ApathyWorks

Developer Blog alejandro

I should write something, goddammit

Posted by Alex Jordan on

Busy busy busy. Important game things that are going on:

Things that are going on that are getting in the fucking way of finishing CTDV:

I'll make up for all my silence once I'm given a chance to, you know... take a deep breath. Until then, I recommend following my Twitter feed, since 140 characters is something I can type reliably.

Development Interlude, Typhoid Mary Edition

Posted by Alex Jordan on

I've barely posted in the past few weeks because I've been consistently sick. I cast about for the correct adverb, but yes, "consistently" is the one that makes the most sense. Two weeks (three weekends ago), I started getting a fever and lightheadedness in the evenings. That persisted well into the following week. And just when I called the doctor's office to make an appointment, the fever subsided. Ha, wasn't that funny?

And then I notice that my throat hurt. Like, abruptly. So I stood in front of a mirror with a flashlight, said "Ah!", and noticed that one of my tonsils was swollen and disgusting-looking. Oh, hey, tonsillitis. Just what I wanted. I went to the doctor's office and they gave me some antibiotics. The next couple of days sucked while my sore throat got worse, but in the end the drugs seemed to kick in and my tonsillitis seemed to go away.

And that brings us to last night, when my face and chest abruptly broke out in an angry red rash. I went to the doctor's again today, and it turns out I had a bad reaction to the drugs they put me on for the tonsillitis. So they gave me new drugs, which may or may not work. And I'm pissed like you wouldn't believe, because I just bought an expensive new suit and I'm supposed to go up on a podium in two days and receive an award from the Secretary of Labor!

Clearly, God is testing me. And he is a douchebag.

Since we're going the TMI route, let's get out a bit more information that isn't of the personal variety.

yay.

Project Squish is slowly but surely nearing the "last 10%" phase of development, the part where there's a myriad of minor tasks to do and they seem as endless as they are small. I'll officially be onto that section once I'm done with the local Multiplayer component, which has surprised me by coming along quite nicely. The Multiplayer lobby is done, as is the actual in-game play, which now includes various power ups that can be acquired and used against your opponent. A few more customized menus and some player-friendly features, and that will be done!

After that, I have to do the Options and Credits Menus. Once those are complete, Project Squish will be feature-locked, and the rest of the development time will be spent on finishing existing features, tidying up loose ends, and general polish. I can't tell you how excited I am to reach that phase, as Project Squish is now in its 10th month of development.

However, there's one more very important thing to do: finalize the art. I (correctly) put off doing that until I was further along in development, but that time is fast approaching. It'll mean days of just sitting there and dropping new art assets into the project file, which will amount to little more than boredom and tedium. But hey, it has to be done, or else the game won't look sexy.

So that's where I stand. Here's hoping future news will bring more tales of success with Project Squish, and hopefully a story about how my horrible, face-besmirching rash cleared up in time for me to not have wasted a shitload of money on a new suit/look like a weirdo in front of the Secretary of Labor during a fucking photo op.

God dammit, God.

Development Interlude, Self-Amusement Edition

Posted by Alex Jordan on

Still working on Project Squish, which better be the Goddamned Citizen Kane of Xbox Live Indie Games for the amount of time and energy it's taking me. (Not sure what the hell I was initially thinking, but Squish is now 6 months overdue beyond my 3-month development timeframe. Heh.)

Still polishing a lot of things off, and I met some very nice people on the way to PAX East that recommended an artist to me that could help produce some contract art and alleviate my workload, so we'll see how that goes. In the meanwhile, to amuse myself (and you, I guess), here are some comments I left for myself in my code that I've rediscovered:

I guess that's it. Color me disappointed, I remember telling myself tons of jokes in the Around The World code and thought that I'd done the same this time around. I hope I saved all of my humor for the game itself, since that's what everyone else will see.

Random Musings. Very Random.

Posted by Alex Jordan on

We got thunder snow on Wednesday night. Thunder. Snow. A rare-ish meteorological occurrence that spells the unholy combination of airborne fire and airborne ice. And what do we get for all that? Three bloody inches of snow, and I guess an early dismissal from work. I was kind of hoping "fire + ice" in natural phenomena would be like "crossing the streams" or something, but apparently not. I just want a snow day, ok?!

In other news, a lady was basically humping my leg on the Metro today. I managed to snag an aisle seat, pretty much the last available seat on the train. But since everyone up to and including me had found a seat, that meant the aisles were clear for people to stand near the very convenient holding bars. Y'know, the ones not near the seats.

So imagine my surprise when a woman chooses my seat to not only stand next to, but to dangle her purse and pelvis over. One hand gripping the seat in front of me, one hand gripping the back of my seat, standing perpendicular to me as if my thigh were a surfboard to ride. It turned into one of those awkward things where I am so completely determined to just play my Goddamn Angry Birds that I will not show this crazy leg-humping/surfing lady that she is freaking me out, although she is RIGHT GODDAMN THERE, HOVERING OVER ME LIKE SOME KIND OF ALIEN PROBE and WHAT THE HELL IS THAT SMELL? IS THAT PICKLES? AT 9AM?

WHY?

On a different note, if you tell me in all seriousness that you're not going to get a flu vaccine because of nebulous, unfounded concerns over the "stuff" that's in a vaccine, because God will protect you from the flu, and then you get the flu anyways and become viciously ill... does that mean that (a) God doesn't exist, (b) God's trying to teach you a lesson, or, my personal favorite, (c) God doesn't care what you think?

Please understand how I get confused when people who live in a world governed by God's laws and rules start arbitrarily drawing the line when scientists come up with ways to use those rules so that I don't have to listen to you barf into a wastebasket.

Finally, I think a certain class of people - particularly the lazy and the obese - are excellent mathematicians. It's true! I've decided this is true because of how expert they are at moving sharply towards their destination at an incredibly slow pace, nevermind the fact that they're either holding up people behind them or obstructing the paths of people in front of them. There is a mathematically perfect route to their destination that requires the smallest amount of speed and effort, and they don't care who they have to annoy to follow it.

Sure, it's not like sidewalks and Metro platforms have lanes with painted lines, but human traffic generally follows the same rules as American traffic: you're on the right, oncoming traffic is on the left. Pass slow people in your own lane on their left, then re-merge with traffic. Got it? Good. However, the fat, lazy mathematical geniuses don't follow these rules! They are adhering to algorithms and elliptical orbits that make mere human decency pale in comparison! Not following me? Their formula goes like this: a young, skinny, healthy train leaves from Alexandria at 9AM, walking briskly at 10mph, heading for Washington DC. A corpulent, glacial-paced train leaves from Arlington at 9:15AM, waddling at all of 2mph, also headed for Washington DC. The skinny train follows human traffic and is courteous to people, whereas the jowly train will run you right the fuck over if need be.

Q: How long will it take the slower, more obnoxious train to reach DC, presuming that they ignore typical pedestrian walking patterns and run over everyone in their path to get to their destination?

Q: How long will it take the faster, much handsomer train to catch up to the one that's pissing me off, and then have to go around them at a brisk pace at the one junction where the pain-in-the-ass train has stopped annoying oncoming traffic and has started annoying me?

Q: How likely is it that the faster train will fume about this without saying anything, because of politeness and because of society, and will instead write a passive-aggressive blog post about it later?

What I'm Playing, January 2011

Posted by Alex Jordan on

Christmas has come and gone, and now I have a pile of new games to play. I only got one game as a Christmas gift, which is fine... as for the rest, I happened to have gone batshit crazy during the Steam holiday sale. Anywho, here are my pickups:

Yeah, so I lost control there for a bit. And that's just the Christmas stuff... the list doesn't include the stuff I got in the fall, like Batman: Arkham Asylum and World of Goo that I still haven't touched. Or the fact that Team Fortress 2 has become even more awesome in the past couple of years since I last played it, and I need to get back on that bandwagon.

You know what? Let's not consider this a frivolous hobby. Since I'm an amateur game designer with indie or semi-professional aspirations, let's pretend this is... research. Yeah, that's it.

I have a lot of research to do over the next few months.

My Christmas List

Posted by Alex Jordan on

Right where everyone can see how much of a nerd I am!

Books:

Video Games:

DVDs:

I'll add more if I think of anything, but by virtue of being a white male in America, I don't need much.

Development Interlude, Aspiring Artist Edition

Posted by Alex Jordan on

Project SQUIIIIIIIIIISSSSSSSHHHHHHHH

I would super-duper like Project Squish to be a pretty game. Every time I load up the alpha and play around, I find myself sighing at my placeholder artwork. Soon, the day will come where I can throw out all this old work and replace it with something thoughtful and good-looking. You know... something that will clash violently with critters exploding into clouds of blood and viscera!

I'm a pretty decent sketch artist, albeit one that has only worked on refining his own style and has not ventured into the "learn new things" territory. Very similar face and profile doodles adorn the corners of my work notebooks. Fortunately, this style - with all of its wide eyes and goofy expressions - can be easily adapted for drawing the game's critters, as my recent video and art show. But they're the punchline of the joke. The setup needs to be in the careful beauty of the game's levels, which means I need to get off my ass and learn how to draw and paint digitally.

(Gulp!)

I'm experimenting with a variety of styles right now. At first, I thought I'd sketch out my level objects and landscapes (especially the landscapes) by hand, scan the line art, and then paint them digitally in Photoshop. Unfortunately, I find myself sans scanner at the moment, and I won't buy one unless I can commit to that exact work process. Since I'm not prepared to commit right now, I'm experimenting with other things. Specifically, I'm going batshit crazy in Photoshop with just a mouse, exploring the limits of what I can do without a sketching hand or a tablet pad.

Although I have a high opinion of my own drawing style, I know I really, really need to improve on my habits, especially painting and coloration. As such, I'm currently drawing and redrawing the same stupid trees so that I can take the time-honored brute force approach to getting better: "If at first you don't succeed..."

I'm starting from extreme mediocrity and hoping to work my way upward. Here are the first and second trees I'm drawn and painted:

Old tree

Good news, everyone! I've learned how to Burn/Sponge/Dodge in Photoshop. I've also picked up another key lesson: I can't Filter my way to success, especially if my heretofore approach to Photoshop Filters has been "keep clicking buttons and see what looks good."

My work continues, and I'll keep on churning out silly trees. We'll see how it goes. In the meanwhile, does anyone have any good tips, tricks, or tutorials? Or other things that begin with T?

Writing crutches

Posted by Alex Jordan on

I'd really love to work on a game with an honest-to-God plot in the near future, perhaps when I finish up Project Squish. I love writing, and being both the writer and lead designer of a story-driven game sounds like a match made in heaven for me, so long as I don't bite off more than I can chew.

I have a very low opinion of most games' writing, which, of course, gets compared to my very high and very biased opinion of my own writing. As such, I'd relish the opportunity to make a well-plotted, tightly-written game and knock it out of the park. But, let's be frank: I've only written one thing at length, which was my college thesis, albeit one in the form of a fictional techno-thriller. And I don't ever, ever want to publish that thing. I'm embarrassed enough that it's archived somewhere at American University, and someone could actually read it one day. The funny thing is that I considered myself a good writer when I set out and actually wrote the Goddamn thing, and that I made a list of writing crutches beforehand that I specifically wanted to avoid. Rereading my thesis, I accidentally used almost all of those crutches that I criticize other authors for.

In the interest of keeping me honest, here's a partial list of modern fiction writing crutches that I really want to avoid when I start writing for a game:

On the subject of physical appearances, I almost added a bullet to encompass turning pale or white. However, everyone else that knows me seems perfectly capable of telling when someone looks pale or not, even though I can't. Maybe I'm just the least observant person ever. Am I also missing vaunted eye twinkles? I need to know!

On Creativity

Posted by Alex Jordan on

After watching a friend play through most of Uncharted 2, I thought, "This is the kind of game I wish I could make." It was a somewhat unfortunate thought to have, for many reasons.

Firstly, there's the issue of how relatively uninspired the game is; it's little more than the high water mark of the video game industry's desire to successfully emulate the thrill and presentation of big budget Hollywood movies. "Handsome, funny Indiana Jones analogue partners with sarcastic romantic interest to beat a homicidal mad man to a long-lost treasure" doesn't exactly scream originality. The game was amazing to behold, obviously, but played it safe content-wise. In imagining myself at the helm of a blockbuster video game project, I'm really wishing to faithfully execute some well-worn cliches... just with a grand scope and lots of Triple-A polish.

But, more unfortunately, wishing to make my own Uncharted 2 made me realize that those fantasies lay wholly in the realm of Bigger Is Better. Of going big, or going home. Dreaming is important, and ambition is important, but wanting my name attached to the next Uncharted or the next Assassin's Creed or the next Half-Life is misguided. It's not misguided because I have no chance of reaching those heights, of course. No, it's misguided because it incorrectly conflates my pleasure in playing a world-class game with the pleasure of being responsible for creating such a game.

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Unreliable technology

Posted by Alex Jordan on

The back-to-back blizzards gave me a chance to get a lot of work on Around The World done. In fact, I got the Score and Timer bars ingame and also added timed rounds and score keeping (so that the bars on the HUD aren't just for show). I would've shown off this work sooner, but laptop issues accidentally deleted one or two days' worth of work on the game which I only recovered from last night. More information to follow.

The laptop issue was flat-out galling. Last Thursday, my laptop became unable to browse the internet, mid-session. Mid-session! Three days of furious work using every single shred of Google Fu and the problem-solving skills I'd acquired in my two years as a computer technician finally resolved the problem and pinpointed the culprit: Trend Micro, my Goddamn antivirus program! Something that had been on my system for 8 or 9 months! Disabling it got me back online, although now I don't have any antivirus protection.

The recovery efforts were hamstrung by my inability to get online. When I finally got back to my apartment after a week of being holed up in Logan Circle, my desktop also didn't want to go online. It connects to the internet through a wireless bridge that talks to my apartment's network, and the bridge decided to stop working. I wound up having to set up the whole shebang - tower, keyboard, mouse, and old CRT monitor - within ethernet cable reach of my router, way over on the other side of the room, just to get the damned thing online so I could reconfigure the wireless bridge. Eventually, I got the wireless bridge reconfigured, and trucked the whole desktop back to the other side of the room. Now I could use the desktop to browse the internet and help fix my internet-challenged laptop.

Which I did. Only, I came back yesterday and found that the wireless bridge on my desktop had ceased working. Again! Nothing had changed overnight, it just ceased working. My $70 wireless bridge (which I had initially bought for my Xbox 360) and my $30 antivirus software just one day decided to stop working.

Eventually, after much screaming and howling, I gave up and walked the three blocks to Best Buy and bought a $50 USB wireless adapter. I tried installing it on my desktop - following the instructions perfectly - only to have the installer tell me that an Error Had Occurred and that the wireless adapter couldn't be installed. Apopleptic, I did a manual driver search on the adapter's CD, found the drivers, and installed them myself. I re-ran the installation program and this time it succeeded, eventually installing the rest of the softwear I needed to connect wirelessly.

I sit here, a day later, stunned and fuming. A $70 wireless bridge, a $30 antivirus program, and a $50 wireless adapter all failed to work, in quick succession. The $50 wireless adapter was only salvaged because I know what the hell I'm doing, and it was a minor software issue that was easily circumvented. But what if I wasn't a guy who worked for two years as a computer technician? What if I didn't have the skills necessary to identify Trend Micro as my laptop's problem, or successfully install a finicky wireless adapter on my desktop?

I don't mind spending money for a good reason. I can even stand to spend money to recover from unforseen emergencies, like a leaking car tire or a dysfunctional wireless bridge. But I really cannot fucking stand to throw money at something that's supposed to work, or help, and doesn't. I don't have the free time to manually defend my laptop from viruses. I don't have the wherewithal to build my own wireless adapter. So, I invest in Trend Micro or Linksys/Cisco so that they do these things for me.

And when they don't do these things for me, or they actually contribute to a problem, well, it makes me want to punch a baby.

New Digs

Posted by Alex Jordan on

Because I can't leave well enough alone, here are some pics of the view from my new apartment. I promise I'll get back to game design shortly.


Click each thumbnail for the larger image.

For the uninitiated (or for those who don't feel like playing Where's Waldo), in the panorama you can see, from left to right: the Lincoln Memorial, the Pentagon (the huge beige building front-and-center), the Washington Monument (duh), the Ben Franklin Clock Tower at the Post Office Pavilion, the Jefferson Memorial, and the Capitol Dome.

I also learned that the human brain is highly efficient and, after repeat viewings, will log this view as "standard information" in my mind, after which it will process the image quickly without emitting the dopamine or seratonin that comes from excitement or enjoyment.

Science sucks.

I'm back

Posted by Alex Jordan on

I took the Blue Pill: Verizon FiOS is all hooked up. They were late, it took two and a half hours, and I think they built a fucking DeLorean in my closet, but now I can browse the Internet at lightning speeds and get Facebook on my TV, so... awesome?

Still getting things sorted in my apartment. Not a whole heck of a lot of uncovered surfaces in the place at the moment, and the defining feature seems to be scattered cardboard boxes, so, needless to say, I have some work to do. I hope to get back to programming in the near future though.

Making the Move

Posted by Alex Jordan on

I'm part way through my move from Alexandria to Arlington and still have two days left to go on being off the grid. Cable and internet don't get installed at my new place until Wednesday morning, so my only access to the digital world can occur at work. Yay.

My new place is awesome, and I'll give a quick rundown once the Verizon guy installs me FiOS. But in the meantime, here's a recap of things that have gone horribly, horribly wrong during the move over the past two days.

Here, in short, is my original plan:

Pretty much none of that happened.

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Anticipating the move

Posted by Alex Jordan on

A new Development Diary will come as soon as I find the time to actually do some honest-to-God programming.

I currently live in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of Old Town. It's beautiful down here, and fairly quiet, but good lord is it far away from the city. In exactly two weeks I move to Pentagon City, a section of Arlington that's just across the river from DC. It's a nice neighborhood, a bit more is happening, and it'll shorten my commute wonderfully. Actually, wanna see my building? Here it is! Bottom rightmost building, down the road. Thanks, Wikipedia!

It also means I get an excuse to buy things! My gaming and development gear right now consists of an aging desktop computer, a new laptop, my Xbox 360, and plasma TV. So there's a couple of things I'm considering, so long as I don't complete lose my gourd and spend more money than I deserve to:

I guess this turned out to be a good exercise for me. Jesus Christ, the GeForce's price even increased since I last looked. C'mon!

Here in Washington, Vol. 1

Posted by Alex Jordan on

Back in mid-January, I wandered through the U.S. Department of Labor's Frances Perkins Building taking before-and-after photos. I wanted to show how things would change from the Bush to the Obama administration.

Actually, I only wanted two photos. The first was of the Bush-era "FOX News Kiosk" that was downstairs in the lobby. Well, I was too late on that one. The damn thing was taken down even before the inauguration, before I had thought to snap a photo. It's since been replaced by the Obama-era "CNN News Kiosk."

The other photo I wanted was of the mandatory portraits of our glorious leaders in the lobby. I took a picture of the triumverate of Bush, Cheney, and former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao and uploaded them onto Facebook. (Photo after the jump.)

I came back on Tuesday after the Obama inauguration, aaaaaaaand... no portraits. Hmm, okay. These things take time. 'Course, it wasn't until March that a portrait of Obama was put up next to Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. By then I'd long since stopped carrying my camera to work. But, HEY! Where's my picture of Joe Biden?!

Turns out that Biden was on the Hill earlier this week to finally get his photo taken. And, wham! Just like that, the Obama triumverate now graces my building. I'll have to bring my camera in on Monday and finally finish the "before and after" series.

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Game Portfolio Update

Posted by Alex Jordan on

I updated the all-encompassing Games entry for Firearms, Firearms: Source, and World at War. The descriptions are brief, accurate conveyences of how each game played and what the designs behind them were like.

The entry is still short on images (I don't have access to my portfolio at the moment), and something should probably be done about the listed entries in the Games menu to make them a little more attractive to the eye.

All About Alejandro

Posted by Alex Jordan on

Anyone who can put two and two together has probably guessed where my daytime posts originate. I'll give you a hint: it sure as hell isn't from home, where I'd have access to computers that, um, work.

Hence all of the links to Wikipedia, which is one of the few websites available to me. Hence image-posting kept to an absolute minimum. Hence the bare minimum of updates on my Twitter feed.

I've recently concluded that the site has a barren look to it that's unrelated to the minimalist, bare-bones look in its web design (that I requested). I'll work to rectify that in the future before I manage my first game release and advertise the site a bit more.