Friday, July 13, 2018

A year since!

I haven't been keeping track - clearly - but it appears to have been nearly a year since I last updated this journal. That is quite a stretch, even for me. I suppose that many folks just let it completely wither and die, on average (or so).  I am disheartened to realize this case for me, for many reasons - not least of which is that I used to put something in here DAILY (although to be fair back in those days, it was not exactly a daily development journal). Anyway even though this has fallen off the wagon, I have been quite busy in the meantime. I have meant to contribute in here, although that doesn't really offer much in the way of actual content I suppose. Whatever the case, here's a very quick recap of what has been going on..

Deluxe/Method, Justice League VR - this was my job from April - Dec 2017. I was a Unity developer/designer for a couple of the minigames in this project. I learned a huge amount about development, surrounded by many of my former crew from the previous job (Daqri). After this gig wrapped up, I had a breather, and then onto the next thing -

Technicolor/MPC, Immersive Group - this is where I am at now, we do AR and VR content. The likes of which is rather hush-hush, although it's been talked about online a bit, and the AR project I am involved with is pretty decent-profile stuff. I'll make mention of it here when the curtain has been pulled back - anyway I have been here less than 6mo, but it has been a good gig and it's kept me quite busy. Anyway enough with all of that, let's discuss what is up with my indie projects. WHAT - THEY ARE STILL GOING ON???

StarCrab - yes it's true, when I have been in-between jobs, I've picked up and spent a LOT of time on this project. As it's the first legit game of any real size I've endeavored 100% on my own, I've already run the gamut of building it from very roughshod proof-of-concept prototype up to legitimately-system-designed full project (such as I am capable of, anyway). It's true, I got a very early prototype moving quickly but it was really not any kind of scalable, in consideration of how so many of it's systems and managers (if they can really be called as such, in the shape it was) were handled. Yes to the end user you could control a character, and interact with environment and enemies, but it was very much strung together and not in a way which was terribly friendly to a programmer or designer - me in this case - to pick up and make heads-or-tails of say 3 or 6 months later, never minding much further out than that. The way enemies were controlled, a basic game manager, health systems, the background tiling controller - all of that really had to go and be rebuilt from scratch pretty much, piece by piece. And for me, these projects are really designed for me to get a stronger handle on my own tech development and process understanding, so I have been heavily leaning on developing all of this framework (within Unity) by myself, and NOT relying on external "readymade" tools and scripts etc from the Asset Store. As such, it's been a Herculean effort in many regards to get as far as I have with things, and that is somewhat frustrating as it doesn't look too different than it has for awhile - but the structure is quite sound, I have built things in a very sensible and manageable way, and it's made everything easier to build off of (or go back, and tidy up) as a result. In all of that, I am very proud. I am very dead-set to get a releasable candidate of this project out the door at some reasonable point, still probably some months out but I'd like to say the end of the year AT LATEST. I am and have been basically putting all of my other personal projects on hold, while I dedicate time to this one.

Beyonder - cousin to StarCrab, this is one of the many ignored projects, although as it shares a huge amount of tech from that other project, I have recently cracked it open again and updated a bunch of it's elements. I need to do this again soon, just trying to keep things clean and sensible. This project is next in line, and I'd like to have it at least more playable sometime this year. The clock is ticking.

That's really all there is to say for now! So many specifics to get into, but I'd like to cool off for the night. Thanks for reading. Hopefully it will not be a whole other year before you hear from me again..

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!