Anyone after a NAS (or extra PC)?

I’ve been consolidating computer equipment in preparation for a move and I’ve put together a decent server machine that should work well as a NAS (straight media server, file server, or does-everything server).

Here’s a picture:

DSC00386

The specs are:

  • 2.8GHz Celeron CPU
  • 512MB 533Mhz DDR2 RAM
  • 200GB IDE HDD
  • 250GB IDE HDD
  • 80GB SATA HDD
  • 120GB SATA HDD
  • 2x NICs (onboard and PCI card)
  • 52x CDRW optical drive
  • Inbuilt audio, video, and RAID on the mainboard

I’ve installed FreeNAS on it, which allows it to: appear as a network file share, act as a backup server, stream media to the Playstation 3 and Xbox360, and run a bittorrent client (so that you don’t have to leave your main computer running while downloading large files).

Of course you don’t have to use it as a NAS. It runs “normal” operating systems just fine, and would probably be good as a general purpose PC – or even as a low-end gaming PC with the addition of a video card (the mainboard has a PCI-Express slot) and more RAM.

If anyone is interested, I’m selling it for AU$120. The 15″ Samsung LCD monitor next to it is also available for AU$30 (with the computer, or $40 by itself). Pick-up only.

Gymnastics

I’m a little sore from gymnastics last night; mostly where I overextended a few joints or muscles: my right shoulder, my right middle finder, my left thigh…

So how’d I end up like this? The other day I saw this video of Jack Black performing clap push-ups while in some crazy muscle suit (as part of his promotional work for Double Fine‘s Brรผtal Legend):

It made me wonder how difficult clap push-ups really are. I gave them a go; turns out not that hard since I can do them. I messaged Tone to let him know how awesome I am. He replied saying that I should go down to the gym the next day, and I replied “alright”.

The gym in this case is a casual gymnastic class held in a gymnasium kitted out with all sorts of trampolines, mats, ropes, springboards, and other fun stuff. It’s $10 per session, and the session lasted for a few hours.

When we arrived, a few dozen people were already there – taking turns jumping off a small trampoline onto a mat. After around 15 minutes, the equipment was cleared and we did a bunch of stretches and warm-up exercises. After around 20-30 minutes of that, it was basically “do whatever you want”.

My previous elation at being able to perform clap push-ups was quickly depleted after seeing someone perform crazy v-snap push-ups (push off and touch your toes, while keeping your arms and legs straight, between push-ups). However, it all just made me want to work harder!

I tried out most of the equipment with varying degrees of success. I almost managed a front-flip (off a trampoline), a wall-spin, and a one-handed cartwheel. Good enough for a first time I reckon, but I’ll try to be more bold next time. ๐Ÿ™‚

Thanks to Rowan and Tone for inviting me. It was awesome!

Busy Day (or “Let’s Make Mocap”)

Yesterday was a busy day. I forgot to eat lunch and didn’t realise it until much later.

I spent the morning working on Let’s Make Games stuff. Started with a bit of work on the most recent (April-September) community report. Then a fair amount of communication to help coordinate our upcoming end-of-year party. Finally, I threw together a quick redesign for the website (the old one was very “bleh”) and added some new content (mostly links).

After all of that, I picked up Rowan so that he could do some motion capture with Buddhi down at Beyond Motion. Buddhi’s friend Glenn was there as well and took some great photos. Here’s one:

Day2 D700 081 copy

I got some game programming in while down at Beyond Motion, but I still have quite a bit to do in order to stay on schedule for our game prototype (tomorrow morning is looking busy too!).

I also have to set-up some way for the art team to get builds of the game and submit new assets. Normally, I’d use Subversion – but I’ve heard horror stories about using Unity3D with version control. For those technically inclined, I’m going to try restricting write access to the library folder and for various operations on the assets folder. Either that or just use export/import and some basic access management via ftp (or similar). Any tips?

Recent work

I haven’t posted anything for over a week because I’ve been pretty flat-out with work and preparing to move. I’ve already written a bit about moving, so I figured that I’d write something about work. Hopefully, this will encourage others to do so, because I’m keen to know what people are working on!

I’ve mostly been working on two projects. I won’t write too much about the characteristics of each, because I want to focus more on the process and tools.

Project 1: Booklet design using Scribus

The first project isn’t games related at all. I’ve been doing some graphic design work for a sale booklet for a technology company. The “industry standard” tools for this kind of work are probably Photoshop and InDesign, but I can’t justify spending thousands of dollars on software, and I’m not going to pirate them (which unfortunately also seems to be “industry standard” practice).

So I’ve been using free and open-source software instead: Inkscape (for vector graphics), GIMP (for photo editing), and Scribus (for print layout). I hadn’t used Scribus or done much design-intended-for-print before, so there was a bit of a learning curve. The major things that I’ve learnt are:

  1. Use smaller font sizes than you would use for display on a computer screen (think 8pt and 10pt rather than 12pt)
  2. Maintain fairly substantial page margins and make liberal use of empty space
  3. Design for two-page compositions rather than single pages (adjacent pages need to “fit” together)
  4. Take time to set-up a colour palette, master pages, and font styles
  5. Focus on the typography as least as much as everything else

Also be sure to save frequently. Scribus crashed on me three to four times over the last week. I wonder if that happens much with InDesign.

Project 2: Game development in Unity3D

The other project I’ve been working on is straight-up game development. I’m working with a group of artists (mostly 3D modellers and animators) to create a casual game (for web or iPhone… probably web) with high-quality 3D graphics. I’ve noticed that a lot of indie developers go for a 2D “retro” look due to a combination of personal aesthetic preference (8-bit nostalgia) and available skill-set (programmer art). I wanted to undertake something different.

It’s been interesting getting the team together and getting a feel for how the team can work (we’re spread out between three different locations, and all have other work commitments), but it feels like things are on track now. Not necessarily for guaranteed commercial success, but definitely enough for completing a prototype to see if our development model can produce good results.

As indicated by the heading above, we’re using Unity3D. It’s inexpensive for very small teams, but I’m concerned about costs when the team grows and also about the lack of support for real version control (although it’s coming apparently). The 30-day trial is great and the interface seems to be very accessible for artists. Importantly, it’s been very easy to get something up and running quickly. ๐Ÿ™‚

Here are some things I’ve learnt so far:

  1. I look fantastic in a mocap suit, but I seem to have an asymmetrical walk cycle. (This is probably due to movement through a small space, and we will experiment with using a treadmill).
  2. When using Unity3D, it’s best to break out your animations into separate .fbx files and you should delete meshes and blend shapes from the animation-only files. (Thanks to Matt for the original tip)
  3. A lot of game design involves listing things (documentation), but these lists make everything else a lot easier!

And here are some questions I still have (anyone able to answer these?):

  1. What’s the best way to define a fixed path in Unity3D and have an object follow it?
  2. Anyone know of decent online resources for place-holder sound assets?

So there you have it – this summary actually took longer to write than I expected! How’s everyone else going with their respective projects?

Margaret Pomeranz on an R18+ rating for video games

Margaret Pomeranz was recently interviewed by Byteside regarding her views on the lack of an R18+ rating for video games in Australia.

Here’s a quote from the interview:

Everyone else was willing to go with it. It was the recommendation that came to the OFLC from an expert, who did expert research over many months, and you get one attorney general whose personal view is “No no no, we don’t want this” – banning it for all Australia.

She goes on to say that this pushes avid gamers to obtain games via other means (eg. downloading copies) and that this makes ordinary people into criminals. Basically, by showing disrespect for the public (by asserting spurious regulations), the government undermines respect for the itself and the law.

Video found via Vooks.