New website look

2015-07-27 6:58 AM

You may have noticed that my site now looks different. It’s a new custom wordpress theme I made for my website.

I’ve spent the last 3 weeks working on the site with approximately 30 hours of development time. The reason I decided to make my own theme is the following :

  • This site has a lot of static content that’s not necessarily easy to organize without using a ton of WP plugins. Even with the plugins it’s hard to manage. - I wanted a chance to practice some web and graphic design. I do a lot of programming and technical work these days.Practicing visual design helps keep me mentally balanced. - The existing wordpress themes I’ve used are never quite what I want and modifying them is always a hacky mess. - I wanted my site to look unique.

I will be writing up a small post-mortem this week going over exactly how I setup this theme, what went right and what went wrong.

Overall I’m personally quite happy with how everything went.

Tags:

What I’ve been playing #003

2015-06-30 5:56 AM

Dont Starve – PS4

I wasn’t sure I would be interested in playing this game for a couple reasons. FirstI felt I might be getting a bit bored of survival games. Second, relative to the games in my backlog it just wasn’t a priority.

Despite this, one Friday night before falling asleep with my partner I put the game on for a quick try and did and survived a couple nights before dying. My partner seemed mildly interested. Or so I thought…

The next day she picked up the game and started playing around a little bit. What I initially thought might be a half hour play session on Saturday morning ended up turning into a 7 hour Don’t Starve binge session. I kept coming upstairs to check on her only to get the response “I’m almost done playing, I’ll be down soon”. I remember how good it feels to get so immersed in a game like this that I felt happy for herto have found a game experience she likes this much. I was jealous too!

When she was ready to take a break at about 7 hours I started playing with her as my passenger seat driver. I’ve managed to make it about 11 days now. I think I’m at the point where I can see what I need to do to trigger the win condition which is make a rod item that allows me to escape the island I’m stuck on. It’s only a hunch at this point though since we are not using faq’s or guides at this point in time.

I think this game will continue to get quite a bit of play time over the next couple weeks so I will return with some more thoughts in the next article.

Here’s some gameplay from a playthrough the other night with my partner.

Marvel Vs Capcom 3 – Sony Vita

I have both a Sony Vita and Nintendo 3DS which I both love but statistically my Vita gets far more play time than my 3DS. There are a few reasons for this but the biggest reason by far is Marvel Vs Capcom 3.

The MvC3 port for Vita is amazing and fits the device so well.

MvC3 has 4 main buttons which fits the Vita’s responsive, well made buttons perfectly. The team tag buttons map to the Vita’s triggers which is fine for a game like this considering they aren’t really needed in any complicated, timing-heavy combo’s or inputs.

The very well implemented suspend feature works incredibly well with this game. What I mostly do is setup a training mode with my team and CPU at medium limited health and the rest of the standard arcade mode options.When the game is setup like this, immediately after a round ends the same match starts up again. It almost completely eliminates the wait and tedium or restarting a new match after the current one is open. In fact I don’t have any break from the action at all unless I want to change my team.

The end result of this setup is wherever I go. If I have to wait 2 mins or more I can just take out my Vita, hit the power button and have a match of MvC3 ready to go. No time wasting menus, no inter-fight animations or waiting. Just pure game.

There is an argument these days that games have too much non-game stuff you have to do to play them such as wade through menus, tutorials and even publisher splash screens. The setup I have going with MvC3 on my Vita is the antithesis of this problem.

Here’s a video of some high level tournament play :

Tags: dont starve mvc3 Vita what_i_have_been_playing

Unreal Lightmass Study

2015-06-22 7:55 AM

So I recently took a vacation and during that time I thought I’d sit down and play with the Lightmass rendering system in the Unreal 4 engine and see how it compares to a high end renderer like mental ray. It turned out quite well although there were a few visual issues that came up.

Here is the series of images that shows my progress towards my scene match.

resources/images/2015/06/LightmassStudyV001.png

In this first passI learned the lesson that when you have multiple monitors, make sure they are calibrated correctly. I had the reference image on one monitor and was doing the work in the other monitor.

They were the same monitor but one was hooked up using DVI while the other used HDMI. For whatever reason this caused them to have different color and temperature profiles.

Once I looked at them on the same monitor I began to see how different the two shots were.

The camera in my scene was also not setup very well. It didn’t match the shot and seemed to be a little rotated.

resources/images/2015/06/LightmassStudyV002.png

This second show shows some of the progress I made setting up the camera and getting the color profiles to match. I did this by checking the reference image and working in the same monitor.

Unfortunately there’s also some steps backwards here. The shadow on the floor is too sharp, there are bright light artifacts on the top of the screen. The floor texture is too dark and non-reflective. Finally the wall in the back of the scene had the floor texture applied to it!

The texture error seemed to be due to some funky stuff going on when exporting my model from Maya to Unreal. Resetting the materials and then re-applying materials per-face eventually fixed the issue. The materials always seemed correct in Maya though. It’s possible it was a exporter bug. It’s also possible it was a human error on my part.

resources/images/2015/06/LightmassStudyV003.png

This next pass cleans up the texture errors and attempts to make the floor texture better but still suffers from the over-bright corners in the top of the scene and the odd shadow on the floor on the bottom of the scene.

The floor shadow is also still too sharp.

resources/images/2015/06/LightmassStudyV004.png

In this pass a lot of the errors are starting to get cleaned up. I also modled in the small piece of trim along the bottom part of the wall.

The over bright corners at the top have been fixed up. This seems to have been a result of me dropping the global illumination contribution of my main light as well as disabling screen space ambient occlusion (I still use AO for the global illumination pass though).

The floor shadow is now also softer and the floor is more reflective.

Also starting here I broke my main light into 2 lights. One with a low GI contribution and very soft shadows to sort of act as a advanced ambient contribution light. The other light had sharper shadows and significantly less contribution to the global illumination calculations.

resources/images/2015/06/LightmassStudyV005.png

This final pass is where I told myself I just need to walk away from this project as it had now began to consume a decent amount of time. I was attempting to get some of the details that were blown out in the previous render visible again.

Unfortunately I deviated too much with my lighting color and took a bit of a step backwards from the previous render. There is also a slight artifact on the bottom trim where the wall changes angle.

Conclusion

This was a fun 2 hour quick project that ended up becoming a 6-8 hour study about how Unreal 4’s lighting and material system works. The lessons I learned from tweaking various material, light and render values helped me understand Unreal 4’s rendering process immensely but towards the end of the project the gains were becoming less and less profound so I cut myself off and considered this project complete.

I learned a lot and will be applying what I’ve learned here to all my future unreal projects.

Tags: unreal4