Posts Tagged 'Photoshop'

Long-Awaited Update

I’m sure thousands of pairs of eyes are anxiously reading this in hot anticipation of the mounds of news I’ve been sitting on for the last three weeks. This particular post will serve it’s purpose as an update for friends and family, and the geekiest of you are going to have to wait a little longer for a solid update on my current project.

Just on the side though, my project is coming along nicely and little remains to be coded by way of the engine. All that’s really left is to design the levels, maps and events that will make up the story of the game. Much of that exists on paper for now, but coding is proceeding at a steady rate as I have completely dedicated my writing time to the development of this side project (as you’ve all noticed). Once it is finished, the stories that have been brewing in the back of my mind will begin to spew forth in a garbled flush. You may want to have your rain coat handy.

Now for the family news. Micah started school, of course (this should be old news to you by now). We only recently got the photos from his first day downloaded from the camera to the computer and subsequently uploaded to the Internet. OK, we only uploaded ONE photo to the Internet. Allow me to explain…

Photo by Rochelle, edited in Photoshop by Brian | From Family Stuff (album)

OK, if you’ve got relatively sharp eyes or if you are actually paying attention to the photograph, you might have noticed the background (what is BEHIND Micah). No, we didn’t send him to study in Egypt, he’s safely sleeping in his room right now. What you see in the photo is the product of my last half hour’s work in Photoshop.

You see, I wasn’t there when my wife took these photos of Micah before taking him to school, so I wasn’t there to suggest they turn on a light or take the photos outside instead of against the front door in the entry way with the light off. When I filmed a short video clip of Sophie crawling a week and a half later, and tried to transfer it to the computer yesterday, I didn’t realize there were photos on the camera as well.

As can be expected with technology, there was a hiccup, and the data on the camera’s card became corrupt. The software that handles the transfer of our photos reported a complete failure and I had to reformat the card. We were depressed because the video was really cute, but today I caught her doing her thing again and shot a couple more videos (more on those below).

When I downloaded the videos and a couple of new photos of Sophie, I was surprised to find that yesterday’s attempt hadn’t been a complete failure. All of our photos and the video were still completely in tact.

Unedited Photo by Brian | From Family Stuff

Well, when I saw the pre-first-day-of-school photos I was not impressed. I was impressed that Micah wasn’t making an entirely ridiculous face or pose in every single one of them like he usually would be; but the lighting was horrible, and thus the images were grainy, and the backdrop was completely flat and dull (our white, plain door with parts of the door knob and dead bolt showing).

Perhaps the saddest part of it all was that Micah was so presentable in these photos. We don’t have any nice photos of Micah because he always loses it in front of the camera (even if the camera is off, fake or broken). He goes bonkers, and we can’t get a good picture.

Well, being the Photoshop lover that I am, I decided to see if a little touch-up could work a miracle for one of these ill-fated photographs. I fixed the histogram and levels, then I did a cheap trick with the despeckle and unsharp mask filters (I hate doing it, but sometimes it’s the only way…), and finally did a little more with the brightness/contrast until it looked descent.

My biggest gripe was still the backdrop, so I edited out the door knob and dead bolt, and started thinking about what kind of background would look better. That’s when I remembered the horrible shadow from the flash and cloned it out.

In the end I went with an Egypt backdrop (from my Egypt photos album) because I thought Micah would enjoy visualizing himself there. I finished blending the edges and realized the image still looked flat because everything was in focus. So, I blurred the background and it looked better.

Not by best image manipulation, but not a bad job for half an hour while tending a crying baby off and on. I did a test trying to deepen the lighting effects on him (more shadows and highlights to simulate the outdoor lighting of the backdrop), but decided to leave him lit the way he was (flat). Not because it looks better flat, but because my painting skills stink at any resolution greater than 64 by 64 pixels (but I don’t think I’m a bad pixel artist).

There isn’t much more news to share that you can’t get by watching the three videos I uploaded today. I’ll provide links at the end, and if I feel like it I’ll even embed them here so you don’t have to jump to YouTube to watch them. Be sure to check the third photo I uploaded today too at our Picasa Web Album (the google album). The videos deal mostly with Sophie’s newest trick: CRAWLING! You may remember she was trying a month ago to get it. Well, as of a week and a half ago she’s been totally mobile around the house. We are still baby-proofing everything, but so far the worst she’s done is stick trash from the trash can in her mouth.

As always, keep in touch with us via e-mail (it’s easier than phone calls because we are always running around). Let us know if there is any news and we’ll keep you informed as well. Thanks for reading and enjoy the videos!

Oh, and sometimes I wonder how many of you don’t ever see the notes I write about the videos on the video page at Youtube (in the upper right-hand area by the video window). Sometimes I put little antecdotes or facts about the video there that I don’t mention here. Make sure you read them (you might have to click the “more” link to expand/lengthen the text).

BONUS VIDEO!  Since I love Wall-E, I thought I’d share a video of my favorite little robot with you!  Enjoy it until next time.

Game Progress

OK, here I am again with another update on that game I’ve been working on.

Lately, it’s been rough. I’ve been trying to balance my deep desire to work on my coding project and my family life. I think I’ve been doing OK, but I’m sure my wife wishes she could have me just a little bit more than she has had me.

If I must say so myself though, I think everything is turning out fairly nicely. Sure, I’m not really focusing on the graphics, so the pictures I’m sharing below shouldn’t be taken too seriously (they are for example purposes only), and I’m not really working on the story of the game yet (I have friends that are helping with that because they’re excited about it), so a lot of what is written in the instructions is bogus and silly, but the underlying code is working really nicely and I have a lot of ideas written down for making it even more efficient and flexible.

Some of the ideas include a more efficient system for handling the doors and linkages between maps (I think I can reduce the lines of code per door by up to 66%), I have to add support for conversations with different responses (the mechanics are all worked out, I just haven’t coded it yet), I have to add support for doors that lock now that my keys are working properly (I had a wonderful moment of genius yesterday where I figured out a simple, elegant way to handle the locking mechanism in code), and I want to explore the idea of having a border-less map system (where the walls around the edges would be unnecessary). Of course, I need to make tons of new maps (and I keep thinking that some kind of cool editor would be fun, for now I use Notepad), I have to do more with the part of the game where you die (we have some good ideas for a heaven/hell situation based on your choices in the game, the tracking system of which does not yet exist in the code, but I think I’m ready to add it), and I want to do a tutorial mode where you are sent on a brief, simple mission just to learn how to play.

Of course, if the actual game play is going to last more than five minutes it would be nice if the user could save their progress. Right now all of the progress information is stored in variables on the web page and all of the information is lost when you reload the page (close your browser, navigate away from the page and back to it, etc.). I know that cookies could help me save the key information and reload it when the page is loaded again, but I’ve never worked with cookies before so it would be a learning experience. I think I will wait until the game is done and playable before getting into that though, because it would be a pain to make changes to the game code that would require the cookie code to change.

Below I am sharing a few screen shots and the entire written portion of the instructions I’ve drafted up (they are more for fun that serious, and they have not been spell checked so have mercy). The version that is pulled up from the game shows the images associated with each ASCII character, but I didn’t want to upload all of them so you could see. If anyone is interested in playing around in my unfinished version (you can’t win because there is no story yet), just let me know and if I feel like it I’ll upload a .zip file with all of the images and .htm files you need to play. Really all you can do is walk around collecting stuff, talking to people (most of whom have nothing to say) and killing things. Most of the doors don’t work and most of the items don’t do anything. If you want to play around with it though, just let me know and I’ll upload it all. Just don’t go stealing my code! 😀

Click on the image to see the full sized version (I am especially proud of my water monster and the two headed dragon, and no, that woman does not have arms).

Help and Instructions


Story and General Instructions

For now, there isn’t much of a story. Just like any other game, you take control of the worthless and expendable life of some poor little man who needs you to tell him what to do all of the time. The rest of the story will become more clear as you play, or it won’t. Either way, it’s a game, not a movie.

This game is controlled entirely through the keyboard (which is impressive considering that most of the original code was written before I incorporated the keyboard controls). For details on which keys do what, see the table below titled “General Keyboard Commands” and the “Items” table as some items have a keyboard command associated with them.

Most spaces in the game can be walked on, some cannot. The “Terrain” table contains details about that. If there is anything you’re curious about, try to step on it and see what happens. Most item, character and enemy interaction is handled this way.

Look over the tables below to learn more details, then get back to playing the game! This screen can be called up any time throughout the game by pressing the “h” key on your keyboard. To return to normal gameplay, press the space bar. Good luck and have fun!

General Keyboard Commands

Key Action
h Displays this help file. Can be used at any time during the game.
space Function varries based on the situation. If pressed now, it will return you to the game.
t Currently, pressing this key causes the rendering code to switch from using image tiles to using ASCII letters and from ASCII to image tiles.
arrow keys These are the keys you use to move around. You can press an arrow key once to move one space, or hold one of them down to travel a greater distance. While holding down a directional key you cannot change directions without releasing the key you are already holding down. By standing next to an interactive item, such as an enemy, another character or an item, and pressing the arrow key toward that item you will interact with it.
numbers 1-4 These are used in conversation to select your response.
Y/N Sometimes, rather than a complicated response, a character will simply ask a yes or no question, in which case you will hit “y” or “n” to respond.
F5 Pressing the F5 key refreshes the page and starts everything over completely. Your progress is not saved, though a saving system is being considered. Can only be used during game play, not now.

Items

ASCII Key Name Description
a backpack The backpack is used for carrying items. It is required before you can start the game (officially) and carry other items.
o small orb The small orb adds a little attack power to your weapon attack power. The orb is carried in the backpack.
i c candle The candle is used to light up dark rooms. Some rooms have areas of darkness which the candle can also light up, but only momentarily. The candle is carried in the backpack.
# raft Once you have the raft, you can travel over water. The raft is also carried in the backpack.
small stick The small stick is the least effective weapon. Choosing it at the beginning of the game may give you certain advantages however. The backpack is required to carry the small stick.
_ big stick The big stick is a little more powerful than the small stick, though less powerful than the sword. The backpack is required to carry the big stick.
t basic sword The basic sword is the most powerful weapon you can choose at the beginning of the game, though you may find yourself in a disadvantage sometimes throughout the game should you choose it. The backpack is used to carry the basic sword.
/ arrows As of right now, arrows don’t do anything. You carry them in your backpack.
D bow Currently, the bow just sits there and looks pretty. You carry it in your backpack.
~ w gummi-worm The gummi-worm is carried in the backpack until you need it. Pressing the “w” key causes you to eat one from your inventory and restore health.
O big orb The big orb adds even more attack power to your weapon. Requires the backpack.
C lucky horseshoe The lucky horseshoe is useless. You carry it in your backpack.
l k key The key is required for opening locked doors. You need a backpack to carry them in. An inventory is kept for when you have more than one.
B b bomb Bombs blow some things up, but not everything. Use with caution – if you blow one next to another bomb you will get hurt. You carry them in the backpack.
* health star Find one of these to restore some health.
$ money Collect lots of cash. Mostly just because you never know what you’ll need it for.

Terrain

ASCII Name Description
X wall Walls cannot be stepped on or passed, but some are easy to blow up with a bomb.
H/I doors Some doors are locked, others take you random places. Have fun with doors.
= bridge/wooden floor Some of the bridge sections may blow up when you use a bomb. Be careful.
| railing On occasion you will find a rail that can blow up. It never hurts to check, unless there are other bombs nearby.
w water Once you have the raft, you can travel over water.
! tree Some trees can be blown up, but that’s not a very nice thing to do.
A/M mountains Mountains cannot be crossed for now, but some funny people often live among them.
^ hill You can walk on these with no problem.
P flag I’m not sure what these are for.
grass Feel it between your toes…
E darkness You can’t even see yourself in the darkness, you need light.
`/./,/: sand For walking in. Not good for eating.

Characters

ASCII Name Description
@ hero This silly moron doesn’t know how to think for himself and needs you (of all people) to guide him through every little aspect of his meaningless 2-dimensional life.
& old man Usually friendly, these people just want to have a word with you.
K woman Maybe she needs your help, maybe not. You never know which woman will turn out to be the princess in your life.
e basic enemy These are weak, but not the weakest of enemies. The small stick will not kill one alone.
s small snake These are among the weakest of all the enemies. Even a smack from a small stick will beat one to death.
Q “Q” enemy These are a little more fearsome. You’ll need more than just the sword to take these out.
S big snake These are a gamble, even with the sword. Once you’ve got an orb or two though, they’re hardly worth mentioning.
Z “Z” enemy These are some of the strongest enemies made so far.
F water monster These mysterious enemies are strong, so watch out.
N horse monster These are as strong as the “Z” enemies, but harder to find.
Y two-headed dragon These ultra-strong enemies are dangerous, and even a few orbs and a sword cannot kill them. You’re going to have to find something else that may be effective against them.

Where I Went

Occasionally I may disappear from time to time. I should hope that anyone who knows me at all would realize that my disappearing does not mean that I have ceased to be actively engaged in something. In fact, when I neglect something like my “thing” here it’s usually because I have something more exciting going on.

In fact, over the last week I have had several more exciting things happening than this.

In small news, we rented a fun game over the weekend. I loved the movie “Wall-e” so much that I just had to try the Wii game. Overall, my impression of the game was a good one. I think the developers rushed through parts of the game, but the majority was well thought out and fun.

The real time sucker for me the last week or so has been related to my last post about the game project. Shortly after writing that post, I came up with the bright idea to set the actual game portion aside and continue with an aspect of my original idea – the part where simple games could be made even by a novice or child.

I remembered the days when I had a TI-eighty-something graphing calculator that allowed for some simple code writing (scripting) in its native language. I was able to program it to play a number guessing game. It would print out on the screen “guess a number between 0 and 100” or whatever two numbers I chose, then I could guess. It would tell me “too high” or “too low” until I got the answer and it reset to “guess a number…” The experience with programming that simple application was enough to spark my interest in computer and web programming and has led me to better learn linear/sequential-thinking skills (I guess I’m a visual/spatial person, and linear or sequential thinking is difficult for me).

What I’m getting at is this: I thought, “wouldn’t it be great if I could write a program that would ease my son into the world of programming!?!” My son is definitely sequentially challenged and could certainly benefit from a bit of computer interaction at the programming level. How do you teach a five-year-old to write code though? So, I devised a plan (like I always do).

The plan was only complicated because of how elegantly simplistic and straightforward it was. It would be able to teach anyone the basics of a simple web programming language known as JavaScript. I developed an outline for a set of lessons that would walk the user through various levels of difficulty in programming functions. The program itself would adapt its interface to grow with the user as he progressed through the lessons and became more proficient.

I may or may not create the JavaScript teaching program, but I am already nearly done with one of the projects the program would walk the user through creating.

In fact, the project has grown into something far more complicated than anything I would ever ask a new programmer to attempt. It has even stumped me a couple of times in big ways.

When I finish it, I’ll try to upload it to my Google page so you can try it out. Quickly, before I go off to bed, I’m going to explain what it is and ask for your input and suggestions.

I’m making a simple game that will be played in the web browser. It is programmed entirely in JavaScript and is (as of right now) designed to be played in one sitting, though each time you play it your choices will create a different experience. If I go back and review techniques for writing and reading cookies to your local machine, I may be able to allow you to save your progress, but for now the entire game resets when you close the browser, refresh the page or load the page.

Right now, the entire look of the game is achieved with text. Here are a couple of screen-shots to illustrate:

Eventually I may take screen-shots like these into Photoshop and modify each individual character to better represent its item (saving the modifications as small images and having the program assemble the images in the same manner as it assembles the text).

For now, I would simply have to explain what each character represents for a person to be able to play the game. The @ symbol represents the main character. The & represents other people, the s and S are snakes, the $ is money, * is health and the C is a lucky horseshoe. Of course, the e is an enemy, as are the Q’s and the snakes. The H’s at the tops and bottoms of the screens are doors, and the I’s are also doors on the sides. The ^ represents a hill that can be walked on, but an A is a mountain and cannot be initially transversed (perhapse special shoes could be obtained allowing one to scale a mountain). The w is water, and a raft (#) is required before one can cross rivers that do not have a bridge (=). Sand and grass are represented by periods, semicolons and commas, and trees are exclamation points.

Of course, there are many other characters that I have used, but it would be a simple job to have the Javascript replace each letter or character with an image and thus create a much less jarring visual experience for the user.

Essentially, I have too many ideas (just for the game engine, the inner-workings of the code that drives the game) to outline everything here. The room on the right in my example was dark (represented by a screen full of E’s) until I used my candle to light it up (many ideas are drawn from games like the Zelda and Link series). I have set my code up to be flexible enough to do almost anything. All I need now are more ideas.

What kinds of stories would you tell if you had an open ended game like this? What kind of adventure would you go on? You can’t bring any friends with you, and your items may be limited (with no features for animating, enemies don’t move and it would be nearly impossible to actually use the bow and arrow – for now I don’t plan on animating anything), but many quests and adventures are still possible. Send me your best ideas and I’ll see if anything sounds fun to me.

My wife has already contributed (Burt and the gummi worm are her handiwork). What ideas will you contribute?

Once I’ve finished the basic game engine I’ll try to post it online somewhere so you can see what it’s capable of. I won’t have a story fully developed by then, of course, but everything should function properly (as of right now, it is possible to lose a battle and end up with negative health points, but you don’t die). I’ll work out the bugs and you can come up with ideas for me. If your idea requires a reworking of the basic engine, but it’s good, I’ll see what I can do. Remember, I’m keeping things fairly simple, but complicated enough to be fun.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering… The portion I expected an intermediate beginner to be able to code was finised within the first day. It consisted of a few lines of code to draw the map and some buttons that moved the little man around in the map. From there I just kind of went crazy… And what if you could collect items? Oh, and what if you could have a raft? Wow, and how about doors? Let’s put some enemies in! We need weapons, and battles, and candles for darkness, and keys for doors, and guys to talk to, and boss battles, and stores, and dynamic items and terrain, and conversations, and why won’t he die?, and, and, and… … …

Childhood Dream – Video

I was feeling a bit nostalgic today, remembering such classic cartoons as “Darkwing Duck,” “Talespin,” and others with some of my peers. Perhaps that’s why I was taken back to my catalog junkie days.

That’s right, I was a catalog junkie. I used to regularly receive catalogs from several computer and software companies (junk-mail in my parents’ eyes), in addition to flipping through the big Sears catalog my mother would get. Those technology catalogs were my favorite though, and I learned a lot from them. For example, I knew all the fastest CPU speeds, how much RAM was being put in the high-end machines, and how big one could possibly get a hard drive. I noticed when the first floppy-drive-less computers began shipping, and realized that the minuscule storage on those things would prevent them from being missed.

Perhaps my favorite pastime from the catalog days was clipping or highlighting all of the components of my dream setup. I would find the most powerful graphics computer, clip it out and put it in a box or a folder. Then I would go find software that looked interesting for doing what I wanted to do, or supplemental hardware. I was in love with the 3D animations that had begun to get big and was convinced that I would become a 3D animator for movies and special effects. I found out about programs like Lightwave and 3D Studio Max. I learned that Photoshop was used to create textures and backdrops. I began learning which programs were low-end and which ones were being used to create professional work.

Eventually I had quite a collection. My collection of clippings evolved from technology alone to everything I wanted in life. There was this really cool computer desk that I wanted from the Sears catalog, as well as an entertainment center with doors that hid the TV. I even fell in love for one of the first times going through a catalog.

It was the Sears catalog, and I found her in the teen clothing section. I remember at the time I had a little crush on Anna Chlumsky from the movie My Girl. Her beauty was by far outshone by the mystery girl I found in the catalog. I am embarrassed to add that she was modeling underwear. Honestly, I don’t remember caring about the underwear (it wasn’t lingerie, it was like a sports bra or a trainer bra or something). I stared at her warm face and immaculate hair for hours on end, barely noticing the rest of her. I thought she had the most perfect eyes, the most beautiful smile… I was truly in love. I gazed so deeply into the image that I became irritated with how poorly images were reproduced in print products. I wanted a larger, clearer view of her gorgeous face (the whole clipping was only a few inches across). I often returned to the children’s section of the Sears catalog to see if she would come back, but alas I never saw her again. Several years later, just at the very beginning of my college adventures, I went to the Sears website and the rest of the web doing extensive searches in an attempt to find out who that girl might have been. I had a time frame, I knew the catalog month (but have since forgotten), I searched for several days. My efforts were to no avail. She was lost forever. Even my beloved clipping had disappeared and all I was left with was a memory. Luckily, I met my wife shortly thereafter.

That’s not why I wrote though. I am writing because I have been realizing over the last few months that one of my childhood dreams has remained alive within me (among others – they must have set up some kind of a refugee camp or something though, because the majority of my childhood dreams have long since been CRUSHED). In those catalog days, crouching over several copies of “PC Warehouse” at once, pondering the possibilities, I used to dream that one day I would have a family of my own (check, that one came true) and produce periodic family videos (using the cool stuff in the catalogs) that would have subtle, sporadic special effects sprinkled in (just to make them a little more fun). I had seen many home videos that were boring. If my family was going to make video of itself, it would need a little extra something.

Some of the ideas for CG (computer generated) additions to my home movies were things like a video of the children playing in the front yard, and in the background something crashes down from space into the house, causing an explosion (which the kids would ignore, of course, seeing as how they’re playing) and a giant robot or monster would come out of the rubble and crash around. I even thought it would be fun to have the kids participate, with me telling them to freak out and run at a certain time. Another idea was to have a video of one of the children’s rooms and have a doll or toy of his come to life in the background, dancing around and playing until the kid looks back at it.

At the time such ideas were the stuff Hollywood special effects artists were only beginning to get good at. Now, the tools exist for all of us; and anyone with the money to spare, the time to invest, and the skill to learn can do it. I’ve got the skills, I only lack the time and money (for now). Eventually, if I ever get that time and money, I still want to produce my own video. Home videos, perhaps a podcast/internet show, maybe some short films… I don’t know. The possibilities are endless. I wouldn’t want to make it a career, but as a hobby I could have a lot of fun with it. I even think my wife would love participating both in front of and behind the camera.

So, in advanced preparation for such a day, I am going to assemble and maintain a list of items to buy. I will assemble that list here and when I have a specific product, I will link to it and include it in a special list at metawishlist.com, so if you want to donate thousands of dollars to my cause, feel free.  The metawishlist keeps a running total of how much everything in the list would cost together (as of right now, over $12,000 not including the computer).

* I probably won’t link to one specific system because the “best” system specifications change almost daily.  If we ever really do this, I would simply look for the most powerful computer system available in the $2,000 – $6,000 range from a hardware manufacturer I trust.

** Adobe has ONE package called Creative Suite 3 Production Premium which contains all of the (starred**) items plus a few extras for a really great price.

That just about does it for now. If you have any suggestions for items on the list that are missing, better products than the ones I link to, or product suggestions for items I don’t have product for, feel free to leave a comment. Thanks!


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