Saturday, April 30, 2005

Centenial Middle School Talk

On Thursday I did a favor for a friend-of-a-friend and spoke at the 'career day' about game development and in and around the industry. It was a rapid-fire session of 5 groups in rotation, 15 minutes each.

What a blast! The kids were enthused about the subject and asked smart questions.

[For those of you from Centenial looking for the list of game development resources, I'll have it posted up here in the next 24 hours.]

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

La Rant Du Pomme

I bought an MP3 player the other day. I wanted a decent flash-based one, and the 1Gb players have gotten pretty reasonable.

I bought a Samsung 1Gb "Yep" player, and am pretty happy so far.

I like the Ipod. It's interface is very cool, and it's the sexiest piece of consumer electronics next to the PSP. However, this Ipod Shuffle crap burns me up.

Selling a device with no display and then saying "life is random" is akin to selling a TV with no remote, a random number generator for changing channels, and then telling consumers "watch it all". What a load of crap. Do people really buy this stuff? Don't answer that. Evidently they do.

Perhaps MS, rather than fixing bugs in Windows should just market it correctly: "Coffee breaks are random. Here, take it from Bono."

On a related note, I got a mail from my friend Tim who works at Pomme. He said he was walking the halls and passed The Edge. I told him he should have said "you're The Edge? I'm The Tim. Have to go. I'm in The Hurry".

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Corp-u-mentary

Saw The Corporation tonight. Good rent. I'd been soured on 'documentary films' by Michael Moore's sensationalism & exageration. (Don't get me wrong, I know the right does it as much or more, but the fact that he bent some facts in the Columbine movie made me question his work enough that I never saw the anti-Bush piece).

Anyhow, this piece was a good one to make you think. Depressing a bit. Despite the touchy-feely, viva-la-revolution, you-too-can-make-a-difference ending, I was still a bit overwhelmed by the inevitability of it all. Sort of a Death, Taxes & corporate greed thing I guess.

But don't let that get you down. Go rent it!

- Oh - I will say this for Michael Moore though. His passion comes through in his narration. This one had the dry lackluster commentary of high school history film strips. Once they led more into the interviews with people that were passionate about their beleifs (Moore is one of them), it got more interesting.

Saturday, April 23, 2005


Jeez! I talk a couple months off and the whole industry goes wacky!

Carmack writing Java code on Cell phones?

Say it ain't so!


Friday, April 22, 2005

drag'n'drop gaming?

Hey Readers!

I'm speaking at a school career day next week to a bunch of 12/13 year olds about careers in gaming.

On the "what to do after you leave this presentation" side of things, I'd like to point them to some of these point'n'click, drag'n'drop gaming creation tools like RPG Maker, 3D Game Maker, etc.

Before I go try a bunch myself, has anyone else done so? Any you'd recommend that are really lightweight (i.e. no programming required, minimal artwork modification, etc. I'm really just looking to give these kids the bug, and frustrating them out of the gate isn't going to do it.

Flippety-FLAP, Zippety-ZAP!

That's it, I've commited go under the knife and get Lasik surgery. I'm booked for end of May.

Those of you that know me in the biz and see me at E3 will be seeing me with spectacles for the last time.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Good reading

The March 2005 issue of Creativity magazine has a good article on creative process today and moving forward in the games industry. The interview several people each at Insomniac, Bottle Rocket & Naughty Dog. The nice thing about the article is that it's aimed at the magazine's audience: Creative types in the advertising, TV and Film industries, and so offers questions & commentary from that point of view.

Plus, the ad on page 13 alone justifies the $7 the mag costs.

There's also a nice bit in the mag (which I'm guessing is a recurring feature?) where they go through a series of TV commercials featuring special effects, ask some experts to guess how they accomplished them, and then reveal how they were really done.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Gaming update

A while back I mentioned getting a PS2 solely to play Katamari Damacy (mainly because certain people won't shut up about it).

Well, I played it through and finished it. Very good game, if very strange. I normally only finish 2-3 games a year, so that's saying something.

Anyhoo, since I got the PS2, and since I have the time off for sabbatical, I figured I'd better pick up a couple other titles.

SSX3: Well, since I only got my 10 days of snowboarding in March, I figured I could have a little of the virtual equivalent. It's about what you'd expect. Like the first SSX but more options, tuned up graphics, etc. Worth the $19 I paid for it.

Hot Shots Golf - Fore: Like Hot Shots Golf 3, but with more pun. I bought this one because I was looking for something Alisa would like and that we could play together. Success! She likes it and we're playing it together.

Next title will probably be God of War, since lots of people are talking about it. Then after that, a PC game, because I'm feeling guilty about sending Sony my money :-(

Bad Chef! Cocky Chef!

Fresh off the success of his Papaya-Mango Banana-chunk Sorbet, the cocky chef thought he'd try a more adventurous recipe:

Kiwi Ice Cream with Strawberry chunks.


But alas, cocky chef wouldn't listen, and 8 rock-hard kiwi's were peeled, diced and thrown into the food processor.

Now cocky chef has a gallon of *extremely* tart'n'starchy ice cream to eat. It's edible, but bitter. As is the cocky chef!

On the positive side, the visual results were top notch. The kiwi & cream turned out a nice mellow lime green, with the kiwi seeds leaving black flecks in it, with the strawberry chunks being bright red patches distributed throughout.

Oh well, can't win them all.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Ski Trip Photos are posted

I finally got around to posting some photos from my ski trip after GDC in march

Sunday, April 17, 2005

I've got that sink-in feeling

The following is an epic tale of escalating costs, a thousand trips to the home depot, and the Most Fabulous Laundry Room Sink In the History of Man. Why am I writing it? Dunno. Venting? Bragging? Bit of both?

Prologue: A quick re-do in the kitchen

Two years ago, we were looking for a way to spruce up the kitchen. My wife didn't like the countertop, and suggested a new one. I knew pulling off and replacing the entire countertop would be a huge job. However, re-laminating it seemed like it would be easy enough and cheap to boot. As an added bonus, it would be an excuse to buy a router.

So, off we go, $50 on laminate at HD (Home Depot), and we're off and running.

Pull out in-counter stove, pull out sink, etc.

"Hmm... ya know..." my darling wife starts, "Since we've got that sink out, and it's all scratched up, maybe it's a good time to look at new sink."

Okey dokey.

Off to HD and various other places, all of which had some nice sinks. Then we went to a specialty place and saw... The Sink.

Ceramic, made in france, very nice. $300.

Okey dokey. A little much, but how often do you buy a sink like this? (note subtle attempt at foreshadowing).

Ceramic sinks are nice because (a), they look spectacular, (b) they hold their finish well, and (c) they are heavy-ass sinks, and so don't vibrate much (disposal is suddenly uberquiet).

I get my hole cut for the sink, since it's bigger than the old sink. My friend comes over to help put it in, and to help me cut the last piece of laminate on the table saw. I need help with the sink because it's heavy, the laminate because it's huge (6'x7') and akward.

When cutting the laminate, we break it. Crap. Have to go buy more. And I can't put the sink in becaues the laminate isn't on. Well, we put the sink in the hole just to see if it's cut the right size (it is) and call it a day.

Next day I get my laminate, and now want to put it on, but need to remove the sink. I'm alone. I decide I'll do this by getting underneath it, bench-pressing it up out of the hole (it weighs about a hundred pounds, so pulling it out while leaning over the counter is not an option), and shimmying it over to sit on the counter.

I'm lifting it up, have it up about a half-inch and shift slightly to adjust my hands. When I do, I drop it that half-inch, on one corner only, and hear a cracking noise.

As they say in my native Quebec, Tabarnaque!

I busted a corner off the lip of the sink. About a 3" piece. I could glue it, and there'd only be a small hairline crack visible, but it'll bug be forever.

So, back to the specialty store:

"Remember me? You sold me the $300 sink 2 days ago."
"May I have another one?"
"you didn't!"
"Yeah, just give me another sink"

Long story short, the $50 job turned out to be a $900 job, and we now had a sink sitting in the basement, too damaged to use, to nice to throw out.

So I thought, hey, I could replace our ugly plastic laundry room utility sink with this one. Good idea, and so the sink went into storage until I found the time.

Chapter 1: It's time.

So, now I'm on sabbatical and have time. Rip out the old sink:

Time to pop in the damaged sink. Pop it into what? There's no counter in there! The utility sink was a plastic and metal stand-alone sink, this one requires a counter to be there.

Three options:

  • build cabinets from scratch
  • buy a built unit that I just drop the sink into
  • a compromise of the above two, buy modular kits for cabinetry, a separate countertop, and assemble myself.

I opted for option 3. Option 1 was going to take too long, option 2 didn't work because of the particular size I needed.

So I go to HD, get a piece of countertop, two cabinets (36" & 24" for a total length of 60"), and a bunch of other do-hickeys I need to put it together.

Putting together the cabinets is easy enough, but bolting them to the wall is another story. Turns out the floor is warped (shim it up) and the wall is also buckled (shim it up, router our the countertop backsplash).

MANY hours later, I have the countertop in, the sink installed.

Chapter 2: This gem of a story has many faucets

So when we did the kitchen reno, We'd spent too much, so dropping another >$100 for a new faucet seemed out of the question. So I kept the old one. However, now that we were needing one for the basement, it made sense to buy a new one, remove the old one from the kitchen, put the new one in the kitchen, put the old one in the laundry room.

The fact that there was only 3" of clearance between the sink and the wall made removal and installation a real bitch. It got done, but only after much knuckle bashing and profanity.

Epilog: Oof! The bills!

Well, it's all done now, but the quick kitchen reno, as noted previously, was $900. The quick laundry room redo to use the previously paid-for sink was an additional $450 worth of counter/cabinet/plumbing bits/etc.

On to the next project!

Mmm,mmm! Good cookin'!

Have been doing a fair amount of cooking while off on sabbatical.

Today I experimented a bit and drifted off some recipies I had. For dinner I made Thai curry-lime salmon, and this evening I made Papay-Mango Sorbet with Banana Chunks. The latter has to set overnight in the freezer, so we'll see how it turns out, but I'm betting on yummy!

I was inspired by Brian a while back to get some decent knives. I ordered them a while back and they arrived last monday (my b-day - auspicious coincidence, n'est-ce pas?). Anyhoo, I got the Wusthof Culinar; the 8" chefs knife and the 7" hollow edge japanese chef's knife. They are so awesome. Lke a big 2 pound straight-razor.

I'd have bought the 10" chef's knife but it comes embedded in a stone - something about being pure of heart before being able to use it.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Good sci-fi

Rented The Final Cut on a recomendation of my friend Adam.

Holy crap that's the best sci-fi flick I've seen for a while!

Robin Williams is good in it, but I get the feeling they rave about him as a good dramatic actor any time he manages to be quiet and somber instead of his usual manic self.

Anyhow, it's a great premise. Go rent it!

Monday, April 11, 2005

An Evolutionary Prediction

I predict that we will eventually see the evolution of a species of bird that lives only in american suburban mall parking lots and feeds solely on the Cheerios, Animal Crackers, and cheese bits that fall out of the sliding doors of minivans.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

I've cracked...

...and bought a PS2.

I've always been a "put your money where your mouth is" guy, which is to say I eat a lot, and beleive in not buying products from the competition. So, when it comes to gaming, I try and spend my money on PC games.

However, at GDC this year, you couldn't swing a dead kat(amari) without hitting a developer having a conversation about Katamari Damacy, and it's a PS2 title.

So, yes, I cracked and bought a new slim PS2 for $150, all to play a $20 game. *sigh*.

One thing of note: WHen I went to buy one... sold out in a bunch of different retailers. finally bought it on ebay. Then I went to buy the game, out of stock in the first 3 retailers I checked.

Anyhoo, back to rolling up a big stickyball. So many things in the world...

Saturday, April 9, 2005

Mistake the Eye!

...or as it's better known, trompe l'oeil.

Took the family to see an exhibition of 'trompe l'oeil' paintings being exhibited at a local college gallery. It was a small exhibit, but with some interesting pieces.

From the art lexicon:

A French term literally meaning "trick the eye." Sometimes called illusionism, it's a style of painting which gives the appearance of three-dimensional, or photographic realism. It flourished from the Renaissance onward. The discovery of linear perspective in fifteenth-century Italy and advancements in the science of optics in the seventeenth-century Netherlands enabled artists to render object and spaces with eye-fooling exactitude. Both playful and intellectually serious, trompe artists toy with spectators' seeing to raise questions about the nature of art and perception.

An example:

Anyhoo, a good exhibit for us computer graphics buffs, to remind us that long before Phong, Gouraud, and BRDF's, people were thinking about how photons bounce off things and excite them, before finally exciting our optic nerves.

An observation, from an art neophyte: Trompe l'oeil paintings fall into 3 categories of subject matter:

  • Still lifes of cards, letters, dollar bills, or other such objects. I'd imagine this is because they are thin and can be painted in realistic "3D"fashion will not having parallax/depth incontinuities break the illusion.
  • Still lifes involving glass (pitches, glasses), and grapes. Because realisticly depicting how light plays of these is a great show of artistic manliness amongst trompe l'oeil artists.
  • Still lifes involving various post-humous critters fresh from the taxidermist. Umm... I guess because they were easy to paint, given that they wouldn't move and all?

One thing I wondered: I am curious whether the type/direction/etc of lighting in the gallery has a role in how realistic the painting looks. For example, if it's a painting of a bookshelf with shadows coming from sunlight above and to the left, does it help if the sun is really coming from that direction? hmm...

Sunday, April 3, 2005

Movies, movies, movies...

Looks like there are some good movies coming over the next few months that'll be fun.

  • Star Wars episode 3, of course. All the whiners will complain before they see it, then they'll see it, then they'll complain more about it, then they'll buy it on DVD, complain more, then buy the directors cut...
  • Hitchhiker's Guide should be fun, and the trailer is very very funny.
  • Sin City looks like one of those movies where the film doesn't live up to the trailer's hype (remember Stargate?), but then again, that's what I said about Fifth Element, ended up loving it, and hey, B.Willis is in this one too.
  • The best is.... A full length Wallace and Grommit feature! Happy Happy! Joy Joy!

At least I'll have time to view a few of these now :-)

I've rented a few flicks as of late too:

  • I (heart) Huckabees: Good flick. Makes you think. Funny too and cleverly done. On the downside, it was a little too "out there" for my wife to enjoy, and I found the "man-teet" scene profoundly nauseating, second only perhaps to Kingpin's "you really shook something loose there tiger!" scene.
  • Napolean Dynamite: Only like the BEST FLIPPIN' MOVIE EVER! Well, maybe not ever, but it was good. Watch it and laugh. ANd afterward think about it and realize that it's deeper than it's slapstick presentation would have you beleive.
  • Sky Captain and the.... screw it. The movie was so bad it doesn't warrant typing the full title.
  • The Notebook. Hey, I had to let my wife have some picks didn't I? Hmm... cinematography was good. Vivid colors, good sets, etc - that part was well done. But the story was pretty predictable, the "big surprise" is easily guessed early on. In short, it's a so-so chick flick.