Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Working with Youth Theatre

I've just finished a production with Ashfield Youth Theatre, called Older.

The production was written and performed by 12-16 year old high school students who live or are otherwise based around Sydney's Inner West.

Plot-wise, I found it to be influenced by Brave New World, Alice in Wonderland and a tiny bit of Equilibrium (minus the Gun Fu). A girl travels through time by accident to meet her future self who is scheduled to be euthenased as she's reached the end of her productive life and in the dystopian future, people are forced to "Go Gently" (that's the name of the drug in the play). Quite a mature story and really well put together into a 1 hour show.

http://www.myspace.com/ashfield_youth_theatre/blog/540685947

I was really impressed with how the show ended up. There's also something remarkably fulfilling in being a mentor to actors as they learn their craft. Even though I've never directed a show, I've learnt so much from putting together so many shows that I was able to teach a lot to the cast. I didn't realise how much I miss teaching and how good it makes you feel.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Crowded House

Last night I watched Crowded House's "final" performance on the Opera House steps.

Recently I decided to go back to listening to them . . . I found a greatest hits CD set from JB and have been  playing it nearly non stop while I'm at home.

Neil Finn's depth of emotion in his music and lyrics is awesome. I never really listened to the band when I was younger . . . I was always searching for something more obscure and unheard of, prejudiced against anything that might have too much popular appeal. I've gladly gotten over that kind of thing now (although there are probably a lot of good reasons to be prejudiced against music that has widespread popular appeal . . . there's a lot of marketing and not a lot of creativity going around).

Anyway, here's my favourite . . . enjoy:

Monday, 6 December 2010

Losing Chrome Tabs

I've become so used to my set of tabs popping up every time I start Chrome that when a tab disappears, I forget that it existed and I forget that I was in the middle of something on that very tab.

Occaisionally my blog is that tab . . . and two weeks go by without me posting anything . . .

I'll try to make up for that in the next couple of days . . . I've been reading a lot and listening to some music. More soon!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Nerdgasm . . . Burlesque Star Wars

I couldn't help but laugh when I saw this.

burlesque version of star wars.



It goes without saying that if boba fett had been a woman who took off her clothes instead of just falling into the Sarlacc, all of our childhoods would have gone in a completely different direction . . .

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Jet Set Radio Future

Of all the games I've played over the years, there's one that always pops up in my memory as being one of the best I've ever played. It was a not so well known game based on semi-futuristic Japanese roller blading graffiti gangs.

Yeah, it's a crazy theme, but it's pretty awesome. It was a franchise on the Dreamcast and the Xbox and one of the earliest cel shaded games. The art style in the game is awesome, it's a stylized rendition of a near future Tokyo where your aim is to spray paint tag over other gangs' graffiti and take down evil corporations through the power of physics defying grinds and stunts coupled with defeating armed soliders using only spraypaint.


The movement was slick and fun . . . the soundtrack included Mike D from the Beastie Boys along with a whole bunch of J-Hip Hop inspired tracks. The suburbs and themed gangs look ultra stylized and cool and I always remember it with such fondness . . .

I think it might be time to brush the dust off the old Xbox and see if this game still runs . . . I can see myself buying an Xbox 360 just to play this one game in backwards compatibility mode . . .

Monday, 8 November 2010

Trailer from Freshly Squeezed

A little while back I worked on a production called Freshly Squeezed, a theatrical project involving multiple up and coming artists and a collaborative artistic process.

Along with the workshops and the show itself, we had a team of media students following us around and basically documenting the entire process. They've been hard at work compiling and editing that footage and have released a first trailer.

Check it out . . .

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Counter Intuitive Strategies that win

Someone recently brought up an article about strategies in Starcraft 2, mainly using AI algorithms to determine optimum build orders for efficient production of units . . . and it was interesting because one of the best strategies the algorithms (they used Genetic Algorithms) came up with was something that was counter intuitive to the conventions that most players agree are the best ways to build efficiently in early game.

Here's the link:

http://lbrandy.com/blog/2010/11/using-genetic-algorithms-to-find-starcraft-2-build-orders/

The discussion lead on to an awesome article about using unconventional strategies in David vs Goliath situations. It was a really interesting and inspiring article, if you have any interest in strategies in gaming or sport etc, you should definitely check this out:

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/11/090511fa_fact_gladwell?currentPage=all

Friday, 29 October 2010

Lego 3D Printer

Another video of some awesomeness that someone's put together.

This is a Lego 3D printer. Given a Lego CAD design, it can build your lego model for you :)

Even more than being something that automatically builds lego from a design, it's made from Lego!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Studio Ghibli Computer Game

I'd heard a while ago that Studio Ghibli was making a computer game, but I hadn't yet seen any footage of it.

Someone just sent me a link to this footage though:

It looks like a playable Ghibli movie . . . it's the pure stuff of dreams. I can't wait.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Achievements and Compulsiveness

In game design people have come to realise that putting achievements in game (basically non existent rewards for often boring and repetitive behaviour) ties in very closely with some kind of psychological compulsiveness that makes us need to play games well beyond their entertainment value just for completeness.

I always thought that it was a gamer thing . . . it just makes sense that people will want to see everything in a game, and especially in the case of games like MMOs (World of Warcraft's achievement system is a good example) you've got a heinously compulsive audience to begin with, so they're quite ready to go out there and grind the same action over and over in order to complete their list of achievements.

What I never thought I'd see is a community of audio book listeners being hooked by exactly the same thing:

http://businessaudiobookreviews.com/2010/08/21/badges-badges-i-miss-my-stinking-audible-com-badges/

I only noticed when I received a message on my iPhone's audio book player that I'd received a badge for listening to a certain time length of audio books at a certain time of the day. Of course, I went online to find out how to earn the rest of the badges and found a whole community of people sharing methods to earn the badges . . . but really . . . how does that make any difference to what books you were listening to? Especially when some of the badges are earnt by listening to the same book over and over again . . .

It's a marketer's dream, but a user's nightmare . . .

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A nerd dilemma

It's a hard life when the decisions you're making are between buying awesome Star Wars Lego kits:

http://shop.lego.com/ByTheme/Product.aspx?p=10198&cn=240

http://shop.lego.com/ByTheme/Product.aspx?p=8097&cn=240&d=322

and a new 25 inch monitor . . .

http://www.asus.com/product.aspx?P_ID=vDPC3FEEGS1X1kul

A little evil voice in the back of my head tells me I'm going to buy them all anyway . . .

Thursday, 14 October 2010

An appreciation for Art

I should have posted this ages ago, because it's something I discovered in New York while I was over there.

Having heard the name Van Gogh a lot over the years, I'd never really cared for his art. Pastoral landscapes etc never held any charm for me.

That was until I visited The Met in New York. I saw his actual art and I was mesmerised. There's something beautiful about someone using thick paint in really strong brush strokes . . . so that years later, someone like me can come past and see it and in a way, see the painting being painted.


I'm sure this won't work for just any artist . . . it was the fact that I was seeing the brush strokes of a true visionary that helped a lot. There was just something about the imagination and creativity that went into the shape of the wind moving through the wheat field and the clouds in the sky that captured me for a while there. I nearly bought a print, but you know . . . not being able to see the thick oil on the canvas, it just wouldn't be the same.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

2nd Hand Book Shopping

We went down to Canberra over the weekend to visit some friends who live down there.

While we were there, we had a chance to check out a big 2nd hand book fair. It was fun to go through the sci-fi/fantasy section and see a bunch of things I'd read over the years as well as things that I'd been planning on reading some time in the future. I nearly picked up Battlefield Earth by L Ron Hubbard, but after simply not being able to make it through one of his books years ago, I decided that Mr Scientology can stay unread :P

I did find the third book of the Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay, which was an amazing series that I read while I was in high school. The only annoying thing about picking up the 3rd in a series is that now I'm going to have to hunt down the first two books before I can read this.

I have so many books to read and so little time. I'm on the second book of  Neal Stephenson's System of the World trilogy at the moment, and I've got Anathem (that I also picked up on the cheap somewhere) waiting.

A friend of mine also just gave me George R R Martin's A Game of Thrones . . . I'm scared of starting it because it's such a massive epic saga that I'll be locking myself into . . .

As usual, I can find a million wonderful things to do, but just don't have the time to do them all . . .

Monday, 27 September 2010

My Playstation has a lollipop!

Some would say Lollipop, others would simply ask: "Does that thing vibrate?"

The Playstation Move controller is a pretty nice idea. You have an accelerometer/gyroscope system in your hand, which also has a glowing ball attached. The glowing ball is tracked by a camera at your screen and the combination of the systems gives you a pretty decent and accurate tracking system for a single position and angle in 3D space. It's close to a 6 DOF (degrees of freedom) system.

A lot of the demos and games that are out so far are basically technology demos . . . minigame compilations that make a bit of use of the motion controls.



However, I've installed the patch for my copy of Heavy Rain and played that a little with the move controller. I can say without a doubt that it's vastly improved compared to the old controller version of the game . . . instead of feeling like you're pressing an arbitrary button (and also sometimes having to think twice about which button is which in order to make something happen) you make movements that are reasonably correct in relation to what's happening in the scene. I'm looking forward to sitting down and actually playing this game through now.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Lord of the Rings Online has gone Free to Play



It's an interesting model for an online game and seems to be working really well for Turbine's other MMO, Dungeons and Dragons Online.

A few of us have been playing it over the weekend and probably gotten a significant number of hours out of it for free. Of course, it's an MMO and the first hit's free :P We'll see if we end up spending money on it after we reach the end of the free sections of the game . . . personally, I'm enjoying it and don't mind throwing a little cash their way for the privilege of having played a few hour's worth of fun with some mates.

It'll be interesting to see how many other games go for this kind of model . . . try it for free, but if you really want to get into the meat of it, it costs . . .

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

An Update on Gaming

I realised that there have been a lot of games I've been playing recently that I haven't posted anything about . . . and I don't really have time to review each one individually, so I thought I'd skim over them al quickly in one post:


God of War 3
I mentioned this in another post a while back . . . it's a lot of fun, over the top violence. We liked to call it "A thinking man's game" every time a puzzle came up because it's really not a puzzle or a thinking game . . . it's all about the ultra violence :)


Transformers War for Cybertron
Yeah, I know, we all wanted it to be the best game ever made because it was the transformers and we all get bigger hard ons for them than girls. It was ok. I even finished it even though there are much better games out there. But all it was was ok.

Red Dead Redemption


Take everything from the Grand Theft Auto series and refine it. Set it somewhere completely different . . . instead of a bustling city, it's sparse, mostly arid landscape. Give it a nice strong storyline and addictive side quests and you've got a hit.


The Misadventures of PB Winterbottom
I love the theme . . . it's like a black and white film with a dastardly villain who steals pies :P Also an intriguing puzzle game.

Alien Swarm
This one got its own post before just before it was released. It's several flavours of awesome, especially after they patched it and added stupidly hard friendly fire, AI director and brutal difficulty . . . it's also free, so it's a no brainer.

Metal Gear Solid 4
WTB Cutscenes? Some of the extended cutscenes in this game go for over half an hour. Still . . . the gameplay is great and the story is engaging . . . if you like crazy Japanese over complicated narrative with people named "Big Boss" and "Big Mama" etc etc.


Infamous
Enjoying this a lot. You're an electrically powered super hero running around an island filled with bad guys. On top of that, most of the story exposition is very graphic novel based. What's not to like?

Starcraft 2
It had to get a mention. I ran a LAN and a small tournament (the prize was the privilege of wearing a KFC bucket on your head). The multiplayer is awesome . . . although it's a super stressful experience and I really can't take that much more of it. The campaign is also a blast . . . so much more variation than you usually get in a RTS.

Fat Princess
Four players sitting around one playstation chasing princesses and forcing cake down them. It's chaotic and fun.


Castle Crashers
Four players sitting around one playstation (wait, where have I heard that before) playing old school beat em up action in an awesome setting dreamt up by a crazy comic artist. Add cute little animals, unlockable characters and weapons and you've got a game that you can't put down . . . you'll finish it probably 4 or 5 times before you start to get bored.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Castle Crashers is coming to PSN!

DADA DA DA DA DADA!

Ok, that doesn't help quite as much if you're not yelling it out of tune along with the game.

I know this game's been out for Xbox live for years now and I've already finished it a few times with some friends, but it's still really exciting that it's finally coming to the Playstation Network (mainly because I've got a Playstation 3 and not an Xbox 360 nowadays).

The official release date is the 31st August . . . which is right about now :) (Although it wasn't available this morning, but that could be because Australia's just a few hours ahead and it's not the 31st yet in the USA)

In terms of games where a bunch of you can sit around a TV smashing the crap out of things and generally laughing at yourselves and the game . . . nothing beats Castle Crashers. If you've got an Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3 and 3 friends, this one's a no brainer.

Friday, 27 August 2010

9 drones, 1 overlord, drones to 14, spawning pool . . .

Ah hell . . . 7 drones, pool.


If you know what that means, you're lost :P If you know what the difference between the two is, then you're even further gone and should seek help. Or you're a perfectly normal average Korean.

Yes. Starcraft is back and it's better than ever.

I've just joined the new online sensation that's sweeping the globe . . . and been ranked quite solidly in the bottom tier . . . but it's all good, I'm getting about a 50/50 win/loss ratio . . . which makes the game interesting and fun :) (Although having said that it's more like 70% losses in 1v1 and 100% wins in 2v2, so I have my current 2v2 partner to thank for being better than me :P)

I'm hosting a LAN this weekend at my old house (The Bra House) and we're going to be having a little 1v1 Starcraft 2 tourney, the prize for winning being that you have to wear a used (but hopefully empty) bucket of KFC on your head . . . you may, if you wish, wipe chicken on the paper so that it goes transparent and you'll be able to see out of it :P

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Just gave my first University Level Lecture

Yesterday I gave a lecture titled "Stereoscopic Systems and Design".

We went through iCinema's different Visualisation systems and showed off some of our content, both stereoscopic 3D and panoramic/dome apps.

Then I had my little talk about Stereoscopic systems and interesting depth perception gaming . . . including this cute little DSi game:


After a bit of technical talk about rendering into weird environments (I posted a little while back about rendering into a hemi-sphere dome), we moved on to the idea of Stereoscopic 3D in gaming and what kind of relevance it has.

It's interesting when you think about it . . . because as yet, there are no astounding breakthroughs in gameplay being brought about by 3D, but you can't argue against its value in terms of immersion. As we're just on the cusp of stereoscopy taking hold in the industry, I think it'll be a little while yet before we see anything genuinely revolutionary happen in gaming. The film industry's a bit ahead at the moment, rolling out a lot of 3D systems to retail (both cinemas and TVs), but at the moment, there are some key figures in the gaming market that haven't yet announced anything stereoscopic related (ATI and Xbox are my two biggest examples).


Tuesday, 24 August 2010

The Australian Federal Election, aka What the Hell Just Happened?

3 days later and still no result.

I like to think this is because of a drop in support for the two major parties, neither of which has the confidence of Australia's population. A major swing to the left (I think it was a 4-5% swing to the Greens) as well as record high informal voting seems to suggest a true lack of confidence.

I voted Green . . . and I was planning on doing this even before Julia Gillard decided to depose Kevin Rudd. I lost confidence in Labor because of the failure of the Emissions Trading Scheme, inhumane treatment of genuine refugees and the internet filter idea. I'm hoping that the Greens' balance of power in the senate (and possibly even in the lower house) will make sure these issues stay on the radar.

I also wouldn't mind if the climate change skeptics move to the USA and join up with the "Flat Earth Society". You can hang out there in your little commune of ignoramuses and do whatever the hell you like . . . I just don't want all our descendants dying out unnecessarily on your behalf.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Big 3 Oh

I turned 30 yesterday.

I don't particularly feel any different . . . but in fine tradition I spent my birthday bumping in a theatre :)

I guess I've now thoroughly crossed over into adulthood . . . although some would say that happened a month ago when I got a mortgage and an apartment :P

One thing I can happily say is that life is rolling along really nicely . . . here's to the next 30 years.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Freshly Squeezed

Back in the theatre again . . . It's been a while and I don't do nearly as many shows as I used to, but I do still love to work in a theatre.

The current project is called "Freshly Squeezed" and it's a show made up of a series of short individual/small group performances by some up and coming movement artists. It's on this week . . . Saturday is the official "Marc's Friends Night". If you're interested, give me a buzz or just book and show up :)

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Gorillaz are coming . . .

Seriously . . . it's about time.



Having been a studio only "fictional" outfit for years, it's about time these guys took their show on the road. I've been listening to them for years now and really appreciating their characters and animated film clips etc . . . it's great to see that they've taken the show on the road and will be coming to Aus in December.

I've got my ticket already :)

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Irrational Fear of Outsiders

I was talking to someone today about the upcoming Australian National Election . . . and wondering about the whole media beat up about asylum seekers and Australia's unnatural xenophobia.

The question I asked was: "What would the boat people issue be like if all the refugees were white and spoke English?"

My friend told me I should check out this video . . . it's pretty awesome.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Programmers' Working Hours

Last night I took a bunch of work home because I was getting paranoid about a deadline looming tomorrow (which turned out to not happen and get pushed back, but that's no big deal).

It took me back to years and years ago when, as a student, I realised that my most productive time is usually about 10pm-2am. Since then I've been working in the daytime and not realising that, as a programmer, the dark and quiet times of the night are actually the most productive.

I think in the four hours at home, while there were no phone calls or emails to be answered . . . as well as no food breaks or anything else, I did probably 1.5 days' work. I wonder if there are companies out there who hire computing professionals between the hours of 9pm and 3am instead of in the daytime . . .

Friday, 30 July 2010

Lego . . . I love it

Those of you who know me well will know that I'm a bit of a Lego fanatic.

From the ultra detailed batmobile to the Star Wars AT-AT that has batteries and walks, you can see I'm hooked. Also, there's the still unbuilt Lego Death Star diorama of sheer awesomeness that I'm going to start soon.


I just thought I'd post a couple of things that have popped up recently. First of all, I found my way into the Lego Universe beta. As I've had no internet moving house I haven't actually tried it out yet, but either way, I wouldn't be allowed to talk about it here anyway :P (For those of you who are interested in Lego computer games, there's also a huge number of Lego themed games, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter etc. And they're also a lot of fun).

I've also noticed that Lego's just released a bunch of board games . . . particularly this one, Creationary:
I just love the idea . . . take Pictionary rules and apply them to construction of Lego :)

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Moving House

It's ok . . . I'm not dead . . . just moving house (and I have no internet at home at the moment, it's still being connected)

It's amazing when you've been living in one house for more than six years and you have a good look at how much crap you've accumulated . . . Over the last week I've been packing it all into boxes, suitcases, backpacks etc and climbing the three flights of stairs to my new apartment (yeah, I bought property).

We're now in a situation where we have appliances, most of our furniture is in the spots we want for them and we're just unpacking the last few boxes and suitcases and putting them into place. I'll post some photos of the new joint once I get some spare time :)

Thanks to all the people who helped us move . . . it was great to have a big posse, both in numbers and in a couple of large people who could manhandle big pieces of furniture around. We'll have you all over for dinner once we actually build the table.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Eyefinity Rig

I could write about it . . . or just show the photo . . .


Bring on the nerd jealousy . . .

Monday, 19 July 2010

Alien Swarm

Some of you may remember Alien Swarm . . . it was a mod for Unreal 2003 that had you playing a squad of marines who land on an off world colony that has been taken over by parasitic aliens . . . and yes, the plot was lifted nearly verbatim from the fight scenes of James Cameron's Aliens.



The gameplay was super fast, scary, tactical . . . and above all, super hard. As a house, we struggled through the campaign, with lots of glorious moments of yelling and screaming among nail biting finishes of missions and desperate rushes through seemingly unlimited numbers of aliens.

And we thought the fun was over . . .

The team that made the mod was picked up by Valve, and later did some work on Left 4 Dead, bringing their experience to that game (and probably helping make it into the amazing game that it is). The beautiful thing, however, is that they never quite left Alien Swarm behind and have been working on it in their spare time. The new game is finished and it comes with so much icing on top . . .

The new source engine version of the game is going to be free to download, and they've also included all their source for it, so you can modify it to your heart's content!

http://www.alienswarm.com/index.html

Bring it on!

Friday, 16 July 2010

Playing Games in a Big Dome

We have a 3m hemispherical dome at iCinema. It's a pretty impressive piece of visualisation technology . . . mainly because it's capable of immersing you quite heavily in something by engaging large amounts of your peripheral vision.




The first question is always: "Can I connect my playstation/xbox to this?" Well . . . no . . . but kinda. We've been doing some experimentation recently with warping technologies and putting normal game engines into the iDome.

One of the issues we come across first is . . . how do you map a rectangular surface (ie a computer monitor) onto a spherical surface (our dome). You can't really do it as a one to one relationship. Somewhere along the way something's going to get lost/distorted. It's a bit like if I gave you a sheet of A4 paper and said: "Wrap this around this basketball here without wrinkling or tearing it." They're just not objects that work together geometrically. We've got a solution that uses excessive stretching and compressing of a regular rectangular output so that it maps at least vaguely to the dome. There's a compromise between getting vertical and horizontal correct and keeping all the information that was originally in the image.

On top of that, when we're thinking about computer game engines, they're built quite fundamentally on the assumption that they're displaying on a flat screen. The concept is that of a View Frustum (image courtesy of Wikipedia):
What appears on your screen is everything that is inside this frustum in the virtual world. For example, while playing a computer game, the simulated camera will be pretty much where your eyes are, the Near plane is your monitor and the frustum there is your field of view. By setting up the view of the virtual world like this, we can represent it to the person sitting in front of the monitor in a nice and natural way. Everything inside the frustum is displayed to them.

Now imagine what happens when you want the field of view to widen to 180 degrees (this is what our theoretical field of view is in our iDome). If you widen the sight lines coming out of the camera to 180 degrees you end up with a big flat plane. The Near plane, Far plane and all the other sides of the frustum all get squished into this single plane and so it has no volume and hence there's nothing in it that will be rendered (displayed to the viewer).

We played around a bit with CryEngine. Like a bunch of other FPS games, they allow you to have a certain amount of control over the field of view. Once we got to about 160 degrees horzontal FOV, things started to streth in strange ways (again due to the compressing of the view frustum), but we got a pretty decent result out of 140 degree FOV. It's not a perfect mapping onto the dome, but to a certain extent, we did have Crysis running in our dome, which meant that we'd pretty happily run most FPSs (so long as you can widen their FOV). One day I'll record a video of it to show off . . .

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Unintended (and silly) subtext in Games

I went to a talk recently by Paul Callaghan, a writer for video games. I was quite inspired by his talk . . . teaching us a fair bit about how to craft a story in an interactive environment so that it remains interesting.

He used a few examples of what constitutes a compelling vs a boring story in a game and why something might or might not be interesting.

He was describing the futility of Gears of War (Spoilers incoming!):



You spend half the game trying to find a resonator that will map the Locust tunnels . . . in the end, it doesn't work . . . magically, you get given a map. Then you spend the 2nd half of the game trying to make sure a particular bomb is set off that should wipe out the Locust . . . but it doesn't work either. The whole plot of the game tells you that no matter what effort you put in, everything you've done is futile.

I came up with my own crackpot theory . . . because it's ironic that while you've been playing a character in a game who's efforts eventually amount to nothing . . . you've also been wasting your time playing computer games . . . and in the end, your efforts will also amount to nothing . . . I'm sure it's completely unintended, but it was a fun idea.



I also just finished playing God of War 3. On a side note, it's a fun, gory, visceral romp through beautiful environments with epic scale and cinematic camera angles. Highly recommended as a game for letting off steam and stuffing around :) Partway through the game I came up with another stupid idea: Kratos represents Christianity. He spends the entire game systematically wiping out the entirety of Greek Mythology . . . like a giant monotheistic crusader, tearing gorgons' heads off and gouging out gods' eyes . . . I can just hear him screaming out: "No one will believe in you anymore once I'm finished!"

Monday, 12 July 2010

Anthropomorphic Comics

I just recently bought a few graphic novel collections and noticed that they were pretty much all anthropomorphic stories. (On top of that, I realised that I've posted a lot of things recently without any pictures . . . the wall of text was insulting my sense of aesthetic. So I've gone a little picture happy here, but I'm talking comics, so why not?)

Blacksad, a private eye noir story set in post WW2 USA.



Usagi Yojimbo, a ronin rabbit who wanders feudal Japan helping the peasants and trying to escape the betrayals in his past.



The Mouse Guard: Winter 1152, a series of mice trying to defend their cities against marauders (like other small mammals and creatures) and sometimes threats from within.


I've read Blacksad and The Mouse Guard so far and they were both really amazing tales. I was particularly impressed with Blacksad . . . it had a very cinematic quality to it . . . emotive and powerful stories told with masterful artwork (not to mention the interesting use of animal types to convey peoples' characters).

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Unity3D

I've just recently started learning Unity3D.

I've got two projects going with it at the moment . . . one which involves using Paul Bourke's iDome software to do a fisheye projection onto a hemispherical dome (it uses multiple cameras and projected textures to warp the image into a shape that can be projected onto a portion of a spherical mirror). It's also using some simple Touch OSC stuff to allow an iPhone to have rudimentary control over what's going on in the scene.

The other is a more straightforward game engine . . . I can't really say anything about it yet, but it's going to have simple interaction between a person and a 3D scene.

I have to say I'm really happy with Unity . . . it has a lot of really simple drag and drop functionality that allows you to get a lot out of it without having to do much, but at the same time allows you a great deal of depth with its scripting to be able to import code from other projects to do specific and more complex tasks. Not to mention that it happily compiles onto multiple platforms, including a web player. Here's something I knocked up over a day or so just to get the hang of some simple scripting: http://www.cse.unsw.edu.au/~marcchee/MarcConstruction.html

To top it off, the community is amazing. Nearly every problem I've had has been solved with a really simple Google search for "Unity3d " + problem. The wiki and forums are very active and friendly. I'd definitely recommend it for small projects and quick prototyping.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Playstation 3

I finally got myself a PS3.

I guess over the last 5 years they've been out, I've either been playing only one game (yeah, you know what it is) or else playing PC games. I own a Wii, but in some ways I don't even consider that to be a current generation console . . . I guess it's just not flashy enough for my high end graphics tastes.

In the end, the decision to buy a PS3 came from the great exclusive titles they've got (Little Big Planet and Heavy Rain are two on my list of games I want to play) as well as the fact that most developers seem to be targeting consoles these days rather than PC (except for maybe Valve and Blizzard).

The beauty of getting a console this late is that everything's really cheap now! I'm looking at games that won game of the year etc over the last 3 years and seeing them selling in stores for $30-40 (Metal Gear Solid 4). I'm also looking forward to some interesting PSN (Playstation Network) titles like Fat Princess, the PixelJunk series and Flower (Castle Crashers is also coming out soon on PSN).

So far I'm quite impressed by the quality of the graphics . . . God of War 3 was particularly well done, and of course, the joy of 4 player co-op Fat Princess has been quite hilarious.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Le Tour de France

It's that time of the year again.

The Tour has just started and it's going to be late nights and bleary eyes for the next three weeks :) We've got a schedule going of sleeping in the afternoon then getting up to watch the Tour between 10 and 2 each night . . . although I can see this going pear shaped and us needing some of our own "rest days" soon.

It's looking like a really interesting bike race this year. Lance Armstrong has announced that it's definitely his last this time, after coming back out of retirement to snag 3rd place last year. He's opened up with a bang, beating last year's winner Alberto Contador by 5 seconds in the opening Time Trial. Still . . . the real test will be whether the 37 year old can still climb mountain after mountain as the ride goes through the Swiss and Spanish alps.

On the other hand, the Schleck brothers, Andy and Frank, 2nd and 5th overall last year respectively will both be expecting to be masters of the hill climbs . . . and that's where they'll be hoping to regain time against Contador that they will inevitably lose in the individual time trials on flat ground.

As for the Australian contingent, Cadel Evans now has a new team built around him and seems to be in decent form, but whether he can turn that into a serious attempt at the podium remains to be seen. Mick Rogers has the weight of HTC Columbia behind him, one of the strongest teams in the tour . . . it'll be very interesting!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Sound Library

Sourcing sound effects for projects can often be a very difficult thing to do, involving spending a lot of time on google downloading what amounts to cheap, free clip art for sound effects.

If you're lucky enough to have a kind of benefactor, you might get a quality set of sound effects CDs to use on your projects and if you're lucky enough, you'll get time to copy some of them for use later . . .

Otherwise, life as a low budget sound designer can be difficult. However, I recently came across a website by Stephan Schutze, Sound Library. Out of the kindness of his heart, he's put together over 14,000 sounds he's recorded or created over the years and he's letting us use them free. I did a few sample searches based on two of the projects I'm working on right now and they came up with good possibilities . . . so it seems to be a very comprehensive set of sounds.

It's sure to come in handy.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Game Day

AIE Sydney and IGDA Sydney are putting on a Game Day this Saturday, the theme being "Game Design: Unplugged".

Looks like it's going to be an interesting day, with a bunch of Sydney's local indie game designers turning up to hang out and discuss design without being overly tethered to computers.

I'm sitting on a panel along with Sash from BitBattalion and Glen of Gnilley fame being hosted by none other than Junglist (you big slut . . . you turn up everywhere, don't you man? :P). As far as I know, we're going to be talking about the trials and tribulations of trying to be an indie game designer in Sydney. Should be fun.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Books! Audible and Book Depository

I just discovered a great way to get Audio Books. www.audible.com

I'd been looking into this because my job takes me on a lot of long drives . . . between 90 minutes and 3 hours, often there and back in a day. Staying awake through 6 hours of driving in one day can be hard, even with a trusty can of Red Bull in the car. The best way I've found to stay awake has been listening to audio books.

The first thing I started off with was the BBC Radio play of the Lord of the Rings. That somehow let me drive a lot further without getting bored or tired.

After developing a taste for the audio books, I started trying to find out how other people were buying them, rather than just going to iTunes (which is definitely the most convenient). Audible popped up instantly, with a lot of good reviews and cheap prices. I've signed up for a "too good to be true" deal, which is a 3 month subscription for about $8 a month which gives you one free audio book a month plus a discount on any others you may want to buy.

If books on paper is more your thing, there's bookdepository.co.uk This site sells books in GBP, which when converted to Australian dollars makes them super cheap . . . and to top it off, they have free worldwide shipping. If only someone in Australia could actually compete with those prices . . .

Monday, 28 June 2010

I am a homeowner

This is still a shock and still scares me . . . but it's happened.

I signed a contract that will put me in debt for the next 20 years or so and I just handed in a cheque worth most of my life's savings :P

It's a huge step, but then, we've been househunting for a few months now anyway, so in a way, I'm glad it's over. We're still going through the official legal wrangling and the financial settlement details, but once that's done, I'll be the proud owner of a nice little 2 bedroom apartment in Maroubra.

It's been a tiring, anxious and exhilarating experience . . . but at the end of it, Yvonne and I have an awesome place to live that we can really make our own :)

I think we'll be moving in in about a month's time . . . and I'll have to say goodbye to the Bra House, the awesome old massive party house that I've been in for 6 years now.

I should probably throw some kind of gigantic party . . .

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

New York, New York!

A quick question . . . is it "Up to you New York, New York" or is it "New York, New York, it's a wonderful town"?

For me, it's the city that doesn't sleep.

I just got home about about a week ago from a trip to New York and Toronto. It was a blast. New York is a crazy town . . . it was full of bustle and it nearly seems like everyone there's wired up just little bit more tightly than everywhere else in the world. Slightly overwhelming. Toronto on the other hand, was much more fitting to our Australian sensibilities. Everyone was nice and pretty chilled out . . . it could also have been the amount of pot they smoke over there . . . every second street corner had a random person puffing on a doobie :P

Here's the obligatory photo of Times Square:

Toronto had awesome shopping . . . a lot of rare and random little bits and pieces. I drooled over this particular shop:

We checked out Niagara Falls also. I'd show you a photo of that but well . . . you could just google for something taken by a far better photographer than me. Instead, I give you a glimpse of the best poker machine ever made:

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Overclocking my PC

There's not really such thing as a "cool overclocking picture", so we'll settle for a photo of me actually overclocking.

It's getting around that time again where I start thinking that my PC is underpowered.

I'm using hardware that's around 3 years old, although with the PS3 and the Xbox 360 being the driving force in the gaming community, most games don't really push my aging hardware that much (seeing as the two consoles are made with hardware older than mine).

Still, I feel like I could do better with what I've got . . . which means overclocking.

Overclocking is the process of making your computer hardware run faster than it's intended. The pros of this are obviously a higher level of performance (computer performance is commonly measured in calculations per second). The cons are that the computer may need more power, create more heat and on top of that, its components will wear out quicker. I'm at a stage where I have no problems with my components wearing out quicker . . . they've lasted three years already.

Overclocking involves tweaking very low level settings in your computer . . . usually in your motherboard's BIOS (Basic Input Output System), which is like a set of instructions that work at the very lowest level of your computer hardware analogous to the parts of your brain that control your heart rate and the functioning of your organs etc.

I don't want to go into too much detail, but overclocking is a matter of using the bios to increase the speed of all the underlying timing elements of a computer. You may ask: "If you can just speed up your computer that simply, then why doesn't everyone do it?".

I guess the answer is . . . unless you know what a Front Side Bus is, and what voltage your CPU can safely run at . . . as well as the thermal implications of increasing the voltage of your CPU and RAM, you're probably going to end up with a very expensive door stop. On top of that, it involves patience and proper testing. Upping a value a small amount and then running your computer through hours of stress testing. Trying to figure out whether its your RAM or CPU or North Bridge that's the current limiting factor and which one might need tweaking. Slightly painstaking, but for some people, it's quite an enjoyable and rewarding process.

I've had a bit of fun over the last couple of days speeding up my processor. I managed to get my Core 2 Duo e6750 from its stock 2.66GHz up to 3.6GHz, with minimal voltage increase. On the side, I pumped my RAM from 800MHz up to 950MHz. This kind of increase, especially in the CPU, is actually worth a lot in dollar value, because CPUs that are that much faster are priced exponentially higher. Having said that . . . it's not stable yet and is only holding well because it's the middle of winter and I also added an aftermarket heatsink and fan to my CPU. I've been running it through 6-8 hour stress tests and it hasn't passed them all 100% yet, so we'll see how it goes . . .

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Little Green Men Hijacked our Space Probe

I liked this:

http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/wacky/have-aliens-hijacked-voyager-2-spacecraft/story-e6frev20-1225865566982

http://www.space-travel.com/reports/NASA_Fixes_Bug_On_Voyager_2_999.html

Just goes to show how useful information from the Daily Telegraph is. Then again . . . it's not really news that the Daily Telegraph is full of shit.

Friday, 7 May 2010

DRM Free Games for Charity

This is a really great thing for a bunch of indie game devs to be doing:

http://www.wolfire.com/humble

They're selling off their games, but they're giving the buyer all the choices. You choose how much you'll pay, how much gets given to charity and since there's no DRM (Digital Rights Management), you can install them on any computer you want as many times as you want.

Very cool.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Computer Games as Art

I was recently shown a TED Talk By Kellee Santiago, which was then refuted by Roger Ebert.

Roger Ebert's blog is here: http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2010/04/video_games_can_never_be_art.html

There's a link to Kellee's talk at the bottom, and I suggest watching that first for the blog post to make more sense. There's also some rather lively discussion in the comments in the blog.

I find it hard to really argue either way on this situation because I obviously have a love of gaming and I consider that to be a bias under which I shouldn't be part of the discussion. Having said that, both Santiago and Ebert have large biases in their viewpoints also, and it doesn't appear to be stopping them.

I had a few thoughts about the argument though. Since computer games are largely structured simulations of real or imaginary environments, what happens if the entirety of a game consists of walking your character into a theatre and sitting down to watch a play by Shakespeare?

Is a piece of music considered art from the viewpoint of someone performing it? When I'm performing music, I'm following a structured framework set about by the composer, but at the same time, I'm interacting with that structure. I change it by my own interpretation of the artistry and my own unpredictable actions. How is that fundamentally different from the choices made in the following of a narrative in a computer game?

It's a really interesting debate, although I really find it ignorant for someone to witness a new form of media and communication and unilaterally can it by saying "Video Games can never be art".

Friday, 9 April 2010

Asi - Just started writing our 2nd Album

Our band, Asi has been around for quite some time now . . . maybe 2 years? (I forget exactly).

We started off as a bunch of musicians who recorded Shakthi's album for him. He was the driving force and the songwriter and we added our little pieces to his songs to create the first album, The Waiting.

After that, we decided it might be fun to play our work live. This is really quite hard to do when the album had been recorded by a large number of individual musicians who actually hadn't been in the same room together during recording. We had to decide which songs would work with a small group and how we would rearrange things so that they'd be playable live. Through 2008 and 2009, we did a series of gigs with our "live" group.


These were a lot of fun . . . although stressful at times :) We mixed live sounds and electronic sounds, while Aimee was illustrating live.

As we went along, we wrote new songs, added things to old songs and starting moving from live instruments and a sometimes rock feel over to a very electronically driven band. We liked this sound . . . although it became a logistical nightmare to play live.

Now that it's 2010 and we've all had a little break, we've decided to go back to writing. The band has evolved a lot since the first album. This time we're writing an album as a group and we're bringing in all the experiences we've shared playing music together over the last few years. Instead of rushing to get everything together for a gig, we're sitting down and really thinking about what we want something to sound like . . . we're taking our time to write the music and record it . . . and in a few month's (no promises on how many months :P) we hope to have something we're really proud of.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

iPhone SMS tones

I've noticed over time that everyone has the same SMS tone for their iPhone. It's not like the iPhone doesn't give you a lot of choices . . . but it is very obvious that there's only one choice that actually sounds nice and sounds like an SMS. Out and about, I've never heard an iPhone SMS beep that wasn't that iconic one that everyone uses.

I just realised what this is . . . and knowing Apple, I'm quite certain of this. It's branding. Everyone will get to know the sound of the iPhone, because everyone's iPhones beep in the same way. It's not just the iconic look of the iPhone that's become so recognisable . . . now you don't even have to see it . . . you just have to hear one receive a message nearby. On top of that, every time someone gets an SMS on an iPhone, all the iPhone users nearby pull their phones out to check if it's their's.

It's another one of those subtle things that Apple does to make sure that its products are the most visible and the most recognisable on the market.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Google vs China

There's a lot of talk passing around the internet at the moment about Google in China.

Google has decided to shut down its censored google.cn and instead redirected to google.com.hk, the hong kong based (and uncensored) version of its search engine. This is a big move by Google, because the Chinese government could see this as them trying to circumvent their national laws and some of the Chinese media has already had a a few negative things to say about Google's disrespect for them.

CNet has a few reports on the subject.

I hope this works out well for Google in the end. Censorship of the media and government control of the flow of information into a country is an affront to basic civil rights.

Also . . . I'm hoping that when our government tries to censor the internet here in Australia, Google will have a similar response. I can imagine a huge voter swing against Stephen Conroy and his warped crusade to protect us from the phatom dangers of the internet when he becomes "the man who drove Google out of Australia".

We can only hope.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Good Riddance Michael Atkinson

This post is here to just relay some news that came out very recently.

Michael Atkinson Resigns from the Front Bench

For those of you who don't know, Michael Atkinson has been the figurehead of the resistance against the introduction of a R18+ rating for Video Games in Australia. It's quite a strange thing to have an R18+ rating for movies, yet not for games . . . and we are very alone in the international community in this respect.

Here's hoping that Atkinson's replacement isn't equally ready to bow down to vocal conservative minorities as he was.

With the Federal Government (mainly Stephen Conroy) working towards mandatory censorship of the internet in Australia, we were starting to look like a totalitarian state that's trying to prevent its citizens from gaining proper access to digital media . . .

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Some media from the Rome Exhibition

Here's a video of the Exhibition I worked on in Rome.



As you can see, there's a bunch of really interesting art pieces from around the world. There isn't that much in the video that's in English, but I guess you get a little bit of me there telling you about our systems.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Mass Effect 2



I love it. Can't get enough.

It's not a groundbreaking game . . . and it doesn't have astounding design or new art that's going to change the way you think about computer games. But it's mighty solid and very refined. They've streamlined a lot of the annoying inventory management, so it's a lot simpler (it's ok, if you want inventory management in a long bioware RPG, you can still play Dragon Age :P) than its predecessor. The gunplay is quite satisfying and the flow of the game is good.

The only downside is the amazingly grindy mining minigame that you play while exploring random worlds out in the universe. That is one of the worst time fillers I've ever seen in a game. It's astoundingly bad . . . and very annoying that you have to do a certain amount of it if you want certain positive outcomes in the game (I'm being vague to avoid giving out spoilers).

The morality system is kinda funny. I find myself walking around in everyday life trying to figure out how I can help people to earn Paragon points (In the game, your decisions earn you Paragon points for helping and looking after people and Renegade points for taking a "end justifies the means" approach to problems). It's all about computer games helping you be a better person :P

The characters are a lot more interesting than in most games, each with their own back story and gameplay style, and as opposed the the first game, you're actively encouraged (even forced) to play with different squad members and to use your whole team, not just 2 chosen team mates.

I've played the game through twice, to check out different character types and morality decisions (although the different decisions didn't really change the storyline at all) and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Setting up an AVIE in Rome (or A Week in the Life of a Systems Engineer)

I get asked a bit what my job actually is (especially by family). There's also a bit of "You're flying where now?" because of my frequent overseas trips to build massive art installations.

Without getting too in depth into it . . . I build these things call AVIEs (Advanced Visualisation and Interaction Environment). At the moment I'm sitting inside one in Rome . . . it's in this place called la Palenda, an old abbatoir that's been repurposed. It reminds me of the Carriageworks in Redfern, just with more meathooks.
I've spent the last week or so putting together the computer systems and the infrastructure for our AVIE in Rome (for the RomaEuropa Digital Life Festival) . . . it's going to be here for a few months. I've also been supervising a render farm . . . which has got to be one of the most mind numbing and (when you're on a deadline) infuriating things to do.

We've also rigged up our projectors, speakers and screen . . . which is quite a difficult operation involving a lot of people, lifters and scaffolds, some hard work and some precisely correct measuring and planning.


AVIE is a cylindrical projection environment, 4m high and 10m across. I spent most of my time preparing computers and software so that they'll project nice images onto the panoramic screen. It takes a lot of work because it's not just a bunch of projectors on a screen . . . they have to be calibrated so that we can deliver stereoscopic 3D (yeah, the same thing they do in the cinemas) and so that they blend together on their edges.

Here's a look at the AVIE from outside the door (without any projection):
I guess the scaffold gives you a good sense of the size of it.

We use these systems for all kinds of things. For this exhibit, two artworks are going into it . . . one is a 3D computer generated artwork that takes you on a crazy randomly generated journey through tunnels of videos and dark soundscapes. The other is an experiment in digital noise and emergent patterns that arise from noise interference etc. We've got a bunch of them set up around NSW for mining safety training simulations and it's also used for projects involving high quality panoramic photography.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Wandering aimlessly pays off

After having seen some big and monumental tourist attractions in the first two days of my trip, I took to a little wandering. One thing I really love doing is just getting lost in the streets of a city at night. The first night I did this in Rome was probably the best time I've had in this city.

I took the metro to the Colosseum and headed west. I knew that direction held a lot of what's left of ancient Rome, so I figured I'd run into something interesting along the way. At first, I popped my headphones in (listening to M.I.A.'s Kala at the moment) and started walking as the sun went down.

 I was rewarded with this wonderful view of Foro Traiano (Trajan's Forum).

As I drifted along with the masses I went through shopping districts and night markets. I stopped for a while to watch someone do a painting by the roadside. I went into a few shops that were in these wonderful amazingly old buildings and just wandered until I was hopelessly lost (although not really disturbed, I was enjoying myself too much). I found my way into a piazza and decided to sit down, check my map and see where I was. There was a big ancient building in front of me, complete with Roman pillars, so I thought I'd go in and check it out. It turns out I'd found my way to the Pantheon by accident. What an amazing building. I should've taken some photos but I was too busy soaking it all in . . . and it closed very soon after I got there.

I continued my wandering and ended up in the Piazza Navona. I stopped for a meal there, and afraid of the Italian sized 3 course meal (I'd had one a couple of days earlier and skipped lunch the next day because I was still full) I went straight for the main . . . Porchetta, which is roast pork flavoured with herbs. Very tasty. It started raining as I turned to go home, but luckily it didn't last . . .

I leave you with a kewl little diorama I saw in a toyshop on the way back:

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Interview with Restore, Restart, Quit?

I had a brief chat with a guy named Rohan Harris on the Byteside forums following the Game Jam and the awesome media attention we got there.

Among other things, he runs a podcast called Restore, Restart, Quit? and he asked me to join in for a chat. I was there along with Glen Forrester, the maker of Gnilley (the awesome vocalisation based game made in the same Game Jam as Spy Wear) as well as Epona Schweer who teaches at the Academy of Interactive Entertainment in Sydney. We had a really interesting chat about all kinds of things related to the Jam, Indie game dev and things like that. By we I unfortunately mean that a lot of Glen's chat was separate because of his fickle internet connection, but I hope it doesn't affect the final product (which I'm about to listen to now). Also props to Glen for managing to play Bioshock 2 at the same time as supposedly being in an interview :P

Head over and check it out :)

Sunday, 21 February 2010

First guy I met in Rome tried to rip me off

Someone had given me a less than glowing impression of what this city is like, and I guess I got it firsthand quite quickly . . . someone tried to charge me 60 euros for a 15 minute cab ride. It's highly unfortunate that I met them first before getting to any of the airport's official taxis. Otherwise it would've been a pretty quick 20 euro cab ride to my hotel.

Instead, being the unknowing tourist that I am, I took a shuttle bus into the centre of the city, only to be told by the tourist information service person I found that I'd gone past my hotel and I'd have to turn around and head back in the opposite direction.

It happens, I guess. I got there in the end and the hotel is nice (an near public transport, which is always a plus).

I've also noticed that Italians are insane drivers . . . lines are merely suggestions and if your car can physically fit there, then you might as well drive it there :P I have this fear however, that having been taught to drive in an ex British Empire country that one day I'll die in a head on collision (or being run over because I was looking the wrong way) in a more civilised nation.

I've had two days to walk around Rome. On the first day, I checked out the Vatican . . . very impressive. I think the funniest moment for me was walking into San Pietro's Basilica and saying to myself "Fucking Holy Shit". It's ironic that the blasphemy was brought about by the sheer size and grandeur of the church. It's probably 10 storeys high in it's internal dimensions . . . here's a photo (excuse the iPhone camera . . . my good camera's sitting on my desk at work back in Sydney):




On the second day I went to check out some ancient ruins. First stop was the Colosseum. It's impressive that they built such a gigantic stadium with no machinery . . . Supposedly it could have held about 40,000 people.

 

Here's a picture I took from the inside. They had a complete underground area that could be used to store gargantuan sets and wild animals for hunting and all kinds of craziness. It seems like it was home to massive and brutal spectacles . . . both impressive and shocking at the same time (I heard of an emperor celebrating a military victory by slaughtering 10,000 beasts in a "hunt".

Anyways, more of Rome soon . . . Hope Sydney's warm, this place isn't nearly as cold as I expected :P

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Lost My Wallet

It's an incredibly annoying experience I'm sure . . . but when you're leaving the country in 2 days it gets a bit worse.

After an hour or so of turning the car upside down and Yvonne's house, we were pretty certain that my wallet had completely disappeared. I was reasonably sure it'd popped out of my back pocket in a mad rush through the rain at KFC in Maroubra. Supposedly it's the world telling us we shouldn't be eating such unhealthy food :P I'd come up with a crackpot theory that the guy who'd pulled in next to us and rather suspiciously not gone in to order any food was the culprit. I think after turning the car and house over, I couldn't come up with any other ideas.

So I went through the annoying list of things you need to do . . . cancelled my bank cards and started trying to figure out how to get cash for overseas. I ended up picking up a "travelling cash card", which is pretty much travellers' cheques on a card . . . very handy. I started checking out the forms I'd need to get a new driver's licence and all those other things that are really annoying to lose . . .

Then yesterday afternoon I got a call from someone in student services at UNSW. "Hello Marc . . . have you lost something recently?" "Hell yeah . . . I lost my wallet yesterday". It turns out someone had found it lying by the side of the road at UNSW and handed it in. It'd been stripped of all cash, discount cards, bus tickets and bank cards . . . but at least I got my driver's licence and UNSW staff card back . . . not to mention the wallet itself.

If anyone out there works at Boost and someone orders a free Boost (yeah, I had exactly 10 points) with the name "Marc", can you perform a citizen's arrest for me? hehehe. Likewise if someone spends a JB Hifi voucher for $20 with my name on it . . . I love the idea of a citizen's arrest . . . it's like "Pistols at Dawn" carried out by honourable gentlemen in a bygone era.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Active Stereo Systems and Headaches part 1 - 3D at home

Do you like the double entendre in the title?

I recently tested out the Nvidia 3D Vision system at home . . . it's a 22 inch monitor and a set of shutter glasses, both going at 120hz. Batman looked astoundingly good (it was one of those games that was developed with Nvidia so its 3D is perfect). Other games like TF2 and Left 4 Dead (1 and 2) were similarly awesome.



The only downside is that after a few hours of play I started to get that eystrain . . . like your two eyes are trying to slide out the sides of your head. The first time I tried this (with Burnout Paradise a few months ago) I was so impressed I played through the eye strain for a few hours only to end up with a headache that lasted through a night's sleep.

My verdict is that it's awesome in small doses. Unfortunately the price tag is still a large dose . . . so I'm shelving the idea of buying it for now. I was highly impressed by Nvidia's ability to pull depth information from their drivers so that games that weren't intended or designed for stereoscopic 3D viewing still look great in 3D.

So NVidia is selling 3D and hardware physics support while ATI is going for the multiple monitor thing (Eyefinity). It's interesting to see that in PCs the hardware has surpassed the software to such a point that to sell graphics cards now, they have to attach a whole bunch of new and strange features. Anyone who games a lot, maybe on 2 year old hardware like the famous Nvidia 8800GT and a 22" monitor will have noticed that a great deal of brand new titles aren't pushing their hardware enough to force them to upgrade . . . so the incentive the manufacturers are coming up with are gimmicky things like 3D and triple monitor setups. I'm not expecting that many people to take the bait here . . .

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Holy Robot Empire

After the game jam last weekend and our happy moment of receiving the "Jammers' Choice" award, we decided to stick together and finish our game as well as make more games. It's funny how things like this just fall on you . . . when a few days before I didn't even think of myself as a game developer, just a guy with a whole lot of ideas about game design.

Well, we've got our company up and running now, and the website is up at: Holy Robot Empire. I haven't had that much time to populate our website, but there's just enough info up there to leave you wanting more :P

The main thing though is that our version 1.0 of Spy Wear is up there. This first release version runs a lot smoother without crashing on weird network stuff and has most of the bugs ironed out. If you give it a go (and if you're one of my close friends I'll probably force it on you at some stage) please buzz me in one way or another and let me know what the play experience was like . . . we're always looking to improve :)

Monday, 8 February 2010

Going to Rome


I'm headed to Rome for an iCinema exhibition in just over a week. It's really exciting :)

I took the liberty of taking a couple of days off and getting my flight there booked a little early . . . so I've got time to check out all those crazy Roman ruins in person (yeah, I blatantly stole the above image from wikipedia's Colosseum entry.

It should be a lot of fun . . . I'm just getting all my bits and pieces together. I have my flight itinerary and my hotel booking . . . most of my time at work at the moment is spent preparing what I'm going to be doing over there. We're going to be setting up an AVIE that will run for about 2 months showing some kewl immersive panoramic art pieces.

I've done my obligatory "Is anyone going to be in Rome?" status on facebook, and if all goes well, will be meeting up with one of my cousins there. Looking forward to it!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Jury Duty Part 2

In the end rather anti-climactic.

I went to the court, was inducted into the process of being a juror . . . sat around and waited for a bit, then I was excused because I'm going overseas in a couple of weeks.

I'm still on the list though, so maybe sometime this year I'll get to see a court case . . .

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Resident Evil 5


What an interesting game.

I picked it up a bit later than it was released on a steam sale over Christmas. I'd played a bit of Resident Evil 4 on the Wii, but never finished it. Since I've started playing Mass Effect 2 and it's pushed all the other games on my list down a rung, I thought I should publish this post.

Resident Evil fits in such a strange genre of games . . . this "Horror/Action" where the only horror is the fact that you can't move properly while rather slow moving enemies crawl towards you at a snail's pace absorbing large amounts of ammunition. I guess I'd seen the play style before in Dead Space, but that was some time ago so I'd forgotten what it was like.

I keep wanting to be able to turn properly, aim and move at the same time and all those normalities you expect if you've played a lot of action or first person games. Having said that, the game is mighty compelling. There's something satisfying about it and the flow of the game, along with the variety of scenes and small challenges makes it quite an interesting game and worth playing . . . even if it doesn't get to the top of my list of current games.

I was struck again, however, by the Nvidia vs ATI (graphics card manufacturers) war that has been leaking into games recently. Batman: Arkham Asylum had it also . . . where it was developed alongside Nvidia and they helped them out a lot in making sure that the game looked absolutely stunning in their 3D system . . . but for some reason, ATI cards were unable to turn on Anti Aliasing (AA). AA is a reasonably simple graphics feature in pretty much all modern games that helps to soften the jagginess of pixels you can get when you try to draw a diagonal line using only a square grid of dots.

RE5 has an issue where if you are using an ATI card and have AA enabled, the ingame cutscenes (pre-rendered short video bits) don't display . . . you only get a black screen. It's another game that Nvidia specifically helped develop and that offers proper support for Nvidia's 3D Vision system. I don't really know whether this is Nvidia trying to drive the competition out by making sure things only work on their hardware or ATI being slack in implementing AA properly on their cards . . . but it's mighty annoying.

I'm not sure if it's too much to ask, but I'd like for software written for the PC to work on both kinds of PC graphics hardware . . .

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Spy Wear - Jammers Choice, Global Game Jam Sydney 2010

Here's a screenshot of our finished product :)

It's a four player top down game called "Spy Wear". I am amazingly proud to announce that we won the "Jammers' Choice" award, as voted by everyone else who took part in the Jam!

In Spy Wear, you play as one of 4 spies (it's multiplayer over a network for up to 4 people) in a city sometime in the Cold War. Moving is very simple, you just stay on the footpath and have the ability to enter any of the buildings you go past. Over time, you are assigned missions to go and visit different places in the city. Everyone else is likewise given missions to visit other places.

The key to the gameplay, however, is that of all the people walking around . . . you have no idea who the other spies are. Everyone just sticks to the footpath . . . maybe they'll go into a building . . . but you have no sure way to know whether someone else is a spy unless you kill them . . . and if you kill someone who's not a spy, everyone else gets to see either a photo of you or where your mission target is.

It has this wonderful balance between risk/reward of attacking people . . . then fight/flight . . . do you keep going after missions, or do you assume that someone's after you and start laying traps and changing clothes often. Wait, changing clothes . . . what if the clothes shop is trapped by someone else? We're seeing a lot of really interesting emergent behaviours coming out of such a simple little game . . . factors driven purely by psychology or the cognitive load involved in trying to remember what everyone last looked like and where they might be going . . .

Overall, I'm amazingly happy with the weekend and what we achieved. Our team was: Joseph Gentle, Jeremy Apthorp, Marc Chee, James Carlton, Aevar Bjarnasson, Sam Maniscalco (purely in order of where we were sitting at the time I wrote our readme :P Thanks heaps guys . . . and I look forward to working with you again soon :)

We'll also be publishing the game soon (once it stops crashing :P) for all to play and to show what indie game developers are capable of pulling off in a 48 hour period :) For those of you who aren't scared of installing Python and some packages, we've got some raw files available here.