Holiday Blockbusters

I decided to upgrade the blog list on the right and switched it to the widget so you can see the posts. So please feel free to stop by friends of mine and see what they think of whatever the hell is going on.

So Laura fought a harrowing journey to get to Chicago on last Friday. The major storm that swept over the mid west and headed east did not do us a lot of good. Being a tough and smart cookie, she was able still make it and only be about an hour off her original flight. Being super awesome, Laura snagged up Banjo-Kazooie : Nuts and Bolts for us to play. I got to tell y'all : this is game is bonafide holiday blockbuster. Now what exactly does that mean? Well I feel that true holiday games are the ones that can keep you coming back but are easy to still step away from or even better, allow you to include others. N&B is not a co-op game but the sheer comedy that can come from watching people put vehicles together then test em is pretty good. Last year, Guitar Hero 3 was definetly the holiday blockbuster. Just about everyone that I spent time with was captivated by it and found themselves coming back to get some more. So far I feel that way with N&B. The game does not have a gripping story (in fact it like to make fun of itself for this) or nerve-wracking gameplay that you feel exhausted (mentally of course) afterwards. Instead it has this laid-back nature that just encourages you to have fun while at the same time providing enough direction and motivation to keep you playing.

I just realized I should probably explain what this game is all about. N&B is essentially a platformer game but with a vehicle twist. In the game, you will find several challenges (which reward you with tokens that you need to unlock more challenges, etc) that will require you to use a vehicle. Now this is where the game's awesomeness comes in. You build the vehicles. A simple to use editor allows you to take parts you've collected and construct all kinds of vehicles. Initally these are simple but the game will pull you along by giving you a new piece here or there that will make your eyes pop just thinking of possiblities. So in the beggining, you will make fairly simple land vehicles but very soon you will get wings, propellers, hoverpads and even springs. So its perfecty reasonable to build a glider with no propulsion but springs to launch it up into the air and then glide down. Its pretty mind-blowing how you can live out kid fantasies just messing around with the vehicles. My personal goal: make a truck with a breakway helicopter in it...and apparently this can be done!

From what I've been hearing from Raj, this game has even more amazing components that come later on. From what little I've done so far, I'm very much into the game. Its providing a nice relaxer to games like L4D, WoW, and RA3. Just simple and goofy. Now if only we were playing this during Thanksgiving in front of my nephew....instead of all those shooters.

Stay Classy San Diego

Greetings and Salutations everyone. It has been awhile since I've blogged properly so I figured I'd take some time while my target machine at work makes it 8 minute powercycle to hop on the blogosphere and do the bad thing. To make sure I get it all in, we'll start and the end and work our way back.

I finally caved in and bought Wrath of the Lich King. I always thought WoW was a great action-rpg and provided a good enough "solo during multiplayer" experience to scratch my stat-crazy side. After finally hitting that point where I could not stand playing my existing characters anymore, the only main thing that brough me to Lich King was the new Death Knight class. As many have stated about the expansion, this is for existing WoW players. Nothing about the Death Knight is simple and while the class is pretty freaking awesome (both gameplay and visually) it can be incredibly overwhelming trying to figure out how to fight. My interest in the Death Knight stems from being a Warcraft fan from way back and any spell that lets me get closer to being a necromancer is always a good thing. So far my feelings are kind of mixed. The starting area was really cool and provided a unique twist for WoW quest standards. However, like many have also stated, its a totaly let down when you go into the Burning Crusade content and realize you have 10 levels of pretty much boredom before you can experience the new cool stuff. A new thing I'm trying to do is be more balanced about how much I play the game. This isn't so much about addiction, but about not getting burned out quickly on what could be a very enjoyable game. This sort of leads into my next topic, which is again more on Left 4 Dead.

My friend Adam came to visit me last weekend and I sat his WoW-Raiding ass down on my couch and we rocked L4D pretty much all weekend. After he got the hang of it, we did a few campaigns then were joined by 2 other buddies who convinced us to try Versus. Now this mode (for those who don't know) is the same as standard co-op except that up to four human players will play as boss infected when the game decides to spawn them. On top of that, the infected players can even pick where they spawn and work together to come up with insanely devious tactics. The suriviors will get as far as they can go until they beat the level or die. At that point, they are given a score based and then the teams switch places. You do this until the campaign is over and the team with the best accumulated score wins. This mode was pretty foreign to me and from what I had originally heard it made the survivor experience very unbalanced so I was a little nervous about playing it. For lack of better words, boy was I wrong! Versus adds a much stronger reason to stick together (for both sides). If you are the survivors and you keep calm and most importantly work as a damn team you can overcome just about anything the infected can throw at you. Its pretty clear that Valve playtested the living hell out of this. It still amazes me how many surivor teams we fought that simply had too many "Master Chiefs" to stay alive. Master Chief is a term I've applied to any surivor in L4D that believes he can run out several rooms ahead/behind of his team and solo. "I've got a sniper rifle guys, I'm gonna snipe ahead or stay behind and Snipe." This is pure Master Chief ie the belief that you bad ass skillz (note the z) can have you decimate the entire Infected team. Now I understand if once this person was able to get the 2 hunters, smoker, and boomer all from getting him but that ultimately is luck. What happens when a hunter keeps you busy so a smoker can get you? What do you do then? Like suriving a hit by a car, it does not mean you are stronger. It was luck. Anyhoos, this Master Chiefs make the job of being an infected player oh so easy. With swift actions, we seperated the opposing team and tore them apart. When our team had to run the gauntlet, we stayed close as possible, always watched our backs and constantly remind each other of our distance from one another. Thats how its done son! Well I figured I'd share my infected/survivor fighting tips with y'all:

Survivors

  • Stick together! If you find yourself leading, always stop every so often and spin around to make sure your team is with you! If you are trailing or want to step of in a different direction, make sure the whole team knows. If for whatever reason the team is not into going that way then don't fight it. Go with them. You always stand a better chance together without that Molotov you were struggling to find.
  • Do not search! Now this can be a mixed bag. Searching can offer up goodies such as medpacks and bombs but can also leave you wittled down and low on ammo before you know it. In my opinion, searching naturally splits a team up as people step into rooms randomly. You are better off moving forward and progressing through the level.
  • Do not hunt or chase! When entering a new room, do not start scattering and hunting down every zombie you see. In many cases you can just walk past'em or close a door to make your life easier. This isn't too big of a deal, just make sure your team knows where you are going. Now chasing is a serious problem! When you miss that hunter and he goes running off, do not chase him blindly leaving your team behind. Odds are him and his friends will find you and get you before you get them. If you are going to hunt down boss infected, do it as a group. Call out where he is and move together to find him or wait for him to catch up again.
  • DUCK! For some reason, people are die hard against ducking in L4D as if it pains them to do so. Lack of ducking results in 90% of friendly fire. If you are leading, duck. This way your team can fire over you and keep your ass alive! If you get puked on by a boomer, DUCK! This way your team can get clear head shots on all the zombies are about to pound you.
  • When in doubt, Melee! Punching in L4D is incredibly powerful. You can shove zombies back several feet and buy yourself more time to reload. In fact, if you are puked its better for you to melee and allow your team a more clear line of fire (and prevent you from shooting them). Its is much faster to melee a hunter off a surivor. Do not wast time shooting if you can punch them. This goes for teammates who've been tongue tied by a smoker. Punching them will release them much faster then trying to shoot the smoker or hit the tongue.
  • Rear Guard. If you are in back tell your team you will get "rear guard" and keep an eye out behind you. Make sure you keep up with your team and make sure they know you are looking backwards, especially the guy right ahead of you. Its important to keep an eye on your rear especially when you heard the horde music. When that does happen, be the smart guy who looks in the opposite direction and prevents zombies from rushing you.
Oh scrats...need to get home. I'll finish this later.

I am Butterballman



The wife put this together for me. Pretty smashing, eh?

Xml Object Generation

So (there's that word again) I've been trying to work on a side project for awhile now. I think the whole side project thing formed a core component of my work ethic and if anything (outside of my wife and friends) got me through school, it had to be that. I started work on a new game called "Attack of the Robo Zombies" and my first approach was to go ballz out in making a prototype. I started slacking on creating an kind of design or plan to develop and instead got into the old trap of designing code while writing code. This is not 100% avoidable but you need to know the big picture before moving forward. Another problem was that as a side project, I was just trying to grind out something that didn't have an r&d hook that was keeping me interested in working on it. So in the face of all these problems I've started pretty much from scratch (again).

This time around, I'm building a prototype but I'm going to be using Bullet Physics to run dynamics for the world (making my life easier) and also focusing on developing a "robust" object generation system to make it easier to make the game data driven. This is more or less an experiment with Xml. So I figured, more for myself then anyone, I would dive into it here.

The problem that I encountered with previous projects was never developing a universal method to create objects from files. Usually I would end up writing several loading functions that would get a bit tedious since they only varied by a few things. While there are lots of solutions (and many better then the one I am about to go into), I started thinking about xml and how I wanted my solution to be driven by that as much as possible. For the game I wanted to make, I knew there would be many occasions where I would want to spawn things into the world. So lets say I wrote an xml file for a spawn point:

-spawnthis-
-enititylist-
-entity-
-/enititylist-
-spawnthis-

So from this, I wanted the ability to just say "Generate everything in ." Initially I thought yeah this could work but what if I wanted to add some kind of effect to be created with the spawn:

-spawnthis-
-enititylist-
-entity-
-/enititylist-
-effectlist-
-effect-
-/effectlist-
-spawnthis-

My normal inclination would be to write a special chunk of spawn code that would look for the EntityList and EffectList and generate special groups for each. But lets say down the road I wrote something else that wasn't a spawn point but had to do the exact same thing. So this got me thinking about making a system that forced me to write the object creation code in a generic/reusable fashion. So now I've created a static object called a Generator. The Generator has a map of Creator objects (where Creator is the base class) where each one is mapped to a name that corresponds to an xml tag (ie ). You give the Generator an xml node and it will start with the current node and go to the next one and so on. For each one, it looks for a Creator matching the tag and calls Create method. The creator allows for the unique code to generate that object. In most cases, this would create whatever was called for and also place it into the world (registering with whatever collections are neccessary). Now what if you needed to catch a reference to the newly created object? I provide the ability for a callback to be given to the Generate() function that will return a void* and name of the tag for each time a Creator is called for a node. I'm also going to add the ability to the Generator to store a list of "Default Nodes" that can be referenced by others. So for example:

-grunt-
-stats-
-/grunt-
-entity default="grunt"-

In this case, we add as a default to the Generator. When Generating , is retrieved from the collection of Default Nodes, it will pass both the and nodes to the Creator. This way if anything is not found in it will use defaults from .

There are definite drawbacks to a system like this. For one, it relys a lot on string comparisons and as of now, my use of Tiny Xml is creating a lot of strings on the fly so I'll need to iron that out. My hope is that by developing this feature now, I can use it to move prototype/game development faster. That and keep myself from regressing to doing nothing but playing games in my free time.

The New Danger

Just a quick thought: Mos Def's "The New Danger" is an album I hated at first but slowly learned is pretty damn awesome.

The Beggar is probably the sexiest song ever made.

I feel dirty just saying that.

Join the party, Join the survivors club!

So (damn I can't help starting posts with that word (is that a word?)) I've been delving real deep into Left 4 Dead after work. Its hard to not get into it. With all its incredible features, I think one thing that hasn't really been stated about L4D is its ability to act like an on-going party. Initially it was sort of like a WoW raid/instance - everyone get together and had to be dedicated to finishing the whole campaign. "What time will you be playing?" was a question I got asked a lot. So in the beggining it was a very dedicated experience. While this is a lot of fun, the obligation starts to become something that weighed me down when I was thinking about starting a game or joining a game. It was looking to become the same damn problem I had with WoW. I simply don't like being tied to a game by force. Last night it kind of dawned on me that I did not have to treat the game like this. In fact, treating it like this would just take away from it. So I started treating it like a drop-in-drop-out game and encouraging my friends to do that same.

L4D has two major functions that support this: AI teammates and friends lobby. Anytime during the game, you can just hit pause, and select "Take a Break" which will have the computer control you so that the team can keep going. Now the AI teammates are no real replacement for a person but they can perform basic tasks and the part where they excel is saving people from hunters and smokers as well as healing others. They do fail when it comes to performing specific strategies during the "Last Stand" finale levels at the end of each campaign. Now the Friends Lobby is not something revolutionary but is a constant reminder of how damn polished this game is. From the main menu, you can go to a special lobby that shows all of the games your friends are playing in and if they can be joined. You can also create games that are friends only so your they can come and leave as much as they would like. The benefit of this? When you want to play, make a game, and start moving through it on your own. If your friends come online, they can just hop in - no fuss, no muss. In fact this weekend, I am just gonna keep starting matches to move through the game and let people keep coming in and out.

L4D is truly a party that never stops. Just keep the guns filled, grab those pain pills, and look out...cause the ground just started shaking...that means zombie hulk is coming.....

L4D

Damn, the hits keep coming don't they? This is some kind of crazy golden age. There have been nothing but super huge releases and you know whats the best part!? It's almost 100% software. No pain in the ass new console crap destroying this holiday season. Its pure gaming goodness...like good syrup squeezed from an awesome tree in an awesome forest where the awesome gnomes (who take care of the awesome trees of the awesome forest so awesomely) and you pay awesome dolloars for the awesome syrup but sometimes its so awesome you need to get their awesome sauce which is made from really awesome awesome berries which are the most awesome of the awesome fruits which grow awesomly in the awesome forust (which is where the awesome syrup is made in case I lost you somewhere in my awesome rant).

So feeling like a kid on Halloween, I saw the adds around that Left 4 Dead demo was available early if you pre-ordered. Now I know I want to get this game, but I'm not sure for what platform. I prefer 360 since voice chat is easier to maintain and more of my friends play 360 actively then steam on pc. I may end up getting both down the road just in case any awesome mods/maps come out for free on PC, I don't miss out.

Allright, now the real question: How was it? It was f*&%ing great. So some quick background info: Left 4 Dead (L4D) is a co-op multiplayer centric game (though single player is totally avaiable) where one group of players takes on the role of 4 survivors. Your objective? Get to the other end of the stage which happens to be infested with hundreds of fast moving/climbing zombies. So its pretty straight forward but what is so good about L4D right now is the level of polish in its presentation. The game attempts to be cinematic but also is very clear about having "WEAPON OVER HERE" icons pop up that help you find items such as health. You can always turn around and find your teammates who have a nice blue aura appear around them when they are behind walls. Its very clear that while voice chat is important, you can do so much communication without even having to talk to another and in some cases, when it gets really frentic, that comes in handy.

As far the famed AI Director goes (which has been touted (is that the right word?) as this amazing thing that will spawn or stop spawning zombies to scare the living crap out of you and fill the game with tension), its pretty damn awesome. I ran through the demo twice on single player and twice with human teammates. Both times the game changed up its ways to mess with me/us. On one occasion, my team (real humans) were camping near a safe room (locations with ammo/health supplies) and picking off zombies before we had to jump down a hole and cut ourselves off from our supply. The longer we waited, the more and more zombies started to appear from other spots culminating in a horde of zombies literally dropping from the ceiling. It was at this point that we decided to move the f*$% along and get out of there. Things like this add a lot to the tension of the game and make for some hectic moments. The single best moment came when we were deep in the subway and the horde suddenly appeared. We doubled back and jumped inside of a broken down train....

Inside the train I figured "Allright good, there are only two ways to get on the train, we should be just fine" and that is when it got awesome (in a terrifying way). The train started to shake and the zombies were crawling ALL OVER the damn thing. They broken windows and jumped in between our defensive positions. It became an unbelievable awesome cluster f**k.

And now...the demo is up on 360....so you know where to find me tonight!

ARZ Update

I know, I know...what the heck. I talked up a storm about this side project and then I just seemingly ditched it. Well after recent events, I've realized I need to get back on track. I won't get too into it here, but I'm forcing myself to work on this project again.

So, getting back on track, I'm still working on some tech for ARZ. I've only got a little more to do and then hopefully the next thing you will see is will be closer to a real prototype.

This demo ( which you can download here ) is the first pass at creating a Hiearchial Grid for this game. The last one I made was for Blobula and I ended up not using it to its full extent. I plan on having lots of objects that need to do a whole hell of a lot of collision with one another so I needed a simple spatial partioning system. With this tech demo, use the arrow keys to move the little white ball around.If you see the objects turn blue, this means that the ball is being tested for intersection. If you see the objects turn red, that means you've collided. And just so everyone is knows, I know the ball doesn't collide with the walls of the level.

So its not much, just proof that I'm working. The next step will have the ball hitting the walls and getting some basic game physics applied to rebound around the enviroment and come to a stop. This is foundation for the cannon basics.

Fallout 3 Survival Tips

Yeah yeah, I'm doing it again. I've gotten so into a game that I'm going to post tips. At least this time I've got the support of most of the gaming world behind me.

Here are a few tips I've picked up:

****** SPOILER ALERT ******

Fighting Deathclaws:
These are truly wicked creatures. The town of Old Giney (which is up north near the NE corner of the map) is filled with these beasts. So these guys are fast and incredibly deadly in melee. Even in power armor, you will take a considerable amount of damage from every swing. The best way to take these bastards is actually more about what you do before you fight rather then during. Make sure you have a nice clean path to run backwards and know how to avoid running straight into a wall. When you finally do see one, do yourself a favor and aim for the legs! If you can cripple these guys there running speed is greatly reduced giving you more time to back up and keep shooting. If you are an explosives guy (like moi) then use 1-3 frag mines while walking backwards to cripple the legs then use a grenade/rifle to clean them up. They have intense amount of health so when you head to Old Giney, come packing!

Back to the Wasteland

The Christmas of 97' (I think it was 97..) stands out to me simply because that was when I discovered Fallout. I remember the tagline was something like "Out of the dungeons and into the wasteland." The game was directly challenging the for-the-most-part standard of high fantasy being the only world you could set an RPG game in. I remember working my way through the game and drawing a story in my head that was beyond what the graphics could actually achieve. While many will disect what made Fallout such a good game, I'll just say something that stuck with me was the total idea of feeling like a scavenger. You didn't fight to simply get an awesome rare item (which hey that is still cool), you fought because you needed every bullet you could get your hand on. You need to scavenge that raiders armor to have enough to trade for more grenades and stimpacks. I am not going to get into the mechanics of it (I'm no designer), but whatever they laid out in that game really worked for me.

Now Fallout 3 has arrived (well it arrived a bit before) and I know, dear reader, that I have been dead wrong about other games (see my now-embarassing Too Human posts) but this is truly one of the most amazing games I've ever played. Whatever the scavenger element was in the previous Fallout's, they got it down perfectly in Fallout 3. On top of that, the world is so compelling that I find myself excitedly wandering, with no quest in mind. I wander with gun in hand, looking for camps of raiders or other baddies, while searching the ruins of America. Thats one thing that I wasn't prepaired for when I got into the game: the enviroments are stunning. So many times in the game you will wonder into an area and have no need for someone to give you lengthy dialog. The world itself will tell you what happened and that makes exploring so much more worth it.

I can't get enough of this game and considering times have been tough personally, its nice to have such an amazing world to step into and dish out sweet wasteland justice. Warning to you evil-doers out there in the wastes - be on the look out if you see a lone man in power armor. He carries grenades...and he knows how to get more.

Friggin Hell!

Look what this guy at work did over the course of a year:



That is a piece for pixel recreation. Don't believe me? (click on the 2nd photo!)

Zander Rajeev Nattam

Meet the newest Nattam! Congrats Praveen, Jen, and Kaiden!



With a bad-ass name like that, this kid gonna be a super hero.

WAAAAAGHH!

Yo Ho fellow net pirates!

So ARZ is taking a backseat for a little bit. Since Too Human crapped out on me a LOT sooner then I was hoping. The original plan was get Too Human, ride it out till Dead Space, then ride Dead Space and Fallout 3 into the sunset. Since, as I mentioned, did not go as planned, I needed a subsitute. I had been interested in Warhammer Online (WAR) for awhile since I've been a huge Warhammer fan for about 6 years. I finally heard about Public Quests (which I'll get into later) and was sold on the concept. Ryan goated me online to get it and I finally gave in and bought it yesterday and sat down in the evening only to realized that it was 1 am and I needed to get to bed.

So what makes WAR the most compelling to me is the way it approaches PvE. They have created what they call Public Quests and I think these guys need to patent this idea. So here is how they break down: scattered throughougt the game are these set areas where a PQ is occuring. The moment you walk into that area, you are involved in the PQ. So what these are are an on-going event with several stages (usually 3). As soon as you step in, you are prompted about what stage the event is in and what is needed to move on to the next stage. So far, this has been divided into 1) Kill X low level creatures, 2) Kill X "elite" creatures, 3) Kill a boss. This is super simple but the great part is that you do not have to group or accept a quest or any crap like that. Just walk in, hit something, and then choose to stick around or leave and do somethign else. The awesome part is finding lots of people there and just jumping in and helping. Within a few moments of joining my first PQ, I ended up in a group of about 15 people. Now to be clear, we were not all grouped in the traditional sense. I had to rely on scanning my mates to see their condition. On top of that, a lot of people were more then happy to listen but refused to talk to acknowledge. What happnened next blew my mind. After a few trials, this random assortment of people eventually formed a working group. I along with another player ended up leading the group and getting them to fall back and press forward at the same time. When the elites came up, we quickly reorganized and focused on single targets. Being a Warrior Priest, my job was to stay on the main target but keep everyone else alive. Being a medic is something I greatly enjoy but it was nice to actually be up in the front wielding a huge hammer and "kicking ars for the lord!"

After that first PQ, I moved onto another one which only involved about 4 of us. This PQ scaled down for us and eventually we got to stage 3. This involved taking out two elites. One of my teammates went forward and held the attention of both while I kept her alive and did a little damage. So in basically 2 hours, I participated in what felt like two instances in WoW. The fights required strategy and teamwork but were formed more naturally then a crazy raid with practice runs that last all week.

A long time ago, my friend Doug and I were discussing how we wanted more fights in WoW to be all out battles with tons of minions just coming out and players relying more on "impromtu strategy" then fully planned out hard-core tactics. So far, WAR seems to provide this experience and I got to say, I'm in love with it.

ARZ Dev update

Since my net has been down (I'm doing this from work), I have found myself with a lack of entertainment at home. Too Human has completly run its course (way sooner then I had hoped) and now I'm kind of bored. With this in mind, I've been trying to do more around the apartment and have finally jumped back into my side project: Attack of the Robo Zombies. Initally, I went on a campaign to refactor a large chunk of code from Smashout. This included the editor which I got into better shape. Just last night I finally finished getting the basic level data loaded and displaying. Now its time to develop a collision system and get a demo ready for all of you.

My approach to ARZ has been similar to Smashout: get it out and play it. I'll be the first to say my code is not some amazing stroke of software architecture. Instead its a lot more about rapid development - just get it done, stick to KISS, avoid unreadable code (since you will need to r&d the proto later), and get it online.

With that in mind, I'm hoping by the end of this week you will see some a tech demo.

FYI and a STFU to the CCC

For those who have been wondering why I'm not on Xbox Live the past couple of days well I've been in Joisey helpin Laura get moved in (and spending some time in marital bliss) and my internet has gone down and I can't get a repair man till wednesday (which sadly I'll have to ask my boss if I can get out of work early to take care of).

So hopefully I'll be back on by Wednesday night.

For Laura

If you have read Laura's Blog, you will know that we are going through a bit of "tough" part of our lives. Maybe tough is a bit of an over statement. Laura and I made an extra big effort to always talk about the future and how things may go for us career-wise. One thing was for sure, Laura's career was not going to be in Chicago. Her dreams were to get into 3d animation for Film and Television and that just was not the kind of job available in the Windy City. We knew early on that she may have to go to California for a brief stint at a big animation house. What we didn't see coming was an perfect job in New Jersey seek her out. It happened and we both took big breaths and realized that just a meager two weeks after getting married, we were going to have to live apart for an extended period of time. This was an opportunity she could not just pass up. It was worth a shot to go out and give it a whirl. After a whirlwind weekend, she is now in New Jersey (taking temporary residence with her sister in NYC). Today is her first day and I hope its the start of the career she always wanted.

As for me, I thought I could be a lot stronger about this. I regret breaking down a bit in front of Laura and not giving her the extra confidence she needs right now. I am resolved to make my "cushy" position in Chicago a home base that she can call at any time. This is gonna be a tough time for us. We both want whats best for out future, and that often calls for sacrifices. I get Sully to keep me company (or Sully has me to keep him company) and has proven to be extra affectionate after the weekend without us.

I want to make a special super thank you to all our family for stepping up and helping us out in our time of need. I know we got so much help during the wedding but to still have everyone ready to drop what they are doing and help us again is just overwhelming. We are truly blessed to have such good people in our lives.

I love my wife and I want to be back with her as soon as I can but I also love my wife and want whats best for her.

I know you can do this honey. I love you more with more then I thought I ever had in me.

Now go and git em.

More thoughts and notes

I've been sharing my idea was some close associates and getting great responses. They seem very excited to see a working prototype of the game.

Raj and I shot around some more ideas briefly and this is what we came up with:

  • Aggression Mod : Enemies touched by the ball will turn and attack other enemies
  • Slow Down Mod: Touched enemies will slow down. Placing enough mods in will give you the ability to slow down the whole game.
  • Super Ball Combos: When a certain combination of mods is placed into the slots, the ball gains a truly unique ability. One example would be a super nuke ball. The whole idea with the combos is a way to put in unique abilities that don't fit in well as mods.
Grant also threw in the idea of holes in the levels that enemies can be tossed down. He mentioned that this would be a good way to use the Gravity mod effectively. If tech reasons get in the way, I may have to turn these into "electric fields" or something for rendering reasons.

I also started working on an online task spreadsheet ( thank you google docs!) to keep myself...well...on task. Right now I'm going to be retooling the Smashout Editor and getting all the basic level data setup. For now, this is going to be limited to shapes. The first tech demo will have the level in 3d along with the cannon. From there I'll move onto basic projectile-enviroment collision.

Attack of the Robo Zombies!

After much mind-searching, I've decided to scrap my whole previous side project. In the end the entire thing would be a great venture in collision/mathematics but it would end up just being that. I thought back to what made me the happiest while at Full Sail and that was working on the gameplay and feedback features of Smashout. I really want to get back to that and I'm just plain tired of doing advanced collision research. It just isn't as much fun as it used to be.

So I spent sometime figuring out what a good new project would be. I decided to go back to what made Smashout so much fun to work on. I think the key factor was that we were not trying to emulate a game that was much bigger then what we could achieve. It was a simple arcade style game and was very limited in resources / etc. I then thought of an idea that was pitched to me by Mike Arnold: a gun that was modable so its behavior was effected (vs just increasing damage, etc). I decided to cross these. So what came out of it is "Attack of the Robo Zombies."

In ARZ, you will control a turret that can rotate around a level (which is all in complete view like Smashout) and fire a simple cannon ball style projectile. Your objective is defend small power nodes from being destroyed by hordes of Robo Zombies for a set period of time. Your cannon is not very powerful so to help in attacking the hordes, you will need to use Mods. Each mod takes up one slot (which only so many slots are provided) and will effect the behavior of the cannonball. So here are some examples:

  • Gravity Mods : This will attract enemies towards the ball can be used to draw them to a particular area. You can collide enemies with the enviroment or shove them into holes. Multiple mods will increase the amount of enemies drawn to one ball.
  • Combustible Mods: This will cause the ball to blow up when it hits a wall/enemy. More of these will increase the explosion. Hitting two or more balls together will create a bigger explosion.
  • Rebound Mods: Every rebound mod set will deflect the ball off a wall/enemy.
So the idea is that you customize what behavior your ball will do when you fire it. Grant Shonkwiller gave me a good idea by suggesting that as you place more mods of one type in, you will unlock "Abilities" that go with those. For example, placing in X number of Combustble mods will allow you to trigger all the existing projects to explode. Put in enough Gravity Mods and you are given the ability to stop all the balls in place. Enough Rebound Mods will allow you to curve the ball after being fired.

I've always wanted to do a zombie game but since that is getting so cliche, I made them robots.

A Grand Evening for a Reception

On with the show in this final installement!

After taking photos around Waukesha and spending some well deserved time taking in just how beautiful our wedding party looked, we headed to the reception hall. Upon getting in, most of the wedding party flocked to the appetizers that were around the place. I think in general, we were all starving. Eventually we got organized and headed in. We entered to "Lionis and Lucy" from Peanuts. Laura and I came in and more-or-less strutted our stuff over to the cake (what a cake it was) and cut a piece. We then got the table and the mike was passed around for the speeches. My brothers went first. Praveen talked about how we went from enemies to friends and Raj chatted it up about Laura and I. I honestly had to look down at the floor to keep from out-right balling. Kristy and Dorothy took up the mic and provided a large batch of tears from Laura. We then got onto the real deal of the whole wedding: the food. And what a deal it was. I think the only regret from almost everyone at the wedding was being unable to have more space in our bellies for more food. It was all so damn good! But there was much to be getting on with. We eventnually stepped out into the hallway to take some extra photos but then we rushed back in to do a speed-record of visits to all the tables. We dished out hugs and at about 5 a minute. We then took the dance floor for the grand first dance. We got to try out our dance lessons to "Come Away with Me" by Norah Jones. After that we did the Mother/Father dances then it was time to get it rocking. We kicked off with Polka in which I began the tradition of running around the room telling people "I need help" and dragging them up the dance floor. For several songs we kept grabbing more and more people. Laura and I made and effort to dance as much as possible and get everyone in the room to do the same. We eventually moved onto the garder belt event. For this, the DJs asked me to perform dances (alone) in front of Laura and to keep doing so until the Laura granted here approval. I am not sure what happened, but something over took me and I became more crazy until eventually I had to striptease in front of the whole wedding to get her approval. From that point on, the rest of the night was an exhausted, dancing, adrenile filled blur. At the end of the night, we slowly made our way to our hotel room and collapsed in a fit of exhaustion.

And so ends the greatest wedding Naveen will ever be the groom in and Laura will ever be the bride in. Thanks again to all attended and a special thanks to Praveen and Raj Nattam, Kaiden Smith, Nathan Summers, Adam Whitman, Chris Barngrover, Kristy Skowronski, Dorothy Hatchell, Becky Hansen, Julie Townsend, Keth Vasu, Tom and Lynda Skowronski, my Parents and every other person who helped make the wedding what it was.

Oy vey. Now onto married life with a crazy animated wife and a cuddly yet surly cat. Ain't it all grand.

A Grand Day for a Wedding

So now its time for the follow up. It is time for the sequel. Ladies and gentle giants, it is time for the wedding day post. Dun dun duuuuuuuun!

After a raunchy good time with my brothers and several fellows, I ended up waking up at around 8:30 am. I got up out of bed and decided the best thing to do was to order up a pot of coffee. I set up my laptop to start burning our Dinner Music CD (thank god I put the blank disc in the computer). While Raj snored away, I sipped my coffee and did my best to work over a plan that would ensure I didn't mess anything up that day. I wrangled up the groomsmen at each room and notified them that they need to be ready by 11 at at my door. Fortunately, things went well and each guy got ready and started showing up at 10:50. Before that, I spent some time with my mom and grandma in a ceremony in their room. They did a prayer and my mom and I spilled some tears with a hug. She has a way to make people cry. I'm not sure how she does it. I sallied forth back to my room and met up with all the chaps. Everyone was there and looking great. Praveen showed up with the always entertaining Kaiden and we all made sure Raj was up at them. After solving the driving situation by just taking my Parent's van, we all squeezed in. Adam and Chris do what they always do and acted as the skinny ones and squeezed together in a half seat. We made our way to the church and got out. At this point, I was given the codename "Peaches" as my groomsmen formed a Secret Service style team to make sure I did not see Laura. We met up with Mary the photographer and began to get all the crazy shots outside the church. She was fantastic. We ended up being there really a lot earlier then we had to and Praveen asked Laura if there was enough time to grab some food. Him, Raj, and Kaiden (I'm sure he helped somehow) grabbed us up some cousins turkey subs. Nothing ever tasted so good. My parents and the flower girls showed up and I knew that at this point, everyone necessary was here and I no longer had to worry. I was snuck inside to take a funny photo of Laura and I holding hands but being unable to see each other. While Laura was escorted out of the room, no body bothered to tell me she was gone. So a shout out must go to Bridesmaid Julie's husband who kindly came over and told me the cost was clear and I could get out of the corner where I had been sitting Blair-witch style. As people started to fill the lobby, I walked around greeting them all and helping Mary (who in here awesome way) find people to match boutinerres. I know I could of given this to someone else, but alas, only I had the crucial face-name memory that was required. I wento the bathroom and of course this was when Praveen came back out and asked me what the hell I was doing. It was time!

I ran back out and got up with my parents. Father Barbian walked to the altar, turned around, and I saw the whites of his eyes.....

During the ceremony, I told myself to keep a smile up and found I didn't really have to try, it just came out. Laura was an absolute knock-out. I mean damn. She was so gorgeous. I think I shuddered a bit. We worked our way throught the ceremony and I found it a bit hard to lock eyes with either moms. My mom broke down and cried very early while Laura's mom showed some strong courage and restraint to hold it back. If I looked at either, it instantly made be do the look up trick to make the tears go back in. Eventually we wrapped it up (I have trouble remember the details of the ceremony). I remember walking out with Laura and going into the side room where all of our Wedding Party joined us. It was a rush. I finally got to say "my wife..." and looked for every possible combination just to have an excuse to say it.

We eventually ran through the photos and filled into the Limo. It was time to take photos and then head to the reception...and oh what a reception it was but that story will need to be for another time (tommorow). So stay tuned listeners!

On a side note, Sully is adjusting very well to his new home. We finally let him out into the living room and he is slowly getting used to it. At first he cried out for attention but now he is looking for spots to curl up. Damn that cat. I love him so.

Blissful Union and a Cat to boot

Well folks, it finally happened. Laura and I tied the blessed knot on Saturday Sept 6th and our lives are permanetly different from now until forever...and I could not be happier.

Laura made a good point that we should try to get our thoughts out as soon as possible in efforts to remember as much as possible. Apprently its very common to forget to a lot of the individual things that happen at your wedding. I chuck this up to the incredible lack of rest people involved get. I can tell you for certain that Laura and I were running on a collective 2 hours (and I think that was mostly me).

Below you will discover what happened on Wednesday but I'll just say that we made it into Wisconsin extremely late on Thursday night (I think technically it was Friday). We made anchor at a hotel near Greendale, WI which was 45 minutes or so from the actual reception hotel. The next morning I forced Laura to eat breakfast since she would be running around a lot with her mom and sister taking care of last minute things. I hit up the tux shop with Laura's Dad Tom. As we approached the counter, groomsmen extrodinaire Chris Barngrover surprised me by arriving right behind us. I have no idea when he started his trip to Wisconsin from Indiana, but he made great time. While all three of us got fitted into our tuxes, my brothers Raj and Praveen (with his son Kaiden and wife Jenni in tow) arrived. We chatted it up then proceeded to basically have a several mistakes be made by the tux shop. I think almost all the pants were hemmed way higher then they were supposed too. To top it off, groomsmen Nate Summers measurments were said to "never have arrived." This was not the truth and someone at the shop dropped the ball. So suddenly I found myself getting a tiny slice of what Laura and her mom Linda have been experiencing for about a year. A quick plan was put in place and a phone call was made to have Nathan take a detour to Kenosha, WI (he had just left Chicago) and head straight to the tux shop supply center to get fitted and have a tux made special for him. At this point, I was behind schedule and Chris was nice enough to take me to Photographer's Shop so I could discuss some stuff with them involving the large engagment photo and frame. Apparently a misprint had happened but the Photographer went ahead and orderd a new one. So with that all set, Chris and I headed to Waukesha to get ready for the reherasal dinner. It was actually quite an awesome thing that he was my ride cause for those don't know, Chris and I have not really talked to one another in almost a year and a half. A lot had transpired and it was a blast to get back in touch - one on one. Well we made it to the hotel, got changed, and headed to the rehersal. After about 15 looong minutes, my folks arrived and we began the rehersal. It went very well and everyone had a pretty good time but then we headed out to the dinner and that was definetly when I knew this wedding was going to be an incredible time. We had so much fun talknig and chatting with everyone. Everything seemed to flow so well, with people just discussing whatever and not making a point to talk about wedding-only stuff. I even got a world of warcraft discussion in there for a few minutes. I was also pleasently surpised when I was presented with a "Groom's Cake" that was in the shape of a massive deep dish pizza (with white choclate shredded cheese!). After the dinner, we all headed back to the hotel and almost all the guys met up at the bar where Raj covered the bill of many a beer and just a few shots. I believe I ranted a bit but we'll just say it was like a live concert with no bootlegging allowed. After it was over, most of us stumbled to Adam's room and a heroic effort was made to get everyone Dennys. Whether this was a good thing or not, I'm not so sure. And that was day one. What a day it was. Now it is getting kind of late and I will post part 2 : The Wedding tommorow but I have a special annoucment to make here live on the blog that contains a sneak peek of tommorow's post.

During the actual ceremony, the priest (Father Barbian) mentioned that we need to share the love that comes from our union with those who do not have it. When I looked at Laura and she looked at me, we both thought of one special little guy. On Wednesday, Laura had the fortune to be approached by a adorable 8 month old kitty. This cat clung to Laura and she could not resist taking him inside. I got home and met this little guy and was blown away at just how playful and loveable he was. On Thursday, instead of thinking of the massive-life altering event that was about to occur, we became wholly consumed with figuring out how to take care of this little guy. We raced down to a vet and turned him in to get nudered and declawed as well as be taken care of over the weekend. It was storming and we had to put him in a cardboard box. We had to get there fast because they were about to close (thankfully they stayed open later for us). I illegally parked and Laura jumped out of the car with the box. She heroically ran down the sidewalk with this little kitty trying to jump out of the box. I parked several (and I mean several) blocks away and ran back in the rain. We were able to get him in and get the bills covered. Now today (or at least yestered to be technical) we went and picked him up. He is the most adorable cat I have ever met and I can't wait to get to know him more.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the latest Nattam, Sully McGonnacal Nattam.







...and my wife is pretty adorable too. Here is some live action footage,

Mega-fun-tastic-whop-poplolpooza

Aka, our wedding!

Here it comes folks. Here it comes. We will have stories to tell, memories to share, and...well lets just say your in for a real treat.

Just so you know

Yeah. I'll stop talking about Too Human. I'm still liking it, but yeah you know...no one cares what I think.

It Begins!

Due to reasons I don't want to get into too much here, I finally decided to get up off the dang couch and do some work on my side project.

The original plan was figure out how to make a semi-decent collision method between two meshes (arbitrarily created in Maya). The goal was to use this method to develop a game I've dubbed Boulder. The key concept in Boulder is well.... large boulder like pieces of geometry colliding off each other and the player doing what he can to cling to each one and stay in the air.

I've been randomly taking notes attempting to figure how in sam-hell I am going to do this. So rather then get too caught in finding the "perfect" way, I just sketched up a semi-decent plan. So here is what I've got:

For each mesh, I generate a Bounding Volume Hiearchy. With this BVH, I place an id at every node. For each object that needs to use that geometry for collision, they create a linear list of Bounding Volumes that has a "copy" of each one located in the hierarchy. The idea is that the id in each node corresponds to an index in the instanced list. So at the top of each frame, we iterate throught the BVH and update the copied bounding volume in the list. This allows us to "flatten" the hiearchy for that individual instance. At this point we now have a BVH and properly-calculated bounding volumes. At this point, we can do some intersection testing using the BVH and the list. Eventually we will get down to child nodes and then can analyze the triangles to get more exact collision response.

Right now I've got a working model up that uses poorly calculated OBB-based BVH. Right now they are essentially AABBs that maintain orientation with the object. I'm going to come back to properly calculating an OBB around a group of triangles later. For now I'm going to use my initial version to get two of these BVH based objects to intersect and then properly seperate.

From the pic below, you can see the OBB that are detected intersecting the floor. These could be further checked with the triangles stored within (thought I haven't completly figure that whole part out).



Hopefully, when this is all done, I'll be able to have different models bouncing off each other while the player bounces off them.

And thats my two cents - Part 1

Warning: This is another Too Human Related post. I have an idea for a more "my life" post and I'll try to do that later.

I've been able to get a lot of time in with the game over the last week. Sunday, whilst in Fort Wayne, I had the entire house to myself and got to hook my 360 up to my parents insanely large HDTV along with the floor shaking sound system. Sitting happily in a living room I'll never be able to afford, I got to play a ton of Too Human and found out some pretty interesting things.

When getting the game, I played with my bud Doug as a Bio-Engineer (Doug took on the role of a Defender) and we worked our way though the first 1 1/2 levels. By the Ice Forest (Level 2) we were getting our asses handed to us (on top of it being extremly late) and decided to call it a night. We decided that we chose the 2 lowest damage output classes and made a pretty terrible team. The fun part came when on the weekend when I took the Bio-Engineer and respeced him. Before I was attempting to make a pure ranged engineer which does not work because he simply does not have enough natural skills to augment it (making you rely solely on gear). The repsec had him focus on 2-handed weapons (using ranged to take out pesky Trolls, etc). Even though the engineer is slow, the fact that I could heal myself let me stay in the middle of the fight or focus one guy while he was in the air. I also started getting more Fierce attack bonus gear which helped round out my problems. I noticed a crazy change in the amount of damange and survivability of my character. My only problem now is that I've realized the Human Alignment tree is much more appealing so I will be recreating my engineer so he can focus on combo efficiency for heals and fierce attacks (both of which the Human tree focuses on). My engineer is still a support role when in co-op but I changed up how he does it.

I've come to understand that with Too Human, you really have to set out with a goal in mind for your character. The Alignment trees are more about how you like to play then whats better for your character. This is kind of the first time I've played a game where you have more fun with the more you put into it. Kind of a bizzare concept.

Candy Apple Island

Just called. Its there. Waiting for me....

Damn Flanders

Apparently all stores/vendors/etc for Too Human listed the wrong day for copies actually being available. So my store, along with all stores across the land of Americus didn't have it. My bud Doug and I were pretty dissapointed when we got the automated call while we were still at work telling us to go f*** ourselves in terms of our ambitions for the rest of the day. Nicely enough, Laura helped me bounce back and we went out for bad-ass mediteranean food and then for a pleasant walk.

Allright so THW...not the same ring but still gonna kill me some monsters. Hopefully this blog will stop being the Too Human blog...or else I should start a new blog...but then what would I post on this blog?

A Wedding Cake with No Bathroom and THT

I am not sure if I mentioned this already but Laura and I have only spent one actual weekend in Chicago since we moved in. We have been making runs to Wisconsin every weekend to take care of wedding stuff. I have to admit it has been kind of nice to change up the scenery on a constant basis (makes me appreciate our place so much). Last weekend, we went to take care of our cake (I missed the dang tasting..) and went to meet our cake vendor out at her place somewhere in the wilds of hilly Wisconsin. Unfortunatly we stopped at a restaurant area on the way that served draft-style A&W Root Beer. I had way to much and by the time we go out there..I found out here bathroom was broken. Well that was a fun excercise in...well lets just call it 'personal' control. I do have to admit we had a good time with our vendor and are shaping up to having a pretty awesome cake.

So the wedding is very, very close. I'm starting to get jitters about how much has to execute correctly at one moment for the actual ceremony but I've got a lot of faith in Laura and her Mom's control and management of the wedding plans. I'm trying to help where I can but I find that I'm better off giving Laura foot rubs.

To top it all off, tommorow is THT! Too Human Tuesday! I decided a while back to establish G.R.E.P.T. (Game Release Extended Play Time) to give Laura at least one month in advance notification of a new game coming out. While it sounds nerdy, it prevents any dissapoinment with me walking through the door with the game and ignoring all my responsibilites for the evening. I marked out Too Human about a month ago.

Today is also our Engagment Anniversary so we are going to cook-in and watch My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Then I kill monsters from the future the next day.

Life is grand.

Digital Heroes

Felt like I should post something. So right now I'm still going strong at work for WMS. It has definitely been getting more and more stimulating and interesting. I haven't started my side project yet. I think I'll end up waiting till after October. Laura has been working like mad on the wedding and I'm trying to step up to do more to help. In my free time after work, I've been still going pretty strong into the Too Human Demo. I'm compleltly head-over-heels for this game. I will acknowledge that it could still be a let down but so far it has proven to be just the right game at the right time. I discovered some more stuff with using the ranged melee attacks and for classes like the defender and bio-engineer, this proves to be amazingly effective with hammer-class weapons. The ranged attack will do a half-circle in front of you and can take out tons of guys at the same time.

I normally don't read extended universe books (for any world) but I finally picked up Dan Abnett's Horus Rising. Its actually pretty good if you are into the Warhammer 40k universe. Since this is giving more information on events that actually change the world (where most extended universe books have to keep the world relatively the same), its actually keeping me intersted. Hearing Horus talk about wanting peace and seeing the first arrival of demonic infestation into the Astrates is actually pretty haunting. If you are a fan of the Horus Heresy storyline in 40k, I highly reccomend the first book. Depending on how it turns out, I'll probably go and grab the next one.

To tie the first 2 paragrahps together, I've noticed that Too Human really reminds me of the Primarchs from Warhammer 40k. Primarchs were described as super soldiers who were even mighter then the Astrates (who are technically super soliders in their own right). In the current storyline of Warhammer 40k, it has been 10,000 years since the Primarchs walked amongst men so there deeds have become legendary and they are revered as gods. Too Human gives me the vibe that I'm playing as a Primarch or that this what they were capable of. Its really the first game that I've felt captures the spirit of one of the best parts of the 40k universe and is probably doing it inadvertently. I think that has added a whole other layer of appreciation to this game for me.

Holy Cow...even more Too Human

So yet another cool thing I found out last night playing the demo (yet again) that the timed fights will provide different rewards base on how quickly you can clear em (I was under the assumption it was a survival timer). The demo is setup to show off a Rare armor set of blueprints. It ends up looking pretty bad ass.

The more I get into this game, the more I reflect on Hellgate and how utterly disappointing that game was. I went over some of my old posts where I hyped it up like crazy and feel like such an idiot. One of the biggest flaws in the game was the total lack of level design. I was listening to a podcast that summed it up saying that there was no real reward to seek out the off-the-path areas. So far, just in the demo, Too Human is already giving me some replay value. Of course, this could prove to be inconsistent in the full game but one can hope.

Too Humansy - My Strategies

I think I'm becoming a bit of a fan-boy. For one reason or another, I'm compelled to write my strategies for Too Human. I think this is just having a lack of anyone to talk to about it :).

Weapons
Swords - these come 1h/2h flavors and for the Berserker, dual-wield. It seems that swords are the best for criticals and thus make great 1v1 weapons. While the bigger 2h swords can "sweep", they arent' as effective as others. If you have a high melee attack speed, these are the weapons to go with (cause then the crowd won't be a problem).
Staves - These seem to be good at "sweeping" which is to push back a lot of enemies at once. I haven't found their damage to be anything special but they are excellent crowd control and buying you extra time.
Hammers - These come in 1H/2H/Shield(Defender Only) flavors. 1h Hammers provide some impact but still give you better speed. 2H Hammers are my personal favorite. The juggle move causes a stomp which can throw several baddies up into the air at once. I've found 2H Hammers especially useful for the Commando. As you hold your ground, if any enemies get close, whack, then blast em out of the air (this works well for "elites" too).
Pistols - Since they are all dual-wield, pistols end up being great ranged weapons if you plan on being in the middle of the fight. If you find that you dive towards the middle and have them come at all sides, go for these. If you are holding a position, I would recommend..
Rifles - These are the best for long range. Once enemies get in very close, this weapon can begin feel slow. Its moments like this that you can call in the alternate fire which release a grenade that can buy you some time to retreat to safer position.

More Too Humanzy

Allright I have to post more about this game. Since I'm still getting accquainted with my workmates (and so far I'm the only one playing lots of games) and Laura is a sweetheart but not too into it, I'm going to share my thoughts with you all here. So if you don't care, go somewhere else.

Raj cued me into the fact that the demo for Too Human will slowly unlock all 5 classes as the release date approaches. He also informed me that the "kids on the net" already found out how to cheat this and get all the classes unlocked. I went ahead and tried this and found even more ways to have fun with the game.

I think what is getting me with this game is all the little things I'm learning about combat and different skills. There really does feel to be a decent amount of depth to the choices you make. What really proved it for me with the demo was trying to play through as the Commando, who is the defacto ranged class. At first, I did pretty bad. I was able to kill guys but it felt hard to keep them all back. There is one optional mini-boss in the demo that is became my grading-standard for how good I was with a class (he is the guy in the chamber to the left at the 3-door side chamber thing). My first time through, I died pretty fast against this guy. I played with another character and learned how to propperly juggle (double tap the right stick in the direction of the target). I came back and realized that the key to winning with the Commando (whose melee skills are of course terrible) is to run up to the boss, get him into the air, then shoot him while backing up. I eventually crossed this with a 2 handed hammer for groups of baddies since it shoots a ton up into the air at once.

Oh dang, Laura is telling me its time to go to bed. Until next time, keep watching the skis.

Too Humansy

So I had my first "work" weekend. Here I am, a recovering student-related workaholic faced with the concept of not having to do any extra work on the weekend. I am actually free to do what I want. This is indeed a disturbing universe.

I ended up grabbing the demo for Too Human (which apparently I was un-aware had come out). I got to tell ya, I had a blast with it. Every once-in-awhile, as a gamer, you will get lucky and find that one game that scratches the right itch at the right time. This is definetly one of those games. Too Human (for those who don't know) basically takes the action-rpg genre and applies it to the console. If you were watching, the game looks like similar to Ninja Gaiden or God of War. If you are playing however, it is a lot less button mashing then those kinds of games (which I am terrible at). I think what appeals to me the most about Too Human is that I really feel like a total bad ass when I cut through bad guys. So many times in action-rpg games, not enough attention is given to the "visceral" nature of the game. Yeah you get loot and exp, but you need to feel like you earned it.

What is sad about Too Human is the whole gaming media frenzy over it. There was a lot of hype, a lot of disappointment, a lot of hype again, and then a mixture of both. I've been browsing over a few forums and it is interesting to see how much fighting and bickering their is over this game. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe this will lower people's expectations and they will end up having a better time. Who knows. Well I'm definetly excited about the August 18th and cannot wait to get my hands on a copy.

My First Day(s)

It feels like not too long ago, I was posting about my first days at Full Sail. Now I'm faced with talking about my new first day being a software engineer for WMS Gaming in Chicago. I have a feeling this will become some kind of pattern. I am fairly sure I am going to have a few more first day posts down the road.

So to fill those in who don't know, WMS is a company that makes Slot Machines for Casinos all over the world. These range from the old school spinning reel machines to advanced 100% digital ones. There are hybrids too that involve both with thing LCD screens placed over mechanical reels to allow more crazy imagery and feedback. My role here is to take the art/sound/game design elements that create these games and tie them all together.

While I'm writing this on my third day, It still feels like my first day. So far I've been learning how to do my programming skillz in a Linux enviroment. The ironic thing is that I kept telling myself and anyone that would listen that one of my biggest weaknesses as a programmer was not trying different development enviroments. In fact, I know extremely little about the true low-level stuff that goes on to make even Visual C++ operate. Being stripped of that Visual Studio IDE and Windows and placed into something completly foreign is extremly intimidating. Foruntatly, I have a superior who is extremely understanding and has been helping me get adjusted. I finally got to do a little practice coding today which is helping me get more comfortable. I still think it'll be a week or two more before I'm fully ready to go. \

Laura and I are still adjusting to our new place in Chicago. We got in a pretty steady rhythm down in Florida so this sudden change is still taking its toll. Personally, I'm trying to sort out my after work hours. Yesterday (after what could be called my first real day since the actualy first day was just orientation) when I got back I was so tired I just sat on the couch and didn't even try to do anything particular. I have a nerdy feeling that I need to schedule out my free time. I'm thinking of starting an online excel file just for posting my chores and what games, etc I should play. If I don't, I'll probably waste a lot of time that could be better spent.

Oh yeah, we are going back to the gym today. Gonna make sure to start chugging water an hour before I leave work. Hopefully that'll keep me awake and not sluggish when I get home. We'll see.

Possible Games for tonight:

  1. GTA 4
  2. WoW - still working on getting that Priest to 70
  3. Sins of a Solar Empire - working on 10 ffa with all Hard AI

Robots, El Diablo, Inner City Pressure, and the Infinite Possiblites of Tommorow

Yo ho friends and family (and any other viewers)! After finally getting our internet setup in our new Chicago Apartment, I was about to launch WoW but decided I fully owe to the people to post about my current status.

Laura and I felt extremly rushed during our last weeks in Flordia. There was so much to enjoy and for me, a lot to revel in. Smashout was (for the most part) considered a success by Full Sail. Our presentation was one of those moments that I'll be chasing to feel again probably for the rest of my life. It was actually kind of tought to go from 5 months of daily routine of improving a game to suddenly in about a day see that game done, packaged, and released. While some work is still left to be done on the Full Sail Arcade Cabinet version, I am going to miss this game and I am going to miss my team. Academically speaking, it was the best time of my life.

So we packed it all in and got the hell out of dodge. We spent a day with our friends in Georgia (congrats on the baby Jess and Kevin!) and then headed back to homeland Fort Wayne, IN. After staying there for a few days we got the call (John Paul? John Paul!) from the movers and headed over to Chicago. It has been several exhausting days of moving in and to top it off, we had a Wedding to attend on Saturday. While we are still recovering, our place is really starting to feel like home. I will post some pics on my Google Picasa album soon. I have to say that so far I am very paranoid in Chicago. I am really not used to Big Cities and always feeling a little freaked out when going around. Laura is handling it a lot better then me. She has always been more adventourus while I'm just a big homebody that would rather order in.

Before leaving Florida (and after getting to Fort Wayne) we headed out and saw WALL-E. This is simply one of the greatest movies I have ever seen and to prevent myself from spoiling it, I will just say get your ass to the theater and experience it. On other news, my friends and I collectively squealed like little girls and the annoucment of Diablo 3. Man-o-man, I cannot wait for this game. As my good friend Adam put it, we are constaly "Chasing Diablo." We are always hoping that someone will get it (which made Hellgate even more of a dissapointment) but I guess we just had to wait for the creators to bring it back.

Well I'll be starting work on the 21st. I'm pretty excited but at the same time scared as hell. I've always done my craft in an academic instituion and I'm hoping I can make the transition with some ease. Either way, there is just a whole bunch of stuff happinin. I'm love this plan and I'm excited to be a part of it.

Photos!

So Laura got me into Picasa which is much superior to Photo Bucket (where the worlds worst web interface exists). Anyhoos, here are some links to some cool events that I just uploaded photos for:

So enjoy!

Little Thing #1

Allright folks. I'm back. I'm not necessarily better then before but at least I'm posting something.

So for the most part, Smashout has consumed almost every minute of my life that is not devoted to Laura and my Family. The game has been a complete joy to work on and has helped me further understand why I came Fullsail and why I am going to WMS. While offically on the project I am the tech lead, almost 98% of my time has been spent working on gameplay code. Now for the most part, I would say this means I code all the "logic" that makes the game rules work but the truth of that matter is that it extended MUCH further then that. The real meat and potatoes of what I did was all the little things. So instead of ranting a bunch about little things and ultimately missing the friggin point, I'll bring up an example.

Little Thing # 1 - Hint Menu that comes down once a level loads
So the idea here is that this hint menu comes down right when it starts. The user should be able to click Ok button on the menu and when it slides back up, the game starts. Pretty straight forward? So first off, we take a look at the Menu Manager. This module is responsible for transitioning menus in and out. The menus in Smashout slide down from the top and slide back up when leaving. Allright so the first thing we willw ant to do is just have the Menu Manager transition to no menu. Now I could just bind the Ok button to a special function that does this but the problem there is that menu may be accessed later where Ok is not supposed to take it back, thus messing with bindings could require lots of rebinding later. Messy, so lets see what else we can do. What we could really use right now is some kind of special delegate that could be bound to the menu manager itself and called when a menu is being transitioned out. At that point, the menu manager could only have this bound when a level loads and then quickly remove after that. Pretty simple. So first off, I go and write some code to come up with a function pointer. At this point, I think "damn it would be nice if I could do both member and non-member function pointers". So I end up creating a set of delegate objects that allow the Menu Manager to have a callback function but not know if its a member or non-member. Sweet. Now I apply it and make sure it is getting called at the right spot and presto, I have a special case sorted out.

So this is one example. I'm actually thinking I'll keep posting more "Little Things" I guess the point I'm getting across is that most of my time has been spent finding ways to solve these situations with as little hacking as possible. Taking the down time to create the delegates paid off later when I found uses for them in other modules and made my life easier. So the next little thing will talk about Sliding Curtains! Stay tuned.

Seriously

What the hell is "Preparing to install" and why does it take longer then installing?

TBA

I'm gonna post soon. I really am.

Tehehehe

Smashout Blog

We have a new blog up for Smashout. You can find it here.

Check with the blog cause we will be posting new releases there all the time for public testing. In fact there is a new one up there now (3.0).

Sins of a Solar WoW

So I've been getting really into PC-gaming again. I started my wow account again after winter break when a friend of mine was just talking about it. I realized how much I missed WoW. I'm not the biggest MMO fan but I really love the action-rpg aspects of the game. I think what truly drove me back was the experience that was trying to love Hellgate: London. The game was such a let down that I wanted to go back to an level grinding game that I actually liked. So now Raj is getting back into WoW too and I've joined him on Uldum as a lvl 21 hunter named Atax (alliance). If you are interested in playing again, look me up!

The other game that has brought me back to my PC is Sins of a Solar Empire. This game is one of the most amazing RTS games I've played in a very long time. Once I got it figured out (which was still fun in its own right) the game exploded into a wave of Krispy-Kream style goodness. For those who don't know, Sins essentially crosses Galactic Civilzations turn-based style games with real-time games like Homeworld. The game is slow-paced but since its not turn-based there is some amount of "reflex" required to make it work. The slow-pacing allows you make actual strategies that evolve during a session then having to be fine-tuned to the point of perfection like other RTS games. And as a bonus, the when your fleet warp jumps...its totally BSG. In fact, I got so nerdy into it that I did something rather stupid. I had my headphones on and for the most part, the apartment was dead silent. My fleet was jumping to defend one of my worlds from the enemy fleet. The moment we dropped out of hyperspace, I yelled at the top of my lungs "LAUNCH THE FIGHTERS!" Laura turned and stared at me for a good 5 minutes. While it was silly as hell, I give the game a lot of credit for even making me do that.

Roflpotamus

Watch. Seriously.

Smashout

Hey ho everyone. I'm going to make more of an effort to prevent MONTH LONG abscensces from my blog. So here we go. The start of a new leaf.

First, as my Dad always does in his lecture, a joke.

And now for my opening statements.

So I am in month 2 of my Final Project. At Full Sail, this essentially 5 month long class is the culmination of your education. In theory, all of the skills and tricks you learned all collide into one massive mash up of programming (and in theory a little design). We spend the first two months doing prep work and then that last three in hard core production. The experience is pretty intimitading to even think about but so far my team is doing well.

The game we have planned on making is called Smashout. For the most part, it is a Peggle-esque game with a little pinball and break out thrown in for good measure. But hey! No more talking! Give it a shot:

Download Smashout Proof of Concept Here

This is an early iteration of the game. The rules have not been fully implemented. Here are the controls:

Use the LMB (left mouse button) to click and drag on the large multi-colored blocks. This will rotate them. Use these to deflect the small ball. Try to break all the small blocks (bricks) without losing the ball 5 times (if it falls out the bottom you lose it). Hold down the RMB (right mouse button) to slow the ball down and give yourself more time.

Any and all thoughts are welcome. I won't post all the rules to the game just yet. Just see if you can complete the objective I've laid out here.

If you win, I'll email you a cookie.

And so it came to be....at GDC

Hey everyone. Yeah yeah, its been a long time. Shouldna left ya without a double beat..all that crap. So lets cut to the chase.

GDC was pretty amazing. I didn't end up attending a lot of presentations when I went. I focused my efforts on a job. The "dream" was get a job offer while at GDC but of course I would of just been happy with making some really good contacts. I don't have a good way to word it, but I walked away with a job. After hitting the Job Fair hard for two days, I ended up in an interview with WMS Games in Chicago. They develop high-end video slot machines. The interview itself was pretty crazy. There were four guys in there asking all kinds of programming and personal questions. After it was all said and done, I stepped outside and was looking at some of their machines they brought with them. I was about to leave officially but one programmer pulled me back for a second and asked me what I thought about the machines. I told him it was something I would definetly be interested in doing. He asked me to step over to the Recruiter who was there and he made me an offer on the spot.

I really don't know how to describe the feeling. I told them I was extremely interested (and I've accepted the offer at this point). I called Laura a few minutes later and I remember just saying "I just got a job." She started crying.

The craziest result of all this was what happened with the Full Sail staff. The Recruiter went over to the booth and told them about me and suddenly the whole staff knew about it. So I got congrats from teachers I hadn't talked to in months.

I've decided to stay and finish out school (I've gotten this far after all). I'm now in Final Project and I'm with a team putting together a breakout/pinball style game.

Damn. It all paid off, didn't it?

If I could fly with the Blobulas, Swim with the Blobulas...

Download Blobula Here

[UPDATE: Thanks to Laura finding a bug in the High Scores table. You could not get out of it! All fixed..just re-download 1.2]

Allrighty people! Force Emitters have been implemented (at least their first version). So ch-ch-check it out! The last two stages show off how they work.

Lets test...put on your red shoes and test the blues...

Download Blobula Here

Allright this new version is all about you! In this version you can switch between two different control schemes. Allow me to explain:

1. Press 'O' (which is on by default) to be in "traditional control mode." In this mode, you press the spacebar to pull Blobula to the ground. The longer you hold the spacebar down, the faster down he will go. The moment you let go, the force that was pulling Blobula down will be directed up. So you want to release the spacebar right when Blobula compresses against the ground.

2. Press 'W' to activate "bounce jump mode" This is a new control scheme (from the last version). In this mode, pressing spacebar will make Blobula jump. To get higher, wait for him to come back down and press spacebar when he squashes and is about to come back up. You can also press the down arrow key to "slam" blobula down. You can use this to hit the ground harder and combine it with jumping to get more height.

So the part that really involves you folks is telling me which one you like better! I need as much feedback as I can get my grubby hands on. With your help, we can move Blobula into the next era of blob driven dynamics!

A new jump for Blobula

Download Blobula 1.0.2.1 Here

While trying to focus on my school work, I made some major changes to Blobula. This release is an experiment in some different controls. Jumping has been simplified. Now what you want to do is press the jump button when you hit the ground and JUST when you start to go back up. The idea is that when you press jump, you are applying an upward force to Blobula and you want to time this with the "resorative forces" that are pushing him back up. Get these together and you will fly higher. Anyhoos, take some time and tell me what you think! Also, when you press down on the keyboard, you will pull blobula down, so use this on ramps and to get through small spaces, etc.

Also, I have provided to render methods for blobula. Pressing w puts him into traditional wireframe mode while pressing s will put him into a solid mode. The new release starts out in solid so tell me what you think! I like him more in solid personally.

New Level 'Absolute Timing Vodka'

Hey folks, if you download blobula again, there is a new map featured. I woke up this morning and had the silly idea in my head. So give it a shot, its now Level 15.

Quick fix

Thanks to Theo Christensen for helping me fix the zooming issue in Blobula. Re download using the link to the right!

Oh yet another quick update

If you haven't noticed, all Blobula Maps now only come into 2 flavors as far as extensions go: .MAPXML and .MAPBIN. I reccomend you save your maps out in .MAPXML format for now since updates to map data may invalidate old .MAPBIN maps.

Quick Update Blobula 1.0.2

Download Blobula Here

Hey again everyone. I decided to test out the new map editor and have created three new maps and also created a few more palettes to help people out. Once again, the palettes I created are "locked" and cannot be deleted but you can place one into the map then add to it and add it as your own.

If you are going to work with the Editor, I got some good news! I'm about to start making a map editing guide so you can look forward to that. Also, if you are messing around, I highly recommend you use the palette system to speed up your development.

Once again, thanks to everyone who has been supporting me in Blobula!

Blobula 1.0.2

Download Blobula Here!

[Editors Note : There were a few quick bugs in the map editor...I've been fixin em and updating so make sure you redownload!]

Hey everyone! New version of Blobula has rocked its way to this fine series of tubes!

The editor is the main focus here. You can now shift + click and drag select groups of shapes. You can move, scale, and rotate them as a group. With rotation, you can toggle Local or Group rotation. The new big feature is palettes! When you open the Static Geometry Tool, click the Palettes button located on the end of the toolstrip (on the right side). This will open the palettes window (you can have this open at the same time as the map editor). When you have a group of shapes selected in the map editor, click "Add" on the Palette window. This will add the group of shapes as "palette" and allow you to click the "Place" button to put them in the last place you clicked in the world editor. You can also save your palette by using the File Menu in the Palette Window. I've provided a default palette file with a few presets (can't be deleted / editied) for your enjoyment. The palette option should provide more level building fun. I'm gonna sit down tonight and make some! Please enjoy and as always, feedback and bug reports are encouraged!

Blobula 1.0.1

Download New Blobula Here!

Well folks I said I was cooking something and I thought I'd go ahead and share some of it with you. As far as the game goes, this version of blobula is exactly the same. All the differences are on the data end of the spectrum.

The map editor (located in the ME folder) has undergone some improvements. The map editor now features the Universal Grid and Copy/Paste Functionality. When you want to add maps, you can now edit the XML file located in Resources\Maps\BlobulaMapList.XML. Just copy one of the "map" elements and fill in the parameters. I know this method is a little janky and off putting for some of you but it will be replaced by the Map List Editor which can be used from the Map Editor. I am working on that right now but I wanted to get this improved map editor out asap!

You'll also find a new map (Level 13) in the game which shows off how much the copy/paste functionality ends.

I plan on having the group select/edit features working by this weekend.

Have fun and please email any maps you make to naveen.nattam@gmail.com!

Giant Monsters and Map Editors

Hey hey everyone!

Just saw Cloverfield last night and thought it was pretty good. Definetly an awesome new take on giant monster movies. Since elementary school, I've been a big fan of gigantic monster movies. I've seen most of the 85-early 90's Godzilla movies (in my opinion the good generation). Hell I even have the soundtrack to those films (no one does big monster music like the japanese). After finishing the movie I can definetly say that Cloverfield ranks amongst my favorite. I have a few dissapointments but on the whole it was great. I don't think that all big monster movies should be done in this fashion from now but this dies provides some new inspiration (like The Office for TV).

My only major dissapointment was the Monster itself. All I'll say is that it is too limber for its size. Outside of that, extremely well done. Oh and do yourself a favor and stay for the music at the end of the film (only music in the whole movie). Its an excellent take on american and japanese big monster movie scores (if your into that whole thing).

On another note, I am working on updating the crap out of the Blobula Map Editor. First off, I am switching to XML as the file format for non-binary files coming from the map editor. This is going to allow the Map Editor to take in old map files and save them out in the newest format for the actual game. The game itself will require the newest version of maps but all you'll have to do for your maps is load them in then save them back out. I'll probably make some kind of batch tool in the editor for doing several maps at once.

Outside of the file junk, I'm adding some new features. I've just added copy/pasting for single shapes, a universal grid that will stay on the screen no matter where you go, and several camera controls in a "View" option (you can set the zoom, go back to origin, or just reset it). Some features coming up are group selected (moving, scaling, rotating, deleting, copy/paste) and also the ability to make "Palettes" out of groups of shapes. These will be saved so all you have to do is drag a palette on to the grid and it will appear there. I'll also make sure the pallette is saved externally to the editor so you can reuse it every time.

So now some big news: I didn't win the contest I submitted Blobula for at Full Sail but I am going to GDC anyhoos (in case I didn't mention the prize was a full badge to GDC). Pretty dang excited and looking forward to meeting a lot of industry folk. Got to get Blobula into tip/top shape before I go!

On top of it all

I have to give a huge thanks to everyone for their support of Blobula over the past two months. While the game is not done, its current form has already gotten some awesome feedback. This is the first time I've created a game that people actually enjoyed playing and the feeling is completely unreal.

On top of it all, Laura ringed me up from San Francisco and her graduation and the after party was an amazing experience.

This couple is literally feeling on top of the world.

Sorry if that all sounds big headed...

Blobula 1.0 and Mike Belotti's Game of Sound

Download Blobula 1.0 here!

So here it is ladies and germs!

After much labor and love comes the first full version of Blobula 1.0! While I'm positive there are plenty-o bugs silently lurking in there I felt it was about time to give you the grander version of my game!

This version has all the essential elements that I wanted in Blobula. Each map now as a Par time. In challenge mode if you can beat the map under the par time, you'll score full points plus bonus for every second under par. You still have a total of 3:00 minutes to get through the game. You can restart the round (but not the total timer) by pressing R. Freedom Mode is designed to let your practice without the timer. There are 11 levels in total and I plan on making some more after a nice long siesta.

Now for the second part of the title:

Download Mike's Awesome Rhythm Game Here!

I go to class with several awesome people and if it wasn't for them (and the love of my awesome kick-ass fiance) I would not have made it this far in the program. Mike has been a friend of mine since I got here and he has been an awesome brother-in-arms. This is an awesome rhythm game he has been working on for a while and its inspired by Elite Beat Agents and Guitar Hero. This is truly something I want to see him make bigger cause it is one of the damn coolest small games ideas ever! So check it!

So please enjoy the double dose of student love and please...don't drink and drive.

Blobula 0.9

Download Blobula 0.9 Here.

Allright this is getting much closer to the final version. This version includes the full on menu. Challenge Mode now has a timer and you score points for completing levels as fast as possible. A high score table has been added (with 3 initial input).

NOTE: layout for the menus is not done (this is all placeholder). Text is also not finalized.

So give it a shot!

Blobula 0.8 and Decoupling the Physics

I'm working late into the nights to get Blobula done for the contest deadline. Last night I was spent going over a pretty infuriating topic: the physics frame rate. The basic concept (as I understand) is that a common problem in physics-based applications is that the timestep is tied to your general frame rate. Unfortunately, most games physics are built to support a particular frame rate (60 fps, 500 fps) and if your game suddenly does not meet that at any point well basically KAMBLO!

Blobula was suffering from this problem due the constant timestep I need for the verlet intergration technique I was using for the blob. In order to run properly, the physics needs to be update at around 700 fps in order to be smooth. I want to make a quick note that I want to lower this needed rate but that is going to require some more research time I don't have right now. So anyhoos, regardless of the framerate, we need to make sure the physics is updating as at a rate of 700 fps. So the conclusion came from an article that I found here. The funny thing about this article was that a long time ago during the months before I came to Full Sail, I sat down to start working on "My First Physics Demo." During that inexperienced time, I read this article and tried to apply it. I believe now that I had no idea what I was doing back then (and sometimes I'm afraid that is still true!). So once again, this article came back to help me and this time I was ready. Its amazing when this happens. It happened with my god-like collision book where I would read and have no clue, then come back months later and fully understand.

So the new version of Blobula is running with vysnc to lock it at 60 fps but the physics is running at roughly 700 fps. So check it out and give me some feedback!

Download Blobula