Storyteller’s Apprentice

Monday, July 10, 2006

--World Tour--

First up, hello to Nephariel and Kwee Lin. It’s nice to hear from you. Also, howdy kTOTHElove and jozi. I didn’t see your comments until after doing new posts. I’ve noticed with the last few posts that a few new old comments showed up for me after updating. I guess my computer isn’t updating the pages as they should. Anyway, hello hello to everyone that’s commented or just out there reading and keeping up with this slowly undated Blog.

You know those stories you hear of airplane travel. Of a trip lasting longer than it should by hours, about having a screaming kicking kid in the sit behind you, of bad in flight movies. Yea, they aren’t stories for me anymore. A three hour trip became eight thanks to the weather over home, then I got to dive half live home. On the up side, I got to see 4th of July fireworks from the sky... to bad they where on the other side of the plane..

Oh, and like its namesake, the GW Bush tollway has taken too much of my money.

Anyway, its term three here. I have a lot more time off, but that’s just so I can get my work done, so in reality I’m even more busy. But I do get to sleep in a bit more so it all works out. We’re working on our UT2K4 Mod, which is going to be Superheroes vs. Villains. My job will be not only to make 15 objects and one level (a power plant for the villains to try to blow up,) but keeping the other level designers up to date and on time as I’m the LD Lead for the project. I’m not too worried, though the 15 objects do have me a little vexed as art isn’t my strong suit. But I can do it, and once its out of the way, I’ll be happier.

Also, we have all new profs now as the old ones are dealing with all the new kids we got for the incoming class behind us. Well, mostly. We still have Simon, but its good as we know what she wants from us on our big for-mentioned mod project. I’m not sure about the other two guys yet, nor do I have a feel for their classes. So far though, it looks like the big deal will be the project.

For those of you living in the “zoo” I’ll be coming there the 21th-23th of this month. I’m not sure whom all I’ll get to see as I do have something to be at while there, but I’ll try to make contact with as many as possible while out there. Actually, I’m not even sure where I’m going to be staying.. I’ll also be in LA in Sept, but anyone that cares to know that knows already. So, I’ll get more airplane rides, yea me. No Gencon for me this year, but maybe next year if I’m not going insane.

In other news, the great sedge is over. The super rednecks that lived next to my grandmothers place in the deep wood are gone. Long ago when my grandmother lived there, these genetically deficient terrors moved in, and my folks have been kicking themselves for not buying that shack when they had the opportunity. My grandmother disliked them, and my parents (when they inherited the place and made it “home base”) they had no end of troubles, which included intercepting mail and property damage. But turns out they ran up a debt and where “escorted off the property” and haven’t been heard from since. The entire neighborhood, while I was there on the 4th, has changed as you can feel it in there air. From what I hear, everyone is ecstatic. So with the evil tyrants gone, peace returns to the land, and the peasants rejoiced.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

--"Hey! Look! An update!"--

Greetings Kiddies.

Sorry about that. It seems the program here just doesn’t let up. It is video game developer boot camp. Anyway, I’m going to try to just start trying to just drop something simple more often than doing these longer posts.

While I’m thinking about it. To you whom have tried to call me mid-day, count yourself lucky that you didn’t get me. If my phone is on, my teachers are known for answering the phone if it rings.

Anyway, last term went well, very well. My game Crossbones, a zombie pirate side-scroller was well received. I was bummed that I didn’t make it into the show of games, but on the up side, I didn’t have extra work this term getting it ready for the show. Once a student page is up for me, I’ll post and link the game for all to play. That is if the profs think its wise to show it to possible employers, as that’s what the student page is for.

This term for the level designers has been all about making UT2K4 maps and learning script, or CS101-111 for those of us that have 5 years of computer science. So its been a little easier, but the end of this term is extra hard as we have to crank out all our documentation for next terms large scale UT2K4 mod. And then once that’s done, before you can breath, we get to make a completely different UT2K4 mod in two weeks. Anyway, these two games will hit the student page as I have been told these two will be on my resume. More on them once there is some actual work on them.

During the communication silence on this page, the game Exalted 2nd ed hit. I’ve been asked, so here is my 2 cents.

Very cool.

I have yet to play it, or get all the way though the rules, but it looks like a fine improvement of the old rules. I’m still worried though about down the line with the other spat books and the power level balance between the Solars and everyone else. But so far, the books are the awesome. I really liked the new artifact book, though I would have liked to seen rules for homegrown items. Though, 1st ed had that problem but was a bit more vague than this edition is. Its nice having a game that isn’t rushed out the door like the last one was, and the last one was killer. Sadly, I have little time to play, and most people are too busy to be talked into a game. Maybe when I get out of here I’ll find time, and by then maybe two more core books will be out.

Also, I was amazed to run into "Propwash" from the podbay out in the Zoo out here at one of two places still running Red Planet. I could see in his eyes the system call to the brain to figure out whom I was, mostly because it was the last place he’d expect to see me. I was also amazed I live under 5 min from a podbay with tesla pods still running the for mentioned Red Planet. Lucky me :)

Anyway, next up on the ballet, images! Yes, its show and tell time.

The hall

For those that might not know, I left for the guildhall. And here it is.

City of what?

This is what I first saw walking into the building. The building is covered in old video game ads and student's work. It was a good sign that I saw this first off the bat, as I do love the city of heroes.

The big winners

Untill your the elder class here, you spend your time upstairs, and in the stairs are the games of the 2d-games that made it biggest.

These hollowed halls

All about, like I said, you see game ads and students work.

Hulk SMASH (chair)

However... over time the strees can get to you..

Back-up caff is brought in

And maybe the daily fix doesn't help...

SMU

Anyway thats the hall.. and you know, this is the first time I've seen grass in the winter..
And yes.. its getting hot here...

Words can't describe my feelings..

However, somedays, when its about 30 out, or there is some rain, the overall panic is.. well.. words can't begin to cover my feelings.. And Yes.. water does freeze partner, I know its hard to fathom.. Also, a note about drivers. If you add the sound of "YYYYYEEEE-HAAAA!" then their driving makes so much more sense... However, unlike northerners, they know what the lines on the road means..

Apt02

For those that where thinking it was a bad idea not seeing my new place before getting there.. you can stop worrying.

ShowofGames

And lastly, the showing of the 1st year student's work. That computer in the bottom left with the skull is mine :)

ShowOfGames_MyGame

And here it is being played. People liked it for the most part, and in the end I was very happy and proud of it.

Anyway, that’s mostly it for this run. In a few weeks, I'll be back in MI for a family function (woot!) but I don't think I'll see time to drop in elsewhere. However, there is a wedding in the zoo in the middle of term 3, and I'm trying to get time to go to, so stay tooned.

Monday, March 13, 2006

--The international state of crazy--

Well, its that time again. End of semester time.

For me they come around much faster as my terms are 3 months long each. Anyway, our game project, titled "Crossbones" is at Alpha, and Beta is in 3 days, and Gold (i.e. the final project) is in 3 days after that. Then finals, which are in my mind, less of a worry than the game project and all the end of term assignments that seem to be coming our way. For the many of you that keep asking me about playing it, I'll have something for you once break starts, cus by then I'll know more about the installer and what all you'll need to play it. Mind you, its a super simple jumper so don't expect Quake 5 or anything. I'd say more about it, but I'm at the "cut it or go" stage here so I'll fill you in on the game once its done. I can say, you start out as a head looking for a body, and your rolling around.

Anyway, that’s all I have to report, as this is all the time I have to give to it. I should be, as my prof said, Eating, Sleeping, Gamemaking, for the next week. Sooo… things are very the busy. I’ll give you more of a low down once Finals come and go.

Monday, February 27, 2006

--The Guildhall--

Ok, first up. I apologies that it took soooo long to update. However, you should have gotten something new before this. But Blogger, during a maintenance cycle ate my last entry shortly after it went up and I lost it completely. Makes me sad. Also, work here at the Guildhall is growing as in under a month our 2-D games are due. The program’s workload is not for the faint of heart, but its worth it. Now, when I wrote this, I forgot what was in my blog and what got eaten, so this might sound a little redundant.

Also, to all you fine people that have sent e-mails and added comments here, thanks. Believe me, I do notice them and I am read them. Especially you J. O and, as the Galbania treasury is limited, don’t expect to see me in DS land anytime soon. I’m behind in e-mailing.. well most everyone. Again, why we have the blog. If you guys could, pass on the location of this place to anyone that wants to keep in touch with me please do so. I’m not going to have time to do much of anything until near the end march.

Ok, so… I wrote last time in the post that vanished about the different classes I’m taking and the program we level design people are using. I partly blame that program on the loss of that post, because I spoke badly of it. I made the comment that if it heard me talk badly of it that “I’d find myself in a cornfield someplace.” So… yea… more on that later.

So the classes, now that I know them better, why don’t I tell you a bit more about them. They are 3 hours long, but we get breaks every hour or so.

First is Games Study. We’re looking at the development cycle of a video game, the history of games, and the some what philosophical question of “what is a game?” As a class, we all agree that the state in a game's production cycle is the "Fruity Drinks" stage. The Prof is an ex-Lucasarts guy, a company when I was younger was the only company I wanted to work for. I still wouldn't mind working for them. He also worked on, or was near, a number of games that I've loved. So I’ve naturally asked him a number of questions. This class I think I’ve learned the most about what it’s like in a game company and what it takes for a company or studio to get a game out.

Next, Art for Level Design. This class is for only people like me whom are in the Level Design, though if the others aren’t in class they can sit in. I understand a number of LDs (Level Design Students) took advantage of this and sat in on the Art students classes. So, in this class we learn how to make tilesets and how to show and tell the art guys what we want from them. I’ve gotten that we LDs are both new to the industry as an officially recognized job (its always been around, just now they see it’s a full time thing), and that we are the guy that keeps the artist and the programmers in line with each other as we speak both of they’re languages. As for tilesets, what are they you might ask. A tile or tileset is to a level in a game as wallpaper is to a wall. Take a square picture of something; say some dirt, grass, a brick wall, or the like. Now place four copies of the same picture next to each other so that they form a 2 x 2 grid. You should be able to see where one picture starts and the other starts. What we do is make these pictures “tile” so that in the same 2 x 2 square formation you can’t tell where one picture starts and the other ends. This is not an easy job, though it is possible to make most anything tile. Even a face. It’s just a matter of how much time, effort and sanity you want to put into it. I also like this teacher, as he isn’t much of what you think a teacher is. He is smart and we’re learning all kinds of things from him that will be very valuable in the future, don’t get me wrong. But he comes off as the guy in class that causes trouble than the guy running the show. He admits that when his wife, a teacher also, goes on field trips, they have him watch over the bus with the troubled students as any trick they come up with, he has already done.

Next we have Level Design. Clearly, this is another LD only class. In this class we learn about creating, documenting, and building a level. We learn what makes for good game play and what will kill it. We learn how to make a player do what we want them to so as to experience gameplay we’ve created for him while keeping the control of the player in his hands. One of the things we’ve looked at is, how to motivate a player, and the physiology you can use like sound and lighting. Create a hallway, the player will move down it without looking back. Create a hallway that is dark, and the player will have a weapon out and will move more slowly and carefully down it. We also looked at tricks we can use to create better looking games without better technology.

Lastly we have Team Game Production with Prof, Simon. This is where you will pick up your standard issued “Fear of God” at. This class has us looking at the basics of making a game, and the documentation that goes with it. The documentation is kind of hard, but as we can all say that we’ve done it, we’ll look better than most people around to employers. That’s kind of the thing. Yea, for some people this is boot camp (I’m sure people that have been in boot camp will have words about that) and its hard and you don’t have much time outside of class for anything but classwork, but in the end you’ll have a job and you’ll be good at it and will get them rises faster. I’ve referred to this place as being Dagobah. It might a “smelly mud hole,” but you’re leaving a Jedi. I’ll talk more about how worth it is later. However, this place, Plano, I wouldn’t call it smelly or a mud hole. Its really nice, though its funny as hell to me what people are like when it hit a low of 30 degrees. Wimps.

We also do our first game in that class, though work in most all our classes goes towards it. They start us with a 2d project. The Programming students go off and are taught to make an engine for a game while art and LDs are paired up and make a game using a… funny little program.

The program we’re using is “The Scrolling Game Development Kit.” It is a fine development program that also acts as a virus. As I understand it, when the Guildhall started it was at the time the best program out there for a person with no programming skill to make a basic game and learn what the teachers wanted the students to learn in they’re first semester. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, it was, and still is, unstable. What do I mean by unstable? How is “its known to eat its own executable.” Its also known to eat and destroy Photoshop if its open at the same time, though with updates it might not do that anymore. Not that we take the chance running them both at the same time mind you. The students believe the program to be alive, a viruses, and evil. Most of our instruction in it largely covered things in the program that, these are his words not mine, “Are a bold face lie,” “Don’t work,” or “Will make it spit blood.” While doing a simple walkthrough, it ate the work of the guy next to me and crashed his system. So far it reminds me of an evil stitch from that Disney cartoon or Imp from the Exalted games back at WMU. Always eating things it should not.

Now, you have to ask yourself, why the hell do we use this. Two reasons. One, as they asked older students if we should have to learn on it, they said “yes.” In part to be mean, in part because of what they came out with after using it. Two, all that these imperfections teach. There are lessons about naming conventions, saving protocols and backing up practices that this teaches that most students just don’t learn otherwise. We old Computer Science guys are really bad about this. With this, you’ll learn. That and the stuff you’ll use aren’t always the best as the editors will be buggy at times that are used in house at a gaming studio, so there is that. Just the trial by fire aspect alone though is worth it in the eyes of the teachers and those that came before me. If you can make a great game with this, you’ll be able to make a great game with most anything.

Just… don’t talk too loudly about it… Else it’ll eat something important.

Ok, so is this, the program, worth it? Yes, without hesitation. Right now its hard to say what I’ve learned as the main goal right now is to make sure we know everything we need to know before the more complex stuff. I could talk hours I’m sure on thousands of different little things I’m sure. The fillings of things I might already know but don’t so that we all have the same knowledge to move on to the harder stuff. And we are learning all kinds of things you can’t get else ware, and while it is hard, its kind of fun too.

But if that isn’t enough for you.

The classes that have come out of here have over an 80% placement rating into the industry, and the first graduating class is at 90%. We have students from here that worked on “Gun”, “Doom 3”, “Age of Empires,” and “Quake 4” to name a few games.

Anyway, coming soon. Photos. And I'll try to post more often.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

--"What I learned today"--

People keep asking me when I IM or phone or Vent them, "What is the school like," or "What are you doing?" Sadly, I keep answering with, "Umm..." I'm only in what, week 2, 3? So I have yet to be hit with it fully, thought it continues to ramp up.

In a word though, "Exciting."

Ok, so here it is...

Day one: They insert excitement, hope, promise, and the ever present fear of God in you.

Day two-five: If some how they failed the day before, they double they're efforts to put that fear in.

Its not as bad as all that, though I do see people in the building late working in groups. However, they seem happy so... But, as most of these people seem to be coming from the workplace, they have a bit of an adjustment to make and have to learn what it means to be at school again. The rest of us just have to see that we have to take it a bit more seriously. So far, it isn't too bad, but I suspect I'll have a better point of view on this in two to three months.

Ok, classes.

Game Study I and Team Game Production I. I really don't see the difference here as of yet other than one has a lot more homework. I'm learning about the development cycle, teams (they're formation and working in them) and basic skills that everyone in the industry needs. We're working on a 2-d Game in TGP, which is to make sure we all have our basics. That and, as you're shown, 2-d is still the big force in the gaming world (see Cell phones)

Level Design for Games. We have three groups, the art people, the code people and the Level Design people. In the other classes we're learning as a group, however in this one its just us LD people. This class is both my favorite and the one I'm the most board in sometimes. You learn all about good level design (i.e. the things that make a game FUN) but there is a number of long lectures in it that threaten to put me to sleep. However, I haven't done so, and they are becoming more "hands-on" so the boredom is starting to fade.

O did I mention all my classes are about three hours long. Luckily, the profs are human too (mostly) and require a break as much as us so we get 10 minuet breaks every hour or so.

The last class I have on the list is Art for level design. As I've learned so far, us LD's must have the most rounded of skills in the group becuase we not only do our thing, Designing levels, but we aslo do code (Scripting work) and some art (textiles). We also seem to be the middle man, or the common ground between the art guys and the software guys. We also fill more times than not the odd jobs that need doing (filling in for the sick and the like). In this class, its all about art. I like the teacher, he can do the job, but he comes off more as that guy in class that would be causing trouble in the back. From a students point of view, he is more one of 'us' than one of 'them', if that makes even a lick of sense. Then again, many of the teachers are like that, or are starting to become that as we progress in our studies. Like all the teachers here, he is smart and has "been out there." He also gives the most homework too, but seems the most easly going on it. I'm doing far more drawing than I thought I would be. But its a skill we need when we go to the artist with a room or a level and say "draw this, but pretty like," in such a way that we both get what we want and doesn’t make the artist’s head explode. I also note, while he looks just a little bit like Gary Oldman, he sounds just like Nicolas Cage.

I've also got a number of new toys from this. I pay for it though in the from of tuition, but still. I got me a new laptop. A shiny XPS M170 from Dell. In short, best portable from them you can buy. 2.13 GHz Intel Processor, 1 GB of ram, Bluetooth, Wireless Ethernet, and a nice GeForce Go 7800 GTX video card. (Oddly, I haven't put a game on there yet in the name of getting work done, but I will just to see how it runs) There is also a bundle of LDE lights all over this thing. They had us, for the first few weeks, set our lights so they can tell which student is in which group. Blue for software, Green for LD, and Purple (or as they put it, Mace Windu pink...) for the art guys. This is great for me, as I can use my old personal pine green Atomic Love Boogie wallpaper. It also looks super slick. Sadly, it'll be about a year or two before I dare use it in a coffee shop or the like. Also, I can't name it, or mess too much with the system as its set up for the Guildhall network and programs. As we all have the same thing though, having hardware problems between people wont be an issue. We LD guys also got a styles, or what ever you art guys call them, so we can draw with a pen instead of a mouse. My bag, which is mighty and came with the computer, is getting mighty heavy.

I've learned... well,... I'm not sure. The best I can put it is anything I knew, they are going over, but they are also filling in the holes of things I didn't know as they go. So I'm learning stuff, but its hard to point at it. I have learned that this is both the hardest and funniest job you can have. The Profs, whom have all be in the field and know they're stuff, all tell us about their experiences. Even as they tell the bad ones, they say there is no other job they would want to do. That and even when its hard, its fun. I'm kind of seeing that too.

Laters :)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

--Journey to the center of Texas--

Ok, so I’m alive incase you where wondering.

Thanks to everyone that came out and helped with getting my crap into the trailer. I don’t think we could have even tried to do that on our own.

Anyway, the morning after the great load, we sat out from Indiana very early in the morning and kept going unit late, late into the night when we got about an hour from TX. After about seven hours straight of driving I realized that in the future finding cheep air fair to go back for the holidays would be the best way to go.

Along the way, I came across this one rest stop that had an automatic hand washer. The thing did everything but move your hands for you. It spits soap then waits a sec for experienced people to scrub and first timers to pull there hands back out and say “what the hell is this stuff?!” Insert all your sick humor here. Then it shoots water onto your hands then dries them. It’s interesting, but I question what it says about people that need to automate washing there hands after taking a dump…

In the end we got into Plano. We left the north while it was blowing and snowing heavy added to the heavy near-Chicago traffic we had to pass though. Getting into a major city in TX, it was 80 and the traffic, even when it was heavy, seemed so much nicer to drive though. I guess they learned something from driving all those cows.

With much yelling, we got everything into the new place. While I wasn’t to excited at first, because the floor plan was reversed from what I was expecting. But the place has been everything I had hoped for. There is a slight adjustment at night though. This place doesn’t have the walls of liquid hot magma I’ve gotten use to. So I’m still figuring out why it’s cold at night. It might have something to do with the daystar going down.

After the crap was in the place, we did some exploring/shopping. O-my…

I’ve found that I’m less than a mile from a major, MAJOR, shopping area. Any store I’ve ever been to and then some are just north of me, about 2-5 minuets away depending on traffic. The school is about a minuet or two away. The only thing I haven’t found yet has been a good comic book store.

So, I’ve been into my Ikea and Fry’s. Damn. That’s about all I can say. Damn…

Ack! Class is starting. Laters

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

--Claimed in the name of Galbania--

Hello and welcome.

Odds are you are here because I've told you about my impending move and I told you to come here. This is my Blog. I'm using it to try to keep in touch with people that I care about. You see, I take forever to write as my writing is long winded, and I really don't like talking on the phone as I'm not myself on it. So, I'll post what's going on with me here for all the world to see, and you can respond and ask questions or post comments as you wish. You guys with blogs of your own, I'll be doing the same back.

Well, ok then. I've decided that I like it here in Blogger land, and will make this my official blog site. I'll be keeping my live journal and myspace accounts to talk to people that use them, just btw.

For you looking to e-mail me, I'm at "Gavin AT veri tech pilot dot com". Replace the 'AT' and the 'dot' with ' @ ' and '.' and then delete all the spaces making it one word and you'll get it. Sorry, I'd post it as you have to enter it, but search bots out there would find it and run off with it and fill my box with spam. Anyway, there it is.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

--Masters in Gaming--

The guildhall finally got back with me last night. It looks like I'm going to Dagobah to learn from Yoda the ways of the force and become a Jedi Master. More once the details are ironed out.

Monday, October 24, 2005

--Its away!--

I've been lacking in post because I've been working on my big old app for the guildhall, and as of right now,...

It. Is. In!

My cuz and his girlfriend and a friend of mine helped out with this. I'm betting they are glad this is done too as I'll leave them alone on it now :)

Friday, September 30, 2005

--The sound of lava--

Today I heard a "tink-tink-tink.... tink... tink-tink... tink" from my furnace... This usually means the hot water pipes are being turned on. Now, not the hot water for showers and doing dishes pipes. On my campus, and thus in my apartment on the campus, there are pipes that go though the buildings that they pipe hot water though to heat the places in the winter.

The problem? Well... I live over the hot water heater for the building (not part of the just talked about hot water heating system) I share a wall with the laundry room and the wall that they have all the pipes and dryer vents, and my building is made of cinder blocks so it acts like an oven. This means my place is a nice 90 for a few weeks. And the AC doesn't help as the thing hits me while I sit at my computer, so it fry or freeze...

Also, yesterday I helped Jason again. Some A-hole took the gas from his moped. And we have learned that starting the moped from an empty tank is a hard thing to do for some reason. Anyway, we're hopping that the person that did it was a car driver as the moped's gas is full of oil. Good for the moped, bad for cars.