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I Made a Thing

By Shamus
on Tuesday Jul 17, 2018
Filed under:
Programming

People have been saying things like, “Hey Shamus, what happened to those programming posts you were doing. Weren’t you in the middle of a project? Weren’t you wrapping up a project? What’s going on?”

Here’s the thing:

A friend of mine has been working on a Minecraft-style cube world where the front end is built on C++ and the backend runs on user-editable LUA scripts. Early in the project I was talking about some of the techniques I’d used to generate blockworld caves. Then I figured it was sort of lame to just describe the structures I was talking about, and it would make so much more sense to show him. And hey, why not kill two birds with one stone? I’ll make a blockworld to demo the caves, and I could turn the process into blog posts.

Ooooh. Spooky! Sorta.

Ooooh. Spooky! Sorta.

But then I just kept adding to it. I finally got over the initial hurdle of working with Unity and reached the point where I could write code without needing to stop after three minutes of coding to do thirty minutes of forum-diving to answer simple questions. It was fun, so I kept going.

“I’ll turn this into blog posts when I’m done,” I lied to myself.
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Diecast #218: British Panel Shows, Prey Ending

By Shamus
on Monday Jul 16, 2018
Filed under:
Diecast

Heads up: In the final segment of the show we spoil the end of Prey 2017. Also: Next week I plan to have SoldierHawk on the show again. If you have any questions for her, the email is in the header image.


Direct download (MP3)
Direct download (ogg Vorbis)
Podcast RSS feed.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes: Continue reading »


 
 
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Grand Theft Auto III

By Shamus
on Friday Jul 13, 2018
Filed under:
Retrospectives

This game is a technological miracle. It’s a miracle not just for what it can do, but also for the fact that the team was able to build it at all.

I don’t think any franchise has ever gone through a more drastic change in such a short timeAt least, not a POSITIVE change.. In 1999 Grand Theft Auto 2 was a technological throwback, a stale mid-90s game with dated visuals and clunky gameplay. And then just two years later we get GTA III, a cutting-edge game with motion-capped cutscenes, solid voice acting, an immense 3D world with a stunning draw distance, tons of content, rock-solid car physics, a huge soundtrack of fictional radio channels, hours of cutscenes, varied gameplay, a working day/night cycle, serviceable shooting mechanics, and all the impressive pedestrian, law enforcement, and traffic simulation the previous games were known for, only now operating in a 3D space.

Even more amazing than the monumental leap in technology and production values is the fact that the developers absolutely nailed it.

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Welcome to Steamworks

By Shamus
on Tuesday Jul 10, 2018
Filed under:
Projects

Over a year ago, my game was approved for Steam Greenlight. At the time I said:

The good news is that Pseudoku has been approved on Steam Greenlight. I could technically begin selling the game right now. (Well, after filling out a bunch of paperwork, but you know what I mean.)

When I mentioned a “bunch of paperwork”, I had no idea what I was in for. I’ve spent the last nine months or so trying to clear that hurdle. The loop went something like this:

  1. Fill out a bunch of forms to document that I am who I say I am.
  2. Wait a couple of weeks.
  3. Get a generic rejection message saying I didn’t provide the right information, or the information was incorrect.
  4. Puzzle over the forms, trying to guess where it went wrong.
  5. Go to the bank, or download some PDF forms, or snail-mail the state to get some information changed.
  6. Wait for these changes to go through.
  7. GOTO 1

Most of the blame probably belongs to the state I live in, which is still stuck in the mid-20th century when it comes to starting a business. Their website is perpetually broken, so you have to correspond with them via the postal service. All of their forms are designed with the assumption that if I’m a small business then I’m going to be operating a commercial storefront and selling doughnuts to people on Main Street or whatever. There’s literally no way to correctly fill out these forms because I’m running a business out of my house but selling goods globally, and the system can’t comprehend that kind of micro-global setup. Add in some confusing forms, obtuse error messages from Steam, a couple of bank errors, some confusing legalese, and a couple of mistakes on my part, and it took us nine months to accomplish what a lot of developers accomplish in a weekend.

It’s been ages since I looked at the Pseudoku codebase and I can’t even remember where the project left off. A friend of mine converted the rendering backend from OpenGL to Direct X, which will hopefully solve the strange problems I was having. I’ll probably do a public test soon and see what needs to be done.

Of course, if I ever do another game like this I’ll just use Unity. Now that I’ve crawled up the worst part of the Unity learning curve, getting stuff done is pretty straightforward.


 
 
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Diecast #217: July 4th, Google Drive, Raytracing

By Shamus
on Monday Jul 9, 2018
Filed under:
Diecast

I hope to have SoldierHawk on Real Soon Now. Send in any questions you have for her / us. The email address is in the header image.


Direct download (MP3)
Direct download (ogg Vorbis)
Podcast RSS feed.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes: Continue reading »


 
 
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Shamecast: Mass Effect Andromeda

By Shamus
on Sunday Jul 8, 2018
Filed under:
Notices

I really did intend for this to be a more positive stream. I deliberately aimed for doing a quest I liked, but then some open-world busywork got in the way and I spent most of the two hours just picking at things.


Link (YouTube)

Mass Effect Andromeda is a hot mess of a game, even after all the post-release patches. But underneath the technological jank and cringy dialog are some really good ideas. I’ll be doing a full retrospective on this series at some point in the future, but for now if you want to talk Andromeda with me the best thing to do is just stop by and say “Hi!” in the chat during a stream. I plan to do another stream this coming Wednesday. I’ll have more details later in the week.


 
 
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Grand Theft Original

By Shamus
on Friday Jul 6, 2018
Filed under:
Retrospectives

GTA might be one of the most successful, big-budget, high-tech franchises in history, but it actually began as a rather sad, cheap, and not-yet-impressive top-down 2D game.

While the screenshots might make you think the game was perhaps isometricIsometric means you’re looking down from above, but the angle is skewed so you can see the sides of things. like Diablo (one of its contemporaries) or even orthogonalLooking directly down an axis with no perspective. like Hotline Miami, the game is actually “3D” in the sense that the buildings are made of polygons and you get some parallax between the stuff on the rooftops and the more distant action on the ground. It does a good job of giving a sense of scale and speed, but it does so at the expense of visibility. You’ll often end up unable to see what you’re doing because a walkway, bridge, or rooftop ends up between your character and the camera.

Continue reading »


 
 
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The Witcher 3: Drunk-Megascoping Sorceresses

By Bob Case
on Thursday Jul 5, 2018
Filed under:
Video Games

It’s a bit of an abridged entry today due to the holiday, but I thought I’d button up some of my thoughts on the first part of the game.

In Which I Try to Figure Out What Exactly Is Going On

After finally gathering up various macguffins (the phylactery, the incantation to activate it, and a weird baby thing called Uma), Geralt and company are ready to polish off the first half of the game. If you haven’t played The Witcher 3, or even if you have, the parenthetical in the previous sentence might be a bit confusing. It’s still confusing to me, and I’ve played through the game several times.

This is Uma. He's a weird baby thing. It's ok if you're confused.

This is Uma. He's a weird baby thing. It's ok if you're confused.

Basically, we’ve been on Ciri’s trail this whole time, following rumors, gathering clues, and talking to people who met her passing through, trying to figure out what exactly has happened to her and where she is now. This is difficult because Ciri is a child of the “Elder Blood,” also known as the “Hen Ichaer.” I won’t lore dump about this right now, but suffice it so say she has unique magical abilities, chief among them the ability to teleport.

The problem is that she doesn’t entirely have control over these abilities. If she gets into a sticky situation, she can teleport out, but she won’t always know where she’ll arrive until she gets there. This obviously makes tracking her difficult, and it explains why we have to trek all over creation to piece together her story. Now I’m a reasonably attentive person, and I’ve played this game multiple times. However, even I am not entirely sure what exactly happened to Ciri and in what order. I’m going to try and reconstruct my understanding of events, without cheating by looking at the wiki.

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Diecast #216: GDQ, Item Hoarding, NMS Rant

By Shamus
on Monday Jul 2, 2018
Filed under:
Diecast


Direct download (MP3)
Direct download (ogg Vorbis)
Podcast RSS feed.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes: Continue reading »


 
 
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I’m Back!

By Shamus
on Sunday Jul 1, 2018
Filed under:
Personal

Like I said last week, I’ve been having trouble with my eyes. If you’re curious about the medical Twilight Zone that caused this, I have the strange details at the end of this post. If you’re a normal person and you just want to know what sort of content we have to look forward to in the coming week, then read the very next paragraph.

I’m playing Mass Effect Andromeda. It’s been patched pretty well by this point so it’s no longer the distracting and meme-worthy circus of malfunctions. It’s still a bit janky around the edges, but not enough to really bother me. The narrative is paradoxically better than I expected and yet far worse than I’d hoped for, if that makes any sense.

My impressions have been oscillating wildly like, “Hey. This is a cool idea. Actually no, I guess not as cool as it seemed at first. Ugh. This is atrocious. Okay this conversation isn’t bad. Oh, now it’s making me cringe again. Okay, this character could be interesting. Or they were, until they left. Hey, I like this puzzle. And this jetpack stuff is cool. I like this shotgun. Oh no, this really grating character wants to talk again. Oh, but she’s giving me a cool quest. Nope, wrong. This quest is too dumb to think about.”

What I’d really like to do is have a stream where I play the game and discuss things with chat. I have this sneaking suspicion that some of you have opinions on the Mass Effect series. I figure we can hang out for an hour or so. I’ll play some early / mid-game content, and we can talk about the game.

Okay, her butt is floating above the seat and her arms are floating above her legs and the pose looks totally unnatural, but I'd gladly overlook failings in production values if the writing could just get in the same ballpark as Mass Effect 1.

Okay, her butt is floating above the seat and her arms are floating above her legs and the pose looks totally unnatural, but I'd gladly overlook failings in production values if the writing could just get in the same ballpark as Mass Effect 1.

I’m planning on streaming this Thursday. This event link should have all the details. I know I usually stream on Wednesday, but Wed is July 4th and I know a lot of my American readers will be busy blowing your fingers off.

So what’s going on with my eyes?
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Grand Theft Retrospective: Introduction

By Shamus
on Friday Jun 29, 2018
Filed under:
Retrospectives

The Grand Theft Auto games have always been a big deal, but number five seems to have attained stratospheric new heights. For context, it was the #7 best selling of 2017. Not bad for a game that came out in 2013. Particularly since – as of this writing in April of 2018 – it’s still selling for the launch-day price of $60. It’s also in the top 20 highest-rated games of all time. (Although it’s below Grand Theft Auto IV, which I find mystifying. But we’ll talk about GTA IV later in this series.)

I do wonder who is buying the game at this point. Who is it that decided to buy the game in 2017 for full price that hadn’t already bought it in 2013 for full price? There’s no marketing push going on, so what’s driving these sales?

I guess I’m part of the problem. I have two copies. I got one for the Playstation 4, and another for the PC. I’ve played all the way through both versions multiple times, although for the sake of convenience all of my screenshots in this series will come from the PC version.

After writing this series, I discovered that I’d lost a majority of my game footage. So I had to replay quite a bit of the game to re-create that footage. However, I’d since changed the outfits of all the characters and turned down the graphics settings for the purposes of streaming the game. So this is a heads up that a lot of the GTA V screenshots are going to be mismatched in terms of character attire / graphical quality. It’s not a big deal, but I know some people would ask about it I didn’t explain it ahead of time.

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The Witcher 3: Skellige, Part 2077

By Bob Case
on Wednesday Jun 27, 2018
Filed under:
Video Games

Skellige is too sprawling to be summarized in any kind of wieldy way, so instead I’ll pick out a couple of high-water marks I particularly liked and find instructive.

The Cave of Dreams

I suspect a good chunk of players don’t know this quest even exists. I know I missed it entirely on my first playthrough, and probably would have missed it again on my second, had I not learned about it on the internet in the meantime.

You can start it either by stumbling across “Blueboy” Lugos (son of Clan Drummond Jarl “Madman” Lugos) outside a cave in an out-of-the-way spot most probably won’t go to, or you’re directed towards the quest after completing a Witcher contract to unhaunt the local haunted lighthouse. The wrinkle is that Blueboy Lugos dies in an entirely different questline, so if you do that one before the lighthouse contract (which I would guess is the case for most people) you’ll never see this one.

In fact… I botched my current playthrough, and finished the bear attack quest long before (long enough that I had no saves to reload) remembering I wasn’t supposed to do that. So I had to pull screenshots off the internet.

In any case, Blueboy Lugos and his two friends Uve “Jabberjaw” and Jorulf the Wolverine (Skelligans have the most advanced nicknames of any culture in the Witcher universe) are preparing to explore the “Cave of Dreams,” which in the local folklore is said to be the place where you face your greatest fears. It’s something like a vision quest – you go in the cave, eat a variety of hallucinogenic herbs and mushrooms, and then trip out. And CDPR is up to the task of pulling this off.

No one screenshot can do the place justice, but this one of the giant ghost whale comes the closest.

No one screenshot can do the place justice, but this one of the giant ghost whale comes the closest.

Once inside, Blueboy and his two friends each face their respective greatest fears. Uve Jabberjaw fears insulting the King again (his did it once while drunk and tore his own tongue out to keep his honor), Jorulf the Wolverine faces his guilt over indirectly causing his father’s death by becoming distracted by Sirens, and Blueboy Lugos faces down a ghostly version of his own father. Finally, Geralt faces a ghostly Eredin and confronts his greatest fear – losing Ciri.

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