When should you upgrade your machine?

I haven’t upgraded my CPU and laptop in nearly three years and I am starting to itch to buy some new technology toys. Time since an upgrade isn’t really a good justification so I did some research tonight to figure out how much faster newer machines may be.

My research lead me to http://www.cpubenchmark.net/cpu_list.php which has great data on the relative CPU performance.

Exhibit 1: My Q9550 Processor vs. i7-3770k vs. i7-3930k
 I am happy to see that in the past three years CPU performance within a sane budget is about 2.5 times higher and with a budget stretch you could get 3.2 times the performance.

Exhibit 2: My Macbook Pro 13″ P7550

On the laptop side it scales roughly the same. If I want to keep the 13″ Macbook I can get about a 2.5 times increase in performance and if I go up to the maxed out 15″ macbook pro I can get 4.95 times the performance of my current laptop.

The new high end 13″ Macbook competes with my current desktop on the CPU side (GPU is way less) and the 15″ Macbook nearly doubles it! I am also debating ditching my desktop and going with a laptop only.

Now I have to figure out if an upgrade is worth it and is so which one. Game creation tools are fun!

 

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Mini Review – Maya’s Camera Sequencer, The Gnomon Workshop


I just finished watching Maya’s Camera Sequencer video by John Clark.

Good:

  • Two hour overview of what the Camera sequencer is
  • Walks you through all of the different interfaces and buttons
  • Gives advice on how to optimise the output of the play blasts
  • Finishes with a story board to roughed in animatic that is fairly good.
  • The audio and descriptions are very clear

Bad:

  • Over priced at $59. If the product was priced at around $20-$30 I think I would be happy.
  • Microphone quality was a bit poor
  • Would have liked to have seen process of exporting and importing from video editing program
  • I also wonder why the gnomon workshop doesn’t have reviews and ratings on their site. Oh well… 🙂

If you know you need to use the sequencer I would put even odds on being able to figure it out on your own and this video saving you a bunch of time. For me being fairly new to Maya it was well worth the time investment and only slightly over priced. I’m interested in what Maya tutorials to hit next!

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Inventing on Principle

If you haven’t watched this talk by Bret Victor I highly recommend it:

This made me wonder what my principle is.

The short version: I Game Maker.

The longer version:
I believe that with the advancement in tools, technology and readily available education, one person can create all the aspects of a game. Having individual game makers will allow the creation of experiences that are purely one persons vision, from conceptualization to delivery. I think the world will be a better place when the outlet to create interactive worlds and ideas is more exciting to people than being a content consumer. People should know that they can make a game on their own.

Creating a game on your own doesn’t mean this is the most efficient way. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t feedback or editing or certain areas where a person needs help. I believe any creative endeavor is built on the shoulders of giants, much like Michael Abrash’s quote:

“None of us learn in a vacuum; we all stand on the shoulders of giants such as Wirth and Knuth and thousands of others. Lend your shoulders to building the future!” -Michael Abrash

My long term goals for this site is to share my journey and experiments on creating games in hopes of answering this question for myself. I want to see what types of games I can make on my own standing on the shoulder of current “game giant” software. Here are some of my favorites: Unity, Unreal, Blender, Inkscape, Paint.NET, Alchemy, Visual Studio, Clang, GIMP and numerous others I am probably forgetting.

I also want to take a moment to thank all my friends who have graciously offered to help me on my projects in the past. I hope that this clarification of the principles helps you understand why I have turned down help in the past. The end result of one game is not the point, the journey to make a game is what it is all about.

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Quick Octane render of Vader’s Tie Fighter with a model off of Blendswap

Sometimes it is fun to just grab someone else’s model and do a quick render. This model was done by Benjob and I rendered it in Octane. This one is using octane beta 2.52 and about 4000 samples using pmc.

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Finished Uncharted 3 SP and it is great; but not as good as Uncharted 2 IMHO

I just finished playing Uncharted 3’s single player and it is a fabulous game.

Big action moments, great story telling and plenty of action. It was a fantastic roller coaster ride and hugely inspiring. My hats off to the Naughty Dog guys! From a game breakdown standpoint I don’t really have much to add to the breakdown from Uncharted 2 that I did a couple years ago.

Uncharted 2 is one of my favorite games of all time and is still the best in the series to me. Two things made Uncharted 3 not quite  reach the Uncharted 2 level for me. First the story is more focused on your relationship with Sully than it is on the female character dynamic. To me the complexity and difficulty in doing a good romantic plot in the second game made me more impressed. Secondly I found the overall execution of the single player not as polished. There were great moments but there were a lot that were boring run at the camera missions that seemed to repetitive including some Max Payne like dream sequences that didn’t really pay off. With all that said, Uncharted 2 is one of my favorite games of all time so I still heartily recommend Uncharted 3 and I haven’t even dived into the MP/COOP yet.

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TED – Inspiration at its finest

Watching a video like this encourages me to make more how to video’s to get more people, young or old, into making video games. How many other industries offer inspiration from a 6th grader?

I have settled in my new job and I’ve been playing with Blender’s Ocean Simulation features and plan on getting back to making my own games and tutorials again soon. Here are some sample images and videos:

Here is an isometric tile test render using blender’s ocean sim.

 

 

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Review: Designing for Mobile First @LukeW

I picked up a video master class from O’Reilly called Designing for Mobile First by LukeW to help me understand mobile constraints. The course is focused on good mobile websites or applications in general but the rules can be applied to games. My favorite thing about it is his focus on minimized design, focusing on reducing to critical content only and putting that content ahead of navigation. If you want a preview of the content check it out here.

Short version

I’m going to say up front that I enjoyed this presentation and thought that it was worth the time and cash investment.

Who is it for?

Personally I think everyone should have an interest in design aspects. The course is great for anyone new to mobile web design as it is a good overview of the practical issues and solutions available as of early 2011. If you are looking for technical specifics, implementation details or a step by step how to make your application work you should look elsewhere as this course really focuses on presenting a very design focused, implementation light presentation. I was up for that and therefore found the course rewarding from an analytical and a design point of view as it provides lots of data to backup the points made. It reminded me a little of the great book Don’t Make Me Think in that everything he said sounded a lot like common sense (the truest form of “good design”) but did I know it was common sense before I heard it? That is the best type of design discussion, one where you nod your head in agreement the entire time.

Key things I learned

The following are thoughts I had while watching the course, most of which are related to the topics but some of which might not have been Luke’s points and if I am wrong, blame me not him!

  1. Mobile web is probably bigger than desktop in terms of customer base or will be soon
  2. Unique features are available and accessible for web
  3. Designing for mobile first is probably easier than the other way around as it forces you to design simple things
  4. Design around maximizing content and have navigation as the secondary thing
  5. Support full client experience including input on the device, old rules do not apply of it being limited/hard
  6. People use the website frequently even if there is a native app, so don’t mess that up!
  7. Small options or difficulties can have a huge impact on usage
  8. Mobile browsers are arguably more compatible with each other than PC’s history. HTML5 and CSS3 are fairly safe to assume.

What was missing?

I wish that there were more references or links to implementation details for the content. I’m fairly new to web development in general and some fast pointers or tips for people who don’t have “web legacy” would be great.

What does this change for IGAMEMAKER.COM?

I’m wondering if I should focus on some HTML5 based games in order to maximize exposure of my games. No app store, no platform limits and due to time constraints the games that I can make are fairly limited in feature set anyway. With both Unity and Unreal outputting to flash, how long is it before people are authoring to WebGL and canvas for games? Perhaps that is the best place to start. Build an audience and then make unique clients if the games are popular. I might look at doing an online version of my Tic Tac Toe game and perhaps a mobile version of my site.

I am thinking of a turn based Tic Tac Toe game as a “Hello World” application and how I could do it with a minimal amount of work. For example getting rid of AI completely and only letting you play friends and keeping it super clean.

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Dipping my tools in the Android development pool

I just picked up two books on Android development from O’Reilly and have just started reading them.

  1. Head First Android Development by Jonathan Simon, and “Early Release” title meaning it isn’t out yet.
  2. Learning Android by Marko Gargento

First off I love that O’Reilly ebooks are DRM free, relatively inexpensive and high quality. I decided to start with the Head First book initially and so far it is a really quick read (just under an hour and I’m at about page 150). I think that Learning Android has a bit more meat to it and I look forward to contrasting the two books at some point in the future. For a really quick read and an overview of how to do applications the Head First book is where I would recommend starting, but as an experienced developer I think I will prefer Learning Android. The reason I picked the Head First book is that it is a good, fast read and works well as a visual learning tools since I am often in distracting situations and can’t focus on meaty technical content. The head first series is much more consumable in those situations.

Tonight I’m installing Eclipse, the ADT tools and the Android SDK. Tomorrow I hope to write my first native Android apps for my Sony Arc phone. Perhaps my Tic-Tac-Toe application to start and then something meatier.

The thing I’m still lacking is the time to dedicate to these projects but hopefully having this all on my laptop will let me develop this on my commute to work.

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Terragen: Two Planet Sketch

Haven’t had much time to do projects lately but wanted to knock out a quick image tonight. I’m not that happy with the result. I have to get a better grand space opera feel to it and find some great reference art for the next one. I also might check out World Machine as I have heard good things about it.

I whipped up this ugly orange planet in about 5 minutes or roughly 1/10th of the time the above image took me. I actually like it better even though it is rocking a 1980’s fractal space terrain look. Looks like I’ll have to dedicate some more time to get a good image and really learn the program.

 

 

 

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Random Space Stuff – Terragen, Paint.NET and Octane

Thought I would knock out another couple of images tonight. I have a long way to go but the iterations are fun.

First up a space scene done in Terragen 2 with two planets. I took the resulting image into Paint.NET, masked out the planet, added some noise for stars and then a cloud layer to get some blue colour variety in the stars.

Art piece #2 was a 10 minute modeling challenge in Silo where I was going to try and get a ship to render into the previous space scene. Then it looked cooler as a wood model in Octane!

Doing speed art modeling is sometimes much more rewarding than writing code! However I get trapped in the rendering loop more than the asset creation. All told I probably spent an hour and a half on these tonight and about 75% of that was just tweaking renders and having fun.

If anyone has any artistic critique’s on these please send it my way as I have next to no experience making art.

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