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!

October 4, 2007

On a Roll

Sorry for the lateness of this post, but I was on a roll with work and I only just completed the tasks I had set for myself tonight. Apparently my perfectionism was just a bit stronger than my fatigue. Anyway, it's late and I have an early morning meeting tomorrow to put the finishing touches on our production materials, so I think I'm going to quickly head to bed. Later!

P.S. Yeah, I know the posts have been a little thin lately, but give me a break. Ummm, for game-related stuff...if you have a PS3 go look up stuff on Folklore, otherwise I'm sure there's a bunch of other stuff coming out, but that's what I'm most interested in right now...

October 3, 2007

Sleep Continues to Evade Me...

Despite going to bed early and being able to sleep in, I still woke up this morning feeling as tired as ever. This is probably the result of the the power going out repeatedly (and surprisingly loudly) throughout the night. Some higher power doesn't want me to rest this week, I don't know why.

We got our first chance to start playing in UnrealEd today which was pretty cool. There's something about being able to create a three-dimensional space that you can actually walk around in that's pretty exciting, at least I think so, maybe that's why I'm so jazzed up about this level/game design thing. Anyway, we made a very simple level that was just a couple of rooms with some adjoining corridors, but there was some gameplay there (once we added bots and pathnodes) even if it wasn't very refined. I actually really enjoy learning this stuff, so that's good.

The documentation stuff can be tedious especially when you are re-documenting a game you've already completed (I'm looking at you VIRUS GDD), but I understand the need for it, especially on larger teams. The initial inception of the level/game, however, is very exciting, especially one you get rolling with a good idea. It doesn't really make things go any faster, but it make seem like they do. Which is good when you are going to be working on a single document for hours upon hours.

Anyway, I'm very happy with how things are progressing despite feeling a little exhausted at this point. I am hoping that once we finish the post-production stuff for VIRUS on Friday and I get some real sleep this weekend, I'll be energized and ready to tackle another term. I'm really looking forward to my classes this term, and I think that's all I can really ask for at this point. Alright, now I should rest. G'night all!

October 2, 2007

A Short One

This will have to be a quick post as I have been working on stuff pretty much all day, and I am very tired. Things are getting up to speed here, perhaps a little faster than I would like, but what can you do? I think I'm still recovering from my break sleep cycle or something but I've been tired the last two days which is certainly hampering my ability to re-engage in classwork. Still the material is interesting enough that it keeps me motivated even if my eyelids feel heavy pretty much all day. Now I need to sleep. Hopefully I will have a chance to make a more substantive post tomorrow...or sometime...maybe...

October 1, 2007

Back to the Grind

Well, today officially marks the first day of Term 2. I don't think the assignments we received today were too bad on an absolute scale. We need to update our documentation on VIRUS for Friday, and I need to find a good and bad example of a UT 2K4 map and write a 2+ page paper about them for Wednesday. Considering we basically played a bunch of UT 2K4 during level design, I can't say it was exactly grueling.

Maybe it's just coming back after basically doing nothing productive over break, or maybe it's residual burnout from last term, or maybe it's just the headaches resulting from massive shifts to sleep schedule, but I was hoping these opening couple days might more gradually bring us back into a "work" mindset. Regardless, I now have plenty to do and I can only imagine that I'll be getting more assignments tomorrow as well. At the very least, I can say that it is kicked me back into work mode if a bit unpleasantly.

For those playing the home version, here's my new class and booklist so you can follow along:

  • Game Study II
  • Level Design II
  • Programming for Level Design I
  • Game Development Pipeline
  • Rapid Development
  • Mastering Unreal
  • Beginning C# Game Programming
With no TGP I don't imagine this semester can be as intense as the last one (which seems to be the general feeling from the staff) but I'm sure they're very capable of proving me wrong. Anyway, I'm off to find some UT 2K4 maps to play, yeah I know, being a level designer sounds soooooo rough ;).