Monday, October 29, 2012

Yorick at the Playboy Mansion

We just got a note from one of our customers who used our Yorick puppet to create a fun attraction at a party at the Playboy Mansion:

Sometimes, I think our digital puppets have more fun than we do.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

New versions of puppets released!

For those of you who don't know yet, we've released new versions of our Halloween-themed puppets (all except Frosty) for the 2012 Halloween season.  Get them on the main ImaginEERIEing site.

Please note that these puppets have different features than the 1.x series, so be sure to try them out in advance of using them in an attraction. Most notably, the microphone input and prescripted performance control modes are now gone. The former caused huge problems for many people and delivers subpar performance, and the prescripted performance setting is now easily covered by screen capture software.

All the new versions of the puppets are free upgrades for existing users. Enter your serial number for an older version of the puppet, and it should work.

Happy haunting!

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Working on new puppets for 2012

Greetings, home haunters.  Here's an update from your friends at ImaginEERIEing.

For the 2012 haunting season, we're (sadly) not introducing any new puppets. But we are rewriting our digital puppets from the ground up, and will be releasing them as a free update to all users.

Here's what's going on.  Our current digital puppets were created in a 3D framework called Adobe Director.  Unfortunately, Adobe's support of the Director product has been nothing short of abysmal; the last update was released in the year of our lord 2008.  Up until now, it hasn't posed a problem, but with both recent versions of Mac OS X and Windows, our puppets are starting to fail, and since it appears Adobe is not going to update Director, we have no way of fixing these problems for our customers.  (Thanks, Adobe.)

So, we're porting our puppets over to the robustly-supported Unity platform.  We're having to do everything from the ground up, but our puppets are going to work better, and we'll be better able to support them on this new platform.

If you've purchased one of our puppets in the past (except Frosty), and would like to help us beta test the new puppets, drop us a line!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Moving to new locations

For those of you still following our blog, we're moving our Halloween-related content to a new location. This feed should still work, but the new home for our Halloween efforts will be at http://carnivalofsoulsnm.com. I've updated the site with our 2008, 2009, and 2010 content, so if you haven't seen what we've been up to, now is the time to check it out - there's some great stuff we've added about our first walk-through haunts.

In addition, we've updated our ImaginEERIEing.com site.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Adobe wakes up

THIS should have been Adobe's first public response to Apple dropping Flash support. It's an HTML5 animation editor (in the prototype stage) called "Edge".

If they had announced this when Apple publicly declared they were going to drop Flash support, instead of posting petulant rants about how Apple is doomed as a result, Adobe would have looked forward-thinking, professional, capable, and supportive of their users with whatever technology they choose to deliver to. It would have saved them a lot of bad press, and it wouldn't have fostered an Apple vs. Adobe mindset (or a "dang it, I'm going to have to choose or double my work, aren't I?" mindset) among its customers.

This is the first thing to come along in years that has given me hope for Adobe's product strategy. With the standout exception of the excellent Photoshop, Adobe has been nothing but disappointing with its product decisions of late. But this is smart; it's going where the web developers are going instead of trying to drop anchor and keep us where we are for as long as possible.

Gotta give kudos to Adobe on this one; I'm already a customer of this product, if they can deliver it before a compelling alternative emerges.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Rosetta Dongle

I just rage quit Lightwave before even getting it installed.

All I wanted to do was use Lightwave on my OSX laptop without installing Rosetta. Not such an outrageous request, given that OSX is a supported platform, right? I have a registered copy that ran fine before updating my system software, but now I don't want to install Rosetta - I want to run it under straight-up OSX. So I download the updater files, and I'm all paid up and everything, and I've even got my hardware dongle plugged in. (Seriously, what is this, 1996?) I run the installer. It installs the OSX version. Almost there!

Then I get this message: "Donglecheck requires Rosetta to run. Want to install it now?"

You know, if I wanted to install Rosetta, I wouldn't bother downloading the OS X update, now would I?

NewTek, if you're going to make my life difficult and use separate programs to enforce and/or unlock your clumsy, draconian DRM, at least keep them up to date. Don't make me install Rosetta for the sole purpose of unlocking your software (that I've already unlocked!) so that I don't have to run it under Rosetta.

That's worse than having no OSX version at all - at least then, I'd be installing Rosetta for some real purpose.

Sadly, this is not an isolated frustration - it is indicative of the software NewTek ships: haphazard, buggy, obtuse, nonsensical, poorly-thought-out software running on the fumes of long-passed greatness, all protected by paranoid, burdensome DRM disproportionate to the value of the software it protects.

I make purchasing decisions about 3D software for our multimedia studio. I'm going to be making a different choice for 2011.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Okay, this is the geekiest thing I've ever done

I've done some geeky things in my day, but then there's today.

Today, in my sci-fi tabletop roleplaying game I'm refereeing, that I wrote the rules to myself, I let my players use their iPads or iPhones to connect to a web application I wrote which emulated the actual sci-fi personal data assistant their characters use in the game world.

Let me reiterate this so it sinks in. I wrote a web application for fictional people to use on fictional devices. For a sci-fi tabletop roleplaying game. I am geek.

Here's the thing, though - it was a hit! The campaign is about unraveling a mystery about a murdered friend in a dystopian future, and this allows the players to investigate, analyze, and explore on their own, in a way that evokes the setting. The web app tracks the leads that the characters can follow up on, provides background information about the game world, and gives them a way to "receive data files" from characters. For instance, I was able to drop in new leads on-the-fly using my own iPad as they appeared in the story. It worked really well; the players were using it practically the entire time.

In fact, they're requesting new features for their in-the-game-world PDA. I'm about to get even more geeky - I'm going to be a fictional software developer responding to in-game-world software update requests... Gah!

Monday, August 16, 2010

New Sci-Fi Campaign

I started refereeing our usual Monday night game tonight, picking up where we left off at the beginning of summer.

Unlike my usual medieval fantasy fare, I'm branching out into new, unfamiliar territory: sci-fi. Thinking back on my refereeing history, I cannot remember running a campaign in an original sci-fi world, and I certainly never refereed sci-fi of the stripe I'm running now: "hard" sci-fi with a dark edge to it. Back in the day, I played Metamorphosis Alpha, Gamma World, and Star Frontiers (sadly, I never tried Traveller), but to be honest, these are just fantasy games with sci-fi trappings. They don't cleave closely to what sci-fi is really about: exploring who we are and where we are going as a society. Those other games just replace orcs with aliens and dragons with bugblatter beasts, and call it a day.

I'm going for realism, plausibility, and social commentary with this campaign, and even though we've only played one session, I think I'm off to a good start, but man, is it difficult. I'm way out of my comfort zone here. Even though both fantasy and sci-fi worlds are fictive and require answering questions on the fly about geography, social norms, economics, technology, etc., the bar is higher when it comes to sci-fi, because if it's going to be believable, there has to be two things that you don't need in fantasy: (a) a plausible path from "now" to the time the game world is set in, and (b) enough creative looking ahead to make it sci-fi without becoming ridiculous. Magic in a fantasy setting, it turns out, provides the would-be referee with a lot of crutches, because you can literally get away with anything when magic is in the mix. To a certain extent, you can do that with sci-fi technology, but the bullshit detectors of the players is a lot harder to get around when you're trying to achieve realistic technology.

I may have bitten off more than I can chew. The fictive universe of this new campaign is not Star Wars or Star Trek. It's as realistic as I could make it while still allowing some of the sci-fi tropes I wanted to bring in, such as visiting other star systems on some kind of reasonable time scale for telling stories. There are no alien intelligences in this game world - humans are all there are. Life, it turns out, is (relatively) abundant in the universe, but the vast majority of it is bacteria, algae, and the like, with a rare planet boasting more complex forms. I felt good about taking this approach, thanks to recent discoveries in Astronomy, but it still omits a LOT of the standard sci-fi storylines. Mars needs women, but it's just in the usual way that Earth needs women, because humans live there now.

So your typical space opera is out, which begs the question: what are the details of what is in? I'm having to flesh out a game universe that is a lot more detailed than I usually create. Already, in this first session, even with all the thinking and prep work I did, I ran into a whole slew of questions that needed adjudication on the spot. How do people back up their data in the future? How do people share contact information? What do peoples' living quarters look like? How has law enforcement technology changed over the years? How much surveillance is there? How do people go to the bathroom (do we still use paper, or are there the "three seashells")? How has religion changed?

Ultimately, though, that stuff doesn't matter. My players are smart and in it for fun, so if I screw something up, they can handle me retroactively changing stuff if I really have to. What matters is setting a compelling challenge at the players' feet, and that, thankfully, is the same task as in any system or game world. Even with all the starfaring and high technology that is available in this new universe, it's a human story they'll be exploring: understanding the death of a beloved friend. Emotion is the hook. Hopefully, that will make the story worth experiencing for me and for my players.

We'll see if I can pull it off. Wish me luck.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

ADDED_TO_STAGE doesn't always fire

Flash development geekery ahead. This is mainly so I can remember the solution to this problem in the future, but maybe this will help someone else, too...

I was struggling with a problem in Actionscript 3 for two hours trying to figure out why some ADDED_TO_STAGE events weren't firing on some MovieClips I had added to some MovieClip symbols I was instantiating.

I had four identical symbols, all the same class inherited from MovieClip, added to another MovieClip symbol in the library. Each would register for an ADDED_TO_STAGE event in itself in the constructor, but when the parent MovieClip was instantiated and added to the stage, only the first of the four MovieClip would actually fire.

The solution? Instead of registering for the ADDED_TO_STAGE event in themselves, I registered in "this.parent", i.e., I would watch for when the parent MovieClip gets added instead of the MovieClip itself. It works, but doesn't seem right. What if I need to make the parent MovieClip a sub-clip of another MovieClip? Will it break again? And how do I remove the listener if the parent changes?

I like the concept of Actionscript 3, but in practice, I'm finding lots of gotchas that make development seem harder than it should be.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Treadsylvania is live!

Finally, the ATV safety game we created for National 4-H is live and available for the general public to play. It's called Treadsylvania, and features some fun monster-fighting action! Check it out.