Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Introspective evening - on the pursuit of expression through art, design and production

I've been sitting on my couch the last couple of hours, fooling around with my phone (mostly looking at NeoGAF and Instagram). I foolishly decided to let the auto-updates run on my PC, didn't realize that it would take so long! Anyway, it gave me a few minutes to contemplate things (yes - it happens) rather than just plunge into some more work straight-away.

After so many years of doing this, in various capacities - and very fortunately, I believe, for a living for the majority of my adult life - at times I will of course take a step back and try to consider why I do what it is that I do. Why it is important to me. Of course there are many reasons, and my understanding of them will be important in different ways depending on when you ask/what is going on in my life at the time. At my base, I just really enjoy making things. Learning, developing, executing, inventing. I feel like I have been through so much (artist, designer, programmer) in my journey, and its taught me much about the world, about myself, and how we two relate. And for the longest time I would say I simply enjoyed being in the process: that the fact that I make things which other people enjoy, or whose utility serves them, it was always a nice side-effect. And I of course take immense pride in what I do, but the end product was never really the goal.

But now as I consider things, I have to alter my stance. The end product is very important. Of course I've always felt this way, I've said as much even if I didn't mean it in a conventional way. But sometimes I think of the way the world is, there are so many people out there and they have so much time and energy. And a lot of them are just lonely, sad, disconnected, hurt. And to think that I could spend my time and effort doing something, the process of which brings me much joy, that it can reach some of those people - I have to admit that that is important. Again I've certainly said as much in the past, but perhaps I don't really linger on it very much. I remember being a sad, lonely kid as well (who wasn't, at times?) I'd feel such a strong connection to comics, to video games, anything that was represented in the abstract and allowed you to experience the world through a modified set of rules, a set which although at times rudimentary were still able yield a certain amount of control. It started very simply, push buttons and see some things move on a screen. As the years passed it was more about discovering and honing techniques and skill, it wasn't long before this merged with art and eventually I found the thing within me that was hungry and eager, a thing I could nurture and understand.

I work in an industry and am fortunate enough to be surrounded by many who share this feeling. And I am also living in a world where people everywhere have a strong appreciation for those of us who pursue the fields of art and expression. Like I was as a kid, people are still hungry and compelled. It makes me feel like the world is still a good place if we can continue to share and cultivate this relationship. I'm very proud, and very excited.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Progress Log - Beyonder

A very productive weekend! I got a lot more time to put into the project than I've had recently, good long blocks on Saturday and Sunday. Knocked out some pretty hefty things that I'd been wanting to for kind of awhile, and while there is still much to do, I'm very proud of all the progress the game has seen in the past 2 weeks alone.

Beyonder VR -

- stand-in weapon icons

- nicely-flushed out weapon inventory and selection system, all hooked-up and easy to debug

- placeholders for all playerWeapons, and basic functional prototypes for Normal, Swirl, Side and Vertical shots.

- started making damage/spark setup for bullet ricochets

TO DO:

- figure out collision issues w Ricochet. It seems fine if both bullet/target are rigidbodies but I don't want to do that. Maybe if the Target is no longer standing still, but has anim data on it as well (which it would) then I can get a better result. It still presents an issue in case I do want to have stationary targets, however.

- put ricochets/spawned death explosions into pools

- look into current pooling issues (can't get enough shots off?) Maybe need to make separate pools instead of a single one?

- is it cool to have my singleton be referenced very often, should I break up the data being stored in it? (all these lists and such)

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Progress log - Beyonder

Beyonder VR -

 - found this to figure out how to map Vive touchpad presses, hooked it up to booleans "bottomRightPressed, released" etc

- converted Steam_VRTracked Controller's index uint like so in order to make sure my haptic feedback was working consistently from active controller.

TO DO:
- create and hook up different weapons, with floating UI near Shield Indicator

OTHER NOTES:


 - Got Tron: Legacy Bluray in 3D. Looks Excellent viewing thru the PSVR, I rewatched it completely while wearing that thing. I think I enjoyed it more than seeing it years ago!

- Watched 2 episodes of the Castlevania Netflix. I will probably watch at least one more episode, not my usual cup of tea but it is intriguing and I like the short commitment.

- Figured out how to get Landscape orientation working on Mame-X for GCW Zero handheld. (switch to software rendering). Looks crappy but it works so I am very pleased :) I have lots of Mame games running on it now, which is why I bought the thing in the first place. Zaxxon, Galaga, Ms Pacman..

- Bought Windlands for Vive, $20. Haven't loaded it up yet (I got a bit of backlog)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Progress log - Beyonder

Going to start keeping progress logs in here once again. Mostly for my own edification..

Beyonder VR -
- fixed reorienting world issue (some particles were spawning with wrong directions, inconsistently)
- built "ship exploding" mesh anim effect and hooked it up on playerDeath
- "restart page" hooked up on playerDeath (fade to black, and back)
- troubleshooting haptic feedback issues. Retrieved earlier haptic code to repair it
- only ships are rigidBodies now (as opposed to projectiles)
- enemy ship can kill player

TO DO:
- checkpoint system
- messaging between lives
- simple shell
- simple debugs (level select etc)
- figure out how to speed up level tiles better

Monday, July 10, 2017

The Unstoppable March of Summer

Dang it how is it July already? I swear I wrote that last entry just a couple of weeks ago! Weeks, months, same difference, it all means the same thing as time passes I suppose.

Things are alright, I'm a couple of months into my job at Deluxe. I've got some good work behind me and picked up some very good tricks - also I've been coming home and working a lot on my Vive project. What was barely a sparkle in my eye in the previous update, is coming along quite far at this point, I am happy to report. For various reasons it's kind of shot up the Ladder of Importance on it's way to get further through development and release, I am aiming for this fall in some shape or other. Knowing my track record it probably sound terrible, but I've been having a blast with the development and am eager to strike in this relatively trendy market while it's not yet completely oversaturated (say what you will!) Happily, the VR project shares a ton of tech with my Hololens project StarCrab so I am definitely accelerating them both, at least in part.

Lots to say otherwise, as usual - I am sad to see that my older apps (namely 180) will soon be struck completely from the Apple App Store, although it's been technically unavailable for over a year now, so maybe there's no difference really. Anyway it motivates me to want to continue on with Flip Master (180 followup) sooner rather than later, but of course it is taking a backseat to the VR game as well for the time being. Still, those who care should know that it is on my mind.

Interested to get my hands on the Apple ARKit, I'd love to have an app or two - something small, at least - on hand when those start to launch with the new iOS. This is all at the back of the bus of course, but important to think about, and I have more than a few unfinished AR things lying around which would fit that bill nicely. We'll see.

I have a lot of deeper info to get into, but right now I want to quit procrastinating and return to development! Hopefully when I post next, I'll have some video to show off from my Vive project. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Viva La Headache

Welcome, it's getting on May 2017 (um....) and I've been quiet in here for ages. Going to try to do a monthly visit to this thing, or so I like to promise and lie. Here's what's been going on, very quickly..

1. Laid off from DAQRI. I worked there shy of 4 years, that was my longest gig (second longest was back in Boston!) Ah, the tech industry. Anyway, I was sad to have it end, for many reasons - but excited to move onto something else. Things were starting to go around in circles, it was time. To be positive, I had a great time working there, and I learned a LOT. It absolutely changed my career in a very dramatic way.

2. New job about 6 weeks later, I'm a developer at Method Studios/Deluxe VR in Santa Monica. It's been nearly a month since I've begun. As is not unusual with the VFX industry, things are pretty hush-hush so I can't really rap about it much in here until things are announced/releasing... anyway the offer was a good one so I had to jump on it.

3. Working steadily on indie games, but I've been turning into one of those lost souls who perpetually gets enamored with a new personal project, puts a ton of time and energy into it, then gets sucked up into "development hell" with release nowhere on the horizon. It is a blessing and a curse! Fortunately I have released indie games in the past, though I'm still yet to do it 100% on my own. When my day job ended, I immediately through myself into independent development once again and it was very gratifying, but now that I'm working again it returns necessarily to the back burner. Alas.

4. "StarCrab" for Hololens was the last thing I really touched, in the brief downtime I did a lot of tinkering under the hood and cleaned up a lot of it's guts and got it back on track to where I wanted it to be going. Very close to putting the tech-centric part aside and concentrating on actually building the fun parts of the game! I started demonstrating it and getting great feedback as well. I very much want (need) to get it out into the world this year, in the next few months ideally. We will see.

5. "Flip Master - 180 Returns" is the name of a new sequel to my older puzzle game I've started putting together from scratch. Basically I began working on this right at the New Year, as StarCrab was stalled and I was tired of being addicted (again) to Drop 7 and wanted to build my own unique strategy game. I put in a good couple of weeks worth, might have posted about it in here earlier, I don't recall. A lot of the basics of the game's guts are in there, but still some fundamental things to work through, yet. I got it to a good stopping point, and I intend to get back to it as well soon.

6. I picked up a Vive VR setup. It's been about a week, and I'm waiting for the lightStands to be delivered (come ONNNNNN, USPS) so I can finally get it setup. I have some ideas of projects I'd like to endeavor in VR, and I am rather eager to get busy modding some existing things to work in there. I am not super-versed in VR, yet - with the Vive, I've seen a couple of apps like Tilt Brush, Google Earth, Robot Repair - they are very fascinating and room space is a blast....! I want to get busy with it as well. Hopefully I will have interesting news to share on his as well, in the near future.

I guess that is about it. Life is alright, I have lots more to say but find it useful to keep things brief. Drop me a line if you want me to keep blogging!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Another year winding down

Can't believe it is December already. AGAIN.  I thought I'd like to get at least one more journal entry in here before the year's end, so here goes..

Things are alright. Work has been super busy at my day job, it's actually been fairly exhausting. Not really left a lot of time to do earnest independent development, but I've kept at things pretty steadily in spite of that. I am actually pretty excited with my Headcase projects usually ("it's what keeps me going...") so it's to hard to conjure energy for it semi-regularly.

Only title that is seeing active development at the moment is my Hololens project, Starcrab.  It's been fairly slow since there's an immense amount of technical background to work through, and I am trying to keep on top of that end of things without biting off more than I can chew. It's really testing the limits of my development ability in some ways, which doesn't say so much as I am still fairly fresh. But it is coming along and feels very representative of my vision and that is a great thing. I am happy that much of the boilerplate of how the actual game logic works has been pretty well worked-out by now; I've been concentrating on building up the visual elements of the game and it's been just kind of a slog, but it's important to me that it presents well otherwise it won't make a mark. That being said, I've recently been doing some new builds with a huge ton of updated asset dumps in place and things are just really coming together. I put a demo video up on Twitter recently - viewable here - to show the state of things, but to be honest the video capture solution is nowhere near decent enough quality to express the true experience for so many reasons. That's all well and good, I just want to express some semblance of what I am up to, but it definitely makes it hard to get people excited when it is presented in such a fashion. I am not worried about it, for me it is important to show the black-and-white "here's what it actually does right now, and where I've got to from zero - to get the true impression, one will have to try the experience themselves."

And in that though, "when will the project be complete?" I am still aiming for the year's end, just a few short weeks away. That's close and it's rough, but I've decided to simply aim for a vertical slice rather than a fully-realized project of a larger scope. That being said, I can still pack it full of gameplay and features given that deadline. I don't think I will really be able to do a whole slew of differently-arted levels unfortunately, it just takes too long to do all of that. Depending on how things wind up, maybe I will continue past the vertical slice release, but honestly I am interested to continue learning/building tech from this project and getting on with something different.

I've been working in a special hololens-centric Unity beta and was happy to get a full upgrade to 5503f, which supports it natively and fully-integrated - but of course it's horrendously broke a bunch of important things, so I will stick with the beta in the meantime. And so it goes...

Meanwhile, lots of other things to ramble on about as usual. I am eager to resume development on other projects as well (the usual suspects) but just trying really hard to concentrate on a single project at a time for obvious reasons. I kind of want to carve out a little extra time to either wrap-up or even pick up the slack with a couple of the other things, but we'll see how it goes. I just really want to get the current project out the door so I can say "there, I finished something else" and be proud of the achievement.

Life is okay besides. Another year in Hollywood is wrapping up. 2016 was - well, it's been an interesting year for sure, but then aren't they all? Sure, some more than others. This year has had some particular ups and downs, no one can argue that. I think we all just want to put it behind us and move onto better times. Here's hoping..