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Geeky things I'm up to

Entries in this blog

 

flaws in Force Awakens (spoilers)

I saw SW VII last weekend so I could stop worrying about spoilers. While the Force Awakens is a great movie and a worthy and logical successor to Return of the Jedi, it is not without it's flaws. First is the Death Star Mark III, complete with last minute destruction (IV & VI) following an attack on the shield generator (VI), a short trench sequence (IV), and flying into the structure (VI). Even Han points this out when planning the attack; almost, but not quite, breaking the fourth wal

EricBall

EricBall

 

Pi Zero lust

I'm temped to try to do something like https://shkspr.mobi/blog/2015/11/raspberry-pi-zero-hidden-in-an-xbox-controller/ The one tweak I would make is to solder the micro USB cable to the controller rather than splicing wires. But then I have to remind myself of the number of other projects I have in progress, the number of game systems I already have (not to mention a very nice 27" iMac which can also handle emulators), and that I'm mostly playing Minecraft anyway!

EricBall

EricBall

 

2b2t Minecraft - starting a YouTube channel

I am going to start a YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxuqdYak8Q81EUkUeSDoUVg of my 2b2t experience. My plan is to kill myself so I start back at spawn, then work out from there. Hopefully passing along a few bits of wisdom for new players and a few laughs. I'm bringing home a headset from work tonight to see how that works out. QuickTime does a great job of recording the actual gameplay at 4K then converting it down to 720p for YouTube.

EricBall

EricBall

 

2b2t Minecraft - Darwin Award

My second base was semi successful. While the mine bottomed out into lava, it still yielded a few diamonds and other ores; but no emeralds (not that I've seen a village, where emeralds are used for trading). I also found an abandoned mine shaft, complete with a cave spider spawner. Unfortunately, it's difficult to create a automated grinder for cave spiders. I constructed a Nether portal, but discovered it linked to an existing portal so I didn't return to my base. I now better understand

EricBall

EricBall

 

2b2t Minecraft continued

My first plan on my journey away from my book making base was to set up a fresh spawn point. So I column jumped up to cloud level and created a 7x7 small platform on which I put small pond, melons, wood blocks and my bed (which I slept in to reset my spawn point). The idea was if I died I would at least have enough food and wood to make a fresh start, and I could get down from the clouds by turning the pond into a waterfall. One item of interest I found on my journey was an Ocean Monument, c

EricBall

EricBall

 

more 2b2t Minecraft

I ended up playing a lot of Minecraft on 2b2t over the long weekend. Once you get away from the chaos of the spawn area (and turn off the chat) the server becomes remarkably peaceful. Maybe I'm just travelling a different direction than most, but I've seen very few large builds; although there is still occasional evidence I'm not the first player to pass this way. Although while wandering though the wilderness may be far better than fending off other players, I decided I wanted to settle do

EricBall

EricBall

 

2b2t - ultimate public SMP Minecraft

I finally took the plunge and bought Minecraft for the PC (after playing many hours on the PS3). An article about 2B2T, an "anarchy" server with a world which is now five years old, intrigued me. The world is littered with stuff players have built up and others have torn down. The central spawn point is a wasteland of blocks floating far over bedrock. Simply not dying of falling or starvation when you start is difficult. And yet, in spite of it's reputation as a lawless environment, it's s

EricBall

EricBall

 

Apple TV 4 games - fail

Why do I say fail? Simple: no standardized controller except for the small touchpad on the remote. Why not announce a standard controller app (similar to the Remote app) or declare the PS3 or PS4 controller a de-facto standard Bluetooth controller? (Although then they'd need to provide a USB input for pairing.) This would then allow developers to port games much more easily. Heck, with a controller app Apple could provide a way for the Apple TV game to push the controller layout down to

EricBall

EricBall

 

Tempest MAME 2015 - new PC

A while ago my son asked when I was going to fix the Tempest cabinet. The fire cleanup crew removed the PC I was using to the Tempest cabinet and insurance wrote it off (although I did get the hard drive back). So the first step is to obtain a PC. MAME is still primarily a single threaded app, so I used https://www.cpubenchmark.net/singleThread.htmlto judge different processors. I figured a Core 2 Duo was probably what I wanted. I started looking at the lists of refurbished computers at loc

EricBall

EricBall

 

No Windows 10 for me

The Acer Aspire One netbook we bought after the fire has turned out to be a decent computer (especially with a RAM & SSD upgrade). It came loaded with Windows 7 Starter Edition and (bonus) MS Office Starter Edition. The free upgrade to Windows 10 sounded like a good idea. Not only would I get all of the ongoing security updates etc., but it wouldn't have the 2GB limit of Win7SE. Unfortunately, I just ran the Win10 upgrade check and learned the Intel GMA 3600 graphics adapter isn't supp

EricBall

EricBall

 

BattleBots 2015

Watched the second episode last night, which covered off the remaining 8 battles in the first round. Unfortunately, that made it a little rushed compared to the first episode which only covered 4 battles. It also meant that a bunch of the teams didn't get their 15 minutes of fame before getting knocked out. I'm now regretting deleting the first episode off my PVR, I want to go back and make notes about each of the battles. Maybe I can find it online somewhere. Highlight of this round was

EricBall

EricBall

 

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

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