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19Jul/081

Dr. Horrible is super awesome great

But don't believe me, see it for yourself. While I'd love to believe that things like this can be successful at a larger scope, the mixture available is somewhat hard to top. This show has Joss Whedon writing, which from what I've seen thus far, is nearing incomparability, Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion singing (!?), and an absolutely ridiculous premise.

I'm pretty sure this show will be successful. And by that I mean everyone should go and buy it now (and by everyone I mean the 2-ish people who have ever read it). I'm not, however, convinced it will lead to a shift in the way the world looks at the internet and distribution on it (perhaps not coindentally related to the one of the show's themes). Who knows though. I'd love to be proven wrong.

Filed under: Cool Stuff 1 Comment
2Jun/082

Horrible acronym for very refreshing RPG

I refer, of course, to TWEWY. It's very good. It's got a very very twitchy feel. They've done an amazing job with very flexible, orthogonal game design. All the elements are almost entirely separable so you never have to think about a giant mash of stuff.

  • Gaining levels only seems to modify your HP. You can lower your level to increase item drop multiplier.
  • Difficulty rating can be changed at any time between levels and changes they type of items dropped (the harder the rarer).
  • You eat food to incrementally, permanently increase various attributes (attack, defense, bravery and sync ratio).
  • Clothes increase specific attributes and have special abilities which slightly modify other systems depending on who wears them.
  • You select between 3 and 6 six pins to use for attacking, defense and healing. These are all orthogonal gestures on the DS.
  • Both clothes and pins scale up or down depending on how popular various brands are in the area of the city you are in.
  • Buying clothes/food allows you to make friends with store clerks.
  • Experience both levels you up (HP) and levels up your pins, which can evolve.

The list goes on and I'm not even done discovering things yet. The fact that this stuff is almost entirely orthogonal means you can basically worry about as much or little as you like. Also, controlling two characters at once, keeps the pacing of the battles super tight. Gameplay-wise this game has got to be one of best designed role playing games in a very very long time. Oh would that such design systems were easy to encorporate into more games. The potential depth here is somewhat mind blowing.

You might not like the plot, but if you can keep up with the pace of combat, this game is truly awesome.

Filed under: Video Games 2 Comments
3Apr/080

Complete Trees

Complete trees are cool. Best part is the closed form for parent/child indices. I had to rederive these equations for a complete quad tree today. It didn't take as long as I was expecting. Here they are if you care...

parent(i) = (i - 1) / 4

child_j of i = (i * 4) + j + 1

It turns out a level of a specific depth has a closed form too. The numbers are 0b, 1b, 101b, 10101b and so on.

level 0 start = 0

level n > 0 start = ((1 << ((n - 1) * 2 + 1)) - 1) & 0x5555555 Essentially this gives you multiples of 4. 1,2,3,4 map to 2^1, 2^3, 2^5, 2^7. Subtracting 1 gives you 1b, 111b, 11111b, 1111111b. Then anding with 0x55555555 should give you the 101010101 pattern. The main gotcha here is that access to a single group of siblings is swizzled from normal xy access. Once that's done though, you're golden.

Filed under: Programming No Comments
3Apr/080

Isn’t it Funny

... when you post about not posting in a while, and then you do it again. Man oh man. So since then...

Rachet was good, but the same as all their other games. I think I'd skip another game. The sixaxis portions were ok. There were a few really good ones and some mediocre. Better than the few others I've played.
Uncharted, awesome. Gameplay is similar mix to other games. Cinematically, super awesome. Very pretty in all but a select few grating cases. They were very smart about the limitations of their game. A such, they pulled off some pretty cool stuff within that scope. Some of the gameplay felt a bit rehashed toward the end, but most everything was so well executed I could hardly care at that point.

I picked up Smash Brother's Brawl. Mistake. Multiplayer is almost carbon copy Gamecube version. Single player relies too much on the INCREDIBLY UNRELIABLE jumping mechanic. The cinematics and concept is fun and the single player fighting portion isn't half bad (and very long). But still, there are enough precision jumping sections to really piss me off.

Devil may cry 4. Very good so far, but they should have done more to integrate all the moves into the combo system. Combos are totally the coolest part of that game and when many of the special moves you can buy actually make it harder to kill things quickly. Yeah, still way better balanced than version 3. Also, the menu system doesn't suck balls! Hooray.

Filed under: Video Games No Comments
27Jan/080

Sweet energy saving

First non-gaming post in a while. So I took the test at Earthlab the other day. I ended up with 256, which is better than the average for my city, state and country at least. It's also kind of cool that it's 2^8. Unfortunately that also means that if I'm going to keep that trend the next step is 128, which seems like it would be pretty difficult. I'll probably have to move into a cave with a bike and somehow stop consuming food. We'll see what I can do about some of those problems.

I recently read an article on commercially viable bacteria based ethanol creation. It's pretty cool as it solve the standard corn problems of low net energy yield and competition for food market. I read about something like this years ago that worked on waste water or something. In any case, it's really good to see that these things are actually starting to be applied. Now if only someone would create a TV or body armor based on carbon nanotubes I would be happy. That stuff had sooo much hype and has been incredibly sluggish to any sort of market product.

Filed under: Personal No Comments
25Jan/080

Do I feel lucky, well?

So Mario Galaxy is played. It was fun, but I think a bit to gimmicky. Control wise it felt pretty good, but due to the many different angles there was very little focus on jumping. The entire game had much less a feel of exploration and more a feel of tons of linear missions. Now linear missions are fine, but they're normally supplemented by story or something else to keep people hooked. Or even increasing difficulty. There certainly was some variety, but each mission was so short it felt pretty hard to get immersed. I don't know, I think I'm also a bit disappointed that it really didn't feel much like a platformer, and THAT was what previous Mario games I played really excelled at. The gravity stuff was kind of interesting, but the execution style limited usability in pretty fundamental ways. It ended up feeling like 2 or 3 games smashed into one.

It was kind of pretty, but I don't think I will ever like the 100% spherical harmonics lighting (e.g. Mario was glowing half the time). The over use of menus drove me nuts. For instance, has anyone heard of autosave, there's very little downside to it in this sort of game. And dear god come up with a better use for the controller. I still think the only Wii controls I've really enjoyed thus far have been Metroid Prime 3, and that's because shooters are made for the pointing nature of the IR camera. I have yet to see the motion sensor be used as anything but a button. A slightly more engaging and less accurate button. Also, the next time I play a racer which is has super loose controls and starts you over for a single mistake, I think I'll explode.

I don't regret buying it, but it's definitely not at the top of my list.

Filed under: Uncategorized No Comments
15Dec/070

This message will self-destruct

I just finished Assassin's Creed. It was ok. I would say good, except the bad list is just too long.

First the good. Traversal was generally good. There were lots of times where I yelled at it for being stupid (e.g. not grabbing something an inch from his face and falling to his doom), but it was the best part of the game. The in game cutscene mechanic was ok. More gimmicky than HL2 with the arbitrary box restriction, but still overall good. The story was fun, if too predictable for the mood they were trying to set. The environment look great overall, especially with the density in the cities. Altair looked great. The setting was also somewhat cool. I could tell they previously did Price of Persia, but it felt pretty fresh overall.

Second the mediocre. The combat became pretty bland after a while. There was some variety in action and good cohesion with button assignment, but it all devolved to simple timing puzzles with little strategy. Shadows while very nice up close, had a painfully jarring detail drop at a constant distance to the camera. Secondary characters looked were passable. The camera cutting didn't piss me off as much as in Ninja Gaiden, but it was still somewhat aggravating. Irritant ambient characters are kinda stupid (especially when you'd love to give the pestering chick money, but the game doesn't let you). I understand that it gives some variety to the peasantry, but wow were they annoying. Semi-high latency controls are less than ideal. It wasn't the end of the world, but I still found it irking more often than not.

Now the ugly. Recording 4 lines for each of the mini-tasks you can do around 40 times is a VERY BAD idea. The AI is DUMB. It's painfully easy to game their perception system. Anyone who said this game was supposed to have smart AI was lying through their teeth or never played the game. The only exception is the chase sequences, but probably only because it involves running across the city. Most character models looked kinda crappy with a couple exceptions. Many mission types were very repetitive. Save the citizen always had the same formula (irrespective of dearth of dialog). Kill one guy, then fend off a few others. Everyone runs and screams even though you just helped this chick/old dude. Go and stealth kill n guys in m minutes, etc. I think all of these things would have been better if they made the core combat more fun and the AI less uniform and stupid.

So yeah, in the end, an ok game. I obviously liked it enough or I wouldn't have played all the way through it. I probably would have enjoyed it vastly more if I hadn't done everything like a completionist. That's really funny since many people online saying taking your time and doing more stuff makes the game more fun. Certainly I don't think it should be rushed, but I don't think anyone should bother playing ALL the pieces either. Now, I'll probably go back and collect all the flags because that implies more environment traversing and less of the irritating stuff.

Filed under: Video Games No Comments
13Nov/070

DahnanaNaaaa!

So I finished one of the many games I have in flight right now. Zelda Phantom Hourglass. In the end I'd say it was ok. Liked the tools and the boss fights (some a lot). Disliked the sailing, everyday combat and utter lack of challenge. I also was hoping for a little bit better story-wise. That still leaves Windwaker as my favorite Zelda game.

I think I got through it just in time too. If amazon is right, my Orange Box is sitting at home right now. I finally get to try out Portal, the game my friends from DigiPen rode to the top :). Also, other friends from work/college are bugging me about Team Fortress 2, which also looks pretty cool.

Filed under: Video Games No Comments
12Nov/070

Pressure… building…

I'm starting to feel it. I have a bunch of new games I still have yet to finish (Phantom Hourglass, Gears of War, etc) and a bunch of interesting ones are coming out. Where has all the time gone!? Hooray for short post.

Filed under: Video Games No Comments
5Nov/070

And the engine goes…

A few recent things have been getting me interested in working on a new project. I might take C# for a spin, since its a larger project. Some potentially interesting ideas to investigate:

Art pipeline. I've never written one from scratch before. Probably start with hard coded data and move to collada subset. Would like to make the pipeline serializable between any major operation (parallelization and quicker turn around).

OpenGL 3.0. Whenever it finally comes out. Maybe an argument to keep to C++?

Thread separable operation. Especially for graphics engine. Seems like you could have some handy simplifications if you assume that most of your objects won't move every frame.

Components and/or data driven. I've used generally data driven paths with good success in the past, but haven't toyed too much with more heavy component architectures. Explicit or implicit communication?

TDD. I still haven't used it for a large project. I did get a simplified NUnit working with C#, but in a command line mode more similar to UnitTest++ (WAY faster turn around).

In-place Loading. Only really interesting in C++. The simple setup I started working with was kind of a pain. The holy grail here would be to get garbage collection working so you could mark all objects to output and then do so as a sweep process (serialize binary + links). There are other interesting questions to deal with (versioning, virtual classes, etc.).

Class Introspection. Useful for In-place loading and any other form of code generation. Was playing with ctags for a bit, but had some issues with scoping. Perhaps push that through and see what fun can get working.

Btw, I hate wordpress' list editing. It sucks (hence above bold + paragraphs). Maybe I just need to upgrade.

Filed under: Programming No Comments