Friday, July 6, 2012


Congratz with another football victory Espanol! Since almost half of the T22 team is made of sundried Paco Loco, I got to support them a bit (even though the bastards shattered our World Cup dreams two years ago in the grand finale).

Vacation is over again, time to sweat again till somewhere December. Did we do anything interesting past 2 weeks? Friends & I visited a rock festival in Belgium (Rock Werchter) and there we're some family-duties in Poland. I don't speak a word Polish, so all this ideal son-in-law does is drinking dad’s beer from the fridge. Nevertheless, I did some useful programming while drinking, and observed the remains of the communistic era a bit.
Realtime glossy reflections here by doing raymarching through 3D textures filled with the surrounding scene. Pretty cool, and it runs pretty fast on my 2008 laptop but... the grain artefact stinks like socks. The reason is the reflection is done on low-res buffers with low-res data.

Rock Werchter (though it's more about poop)
But let's tell something about that rock festival first. Came and left with a mixed feeling. The line-up was pretty great. To name just a few; Jack White, Elbow, DeadMau5 (not rock, but after hearing guitars all day, you know) and my favorites Cypress Hill and Pearl Jam. Didn't see but also there were the Chili Peppers and another favorite, The Editors. Cool and all, but I always wonder if those artists really enjoy what they're doing, asides living the life of a rockstar, big house, five cars, being in charge. I mean, for us mortals the performance sounds overwhelming and we audience feels flattered if Gary Lightbody sais "Iek haouw vaan joelie" (Love you in broken Dutch). But don't forget these guys play the same jingle every festival. Rapper B-Real is wondering “How he could just kill a man?!” for 20 years already. I guess most of them just play their hour full, say love you, receive their cash, fuck you, and then get out of there ASAP.

Nevertheless, Elbow was crystal clear, Cypress Hill made us feel a L.A. gangster for a moment, Bombay Bicycle Club was also surprisingly enjoyable, and especially Eddy Vedder gave a hell of a show and behaved like a real guitar hero. So, what's the mixed feeling about then? Well, it isn't the music. It's just that I'm not made for the whole camping shit around it (this festival takes 4 days). I enjoyed sleeping in tents 15 years ago being member of sort of a cheap equivalent on the boy Scouts, but those days you didn't wake up with beer-hangovers in a 40 degree sun-baked tent. You would get a (healthy) breakfast and explore the forest or something, instead of sitting in the mud & sun, waiting/hoping to get that headache disappear. And then the crown on the turd; back then our "toilet" (craphole) was shared with 15 or 20 kids, instead of 2.000 drunk-puking- diarrhea men. Do you know Pyramid Head from Silent Hill? Imagine his uh... Pyramid head being made of brown chunky turds, 35 degree Celsius, smiling at you each time you visit the toilet and forgot not to look in the hole. My girl asked me what happened to me when I got back home. “You know what happened to professor Brundle in The Fly?”, I asked here. You would get a fusion with the toilet contents if being in there for more than four seconds. And yeah, if you drink beer, toilet visits are hourly business. If not for pissing, then to empty your alcohol tortured body with one happy rectum bang, like a combi between Rambo on the M60 and the Probotector/Contra Spread-Gun.

All of that might have been bearable if I didn't have a sore back. Don't know what I did, but after a few hours already, the lower-back started hurting, commanding me to sit down. On the mud, pizza-plate, piss, plastic beercup covered ground of course. I came to see artists, not the legs of 80.000 people (although seeing that "forest of legs" around me with Deadmau5 in the air was quite a bizarre sight... maybe an idea for T22). Probably walking around with lot’s bags in Poland, sleeping on a couch, and sitting in a train for almost 20 hours (back from Poland) was a bit too much for my rusty back. Hey, getting a day older as well! Finally, maybe even the whining about dirty campings and a sore back would be gone if I was a true music lover. But I'm not. I listen and enjoy, but I won't shout, dance, or fall in coma when Michael Jackson enters the stage. Over-enthusiast people give me the creeps. So, on day 3 I decided to go home a bit earlier as planned.

Conclusion: Make your own private toilet with wheels, a coolbox, and a cylinder that can pull it up so you can sit, watch the stage, drink, and piss whenever needed. Or a more realistic solution, if you’re like me, just stay for 1 day only when your real favorite artists perform.
Don't mention the black dots, those are just flies. The same technique for Glossy reflections can also be used to sample G.I. and Ambient Occlusion. The low resolution and low amount of sampling rays still make it a bit... unusable. Tried thousand-and-one Ali Baba tricks, but usually the consequences are either bad performance, light-leaking, not suitable for large scenes, or all of it together.

Fear and loathing in Polska
Enough Pooptales, Poland then. The first half of the vacation we visited my girls mom and dad again. I'm not really their son-in-law by the way, we're not married (yet). Anyhow, it wasn't the first time, no big surprises this time, so I won't write the same stories about alcoholics, cozy country village-life, and other typical Polska folklore again. But if you are interested, check these earlier posts:
- Poland 2010
- More Poland, and Auswitz

Neither did we see much of the European Cup football tournament being held in Poland & Ukraine btw. Our (sleeping)train traveled through the south parts of Poland, away from the football cities. I kept my eyes open for ugly (Soviet) buildings & flats, which are of course part of the Tower22 inspiration. As said several times before, it's not that Poland is stuffed with half collapsing concrete monster flats and abandoned nuclear silo’s. For one reason, a typical Soviet apartment block isn't that high (8 to 15 stores), at least not here in Poland. Second, Poland evolves as well (luckily), so old crap will either get a facelift or disappears sooner or later. Third, most of the South-West country is filled with dense forest and agricultural fields instead of stinky industry-villages. And the south-central part looks pretty charming actually. In the summer at least. The words "Soviet-village" make me think of decayed concrete buildings, blackened by factory fumes, between graffiti covered metal skeletons of old trucks, tanks, play-yards, somewhere in an extreme cold snowy wasteland. Sure, the connoisseur can find such sights here, but most of the landscape here is made of rolling hills, forest, rivers and pretty charming villages with houses & yards that are bigger than the average Dutch house. Although I must say the winter transforms it in an ugly gray monster. Not that Holland -or any other country- looks that nice below a package of gray rainy clouds, but the lack of maintenance on the buildings and infrastructure reveals itself when the trees, busy street-life and garden barbeques aren't helping. No, for Tower22 inspiration you'd better visit Poland during the Winters. Or maybe autumn, my favorite time of the year.
My vacation photo's, dobre.

It's quite funny that working on a game like this makes you open your eyes. For one thing, I always try to keep track of how things get indirectly illuminated. You know, the ambient-lighting story. But also, from a more artistic perspective, you'll focus on things a normal person would ignore. People must have been thinking "what is that idiot shooting?", when I was taking photo's while the train passed a whole row of infamous large factory red-white striped chimneys that each self-respecting Polish village has. A local just walks by and doesn't notice rusty gas-pipes, graffiti walls or sober apartment blocks. The average Polish guy just looks bored, tired, or "dangerous" in the case of youngsters who still need to overcome their insecurities. Women keep their eyes on shops. Though smaller cities here lack exuberant shopping centra, so women switch over to their second favorite activity: watching & criticizing other people/women. Then a tourist would focus on the good stuff. Rich decorated buildings, mountains, historical remains, et cetera... if there were tourists. Who the hell visits a small Polish village? But my focus is on gray walls, containers, old mining factories, rusty signs, weird stairs going to dark corners in the street a normal person would pass, old train wagons, holes in the pavement, and the ugliest parts a building has to offer. The best sights are the ones where you wonder "why?!". Why are two different color corrugated metal plates used to cover that hole? Why is that door only 130 cm tall? Why is there Zebra-skin wallpaper in this little restaurant room that probably wasn't a toilet first? Probably due the lack of money and urgency to perfectly design things, you often walk into half-finished improvised, charming, erh, junk here.

Polish Urban mysteries
But honestly there wasn't that much new "cool inspiration". As said, Poland is cleaning up itself slow but steadily, and been there / done that. Although... a few things are worth a mention:

* The good old Air-Raid.
In a small village like Milowka, the firemen are usually handymen -or something else- doing the fire extinguishing as an extra (volunteer) job. So that means they won't be standby at the fire-station. Instead, the siren has to pull them out of their beds, pub, or whatever they were doing. It sounds quite impressive, and you know shit will hit the fan as soon as the sky starts groaning. Each time I visit Poland there is at least 1 big thunderstorm, and that automatically inherits forest fires, burning sheds, toasted electronics, and thus a cool air-raid.

* PKP, that is Polskie Koleje PaƄstwowe, which is Polish State Railways
The Polish rail network is not (fully) controlled by computers yet. Most stations have two houses next to the track, being used to control the rail switches. One of them being old, deserted, graffifucked and with shattered glass. And another house, being populated with one person, usually an older woman, hanging bored out the window, watching as the train passes by. I wonder though, how often does this go wrong? It looks boring but it's quite a responsible job. Fall asleep, forget a switch and boom. In fact, Poland had a large train accident very recently, killing 16 people. And yes, the cause seems to be a “human error”. But back to those houses… Each time when passing by I wondered why they need a whole building for one or two grandma’s hanging out a window. What’s inside those things? Gigantic levers? Just curious.

* Mysterious towers
Another typical Polish sight nearby those train-houses; these towers;

What are those? First I thought about storage towers for water, coals or grain or something. But the windows on the sides reveal those are just hollow cylinders. Doesn't make much sense to fill these with water. It seems people work(ed) at the tops, but as what? You're not going to tell me they have yet another rail-control building. Operating two or four switches at a small village station doesn't require a house, another abandon house, AND a weird tower right?

* Blockwave gas-pipes
More railway fun, though I think I can explain this one. But enlighten me if I got it wrong. Quite often you can see thick, block-pattern shaped pipes along the railways in cities. Most probably those were/are gas or maybe even oil pipes. Smaller pipes going into the city, tapping from these main pipes? Or maybe transporting gasses/fluids between the stations and factories that are nearby usually. But why this block-pattern? So you can walk or drive under the pipe each 20 meters? Eastern Europe mysteries!

* Church rock
Not much of a mystery, but quite odd for a guy like me nevertheless. Dunno about other villages, but in Milowka, the church plays a song at 21:00. Each day. And each day it's the same song. Something about virgin Maria and the three kings. As you know, Poland is quite catholic (that's why the average Polish man is never drunk and paints like an angel). A church playing music isn't that special, but there is something about that tune. It doesn't sound like Quasimodo & bronze bells. It's trumpet music, sounding a bit sad and triumphant at the same time... A bit like a Saving Private Ryan tune. I like it.

Most of you probably won't give owlcrap about block-pattern gaspipes or why rail switches are controlled in a house, but I'll try to extract interesting little details for our game out of it. The world is full of (rusty) miracles if you look a bit further!

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