December 27, 2007

My Vacation = Laziness

Well, it's been a while since my last post (gee, how many times have I said that in the last month?) and this is going to be a relatively short one. Blame it on Christmas or the fact that my brother is home from work all this week or that I simply don't feel like doing anything that even mildly resembles work and there you have it.

Lately I've been hanging out with Rick primarily and occasionally with the rest of my family and friends over the holidays. We played a game of Starcraft: The Boardgame which I got for Christmas (yeah, I'm that big a nerd, moving on...) and we've been playing a lot of Rock Band at least when it's not too late for the other guests in the house. Rick is our drummer (surprisingly good at it no less), Sharon is our singer (also surprisingly proficient) and I am the mildly handicapped lead guitarist. Still, the Novi Ninjas (our band) are quickly gaining fans, and I must say I've been pretty impressed with how fun the game is despite myself. The music/rhythm games aren't typically my style, but the cooperative aspect is really well done, and makes all the players really support each other instead of tearing each other down.

Starcraft: The Boardgame is also really solid, and I'd recommend it to anyone who likes reasonably complex/strategic boardgames. It manages to maintain much of the strategic complexity of games like Twilight Imperium while avoiding overly-complex rules and decisions. The things you can do are limited and relatively simple when you think about it which helps keep things flowing, even in your first game. Also, combat is designed to heavily favor attackers which keeps players moving and keeps the game from stagnating like Twilight Imperium often does. Seriously, if you like strategic boardgames, and have any interest at all in the Starcraft mythos I highly recommend it. I should add, by the way, that the game doesn't use any dice, which I whole-heartedly approve of.

Anyway, that's all I've been up to. I spent most of today "fixing" my computer as I needed to update my laptop drivers in order to use Crysis (which I purchased with some holiday cash) and neither Dell nor nVidia really supports their mobile cards. Anyway, I finally managed to fix it, but it took much more time than I would like, and my 7950 GTX just isn't powerful enough for Crysis as I pretty much knew, but it'll certainly look nice on my next computer :). Alright, well, I've been writing for long enough, and I'd actually like to play some games before I need to hit the hay. Night all, I hope you all are having a very happy holiday, wherever you are.

December 20, 2007

Why Am I Tired?

Alright, so that may be, in fact, the worst post title ever conceived, but it's a question I've been unable to shake for the past couple days. It's been about a week since my last final, and apart from some packing and traveling I haven't really had much to do since then, yet for some reason every day my body wants to sleep for about 10 hours, and the entire day I feel overly run down. Is this lasting effect from my prior illness? Some strange OCD that my time at the Guildhall has given me that will not allow me to be unproductive? Is there such a thing as too much sleep?

I'm not really sure as to what the cause is, but despite being on vacation, I feel as tired as ever. I hope that my body is just recovering from a combination of stress from school and serious illness, but it still leaves me wondering when it's going to stop. I have grand plans for this break, and I won't have them dashed by my stupid, tired body. Well, ok, maybe not grand plans, I wanted to play a lot of games for a while and then after feeling refreshed, do some small level design projects. I was thinking of maybe working on a couple RTS maps, or starting work on a Neverwinter Nights module that I might eventually be able to use for application to Bioware, or maybe try my hand with Unreal 3 a bit. Unfortunately, at this rate, I think I'll start feeling better about the same time I need to go back to school. Hmmmm, maybe that's what's bugging me....

I can't help but feel that the Guildhall has given me some sort of productivity complex that I am still getting over. While you are there, there is basically always something you could/should be doing. You can always improve your level/art/code, making it cleaner, more fun, prettier to look at, what have you, but it's important to set aside time to keep yourself from burning out. I thought this was a skill I had developed, but maybe I still need work on some of the finer points, like how to separate yourself from the work over long periods of time.

I guess the truth is, outside of school and the occasional Friday night game session, I haven't had much else going on because school demanded so much of me. Now with an overabundance of free time thrown in my lap, I guess I'm a little bewildered with what to do with it all, though my body has decided to sleep its way through vacation. I could work to help focus my attentions a bit, though I'm not sure that is the healthiest plan overall, and I may be setting myself up for a huge crash next term. A classmate told me I should find someone to date over break, which while very tempting, seems unlikely to occur in the near future. At the very least I should probably start regulating my sleep patterns so I stop sleeping through most of the daylight hours.

Anyway, I realize this may not have been the most interesting post, but they can't all be winners, so sue me. You don't think I can go into deep diatribes about every game and genre everyday do you? As for gaming, I played a bunch of Star Trek: Legacy (which I received last Christmas) over the past day or so, and am moving swiftly through it's plot, which is pretty cool overall, and I'm largely pleased with what the game has to offer (though some of the achievements are friggin' hard). I'm also trying to finish up the last campaign of Supreme Commander as I asked for the expansion for Christmas, and that game is pretty sweet. Rick also got Jericho on Gamefly, but I've only had the chance (read: desire) to play it a little bit. I actually seems pretty neat, but the 360 is so bloated with FPSs that it's hard to make anything that really stands out, unless you're COD4 :).

Well, I think that will be the post for the evening. It may not be particularly interesting, but hey, at least it's long... :) Night all!

December 19, 2007

My Take on MMOs

So I've brought this up now and again over the course of the blog (at least I think I have, not sure really) especially in the last few days, I'm not particularly big on MMOs. Now I am not trying to alienate my fan base (that is, if I have a fan base), but I have just never understood what makes these games so successful and why people keep coming back to them. In my time I have played: Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot, City of Heroes, Guild Wars, D&D: Stormreach, World of Warcraft, EVE Online, Lord of the Rings Online, and now finally, Final Fantasy XI, so I am not exactly new to the genre. Admittedly, I haven't played any of them for more than around 50 hours (which some of my friends say doesn't even count), with perhaps the exception of World of Warcraft, but there is a reason for that.

Every time a new interesting looking MMO comes out, I get excited for it. The graphics look cool, it has some new combat/faction/economic/character/whatever model that looks really interesting, it's in an IP I'm really interested in, or some other reason that piques my interest. I run out and pick up a copy, spend about 1+ hours installing and updating it, and finally I'm ready to go, and for a while it's great. The environment is new and different, it's got some new system I'm playing with, and I'm just having a fun time finding things out. Before long, however, I start to become bored when I realize that it's the same old grind I've played over and over and over before. Some of the newer games get away from this better than others with solid PvP like Guild Wars and DAoC, or cool quests like WoW or LotRO, but ultimately these are some of the most repetitive games in existence.

Sure, when you boil things down all games are based on some level of repetition, heck, the industry was founded on people willing to pay to play the same thing over and over and over. As the industry as evolved, however, many genres have tried to get away from this, either by having gameplay that evolves throughout the experience, or breaking up some of the repetition with other things to do, like vehicle segments or townspeople to talk to, or a hundred other things to do besides shooting, racing, fighting, etc. MMOs on the other hand don't seem to have really grown much from their MUD roots. Ultimately it's all about walking around and killing stuff so you can get more experience/better equipment and kill bigger stuff, and the cycle repeats ad nauseum.

I guess the truth is that MMOs are still young compared to many of the more standard genres. FPSs, Platformers, Fighters, even RTSs have been around long enough to have learned from their more notable mistakes. The problem I see is that the overwhelming success of a few MMOs has lead to an overabundance of "me too" developers trying to get their slice of the pie. I'm not sure on the exact statistic, but I'd say for every MMO in existence right now there are probably about 2+ MMOs in development. The problem is, by and large, none of these new MMOs is really trying anything different. Typically, they just try to separate themselves from the pack through their IP and so MMOs have seen very little evolution in gameplay.

Ultimately, this whole cycle ends up leaving me feeling very disenchanted with the whole genre as I get excited for new properties only to find out they are the same game I've been playing for the last five years with a new coat of paint slapped on. Until this changes, I think that you can count me and many others like me out of the market for this particular genre. From what little I've heard of the new Bioware/LucasArts venture, I've heard they are taking a completely new approach that may, in fact, change the genre. If there's anyone I could imagine doing it, it would be Bioware, but you'll excuse me if I don't hold my breath, and until then you can find me playing my other games quite happily and more heavily invested.

December 18, 2007

Unfinished Business

I think that my posts for vacation will focus less on what I am currently doing which may be, bye and large, uneventful and focus more on my random musings about games based on whatever I am doing at the time. I think I have decided that over break I am going to try to complete some of the games that have fallen by the wayside over the past couple years, like King Kong for example. Others include Overlord, Odin Sphere, Lost Planet, Crackdown, and a bunch more as almost everyone can tell you I buy games at a faster rate than I can play them, so I almost always have a backlog.

Actually in response to that fact, I have considered getting a membership in Gamefly. My brother recently chose to do this as a way to save a bit of money and has become and instant promoter for the service. I've known several others who've used it as well and heard nothing but positive reviews. Probably something I won't do until I get back home, but I did ask for a subscription for Christmas, so we'll see what happens.

In other news, I bought presents for Rick and Sharon today and we actually exchanged them tonight. Rick and Sharon got me a cool Penny Arcade T-Shirt, four volumes of Penny Arcade comics, and a huge bucket full of cheese popcorn. I gave both of them indie games that I thought they would enjoy. I gave Rick a copy of Shadowgrounds: Survivor (and inadvertently purchased a copy for myself actually) as we both enjoyed its predecessor, and I bought Sharon a copy of Aquaria, a game that strangely combines Zelda, Castlevania, and Ecco: The Dolphin, and is just plain awesome. I can't claim a great deal of credit for it, however, as my lead artist on Canopic Chaos was the one who originally made me aware of it. They seemed to enjoy them for their limited playtime before they both eventually retired.

Anyway, that was pretty much the day. I plan to go Christmas shopping for the rest of my family tomorrow, and then continue to play games as a standard matter of course. Despite the introduction to this post, I'm not sure I have any real musings to discuss right now besides the extension of the "Why I Dislike MMOs" line of thought, and I don't really feel like getting into that right now. Actually, right now I just feel like playing some games before I need to head to bed, so I think I'm going to go ahead and do that. I actually woke up around 1:30 P.M. today, so that will make today something like a 12 hour day. I am hoping I'm still just recovering from school and this isn't going to become some sort of trend. Regardless, I'm off, later!

December 17, 2007

Life Without a To Do List

To be honest, it's a little weird to have this stretch of free time in front of me with nothing in mind that I need "to do." I'm not saying I'm not happy for it, but it's a little strange to move from being rigidly structured and busy basically all of the time to being completely free with nothing to do. As such my blog posts have been late to non-existent, so I am of the mind that I need to start managing at least a few minor, personal tasks. Things like doing my Christmas shopping (yeah, I know, its way late), cleaning up my desktop (yeah, it's that bad), posting on the blog, and potentially planning some projects for the break. Some game design stuff I've wanted to do that I just don't have the time for at school. Maybe dip into the newly available Unreal 3 editor, or work on something other than an online, multiplayer fragfest.

At the very least, I need to start writing my blog posts when I am less tired/more lucid. No major events today. I moved in with my brother, Rick (is it possible I have never referred to him by name until now?) and his wife, Sharon, while I am at home for the holidays (they live about 20 min. from our parent's house), went out with his wife to pick up groceries and supplies for the house (which is soon to house Sharon's mother and sister as well), then was feeling crappy so I crashed on the couch for a while until Rick got home from work. Then we watched some TV while we ate dinner and afterwards Rick and I played a bunch of Super Mario Strikers Charged which he recently received from Gamefly. I finished up the day with a little King Kong which I have resolved to complete over the next couple days considering I got it as a present nearly two Christmases ago (before I had an Xbox 360 to play it on oddly enough).

Anyway, that was pretty much the day, and now it is late and I'm tired. I know this may not be the riveting constant-deadlines-are-driving-me-crazy antics of the Guildhall that you have all come to know and love, but hey, it's vacation. :)

December 16, 2007

A Taste of Freedom

Alright, so it's been a few days since I last wrote a post, and considering it is 3:00 A.M. here (I am in Michigan now) this is likely to be a short one. The combination of the beginning of my vacation and the apex of my illness has kept me too tired/lazy to write anything, my apologies. Truth is, not much has happened since my last post. Finals went well, and I think I did pretty well in all my classes, I'm still waiting to hear on one of them.

Thursday night, a bunch of people from class went out to Dave & Buster's to celebrate which was a load of fun. Then Friday, I spent pretty much the whole day resting, playing Final Fantasy XI with some of the other level designers (more on that in a minute), or playing COD4 with Rick. Saturday, I spent most of the day packing and cleaning up my apartment and I managed to finish Ratchet and Clank Future, and finally today, I spent most of the the day finishing up my packing and traveling. So as you can see, not much to say...

As for the Final Fantasy XI thing, someone (I'm not sure who) apparently thought it would be fun for a whole bunch of us to play an MMO together, in this case FFXI. Oddly enough it was at the same time a bunch of the programmers decided to start playing WoW together. Anyway, I ended setting it up and playing a good deal Friday, and at this point, I'm just not sure how interested I am in continuing it. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of playing a game together with my friends from school, but I'm just not sure I actually like the game.

I mean, I'm not a big fan of MMOs in general, and I think as of late I have been a bit spoiled by games like WoW, LOTRO, and others which actually help you understand the game and are (arguably) fun to play. My little time with FFXI felt more like a job as I was grinding out level after level of random enemies until I hit 10 and ultimately shut down for the night. I may give it some more time, especially given my friends are planning to play it pretty heavily from what I could tell, but my initial experience was not particularly engrossing, and it ultimately left me feeling that it was time I would have rather spent playing something else.

Actually, I feel that a lot of the time that's the way I feel about most MMOs, but I guess that's a train a thought for another day (maybe tomorrow), for now, I need to rest. You all have a good night, and I'll see you tomorrow :).

December 11, 2007

Is it really almost vacation?

There's a strangely surprising dichotomy at work here where time just seems to absolutely fly by, but at the same time you look back at it all and realize the sheer amount of work you've done. About two weeks ago, I wasn't sure I would survive to this point, but in a few days I will by on my well-deserved vacation, and just seems like it snuck up on me.

There's still a fair bit to do, but nothing I don't feel prepared for. We have our Greenlight presentation tomorrow and our final version of Canopic Chaos is due Thursday. Outside of that I have finals in my Level Design and Programming classes, but considering they are practical exams, I can't really study for them anyway so I'm not really worrying about them.

In other news, I decided my minor concentration today, well...effectively I decided. Level designers can choose whether to concentrate on programming/scripting or art, and I actually discussed it with the Professor, mostly about whether it was preferable to be "balanced" or highly specialized. Ultimately, I've decided that I am much more interested in programming, much better at it, and I would rather be an exceptional programmer and a competent artist, than be good at both. He seemed to agree as I sort of talked myself through the decision, but it's nice to have another choice out of the way.

Anyway, it's late and I have discovered that presenting on low sleep is decidedly not optimal, so I think I am going to actually try to get to bed at a reasonable hour tonight. Night all!

December 10, 2007

Solid Reference

Itchy. Tasty.

December 9, 2007

The Road to Recovery

Well, if there's anything I think I've learned here thus far (or maybe just this term), it's approximately how much punishment my mind and body can take before one or both just begin to shut down. I think it's actually a valuable bit of information and I don't think that's been more true than these last few weeks. It turns out it's actually a bit more than I probably would have estimated a year ago, but even I have my limits. A few days of about 4 hours of sleep a night followed by an all-nighter, is easily enough to put me down for the count, but the effects are even a bit more subversive than that.

When the whole sleep-deprivation thing actually becomes a factor, it can manifest in a lot of different ways:
  • Emotionally - like feeling exceptionally anxious or depressed without any significant cause
  • Mentally - like an inability to approach your work or solve problems you might easily address
  • Physically - the most obvious symptoms like feeling tired or sore, and some intense headaches
The list probably goes on from there, but I think I experienced each of this dimensions at some point during this last week, and the counter to them as well. On Wednesday, I was pretty fried and the professor took some note. He actually told me to go home and get some rest, that sometimes the best thing you can do is take a break and get away from work for a while then return refreshed and ready to tackle the problems head on. While I wasn't able to take his advice in its entirety (which was to take the night off), I did come home and take a nap and play some games before finally making a quick dinner and getting to work. I'll be darned if it wasn't one of my more productive nights lately.

I guess I was operating under some principle of needing to be constantly working to get my work done, when in fact the truth is you need to find whatever it is that can keep you working at optimally. So if that means you need to sleep more than some people, or you need to set aside time to actually play games and remember why it is you came here in the first place, then you need to do that. I think I spent a lot of time trying to be the "superstar," and I thought the only way I could do that was to work as hard as possible, but that's just not the case, at least not for me.

Now that doesn't mean that sometimes you aren't called to work exceptional hours anyway, my all-nighter on Friday is proof of that, but like anything, it's all about balance. Passion is critical to quality in this industry, there's no doubt about that, and if you aren't absolutely dedicated to doing this, then don't, you'll be putting yourself through hell, and it won't be worth it. I don't mean you need to have spent your entire young adult life creating mods (or playing games for that matter), but that when you look inside yourself, there's a part of you that knows this is what you want to be doing.

In the end, passion is great thing, and I think it is what has pushed me and so many others to excel, but you can't let it consume you. Without trying to sound melodramatic, I think I almost did, and this was an important lesson for me to learn....and I'm sure I'll have to continually learn it as I progress. Anyway, I've got a document to review before I head to bed. I hope you all derive some meaning from this post and it doesn't sound like the crazed rantings of a sleep-deprived game developer.

December 7, 2007

This is the part where...

...I collapse in a tired heap on my couch and hope to get enough rest over the weekend to make it through the rest of term. Seeing as I probably won't look at my computer again tonight, I should probably take care of my post...

I finished my FY-Iceworld map around 5:00 A.M. and spent the rest of the morning working on our statement of work. Then we had more time to work on the Statement of Work during Game Studies this morning, there was a midday luncheon lecture which was alright, and we finished the day off with a speed map which seemed a bit excessive since I had spent probably 12 of the last 18 hours working on the map we had just turned in. Given my tiredness and disinterest in creating another level today along with the fact that unreal decided not to play nice, my level was wholly unimpressive. It had some interesting pieces, but needed some refinement.

Anyway, that was my day. This weekend seems like it shouldn't be too awful work wise, though I've been wrong before. I just need to finish and clean up some of our documentation for the Statement of Work and play with a few minor things for the actual project. Then I am at the disposal of the level design team as much as they need me. Kind of like being on call, it can be wholly uneventful or it can consume your whole day. I suppose we shall see. Well, that's all folks, now I'm going to eat and probably pass out on the couch. Later!

December 6, 2007

My Last All-Nighter (of 2007 at least...)

Well, things are starting to fall into place all across the board. I'm continuing to do well in class and my team is finally starting to gel on our mod. That being said, I have the final version of a map due in roughly 18 hours, and a lot to do before then in order to even meet the base requirements. Based on the complexity of the assignment and the timetable, I was pretty sure this would be the case, so I am reasonably nonplussed by the whole situation. I've started a movie marathon (the theme tonight is sappy romantic/holiday movies) and I've already finished a few more of the project requirements.

This weekend should be relatively light. There will be work to be done on my team's Statement of Work and some ancillary tasks I hope to help out on for our mod. Then it's just finals and freedom. The light at the end of the tunnel is getting pretty bright now, just a few more roadblocks to get past. On that note, I better get back to work. If you need me, you know where I'll be...

December 5, 2007

Coming to a Close

Well, my posting has suffered a bit as of late since it probably isn't the highest priority right now and I've got about a million things I need to do within the next few days. Most notably I have a final map due and about 36 hours and it's not exactly ready...at all. I mean it's certainly starting to come together, but the list of requirements is about as long as my arm, and I think I've met about half of them...maybe. It's not for lack of trying, I haven't been doing anything but work lately, but the map is simply the lowest priority item on my list.

Regardless, it looks like tomorrow is going to be an all nighter, but then I should actually have some time to recharge before finals I think. The only thing left after this map is dealing with our Statement of Work for Canopic Chaos and I can't imagine that should be too bad. Anyway, it's late and if there's anything I've learned multiple nights of back-to-back sleep deprivation are never good...never....

December 3, 2007

Alpha Lock

Well, our Mummy Freeze Tag is Alpha-locked at this point. I don't think this is a common term, but for our team it means we have hit a point where we are ready for the Alpha demonstration and we have locked it from being changed in any way until after tomorrow's presentation. Overall the game is fun, really fun actually, but many of our assets are not where I'd like them to be.

Realizing we've only had a week to work on it, it's not really a bad place to be, but unfortunately, one of my level designers, George, was able to craft a very nice looking level using the standard unreal assets, and then we were forced to graphically tear it apart to meet the "all custom assets" requirement for the project. I'm still working my way through the whole assertive leadership thing, but I think I am getting better. I just need to learn to "be the f@#$er" as one of my professors so bluntly put it.

Anyway, we are pretty much ready for the Alpha demonstration except for the brief outline I have to put together for the presentation. Then I need to worry about my individual work like my FY-Iceworld which is currently in a pre-pre-pre-Alpha stage and is due in its entirety in less than 4 days, my Rube Goldberg device which is almost ready, but lacks a great deal of polish (due in less than 3 days), and my sections of the Statement of Work for the Mummy Freeze Tag Mod (working title: Canopic Chaos), also due at the end of this week.

There's just a remarkable amount to do, and it's proving to be quite the challenge to focus on all these different things. Alright, well I should get to work so that I can potentially sleep tonight. Take care, all.

December 2, 2007

Weapons Grade Senioritis

I'm don't know if it qualifies as "senioritis" as I'm not really close to graduating, but I'm definitely in that vacation-is-so-close-and-I-can't-do-anymore-work mindset that can make it difficult to get really anything done. I focused on work all day for all the good it did me. I finally have concepts for my FY-Iceworld map and the Rube Goldberg device I need to make for programming (using the physics engine in Unreal), but I didn't get terribly far along at creating either.

I'm a little bit stressed about the lack of progress there, but I am more worried about my team's alpha integration tomorrow evening. Communications haven't been our strong suit thus far, so it's hard to get a grasp on exactly where we are relative to where we need to be. I think the programming team is pretty far along and is about where they need/want to be for tomorrow's integration. As far as the level and art assets go, all I can say is I haven't seen them. They may be awesome and totally ready for integration tomorrow, but if they are I haven't really heard much about it, and the aren't up on the repository.

Anyway, it's late and I suppose there's no use worrying, we'll just deal with whatever happens as it comes. For now, I need to get some sleep for the long days ahead...

December 1, 2007

Best. Saturday. Ever.

Why, you might ask? Probably mostly because I completed Mass Effect today, and that game is just absolutely phenomenal. The ending does a terrific job of tying up that story arc while doing an excellent job of setting up the sequel. Really, I'm not sure I could recommend the game more highly, all the elements (action, strategy, story, exploration, etc.) are balanced so superbly that the game just flows smoothly from beginning to end. It's cinematic, it's exciting, and it's the best game I've played this year (no small feat considering some of the competition), and probably the best I've played in the last few years.

Energized by my victory over Mass Effect, I decided to make a day of it and only do minor housework and project management tasks instead of getting deep into my FY-Iceworld map as I had originally planned. I recognize this is the second or third time I've decided to put off my FY-Iceworld map, but I imagine it will be okay. I've been feeling pretty burnt out lately with all these final projects swarming around at the end of the term, and I think today was just what I needed to recharge and hit the ground running for the rest of term. Plus, my temptations to play Mass Effect are significantly diminished (though not entirely absent) which should help me to focus on my upcoming projects.

Anyway, while today was thoroughly enjoyable, it has put me behind a bit from where I intended to be at this point, so I should get headed to bed soon and prepare for a long couple days: Alpha on Tuesday, Programming assignment on Thursday, FY-Iceworld due Friday. Yep, it's the home stretch, but there are quite a few hurdles between here and there.

November 29, 2007

Business as Usual

Today was much like any other day in terms of work. My mod team got our "prototype" done in time for demonstration today and things went pretty well overall. The demo was too early to be particularly useful (i.e. the feedback was things we already knew, but didn't have time to fix), but I guess it was a good crunch exercise...or something like that. Actually, this was more of a programming milestone than anything and that department is really gifted and committed to the project which is awesome. They really came through on this one.

I think I am getting this whole project lead thing, though I guess my team's opinion is more important than my own :). Things seem to be running smoothly, but I guess we haven't really been going long enough to hit any major hiccups. I'm pretty much up to speed with all my other work save for my FY-Iceworld map, but seeing as I don't think anyone has really started it, I'm not sweating it too much. In the end, there are so many other things going one that seem higher priority, that I'm just not stressing out over it. I'll do the best I can with it and that's it. Anyway, I think that's about it. I'm going to enjoy a little Mass Effect before I head to bed. Night, All!

November 28, 2007

Juggling Bowling Balls

"Juggling bowling balls" is just one of the colorful analogies used to describe life here at the Guildhall, and today I guess it just really hit me. I mean, every day lately has been almost completely dominated by work, but today, confronted with the sheer amount of work that stands between me and Christmas break, I had to stop and think about it all. This place can certainly overwhelm you at times, and I think one of the real keys to success here is how you manage to deal with it. Whether its confiding in a close friend, sprinting to the "light at the end of the tunnel," or just trying to find the silver lining.

Truth be told, just as I stated a week ago, I have no doubt that this is what I want to do, but that doesn't mean it doesn't get to me. I think the important thing is to keep your eye on the things that really matter and why you're here, then just figure out a way to vent all the rest of that negative stuff, however you need to. I guess this is a bit heavy for your average blog post, but maybe that at least means its interesting.

There's really not that much to update for the day. My team had a meeting for source control training this morning, then the head designer for Activision came in for a special luncheon lecture, and then we evaluated each other's DM17 maps in level design. Then when I got home I ate some dinner on got straight to work on project management stuff, finishing my programming assignment for tomorrow, and polishing up my DM17 Matinee fly-through for Friday. I'm keeping up with my regular assignments, but I haven't had a chance to do much work on my FY-Iceworld concept and the final map is due next Friday. Tomorrow afternoon is dedicated to that project so hopefully that will give me enough time to get back on track.

Well that's pretty much the state of affairs, and now I am exhausted and in need of a good night's sleep so I'll be off. Night All!

November 27, 2007

Work Ensues

Well, it seems like my posting is going to be a bit slim for a while. I will attempt to keep to my once a day policy, but I have pretty good line-of-sight on the work for the next two weeks and it isn't pretty. Many maps, projects, and assignments, all coming to a head at the same time. On a more positive note, break is just a little over two weeks away and I'm sure I'll be busy enough working that the time will just fly by.

As for classes, things are still going well. We got our final assignment for Game Development Pipeline: Mummy Freeze Tag. It's the standard assignment from what I've heard, but the task still seems daunting. Most notably, we have a prototype due Thursday, which is asking a for a ridiculous amount of work in a very short time. I have been elected as Project Lead again, with the hopes that this time I will be able to focus more on the Project Leadership duties.

Last project, we lost one of our level designers very early and the level design lead had a lot of personal stuff going on, so I had to break away from the high level stuff just in order for us to complete the assignment. We got a new level designer and the level design lead seems committed to running his team effectively so hopefully I can focus on the streamlining the whole pipeline and ensuring minimal friction between departments. I'm pretty sure it isn't what I want to do in the long run, but it is good experience and a nice change of pace from the level design crunch.

Other than that it's just standard work/projects. We need to create a basic fly-through cinematic of our DM17 map by Friday, and we have a programming project due Thursday. Then its mostly just finals and the big term projects like our Greenlight proposal for Game Studies, the FY Iceworld map for Level Design, and mummy freeze tag for Game Development Pipeline. Anyway, I'm feeling a bit exhausted so I think I'll turn in now. Night all!

November 26, 2007

Oops...

It looks like that super-substantial post is going to have to wait another day. I've been a little de-motivated since coming back from Thanksgiving so I did some small personal tasks and decided I'd just play a little Mass Effect before getting to work in earnest. That was around 8:30 and I just stopped playing about a minute ago. I suppose the upside is that the game really is that good and that addicting. The downside, of course, is that I am going to need to try desperately to resist temptation as I simply do not have the time to just sit around and play games all night. Given that right now I'm pretty exhausted, I'd say my body needed a night off (I know, a strange thing to say after vacation), and I hope to wake up tomorrow refreshed and ready to go. At least somewhat...

As for Mass Effect, everyone pretty much knows that I had very high expectations for this game and so far it has met, if not exceeded, them. Obviously, it is pretty much impossible to judge an RPG without having fully experienced its story, so I will withhold any judgments until after I have finished it, but if it continues on this course, it will certainly be my game of the year. I mean I am already thinking about playing it through a second time which, for an RPG, would be rather exceptional. Anyway, my bed is calling and I must get some rest, it's going to be a rough couple of weeks...

November 25, 2007

The Void

Well, it has been quite I while since my last post due to holiday travels combined with the release of Mass Effect. I know you are all thinking that that means this next post should be really substantial, and I agree with you, the next post will be. As for this post, I just got in from my flight that was due in at 9:00 P.M. CST, and the combined pressure of the airplane cabin and constantly whaling infants has basically drained any will I had to do anything even remotely productive. So I promise tomorrow's post will be a glorious retelling of my many Thanksgiving adventures (which are largely composed of eating and playing 20+ hours of Mass Effect), but for tonight, I leave you with this simple haiku:

My flight was delayed
It is almost 1:00 A.M.
Time for Mass Effect?

November 20, 2007

The Shortest One...

It's kind of funny, but staying up working until 3 AM and getting around four hours of sleep for several nights (which included the weekend) doesn't even seem to phase me anymore. It's just the cost of doing business, and I don't really even think about it. Though I can't say that doesn't mean I won't pass out as soon as I get on that plane tomorrow. I have at least a few items to polish on my Beta before I submit it on Wednesday, and at the same time Mass Effect should be readily available to begin taunting me with its awesomeness. Anyway, it's time to get my precious four hours of sleep. Later!

November 18, 2007

My Sunday

Well, it's late Sunday or early Monday, I'm not quite sure which is appropriate, anyway, it's late and I've spent pretty much the entire weekend working, and neither of my levels are "done." I'm ready for both of my beta testing sessions tomorrow, but that still means I need to polish up our CTF level for it's Tuesday morning presentation and drastically polish up my DM17 Beta which is due on Wednesday. I'm not sure if I am just slow, thorough, or overly neurotic, likely some combination of all three, but I have to put a lot of effort into these levels to get them to the point where I'm happy with them, and this was the first time I really felt like I didn't have enough time to do my work right.

Well, maybe that's entirely right, not enough time to do these levels right and maintain my sanity, I could have pulled a number of all nighters to get things picture perfect, but I think that might have cracked what remains of my flagging devotion to doing well here. That's not to say I don't like it here or that I dislike level design. Actually, it's the exact opposite, I love it. I don't know when it happened but at some point I realized that I really enjoy this and I'm good at it. I love coming up with a concept and watching it turn into something real. I love watching people play and enjoy one of my levels, knowing that that joy came from me. I am working harder than I ever have in my entire life, and it doesn't really phase me, sometimes I just feel I don't have the time to get the best out of my work.

Now that being said, there are other things I love that being here doesn't really allow for. I love sleep, and on most nights I'm not getting nearly enough and certainly nothing close to 8 hours. I love having a personal life, being able to go out with my friends or god-forbid have a date, neither of which I have been able to do more than once this term and maybe a handful of times since I got here. On that same note, I love meeting new people, well ok, maybe that's a stretch, but at least I appreciate the opportunity. I love playing videogames, and since I got here it's basically a trade-off between that and sleep, and sometimes it's hard to decide :).

I think what I finally realized is it has taken a lot of sacrifices to get here and to keep going. I'm not sure if I blogged to this point, but we lost another level designer recently (one of my teammates on the CTF Mod no less) and another is soon to leave and actually go out to industry. It all made me think about why I am here and how to keep going despite stress, exhaustion, and a number of other terribly valid reasons to give up and go home, and then it finally hit me. I love this work, this really is my calling, I can't imagine anything that I would willingly work so hard for, and that's something amazing I've been trying to figure out for a while. Now the key is going to be to keep that passion despite the best efforts of this place to break me.

Anyway, I've been rambling on for long enough and I really should get some rest. The next few days are sure to be killer. G'night all.

Are We There Yet?

It's very late and I'm tired. I spent most of the day working on our CTF level which still isn't done, and I didn't do any work on my map which needs to be ready for pre-beta testing Monday afternoon (and subsequently the Beta version of the map is due Wednesday). Well, it is what it is, guess I'll just keep going at it, but not anymore tonight. Now it is time to sleep...

November 16, 2007

Friday Night Hype

Well, I finished the singleplayer of Call of Duty 4 tonight (on Veteran to those of you thinking it's not such an achievement), and I must say it is simply one of the best shooters this year if not the best. I'm still debating whether Bioshock qualifies as a "shooter" rather than an RPG with heavy shooter elements.

Speaking of RPGs with heavy shooter elements, Mass Effect (and my brief but long needed Thanksgiving "break") is now only a few days away and I cannot wait. I know there have been sporadic debates around the net as to the games merits, but it seems that everyone agrees the story is awesome, which is more than enough to sell me. I have my collector's edition all preordered and ready to go, now I just need to finish a couple major projects between then and now. Should be cake, right?

November 15, 2007

Another Short One

Sorry, this may be par for the course until the end of term, or at least until Thanksgiving Break. I spent most of the day working on our CTF map or my Shotgun mutator and then I spent most of the night creating assets for my DM17 level. VERY slowly creating assets I might add. I can't seem to get my waterfall to not look cartoon-y. I think I'm going to go talk to the the Art Level Design professor and see if he can help me straighten things out.

Anyway, it's late, I'm tired, and I've got a long few days ahead of me. If there's one thing I can say it's that there is a remarkable amount of fulfillment in what I do. Watching the level slowly come together and watching the joy that it brings people is just awesome. Alright, that's the silver lining for the day, now it's bedtime.

November 14, 2007

A Short One

Sorry, this is going to be a pretty short post as I should probably get to bed ASAP. Today wasn't terribly eventful, we alpha tested the map I am working on for our CTF Mod (and the underlying code) and things went pretty well. Most of the game functionality is stable and the map seemed pretty well received. There are a few modifications to make to the overall layout, then still plenty of work to be done making it look more real.

I'm behind on my DM17 map, at least behind the schedule I had set for myself, however unreasonable it may have been. I think that between now and Thanksgiving "break" I need to really crack down and get stuff done, but I've just been exhausted lately which makes work more difficult and much less efficient. Anyway, as I said, it's late I'm tired, and I need sleep if I'm going to pump out the sheer volume of work I need to within the next couple days. Night All!

November 13, 2007

Best Holiday Season Ever?

It seems to me like every year me, my friends, and typically a large majority of the media gush over the games of the holiday season claiming that it may in fact be the "Best Holiday Season Ever." This season is no exception. I mean let's just look at at few of the most recent releases (or upcoming):
  • Ratchet and Clank Future - Excellent
  • Call of Duty 4 - Excellent
  • Assassin's Creed - Excellent?
  • Super Mario Galaxy - Excellent?
  • Uncharted - Excellent?
  • Mass Effect - Excellent
Just to name a few. The ones with question marks I don't own so I'm not sure about them (yes, I don't yet own Mass Effect, but I'm willing to bet it will be excellent, any takers?), but all signs point to them being very, very good. As we close in on Thanksgiving, I'm not sure what lies on the other side between turkey day and Christmas, but as it stands I can probably think of about a dozen things to throw on my Christmas list.

As for making games, it's busy as always. One of the level designers on my team has some personal issues to attend to so my team of four level designers has been reduced to three including myself. As a result I have a fair bit more work on my plate than I thought, though when I showed my professor one of the meshes I am making for my DM17 map he said it looked great so that help bolster my confidence considering I had been trouble creating it. Basically all my time lately has been devoted to the team project so my DM17 map is being forced onto the back burner until I have more time to devote to it. It looks like it's going to be another long weekend. Well, at least Thanksgiving isn't far off and then it's just a short sprint to the sweet respite that is Christmas break. Mmmmm...can't wait..

Actually, you know what the sad thing really is? I've already started thinking about personal level design projects I want to work on over break. Something other than a fragfest FPS for a change. No offense, UT2004, you just aren't exactly my kind of game... Actually, my brother and I discussed working cooperatively on a NWN mod in response to the recent Bioware request for writers posted on Penny Arcade. He wants to try his hand at writing, and I want to do some level design outside of the FPS genre. Could be fun... Alright, I should get back to work. Later!

November 12, 2007

Checking the Box

Long task lists are both simultaneously satisfying and infuriating. You get the joy of crossing a lot of things off your list, which is nice, but when you consider that you added most of those throughout the day, and the one thing you had on there this morning still isn't done at 10:00 P.M. and it's a little disheartening. Nevertheless, it was all work that needed to get done and it all amounts to the same amount of time spent, no matter how you slice it.

As mentioned previously, this week is remarkably deadline free, though that doesn't mean a dearth of work needing to be done. It just means an exercise in keeping yourself motivated enough to keep moving on multiple projects with longer timelines. To be honest, I'm not sure I've yet had the chance to work on a level for more than a week so this is a new and different experience. Take today for example, we did our first "speed map" in level design.

The concept of the speed map is that you have 15 min to draft a quick paper design and then an hour to build your level. Then the whole class spends the rest of the time testing the levels, and giving constructive feedback. Then the paper map and final product end up getting wrapped up in a grade to be determined later. While it is expected that your map will look like absolute crap and may even contain some minor (or major) technical issues, it is nevertheless a somewhat harrowing experience.

Formulating a level (based on some defined visual and gameplay concepts) and then creating even a rough approximation of it in 75 min. can be stressful if you let it. I wouldn't say I let it stress me out, but I wouldn't say I didn't either. I finished my level in time, and was relatively happy with the end product, especially for my first speed map. There were some minor flow issues, but no technical problems, and I think I leveraged the themes pretty well. Overall, I think the experience was a positive one, though it makes speed modeling seem a bit simpler :).

November 10, 2007

Call of Duty 4, FTW!

So midterms are over, and went really well so I decided to treat myself to Call of Duty 4, as a sort of celebration. I had been eyeballing it all week and reading countless glowing reviews, so I decided to pick it up, and I must say it is awesome. I was really expecting a lot from it and I think it has even exceeded my high expectations. The single-player material is intense, fun, and exciting apart from a few really hard sections (though I am playing on the hardest difficulty so I really have only myself to blame), and the multiplayer is just phenomenal. I might even say it's better than Halo 3. Now, before you run off to grab your torches and pitchforks I should point out I mean it is better for me, and the kind of gameplay I like.

One of my favorite multiplayer FPSs was Battlefield 2. I probably haven't played a multiplayer shooter as much with the exception of maybe Tribes. Anyway the point is, the reason I enjoyed BF2 so much was because I really enjoy that style of gameplay, the strategic stop-and-pop vs. the more action oriented run-and-gun fragfests, but that doesn't entirely convey my feelings. The multiplayer flow of CoD4 is some blend of the two, it's far closer to the strategic style, but it has just enough "action" to keep things from getting bogged down like some of the online modes for the tactical shooters like GRAW or Rainbow Six. Add to that a persistent RPG style leveling system and class creation system, 16 maps with numerous gamemodes, and a very capable matchmaking system, and you have all the ingredients to keep me enthralled for many nights on end. I can't recommend it more highly, and I would definitely rate it is my favorite multiplayer game of the year above tough contenders like Halo 3 and Team Fortress 2.

Luckily, there isn't much actually due next week so I could afford to take a light Saturday of doing some project management and getting my tasks organized for the coming week, along with a few chores/errands, so I had plenty of time to enjoy the experience. It's not that there isn't a lot to DO next week, just not a lot to turn in. We have testing for our Beta version of our DM17 map a week from Monday and we have our extended CTF mod due on the 20th. Add to that some Unreal scripting for programming class and the fact that I haven't even started my FY Iceworld yet which is due, in its entirety, a week after our DM17 map. There hasn't been much time to look at it, and it's been hard enough holding the designs for two maps in my head at the same time, three might be pushing it. Nevertheless, this week might be a good time to at least start concepting out the theme, and plan what unique elements I will be adding to meet our requirements. But for now, those things are far from my mind as enjoy the rest of my Saturday mini-vacation...

November 8, 2007

Congratulations! You're the Project Lead!

Hooray! Wait, no, that's just more work... :)

We got our assignments for our next team project today, and as we had suspected it ended up being that our small 6-person teams ended up getting merged into much larger 13 person teams with similar goals to the last project. This time we need to two maps, 30 meshes, and 30 textures, though we were allowed to extend off of our previous projects. Sadly, my group was one of the smaller teams that got broken apart, so I doubt you'll be seeing anymore floating islands or catapults. I was assigned to the soccer team which was the professor's favorite of the six, and was admittedly pretty cool if a little rough around the edges.

Given that the teams had doubled in size, I think it became clear to all the teams that the sort of ad-hoc no leads, completely collaborative style of teamwork wasn't going to work in this case, so we all went about setting up department leads and in our case a project lead. I'm not sure if I'm actually a good leader or just the most willing to go up to the board and start organizing things, but the team named me the project lead and elected/appointed a member from each department to be the department leads. The leads all seem pretty motivated and quickly began organizing work with the other members of their department, so I think we did well there.

I requested each lead give me a schedule for their department within the next couple days, and then I get to go about creating the master schedule. It's a lot of the sort of mundane project management that I am happier letting people like Jane handle if they are so inclined, but I seemed to be the only one inclined on my team to do it. At least it should mean a proportionate decrease in my LD tasks for the project which will allow me to focus on other things. Anyway, I should get going, I just finished studying for a midterm tomorrow and now I need to work on my map, which needs to be done for testing by tomorrow afternoon and...well, right now it just isn't.

As for screenshots here are a couple from my LD midterm on Monday:







The theme we were assigned was 'Caverns' and it had to include a terrain with multiple layers, a little pool of water, and multiple small rooms attached to a larger central rooms. There were also some simple requirements like it had to have a teleporter, a jump pad, and some pickups. I think it came out pretty well for being concepted and built in three hours. Soon we start "speed mapping" wherein we build a map in about an hour (or less, I'm not sure) and then playtest it for the rest of the class period. Not quite sure I'm ready for that, but we'll see :).

November 6, 2007

Less Is More

Well, today marked the second of my three midterms this term, my text adventure. Ultimately, I think my program met the requirements of the assignment just fine, but because I was ridiculously overscoped I didn't really have time to implement even half of my original design or to polish what eventually was left. I recognize the importance of adages such as , "less is more" and "quality over quantity," and I feel that in this case I ended up casually disregarding them, which resulted in something I was less pleased with it than I would otherwise have been.

Anyway, it's done, so I'm not going to lament it any further, just putting it on official record that I need to start spending more of my initial concept time to create ideas which are within the scope of the time allotted. I think overscoping is natural at the beginning of project (and actually beneficial), but ultimately, if it is to too great a degree you end up wasting a lot of time trying to include ten things instead of doing three or four things really well. Alright, I'm tired and I've got plenty to do tomorrow so I'll catch up with you all later. Night!

November 4, 2007

Sunday Night Exhaustion

I'm starting to think it's a bad thing to be exhausted, before the week begins. Though, I suppose tonight is better than last Sunday, where I was forced to pull an all-nighter just to finish some basic assignments. I don't mean to complain really, I actually rather enjoy the work I am doing, I would just enjoy it much more if it was over about twice as much time. As it stands, it just stresses me out. Anyway, as I said, I don't want to complain about things, I don't have the time or the energy and it will just end up bumming me out.

Alright, so let's see, I promised some basic work updates, let me see if I can find a few screenshots of my most recent stuff...

Seabase Prison
This was my second map in level design and it was built entirely using Unreal assets and BSP. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out overall. There were some visual things that I didn't have time to add in, but overall I think it came out really well.


Outside the undersea area


Inside the undersea area


One of the base's outer hallways


Looking at the base through one of the window in the elevator


Above the water, the landing platform


Teleporter under the central platform


Looking at the platform from the elevator

Infringement - CTF Mod
I came up with the design, but I did almost none of the art (I did the models for the islands, that's it), so I can't claim any credit for how it looks. Ultimately, our artists did a great job with the visual theme, and I think they came up with something really memorable. Also, the gameplay from jumping to island and the catapults that fire you the entire length of the arena proved to be a big hit, so I guess it was a couple long nights well spent. =)


Our floating arena


Inside the red base


A working catapult (it would throw you to the other base, and most likely kill you :) )


The blue base



The ruins on the central island


Looking out from the red flag spawn

Ultimately, I'm pretty proud of what I've managed to create so far this term, it has just taken a lot out of me. Anyway, I should get back to working on my text adventure, and just for funsies, here's a screen of that as well...



I just thought juxtaposing that next to the other screens was amusing. Well, I'm off. By the way, just let me know if you even want to try out any of the stuff I have worked on and I will be happy to share it as time and filespace limitations permit. =) Night all!

November 3, 2007

Code Like Hell

Though I have been taught that "Coding Like Hell" is a bad practice that is to be avoided, it feels like that is exactly what I have been doing today, though I have only myself to blame. For programming class, for our midterm project we are asked to make a very simple text adventure that involves a few rooms, items, and puzzles for the player to encounter. What does that mean I decided to do? A free-roaming, Elite/Pirates! style game involving stat growth (actually that is one of the assignment requirements), upgradeable equipment, multiple vendors, random enemies, side quests, and an actual final battle/objective. Yeah, I'm not making this up. This may be perhaps the worst overscoping I have yet managed.

The thing is, I get really excited about game design, and when that happens my excitement, tends to overrule my common sense and desire for free time. Also, at this point I am so used to working through the entire weekend, I'm not even sure what I would do with my free time if I had it. Anyway, I've already slimmed out the design significantly, but I've written enough code that supports the rather grandiose design, that I will at least need to work relatively hard to connect the dots. I think the final product will be really cool, and far more interesting than a random, "Look I Can Code!" text adventure, but I suppose that is all predicated on my finishing it before the due date. Oh well, I'm happy with how the assignment has gone so far, it's just taking a bit longer than I would like.

Anyway, I'm done working on it for now. I think I am going to enjoy a little gaming and then head to bed. Sorry the posts have been a little sparse lately. Last week, I pulled two all nighters and one where I was working until 3:00 A.M. and I'm pretty sure my body is still recovering. Still, I can't imagine anything else that would make me work this hard, and that tells me something. Alright, night all!

P.S. I'll try to post work related updates (i.e., screenshots and the like) tomorrow, at least I'll try to try...

November 1, 2007

A Moment's Peace

Ignoring the fact that my text adventure (due Tuesday) is currently still in the concept phase, and I haven't yet started my Level Design Document (LDD, due Monday), there is nothing that needs to be done right now. Considering I pulled an all-nighter last night in order to finish our CTF Mod and that we have no class this afternoon, I am going to take at least a brief respite from work to rest and recuperate. Whether that involves playing some games, taking a nap, or a little bit of both, has yet to be determined. But for now that's where I'll be, and if I do manage to get some work done tonight, all the better!

October 31, 2007

Another Abstract Down

Well, the good news is, I am getting better at estimating how long these things will take me to do. The bad news is, that doesn't really make them go any faster. Oh well... G'night all!

October 30, 2007

Time Keeps on Slippin'....

Currently, I am trying to finish my abstract which is due tomorrow and is the basic blueprint for the level I will spend roughly the next month developing. Then, our CTF map is due Thursday and we only got to test it for the first time today in class. There was a minor bug with one of our mutators which will hopefully be fixed sometime tomorrow, but the more critical/scary thing is that we basically need to finish all the work on the map in one day, and I really don't know if that's possible. We need to apply a bunch of textures, add decorations to pretty much the entire map and finish a bunch of geometry. It's almost guaranteed to be an all-nighter and it still may not be done. That just sucks. Anyway, I can't worry about that right now. One thing at a time...

Alright, I should definitely get back to work. Later!

October 29, 2007

Do LDs Dream of Electric Sheep?

I'm not sure the subject line is at all topical, but in my currently dazed state is amuses me, so the topic it shall be.

I was up until about 6:00 A.M. working on things that are still not quite completed. I managed to polish my Prison to the point I was happy with it (and I added just a little bit more to it this morning), I finished the Software Configuration Management assignment, and I started developing out the level for our CTF mod. There's still a lot more that needs to be done on it which is what I am about to do now. Looking out at the next week or so, the future seems a bit bleak, but I am working to take things in stride and keep my morale up. Anyway, the first step to improving my morale is to get to bed at a reasonable hour tonight, and that means getting to work right now.

So on that note I bid you all adieu. I hope to be able to give some more substantive updates on my projects in the relatively near future, and I hope you all are doing well.

Nothing is ever really done

There is always room to improve your level in some way or another, make it prettier, make it run better, etc., but eventually you just need to cut it off. I basically set a 2:00 A.M. "deadline" to stop working on my Prison and focus the rest of my efforts on the CTF map. The prison looks good and I think I should do well on it. I may try to fit in just a little more time on it tomorrow, but the rest of the night is dedicated to my CTF project. I have all the islands rendered, so now it's time to start trying to import things and just see what happens. Here goes nothing!

October 28, 2007

Fighting Fires

I know it's not the right way to deal with things, but right now with everything flowing down the pipe, it's all I can do to just keep things relatively under control. I just finished writing a comparison of different version control and bug reporting systems for my Game Studies II class. Now, I still need to finish polishing up my Prison level and actually do some work on our CTF level.

I managed to create one island, but I still need to create at least two more and start putting them into the level, in addition to the other assets. I think if I stay up all night I might be able to get mostly back on track. Our mod is supposed to be completely finished by this Thursday and I think we have one more work day (i.e., three hours in class) before then. In addition, we have another abstract due in Level Design on Wednesday (this is the big one). Then next week, we have a Level Design Document due (that's the big document thats supposed to entirely describe the level) on Monday and midterms / midterm projects. So yeah, I'm a bit stressed right now.

Oh well, I guess there really isn't any use in worrying about the stuff down the line. I've already got enough to worry about in the here and now. On that note, I better get back to it. G'night all!

October 26, 2007

Long Weekend Number...eh who's counting anymore?

Well, it's another Friday free of work, and full of anxiety over the seemingly insurmountable set of tasks to do over the next two days. My Beta prison map seemed to go over really well and I got some good feedback. I just need to make a few minor adjustments and make it much prettier. I'll try to post some screens while I am working on it over the next couple days.

Our CTF mod is coming together, but I'm a little worried about it. I think we have most of the assets in very rough condition, but I am the one tasked with pulling everything together (which is fair because I haven't done much with it since initial design). I think it has the potential to be really, really cool, but we could also fall flat on our faces. Either way we'll have something by the Thursday deadline.

Outside of those two larger projects, I also need to write a short paper comparing a few different options for version control (thrilling!), start designing a text adventure for my programming midterm, and play through some boardgames for my game design class (Ok, that actually is cool, but it's not the best time for it). I've actually played three of the four games (and own two of them) before, but I'm hoping I can look at them a bit more critically tomorrow. Anyway that's all. I'm going to go hang out with everyone's favorite Lombax for a little while then get to bed.

October 24, 2007

Good News, Bad News

The Good news is that Eye of Judgement is actually really cool. The bad news is it is so cool that it has (among other things) kept me from working tonight until right now. Regardless, the game is actually pretty neat and fun, I've only played with the computer so far, which I don't think is the real intended experience, but the mechanics of the game seem interesting and well put together. If you like card games in general and/or have always imagined what it would be like to have the cards come to life, this is definitely a game you should check out.

In addition, today was sort of a game buying binge for me. I picked up Ratchet and Clank Future (which I have yet to open) and I imported The Witcher from Britain (due to arrive next week). Apparently, The Witcher is supposed to be really good, but Atari is censoring the crap out of the US release, so the internet (and my brother) has informed me that I should import it. Given that I've had almost no free time lately, those games should hold me over until...well, I guess forever, but the next big game in my mind is clearly Mass Effect, though CoD4 is looking pretty sweet, I'll probably wait to ask for it for Christmas or something.

As far as school and game design go, I keep on plowing away at my Prison. I still need to make the above water stuff, and add rooms to the upper part of the below water area. I probably went a little over scope on this one and now I'm paying for it. Add to that that our CTF Mod is due next Thrusday and...well, it's gonna be a little while until I can actually relax. Though there is a big BBQ and TF2 LAN party this Friday so that should be a fun little release. Alright, well I should get to that work I've been putting off. Later!

October 23, 2007

Extensions are Beautiful

I managed to negotiate a small extension on the beta of our Prison map until Friday, so it looks like I will actually get to sleep tonight. It's not really more free time, but it at least moves things around to allow me to prioritize things a bit better. Today was mostly a work day: we worked on our CTF project in the morning, then there was a town hall over lunch to discuss some changes in the curriculum starting next term, then Programming for Level Design, and finally I spent most of the night working on our programming assignment for Thursday (minus about an hour to watch the most recent Heroes). Good stuff overall. Not much else to say. I'm tired, so I'm going to get to bed. Night all!

October 22, 2007

Yeah, It's Gonna Be a Long Week

Well, the bad news is my original prison design was infeasible, at least with my current skill set. Unreal doesn't like curves or concave surfaces so when your level is a giant circle with a glass dome on top, you're in trouble. The good news is I have managed to quickly redesign the level (mostly making things more angular) while maintaining the same flow. It's been a bit slow going, but it's going, and I should at least have something boxed out for beta on Wednesday. Though it may require less sleep tomorrow night, but whatever. Here's a shot of the VERY ROUGH beginnings of my prison:



This is a shot from above the center chamber in the lower area. I still need to add all the cells on the upper catwalk area, put the roof on (I'm thinking some sort of glass pyramid), and put all the crap in the level. In addition, that spire you can see in the background is an elevator that is supposed to lead the the above water section which has not yet been built, so that needs to be done as well. By the end this are will be filled with fog effects and particle emitters to make feel like it is underwater (you won't actually be able to see the wall or floor as it is now) and the central power core will be pulsating energy upward to transport players up to the upper sections.

Anyway, that's where it stands. There's a lot to do, but I've got a plan, so we'll just see how it goes. Then there's the whole CTF mod. I'll throw up some pictures of that tomorrow. We just found out that our original game idea isn't possible to accomplish within our timeframe, so we'll see where that goes. As for right now, I'm tired and need sleep. Night!

P.S. It looks like Ratchet and Clank is coming out a week early! Hooray, now if only I had the time to play it. I suppose I could stop sleeping...Then I'd have lots of time :)

October 21, 2007

The Sunday Movie Marathon

Well, it's been another long weekend full of work, but unfortunately I haven't made near as much progress as I wanted to. My CTF map is, at least roughly, whiteboxed, but it is VERY rough and there's still plenty that needs to be done before the end of the week. Today, I have mostly been working on my second deathmatch map, but progress has been exceptionally slow going. I think I am beginning to realize that making curved surfaces in Unreal may not have been the best plan.

Not sure exactly where I plan to go from here. I may need to make some alterations to make the map a bit more square. Anyway, it's been a mentally exhausting weekend, which isn't a great place to start the week, but hey, what can you do. Alright, I'm done complaining about work, and besides, I should really get back to it. Later!

October 19, 2007

I Can't Takes It No More

Alright, I officially can't do anymore work right now. Even if I was inclined, I think I've burned out the productive part of my brain, and it needs a night of TV/movies/games in order to recover. A week of no sleep and near constant deadlines will do that I guess. Not that next week looks much better, but hey, let's not worry about that now.

I think the level I stayed up designing last night is a really cool concept, but the question remains whether I am capable of pulling it off, or whether I have yet again scoped myself into a corner. Personally, I think overscoping at the beginning of a project is good: better that you start with too many ideas than too few. Unfortunately, with the ~1 week turnaround on these things, it doesn't leave a lot of time for iteration. Well, I'll do what I can do, right? Anyway, I'm off to go rest my brain. Later all!

Another Day, Another Document

I'm sleepy...

October 18, 2007

Happy (Belated) Birthday Katie!

Hey All!

Nope, I'm not dead or lying unconscious in some sort of work coma, just too busy to remember to post to my blog or take new screenshots for you all. Sorry!

Actually, I'm going to have to keep this post relatively brief so I can go finish the abstract I've been working on and maybe, just maybe, get more than 6 hours of sleep. Doubtful, but, hey, a boy can dream...

Things are going well, they've just been really busy and things only seem to be amping up which is unnerving. Two new Unreal maps in as many weeks is certainly troublesome, but what can you do. Just keep going, I guess. Alright, now I really do have to go, later!

October 16, 2007

It's gonna be a long term

Well, the pressure has officially been turned on. Here's the basic list of things over the next couple days:
  • Tonight (October 16)
    • Master Pass on Chapel Map
    • Draft Level for CTF Mod
  • Tomorrow (October 17)
    • Finish Writing C# Character Creation Program
    • Finalize Basic Level Map for CTF Mod
    • Begin Writing Prison Level Abstract
  • Thursday (October 18)
    • Finish Writing Prison Level Abstract
    • Meet with team about CTF Level
    • Start Prison Level Whitebox
    • Start CTF Mod Whitebox
  • Friday (October 19)
    • Play Games?
I guess the thing that's really amping things up is the team project in Game Development Pipeline. I think we are supposed to have a few class periods to work on it in class, but there is a lot more that needs to be done than can be accomplished in that limited time. The assignment is due on November 1st and incorporates a team of 2 level designers, 2 artists, and 2 programmers. It's just one more thing to tilt the scales toward burnout. Not to mention midterms in a couple weeks. Anyway, I don't think it's impossible it just may be a few more long nights. Now I should get to work before tonight becomes exceptionally long itself.

October 15, 2007

Is 'Dreary' a technical term?

I was amused to see the weather report at my gas pump describe the current conditions as dreary, and I just felt the need to share that little anecdote. Today was a good, productive day at the Guildhall. I made a longsword with only 90 polys in a little less than half an hour, I got a chance to test my beta map with other people, and I started working on my next C# program. I think my sword came out pretty well and I got a good grade on my TV so I'm happy about that. My beta map was well received and I have only a couple minor changes to the flow and then some aesthetic changes for tomorrow. I've included a couple screens to show the current state of the level:









I'm really quite pleased with it so far. The aesthetic changes are: 1) add a front door, 2) try to add some real light sources, 3) add a skybox and outside facing windows. Hopefully by the end of tomorrow these shots will be much more impressive. As I said, the flow is pretty good, I just need to take care of one dead end and move some placeables around to make them a little bit more enticing.

My C# program is coming along fine, it's just a basic menu-driven console program so it's nothing to really write home about at this point. Sometime during the semester I know we are supposed to make the beginnings of text adventure though which should be exciting, and I'll be happy to share that whenever we get around to it. Alright, well I'm gonna go relax with what little is left of the evening.

October 14, 2007

Weekend Lost

Well, that's basically the entire weekend gone into two 10+ hour work days on my level, and I'm still working on it. I've gotten a lot done, the level is built and the items are placed, now everything else is making it pretty. There's a lot to make pretty though. I'll post some screens once I'm done with it tonight, that is if I'm not too tired to remember.

Today while working I've watched: both Mummy movies, The Incredibles, Cars, two episodes of Newsradio, and I am now concluding the night with The Replacements, and I have promised myself that after that I will be done for the evening. Anyway, I better get back to it, I'm burning moonlight...

October 13, 2007

Chapel Whitebox Shots







I still have some more to work on the geometry, most of the pickups and start positions still need to be placed, and obviously the textures need to updated, but the majority of the space is defined. I'll try to post some screens of the final version for comparison.

For those who were wondering, the little man in screenshot #2 is actually the marker for a teleporter. Hopefully, he should be replaced by a cool particle effect tomorrow.

Who has time for errands?

I don't know why I even plan on trying to do anything but homework on weekends anymore. I spent ~10 hours whiteboxing my chapel (again...kind of). I had a rough version that I was playing around with (which is what the screenshots were from), but I decided to toss it as it seemed easier than trying to manipulate that one into shape. Tomorrow, I need to finish the whitebox, test to make sure it plays as I intend, then do a texture/decoration pass on the entire level. Then, if there's time after that I can try doing fancy things like adding a skybox and windows that can see outside, or at least adding in additional decorative elements like wear on the environment, decorations, etc.

In addition, this is all using BSP brushes, no static meshes. For anyone who doesn't know what that means (which is probably close to everyone), it means I can't use any pre-existing models, it all has to be created within unreal using primitive geometric shapes. For the most part that is fine, but when trying to create things like pews or an altar it would probably be much faster (and more detailed) to create them in an outside program and import them into Unreal as a static mesh. It just means that some of what I am trying to do, takes longer than it needs to, but whatever. I can't complain too much though as I really enjoy working on it, it just feels like I never have enough time. Anyway, that's it for the Saturday update, now I'm gonna go wind down for the night. Later!

P.S. Actually it just occurred to me that it might be interesting to have some screenshots of it as a work in progress so I will post those in a minute...

October 11, 2007

To Work or Not To Work

That is, in fact, the question. At this point the next thing to do is complete my Unreal map which is due on Monday. I've kind of started it (as shown by the previous screenshots), but I'll probably end up pitching most of that. I constructed that level mostly to verify the design that I wanted to propose in my abstract so it is rather crudely constructed, and some of the modifications I need to make are relatively rather extensive. Either way, there is a relatively substantial amount of work that needs to be done. On the other hand, I did just purchase Folklore and I would love to spend more time with that, and I have the entire weekend to work on a relatively small map. What to do, what to do...

Anyway, that's about all that's going on right now. Classes are going pretty well, though yesterday we were introduced to one of the most horrifying level design concepts yet: Speed Modeling. Basically, the one of the Art Level Design professors comes in and says, "You have 30 min. to create a watertight (read: harder) X and you have Y polys." Wednesday it was a fire hydrant in 300 polys, and for those who are unaware, that's not a lot of polys, and this is for a grade. Basically, it's channeling my least favorite part of art class: high-pressure, high-speed art. The result is a slight sense of anxiety before every Level Design class (it doesn't happen every day and it isn't scheduled), but what can you do. Just thought I'd share that little gem with you all. Now I guess I'll go make some dinner and ponder what to do with my evening some more. Later!

A Night Off

I'll keep this post short because it's late and I'm tired (among other things). Nothing major was due tomorrow (or at least everything was already done), so I took the night off to play some games (read Folklore) and go out to a karaoke bar with friends. Overall, the night was a resounding success, and now I am very tired and must rest before tomorrow. G'night all!

October 9, 2007

Happy Birthday Rick!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY RICK!!! (Yep, all my sibs brithdays are within 11 days of one another...)

I realize it's been a couple days since I last posted and that is mostly due to a combination of being busy and forgetful. Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of time to say much substantial as I have a level abstract I need to write for tomorrow, and I've barely even started writing it. I've blocked out a lot of the level geometry to the point I am happy with the flow, but now I need to write it all up and make a detailed map. Anyway, I should get to that, but to whet your appetite, here's a couple shots from the whitebox I've put together so far:





The theme we were assigned was "Chapel" (based on our assignment from last term) and the it needs to be a deathmatch map for at least 4 people. Obviously this is far from the final version, but it's just something I mocked up relatively quickly to help me visualize things. Alright, I'm off, later!

October 6, 2007

Happy Birthday Patti!

It is actually unlikely that my dear sister reads this site, but I figured I would be remiss not to call attention to her Birthday, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Oddly enough, I don't have that much to do today. I know of assignments we are getting next week, but I don't really have any work to do right now. As such, I thought today was the perfect day to catch up on other things I needed to do, like order presents for my siblings or acquire insurance for my car and apartment. I found out, however, that it just was not meant to be.

Attempting to purchase my brother's present, the website refused to take my credit card (on the basis that I was, in fact, not me), and when I called their customer service their response was basically, "that sucks" and "go somewhere else." I'm serious. I would complain about the company by name, but I don't want to give Rick a hint as to his gift. Nevertheless, they suck and have earned my contempt once again.

In addition, having never purchased my own auto insurance before, I didn't realize what a long and arduous process it is. Though, that may have something to do with having never done it before and not being entirely sure of what I needed in terms of coverage or information. Regardless, I've spent a great deal of time on the phone and scouring the internet in order to complete an array of mundane tasks, only to have accomplished very little. Now I am going to go "pwn some n00bs" as they say, to vent out some of my frustrations. Later!