Stuff Under the Header

2/25/2013

More Stories


Finally more bird stories. Yesterday, I watched a grackle set off a car alarm multiple times. He'd fly to the car, set off the alarm, though I'm not sure how he was doing it. Then he'd perch next to it and wait. As soon as the alarm turned off on its own, he'd fly back down and set off the alarm again. I watched him do this 4 times. I'm guessing he just liked the sound... or he's trolling. The latter being the one, I hope.

The flocks are still moving about a lot and won't start to settle for another few weeks. I haven't had the same daily birds around for quite some time, but last week, one of the birds I had multiple interactions with those months back had approached me. I was surprised she remembered me after 2 months, but I may be underestimating their long-term memory. I haven't researched anything about how grackles short-term and long-term memory is. I know doves have a fairly bad long-term memory. From my experience with grackles, they have no problems with the short-term, but I've yet to do any sort of extensive testing. There's really only 3 females that I can recognize and they need to be within a certain distance for me to see their markings and patterns. Behavior is a good indicator as well, but right now when there's quite literally over 1000 of them where I work, it's hard to find my birds based on this, and I imagine with all the vocalizing the males are doing, it's hard for them to focus on much more than hearing their breathren and finding food. This is speculation though. During the spring and summer, there's only a handful of them around, while the males will take to the outside of the nesting ground, which there so happens to be one where I work.

While I found the above interesting, something even more amazing happened a few days after that. Another one of my 3 birds approached me as well, but this time, I was at my apartment complex. I had wondered about environment and if they would only approach me at work or only associate who I was within that environment. This confirmed/rejected tons of thoughts I had about this. I live about 1.5 miles away from work. (That's 2.41km for those of you that use a superior measuring system.) Again, it had been a few months since I had seen this bird. I haven't seen her since that day, but it was really nifty to see that. None of the males aside from the one I had seen every day last summer will interact with me. Hopefully he comes back, he's got a really easy marking to identify.

One of the things I've been observing and making guesses on, are the way grackles communicate. There are recognizable sounds that are associated with specific behaviors. These are a lot easier to identify in the summer when the females are teaching their young how to catch food, and before that when the mating pairs are gathering. Mainly due to the lower amount of communication going on, at least vocally. Right now, just before the sun begins to set, there will only be a handful of males gathered at set locations vocalizing. This makes making catching certain sound patterns easier than when the sun is setting. At that time, there are a good thousand of them around, there's just too much sound congestion to make out the individuals.

This paper goes into detail about these things, some of which I had figured out on my own, but this goes a lot further. It's a long read.
http://www.unc.edu/home/rhwiley/pdfs/CommunicationGrackles.pdf

New Computer
It works and is very fast. Much faster than any other computer I've owned. Compile and run times are super fast now. Not much else to say about it other than it reliably plays games at their intended frame rate. This was the first computer I've built, a process that really wasn't all that enjoyable, mostly because I had no idea what I was doing. It took me roughly 4 hours to get it all together.

Side Bar Changes
This has been there for awhile, but I'll draw attention to it. The Contact Me link brings you to a page listing various ways of doing what the link title says.
Slaix' DT Playthrough has been replaced with a link to a page of all the known playthroughs, (that I know of) whether or not they have been finished. Listing is alphabetical order and DT2 playthroughs have been added.

2/16/2013

Last Post... On This Computer

Edit: (February 19, 2013) Typing this from the new computer. Think I've got all my drivers set up.

The parts for the new computer will be here on Monday most likely. It's gonna be nice being able to do everything from one computer again. I wasn't able to record video very well, and if I did, I couldn't get any sound. The computer wouldn't edit sound at all, so I'll finally be able to make sound again without it being a hassle. I'm actually completely unable to do anything with DT on this computer now. Compiling typically kills the computer every time now. Saving the project has a high chance of corrupting it. Yay for having a bazillion back ups all the time. I do local back ups all the time and it never goes more than 2 days without it being backed up somewhere else. It gets a back up on a USB thumb drive monthly. That used to be more frequent, but I've found monthly is fine for that since it's always in other accessible places as well. I'd continue with DT's code on this computer through a text editor like ConTEXT, but I don't like writing a ton of code without debugging it first. I typically code a function/routine and then debug it before moving on. By the time I get the new computer, I'd have a bunch of code and finding where the inevitable bugs are would be more work in the long run I feel.

So lately on that other old computer, I've been playing games on my steam list that I've neglected for years. A friend had gifted me one of the Humble Indie Bundles about a year back. (I believe it was Bundle 4 and it came with 3, so yeah, lots of games.) Tried out Cave Story+, but having already played through it twice way back in 2006 (or was it 2005?), I put it down pretty quick. It has a hard mode, but the only thing different that I saw was there were no health boosters and the missiles weren't there. I was hoping for something a little more instead of simply removing health boosters. That just turns the game into a no-damage run. If you really like Cave Story though, it's worth checking out for the extra stuff. It's kind of like going from the original DT2 to the new one released a few months back. Same content for the most part, with some challenges and extra fluff.

Finally decided to finish all of VVVVVV. I typically stopped at the escort missions. (Yes, I hate escort missions that much.) I liked it, but the slide really threw me off on a lot of things. The game seemed to demand pixel perfection in some parts, and that slide just got in the way. If I had played this before making DT1, I might have reconsidered Jerry's slippery physics. (Probably not.)

A marble physics game called NightSky. Played all of it in one sitting like VVVVVV. It was pretty nifty and the levels were well made aside from one somewhere near the middle of the game.

There's a few others, but I won't mention them, aside from my favorite of the bunch. A little game called Crayon Physics Deluxe. I found the game encouraged player creativity in nearly all of its scenarios. It does a good job of showing you new rules and things you can do as you move on. It's $20, so that's quite a hefty price for an Indie game, but check out its demo and if you feel it's something you could really get into, I'd say go for it. That or wait for the steam deals as the game is about 4 years old at this point and it'll be on/off those often I'm sure. I've managed to unlock its final level that requires 120 stars. Took me 7 hours, but it was fun trying to figure out the 1 object solutions.

If you like numbers and charts, check out this steam user analysis tool. It just shows you how many games you have on your steam profile, the percentage of them you've actually played. (Or how many you've shamefully neglected.) And tons of other things. My profile lies... sorta, I played Half Life 2 before getting steam and Amnesia I've played outside of my steam account. Though I haven't finished it, so eventually that'll be added to the played side of things.

DT3 Development Stuff
Playing Crayon Physics Deluxe reminded me of what I was originally going to do with the beginning of DT3. It was still going to be what it is now, with the player not being able to jump, however Jeremy was going to allow you to make moving platforms (limited by #) and move them around at times to get Jerry to the Jump Boots. I can't remember anymore why I decided to remove that aspect of the scenario, but that idea hasn't been completely thrown out. It may show up later on, or the beginning might get an edit with that put back in. I know it wasn't a technical reason to not go with it.

Next time, I'll be back with new equipment!

2/09/2013

New Stuff

A friend of mine said something that I identified with. I believe it speaks for itself. Online, he goes by Rathskellar.

"Gamer.
At it's simplest, it means someone who plays and loves video games.
Deeper still, it's the common bond of those who chose a hobby that's often misrepresented and incorrectly maligned in the media. One that's not necessarily the most popular, and likely to be dismissed.
It's a title that brings people together in a world where it doesn't matter who you are, or where you're from to a world where what you do matters. A world where the only difference in status comes from your own choices and skills.
That's why as a gamer, this does make me angry when I see that label co-opted by those who trivialize it, or are not actually gamers. It's not about who you are on the outside, but who a person is on the inside. The gaming industry and its fans worked hard to help our fandom spread, and we do stand against those who would attempt to buy in hypocritically."


What does this mean for you?

Computer
I will finally be getting a new computer this month. Not sure when, but definitely soon. To the testers (I know I haven't been able to talk to you guys lately), this transition may slow down the next build a little, but in the long run, will speed up workflow by A LOT. To put some things forth with what I sometimes have to go through with this computer. There is about a 20% chance the computer will blue screen upon running the current full build of DT3. Lately when I make something new, specifically when it's very code driven and not level design driven, I will often make it in the base DT engine without any other resources as trying to run the full game apparently kills the computer. There are loads of other issues this computer is going through. I'm unable to install things beyond roughly 50mb. This is a problem that has persisted for about a year and been getting worse and worse. Some might be asking how the mess I play Planetside 2. That's done on another computer that Jeremy owns. It barely runs Planetside 2 though. I get roughly 15fps in most fights. I tend to stay away from big ones since it goes to about 8fps. The DT problem is curcumvented like stated above, but it won't be long before this computer completely flips out on me. The game is backed up daily just in case anything at all decides to die. This computer will, however, be kept around for side stuff that will also boost workflow. Jeremy is a beast with building computers and he's got stuff lined up for me. We'll be ordering parts today most likely. I've needed updated tech for years anyway, it's about the right time to do so. Also on a good note, I'll be running Windows 7, so I might be able to troubleshoot any remaining issues that DT3 may have with the OS. There are many many MANY other problems with the computer than those listed above. It's not virus related, it's just old/bad hardware. It chokes at the weirdest things these days.

Anyway, I should finally have Chapter 10 done in a week or so as long as the world permits it. Which means over half the project is finished. Lots of stuff planned that I think will be pretty nifty.
Someone asked if DT3 will have a section like the first game's Primary Memory where the player is given his 11th hour super power. The answer is yes, but I won't elaborate on that. As for screenshots, I'll be willing to post them again once we're out of Chapter 10 content, and as I've done lately, no boss fight shots.

2/03/2013

So Much Video Games

Edit: (February 04, 2013) Something I forgot to mention. The Dropbox download for the full version of DT2 works again. For some unexplainable reason, the archive broke. That is now an option again for those that can't connect to Filefront.

Nothing to report on the birds aside from they swarm the skies at sundown. It's a nice thing every night that I get to see since I work outside most of the time. So glad that Texas has mild winters.

DT3 Development and Testing
Is going well and picking up the pace despite my larger social/gaming life these days. (Aside from this last week where I've done almost nothing on the game.) For the topic of testing DT3, I've had a few requests to do so here and there. However, I've had to turn down pretty much all of them. I'd like to keep the testing team very small. I have accepted a few based on their past critiques on the previous games aside from those that got in early. So on that, there will be no new testers brought in. The current team is great. All of them having differing play styles and wildly differing gaming abilities. Their viewpoints and perspectives of the game being different from each other is a welcome thing as I get a lot of different suggestions and feedback. It goes without saying that they don't all agree 100% on many of my choices for the game, which none of us expect. They are definately helping shape the game in a big and positive way. I sometimes worry that I don't give them enough credit.

Slaix: "You cannot keep pathos in writing for the life of you."
He's so mean to me.

Sword Art Online
I saw Jeremy watching this on Hulu the other day and asked what it was. It's another show like .Hack and such where people are stuck in an online game, though Sword Art goes into the psychological aspects of playing these games, which made it more interesting for me to watch. I've not seen the first few episodes, but it was still easy to follow and everything was coherent. It explores a lot of different themes, but so far (18 episodes in) has been handled well. You can find it on Hulu and Crunchyroll, it will be subbed, which I normally don't like.

I would say more about DT3, but things are spoilery right now if I do. It's just content being made and lots of it. The testers have all said they really like Chapter 10 though. I'm hoping the last bit keeps that going. If only I'd speed up development...