August 24, 2007

Life, Adobe and MAGIC

A grab bag of topics in this post. A few unfortunate things that have set me back a bit this week, my first (brief) look at Adobe Illustrator, and the MAGIC contest.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

I’ve been beset by a series of minor misfortunes recently. Firstly I haven’t been fully well; just headaches so nothing serious, but it’s made it hard to stare at a computer screen for too long.

Secondly, it seems my web log has finally attracted spammers (if you’re a spambot, hi!) At the moment it’s a slow trickle, so I don’t mind dealing with them by hand. I’d better start looking for a good method of dealing with them once I start getting more than one per day though.

Thirdly, my MacBook Pro screen seems to be developing a series of dead pixels. It seemed to me to be fine a week or two ago, but I noticed a few days ago that one of the pixels in the centre of the screen appears to have died. My eyes were swimming a bit with black spots anyway due to the headackes, so one dead pixel didn’t seem so bad, but when I inspected the screen this morning the pixel seems to have coaxed some friends into committing suicide too. I reckon there’s about eight dead pixels including an ugly cluster of three on the right hand edge. Since there’s so many I’m in the process of getting an Apple tech to access it for possible replacement. I figured since I bought their fancy AppleCare warranty I might as well use it. Plus the Apple store is just opposite my research department, so it’s not as if it’s out of the way.

Since I seem to be jinxed lately (I’ve just blown another light bulb, and one of the department robots broke down when I was helping move it) I’m going to stay away from expensive equipment for a while.

Adobe Creative Suite 3

On the upside, my Adobe CS3 Web Premium software arrived the other day. I’ve installed in on the laptop and given Illustrator and Flash a little bit of a whirl. I can’t really comment that much on Flash yet, since I haven’t got much of an inkling how to use the software yet. I made a simple animation of a morphing shape just to see what the simple features did, but nothing of any real interest yet. I might need to seek some outside learning material to really get to grips with Flash.

I haven’t used Illustrator much either, but I got a feel of how it compares to Inkscape. I’m still very fond of how Inkscape does some things, especially the node manipulation, which I haven’t got the same flow yet in Illustrator. Plus I think Inkscape is a bit better at working on simple SVG; some of the fancier effects in Illustrator seem to use raster graphics or tons of individual components that take a while to render.

But overall, my brief go with Illustrator left me pretty impressed. I like their dockable menu system; it’s an easy way to access commonly used properties like changing brushes and colours (which Inkscape doesn’t do quite as well). But the big thing I love in Illustrator is their paintbrush tool; it looks dead easy to create your own brush shape, draw your shape on the screen and get Illustrator to draw out all the curves and fill it in for you. I had to do all of that by hand in Inkscape, so the time savings by using Illustrator will be considerable.

The MAGIC poll

I’ve been thinking of what I should put for the new poll, and it struck me that it’s about time to start up another MAGIC contest. Unfortunately right now I need to spend a lot more time on my research, so it’s probably not the best time to spend ages organising a competition. I’m also slightly in limbo with the Four Elements contest starting soon; I’m still waiting to see when that starts. Plus I’m not really in the best place with my own game development to join in; my 2D game engine is in pieces right now as I stitch up a new version for Ice Slider, and while I’d love to try something in Flash I don’t think I’ll be up to that standard in a month.

However, it’s still nice to hold a competition anyway. I reckon I’ve got a few ways I could take the MAGIC contest. I could aim to hold one next month, but it would mean minimal effort to set it up; it would be pretty much exactly the same format as before, probably with a longer marking time. Or I could attempt to make some changes to the contest format, such as having a fixed series of art assets. However this will take time to implement and would probably kick back the start time to October or November.

I’m using this week’s poll for feedback on what you think the best approach is, plus you can leave a comment here.

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3 Comments on Life, Adobe and MAGIC

August 24, 2007

Paul Evans @ 8:40 pm:

Your last contest was such a success I expect the community would love it if you did another.

I like the idea of fixed art assets. Levels the playing field some more, and takes the pressure off to make / find assets.

Stephen @ 10:17 pm:

Given some more planning time and organization, I’d really like to see another MAGIC contest kick off. I was happy with the results that the first one bore, but a longer development period would be great.

David "Trapper Zoid" @ 10:58 pm:

I was thinking of making some art assets myself, but I don’t think I’m proficient enough to whip up enough assets for a full competition myself given I’ve got a lot of other work to do in September. This is especially true now I’m trying to teach myself new tools; it’s going to take me a fortnight at least before I can make anything decent in Illustrator. However I could hunt around for another set of good art assets out there like the Lost Garden tileset. But I suspect whatever path I choose it’ll take at least a month for me to do the research and decide on a good bunch of art.

As for a longer development time, I could make the contest last a fortnight but anything longer seems a bit too long for what’s meant to be a short contest.

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