache. Let me just say I hate this sort of menu making/programming/thinking. It's not what programming is about. You end up fighting the language and syntax instead of learning the concepts. This is sort of user interface crap that I think clouds programming learning with programming fighting. Perhaps its just me, but that error I mention above, along with numerous others in a similar variety, plagued me as I struggled to get my menus working with char, char*, and/or strings. (Additionally, little to no advice is given into which is a more appropriate variable either.)

Perhaps I have the other concepts and syntax down that this one vague area maddens me. Or perhaps it truly is a hard concept to grasp for the intro programmer.

Regardless, here's some code sample to help show what I learned.

//given
char word[10];

//ERROR, character arrays cannot be set this way
word = "great!";
//SOLUTION, use a function to set the array
strcpy(word, "great!");

//ERROR, this one dealing with the index of the
// character array, where you can actually work directly
word[0] = "g";
//SOLUTION, watch your syntax, ' and " mean something
// different. In this case, it's interpreting the set
// to an array, not an individual character.
word[0] = 'g';

Sometimes it’s the simple things…


DeVry, how doth ye suck

Strangely, in monitoring my traffic (I see you 1/4 person a day, I'm watching yous) I've realized all my visitors come because of the words "DeVry" and "game" and "suck". Weird. Maybe I'm pandering here, but I actually have a legitimate beef with the school.

In my third session at DeVry (for Game and Simulation Programming, the GSP) I'm really surprised at the level of confusion, disassociation and confusion with their people, website, and setup. My god! How hard is it let a student know how shit is going to work. You would think something as simple as designing a course path, such as can I take class XYZ next semester, would be an easy thing to determine. I actually asked my admissions adviser, who didn't know (though I cut him some slack, he's new). I eventually talked to some dean or something of admissions, who didn't know much about the online degree stuff since he's a campus admissions adviser, but he was able to show me where the link for the annual schedule is. To my dismay it was really obvious, hiding in plain site like a shoot-the-duck-and-win-a-free-hooker ad, though I think its located on the wrong page all together.

WTF? When I originally called DeVry (last year) I was soon barraged with dozens of phone calls, of which there were conflicting requirements, expectations, descriptions, lies and general disconnectedness. I was willing to take the chance though, and picked the local adviser because he said he handled on campus and online advising. He left, and now his boss, the dean or whatever, tells me I should ask my online adviser concerning online degree concerns. Fine. I'll just ask my success coach (no joke, but she's cool and helpful) how I can get another adviser.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

In preparation for the Speed Racer movie coming in May, I decided it was time to introduce the kids to the cartoon. It was nothing like I remember it. It's almost laughable how weird it is but the kids still loved it.
In related news we recently moved our big TV from one wall to another. I took the opportunity to clean up the wires and get the laptop connected. I'm thinking media hub...


Monday, March 31, 2008

What do you get when...

What do you get when you combine a 3 year old, tractors, Wii, and YouTube? A happy 3 year old.My son Nathan loves tractors and for the last year or so we've set him at the PC with YouTube and he surfs tractor videos, basically watching one and then clicking one of the next suggested. Now he's able to do it with the big TV and the Wii remote. He was quite happy.

Soon after, my oldest Aidan and Nathan were grooving out to various They Might Be Giants toons. I was surprised that so many of the songs I dug as a kid were top billings in the searches.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

Giant Pumpkin Seeds are a lot of work

As part of our promotion for my documentary film Bill's Big Pumpkins we started selling packages of giant pumpkin seeds. We started doing it to help pay for the production and promotion of the movie. This, to my surprise, has been very well received. We've shipped more seeds than DVDs. I imagine we'll keep doing it. We've met many interesting and exciting people in the process!

Here's a picture of my last batch of seeds for the year. I lay out the seeds in lines, making sure each one has 10 seeds of the right kind, and then I package them up. This was something like 45 packages, two weeks ago. I'm down to less than 20 packages now! Not to surprising considering it will soon be time to put pumpkin seeds in the ground.


Monday, March 24, 2008

DS how I heart thee! Atari, why do you ruin a great game?


Wife calls me at work Friday, EOD (end of day) and says the five year old is gung ho Battleship. My first thought is the Nintendo DS. She goes on about how we should get electronic Battleship, but it’s like $50 I say, so I say I'm getting another DS. It honestly was part of my plan all along, to get another DS with games like Battleship. I leave work, tool around towns, grab a Coral Blue DS and eventually find the Battleship/Connect Four/Sorry!/Trouble game pack. Get it home, charge up the new DS and low and behold, it doesn't offer DS download play. WTF? Seriously, here's a game I paid $25 for (too much, but Gamestop, the last place I went on my 1.5 hr search, had the game), a game that's all about multi-person play but to do that I'll need to buy another copy! Crap. Atari, I'm quite disappointed in your product. Hasbro, shame on you too. I could go spend $25 and get the tactile versions of all the games and play with any number of people no problem.

However, on another note, I finished the Legend of Zelda, Phantom Hourglass. That was an incredible game. Very fun, I'd recommend giving it a shot.


Friday, March 21, 2008

I'm deadly (and geeky) too!


I spent the last four days in DC at the Navy League something or other trade show standing on the trade show floor, demonstrating our modeling and simulation to VIPs and other not-so-VIPs. Turns out the schedule I conned my co-worker/friend Brent into coincided with an interview. Brent got a stunning write up on the Popular Mechanics technology blog and all I got was an extra hour of sleep.


Monday, March 17, 2008

Pac Master Ryan

Pac Master, probably not. But Gail (wife) took it upon herself to buy me a book on mastering pac-man, ala 1981 baby! I was reading it when my son Aidan took this picture.


const Programming

Related to my last post about the professor calling out my sluff discussion tactics, it made me really gung-ho for week two. So much so I bothered a co-worker, a mastered programmer/computer science guy, about some the intricacies of programming. It happened to be one of the discussion topics, which I was gladly able to expand upon. The topic, const in relation to member functions of a class.

I've seen const used multiple ways, here's a good example I'll try to explain:

//assume this function exists in a class that contains an
// important formated message string and you want to get
// a specific argument (like the 10 entry) within that string
const char* getMsgArg(int nArg, const char* sCharString) const;

The first const means that any variable assigned to the return value of this function can't be changed. For instance, say the object is called myMessage and you access this function by myMessage.getMsgArg(10);. The const at the front means you can't change this. This may seem a little fuzzy, but what is really returned in a pointer. So the const means that the pointer that is myMessage.getMsgArg(10) can't be changed (such as setting it to NULL or 0 or worse, a different pointer.)

The const on sCharString means that sCharString cannot be changed inside the function. The reason you would need this is because its a pass by reference, not by copy. In this case, the int is safe because its a copy, but the char string isn't, its a reference, an address.

The const at the end means that the function cannot change member variables. Like Josh said, it stops unintended consequences inside the function. I think the compiler will warn/error if you try (purposefully or not) to change member variables.

Readers, please correct me if I'm wrong in anyway, I'm just a student after all.


DeVry online courses not so crappy discussions

Part of my reason for blogging here was to document my courses and coursework at DeVry as I go for a Game and Simulation Programming degree. So far, with two classes down, and two A's, I haven't really been challenged. This first session of spring semester is different though, the teacher/professor has his shit together and is keen on my sluff tactics, calling me out in the the first week.

I suppose I should explain my sluff tactics, but first some background about how DeVry online courses work. First thing you must understand is that you have your class online. Well duh right, but in addition to the professor presenting a textual lecture and a recommended reading (from the book for the class), there is an online discussion component. This is where the prof asks questions and the class responds, all via. a crappy forum. In my DeVry experience thus far, the discussion portion of class has been a portion of the grade. The first response/post is required by wed, with a three post minimum per topic per week. Usually there is two topics, so a six post minimum to earn the discussion grade points for the week. Typically, or as my experience thus far has defined me, the questions are asked by professor and answered quickly by more astute students. What needs to be defined is that 20+ students chime in all pretty mush saying the same thing, and some poorly/incorrectly mind you. The professor's reactions are usually along the lines of "Good comments students, excellent! What about another question?" I won't get into a rant about how inane this discussion forum concept has been, instead I'll explain my sluff tactic.

My sluff tactic is to wait (not really wait, it just happens I'm lazy and/or late to the punch), read what others have said, and then regurgitate that information again in my own words. Fairly useless right? Right. This go around, the prof actually challenged the quality of my content and suggested I expand upon what others have said. I got a 15/20, a 75% discussion grade my first week. My first reaction was WTF? But really, the grade I got was generous and way more than I deserved considering my approach. Now I have a huge amount of respect for this prof, he's actually paying attention. This is what I need.

End of week though, after the other portions are graded (there is a weekly online quiz and a lab in addition to the discussion forum), my grade stands at 93%, dangerously close to a B! I should mention the class I'm in is a programming class: CIS-247, Object Oriented Programming with Lab.

I can only imagine, with a slight shudder, what the discussion forums for a math class must be like.


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