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About this blog

Geeky things I'm up to

Entries in this blog

 

Unity - handrolling meshes

The other day I decided I needed to set myself a goal to work on in Unity. A game project to help focus my self education.   What I settled on is a Battlezone style game. (Not a port - just the basic ideas.)   So one of the things I need is a tank to shoot at. Which means I need to create a model which Unity will then display. While I could download Blender (also free), that seems like overkill for something as simple as a Battlezone tank. What I wanted was something dead simple - an AS

EricBall

EricBall

 

learning Unity

For those who've never heard of it, Unity is a cross-platform game creation system: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unity_(game_engine) You can use it to develop games for current systems including Windows, OSX, web, IOS and Android. Free to download & use and practically free if you ever decide to sell your creations.   Lurking on gamasutra, I've known about Unity for a while. But I'd never considered actually using it until they announced Unity 5 and I realized there was zero reason for

EricBall

EricBall

 

FTP - Little Alchemist

Back in the early 90s I got sucked into the Magic: the Gathering collectible card game craze. Little Alchemist is a "free to play" mobile version of a collectible card game. And while you can spend real money buying cards (just like I used to do with MtG), it is quite possible to have lots of fun playing without spending a dime.   In the basic battle the goal is to reduce your (computer) opponent's hit points to zero before they do the same to you. Each card has an attack & defense valu

EricBall

EricBall

 

Clash of Clans

My son managed to convince mom to install CoC on his iPhone. After watching a little bit, I put it on my HTC. It's pretty cool, although I wonder how Supercell is making any money given lack of IAP pressure and the TV advertising.   IAP - in app purchases, or the way "free-to-play" games make money. In the case of CoC, $$ buys you gems which can be used to: Instantly complete anything which would otherwise take time to complete. (More time requires more gems.) But if you're willing to w

EricBall

EricBall

 

Minecraft studio Mojang has been bought by Microsoft for $2.5B

Additionally, creator Markus "Notch" Persson, partner Jakob Porser and CEO Carl Manneh will also be leaving Mojang. Even before the sale Markus has tried to move away from Minecraft, but felt that selling out was they only way to continue to be himself.   I do wonder how MS plans on recovering it's 2.5 billion dollar investment. (Especially since MS believes it will happen before June 2015!)    

EricBall

EricBall

 

Road Not Taken

A couple of years ago my wife and I played an MMO called Glitch. IMHO Glitch was doomed from the start because it only charged real money for vanity items and it wasn't social enough or fun enough to play indefinitely. However, the stylized artwork was was very well done and one of the more enjoyable parts of the game.   When I first saw screenshots of "Road Not Taken" on gamasutra, I was struck by how much the characters reminded me of Glitch. Not surprising since the same artist, Brent Ko

EricBall

EricBall

 

I knew I shoulda taken that left turn at Albuquerque

I've been playing Half Life (1) on the new 27" iMac - bigger is better! I've gotten most of the way through chapter 11 - Surface Tension, but I've discovered I bypassed getting the Tau gun back in chapter 10 - Questionable Ethics. Sigh.... I even managed to get through the whole drain hatch / minefield section without killing the helicopter gunship.   I guess it's back to an earlier savegame.   It's still one of the the best games.  

EricBall

EricBall

 

Next project

While working at IBM (1993-2008) I acquired several classic Model M keyboards. Unfortunately, they have PS/2 connectors which isn't supported even by many current desktops. I have bought one of the "blue cube" adapters so I can use one at work, but I'm thinking I'd rather "roll my own" - open up the keyboard and replace the 6805 based controller with something that will output USB.   This has been done before by others, so I'm not breaking new ground. I even have a keyboard which is missing

EricBall

EricBall

 

tired of waiting for Mac Mini

Back in late September when Apple announced the Haswell iMacs I thought it wouldn't be long before Apple would announce a Haswell update for the Mac Mini. But in spite of much forum speculation and rumor no update has occurred. I'm done waiting, so I will probably buy an iMac in the near future.   Which is funny, because when the Haswell iMacs were announced that was what I was going to do. But then a coworker pointed out the wisdom of keeping the screen & CPU separate (so the screen co

EricBall

EricBall

 

"free to play"

Although I don't program games for a living, I visit gamasutra.com daily. A common topic in many articles is "free-to-play", from philosophical treatises to in-depth tutorials on how to best convince players to pay-up. Personally I think "free to play" is killing the industry (Nintendo being the current whipping boy) because it disrupts the most direct feedback loop between the creators and the players.   You see, IMHO players should be paying for content, because this is what the programmer

EricBall

EricBall

 

Apple TV 4 games?

http://arstechnica.com/apple/2014/01/report-apple-tv-successor-with-revamped-os-coming-in-first-half-of-2014/  

EricBall

EricBall

 

Apple TV 4 games?

http://arstechnica.com/apple/2014/01/report-apple-tv-successor-with-revamped-os-coming-in-first-half-of-2014/   Reading the article this morning I had the question - could an Kinect device make it possible to play touchscreen style games on your home TV?   The problem is the two aren't equivalent. A touchscreen gives visual position feedback and an actual touch input. While a Kinect is a "zero button mouse". The list of existing Kinect games doesn't include ports of most popular touchscre

EricBall

EricBall

 

Minecraft PS3

Apparently the big game for early teens in Minecraft - at least according to my 13 year old son. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to partake in the game himself as we still haven't replaced the home computer (when will the Mac mini be upgraded to Haswell Apple, when?), nor can it be installed (even the "classic" version) on his Chromebook. But now the Xbox360 port has been ported to the PS3 - so I downloaded it as an early Christmas present.   We originally tried to play the demo (which se

EricBall

EricBall

 

Infinity Blade II

A few months ago a few iOS games were released for free on the AppStore, Infinity Blade II being one of them. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough space on my iPhone 4S at the time to complete the download. But I recently unchecked the 2012 C3 panel recordings (to add the 2013 Pinball Expo panel recordings) and freed up enough space to complete the install.   Ghods it's a pretty game.   It looks like a AAA PS3 game. The environment is lush and detailed and the characters are graphically an

EricBall

EricBall

 

Future acquistions

I want to get an Acer C720 Chromebook for my son to use at school. (Supporting the school's BYOD & Google docs plans.) Sure the screen & keyboard aren't as nice as the new HP Chromebook 11, but the Haswell Celeron in the C720 will make for a far more pleasant user experience.   Unfortunately, the C720 isn't available in Canada. (It probably will be at some point, but there's no indication of when. It will also probably have a international keyboard, which is guaranteed to have quir

EricBall

EricBall

 

Grand Theft Auto V

As has been splashed all over the news, GTA5 sold $800M in the first 24 hours, the most of any game and far more than any movie. I'm sure than most of the approximately 13 million copies were pre-orders, so it remains to be seen how many more sales will happen over the next month (or however long the advertising blitz continues). But in any case I'm sure Rockstar and Take-Two Interactive are celebrating.   What amazes me is with just the first day sales, GTA5 is already near the top of the b

EricBall

EricBall

 

Nintendo 2DS announced

http://www.nintendo.com/3ds/new/   I guess Nintendo realized that most people play 3DS games with the 3D turned off, so they could sell a cheaper system without the 3D screen.   My son has a 3DS XL (currently playing through Mario & Luigi: Dream Team) and I admit we generally play with the 3D off. I'll turn it on and IMHO it does add to the games. But in most cases the "wow" doesn't offset the annoyance of having to keep everything steady and I'll turn it off again. However, I wonder

EricBall

EricBall

 

Star Wars - The Force Unleashed

In summary, the demo is better than the game.   Many moons ago I downloaded the free demo for my PS3. I played through that demo numerous times, searching for secrets, discovering combos, and finding new ways to wipe out hapless stormtroopers and rebel scum in efforts to achieve the frenzy bonus. So when I saw a kid selling it at a garage sale, I scooped it up (along with Prince of Persia). Now that I'm playing the actual game, I'm pining for the demo.   The one thing which is keeping me

EricBall

EricBall

 

Apple TV - the next console or a lost opportunity

I was recently looking at the Apple TV as a way to cheaply provide AirPlay in a second location and I wondered if there were games for it. Surprisingly there aren't any.   Sure there are rumors, suggestions, hopes & fears there may be in the future. But right now the Apple TV is simply a media extender - great for watching streamed movies, TV & music or duplicating your iPhone / iPod / iPad display. But there are no native apps - other than those developed in partnership with Apple.

EricBall

EricBall

 

Prince of Persia (2008)

I picked this up at a garage sale (not surprising as it's a single player, single story game). I haven't played any of the other modern PoP games, so I can't highlight the differences or similarities. I'm over half-way through the game and enjoying it.   The basic plot is you've teamed up with Princess Elika to defeat minions of the god of darkness and heal the land in order to prevent the god of darkness from returning after being locked up by his brother, the god of light (who is MIA), 100

EricBall

EricBall

 

Xbox One versus Playstation 4 launch titles

Assuming MS can bring down the price of the Xbox One to match the PS4 (likely by not including the Kinect as dropping the HMDI IN port & functionality would require new hardware - maybe for the slim version), gamers will be picking consoles this November/December based on brand loyalty and exclusive launch titles. (I expect there will be very little difference between consoles for non-exclusive titles.)   the Xbox One has the following exclusive games confirmed for 2013:   Dead Rising 3

EricBall

EricBall

 

Xbox One & used games pt2

Gaming sites are filled with rants regarding the Xbox One and Microsoft's decision to allow publishers to limit or restrict sales of used games.   I think Microsoft's biggest problem was not in the decision, but how they presented it. Imagine if they had presented it like:   The power of the Xbox One isn't just the boxes in your home! Xbox One games can use the power of Microsoft Azure via your broadband Internet connection to provide even more realism and deep game play.   And because

EricBall

EricBall

 

Xbox One & used games

It appears to me that MS going with the all-digital-download model for Xbox One games. Even if you buy the physical disc, the Xbox One treats it like a digital download - just copying the game from the disc rather than downloading over the network. No, MS hasn't said this explicitly but I think it's the best explanation for what they have said (in public statements and in leaked private statements).   Of course, everyone wants to know how this model will effect certain properties typical to

EricBall

EricBall

 

home theater audio

I've just ordered the Andrew Jones designed Pioneer 5.1 speaker package to go with the Yamaha RX-V573 receiver / amplifier I just bought.   Last week I visited a hifi dealer to do a receiver listening test. I concluded there were minor differences between the various (similar price & quality) receivers, but not significant compared to the expected differences caused by the speakers and the listening environment. So I went by features, specs & prices instead. The Yamaha had the featu

EricBall

EricBall

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