August 31, 2007

Flash! Aaa-aah

This week, apart from being unable to a particular Queen song out of my head (He’ll save ev’ry one of us!), I’ve been slowly acquainting myself to the basic tools of Illustrator and Flash. I’m still at the absolute basics, working through a few online tutorials.

After some consideration I’ve decided to dub September “Learning Adobe Month” and put my game engine on the slow burner for a while in order to be able to devote more time to getting to speed with Illustrator and Flash. This is partly because I’m just keen to dive in and learn these tools, however it’s also because I’m going to spend a lot of my time this month programming prototypes in C++ for research purposed and I’d like to spend my spare time doing something a bit more visual to give my mind a break. Plus if Flash turns out to be great as a prototyping tool it makes sense to structure my own engine in a similar fashion to make porting easier.

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August 25, 2007

Window Shopping

Looking for Adobe books

I’ve decided it’s probably best to find good books for both Illustrator and Flash, since I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by them at the moment. My Inkscape drawing technique doesn’t seem to port to Illustrator very well at all. My usual strategy of drawing a rough sketch version then overlaying it with a highly vectorised shape that I hand mould into the right proportions doesn’t seem to work very well in Illustrator, as I haven’t found a functional equivalent to the node tool for manipulating shapes at the most fundamental level. I’m sure it can be done, as Illustrator artists make art like that all the time, but I haven’t yet figured out the best strategy for doing that yet. Hence my desire to hunt down some good instruction manuals to help speed up the learning process.

Unfortunately my local bookstores don’t seem to have many of the newer CS3 books yet, so I’ll have to wait for Amazon to ship some to me. I guess I’ll using online tutorials for now. I’m a bit perplexed with where to begin with Flash, so I’ll probably be taking baby steps for a while. It’s like being a total beginner all over again.

As an aside, I’m starting to be overwhelmed by the number of projects I’ve got running at the moment. Apart from my postgrad study (which is taking up a lot of my time and will continue to for many months more) there’s Adobe products to learn, cartooning practice, work on Ice Slider and the game library, the MAGIC contest, and more work on this website. Something’s going to have to give. I’ll have to review what I’m currently doing and see what needs to be on hold. I don’t think any of these projects will be axed, but some may need to be put on ice while I work on other things.

Leaving the PC upgrade race

While I was in the shopping centre I briefly checked out the local game store, and I noticed the prominently displayed Bioshock boxes. I had a chance to check out the requirements on the box, and my PC sadly is not up to scratch. My processor isn’t fast enough, and my Radeon 9700 Pro doesn’t quite meet the specs. My usual practice is to wait until there’s a couple of games my computer can’t run before thinking of upgrading, but to be honest, I’m not sure I really care that more about the PC upgrade race. While I’d like to play Bioshock (I loved System Shock 2), I’m no longer keen on upgrading a computer purely to play games.

With computer technology so cheap these days, I find that my budget Windows PC does everything I need it do, save play the latest games. Even game development is fine; with my focus on 2D I honestly don’t need to play with the latest and greatest shader technology, and I frankly find all that a distraction from the fundamentals.

And these days I’m using my MacBook Pro for more and more of my work, including game development. I’m finding Mac OS X to be a more productive work environment than Windows, although that’s most likely due to the jillions of ways to distract myself with WinXP than any fundamental difference between the OS.

When it comes to games, these days I’m finding myself playing either console games on the Wii, classics from the 90s, or small indie games. I’m finding it hard to devote a huge amount of time to learn and play a traditional cutting edge PC game.

Thus I’m not really that keen on buying a new PC with a fancy-pants graphics card. My next computer purchase is likely to be something like a Mac Mini when Leopard comes out, so I can have a Mac desktiop working environment too (although I do want to keep a copy of Windows around; I haven’t yet found a proper Mac replacement for ModPlug Tracker yet!).

And for games, the Xbox 360 is looking better and better. Maybe in a year or two I’ll get one and be able to play the console variants of all those PC games that ask for high spec systems.

But for now, I’ll do without Bioshock. It’s not like I have the time to get addicted to a game anyway. Well, except for Super Mario 64 - accursed Wii emulation allowing me to play all those console classics I missed!

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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.

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August 21, 2007

New Toys

Sorry about not posting in a while. I’ve been both busy and away visiting family in Melbourne, so I’ve been a bit slack on all fronts. I did though get a little bit of game programming done on my laptop while away, but nothing much to write home about; I’ve dismantled my current game system and I’m in the process of putting it back together again.

I did however use my time in Melbourne to pick up a couple of new toys, both of them art related. First is a new Wacom Intuos tablet. I found a 6×8 one being sold in an educational bundle, so it was only a bit more expensive than the Graphire version. I’ve only briefly tested it with my laptop, but it seems to be very nice.

Secondly, I’ve bought the academic version of Adobe’s CS3 Web Premium pack, which I’m hoping will help my art considerably, even if it’s just the purchase price that compels me to get my money’s worth out of it. I’m really keen on playing around with Illustrator and Flash to see what they can do, and I think Flash will be a great tool to get my feet wet with basic animation, not to mention vector based games.

Unfortunately I’ll have to wait a few days before actually trying out the Adobe software, as the store I was in didn’t have the pack I wanted in stock until today; they called when I was just about to head back to Canberra. I’ll have to wait until it’s shipped up here first before I can use it. But I’m keen on trying it out, even if it does slow down my output for a while as I get to grips with the new software.

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August 11, 2007

Rethinking the rendering code

Due to the category system in WordPress I’m trying to keep to one topic per post. It’s time for a software design related post.

During the week I have been spending some time doing some preliminary work for Ice Slider. To start with, I have taken the current code base and attempted to emulate some of the features I had running in the now obsolete prototype I had last year.

However I’ve quickly reached a snag with the text rendering. Last month I was experimenting with a scene graph like method for grouping sprites so they could be manipulated in logical groups. However I had failed to fully integrate it into support code such as that used for displaying text. After spending some time away from the code it’s painfully obvious that the graphics system is starting to fall apart with the tacked on upgrades; it’s in clear need for an overhaul.

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August 10, 2007

Going software shopping

Progress has been a bit slow, I’m afraid. This week was a bit of a wash-out; I fell in a bit of a heap. I may be a day late on my weekly header image drawing practice, since I’m still thrashing out the preliminary sketches without much success.

After considering some of the comments I’ve had on forum posts on what I should update, I think its probably time to get my own copy of Adobe’s art tools. From what I’ve researched on Adobe’s FAQ page it looks like Adobe are cool with their education software being used eventually for commercial purchases, so it looks like it’s a decent investment while I still qualify for education pricing. The A$800 dollars charged for the education version of the suite is not cheap by any means, but it’s not too bad a price to have a full suite to learn with if I can continue to use it for paid work later on.

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August 5, 2007

Diagonal Game Library and Ice Slider

While I need to put in some more changes to the website (and think of a new poll too), it’s about time to start posting about my hobby projects, since that is the whole point of

As you’ve probably guessed from the site my main hobby is game development. My eventual goal is to make the happy, fun, emotional roller-coaster packages of enjoyment that I dream of making. My current method of approaching this goal is “Project Diagonal” - developing my own suite of 2D game development code.

In the rest of this post, I will briefly go over the point of Diagonal, a description of my current game Ice Slider, and other plans for the rest of the year. This is also a test of WordPress’ summary capability, so click the link to see the rest of the post.

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