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プードルフェス

写真にはうつらない美しさがあるから

Slip
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poodleface
So I made this GBA game: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/2506063/Slip-alpha.gba

I had a better idea for a game before making this one, but quickly learned that it was going to be a nightmare to implement it the way I had envisioned on the GBA. At the 11th hour, I had an idea for another game... called "Time Management". The basic conceit was that it was going to be a somewhat dull game that got more and more exciting as you played it, expressed by more colorful things to collect, and more ridiculous "WHEEEE!" jumping sounds as you went through it. The point of the game, and the only way to "win", is to stop moving and wait for a while, which would cause the environment to return back to a dull one and trigger the "win" condition. The point was that to get things done you can't enjoy the fun distractions.

Then I started programming it and started having issues getting my graphical tiles to display correctly. In a fit of pique, I decided that the game would now instead be about the GBA hardware itself, and how an idea can "slip" away from you. Hence the name SLIP (though I also chose it because it was an oblique reference to a language created by Joseph Weizenbaum, creator of ELIZA and a writer of a book about the ethical concerns of technology).

So I had a lot of fun programming all sorts of ways to glitch the graphics. So much so that I neglected the basic "collect items" gameplay until it was too late. As I saw it, collecting the gems would cause the glitches to start to snowball and make the game more difficult to play, at least until you collected so many that the entire background entirely disappeared. At that point, then and only then would you be able to physically move your character forward on the screen, at least until you walked off the edge of the screen, which would trigger the "Fin" condition.

As it stands now, the glitches happen way too fast and kick in as you start to walk forward (right). The gems are all buggy and you can't collect them yet. The game simply continues until the music loop happens twice... which is about a minute and a half. So if you decide to play, I recommend moving and then stopping, then moving again. Stopping slows down the "glitch" rate, which lets you look at the ridiculousness of the tiles swapping around better. Which is sort of the point, as well. The collecting gems part was never the most important part.

There are some other themes I thought about making this, but they aren't apparent yet, so I shan't divulge them. There is definitely a reason I chose a treasure type item as the object you acquire, though, so take that for what it is worth.

I will demo this game for the class in the next couple of days. I expect a lot of "??????" looks.

Here's what I wrote to the TA in bugs.txt:

- game pauses at beginning, press Start again after leaving splash screen to start the game
- gems cannot be collected, but this wasn't really the point of this game anyway
- the tile background glitching like crazy is COMPLETELY INTENTIONAL... 
	there are additional glitches that trigger as you walk forward
	the point of the game is to reflect on the glitchiness of the hardware
	I amplified these glitches through questionably creative means (purposely changing 4bpp->8bpp, etc)
- there is no way to return to the main title other than reseting the game.
	this was done on purpose.
- there is no cheat, because there is no objective other than to wait for the music to loop
	twice while walking forward. press the space bar in the emulator to fast forward to the end.
	
- but hey, my gravity works, and my sounds are great, and the sprites animate

For real... it's hard to see but my main character sprite does the "Luigi in Super Mario Brothers 2" thing when he jumps.

I actually hope to finish this over the semester break, re-record the 3am music, create more variations and glitches (scrolling the offsets on the horizontal blanks* would really make the whole thing look like it was melting). It was a lot of fun, and I could wistfully hope that I should have started sooner, but I doubt I would have done something this bizarre otherwise.

*horizontal blanks are the short span of time where the GBA is not drawing to the display after scanning each row. you can alter the graphics during these horizontal blanks to create crazy parallax effects.

11111 -> 100000
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poodleface
I'm 32 today. I've gleefully told everyone that I'm gaining a binary digit this year. After 25 or so, you have to create your own milestones, or at least ones you want to hit.

Being in school I hear a lot of talking about "feeling old". I can certainly understand this... after all, such feelings are usually relative, and if I had already spent the past four years at Tech on top of going straight through every other sort of school, then I would definitely be saying the same thing. Yet, it's one thing to feel the passage of time, it is entirely another to use it as some enabling force to be completely apathetic. In that sense, I'm not old at all.

At the same time, I feel the passage of time, and feel the loss of things more deeply with each passing year, even as I remain amused, dare I say enchanted, with the things I'm learning, the people I'm meeting, and the stuff I'm doing (even if I could always do more than I have). I don't look forward to each birthday, nor do I really dread it. I merely accept it.

As such, I also accept that anything that happens now that is less than optimal can likely be traced back to various decisions I've made along the way. Take for instance tomorrow/this evening, where I will be working for the vast majority of it. I've got somewhere I may be going after work, but what really pulls at me a little is something entirely inane: There's a small get-together tomorrow to celebrate the release of the new Erato (Tech's campus art journal thing), and one of the drawings I did in my Visual Design class is in it. I'd like to go to that, if only for a bit, but it looks like I won't be able to. I'd just like a moment to reflect on something I've accomplished, I suppose, but my decisions up to this point have robbed me of that. C'est la vie.

Tonight I was attempting to transform a one dollar bill into a facsimile of Andy Kaufman when I scrawled out a doodle of myself, culled from a blurry camera pic. This was the result:

DSC_4263-1

It has all sorts of wrong with it, but I sort of like it.

I tried wading back on OkCupid recently. I had one good person I've met and dated for a while, but the rest has been the vacuum of non-responses, no matter how much wit, sensitivity and intelligence I muster. I'm pretty sure it boils down to physical attributes and finances in the end, particularly on an online dating site where everyone is quickly valued, almost as a commodity. I'm pretty much done with it (again), though I'm tempted to rewrite my profile one last time and make the above picture my only available picture.

For now, such shenanigans will have to wait for the end of the semester. More projects and the like to do... hopefully I'll have some interesting fruit to share in a couple of weeks.

On the way home from work tonight I listened to this song, which pretty much sums up my feelings at this moment:



This isn't to say I'm not happy most of the time. Rumination like this usually doesn't follow when one is happy, after all. I'll be playing Nophest this summer. I've got some interesting classes lined up. There is plenty of future ahead.

Blog Redirect
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poodleface
It looks like you'll want to go to http://respid.wordpress.com if you want to read anything I'm writing for the majority of the rest of the semester. I was directed to start a blog for my Principles of Interaction Design class and I've started writing more there than merely the responses to short assignments. Anyway, I just wrote this, which describes a sort of "duh" moment that hit me in Computer Audio today:

http://respid.wordpress.com/2010/01/21/music-leftbrain/

respid - my initials, Principles of Interaction Design
Yes... very imaginative.

Custom Made Controversy Closed
poodle - dance all night long
poodleface
Apologies have been issued for what happened, so I'm inclined to live and let live, bury the hatchet, et al. Kudos to MaddFlash for owning up.

Triumphant Melancholy
animated - We Don't Think Of The Rest
poodleface
Blessedly, they've cut the late shows at the theatre during the week once again, so I was able to leave at a relatively sane 145am tonight (as opposed to the occasional 430am of the past few weeks). Tonight was a good night, despite the low-level sickness that has insisted on hanging around as it has for the past few days. I managed to read the entirety of Steve Martin's Born Standing Up, which despite its short length is one of the most lucid and poetic descriptions of "how I got from nothing to success". I'd recommend it to anyone.

Leaving for the day, I carried my bicycle down the side steps, not really looking forward to riding home in 20 degree weather, but glad to be leaving all the same. As I donned my gloves, a song wafted over from the 19th Street Cafe. Usually, it is a generic electronic type song, but this evening it was Alphaville's Forever Young:



As I look at turning 32 (it will be a binary digit milestone, as oniugnip pointed out, as I turn from 0b11111 to 0b1000000) this song holds a bit more melancholic sway, though not a whole lot more than it has in the past. I certainly don't ruminate much about being young, since in many ways I still feel quite youthful, and I feel like I've discarded much of the naiveté that doesn't serve me well at this stage of my life. What this song reminded me of more is how much of the music I've enjoyed in my life have been characterized by a triumphant melancholy, especially in the synth pop songs of the 1980s. Purely joyful songs have their place, I suppose, but they have never remained in my head for very long.

On a somewhat related note, tonight I unexpectedly recalled this song from Final Fantasy VI (called Final Fantasy III in the US) (fast forward to 0:33):



Anyone who has played this game remembers this moment. I was likely sixteen when I bought this game and played it through (and I still have the cartridge, remarkably). I remember bits and pieces of the game, but this particular moment of the game was the second time I felt a chill go down my spine while playing a video game. The first time was playing and beating Dragon Warrior (1) and choosing "yes" when asked if I would join the Evil Bad Guy, at which point the screen would turn red and eerie music would play until you physically pressed the RESET button.

The most remarkable thing about this particular song is that I had only heard it one time, yet today I was able to not only recall most of the melody but also the opening words (bad translation and all). This likely came from copying down the script before starting the song so I would know which selection to pick, but it still didn't explain why it would have burned itself so deeply into my psyche with just a single listen to the point where I could recall it 15 years later.

Listening to it now, in many ways it still holds, though much of this is filtered through my own nostalgia. Like "Forever Young", this track combines the melancholy and triumphant (as does all opera), which manages to come through despite the lack of vocalization and the sparse instrumentation. I find it to be a worthwhile reminder of how little is actually needed to convey a particular mood.

Makin your way in the world today takes everything you got
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poodleface
I watched Avatar this morning. It was a CG marvel, unequaled in its presentation, etc. Despite the realism, I was still at arm's length from the underlying story. I was much more moved by The Princess and The Frog than this (if you had to pick one or the other, I'd choose the latter, frankly).

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I'm back to work on a more regular basis since school ended (AABC = 3.25 GPA). I managed an A in LCC 2700 (which I expected a B in) and got a B in Intro to OOP / Java (which I expected an A in). Other than this my grades were as expected. The A in LCC 2700 is particularly satisfying, considering I was shooting for it from the very beginning once I found out that only about 5-6% of each class manages As. The best part is that I was content with a B when all was said and done... I felt I got more than plenty out of the class, and certainly feel comfortable hacking away in Processing now, for instance.

Last Tuesday, I met with markluffel at ATLhack/Octane, for the first time in a while not having an impending assignment before me. After the requisite Facebook time-killing, I finally opened Processing. For a moment I felt that I had forgotten how to work in it, but no, I just needed an idea, a seed to start from. So I just started messing around, not really worrying about utility and focusing on aesthetics. That's the beautiful thing about Processing... being able to just follow an idea and see where it goes.

Anyway, this is what I did:
http://www.prism.gatech.edu/~rsolomon3/processing/sketch_dec15a/applet/

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The applet is not anything special, but it was fun to make nevertheless, and it reacquainted me with ArrayList stuff. I also quite comfortably made an Object to store one node of the drawn line, which is something before this semester that I would have had no idea what to do.

While I've enjoyed my film classes at Tech, none of them really taught me how to make anything, or how to tackle a new method of making "stuff". I look forward to learning more, indeed.

Next semester I will hopefully get in Computer Audio. After that, I should start to become dangerous!

Green Day: Rock Band
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poodleface
Obviously, I play a lot of Rock Band. I'm a Rock Band partisan, if you will, mainly because of the little details that Harmonix gets right as opposed to the direction of the Guitar Hero franchise. One of these days I'll enumerate why, but in the meantime I'll only say that my various Rock Band purchases have gone a long way to making me a semi-competent drummer in a variety of styles. It's really the only reason I have remained interested in the game, though the tangential benefit of having my friends interpret various songs during my movie screening nights has been a nice side effect.

One of the primarily voiced concerns on the Interwebs is the over saturation of what is called the rhythm genre. It's easy to blame Activision/Guitar Hero for this, having released 5 different games for consoles this past year, compared to just The Beatles: Rock Band and Lego Rock Band by EA/Harmonix. Personally, I don't think the number of games has anything to do with the decline of the rhythm genre. All games get old. When the mechanic is basically unchanged for two years people are either going to get sick of it or move on, or they are going to stop buying games that offer nothing new gameplay-wise. It should be noted that the DLC sales remain strong for Rock Band, despite the decline in game sales.

When this game was announced, I shrugged along with the rest, but I spared the vitriol. Harmonix, at the least, has worked out the issue of song export with this title (along with their others, including Lego Rock Band), professing to allow owners to export songs to their hard drive so that they can add to their library without disc swapping. As someone who has people over frequently for Rock Band shenanigans, this is appreciated. Swapping discs is no fun, and it makes sense that you should be able to play tracks you've purchased across titles.

Of course, this title doesn't solve the problem of "revitalizing the rhythm genre", but for my friends who just want to sing and play various songs, I don't think the game mechanic being revitalized is going to make a difference. The key to one franchise dominating over the other is going to be the depth of their song library, pure and simple. I can't see Guitar Hero dominating far into the future for this reason, since exporting songs has not been a priority for them. This simple decision alone is going to make the difference long-term between the two franchises.

Will Rock Band ever again reach the lofty heights it once did? Nope, but it will maintain its niche. As for me, I'll keep buying songs as long as they promise new drum charts/styles to play, and let my friends pony up for the songs they want to sing. I'm not sure if this game fits either bill, but we'll see what the MSRP is.

--

Also... life. The semester is over. I wrote very little this semester, and hope to do more going forward, though I think it will likely delve into less personal topics over time. My penchant for self-reflection hasn't been erased, but my desire to share such thoughts publicly has definitely diminished over time, particularly as I've been massively busy. We'll see how it goes.

I Will Be Sad When This Class Is Over
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poodleface
For our 5th project in Intro to Computational Media, we were directed to write a program in an esoteric programming language called Chef (http://www.dangermouse.net/esoteric/chef.html). Programs in Chef look like recipes. Here's mine:

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RIAA Waffles.

The perfect breakfast before being fined for illegally downloading music. These waffles feature an orange flavor, which helps to fight off scurry among pirates. Adaptation of http://culinaryarts.about.com/od/griddledspecialties/r/basicwaffles.htm

Ingredients.
3 level cups all-purpose flour
4 level teaspoons baking powder
2 level teaspoons salt
2 heaped tablespoons granulated sugar
5 pinches brown sugar
7 eggs
3 cups whole milk
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed orange juice
2 dashes nutmeg

Method.
Put all-purpose flour into the mixing bowl.
Combine baking powder into the mixing bowl.
Combine salt into the mixing bowl.
Combine granulated sugar into the mixing bowl.
Fold orange zest into the mixing bowl.
Whisk the eggs.
Put orange zest into the mixing bowl.
Whisk the eggs until whisked.
Fold eggs into the mixing bowl.
Put eggs into the mixing bowl.
Add fresh-squeezed orange juice into the mixing bowl.
Stir fresh-squeezed orange juice into the mixing bowl.
Add brown sugar into the mixing bowl.
Stir nutmeg into the mixing bowl.
Divide vegetable oil into the mixing bowl.
Combine whole milk into the mixing bowl.
Liquify contents of the mixing bowl.
Pour contents of the mixing bowl into the baking dish.

Serves 18000.

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Where Poodleface does some media analysis like a wonk
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poodleface
So, the guy who did that amazing video "A Glorious Dawn" has a follow-up out already:



Unfortunately, it's not nearly as good. And I'm going to tell you why!

The strengths of "A Glorious Dawn" followed from a lot of factors that are usually not present in Auto-Tuned videos... the compact and catchy hooks in the backing track, the repeating chorus which actually has a hummable melody, and the visuals that go beyond merely showing Sagan saying the words.

This video has these things, but they seem more shoehorned in. It's clearly a rush job meant to capitalize on the runaway success of his first video. I completely understand why he would want to do this... getting a bunch of hits on one of your videos is like crack cocaine.

Beefs:
1) Too many vocalists whose words barely tune into the central theme
2) Lackluster chorus, which repeats unevenly, and not in a good Wu-Tang kind of way
3) Lackluster backing music with no monster hooks like the first track
4) The song is far too long... I was having problems with my 2nd Flair video when it approached 3 minutes! For viral play, you've got to keep it short and sweet and compact.
5) Overuse of the auto-tune effect in a way that he avoided in the first Sagan video. In the first video the manipulation did not distort the fundamental pacing of Sagan's delivery, but these warps aren't as clean throughout.

If it were me, I would have stuck with coming with great Bill Nye clips and tried to stick with just him and perhaps one or two guests. Having Sagan do the guest spot would have been a good tie in.

I'm glad he's trying to capitalize on his success, but the Internet is forever... better to wait a couple of months and put out a worthy follow up than just crank one out with a random assortment of scientists. Granted, much of this criticism comes only because the first video was so damn great and this one isn't even close! It's all coming from love, I tell ya! Quality not quantity!

If you wish to make an apple pie from scatch, you must first invent the universe
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poodleface

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