Monday, August 23, 2010

Lonely planet

Hey, we're back, alive. Good to see a couple of new visitors came along here as well. So I'd better start writing something useful again. Though except from some vacation stories, I’m still out of ammo. I was hoping to do some work on the laptop, but the bastard gave up on me. A few hours before leaving, one of the cooling fans started to make an ugly loud noise.

So, yesterday I booted my old desktop system again after a long, long time. And guess what, I like it. Good old Windows XP, a wide screen, big mouse, and it actually runs my game slightly faster on a bigger resolution as well. Almost forgot why I used to prefer desktops in the first place. Laptops are expensive, you can't simply upgrade a video-card, and they never live longer than 1 or 2 years. The only advantage is their mobility of course, although my Toshiba weighs 25 tons (the adapter alone is a nuclear power plant on itself). Probably my girl won't appreciate it if I install the desktop in our bed, so guess I'll have to sneak out the next few weeks. Don’t know about you, but most of the productive programming hours are during night for me.

Let's hope Toshiba fixes the damn thing quicker than Hewlert Packerd. Still angry if I think about that. The screen didn't work anymore, so I wrote a letter on top of the laptop. "Screen not ok, videocard kaput maybe?". "DO NOT REMOVE HARD-DRIVE WITHOUT NOTIFYING ME, HERE MY EMAIL/MOBILE NUMBER:" blabla. Really, I pointed out everything. Thus, they replaced the hard-drive, gave me back a laptop with still a broken screen, and threw away my drive full of data. Without notifying me of course. Had to send it back another 2 times before the problem was fixed. Half year later the screen was toasted again, so I gave up on that HP laptop. I'd better call the plumber rather than sending it to HP again.

Well, I managed to finish the monster model + animations though, noisy fan or not. @Peter Welzien, thanks for the Sculptris tip! The only thing that remains is drawing a proper skin, and importing the skeleton animations properly. So far my monster would end up in "The Thing", with twisted necks & arms broken Steven Seagal style. Probably some bone matrices are inverted or something. I didn't had the brainpower to trace the bug though, as I was alcoholized most of the time last 2 weeks. Better not mess with your code when being drugged.

Part of the monster model, untextured. A clayish material is used for now.

Talking about drugged... I probably had the weirdest experience of my life in the Ardennes. I'm really not into "drugz", but my friends bought these "truffles". Sort of mushrooms, a mother nature product, and 100% legal in Holland, so I thought what the hell... Sweet mother Maria on a stick.

I always found Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas just a weird movie, but it actually depicts pretty well what happens. Complete chaos. Everything is strange, funny, maybe scary. Your body malfunctions and all you can do is shit your pants if you don't watch out. And although everyone is on the same frequency and "understands" each other with just a few mimics, conversations never go further than 2 or 3 words. Because talking is too damn difficult. Blrrp, dudu blup.

So for the next 4 hours, I saw trees plumbing into the ground, the horizon getting stretched, flattened and bulging. And my friends in that wooden house made me think of an Al Bundy soap series with cardboard decors & a laughing band. So much noise and things going on, can’t relax for a second.

Strange enough the effect smoothly leaves without leaving headaches or any other bad feelings. As if nothing happened. Except there is this aftermath you start to notice... Garbage everywhere, chairs placed inside flower bushes, mattresses below the car, a parasol penetrating the airbed of one, bottles of beers that only miss 1 sip all over the place. The funniest thought is that the neighbors might have seen a bunch of idiots nervously walking/sitting/moving around all the time, talking gibberish, observing little bugs or stones from the gravel driveway. Difficult to explain the whole effect, and therefore probably just as difficult to understand what’s going on from a neighbor point of view. Seeing a couple of guys acting… rather strange.

Uhm, nothing to do with the story, but here's another shot of the monster model. Yes I made it unclear on purpose. Don't want to spoil everything already

Not sure if I'll ever do that again, but it was quite a funny experience. Most of it. I'd like to have control over my body, but with this stuff you'll be downgraded to retarded levels. The only thing you can do is go with the flow, otherwise you might end up in big panic. But since I have a little daughter, I'm quite a careful person. I was continuously stressed and being afraid one of my friends would do something stupid such as starting the car, lighting the campfire, fall down the balcony, burn the kitchen, etcetera. But wonderfully, we only had some wet pants because aiming while peeing became damn difficult. Anyhow, if you ever feel like trying such stuff, I would advise to do it together with persons you trust, and preferably someone sober to keep an eye. You could ask your mom for example.

Second week I spend in Poland. Didn’t see much from the recent flooding there. Just the typical Polish landscapes; forest, forest, farm, a few houses in forest, and more forest. More towards the cities Wroclaw and Katowice it makes place for deserted buildings, old train stations, and lots of graffiti. Or the famous grayish concrete flats of course. Preferably right next to a stinky factory pipe. To make the view somewhat more happy, much of the houses and flats are painted in bright pink, yellow, aqua blue or ochre green colors though. “Happy concrete”, as I like to call it.

Not a foto of me, but this is a typical train station. However, with a shining sun even places like these can look quite charming. It makes a HUGE difference if you visit Poland in the winter or summer.

Greetings from Bielsko-Biała!

The sober communistic flats and architecture are part of the inspiration for the Tower 22 design though. So I was quite enjoying my view from the train (although… after sitting 16 hour in that wagon…). Don’t know why but the threatening, maybe even somewhat inhumane buildings are fascinating. How the heck can a person live there? Well, acclimatizing works pretty fast, and for the people who live there, this is common business. Still, the contrast between the rather beautiful nature and the cold soulless buildings is sort of unique for a spoiled Western boy like me.

That said, just like many other Eastern Europe countries, Poland evolves quickly. Although my parents in law still use a steam-driven telephone, they also have a huge flat LCD TV. Things are just a little bit simpler here. You’ll walk on your slippers to the bar, instead with your shiny shoes. You’ll drink cheap big cans of beer instead of expensive wine. Instead of separating garbage you’ll just burn everything in the house central oven (which gives a chemical odor all over the place during the winter). Ladas drive in front of Mercedes cars, and pretty girls walk next to old grandma’s who are escorting their cows back home.

I like just walking around here. Whereas villages in Holland are typically well ordered like a Sim City map with straight boring blocks of houses and occasionally a piece of grass, the environment here is much more varying. Curly roads, strange secret paths, and beautiful houses right next to wooden cottages where a witch could live. It’s like those Zelda villages, asking to get explored.

This photo from Milowka was taken during Christmas by the way. I didn’t had a photo camera with me! Stupid.

Well, let's try to make something again for the next weekend. Ow, while being in Poland I red about Crytek's way to do realtime ambient lighting; Light Propagation Volumes. First I'll finish that movie, but this is definitely something I'd like to try out soon. Hopefully I can turn this rather difficult technique into something readable. Although Spherical Harmonics are not exactly my piece of bread either...

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