Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Game Innovation Database

The Game Innovation Database has as its goal to "classify and record every innovation in the entire history of computer and videogames."

Friday, April 28, 2006

Revolution has a name

So the next-generation Nintendo console offering, which has so far been referred to as the "Revolution," has finally been given its official name.


Poking around the net, some people hate it, some people love it, natch. I'm not sure I like the name, but I do think it's brilliant. Here's why:
  • Nintendo's on-the-face explanation is that it means "we," as in togetherness and hugs and why can't we all just get along? It's a cuddly name (as opposed to the poser-testosterone X box - "See? We're cool! We put an X in our name, because we're so X-treme! Aren't we cool? We're cool, right?"), so the Wii will probably be gender- and age-neutral, which is key to market share.
  • It also sounds like "whee!" which is an expression of playful fun, which is a gaming style that is Nintendo's traditional strong suit, so this reinforces their playful image.
  • And yes, it also sounds like "wee," as in urine, or a euphemism for "penis." At first blush, that sounds like a bad idea, like naming your child "Tarter" or "Deanus" - surely, there will be no mercy on the playground. But that's exactly why it's brilliant. The "wee" reference, which they must have thought of, practically ensures that there will be buzz about the name. Prepubescent boys, and others in their target audience, are certain to pick up on that, and talk about it for the sheer enjoyment of pointing out that the new console's name sounds like "wee." And once you get people talking about the console's name, they start talking about the console itself, which is the primary goal. It's brilliant.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Some guy has put up a small set of photos, apparently about an excursion to Lagoon park in Farmington, Utah, to get a good photo of the Terroride dark ride entrance mural. The Terroride was one of my happy childhood memories that fueled my interest in dark rides, immersive environments, and the horror genre, and the mural, in particular, was of interest to me as a kid. It was just so freaky weird, with its gorrila-man taunting a dragon, the tightly-wrapped-up skeleton looking on laughing, the unusually happy-looking singing man, and the octopus-out-of-water glaring at you. It's so surreal, and yet, oddly, sets the stage really well for the experiences inside.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Screenshots from Science Pirates

Today, we reached first playable on the first major section of our upcoming educational title Science Pirates: The Curse of BrownBeard. Science Pirates is a game that teaches about the science process and food safety that is being developed by the good folks associated with the NMSU Learning Games Lab.

The part of the game we reached playable on is the Super Tiki Monkey Temple. In this part of the game, players guide a monkey through a ruined temple by luring him around with fruit. But when a blender gets thrown into the mix and suddenly you can make fruit smoothies, the player is forced to make a hypothesis based on previous observations to figure out what the monkey is going to do.

Check out these screenshots from the game:
Welcome to the Super Tiki Monkey Temple
Sample level
Another level
Level clear!
Unlocked grapes!
(Click any thumbnail for a full-size version.)

The cool thing about this game is that it's fun and playable, and that it doesn't feel educational. It feels like a puzzle-based casual game on 3D steroids. I really think we have a shot at making a game that kids want to play, despite the fact that they'll be learning as they go.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Javascript Gamelib

Javascript Gamelib is a GNU Public License Javascript game library for creating games that work in any modern DOM-capable web browser. It's got modules for dealing with cookies, keyboard input, mouse input, sound, sprites, and tile-based rendering, among other things.

A Death in the Family first success!

Today was the first time I've playtested my card game about the horrible, infighting Bloodmere clan, A Death in the Family, where the gameplay actually worked and the game mechanics started clicking. Woo-hoo! I knew there was a good game in there somewhere. Unlike previous games, this one clocked in at just about an hour, and it would have been shorter if we hadn't had terrible luck with the murder rolls. I think I've finally got the right mix of game mechanics, action card distribution, and rules that can make this game a winner (after, what, a year and a half of playtesting? - heh).

We also played Sex Farce today, and, as usual, the gameplay really clicked. Especially for my buddy Byron who pulled off two or three brilliant moves that netted him a whopping 125 or so points, compared to the rest of us who hovered around 50.

I have a few tweaks to make to each game based on peoples' suggestions which should make the games even better. Slowly, these games are evolving into two really fun little games. Maybe soon they'll be ready to publish...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Death in the Family version three

I just finished cutting out the cards for Death in the Family version 0.3. This version has a deck which allows the players more options with nearly every card, allowing for more Machiavellian intrigues in a turn as well as a hopefully abbreviated gameplay duration. My friend Kurt is hosting a gaming weekend starting tomorrow night, and we're planning on playtesting the game again. I really hope that we've hit the magic formula this time. After the near-perfect game balance in my first try with Sex Farce, this one is sure taking a long time to balance.

I also discovered that it's far better to cut out cards from card stock using scissors rather than a bladed paper scorer/cutter. We don't have one of those heavy paper cutters, so it was a choice between the two, and the former is way better. The lines may not be as straight as with scissors, but you can correct as you go, and the paper edge is smooth.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

More tech demo goodness

More tech demo goodness from my Sacraments 3D tinkering is available. New features include:
  • A shopkeeper (who is out of stock)
  • Changed from IJKL to WASD
  • Mouselook
  • Nice translucent dialog box with pretty decor

Dungeon Escape!

Dungeon Escape! is a Flash-based homage to the old Don Bluth Dragon's Lair games and their kin. Although the production values are, to put it gently, somewhat less than the original, the gameplay is spot-on with the original, and a perfect use for Flash, which excels at cel-style animation.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

New Interior Area

Tonight, I added an interior area - the apothecary shop - to the environments available in the Sacraments 3D Tech Demo. If you open the door in the first building on the right, you can enter the apothecary shop, where eventually you'll be able to purchase healing draughts and Tanis leaves to aid you on your journeys. Here's a screenie:
Screenshot of Interior of Apothecary Shop
Unlike many RPG's out there, the apothecary shop's size on the inside matches its size on the outside. This makes it feel a little small inside, but there will be larger interior spaces in the game besides this one (like the caves, for example).

Monday, April 17, 2006

Sacraments 3D Tech Demo v0.2

Here's another Sacraments 3D tech demo for you to (hopefully) enjoy. This one includes a nice loading screen, better collision detection, new environment and character geometry and art, and a system for moving between different maps (in the demo, you can move between a forest town and a cavern). It's also got some other touches like multi-camera animated skyboxes, a dialog/nudging system, and other minor improvements. Let me know if you have any problems with it.
Tech demo screenshot

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Updated Luthien's Clothes

Tonight I took a break from the Sacraments 3D game engine, and instead worked some more on the character art. I was having problems with the geometry for Luthien's skirt; I had attached parts of the skirt to her legs, but when I animated the legs, the polygons would stretch out and vanish because their normals would face away from the camera.

Rather than attempting to model and animate a more realistic skirt, I decided instead to outfit Luthien in pants. I still wanted to keep the deep blue color scheme for her clothes, and I still wanted to keep her outfit rather simple, and this is what I came up with for her:
Luthien screenshot
A little more detailed than the original, but still quite simple.

The simple outfit is not just to keep the poly count low (although that helps a lot). I want to keep her outfit simple because I think elves are usually depicted as a highly ornamented, luxury-rich, and artistic bunch, and I wanted to go in another direction with them, making them less attached to the physical world and living more spartan lives. More about study, research, and philosophy and less about plinky lute music and elaborate gold earrings.

I also tweaked her run cycle now so her legs come closer together and her arms cross over her chest as she runs. Hopefully, it looks a little better.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Walkaround and more!

I've been tinkering with Sacraments 3D some more lately, and I've made some good progress. The walkaround engine is much more robust and smooth now - you can no longer walk through walls where they come together in an acute angle, and when you go into such a tight corner, it no longer jostles you around as you push into it.

Also, as shown in this screenshot:
Sacraments engine screenshot
...I now have it working with "nudges" (press the space bar to try to open a door or otherwise investigate whatever you're standing in front of) and generating dialog boxes. Yayzers! It actually kinda feels like an RPG, now that you can bump up against things and see text to read.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bezier Curves

I've added another article to my Shockwave3D Developer's Guide. This one is about Bezier Curves, and includes a simple, but really powerful, little Lingo function. The Bezier function is so elegant in its simplicity and power, that I thought it deserved an article unto itself.

Also on that page is an example of its use to create a 3D flythrough of four waypoints in the Sacraments sequel I'm tinkering on. Here's a screenie:
Screenshot from Sacraments Intro Sequence
It's just a cheesy flythrough of a town from the game, but throw some free music from FlashKit on there, and you have something that has a great feel with hardly any effort. Heh.

Monday, April 10, 2006

How not to write a survey question

Jeez. I took a survey this morning sent out by a communications professional organization I'm a member of, and boy, do they not know how to write survey questions. They had a series of statements to which we were supposed to "disagree" or "agree" with, but then they phrased questions like this: "Membership in the organization is not important to my professional development." This forces you to unroll the resultant double-negative, which means that some percentage of the people taking the form will end up negating their answers (although this group is a pretty bright bunch, you still have people who don't want to spend more than a minute or two and are only skimming answers). You'd think a professional communications organization would know better than to piss off the person taking the survey form by unnecessarily adding to the work it takes to answer their questions accurately. I came this close to not even finishing the survey...

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Yikes. Double yikes.

BoingBoing linked to a New Yorker story today that talks about our president's leanings towards using nuclear weapons against Iran. Apparently, a consultant to the Pentagon said that Bush believes that he must do "what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do" - namely, use nuclear weapons - and that "saving Iran is going to be his legacy." Only the most self-deluded neocon would count bombing a country into a radioactive wasteland as "saving" that country, but I guess that's kind of the situation we have here, isn't it? And it sounds like he wants to do it before his term is up. Great.

Worse, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee is characterizing the Bush vision of action like so: "The most worrisome thing is that this guy [Bush] has a messianic vision." Praise the Lord and pass the A-bomb, our President thinks he's got God on his side, and can do no wrong.

Seriously, legislators, explicitly revoke some of those "broad powers" he thinks you gave him before it's too late. Take nuclear weapons off the table.

More tinkering with Shockwave3D

Tonight, I worked some more on my 3D game engine. I'm working on some of the more boring stuff, like the game system architecture, but it's coming along rather nicely. Between my personal tinkerings with Sacraments 3D and the Shockwave3D development I do for work, I think I'm zeroing in on a good way to organize a Shockwave3D project so that I can drop in different game styles, different content, etc., without too much trouble. Better yet, much of the loading script is now moved into a text member, so I can edit that to change how and what it loads, rather than dealing with code. It will require a loading screen, but most Shockwave3D scenes of any detail will need that anyway, so I think I'm okay there.

I'm going for a nice, clean model-view-controller scheme, where "view" items are dumb 3D elements that render themselves into the 3D world, "model" items are display-ignorant keepers of game state, and "controllers" act as the liaison between them and the player. If it looks like it's going to work, I'll post an article about the final setup to my Shockwave3D developer's guide.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Code Thumbnails

I just posted yet another article to my Shockwave3D Developer's Guide: a handy little script that generates code thumbnails. Basically, it's a quick-and-dirty little script that creates color-coded thumbnails for different types of scripts you write based on prefixes and colors you define. Here's what it looks like:
Screenshot of code thumbnails
It's all handled with a single movie script, and the thumbnails can be created or cleared out with a single command. Enjoy.


Earlier, I posted about BootCamp, new software from Apple which allows the new Intel Macs to dual-boot OSX and Windows XP. Well, in light of this, someone has remixed the Apple Intel commercial with a humorous twist. (Via TUAW.)

3D Flash Sprites

Over my lunch hour today, I wrote up another article for my Shockwave3D Developer's Guide. This one is about creating 3D Flash Sprites, which are essentially planar billboards that always face the camera, and which use Flash members as their textures.

The article deals with both steps separately, so if you are looking to use Flash textures elsewhere in your project, or if you want to create bitmapped billboards, you can learn how with this article.

Kingdom Hearts 2

Well, three hours into Kingdom Hearts 2, I finally got the "title screen" for the game, and the character I'd been playing during that time essentially winks out of existence, and I have yet to get to one of the Disney-themed worlds. Dang, this game looks big.

In looking over the credits on the official site, I noticed some of the voice talent they lined up for the game: Mena Suvari, Gwendoline Yeo, Haley Joel Osment, and others. But the extra bonus points come from casting both James Woods and Christopher Lee! Damn straight. Kudos for Square and Disney for picking up two of the least appreciated and awesome actors in the business.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Two more articles to my Shockwave3D Developer's Guide

I've added two new articles to my Shockwave3D Developer's Guide, based largely upon stuff I did for my game Sacraments and which I am revisiting because of a game we're working on at work.

The two articles are more general-purpose than the multiple cameras article. The first one is about simple serialization in Director (for saving game states, mainly), and the second one is about making a quick-and-dirty scripting system and breaking strings up into lists. Lots of string manipulations in this installment.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Apple throws down the gauntlet

Check it out. Apple just released a public beta of Boot Camp, which is software that lets you dual-boot your Intel Mac to Windows XP, complete with all drivers. Now there's no reason not to buy Mac hardware, because you can use the Windows boot to play games, and use the Mac boot for your real work.

But pay particular attention to the sidebar item "Word to the Wise" on that page:
Windows running on a Mac is like Windows running on a PC. That means it’ll be subject to the same attacks that plague the Windows world. So be sure to keep it updated with the latest Microsoft Windows security fixes.
Windows is Windows. This is why many of us don't use Windows in the first place.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

No access and planning a trip

Well, for those of you wondering where my blog posts went, I was in Albuquerque this weekend visiting my wife's family, who don't have internet access. Well, they have internet access, but in order to use it, I would not only have to enter the modem dialing info into my laptop, but I'd also have to tie up their phone line, so I was not about to do that. I did notice that one of their neighbors had an open wireless network available, but I refrained from succumbing to the temptation.

The weekend itself was pretty nice, although we didn't get to do all the things we had hoped to. Every attempt to hook up with friends pooped out, we never got to Trader Joe's, we didn't manage to take in a movie, and allergies hit us pretty hard while we were there.

One high point, though, was the planning of a trip to DisneyWorld this winter. My wife's parents want to take our nieces to DisneyWorld while they can still be easily pulled out of school, and my wife wants to tag along. So we sat around, comparing the Disney resorts, watching the promotional DVD, and generally getting jazzed about visiting the "Happiest Place on Earth" again.

I have to say, this "Happiest Celebration on Earth" promotion they're putting on is actually a pretty good deal. The price tag of $1500 sounds high until you realize that this includes 6 nights of hotel room plus theme park tickets and transportation to and from the parks. That's $250 a day for a family of four including tickets. Really, that's unbeatable.

But the coolest thing is the anticipation of hitting the new attractions. The Pirates of the Caribbean makeover will be completed by the time we go, so we'll get to see Jack Sparrow in various scenes (which I hope doesn't interfere too much with the original feel of the ride), plus new effect technologies. We might get to see Haunted Mansion Holiday if they do it for WDW this year. There's the improved Space Mountain and the new Lilo and Stitch and Narnia attractions.

But the one I'm really looking forward to - at the top of my must-see list - is Expedition Everest. A horror-themed roller coaster? Can't go wrong. The only thing better than a breakneck coaster ride through an ice-covered mountain is adding a berserk Yeti trying to take you out as you go.

I'm of course also looking forward to taking my nieces into the best theme park attraction ever - the Haunted Mansion.

I am apprehensive about taking my son to the parks, though. I'm worried he will get so tired that he won't have a good time, and I'm worried that he will be so high-maintenance, being solidly in the middle of the "terrible twos" by then, that we won't be able to enjoy the parks, either.