Monday, November 27, 2006

Model-View-Controller Shockwave3D Framework

Today, I released an article on my Model-View-Controller Framework for Shockwave3D Projects which I've been using on various personal projects, and more recently, projects at work. It's been mostly a personal project, but I wanted to make sure there was some documentation for it for my co-workers, so I went ahead and wrote up a description. And now you benefit from that work, too!

In essence, the MVC framework provides a generic way to quickly define the elements of a scene, both the logical model and the visual representation, and to manage user interaction. By writing a text script, you can control what elements get loaded into a scene, what their parameters are, and the order in which they are loaded. It even includes a progress bar for scene loading to give your users feedback on long load sequences.

You can download the framework with a sample scene, and read about how it works. It's set up to work naturally with other concepts discussed in my Shockwave3D Developer's Guide: code thumbnails, multiple cameras, and explode()-based simple scripting.

Feel free to post comments or questions in the comments block of this blog entry.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I'm sold.

I think Nintendo has a winner on their hands. The guys at the studio brought in their new Wii game system today and I've gotta say I'm ready to jump platforms. I'd decided to wait to try each of the new gaming consoles before committing to a platform for the next generation, but today, my mind was made up for me. The PlayStation 1 and 2 have served me well, but the Wii is downright fun in a way that the typical systems and their controllers don't enable.

Case in point: today, I swung a cartoon cow attached to a chain over my head and flung it out into a field, listening to it moo and gonk as it bounced and skidded across the turf. It was hilarious, fun, and different. At $250, it's a no-brainer which console I'm picking up next.

And I wasn't the only one. The Wii had drawn a big crowd over lunch, and everyone was having fun with it. One of my coworkers, who hasn't owned a console since the Atari 2600, was sold on buying a Wii after only a few minutes with it.

The video gaming pundits were skeptical about the Wii because it takes such a different path than the "traditional" consoles. But that's exactly what makes it so attractive, and what will probably make it successful. It puts the fun back into controlling things onscreen. I'm willing to pay for fun, and I'm betting that a lot of other people will, too, after they get a dose of this great little system.

Well done, Nintendo. Sign me up for your next release date.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Featuring our Friends

Tim's Crypt
I've finally gotten around to throwing a little love towards our Friends of ImaginEERIEing experience. We've been getting some truly awesome work from people, and I wanted to do some improvements in how we showcase their work.

First of all, we have a nicer form powered by WuFoo.

Second, the "friends" entries now know what effect of ours they use, so they now appear on the web pages for the individual effects. For instance, peoples' Magic Mirror implementations now show up on the Magic Mirror page in addition to the "friends" page.

Finally, this new version of the "friends" functionality should be a little more reliable. Before, we were doing a database pull from LazyBase, and although they have a great little service, it suffered from outages more than I'd like, so now I'm trying out WuFoo, as mentioned above. The guys at WuFoo are working on an API that should allow me to do "live" pulls eventually, but for now, some Javascript pulls the data from a CSV file. Be sure to have Javascript turned on if you want to see these new features.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

2006 Madame Sarita's Spirit Parlour Script Available

Black Light Puppeteer holding Marius Blackwood puppet
For those of you who were unable to come out to Carnival of Souls 2006, but you want to keep up with the ongoing saga of the struggle between Madame Sarita and the vile Marius Blackwood, the 2006 show script is now available for you to read.

This year, we introduced a lot of new special effects, including a very large, very scary, very menacing puppet for representing the Dark Powers of the Earth, the evil cabal of primordial powers that is ultimately responsible for the benighted state of the Carnival. This show also included more special effects action and less exposition than previous years, which is always a good thing.

As usual, Tracy did a fantastic job as Madame Sarita this year, having to shoulder the burden of learning most of the lines (all other characters are prerecorded). And our puppeteers really did a great job with a pretty tightly choreographed and confusing script that required precise blocking. In particular, Nick did a great job with Marius Blackwood, the villain. Marius is our most articulated puppet, and Nick put that capability to good use bringing Marius Blackwood to life with some laugh-out-loud antics, yet without breaking character. Overall, a great set of performances from everyone involved.

2006 Carnival of Souls Tour

Are you brave enough to walk into the Blackwood family Mausoleum? Dare you speak to the dead in Madame Sarita's Spirit Parlour? Do you have what it takes to stand before the Magic Mirror?

Death angel atop the Blackwood family mausoleum

I'm a little late getting this out, but Halloween 2006 was a huge success, and I now have some photos up showing some of the highlights. (More should be coming when I get the time to compile them.)

So if you're not chicken, come inside and take a guided tour of Carnival of Souls 2006.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

As if Microsoft doesn't have ENOUGH money

I'm beginning to see a pattern in the way Microsoft's new business models are playing out. Now that they have made their fortunes from you buying stuff once, they want you to buy stuff twice. Consider these two recent articles:
  • According to Dan Pourhadi, the new "iPod-Killer-Don't-They-Wish" from Microsoft, called the "Zune" is based on a subscription model for music. The idea is that instead of buying up a whole music library and then listening to only what you buy, you instead pay a subscription fee, and then have access to the entire library to listen to. Only with the Microsoft Zune, you pay a subscription fee and still have to buy the music you want to listen to. (If it's there - Zune Marketplace is reportedly pretty barren at this stage.)
  • According to Tycho at Penny Arcade, EA (and I'd argue, the Xbox 360 development culture in general) is geared towards "unlockable content" which, as you might have guessed, requires a credit card to get unlocked. In other words, if the execs get their way, you will shell out $60 for that cool new game, but then if you want everything that is stored on that disk, you also have to connect up and pay $5 here, $5 there to unlock all the tantalizing pieces that they've essentially decided to lock up and hold for ransom. As Tycho says,
    Gamers aren't angry that they are being given (quote) choices, though let's be frank, these are some pretty shitty choices. They're angry because EA is trying to sell them the game they just bought, again, piece by piece.

Is it just me, or do these two "business model innovations" out of Redmond seem like two sides of the same coin, namely, fostering an environment where you pay Microsoft twice for every product they sell you? It would be one thing if that meant the two pieces were half the price, but neither Xbox games nor Zune music players or downloads seem to be going anywhere near half the market value. They're just double-dipping, pure and simple.

So if you buy a Zune, or buy unlockable Xbox content, I don't want to hear you whining about the price of music or games in five years when this experiment has become the de-facto standard, got it? You're part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Slimy tactics in the eleventh hour

So the Republicans are biting their nails about Democrats looking good in the polls. What's the "party of family values" to do? Start engaging in more deceptiveness and underhanded tricks, as has been their hallmark of late, of course. Apparently, in Philadelphia and other close races, the GOP has been making thousands of robocalls pretending to be from the Democratic candidate in order to annoy voters, including making calls to voters on the "Do Not Call" registry.

The idea is to get people so annoyed with the Democratic candidate from fake robo-calls that they vote for the Republican out of spite.

Get a clue, Republicans. Behavior like this is exactly why you shouldn't be in power. A willingness to engage in outright deception of your constituents is not a good trait for a legislative representative.