May 9, 2009

New blog site

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New Blog Site!

My new website and blog site over at is ready to go. There’s a few teething problems still to sort out, but I think it’s ready enough to bring to the attention of my journal readers.

For anyone subscribed to my RSS feed here, please subscribe to the new feed over at the new site. The new feed is here, or you can click on the link over at the site.

I’m a bit under the weather right now, so I’ll save making a final post for this blog for now. Suffice to say that I don’t think I can manage two blogs simultaneously, so this old blog is now superfluous. I haven’t yet decided what I’ll do to this current site, but for the immediate future I’ll probably leave it as it is but lock things down. In the next few months though I’ll need to make a decision about what to do with the site as I’ll need to switch servers.

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March 25, 2009

Impromptu Break - Confession

I’ve been putting off making this post, as it’s a bit embarrassing. It’s more than a week later, and still no game. I guess this counts as a failure! What happened?

After I made my post last Monday, I did some soul searching to figure out where I was going wrong. My conclusion was I made a mistake in jumping straight into working on game projects the instant my thesis was complete. Heck, I started work as soon as it was at the printers. However, with my write-up dragging on and on and me being at least four months behind on my pencilled in schedule for 2009 I felt I had to make up for lost time.

My biggest concern is that I seem to be entirely motivated by guilt. I feel guilty I’m this far behind, that I’m not up to speed, and that I’m not putting in enough effort. Guilt can be a powerful motivator, but it’s entirely negative and really not the best motivator for anything creative. So I decided to try a motivational experiment, and told myself I didn’t need to feel guilty last week. Work on what I feel like, if I feel up to it, but if I want to dabble with other things, feel free.

The results were.. somewhat expected. I ended up doing very little on Project Protos. I did however feel a lot more relaxed. I caught up on a bunch of chores I’d been putting off for ages. I spent some time pondering the whole whys and wherefores of me going into games. I also drank a lot of tea and spent too much time surfing the internet, which is a real problem. I think I needed a break, but I can’t even relax properly.

I’m not sure if this impromptu break was wisdom or just weakness. I’m not that happy I wasn’t able to keep up with the game-a-week progress that everyone else is doing. I’m also unhappy that it’s near the end of Q1 2009 and I’m not even out of the gate yet. But I also don’t want to burn myself up in a few months due to a misplaced priority of quantity over pace, which I feel is a real danger. It’s a quandary. I feel like in the last couple of years I’ve pieced together a winning plan for this, but instead of a beautifully arranged dot-point list it’s taken the form of a 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle designed by Escher. I’ve got all the pieces but it’s a challenge to even start putting them together. And I don’t know if my plans all hinge on me being a superman who can work productively for sixteen hours a day, seven days a week. There’s too many unknowns.

My gut feeling, which I’ve come to rely on, is that the Flash game that is Project Protos is a wonderful start point, but I should continue to work on it at a relaxed pace. I was going to say I’d aim to have it finished by the end of the month rather than in a weeks time, but I notice that for today that doesn’t make much difference! My real goal is to switch into a sustainable, professional, productive mindset. I’m giving myself a week to settle down, clear out the mental cobwebs and find my focus. When April comes round, I’ll be ready, and in a much better position mentally to work on experimental microgame projects.

My first big change is to curb my internet procrastination habit, which may be difficult. I’ve got a nasty habit of just heading to a random site whenever I get stuck on anything, which is an easy way to waste a day’s work. I’ll try tweaking my mindset each day until I find something that works.

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February 14, 2009

Free at last? (not quite)

I’m back.

Or more accurately, since I’m still sitting at the same desk I have been for most of the week, I’m virtually back.

Actually, that’s still not right. I’ve still been hanging around at the same forums I usually do, so I never even virtually left. So maybe I’m virtually, virtually back? Ah, screw it, I’ll start again.

After spending a week thrashing through a few more improvements to my dissertation, I’m through. That’s “through” rather than “finished”, because there’s still more I could do; there’s always more, and some of it feels quite important. But I’d rather gnaw off my own arm than keep working on that document, and frankly I’m hardly exaggerating. I’ve reached the point of total mental burnout as far as it goes with that research, so it’s time to call it done before I do any permanent damage. It’s done.

I’ll be a lot happier when it’s submitted, of course. I’ve still got to get the document through a few hoops, such as get a few other people to do a quick sanity check for stupid errors, wait for my long suffering supervisor to give me the okay, a few admin things, then get it printed and sent off, but I think it’s plain sailing from now on. Only a matter of days now before it’s all completely behind me - until it comes back from examination and I have to make more changes, of course. Thankfully that’s months away!

So I’m now free to devote some time to other things without feeling so guilty, such as my plans for 2009. I might be starting five months later than I originally expected, but I’ve got business plans to get started on.

It’s going to take a couple of days for me to get my mind back towards productive game development again. I think I pushed myself a little too hard in the middle of the week, and I’m feeling the cost now. I’m planning on being fairly open with what I’m up to, so I’ll be blogging about my plans when they’re a little more solid.

However, I expect it will take a while for me to get my mind running on all cylinders again. My current objective for the rest of February is basically to jump start my dormant development skills and to start thinking creatively again. Basically, I’ll be doing a bunch of self-directed learning and tutorials to hone up my skills and getting the right parts of my brain firing in sync. Nothing too stressful or strenuous; it’ll be like a short holiday, but productive. Then once I feel ready, I’ll get cracking on some of the objectives I have to get done some time in March. Chief among them will be a new website I’ve got planned for a new, business oriented domain.

For now, I’ll continue doing what I’ve been doing all day, which is dodder around the internet in a daze. Ugh.

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January 17, 2009

…haven’t forgotten about the trials

Quick update: I haven’t forgotten about trialling all that drawing software. I’ve got stuck on some other work right now, and it’s been sucking away my time and energy. I should get this latest batch done over the weekend, and I’ll be reviewing software next week.

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January 13, 2009

Sketching Software Trial - Introduction

This post is in stereo, posted both at my personal journal at and at my journal.

One of the things I plan to do in early 2009 is to brush up on my skills, as well as learn some new ones, in some dedicated practice sessions. My goal is to become skilled in all areas of game development and management. This is for a number of benefits: if I really have to I can make a game by myself; I can attract freelancers’ interest better with higher quality working prototypes; and I hope to find good synergy and innovations between the combinations of all the different fields.

A big area I need to work on is my art skills. I did some somewhat undirected doodling and scribbling throughout the last few years and brought my skill up to “poor”. After a lapse of the better part of a year, my art skill has deteriorated down to “very poor” or possibly “terrible”. It needs some serious work, and that means serious practice.

I think this time I will try more digital art practice than before. I used to just doodle around on paper with pencil, but things hardly ever got finished that way. I have never been very good with ink due to my somewhat bad left handed pencil grip; everything smudges so easily. With digital it is easy to correct mistakes, plus I get more practice with my Wacom tablet and actually getting images into the computer.

At the moment I am only reasonable at using Inkscape, the free open source SVG editor. However a vector editor like Inkscape may not be the best tool for this job. Therefore I am looking for another good tool for a relative art beginner to learn with. I am currently reviewing a few that I have heard are good for this.

A brief checklist of the properties I am looking for:

  • Good as an equivalent for freeform rough pencil sketching, brainstorming ideas and building up interesting characters. Typically I do this with a pencil on A4 paper when trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t. For a software tool to emulate this, the interface should stay out the way and make it easy for the ideas to flow.

  • Good for sketching the basic skeleton of an image. When I draw a typical Inkscape image, I usually start by doing a rough sketch as a basis. Currently I do that within Inkscape itself using the calligraphy tool, but importing raster images works too. A high quality finished result is not necessary for this stage, but it needs to be good to use as a reference image or as an underlay.

Highly desirable additional properties are:

  • Ability to ink the rough pencil sketch into a final version. The more I can get done in one tool the better.

  • Ability to extend further to make full pieces of concept art. Not essential, but would be extremely useful if I get good at a particular tool.
  • Any other features that I think would help in learning art - shading, colouring, use of different styles, ex cetera. This is not mandatory, but every extra useful feature for this helps.
  • And obviously, price is a factor too. I am more likely to buy useful software if it is cheap.

In short, I am looking for something that offers a fun, easy to use interface for rough pencil sketching and hopefully inking and other art features as well. A zillion extra professional features is not required.

Over the next week, during the periods I can stand my un-air-conditioned office space during the current hot spell, I will trial some software to see how it meets this criteria. My art skills are a bit shot, so I’ll do a few quick doodles to see how it feels then try a cartoon figure. I’ll spend maybe a few hours on each tool, then post a review up here with my comments. Once I’m done, I’ll buy whatever I think makes the grade.

My list of software to trial has expanded a bit since I posted a query in the art forum:

  • ArtRage 2.5 - emulates natural media, especially oil paint but also has pencils and markers. Comes in a free Starter edition with less features, and a cheap US$25 Full version.

  • Autodesk Sketchbook Pro - designed to be a digital sketch pad. Is very popular with artists for the role I am looking for. US$100 for North Americans, unknown price for me.
  • Corel Painter Essentials 4 - Painter X is the leading product in natural media software. Essentials is the toned down version for a fraction of the cost. Essentials costs US$100 from Corel, although Apple Australia is offering it for A$100. (Painter X is about seven times the price).
  • Adobe Photoshop CS3 - The big brand name art tool. CS4 is the current version, but I already own Creative Suite 3 (I got it to get Flash plus all the other Adobe tools with an educational discount). Costs about as much as Painter X, but you can get the stripped down Elements for less. For me, cost is moot as I already own it.
  • GIMP 2.6 - The open source raster art editor. I have had misgiving about GIMP, but for fairness and completeness I will add this into the trial. Cost: free!
  • Inkscape 0.46 - Last but not least, my favourite vector editor, Inkscape. I currently do sketches with Inkscape’s calligraphy tool. I am putting this in last just for comparison, plus I can compare a vector editor to all these raster editors. Cost: free!

That’s probably enough for a series of handy tests, unless I find out about another good tool out there. I’ll post each individual review here when I am done with the test.

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June 5, 2008

Quick update

Just a quick post to say I haven’t forgotten about my blog here, I just haven’t had much to write about. I’ve tried writing up an insightful post or two but they weren’t flowing well enough to bother posting.

At the moment I’m fairly busy trying to finish up my studies, and what with winter being a pain on my creative energies I probably won’t have anything insightful to add until spring (in the southern hemisphere). Once everything has been wrapped up I’ll have a holiday period with loads of free time, so I’ll be able to put some thought on where to take this journal (amongst other things). Until then, this site might lie mostly dormant for a while.

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February 5, 2008

The new iMac in its natural habitat

My Computer Desk

My new iMac on the right, collection of USB devices on the left. I’ve got a fair number collected by now, although to be honest none of them are particularly flash. I’ve felt it was better to upgrade with more functionality than with higher spec computer hardware. Now the only thing keeping me from making the game of my dreams is my chronic shortage of time, lack of organisation and general laziness.

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