Saturday, June 14, 2014

Daily Sketches

This is a design for a coffee table that I've been thinking about for a while. It's a table for puzzle builders and tabletop gamers, with has a glass top for displaying a workspace tray just under the surface and a lower compartment housing parts trays and a small storage space.

The following are notes from a class I attended earlier this week on drawing insects.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Wow... is long time, no post.

Think I may retire this blog and start a new. Feels about time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Dabbling in Unity

Wow! I can't believe I haven't made any blog posts here about Unity! Goes to show I really haven't done any blogging in a while. Well, that's all about to change.

I've been working on a little personal project on the side to help me learn Unity and tackle a number of problems I've run into along the way at work. Of which include:
  • multi-platform support
  • social platform integration
  • unified cross-platform data support
  • stats, leaderboards, achievements, & cloud saves
  • asynchronous vs. realtime networked multi-player modes
  • co-op, multi-player, & matchmaking support
And of course the simple matter of just building a game in the Unity environment (I jest).

Since the focus of this project is more so on the technical aspects of building a game rather than designing one, I decided to base it on a simple pre-existing concept: the Rubik's Cube®. I have no intent to infringe upon trademark or intelectual property copyright, only to learn. For propriety sake though, I will be referring to this project by its working title, Rubix.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

It's been a while...

Quite a bit has happened since my last post. Let's see if I can make up for lost time here. Right around the time of my last post, the shop started working on a standalone port of Auditorium. Once a build was ready, I dug in a got it ready to publish on Steam. (Wow, now that I think about it, Steam has undergone some pretty hefty changes since then. I'll have to save that story for another post.) Our push to finally get Auditorium on Steam was in part an effort to garner publicity for the Kickstarter we planned to launch in order to help fund the sequel, Auditorium 2 : Duet. At the end of February, we launched both simultaneously.

Out of the starting gate, the Duet Kickstarter was doing great and Auditorium was selling. Joystiq had the exclusive and featured Duet twice a day for four days straight. In the first two days alone, Duet collected nearly twenty-five percent of its $60,000 goal! But by the end of the first week, the rate had dropped to just one percent a day and maintained that rate for weeks. March ended up being a very, very long month for us.

The outcome for our Kickstarter looked bleak. With only a week to go, Duet was projected to reach only seventy to eighty percent of its funding goal before the deadline. In terms of Kickstarter, if a project doesn't reach or exceed its funding goal, no funds are collected or awarded. We had been using social media—Twitter, Facebook, mailing lists, forums, and email—but hadn't been able to gain the traction we needed to stay on target. In that last week, we hit social media again but with vigor. The numbers began to climb. With the help of our fans continually spreading the word, and a few influential articles like those by Giant Bomb and Rock, Paper, Shotgun, our Kickstarter project saw a huge spike in backer support and reached its funding goal with just three days to go! The project closed out on March 30th with $71,061 in backer supported funding. Duet was a success, but I think we got lucky.

It's a good thing we met our Kickstarter goal. The month of march could have been a total loss. All development slowed to a standstill as we diverted all efforts to publicizing Auditorium 2 : Duet. With Duet funded, we moved on to continue work on Splice, the other half of our funding effort for Duet.

Most of my efforts over the next month and a half were focused on integrating Steamworks features into Splice. Up until this point, my experience with Steamworks was limited to the deployment of Steam games. With Splice, I learned how to implement Steam Achievements and Steam Cloud support. I also developed a platform management system in the process that allowed us to specify which features we wanted to support based on build type and distribution platform. At some point I want to switch over to Unity's built-in Social API instead. Wasn't able to get it working this time around.

In June I had the opportunity to do something I'd dreamt of for years—I got to go to E3!

The Splice demo and preorders went live on Steam, Wednesday, June 6, after we received the Intel Level Up award for Best Puzzle Game on stage at Video Games Live during E3. Those that preordered  Splice also received a copy of the Splice OST album Flight of Angles. The following week, on Wednesday, June 13, Splice made its release on Steam with Splice Soundtrack DLC and Splice Soundtrack Edition options.

We had planned to release a content update to Splice that included three additional Epilogue sequences and a level editor with Steam Workshop support, but that project's been shelved for the moment. Work on the iPad port of Splice just wrapped up and was submitted to the App Store for review on Thursday. Should also be seeing a Mac App Store submission before too long. Both the iPad and Mac App Store versions of Splice will be supporting Game Center.

To say the least, I've been keeping busy. My roll in the company has changed a bit since Splice wrapped up and we hired on a new developer to help lead upcoming projects, such as Duet. I've been tasked with the studio's day-to-day marketing and PR outreach. Although I haven't a passion for it, it is an important aspect of the business and something I need to learn and be proficient at anyway.

I'm still doing development work on the side, when I can find time for it anyway. Recently my drive to develop has been so strong that I'm making every effort to find that time. Where Facebook, Twitter, email, and internet used to so easily distract, and where Netflix and video games used to provide a sense of escape, the urge to continue work pecks at my mind until I until all I can do is think about it. Before long, I succumb and give myself entirely to the project. Emails go unanswered, tweets unread, and Facebook ignored. Unity and MonoDevelop now populate my computer screens.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Official Fractal Game Guide

Finished work on the Fractal Game Guide yesterday. It's now available for viewing at CipherPrime.com. Also finished work on the Penn Back Then template earlier this week for the School of Arts & Sciences. Now, need to continue work on the 60-Second Lecture template for submission next week. Also lining up projects at Cipher Prime. It's going to be a busy next couple of months.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Stressed

I haven't slept in a few days. Haven't really been able to. I'm at the point where my perception of the world around me is completely surreal. While both physically and mentally exhausted, I still can't quiet my mind enough to rest. Oddly enough I am able to focus on work. Can't remember the last time I was this productive, or creative for that matter. Sleep weighs heavily on my brow, though. It's only a matter of time before my mind caves.

Monday, December 5, 2011

This morning's stroll through the CG Society

These inspiring works just gave me the kick in the pants I needed to start my day. Especially this first one, a work of fan art based on one of my favorite PSP games, Jeanne D'arc.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Fractal Releases on Steam!



After long last, Cipher Prime Studios achieves the coveted milestone of publishing its first title on the Steam platform. Tuesday saw the release of Fractal: Make Blooms Not War in the Steam Store. Before the day's end, it had risen to the #1 position on the Top Sellers chart for Casual games; and held the #7 position for Top Sellers in the Indie genre. If you haven't had the chance to play it yet, show some love and check it out. Fair warning though, the addictive nature of this game may induce visions of fractals blossoming in your dreams.

Fractal: Make Blooms Not War is available for both PC and Mac, on sale now for $6.99 through the Steam Store, the Mac App Store, and the Cipher Prime Store; and is also available on the iPad through the iTunes App Store.

Here's a look at what some people are saying:
“Great game in the genre of Chime or Lumines. Move existing blocks or slide new ones onto the board to form hex clusters which then clear off the board. Gameplay ramps up in head scratching ways as new colors and powerups are added into the mix. If you are one to get sucked into puzzle games for hours at a time, stay away from this game (or buy it right now).”
—Devin M.
“Are you looking for a fun, original, addictive puzzle game? If so, then look no further than Fractal. It's a game that is simple to learn and very satisfying once you understand the strategy involved. The game comes fully loaded with a variety of fun modes. Why are you still reading this? Go buy it now and you won't be disappointed!”
—Eric B.
“What makes Fractal such a fantastic game is its fresh feel and ability to cater to any puzzle fan. From fans who like frantic and spontaneous gameplay to those who like to take it slow and precise to even something right down the middle. Fractal’s 3 modes offer such a vast array of gameplay that it will feel like 3 entirely separate games.
“Arcade mode offers high speed gameplay that will bewilder even the fastest Tetris player. This mode has you racing against the clock as you try and make as many blooms to add time and up your score.
“Puzzle mode offers a pace more fitting to any fan of bejeweled as it has you clearing out all the hexagons or making certain chain reactions using a limited amount of moves to complete each stage. The difficulty ramps up quick, giving players a nice challenge and it keeps itself fresh by adding new colored hexagons and insane chains that feel so satisfying when completed.
“Campaign is a nice mix of the two as you attempt to match a score to complete the level. Campaign is also the mode I recommend first for all players as it introduces you to the mechanics of the game while never feeling like a boring tutorial.
“Each mode is a different beast entirely which keeps this game feeling fresh. Definitely a purchase that you’ll thank yourself for making.”
—Steve C.
Find out more at www.PlayFractal.com

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fractal Re-releases on PC & Mac



Thursday saw the release of Fractal on the Mac App Store, as well as the re-release of Fractal for both PC & Mac through the Cipher Prime Store. Anyone who previously purchased the Flash version of this game through the Cipher Prime Store will have the option to download the latest Unity3D rendition of the game for free. Fractal is currently on sale in both stores for $6.99.

For those of you who have joined the ranks of Steam—a community of more than 35 million active users and the largest digital distribution platform to date for games and related media—Cipher Prime will be releasing Fractal on the Steam Store for both PC & Mac in the near future. So keep your eyes peeled folks, Cipher Prime is on a roll and they're not about to slow anytime soon!


Full Disclosure
I currently hold an internship at Cipher Prime Studios, Inc.; maintain Core membership with the International Game Developer Association (IGDA); and am an active member of the IGDA Philadelphia Chapter, the IGDA Philly Art SIG, and the Philly Unity User Group.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Valve Store

Just discovered the Valve store only moments ago. Pure sweetness. As I sat drooling over the newly found stash, two items caught my eye that immediately made their way to my wish list. The first is a 70s style movie poster for the game Portal 2.
The second is the same t-shirt that I had picked up at E3 in 2004 with a buddy of mine. I wore the shit out of that shirt! A favorite of mine, one I look forward to wearing yet again.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Get 'em while they're hot!

Cipher Prime Studios has three titles out across multiple platforms. These are the distros I personally recommend:

Top 5 Titles

These top five are games I'm dying to get my hands on:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Industry Artifacts

These are equivalent to the Holy Grail for some of us in the industry. They are to me, which is why I'm re-posting them here. I'd hate to see them ever be lost.

The whole point of a bug report is to identify issues so that they may be fixed before a title is released into the wild. If all goes well, the issue is never seen or heard of again. So it's no wonder that bug reports are such a rare find. They may not be as glamorous as concept art, but they do serve an equally important role in making a great video game, and can be just as well appreciated.

These two bug report sheets are from 1991 and document bugs found during the making of the DOS game Monkey Island II. They were originally posted by Ron Gilbert in his blog at GrumpyGamer.com.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Study in Sculpture

So this is my first serious attempt at studying sculpture. I'm starting with a bust of my fianceé.
Medium used is Van Aken Plastalina Modeling Clay. Using multi-ply corrugated cardboard as a base with a 3-inch steel bracket as the core armature. Unfortunately the armature only supports up to the neck. Considering extending the armature with wire to give the head more support.

Steps for Troubleshooting a Home Network

My sister had a few questions about how one might troubleshoot a residential router. Figure I'd post here for anyone else who might find the steps helpful as well.
First off, be sure the trouble isn't with your browser. Make sure network connection settings (web proxy, VPN) in browser preferences are correct. Reset to default settings if necessary. For the purposes of troubleshooting, the best approach for testing connectivity would be to use the "ping" command from the command prompt.
  1. Check the IP address of the computer used to connect to the router
    • If address begins with 192.168.*.*, proceed to step 2
    • If address begins with 169.254.*.*, proceed to step 5
  2. Power cycle the router and the modem.
    • Steps to power cycle: pull power supply plug from outlet, wait 1min, return plug to outlet.
    • Check status lights for both the router and the modem.
      • Power cycling the router clears memory and hard boots the system with a fresh session. Most routers also have the option to reboot the system using the system's administrative software—accessed from a browser with the router's IP address (http://192.168.0.1). If status lights do not eventually show the modem to be connected to the internet, check the cable modem.
      • Power cycling the modem forces it to reestablish a connection with the ISP. If status lights do not eventually show the modem to be connected to the internet and active, contact your ISP for support.
  3. Check the router setup.
    • Open a browser window and connect to the router at http://192.168.0.1, sign in using the administrative user name (admin) and password.
      • If the password is forgotten, press and hold down the reset button found on the router for 5 to 10 seconds to reset to factory default settings.
      • Log in to the system using the factory default password (admin, password, motorola, etc.) found in the user guide for the device.
      • Reset passwords (admin and wireless access), reconfigure wireless security and any firewall settings that may have been set.
    • Check the IP address and gateway information for the router. Make sure the router has obtained an IP address from the modem, and has populated DNS server addresses from the modem. If not, release and renew the IP address. Takes a few seconds. May need to refresh the window to view the new address.
    • If still no IP address, check modem status lights. May need to power cycle again.
  4. If using wireless, remove the preferred network from Wireless Network Connection Properties and reconnect.
    • Go to Start > Control Panel > Network Connections.
    • Right click Wireless Network Connection, select Properties, select the Wireless Networks tab.
    • Remove all networks under Preferred Networks: select a network, then select Remove.
    • After all saved networks have been removed, select OK to close the window.
    • From the Network Connections window: right click Wireless Network Connection, select View Available Wireless Networks.
    • Select the wireless network setup with the router, and select Connect. Enter the password when prompted.
  5. Restart the computer to begin fresh. After loading the OS, recheck the IP address of the computer. If address begins with 169.254.*.*:
    • Release the IP address, flush the DNS, renew the IP address.
      • Go to Start > Run. Type "cmd" and select OK.
      • From the command prompt, type "ipconfig /release *" and press the Enter key.
      • Type, "ipconfig /flushdns" and press Enter.
      • Type, "ipconfig /renew" and press Enter.
      • Type, "ipconfig /all" to check IP address, DNS, and gateway information.
      • If IP address is still 169.254.*.*, proceed to the next step.
    • Re-install network device drivers.
      • Go to Start, right click on My Computer, select Properties > Hardware > Device Manager.
      • Expand the Network Adapters section.
      • Find the problem adapter, select it and press the Delete key to remove the device.
        • If the device is not found, look for devices with a yellow question mark for an icon. Device drivers may not have been installed properly in the first place.
        • If the network device has a yellow question mark for an icon, select it and press the Delete key.
      • Select Network Adapters. From the menu, select Action > Scan for hardware changes.
      • Follow instructions for installing drivers for devices found. May need to use a second computer to download the latest drivers.
Also, when using wired connections, be sure to check the cables. Sometimes the answer is as simple as replacing a damaged cable. Keep in mind, damage isn't always visible from the outside.
And use whatever resources you have at hand. Try different configurations, such as connecting the modem directly to the computer in order to remove the router from the equation and narrow the issue to the modem or the computer. However, the modem must be powered down before switching it over to a different device. The modem is only able to serve one specific device at a time, and retains the hardware address of that device in memory. Powering the modem down will clear memory and allow for a different device to be connected.
Finally, check to make sure network cards are firmly seated inside the computer, and that all cables are securely connected.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

System Upgrade

Really getting tired of wasting time due to working with obsolete equipment. Here's the spec out for a system upgrade. Still pricey but slightly more affordable.

After Effects CS3 Render Hacks

Anyone ever encounter these error messages while rendering?
Out of memory. (102400K requested) (23 :: 40)

AEGP Plugin Media IO Plugin: UNRECOGNIZED EXCEPTION (5027 :: 12)
I've been getting them for the past two weeks. They can show up at anytime during the render. In my case, most have occurred just after the last frame of the comp is processed. I'm pleased to say though that after much frustration and wasted time, I think I've finally come up with a reliable solution. The first part involves making available to After Effects as much system memory as possible. The second part involves actively freeing up memory while rendering.
The /3GB Flag in boot.ini
By default, Windows XP (32-bit) only allows programs access to 2GB of system memory. The remaining 2GB of the maximum possible 4GB is reserved for the operating system. However, users of Windows XP Professional have the option of setting a /3GB flag in the system's boot.ini file to allow up to 3GB of RAM for programs to access.
A Secret Menu
After having pulled an all-nighter and endured more than twelve hours of failed renders, I just about lost it when I learned of this Secret menu within the Preferences window. I don't know why anyone would want to hide something like this! Seems pretty important to me, or at the very least useful when encountering memory issues. To access this menu under Windows, hold down the Shift key and select Edit > Preferences > General. Keep holding the Shift key until the Preferences window is open. Then select Previous. You should see something similar to the figure below. The Secret menu can also be selected from drop-down selector in the Preferences window.
For Mac users, the path is After Effects > Preferences > General. However, in addition to holding down the Shift key, the Left Mouse Button must be held down during the entire path traversal — old mac style. Keep holding the Shift key until the Preferences window is open.
In the Secret menu, we are given the option to schedule a Purge at set intervals during the render process. With the default value of zero, no Purge event is performed during render. System memory will continue to fill until the specified Maximum RAM Cache Size is reached (see Memory & Cache in Preferences). To purge the cache and free up memory every specified number of frames, enter a number greater than zero in the field provided. By setting the value to 1, the cache will be purged after every frame rendered. I opted for 300, effectively scheduling a Purge to occur after every ten seconds of video rendered.