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Michael Zucchi

 B.E. (Comp. Sys. Eng.)

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Friday, 10 July 2015, 14:45

puppeteer

Took a break from the break from hacking and started looking through the old PS+ games I hadn't gotten around to downloading. Also cleared out some of the lesser ones; things i thought might be worth looking at further but now there's just not enough time for really good games so i know i'll never look at them again. Could always re-download anyway.

Anyway one of those games I downloaded was Puppeteer.

Very impressed with the game. By setting it on a small stage they managed to craft a quite exquisite piece of software. A very solid frame rate with NO TEARING, with very good use of per-object motion blur and decent AA. Very high quality textures and models with detailed and charming animation. Short loading times. Absolutely incredible presentation that makes it look like a real puppet stage setting up and tearing down between stages. I only found it too dark and had to turn up the brightness on my tv.

I kept thinking it must've cost a packet to make ... and in this day and age when a piece of shift flash or phone game passes as 'good enough', and even triple-a games are often a lot of technically incompetent snot, it's disappointing that the game didn't get much higher sales.

It's obviously a childrens game but the narrator and players don't mind throwing in some humour for the adults and even though I wasn't thoroughly enthralled myself (just can't seem to care about anything much) I laughed out loud more than once. And of course the puppet-stage setting is perfect for breaking the 4th wall at any time, which it does often. The two player mode seems to revolve around controlling a faery (in one player mode you control both) so it's also a perfect play-with-your-kid game.

Definitely a case of restaurant food vs chucky-d's. I guess it's a question of whether there is a commercial place for this quality in the 6-12 age bracket? I guess not going by it's sales. It deserves a PS4 port and technically (and for that matter aesthetically) it's already better than most PS4 games i've seen even without any enhancements whatsoever.

Anyway, definitely worth getting if you have kids and a ps3 or even if you just appreciate well-made software. It shows what games could be like if people didn't just put up with jank.

Others

I haven't even looked at the other PS+ stuff yet and I got a few disks last week, and bought some other PSN goodies: resogun+driveclub expansions, astebreed and jamestown. (+ maybe more on sale, i can't remember).

I'm pretty shit at resogun but it's just too good; the added modes aren't as varied as the base game but they're going to take a lot of playing to get good enough to know that for sure. As for driveclub I barely know most of the cars in the base game and although i've nearly finished it I don't really care much about the pre-set races for the most part (they can be good filler though) - and this is all the season pass adds (and mostly super-cars at that) - but well I'm a fan I guess.

jamestown is very 90s arcade stuff and like with those i'm kinda shit at it. Each level is fairly short but fun enough but I need quite a few more DEX points before I can weave my way through all the bullets on screen without just dying. It's no SWIV and i'll probably never finish it but it's there I guess (need another controller and visitors I would say).

astebreed was pretty much on a whim and I went in totally blind. It's the only thing I regret now, at least so far. It's fast and well presented but the gameplay mechanics are just not for me. There are 3 main weapons. A magical machine-gun thing; which you pretty much just constantly hold down the button for. A sword thing which causes damage and destroys yellow and purple (iirc) projectiles; so you pretty much just trigger it constantly, occasionally holding it down for a super-swish. And a ranged/targetted rocket-spray weapon which uses a mechanic I've seen in other jap games that I quite dislike. You hold down a button to target (fucking R3 at that) and then release to fire. i.e. you're constantly just holding that and releasing that as well. So the game pretty much devolves into maneuvering between the red projectiles or beams overlayed with a mass of visual noise whilst you're incessantly pumping the other weapons. There's a bit of timing/rhythm to it but to be honest it pretty much just sucks. ~$25 I could've spent on something else but I guess it's no big deal and maybe i'll find something i like if i play it more later (he says knowing full well he's spent $80 and never gotten around to even opening the box, and he has tons of other things he needs to go through).

No Man's Sky

ign and a few other places have a few bits and bobs about this during this through July. Nothing really new but a few things more fleshed out slowly, presumably as part of the PR build-up to launch.

I'm still blown away by the graphics here but for different reasons I might be blown away by a game like The Order. It's unclear if it's running on a PS4 but it feels quite alive for something running at that framerate (and thank fuck: no tearing). Much like it felt the first time I visited a city in ratchet and clank; except here it is not merely background decoration. Yet all some sad cunts can do is complain about a little bit of latency in the terrain generation around the periphery; jesus get a fucking life. Although it has it, I would myself be fine even if it had no anti-aliasing whatsoever; I find that aesthetic quite pleasing on low-texture models just as I did back on the Amiga.

At first I was a little shocked at how quickly the wanted level escalated into the players death - but then I thought it's actually a good idea. I like the idea that the universe itself is trying to stop you being a fuckwit and just indiscriminately killing every animal that moves and mining every bit of land you see. This is very good.

It also means that it's decidedly not a tourist or walking simulator; it's actually a game with high risks for player actions or even just mistakes. All other things look gamey too; clockwork atro-physics, simple flying and shooting. Nice, although there can be satisfaction in becoming a master airliner pilot; most people just want to have the fun bits.

Crafting looks, well, like crafting in any other game. Seems the point is to buy or find blueprints for the upgrades, find or buy the raw materials, hit a button to combine. Buying new ships/suits/guns will provide a new thing to look at as well as a different number of upgrade/storage slots.

I like the cleaninless of the UI which bares some similarity to Destiny. But it also shared Destiny's shitty finger-cursor-thing. Why then the dpad works so well for this kind of menu? Could redeem itself if it runs of the touch-pad.

Confirmation of rotating planets is nice; one hopes that extends to the whole solar system. I mean Damocles did that on an Amiga (w/ day/night) so it should be the bare minimum expected to be honest. Sure it will be a clockwork universe but that's good enough.

I'm rather pleased that it is a single-player game. The whole point of 2^64 planets is that everyone gets their own game to play - despite it all being in the same universe. I'm not sure how one will navigate given it's size but it should also be interesting to see the galactic map fill out by other players - maybe the blink or light up as they are discovered or maybe you can only find them with effort or locally. And for those that want a 'social' experience; there's the whole fucking internet there to enable that, let alone just turning to those in the same room. I imagine there will be a lot of streams/video recordings and screenshots of this one; i'm sure it wont hurt that it such an appealing facade and it may be the only way anyone else ever sees what you saw.

I'm actually pretty surprised how many people seems disappointed this game doesn't have pre-defined story or NPCs. Surprised just doesn't do my feelings half a justice: baffled, confused, somewhat disgusted to be frank. Are people lacking even the smallest amount of mental maturity that they cannot partake in some activity without explicit directions? Jesus how the fuck do they know when to go do a shit? Minecraft demonstrates that at least some children still have some curiosity bones left so at least it's not everyone stuck with this severe mental handicap. Anyway; there's simply no physical or economical way to create a game this big and put any sort of meaningful pre-generated assets in it. I think there will be some lore related things but hopefully not too many, or any tutorial things. With only a dozen people making it, any extraneous fluff seems unlikely.

Or stuff like base building? 2^64 is a number so big it's clearly impossible to comprehend for most and they just relate it to something they know already without realising it has no worth.

Another good thing is that Hello Games' director Sean Murray seems very set on the game he wants to make and isn't interested in any outside noise. Once you start listening to whiners you can easily break your vision and end up with a broken game or just make silly mistakes. I think the driveclub director gives a little too much weight to internet forums for instance. From the IGN video view count it looks like he's onto a winner anyway, even if many people seem to let their imagination escape reality a bit too far.

It still bugs me that people pronounce this as 'nomansky', have they got 'diagon alley' disease from mr potter or something? (i always thought that was such an awfully cheesy and dumb bit of the movies).

Anyway i'm obviously rather interested in this game; excited even.

From what I know (and because of what I don't know) it seems like the game I never knew I wanted, But I actually always wanted, from the first day I worked out how to play a bare-disk pirate copy of Mercenary: Escape from Targ.

Tagged games.
Saturday, 20 June 2015, 18:25

manufactured culture

So I ended up watching a lot of game related E3 broadcasts and related again this year and I kinda wrote off a couple of days work by staying up till too late (it's winding down for this financial year so it's no problem) and here's a few random thoughts about it.

At a few points I was thinking "why am i doing this, i don't even care", but ahh well, you know how it is.

This was going to be a comment on some aspects of US culture but although it's mentioned in passing it's mostly just about games n shit.

For example I have almost no interest in Bethesda games almost entirely to the negative experience of Oblivion which I found unplayable and dull, yet I watched their conference live (4am or something?). I thought Doom looked pretty good and very Doomish although I never played more than a little bit of the original demo (about then is when i stopped playing games until getting a PS2), Fallout looked a bit clunky, but its unlikely i'll play either of them. I though the whole falloutshelter "we made a free-to-play mobile game that doesn't suck!" thing was pretty obnoxious as it seems its just as exploitative as any other game in getting people to spend money without realising they are, for nothing.

EA's was pretty cringeworthy. Apart from "Yarnie" Unravel which looked like a cool physics puzzle game with photorealistic setups. Need for speed looked pretty but the game itself was utterly attrocious. The best part is that I learnt of a new musical style "trap" which i can only guess means techno-rap, but whatever it's called it sounds like shit. But as is eluded to in the title of this post, apparently people like these sort of directed & manufactured experiences. There's no way I could play a game with such constant patronising encouragement, phrases such as "Doing great!" "You're nearly there!" - like the player is only 2 years old. I muted and ignored all the other sports stuff and I can't remember the rest.

Don't care about anything M$ or Nintendo so didn't bother. Apparently M$' big thing was backward compatibility which seems to be implemented using code translation (i.e. compilation of opcodes); which would have been a nice have on launch but even then would have been an investment they would never recoup (which duh, is why they didn't bother). But doing it now so late after launch just seems irresponsible to their shareholders. The WiiU was a failure from inception and that seems to be dying a silent death although the faithful haven't noticed yet (I was an Amiga guy so I know all about that).

The Dark Souls 3 trailer looks suitably bleak and terrifying although I haven't gone back to Demon's Souls since dying on some bridge for the 3rd time last time I gave it ago, so its probably not something i'll ever have the time to play.

I saw most of the Square E[e]nix one but i can't remember much. Apparently there was some odd flare-up on the internets over the use of 'apartheid' in the press conference which was born a combination of Americentrism, ignorance, and sheer stupidity (i.e. "hey look internet i'm so lazy i can't even be bothered to use a dictionary and just make up the meaning of words to suit my political agenda!"). But the word was used correctly in an appropriate context for the game, although the trademark of 'Mechanical Apartheid' (iirc) seems a little odd in the real world.

Sony.

Sony was sort of interesting in that it was the most impressive to fans but perhaps not the most interesting to me - they had so many bombastic announcements some of the smaller titles got missed. It was a real shame No Man's Sky release date announcement was apparently postponed which seemed to deflate Sean on stage visibly.

Seeing The Last Guardian at the start actually made tears start to swell in my eyes although they didn't break the surface. I'm not sure why really as although I do quite like ICO I only finished it once and couldn't even get past the first puzzle on the 'HD' version (pretty much the reason I got PS+ a couple of years ago). But the animation has such a believability to it i'm not surprised they couldn't get it running on the PS3 and the fact that it looks like a real living and breathing animal was quite mesmerising. On the shitty stream the graphics didn't look much better than I remembered from the PS3 version apart from some better textures but later I saw some better shots and the detail increase is significant.

I really couldn't give a shit about FF7 but maybe i'll play it if it gets modernised nicely (the PS1 game hasn't aged well, I bought it on PS3 ages ago but didn't get very far, but they probably can't modernise it without pissing some anal retard off) and I have no idea what Shenmue even is but apparently they have a following. I really think the whole kickstarter approach should have been far more transparent, but that's something for another day.

Star Wars (battlefront?) looks pretty authentically-good but i'm not really into Star Wars much myself and particularly not multiplayer games. I can see it selling absolutely gangbusters this xmas though.

Horizon - Zero Dawn however. Wow. And the more we find out the better it sounds. It looks fantastic, the lead character looks and moves amazingly, combat looks fluid and seamless, the world is interesting. And no fucking loading screens. The first time i saw it i wasn't a fan of the US accent of the actress (clearly chosen on purpose), but I suppose it's unavoidable in this day and age for something which is obviously going for massive mainstream appeal and the voiceover was just for the trailer anyway. Hmnm, wonder if we'll be able to play it with swedish or russian voice and english subtitles or something more fitting.

Guerrilla always seem to get a lot of undeserved fanboy hate but they are really a top-tier studio with amazing technology and art. It will be interesting to see where a fuck-ton of money and really talented and technically proficient team can take the RPG genre and how the competitors respond given that their usual jank-fests and silly mechanics (like, oh dear, when did 'romancing' become popular?) are going to look a bit pedestrian.

The main character - Aloy - is a pretty bold move for such a major title simply for being a woman (sadly). They are definitely leaving some money on the table due to this choice (sadly). She seems an excellent design though; visually distinct (attractive but not some bland k-pop model), lithe and athletic without being pornographic, strong and determined yet inexperienced and slightly nervous. Very noble 'PR' poses. A lot of effort was put into that reveal trailer to convey all this information and hopefully others noticed little details like her swallowing gulp just before leaping into the frey. It was a tiny and seemingly inconsequential detail which conveyed so much humanity in an entirely artificial character.

Dreams was just a bit too disturbing to me. Looked more like ``Nightmares'' and i thought even the polar bears were a bit creepy. The technology looks pretty groundbreaking in lots of ways though so it'll be something i'll keep an eye on and apparently a lot more is to be presented about the "platform" in Paris later this year.

Oh, I almost forgot Uncharted. Awesome, thrilling, and fun ride as ever; and great technical achievement to boot. I still haven't opened uncharted 3 ... although i really really intend to one day. Oh shit, I almost forgot again. So one of the big things about the uncharted demo was apart from actually being played live it had this really awesome car chase sequence that just seemed to go on forever - the amount of work for just a couple of minutes play just seemed astounding. People gushed (or disbelieved it wasn't a cut-scene). Not to downplay it in any way but it looked to me much like really excellent maze design. It appears as if you're making random heat of the moment decisions but in reality you're crossing a couple of connected areas which wrap around and always put you in the place you're supposed to go. I could definitely see how this was inspired by ICO although of course mazes go back to the very first computer games ever created and indeed maze games predate computers by some centuries (millennia?).

Morpheus finally has some real games but without a unit who can say what they're like. Battlezone looked nice though (Oh man would The Sentinal work well with it). I should really get hold of some sort of vr headset to play with it was the sort of thing I dreamt of when I was playing on the C64.

Smaller things

So with all these big things most small things got shunted out of the way. And unfortunately all the 'small independent media' I saw has fallen into the same trap as the 'msm' in that they only want to cover the biggest stories and pretty much ignored everything. So the only way to find out about most of them was the Sony show-floor live broadcasts and their PR pitch spots.

Some are out this year but like some of the big ones most are next year.

But there are some kinda strange games being made.

Thumper was some sort of rez-ish rhythm game with a beetle (!!) racing down a hot-wheels track and some very simple controls where you have to time presses and it creates the music beats. It started so slow on the first level that it looked boring as shit but the host on the show was mesmerised by the graphics so much he kept forgetting to talk so there must be something to it. I think that the end of level 'marker' (i didn't catch the context) was called "crack-head" really says it all; it's pretty much a game for having drug-induced trips to. The guy selling it seems to have had a bit too many mushrooms but he was trying pretty hard to sell it (sorry i'm being overly harsh here, it must be seriously nerve racking as hell trying to promote your baby). But it could have a bit of a cult following because technically it looks pretty competent.

Hellblade is being made by Ninja Theory as a 'low-budget triple-a title' but unfortunately although it looks like they're doing a fair job on the art and systems the subject matter pretty much guarantees it is going to be an abject failure commercially. Mental illness and entertainment don't really go hand in hand to me. It just seems such an odd decision to use serious mental illness as the basis for something so commercial as making games, this is the sort of art that needs patronage. If you know someone with serious mental illness you may not want to be reminded of it (one of my late cousins for example), and if you don't you may not want to face it. I don't know where the time and place is for such a thing but it just doesn't seem to be here to me, but I guess so long as it doesn't send them out of business they may have other goals in mind for their work which they will reach and be satisfied with; I hope so.

Divinity Original Sin (enhanced?) looks pretty neat. I think I saw something about it previously and my interest was piqued until i saw some of the menus and it just seemed way more complicated than I really wanted to bother with (i.e. too much a modern microsoft windows game). But I saw a more detailed playing and it looked pretty nice on console and reminds me of much older games so I might have to have a look when it comes out. It still looks pretty complicated and i'm not sure how well it will play solo but i'm inclined to try it out. I can't remember if i ever ended up playing Bulders Gate 2 on PS2 - I have the disk - I should check to see if i could be bothered with that sort of game again.

Relativity was a weird little puzzle game that I just chanced upon at random on the Sony stream. A sort of gravity puzzle game with a really nifty wrap-around thing going on. The aeshetic is really nice with a simple clean 'vector graphex' visuals which screams 'VR' although I think in VR you might end up falling off your chair. Anyway it looks very cool and the guy making it seems pretty switched on.

There were a few others of the stream i've seen so far but those were the ones that piqued my interest the most and I wouldn't mind seeing a bit more of The Tomorrow Children which has been expanded substantially from the alpha into a real game; although its not that far out and I might just buy it instead.

Update: One I did forget: I saw Mad Max somewhere, maybe Sony or Gametrailers or both. I don't think it's my type of game but it did look interesting for that type of game. Very mad max 2 look to it (from what i remember, it's not a tie in to the current one) although the colours in the demo bit could use a bit of a red (probably? not in australia?).

Gametrailers

Apart from the Sony stuff I watched an embarrassing amount of the gametrailers broadcasts. I tried a few other streams and the presenters or advertising was insufferable so they were pretty much the least-offensive left over. I don't really bother with reviews these days (if only because i rarely bother with games) but they also seem about the closest to objective in their reviews or at least the closest to my tastes. I didn't bother with giantbomb because they're just a bunch of arseholes, nor Geoff Keighly not because he isn't fairly likeable and a decent presenter, he's just too obviously licking arseholes and the advertising is a bit too irritating. I saw a couple from the "kinda funny" guys but they just are just "kinda not funny at all". One is too campy and obnoxious and the other is just a fuckwit, and every time an ad came on the recording reset to the start(?). Youtube streaming also pretty shit; it doesn't work at all on one of my machines and usually requires a login on the other (gotta get that identity tracking locked in and matched to your credit card), so i mostly used twitch which was fine for the most part.

Viewing the the GT broadcast was kind of like being outside of a room of people having inane conversations and passively listening through a window. But anyway I did learn some strange things about american culture which probably explains some other strange things i've seen about the inability of people to grasp No Man's Sky. This is where I saw some interesting stuff about Divinity and some of the other big games.

So firstly, grown men actually have significant emotional attachment and genuine love for Disney characters and cheap plastic dolls (aka 'action figures'). I've seen quite a bit of interest in games like kingdom hearts which I never understood for a game I thought was targeted at 7 year old kids. This probably also helps explain mario's popularity despite being so old and stale (and lots of tv shows for the same reason).

Secondly, for people who apparently follow these things closely they seemed remarkably clueless and misinformed about details or too easily miss something from a trailer (apparently their trade). Something can be right before their eyes and they just don't see it. They had a big argument about No Man's Sky and the GT VO had a heated argument repeatly saying 'well what do you do', or 'they haven't shown this before' when some of what he was complaining about was actually visible in the first Sony trailer, it just wasn't explicitly explained in intricate detail (things like mining, combat, economy, i.e. gameplay mechanics).

No Man's Sky

I'm not sure why it matters exactly but I was hoping to find out a bit more about No Man's Sky - and slowly bits and pieces are trickling out.

In earlier press we learnt that Sean spent some time in Australia in his childhood, but not only the typical Australian beachy experience but the full-blown outback which few of us locals have really experienced. This gives one a very different outlook on both scale and our position in the universe; the broadness of the horizon, personal isolation, and the spectacle of the milky way is something you can't experience in England or any city. The milky way is 'milkier' in the southern hemisphere to start with. I find cities pretty distateful to start with but i also found Boston somewhat claustrophobic when outdoors and I also found the 'personal space' distance a little too close for comfort in the US.

Like we did as kids he also got pirated games on his Commodore 64 with no instruction manuals and basically the first response to starting a game was just typed every key in turn and wrote down what they did. He surely must have played Mercenary which was one of the first ever 3D 'open world' adventure games, which is all the buz these days; and hopefully one that has a revival one day.

I'm really rambling here but what I'm getting at is that I can understand why he doesn't want to talk much about the mechanics of his game. Its not because they don't exist its because he wants people to learn for themselves because that learning experience is not only more enjoyable for him, it is also a much more fundamental to the purpose of play. The journey and learning process is always more interesting than the end.

On forums and broadcasts including gametrailers a constant refrain has been 'but what do you do!' 'tell me why i should play this game!' This is absurd. First, make up your own fucking mind; you're an adult. Secondly, what would you think of anyone who refused to watch a soap opera like Game of Thrones for the sole reason that they didn't know how it ended? You'd think they were a stupid idiot, and rightly so. (fwiw i have zero interest in shitty soap-operas like that, but if people do more power to them).

The other odd refrain that constantly comes up specifically about this game is 'but why would i want to [go to the centre of the galaxy]' (the main stated end-goal of the game). Umm, because that's the fucking game? I mean why do you want to get to the end of any game level? It likewise has no bearing on the real world and likewise has no true point - OUTSIDE OF THE MECHANICS OF THE GAME.

It is also clear that plenty of people have absolutely no idea of the scale of the game and that lots of mechanics used in many games just can't work at that scale. "I want to build a home base", "I want to kill everything" (ugh, bloody americans), "I want to team up with my pals". The last one is odd because sharing the "experience" is something anyone can and will be doing anyway; just external to the game itself via this new-fangled thing called the internet.

There was an interesting interview with Sean where he said one of the things that commonly happens within the first hour of the game is that people just keep get lost. They wander off into the wilds and then they realise they don't know where their ship is. With no constant GPS and minimap reminder people have forgotten how to use landmarks for navigation, particularly while in a game which adds even more design to stop you getting lost. And even so-called 'open world' games the actually game worlds are either so small or they are designed in such a way as to forcibly orient you in a way that prevents you getting lost. Living in cities this is a skill that isn't terribly necessary but one that could easily cost you your life in the outback or any other wild place.

Another interesting point he made was in regards to NPCs and quests in games. No Man's Sky has no fixed quests or job boards (it would simply be impossible to do this) but instead most things you do can earn you currency in a more organic way. i.e. there is no one-time quest from some old man to collect 3 wayward hens but if you discover 3 fish on a planet you still effectively earn the same result. That's not the interesting bit; the interesting bit is that the former is actually a horribly illusion-breaking mechanic that shouts 'this is a scripted game' and breaks the illusion of any sort of role playing; despite this being the primary job method by which all role playing games have operated for decades. Because of the scale of the game a job board would be impossible, but by needing for it to be removed a game system can be put in place instead which does a better job of maintaining the illusion of the game world.

Anyway, it's terribly sad to see the state of some vocal (minority?) people who shit on games like this for having no reason to play it (it's the game, fucknut), or driveclub for being too linear. The point of driveclub isn't to earn all the trophies (which seems to be the main reason some people play games), it's to have FUN driving an exotic car around a cool location. And why the FUCK would you want to drive in a city? What a horrible horrible waste of a car! But i digress.

Who knows, I may only play it for an hour anyway, but I really want to play No Man's Sky when I can.

Oh so another thing as an engineer I take away from these game shows is just the sheer scale of the software undertaking of some of these games. Wow. Makes me feel like a bit of a shit coder, or perhaps just that i could be doing something more interesting than I am as that was the sort of thing I played with more 25 years ago before working on 'desktop apps' (sigh).

Tagged games.
Wednesday, 06 May 2015, 20:15

oh driveclub :(

Ho hum. The last patch gutted some of the driveclub features i most use or enjoy.

The "community challenges" list now only contains 20 entries which don't update very often at all (when one expires?) - and today of those there were 15 fucking drift events and a couple using locked cars (either due to club levels or paid DLC) and that left just a couple of events that I might even remotely be interested in ... but they weren't really my chop either. The early June update seems to have made some changes here. The list no longer seems hard-fixed at 20, and it seems to change a little more often. It is still fairly limited and has an over-representation of drifting (no doubt reflecting the customer base, unfortunately).

I detest drift events - they're not racing they're just wank. I worked out a couple of days ago how to get a half-ok score (turn-handbrake-release-pause-engage, the pause is the trick) to get through the "tour" but it didn't give me any more enjoyment out of it and so it isn't something I would choose to do. The locked events are kinda silly too, why even show em? (f2p hooks i guess).

The most popular challenge races are just single-lap, so they're getting boring. I don't really enjoy most of the faster cars so that pretty much rules out the rest. They seem to be focused on 'farming fame' but i got to level 50 without really trying so why bother?

Before this update I used to scroll along the list - sometimes far along - until i found something that suited my current mood and just took it, regardless of how many other people played it (it was sorted by descending popularity i think). Usually the slower cars and the shorter tracks that I've managed to memorise so far.

So this is a real bummer for me it sucks a lot of the fun out of it. At least an option to filter by event type would be a big plus, let alone by car class as well.

There have been some changes to the way challenges and time trials work too. Maybe it's just a server hiccup (hard to tell with dc) but a) you always have to set one time/score on your own before it even loads another timer up, b) with time trial events it only shows YOUR best time's ghost now - not any other ghost, c) with community time trial events it only ever seems to show your best ghost and the best overall ghost (or maybe it's the initiators lap) - no longer do you see the ghost matching the next-nearest-target time.

a) kinda makes sense and is otherwise neither here nor there and showing the slowest time ever isn't very useful although it can be funny.

b) takes most of the fun out of this game mode. Trying to beat your own time can be fun but the other ghosts just make it much much more fun. Looks like it was just the server on the night, seems it's back now although it can take a few laps to show up on the longer tracks. Hoorah!

c) Mostly the same as b) except not showing nearby times is also a pain since i'm just not that good in most cases i usually don't see the other ghost much so you can't see the driving lines taken, etc. It's not a target you can beat so it's not a target to beat, merely an indication of how shit you're doing. TBH I can't remember if it always worked like this ....

So it seems they keep gutting the features to try to get the server code working. Maybe it'll come back but since it's not been fixed after so long it's more likely that it's simply gone for good - and this may not be the end of the cuts.

I'm not that interested in online and i've given up anyway with the shitzbox penetrode sold me; one day i'll try routing through a gnu box but it's going to have to be a long wet weekend for me to get keen enough.

Of course i've got plenty of other games but i just haven't felt like playing any: driveclub is good for a couple of laps as a 'go' which sometimes ends there if i'm not feeling it or sometimes turns into an evening of engaged occupation. And if i'm useless at it it doesn't really matter i can just practice or try a different car and not get "stuck forever". Speaking of cars i've been doing some ferrari km mostly just to get the free one and because i haven't driven then much; but i really don't like the way they drive "looks like a fish, moves like a fish, steers like a cow" is apt.

Too knackered to code and the idea of tv sounds dreadful and so if it wasn't so early (19:30) i'd go to bed and read.

Tagged games.
Friday, 27 March 2015, 21:14

synthz 0.0

Decided to code-drop the audio synthesiser i hacked up a couple of weeks ago.

Probably of no use to anybody but what the hell. Maybe one day i'll make some better sfx for that space invaders I did.

It's got it's own home page up on the usual spot.

Tagged code, games, hacking, java.
Friday, 13 March 2015, 13:25

ahh shit, google code is being scrapped

Joy. I guess it's not making google enough money.

I'll make a copy of all my projects and then delete them. Probably sooner rather than later (probably immediately because i'd rather get it out of the way, i have a script going now). I'm keeping all the commit history for now although i never find it particularly useful. Links in old posts may break.

Some of them may or may not appear later somewhere else, or they may just sit on my hdd until i forget about them and delete them by accident or otherwise.

Wherever they end end up though it wont be in one of the other commercial services because i'm not interested in doing this again.

I need to do the same to this blog, ... but that can wait.

Update: So ... it seems someone did notice. Don't worry i've got a full backup of everything. In part I was pissed off with google and in part I wanted to make it immediately obvious it was going away to see if anyone actually noticed. Who could know from the years of feedback i've never received.

If you are interested in particular projects then add a comment about them anywhere on this blog. All comments are moderated so they wont appear till i let them through but there is no need to post more than once (i'll delete any nonsense or spam unless it makes you look like a bit of a wanker). I will see about enabling anonymous comments for the moment if they are not already on. I can then decide what to do depending on the interest.

I will not be using github or sourceforge nor the like.

In a follow-up post i'll see where i'm going with them as well as pondering the future location and shape of the blog itself. I've already written some stuff to take the blogger atom stuff, strip out the posts, download images, and fix the urls.

(in resp to Peter below) I knew the writing was on the wall when google code removed binary hosting: it's kinda useless for it's purpose without it. This is why all my new projects subsequent to that date are hosted differently.

Tagged android, beagle, code, dusk, games, gloat, hacking, imagez, jjmpeg, mediaz, pdfz, puppybits, readerz, socles.
Tuesday, 10 March 2015, 21:25

dun dit dun

Following on from the last post I did some i/o sutff - went with an s-expression based thing since it's a trivial parser and easy to use - then I rewrote the whole model and some of the ui again. Added zoom for instance. Then I played with it for a while but couldn't manage to create the sort of sounds I was trying to create. I couldn't find modules that did what I wanted to do and trying to construct them from primitives got messy and didn't work either.

I was starting to lose interest.

So then I wrote a whole new synthesiser from scratch followed by enough of a midi sequencer to get a midi of Lazy Jones working - and I think it sounded better than the bundled Java midi synthesiser (more hard/harsh just like the original). It uses a thread to render a frame of samples at a time based on a master clock and uses a simple 'runLater()' style mechanism to synchronise parameter updates on the various components so threading issues are just hidden.

I tried a few other files and none worked either at all or very well but after another day of hacking I've got fully polyphonic voices and adsr envelopes and so on and so forth. Most midi files apart from Lazy Jones still sound kinda shit because I don't have any real instruments or the midi processing units (and well, it's midi), but they do play with the right timing and tone (I think, hard to know since midi files usually sound a bit out to me). For efficiency I created a multi channel oscillator and envelope bank which works pretty well but limits the instruments to simple waveform + ADSR envelope.

Most of it was pretty straightforward considering i just did it off the top of my head but I found I had to do some filtering on the amplitude changes to avoid pops when using a sooth waveform. One problem I have is that square and sawtooth are just so much louder than triangle; some filtering seems to help but I guess that's just the way it is and it's up to the musician to compensate.

Probably wont get much farther than that but it was a fun few days. It can be made an interesting real-time problem and parts are paralellisable so if I was keen i'd probably try some epiphany code but i don't think i'm that keen and it's fairly light cpu wise anyway.

I guess I forgot about the space invaders sfx. If the latency is acceptable i might try just using my synthesiser as a real-time sound mechanism, maybe maybe.

Tagged games, hacking, java.
Friday, 06 March 2015, 20:48

Interactive synthesiser

Rather than 'play some more' i went head-first into writing a better display/model/control thing for the synthesiser stuff.

Doesn't look much different on the surface since the stylesheet is much the same but pretty much everything is backed by controls and skins and observable properties.

I have a 'Workbench' control which is the main controller and it handles the human wiring process and so on. I abstracted the connection points as 'Sockets' in a way which allows me to add other non-JSyn objects such as the dials which just feed out their value to some input port. Not shown but you can also reconfigure input ports to change their name and bounds so that they connect properly to dials.

I added the ability to unplug and move the ends of a given wire which works quite nicely. If you grab a wire near one end and 'pull' it far enough it detaches and becomes a free end, which can either be attached to some other compatible socket or letting go just deletes that wire.

I/O next I guess? Always the pain ...

FWIW The circuit above makes a pretty basic "idling chopper" "fop-fop" sound.

Tagged games, hacking, java, javafx.
Thursday, 05 March 2015, 11:20

Connecting the dots (with wires)

Yesterday I hacked up a "workbench" gui for JSyn. I just started experimenting with auto-generating the gui based on the UnitGenerator interfaces, it's designed with this in mind so it is fairly simple.

Blocks are added by clicking on the workspace, wires are connected by dragging a line between the discs, blocks can be arbitrarily dragged around, wires or blocks are deleted with delete or backspace keys; typical basic graphical user interface stuff.

One of the more difficult problems was how to wire up the ports ...

The difficulty arises because one uses container classes to form grouped gui components and do the layout, and then you want to be able to bind a linkage between an inner component of the group and components working in a different local coordinate system.

A diagram of the layout hierarchy as it currently exists helps to explain (this is just a prototype so the layout is a bit shit).

     Ellipse    Label
        +----+----+
            HBox
             +
          EndPoint (Pane)
       - ----+---- -
            VBox
       - ----+---- -
         Generator (BorderPane)    Wire (Line)
       - ----+-----------------------+
           Pane

So the Line representing the wire needs to connect to the Ellipse level, but the Line is in the coordinate space of the lower Pane and the Ellipse is in the coordinate space of the HBox which is in the coordinate space of the EndPoint, which is ...

So I created a new set of properties socketX, socketY, which reside on each EndPoint which maintain the location of the centre of the Ellipse relative to the lower Pane. The calculation is straightforward and based on transforming to and from scene-relative coordinates. It gets updated whenever the EndPoint is moved (relative to the Generator, i.e. after layout), or when the Generator is moved (i.e. relative to the Pane). The Wire can then just bind to these locations using javafx properties. I've got each generator maintaining the endpoint updates relative to it's parent but i'll probably have to come up with something better.

There's still a problem to solve though; the user interface allows you to plug a wire in to one socket and then drag it to another socket (i.e. click and drag). Unfortunately javafx currently has no way of picking a widget - i.e. looking it up by location or by the mechanism the event system uses. At first I tried using drag and drop mechanisms but it interfered with other gui operations and I couldn't find a way to show the wire following the mouse pointer.

So unfortunately I have to maintain a separate list of all the EndPoints in a model which I then scan for a match during the drag gesture. But given that this allows me to use layouts and stylesheets and so on, this is acceptable.

Duty Cycle

I created a new square wave oscillator type for JSyn as i was surprised the one it comes with doesn't have a duty cycle (pulse with) parameter. It was one of the more useful features of the square wave oscillator on the SID chip and features heavily in C=64 music. I think it could be created using a sawtooth generator and a gate but this is easier to use and was simple to make.

The circuit above generates a rather grating undulating / phasing sound effect like a 'robot thinking', or with a lower frequency a (metallic) misfiring engine.

I guess i'll add more of the unitgenerators from JSyn and do some experimentation with the code I have. If it's interesting enough i will probably dig deeper into making it a real application; it will need a better system model and probably a way to create a control panel separate from the inner workings of a circuit, as well as oscilloscope and spectrum analyser blocks (JSyn has most of this but it's all Swing).

Tagged games, hacking, java, javafx.
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