Once there was a little Nick called Daddy

We often make up stories when putting Amelia to bed. Recently, she’s also been making up stories which she tells us as she falls asleep.

The other night, she told this one to Heidi:

Once there was a little Nick called Daddy. “Sigh, I’m bored.” said Daddy. “I know, how about the shops?” said Amelia.” “No.” said Daddy. “How about the beach?” “Hmmm, that’s a bright idea!” The end.

She has  made up many stories since, but that one remains my favourite.

Oculus, Facebook and the Oasis

Like many people, I am disappointed with the Facebook acquisition of Oculus. I think I would have deleted my account a while back if it weren’t such a useful means of organising events and sport fixtures. I felt a strong connection to Oculus, a feeling that stemmed from backing the Kickstarter drive. I felt like I was helping the fledgling company get off the ground. In hindsight this was pretty (very) naive.

Notch’s blog resonates strongly.

And I did not chip in ten grand to seed a first investment round to build value for a Facebook acquisition. – Notch

As an aside, the Oculus founders sold some of their stake to VCs in late 2013 for $75 million. I should have been equally disappointed at that deal, had I known about it. It would be one thing if the Oculus founders had benefited massively from the sale to Facebook, but it was probably just the VCs that made out like bandits.

This recent video sheds some light on the motivations for the acquisition. Facebook can certainly bring their expertise to bear on the “one million user MMO” problem.

The idea of creating a global virtual environment enabled by the social graph of Facebook is compelling. The novel “Ready Player One” and its concept of the “Oasis” is often spoken of as the goal for pervasive VR. Facebook would surely have some role in enabling such a creation.

It leaves me wondering how best I could get ready for a future “Oasis”-like product. What skills would be necessary? I guess that a product from Facebook would not use either of the two most common current VR-enabled engines, Unity or UE4. I think it would be more likely to use a new engine developed in-house by Carmack and Abrash. The focus of the new engine would have to be very high framerates, very low latency and zero tolerance for visual artifacts.

It is interesting to note how closely some of the ideas of the Oasis resemble the original plans for Quake. Quake was sketched out as a kind of multiplayer RPG, with persistent worlds hosted on permanent servers and a system of interconnects that would allow players to teleport from server to server dynamically. Once id realised the scale of the task, they pared back the multiplayer side of things and created the king of FPSs.

I think there is a big future in the virtual environment content creation industry. Everyone is going to want their own unique home in the Oasis. How do we create this content? I guess just hit Blender, Max or Maya as usual and wait for a tool chain.

During (and after) my time at UWA there was an effort to replicate the UWA campus in Second Life. At the time I thought this wasn’t very interesting. Perhaps they were just far ahead of the game.

Random Acts of Culture

3 Months

It’s been 3 months since my last post – which was part of my (now defunct) daily creative journal. Shortly after that post, I fell horribly ill and then (after I was all better) I decided not to continue with the creative journal. Plainly, it was more of a chore and distraction (rather than fuel for my creativity). It turns out that I do a lot of creative things everyday anyway, and they require a lot of my time and attention.

(I think Ben was a little disappointed that I stopped, but I feel that it’s better to try something and then decide to stop rather than: never trying it, stubbornly continuing with it despite your dissatisfaction, or simply continuing without considering if you want to.)

Much like the last couple of years, the last few months have been full of challenges, opportunities, and work, work, work. Parenthood and Hungry Sky have been keeping me busy and very occupied (in my thoughts and feelings). I think constantly about parenting and business, and often discuss these topics at length with Heidi and Minh respectively.

Family

In the backyard.

In the backyard.

Amelia has grown from a baby into a toddler. She seems incredibly clever to me. (Although I’m not sure that her any of her actions are out of the ordinary for children her age.) At 16 months, she feeds herself, runs around, plays with toys (her favourite is the shape sorter), turns pages on books and happily yells out some of the words (Me: “Is Spot under the bed?”, Amelia: [lifts flap in book] “No!”).

It was particularly interesting seeing how her play with the shape sorter progressed. She quickly realised that the round shapes didn’t require any particular orientation in order to fit through the round holes. So she would tip the shapes out, immediately grab the two cylinders, pop them into the round holes, and then give herself a clap. A few weeks later, she had sorting all the shapes down to a fine art. She would grab the shapes in matching pairs with two hands so that she could put them in promptly one after the other. As Heidi would say: “Clever bunny.”

Light night walk. My two favourite people. Out on the town. So many spoons! Excited for family breakfast. Relaxing with a bottle of formula.

Business

The other day, Minh was surprised to see that we had sent our 50th invoice. I think it was for an app, or possibly to the Art Gallery. Either way, I suppose that it was a milestone of sorts… for it to be business as usual… if that makes sense. Writing quotes, undertaking work, sending invoices – it’s our day-to-day work, and (like Amelia with her shape sorting) we’re getting it down to a fine art (or at least a standard routine).

Maybe that’s why we had to make some changes. I always imagined that we could use contracting as a starting point (to bootstrap the business), rather than an end goal. Minh and I made some changes to our business partnership, which has resulted in 1/3 of our time (and 50% of my time) being allocated to developing products (rather than undertaking contracts). That’s the idea anyway. In reality, I’ve been working maybe 75% (and soon around 100%) on contracts by bringing forward contract days. The corollary is that I’ll likely be working on products for all of July. Woohoo!

In regards to speculative projects, we’ve been working on an indie printing business (for card games) and I’ve also working with a few others to put together a shared working space for Perth game developers (the Department for Being Awesome). There are a few other projects we have cooking, but I can’t say much about them yet unfortunately.

2013-05-13 17.31.01

Cards we produced for Andrew Hawkins as part of a speculative printing business.

Other

It’s strange how when things change, it quickly becomes difficult to remember what they were like before. I remember not being a parent, but I can’t really summon how it felt to have even a day without interacting with Amelia. Likewise, there are many other aspects of my life that I’ve left behind and can barely remember. There are very few that I miss though.

I used to get terrible headaches well into my late twenties. These were often preceded by a sense of detachment (including loss of proprioception) and periods of intense deja vu (fairly disconcerting) but also absolute clarity (quite useful at times). Heidi called these experiences “Aura“, which seemed to fit the bill. I imagine she has some idea what she’s talking about, being a doctor and all. They used to upset me, but now I miss them. Odd how things work out. I’d even take the headaches to get them back.

Beautiful Video

HDR Trial

I’ve been experimenting with High Dynamic Range images using photos taken on my recent trip. These images are the result of post-processing three photos that were taken using Automatic Exposure Bracketing (+/-2eV) on my Canon 400D. The first image is the result of the default presets in Luminance HDR, the second uses the defaults in Photomatix Pro. That the results are so different is evidence that I need to do some more research.

bridge_hdr_0

bridge_hdr_1

Born to Synthesize

Global Game Jam 2013

Last weekend I took part in the Global Game Jam 2013, a 48-hour game development event. The Perth jam was organised by Lets Make Games and held at ECU Mt. Lawley. This year’s theme was an MP3 file of a series of heartbeats.

I teamed up with Minh and Nick to build a game called “O Deer”. The player takes the role of a deer in a forest. The title screen is disturbed by a gun shot and the deer begins to run. The player then controls the deer by either running further or coming to a stop. While the seer is running, its heart rate increases and it is in danger of exhaustion, while the deer is stationary it can observe more of the surroundings but is in danger of being shot by hunters.

Here are a few thoughts:

Good bits:
- I love working on stuff with Nick and Minh, they are fun to be around.
- We decided to develop the game in HTML5/Javascript and use the Three.js 3D library.
- We used git on bitbucket for version control, which went very well.
- We were less hard-core about finishing the game on Sunday, which made for a less stressful day.
- Presentations were great as always.

Less good bits:
- I barely got a chance to go around and meet people or check out the progress on games.
- We started a Trello board, but didn’t use it much.
- Nick was unwell with a cough and wasn’t at full strength for much of the jam. Minh was the organiser of the Perth jam and was very busy leading up to and during the event. I had some family commitments on Sunday too, so we were pretty short of time.
- We fell short with some of the features. The main mechanics of the game were not complete.
- Late Sunday when we should have been getting the game ready to submit, we were all busy, so we didn’t get a game submitted.
- Three.js is easy to use and it impressed me enough to want to use it again in the future. We had two problems however: Our initial attempts to use the scene exporter from blender resulted in file format version mismatches, which were frustrating. I’m not sure how we solved this in the end. Secondly, when it came time to export the animation from blender into the three.js format, it produced very large files that wouldn’t load in three.js.
- It has been a while since I have done 3D programming, I’m getting rusty with those concepts, which is very sad.

It was a great event though, I’m always happy to help out with the game jam in a few small ways. I can’t wait for next year.

Day 24: Green

It’s not easy being green. Work only with green-colored materials today. Try working on a green surface for a real challenge.

I had a bit more time today, and tried to stick closer to my primary theme: papercraft, with an eye to creating assets for a papercraft game.

Green. Green. Green. The first thing that entered my mind was grass, which led me to the idea of game tiles. I’m not sure if a papercraft hex grid would ever be practical, but I wanted to give it a go.

When considering options, I recalled that I really don’t like the feeling of paper tokens – they feel very flat and have clear cardboard edges. I didn’t want the tiles to feel like that, so I designed them with a bit of volume and in a way that lends itself to soft textured edges when folded and glued.

Anyhow, here is the final result:

DSCF1185And a printable design so that you can make your own if you so desire:

grass_tiles

 

As always, here are some process shots. They show how the tiles are constructed to have soft edges (no hard folds, just bending and gluing):

grass_tiles DSCF1175 DSCF1176 DSCF1177 DSCF1180 DSCF1183 DSCF1185

Final note: My cutting mat is green, so I suppose I get free brownie (greenie?) points today for sticking to the daily theme.

Day 22: Waste not

Waste not. Dig in a recycling bin for all of today’s material.

We were at a function tonight, so this turned out to be a very quick late night craft journal entry after we got back (and just before more work and then bed).

I found some interesting boxes in our recycling bin. Bruce seemed to like this box in particular:

DSCF1169It featured a cute dinosaur on the back:

DSCF1171I figured that just cutting out the dinosaur wouldn’t really qualify as papercraft, so I just cut out the head and then used a cough syrup box to form a body:

DSCF1173The full-colour head looks a little weird on the matte white body though. Maybe I should have just created an entirely new figure in white (inside out cough syrup box) cardboard…

DSCF1174