Saturday, March 21, 2009

No Skool Like Old Skool

Don't think that my life in NZ is all booze, girls and bungee jumping. No, no, no.

Most of my time is actually spent at the lab, surrounded by a bunch of computers, studying things related to 3D-graphics, graphics programming and especially augmented reality. In fact, I'm often so absorbed into my work that I end up missing the last bus home, which passes the university at 11pm. A lazy bastard like me, there's no way I would do something like that unless I found my work very interesting indeed.

Video games.

I always wanted to make my own, but for some reason never got around to seriously attempting to put one together.

So, a couple of weeks ago I decided to give it a shot!

I've been an avid gamer since 1980s, and I firmly believe that modern game makers have forgotten, what makes a good game good. It is not downloadable extra content, or a fuck-ton of shaders to make virtual boobies look so real you want to lick your monitor, nor is it real-time ray tracing or character models with million+ polygons.

It's nothing more complex than the core idea of the game. It's the game mechanics. It's the way it's been realized. IT'S THE FUN. I have two of the current generation consoles at home and I enjoy playing on them a lot, and will probably continue playing the latest games all the way to my grave, but it is my opinion that most of the games today simply can't hold a candle to the classics of days gone by.

I can accept someone calling games like X-Com ancient. They are getting there, but are still heaps more enjoyable than 99% of the offerings today. Then I hear someone saying that they have never played games like Thief, "because it's too old" and all I can think of is "Holy shit I'm getting old." If I talk about old games, I usually mean the very early 1990s offerings, like the first Monkey Islands or Scorched Earth, or if we talk about console gaming, the late 1980s NES games, such as Megaman or Metal Gear. (Kids who think that Metal Gear Solid 1 on PS1 is the original game in the series, make me die inside a bit).

Now, before someone gets it into their head to slap me in the face with their big fat nerd penis and show off their Commodore 64 or Intellivision -- I did play on them, a lot. But for me, true gaming began with post 1985-games pouring out from Japan, when the technology really started playing leap-frog with the developers.

Okay, okay. The reality is that we are now living in the new golden era of gaming, because Internet and things like Flash allow people to develop their own games with extremely limited resources and still get them to where thousands can play them, be it for free or for tuppence.

It really warms my black heart.

Can we please get to the point of this post already?

Here it is.

I've never coded anything graphical before, and I feel this little project was a great way to start looking into OpenGL. It took me about two weeks worth of long nights to put it together. My homage to games like Scorched Earth and Worms, the wonderful genre of artillery games.

I give you: Dudes!

You start off by drawing an outline:
After which the game generates a level from it, and you can place a bunch of Dudes in it......and then proceed to try and destroy every last mother-loving pixel, whether it belongs to other Dudes or the terrain itself.
A nice little physics simulation for explosions, dirt and blood particles.
And a bunch of weapons that make sure that there is no such thing as a safe place for your opponents.
Good times, I'm very happy with the outcome. :)

On to the next project, Robin!

Monday, March 16, 2009

9000 words in pictures! And some more in writing!

Went to New Brighton beach on Sunday. Lovely, lovely place. See for yourself. :)The sunlight here is very bright. It was a warm day, but not too warm for my dear jacket.

Playing with... food? Well, the sea gulls like them.
Yea, right.

A gull, a surfer dude and hills.The only purpose of this 300-meter pier, as far as I can tell, is to provide a better view of the ocean. As if you might miss it otherwise. It's construction was funded by private people and some companies. They all have name plaques planted on the top along the pier's entire length. Once the people die, the original plaques are replaced with "In loving memory of XXX" ones.

Back from the beach, in the park near my apartment.

Say what you will, I feel there is something magical about this picture. :)

Downtown Christchurch, seen from the top of the university library. My apartment is towards the left edge, 6km away, near the tall buildings.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Echoes of Steve Fossett

After my trip to Queenstown I've more or less kept my word to myself and lived peacefully (and perfectly happily) ever after.

Unloaded some photos off my phone, here are some of them.

A snapshot from the Iron Maiden concert.

At the Iron Maiden concert, the counter to buy soft drinks and snacks:

And right next to it, the counter for beer:

I found a great bar a few blocks from my apartment. Right next to the river with a nice view. Specializes in Belgian beers, of which they have an impressively large selection. Love the place. :)

This might be the only time in my life that I have actually voluntarily considered going to a service.
A nice Saturday afternoon. 25 degrees, sunshine, a large maple tree to sit under, a somewhat quiet cafe/restaurant. Later a family with 2 screaming kids came along and ruined it all. The mother was accidentally served some milk that had apparently gone bad, which had her toss her baby violently to her hubby's lap and leap to vomit even more violently against the trunk of my maple tree. The waiter was full of apologies, but I wanted to give him an extra 10-dollar tip for a job well done. ^^Alas, he disappeared after the incident.
Ah, I hear you asking yourself, "What is this about Steve Fossett, then?" Well, you know of the guy, right? Millionaire adventurer, who disappeared in US with his plane. They found the wreckage and fragments of his body months afterwards.

Today I was supposed to listen to a seminar by a Cambridge professor. I went to the lecture hall and sat there with maybe 50 other people, when at the time of the lecture a somewhat flushed guy appeared in front of the room, explaining that the professor in question has disappeared and the seminar was canceled until further notice. Apparently the man is an avid pilot and had flown his private single-engine plane to NZ all the way from UK, and two weeks before had departed to explore some islands far south from the mainland.

No one had heard of him since.

I hope the guy is okay. Would be a huge shame to lose such amount of expertise and experience in an accident, and I want to listen to that seminar, damn it!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Most radical, this one is

So sorry for the late update, was on a road trip until 2 hours ago.

The Iron Maiden concert last Sunday was really awesome, as you can probably expect from a group that has had 30 years to get their act together. Bruce did escape to backstage between songs "to change into a new outfit" -- extra oxygen and/or other stimulants may or may not have been involved. Fantastic gig, nonetheless, I can only hope that I'm half as active at their age myself.

Fine, got that off my shoulders.

And now we can proceed to the burst of righteous anger that some people have come to expect from me for some reason.

So, I was on a road trip to Queenstown for a few nights. The drive from Christchurch to Otago region takes about 6 hours and is filled with increasingly majestic mountains and the ever-humble and ever-numerous sheep. A drive from, say, Oulu to Helsinki is a long and dreadfully boring one, but on this little trip you won't really notice the time passing in nearly the same way, as you *will* keep your face pasted at the window beside you, sucking in the sights, for most of the time.

Around 11pm on Friday, about an hour and a half from Queenstown, we stopped the car to the side of the road for a moment and I saw the most incredible thing: The Milky Way. Whenever I visit my parents during the winter, I take it into me to always go outside during the night time to see the stars, as the light pollution in the city reduces my star gazing to a glance at a moon -- whenever it happens to be full. But I am willing to bet my eternal beauty on the hunch that even the street lights down in Brussels pitch in on obscuring my view up in Finland.

Not in New Zealand, not down in the southern parts of the South Island, not on that stretch of mountain road. No. There weren't many buildings around us for tens of kilometers to any direction, to the west lied mountains and thousands of kilometers of sea before Australia; to the east lied mountains and tens of thousands of kilometers of sea before the American continents. That, and we were at least 1km up in the mountains, with less air to get in the way.

It was magnificent. Truly magnificent. I know, just how large our galaxy is, but this was the first time that I could actually count stars by the thousands, millions, it felt like!

I wanted to stay there all night.

I wish I can gaze upon it again as soon as possible.


It took us 1.5 hours to reach Queenstown from that magical moment, and during that time we almost ran over a rabbit, a cat and two possums. (the rural roads in this country are literally paved by roadkill, sometimes you can't go 10 meters without coming up on a fresh(ish) street pizza. These people like to drive fast.)

Queenstown is a small, charming little town tucked away in between a swarm of ~2km peaks and a lake. Very pretty.

Think of the girl-next-door, the pretty one.

A nice lass, smart, good-natured, well-behaved. Does well in school, everyone expects worlds of her, when they notice her at all.

A lot of suppressed anger and frustration in her, from the society-inflicted illusion that she is missing out on... something. The stuff of idiotic teenage years that she on one weak moment decides to vent and ends up in bad company (yea).

A month later she has to get into porno industry to support her drug habit.

As she naturally has huge ... tracks of land ... she doesn't need to bother with too many upgrades to please her chosen audience, and as her reputation grows, so do the crowds, the piles of money, her greed and her arrogance.

Queenstown is the bleached anus of that girl, torn flaccid by the continuos triple penetrations.

It's a town of little more than 10.000 people, annually visited by more than 1.2 million tourists! It's a beautiful little town-turned-adventure-themed-amusement-park, and no matter how much money there is involved, it's bloody ridiculous! There's almost no one actually living in the core of the town, they've all escaped the suddenly-orbital real estate prices and rent levels. And the hordes and hordes of adrenalin-seeking party animals, whom no legion of Uruk-Hai could ever hope to match in disturbance they cause. The center of the town is just a collection of hostels, bars, clubs and expensive shops (the general price level is much higher than elsewhere in the country, and most of the tourist activities start their pricing from around 80 euros a shot and scale quite high indeed towards the more hardcore end of the spectrum), and the locals live higher up in the mountains, almost like trying to escape from a stampeding mass of demon-sheep, or way out in neighboring villages.

Oh well, it's their mess, not mine. Here's some more pics from the road:

Lake somethingsomething, half-way between Christchurch and Queenstown. If the air was a bit clearer, you might catch a climpse of the tallest mountain in NZ, Mount Cook(3754m) behind the lake. (very strange color, the water, by the way)
Off-roading in the surroundings of Queenstown.
Statue of the founder of Queenstown. The ever-present sheep are starting to creep me out.

10am on Saturday morning. As everyone is still sleeping off their hangovers, it's a perfect time for a quiet walk about the town.

Oh yea, almost forgot. Guess what I did? ;)

A bungy jump from 134 meters, from a pod suspended between two mountains, with a river raging through the canyon in between, way, way down. I've done it now!
And I'm never, ever doing it again! O_O