Another Self Indugant Status Update

Just checking in, lest this period of inactivity so soon after declaring my productive intentions fall under scrutiny at some point in the future. Everything went a bit pear-shaped this week, as things do when you arrive home one Friday after work to find water intruding through your ceiling from the unoccupied flat above, it takes three days to get their mains shut off and then you’re left with a gaping uninsulated hole in your ceiling.

This weekend I’m catching up on the relaxation I was deprived of last, and getting some admin chores out of the way such as maintaining my monthly internship journal for my university course, resurrecting my long dormant Lang-8 account, updating my short and long term to-do lists, and posting this.

Whatever this is.

Hopefully next weekend or in the afternoons of the coming week I’ll actually get my ceiling fixed and start pulling my mind back into a useful state. I’ll likely post again tomorrow or next weekend about my intentions for the rest of my time here – I want to finally get a grip on the priority balancing issues that have plagued me since I moved to London.

It snowed yesterday and I would have considered a chilly walk along the Thames early today  had it not all been made all sloppy and yuck by the morning rains. That would have been the perfect opportunity to get my shit together.

Anyway, here’s a photograph of King George’s Park I took yesterday on my phone.Ciao.

Image

Advertisements

year 2013 {

So I’ve been down in London for about five months now, and it’s been about that long since I last posted here. The reason for that is because I honestly haven’t a lot to show for that time; work takes up the majority of my waking hours, and frankly after staring at alien code for so long every weekday it’s hard to conjure up the motivation to do the same in my free time, putting pay to what has been my primary hobby for the last four or so years. All in all I’ve felt a bit overwhelmed  so far, something I hope to cope better with in this new year.

Being in London I have taken the opportunity to go about and see a few of the sites, though I’m being rather careful with my finances at the moment because London rent is insane. I’ve been over to Camden, Shoreditch, Wimbledon town, and have walked along the Thames on multiple occasions, most notably when I went over to the Waterloo region of it for the Mayor’s Thames Festival. I have some nice photographs of these things which I may append to this post, or put up elsewhere, but being in London has been generally uneventful so far.

Back at the flat I have managed to push ahead with a few of my interests. I’ve written a lot more Lang-8 entries in my time here, and gotten a lot more Korean grammar points into my skull, but the few opportunities to speak to Korean people and consume Korean media have shown that my chief obstacles are still listening and vocabulary. I’ve not progressed with drawing and digital art as much as I’d like, though doodling at work during compiles and loading, and a weekly ‘contest’ of sorts with a friend have helped to improve my confidence and get me settled into my tablet.

I have done some programming, mostly in the form of the two (failed) Ludum Dare attempts I’ve made – both times setting my aims too high and giving in shortly before the deadline, but the majority of my programming experience over the last five months has been simply building on my knowledge of compiler, linker, and platform discrepancies through tedious debugging work at the office. I’ve also dealt with a few scripting languages including bash, zsh and perl, and had the ‘opportunity’ to get to grips with Mac UI development with the Cocoa API.

I’ll finish up this long and uninteresting post with links to my Ludum Dare-attempt postmortems, and a few photographs I’ve taken around London. Best of luck for 2013 – whoever you are.

Links
Ludum Dare 24
Ludum Dare 25

Shinies

연희당 팔산대 (Yeonheedan Palsandae) at the Mayor's Thames Festival 2012

연희당 팔산대 (Yeonheedan Palsandae) at the Mayor’s Thames Festival 2012

Building adornment near Waterloo station

Building adornment near Waterloo station

Stables market in Camden

Stables market in Camden

Camden Lock

Camden Lock

Accidental couple shot at the Mayor's Thames Festival 2012

Accidental couple shot at the Mayor’s Thames Festival 2012

London Posting

So a couple of months ago I made this post about what I planned to do with my summer. Well, summer was shorter and busier than I thought it might be, so my best laid plans kind of fell to pieces. I don’t mind of course – I found a decent placement for the year after all – but the chaos that’s dominated the last month or so has left me kind of disorientated.

So where do I stand? I’m in London now, working full-time for a company named ‘Feral Interactive‘, and have just come off of a three-week stint without internet, during which I’ve walked too many miles, watched too many TV series, and played too much Ys. Before that, and before all of the effort that went into arranging the move, I did manage to get through those WebGL tutorials, read a good deal of the Python documentation, and dig through the internet in search of information about network programming for games (without much luck). Mostly though, I just studied Korean and house-hunted. I also bought a small graphics tablet – a Wacom Bamboo Pen and Touch – but I’ve had no time to look into digital art, so I’ve barely gotten used to controlling the thing.

The apartment I have here is small, but nice. It’s essentially two rooms with an entrance down a back-alley – what would be the kitchen-bathroom extension on a terraced. I don’t really spend much time here, what with my working hours, but what I do spend here is comfortable. Once I’m settled I want to get to work on the things that got put off this summer. I’m four chapters in on this maths book, but I’ve yet to get around to doing any OpenGL programming and still haven’t regained any confidence in drawing. To be honest I’ve also considered just taking advantage of the Korean presence down here in London – making language study my extra-curricular priority for the year. Work is tiring, life is complicated. Time will tell.

Right now, I’m watching 원스 어폰 어 타임 임 생초리 (Once Upon a Time in Saengchori). Next? Maybe I’ll hammer out another chapter of this maths book.

Something smells good. I think I live next door to a takeaway.

Moley Moley Moley Mole

It occurred to me yesterday that one of my major projects from this year was lacking it’s own page, so I spent a little time today typing up some info. There aren’t pictures yet, because I’m away from my desktop at the moment (actually its in pieces too) and I could never get the Android SDK running on my laptop, but at least there’s something there.

Head over to the new Mega Driller Mole page to check it out, if you like.

What a Pitch!

If you’ve dabbled in games development  at all, chances are you’ve come across Game Maker. Depending on the circles you run in you may have heard good or bad things about it – you may even have tried it yourself and formed your own opinion. Personally, like anyone else I ever remember talking to about it, my opinion on Game Maker is largely negative, and while I could see it being viable prototyping tool, I would always prefer to use something like XNA or LWJGL with a simple, ready-implemented framework.

I’ve also seen many a terrible Mario clone and other poor Game Maker game – probably a result of the application’s ease of use making it attractive to young or unskilled creatives. But I’m not spending my time typing this just to beat a dead horse, no. I’m here to introduce you to a shining example of what any tool can produce in the right hands.

Hyper Princess Pitch Review
Daughter of the Goddess of Explosions, cannon in hand and an unending supply of explosive bricks as ammunition, Pitch sets off to the North Pole with her flying, legless companion Cat Strike to give the good Mecha Santa and his robotic elves what for. What for? For not giving her any presents, that’s what.

Hyper Princess Pitch is a top-down arcade shoot-em-up in the vein of Smash TV and Operation Carnage, created by Daniel Remar and distributed for free alongside his other work, including Iji, and the fantastic Hero Core. It, like most of his games, was created using Game Maker, but you’ll see no shabby handiwork here.

As you probably guessed a paragraph ago (unless you’re skip-reading) the setting, and general wackiness of the characters play a big part in making the game so entertaining. Pitch is a likable anti-hero – even if her motivation is somewhat disagreeable – and her mother, who resides in a secret place, is an absolute riot. Pitch makes vocal remarks during gameplay of just the right frequency and variety to be entertaining rather than annoying, while her mother… uh – things explode when she talks. Mecha Santa is also pretty rad.

The graphics portray everything aptly with a bright, pixely style and no visible flaws. They’re not ground breaking by any means but they’re certainly attractive, and never bland. Explosions are very nicely drawn and animated, which is good since they’re a central feature. I don’t think I really want to play a game ever again unless re-spawning after death causes an explosion. There are rainbows, sparks, varied projectiles, colourful props and different tile-sets per level. Overall there’s a lot going on; over-the-top is the name of the game, but it never seems out-of-place

Enemies are also colourful, varied, and a little more creative than might be expected from a Christmas-themed game: shiny baubles, trains, UFOs, gun-turrets, tanks, sleds and insane, metal doppelgangers to name but a few. In some rooms you are assaulted by swarms of elves, while others contain only three or four larger enemies. Bosses are especially impressive; they’re the standard, room-filling fare, but their attack patterns are well-refined, inventive, and very interesting – more-so when final attacks are enabled for the hardest two difficulty settings. The third boss – whatever the hell it is – makes good use of the environment, advancing on you constantly and occasionally blasting the central platform with a massive laser, forcing you onto the sidelines.

That is, unless you make use of a special trick. Pitch may be all for explosions and general, long-ranged carnage, but she’s not above wrestling moves when the situation calls for them. Your main arsenal consists of an explosive-brick machine-gun, an ice-thrower (which also destroys yellow projectiles), and a slow-firing gun that fires little, bouncing bits of rainbow. These are all useful under different circumstances, but if you get in a pinch you can also hit up-down-left-right or up-down-right-left quickly to execute a block. Projectiles that hit you during a block won’t hurt, but large enemies will. Interestingly though, if a smaller enemy touches you, you’ll execute a pile-driver on it, culminating in a powerful explosion when you and your foe impact the ground. Various power-ups will aid you along the way, including obvious candidates such as power, triple and speed, hyper, and the super-rare x, y,z power-ups. Some of these override your main weapon completely, while others differ based on what weapon you have equipped. All of this can lead to a very tactical form of play, or just a whole lot of awesome-looking fun.

At this point I’d like to say that Pitch even controls well, but that’d be pushing it. Instead I’ll emphasize that she doesn’t control badly. You move her using the arrow keys on your keyboard, fire with x and cycle weapons with z. Your weapons fire in the direction you last walked in, but by switching direction while firing you can continue to fire while back-pedaling or side-stepping. This is a bit strange at first, but something I’m familiar with from some older games (don’t ask me to name any). Although it takes a while, this actually feels quite natural once you get used to it, but I still haven’t gotten the hang of the key combination for a pile-driver. Up-down-left-right, up-down-left-right. I actually like the fact that it’s difficult to execute this powerful move, but it is endlessly frustrating when you fail, especially since you have to be right next to enemies already in order for it to be effective. Wielding a hyper power-up actually enables you to perform a pile-driver at the touch of a button, but it isn’t often useful once you have a golden bricks or a rainbow laser.

Actually, that’s my only minor gripe with Hyper Princess Pitch, and it hasn’t hindered my enjoyment of the game past the first five minutes or so. There’s enough variety, challenge, humour and content here to keep you busy for quite a long time, and it’s all delivered for free, not even requiring an installation. Level design is solid, and non-linear, as you usually have two doors to choose from at the end of each room. The difficulty curve is perfect, and the game comes with a large selection of difficulty settings, each of which unlocks a new pro tip upon completion. I can almost complete the last regular difficulty setting, and I’ll probably still draw enjoyment from the game until I can complete it fully. There is a hidden difficulty setting harder than that, but you need to have some pretty l337 skills to even get through the front door.

I highly recommend Hyper Princess Pitch. It’s hard not to recommend free games, I know, but if you remember Smash TV, enjoy retro arcade shoot-em-ups, or just want to cause a lot of cool explosions without any complicated premise, you should check this out. If you want a simple, challenging arcade experience, and have fond memories of limited lives and real GAME OVERs, you have to check this out.

Summer 2012

Since handing in my last assignment of the year, I’ve had a good amount of time to recover from the previous stressful semester and make a start on some of the things I wanted to get done this summer. This’ll be a short post outlining these mysterious things, mostly for my own benefit, though I guess it may be of interest to any passing traffic.

For the most part my efforts so far have been centered around finding work, and following a small series of WebGL tutorials based on the popular Nehe OpenGL series. I’m using WebGL to brush up on the OpenGL I covered last summer, and to serve as an introduction to JavaScript and general web development. Working with JavaScript has been relatively painless given my previous experience with ActionScript 2.0, and the useful developer tools included with Firefox and Chrome. Still, an environment which doesn’t crash when you call a non-existent function has it’s pitfalls.

Expanding my experience with a variety of languages is a priority for me at the moment (I’ll be starting some Python tutorials later today), but ideally I’d also like to move back into C and bring my OpenGL experience up to par with my DirectX experience so that I can make an attempt at some sort of deferred shading system. Graphics programming isn’t my favourite of subjects, but it’s challenging and the results can be very satisfying. The implementation of a renderer using deferred shading seems quite intuitive to me and could be a lot of fun to experiment with. To this end, I’ve also been brushing up on some maths, as I’m aware my lack of A-level puts me at a disadvantage in the eyes of some employers, and It’ll really help to fully understand more advanced techniques in graphics and other 3D programming tasks.

I found a decent book to help with my maths studies, but it’s part of a larger stack of books I’ve yet to wade through, including one on API design, and another one on x86 assembly programming. Assembly programming is something I particularly enjoyed during the first semester this year, but it remains to be seen whether or not I’ll get back to it this summer. I’ve resolved to get hold of a decent graphics tablet as soon as I’m sure I have a little time to burn – I may be a programmer now, but there’s only so long you can suppress your creative routes. I never really got into digital art before, but working with pen and pencil for so long has gotten me into a bit of a rut, and I feel like I need to stretch over into new mediums to escape it. While we’re off the subject of programming, I’ve also been studying Korean a lot more since the semester ended – even if the majority of that has been reading 루쿠루쿠 (Lucu Lucu) and playing Pokemon White. I should get back to Lang-8 and make a post there sometime soon to try out the new grammar.

At the moment I’m still living with the majority of Pillowdrift, and watching as they work away on Mega Driller Mole. I’ve even joined in with the effort this past couple of days, lending them my technical and artistic abilities to enhance the mineral system and throw in some new enemies (yes, there are demon cats now). Mostly though, I’m proud to say that they’ve had little difficulty adapting to my original code-base, and twisting it to their needs. I wasn’t even here during their initial work – they had to figure it out all on their little own!

I also worked with Bombpersons following a quirky little framework he threw together for a discontinued Mini-Ld attempt. He used SDL to create a very lightweight graphics module which allows the setting of pixels, never clears the screen, but blurs its contents every frame. I threw together an equally light weight (and not really well coded) game framework over the course of a day, and implemented a controllable player, just to see what it looked like, while he developed a simple particle system, which it turns out looks really freaking cool in such an environment. That’s as far as we got with this quick and dirty prototype, but we definitely think there’s room for a decent game implemented around the blurring gimmick.

Coming Soon
I mentioned something a while back about decent games made in Game Maker, and how I wanted to write something about that. Well, I’ve been playing a lot of Hyper Princess Pitch recently, and instead of tackling the subject head on, I figure I’ll come at it via review instead. Expect something up in the next day or two.

Updates, Updates Everywhere

Spent a good amount of time in the last two days putting up more videos and pages around the place. Most changes have occurred over on my YouTube channel and on the Year2 page. I also have new pages for all of my Console Development projects, and my first attempt at a DirectX game engine, DacquoiseX. Hopefully this place is presentable enough for now, and I can get back to applying for jobs, and doing actual work.

Ciao!