Archive

Monthly Archives: November 2013

800px-Autumn

Autumn is a time of change.

There’s something missing, something which I’m just noticing, and I’m not sure whether this absence of sensation is an awakened perception of absence or is a new and creeping numbness of the senses.

I keep writing when I’m too tired to think because it absolves me of the responsibility of thinking about what I’m saying. I’m starting to wonder if this is a healthy or useful approach.

Something needs to shift. My knees ache from spending all day sitting down. Everything I want is in this electric world-brain somewhere, how can I tear myself away before I dig it out? I keep waiting until the last minute and the laster minute to write or to escape just so I can convince myself I have no alternatives but to do the things I’m supposed to do.

If I keep acting like I’m being coerced, I’ll start to resent the dickbag who is exploiting me – who happens to be, in this case, myself.

Me, me, me.

I don’t like writing about myself all the time. It seems so self-indulgent, but I really don’t have a choice. I’m all I’ve got to write about, one way or the other. Solipsism as writer’s block. The universe revolves around me, and as it turns out that’s really goddamn disorienting. Nauseating.

I’m not sure if what I’m writing is any good any more. I’m not sure if I care any more. I’m not sure if I should care. I’m not sure what it means if I don’t.

Caring isn’t something that just happens though. Caring is work. Caring is commitment. And, really, I’m not sure how committed I’ve been. I keep waiting until the last minute, the laster minute, and writing as quick and as dirty as I can, and it comes out reasonably well because it’s authentic, but is that maybe all it is?

I don’t know.

Autumn is – I’m shifting away from ideas and into expressions. I’m shifting away from brainstorming and over to venting. I’m really not sure if I’m okay with this, but it’s hard to fight the current when I’m already fighting so many other past and future currents. I can only do so much, and I’m not sure how much of it can be this, and I don’t know what to do about that, since I love Problem Machine and what it has brought into my life.

Is squeezing snot, tears, spit, sweat, out through the back of my brain and into text enough? Is that what you want? Is that what I want? Maybe this had to be the end-game. Create a blog to question why we make things the way we do, why we make games the way we do, and it is inevitable that the blog will end up questioning itself, its own purpose, its own ends.

I’m not sure it has a purpose outside of itself any more. Does it help people to read this? Does it help them think? Is there some rhythm or poetry within it that elevates their hearts? Is there some new idea that subtly changes their perspective? I think I may have achieved those, sometimes. I think maybe I still do, sometimes. But it feels more and more like, when I do, it’s in passing, almost on accident.

It’s not a disaster, but it’s time to regroup and rethink. It’s time to figure out what Problem Machine is, what it can be, what it may become. It’s time to figure out where the walls of the sand castle I’m playing in begin and end, where they crumble, where they stand strong, packed with salt water.

The last minute won’t last any longer. The line I’ve been waiting for has gone dead. It’s becoming terribly obvious that squeezing writing out by pressure like a Play-Doh factory results in homogenous depressive ramblings, and I’m entirely getting tired of what they provide.

And Autumn is a time of change.

Advertisements

s

The problem with always saving the world is that it necessitates that the world be always broken.

The problem with the world being always broken is that it surrenders the idea of it ever being better.

Our games cast us again and again as saviors, and sequel after sequel the world is under threat again, which certainly calls our savior capabilities into question. This is not a new observation. The ubiquity of massive, world-ending threats driving the plots of video games has been well noted. However, I think it’s worth mentioning that this isn’t just lazy, that this isn’t just tedious: It limits us in other ways. Subtle ways.

This is a complicated thing to say.

Games keep bringing us worlds teetering on the brink of destruction, worlds hungry for heroes and ready for us to save. This approach shuts out the possibility of a world with many people working together to make a worthwhile place to live. This shuts out the possibility of the systemic problems that drove the world to the edge being solved by cooperation. This shuts out the possibility of a terrible situation being solved by any solution other than an equally terrible caricature.

Video game heroes are improbable constructs. The powered armor, the thigh-thick biceps, the rocket boobs, the eye-gouging hair spikes – these heroes aren’t characters so much as icons, meant to be admired at a distance. In games, they are the final and only solution, for reasons seldom explained. Heroism is a panacea, applicable to all problems. Lost a cat? Tell a hero, they’ll find her for you. Mafia causing problems? I’m sure a hero is up to the job. The seven fiery claws of Agnonomoth are crawling up over the mountain and the sun weeps tears of fire that obliterate villages? Call a hero. Too shy to tell a girl that you think she’s cute? I’m sure that a hero is available to pass notes.

There’s usually just one, but he always seems to find his way to wherever he is needed.

We play as the hammer to which all problems are nails. We play as the square peg that presumes a universe of square holes. We play the Deus Ex Machina. We resolve all possible problems merely by existing and by occupying the character of this completely awesome dude who is also kind of a tool.

And then the game is over.

And then the world fades back in, and it is itself on fire.

There are warlords. There are corporations hungry for flesh and alien to ethics. There are fissures in the foundations of our lives, our societies, our environments. There are non-fictions that lie uncomfortably close to the fictions of our games. But something is missing. There are no Heroes. There are just humans. People. Trying to exist, however they can.

In our games we would be NPCs. In our films we would be extras. We won’t be saved unless we save ourselves. And yet, for the sake of gameplay, for the sake of a hackneyed story, we tell ourselves over and over that mere people cannot make a difference when it comes to really important things.

Is it really a mistake that we’ve been told this over and over? And, if so, who made it first?

EveHeader

This week was all about animating. First, I took an evening to revise the jump animation – I believe I mentioned this before, but while the old jump animation looked pretty decent, it communicated the dimensions of the character poorly to the player. That is to say, it made it appear as though she was trying to touch down to the ground a full stride ahead of where the collision box was actually testing. I changed it so the foot reaching for the ground is pointed straight down and pretty much lined up with the true landing zone. Here’s what it looks like now:

EveJump02

I tested it out in-game and while it may not look quite as nice it’s much less likely to frustrate the player.

After doing that, I started in on the air attack animation. This is distinct from the rising and downwards attack animations, which I had previously been planning to be the only air attacks, but which, in testing, felt unnatural as the only choices. So, apparently this game will have special attacks. I’m actually considering adding a downwards kick as well, but nothing after that. Probably.

Anyway, the tricky part of an air attack, as I have mentioned in a previous DevBlog, is making the motion look like it follows through, hopefully while still not committing the player to some outlandish action. I decided to go with a twisting attack, partially to account for that and partially because I thought it would look awesome as hell. I think it turned out pretty good.

EveAirAttack01

I was worried that it would look too much like a special two-directional attack as I worked on it, but it seems relatively straightforward. Though the animation is complete and hooked into the game, the melee attack behavior needs to be revised to enable it, so this is all, of course, pending testing. I hope it works well, because honestly I worked pretty hard on this one.

Not much else to say about this week. Honestly, it was another kind of not-great week in terms of productivity, mostly just due to a couple of pretty crappy days. I’m going to have to try to re-focus towards next week and have a real plan of action. So, what needs to get done next? First, of course, getting this animation in-game and tested. Probably the next most pressing tasks are getting melee collision implemented and creating an entity editor. If those tasks seem too big to manage, well, there’s a bunch of little improvements to be done, reviewing the animations and tweaking any that need improvement or spending some more quality time with the animation code trying to finish it off once and for all. It’s enough to fill my plate for the coming week – though I may have to dedicate some time, as well, to building a detailed list of tasks to address over the coming weeks.

It blows my mind how much there is yet to be done. This is such a huge task. There’s no way to make it smaller, though, except to get to work. So: To work I go.

Glass-of-water

I feel too often like I have nothing of myself left, like I’ve poured it all out and I need to wait for the rain to come again to fill myself back up.

There are many different wells within me, and they fill up at different rates. There are strategies to make them fill faster: My creative well fills more quickly the more I consume art, my physical energy well fills, either via the long term investment of physical activity or the short term investment of caffeine – but there’s one well I always find it difficult to maintain: The well of giving a shit.

There’s something absurd, on the face of it, about those science fiction robots who are unable to feel emotions and somehow perceive this as a deficiency, keenly feeling that absence, though this longing is surely an emotion of its own. It’s goofy, it makes no sense, it’s one of the laughable constructs of mid-grade science fiction.

It makes sense to me. I think it makes sense to anyone who’s had to deal with some degree of depression. Some days, you go to where your emotions are kept and find them missing. It’s kind of relaxing, in many ways. Emotions are certainly not always comfortable. But they are fairly necessary in order to get things done, and their absence quickly becomes distressing – a certain distant kind of distress, felt on behalf of someone else, but none the less poignant because of that.

I don’t know. I still laugh at things that are funny. I still curse when something goes wrong. I feel sad. I just don’t care, not really. I just don’t care.

I really wish I did. I’d feel much better, I suspect.

The thing is, I don’t know how to refill this well. Maybe there’s a knack to it which I have yet to realize, or maybe it’s just a matter of time. Sometimes art makes me feel better, maybe, or maybe that’s just time. Sometimes sleep makes me feel better, maybe, but maybe, again, that’s just the passage of time.

Realizing that more often than not I seem to suffer from anxiety rather than depression is extremely useful, not least because it makes it much easier to identify the actual depressions I encounter. Anxiety makes me feel trapped, pulled in a million directions which sum up to equilibrium, wordlessly frustrated, irritable. Depression feels comfortable, like a blanket. It makes me numb, makes everything quieter and more distant, less important. It doesn’t feel that bad, it doesn’t make me angry, though it might make me slightly sad. While both make me inert – the reason why I had them conflated for so long – the mechanisms differ, one being the immobility of chains and the other being the immobility of paralysis.

Oh well. Oh well. Live and learn. There may be a way to reinforce this well, to remember on cue. There may yet be a little man waiting in my wings to tell me what my motivation is. If not, perhaps with time I will learn to remember longer how to care, why to care, when to care.

Or, perhaps, some days I must be a mere automaton, if only for a little while. A second sleep, taken during the day, resting under a blanket of apathy. Today, perhaps, there is snow behind my eyes, but the sun will rise again.

the_riddler_by_viro_fiction-d5f92i4

I started writing a piece, but it got too big to finish in a timely fashion, so instead I’m pushing it back a couple of days. In its stead, I’d like to pose you a question, one that’s been bothering me, one that I can’t come up with a good answer to:

Why is it that we feel vulnerable when we express love for something, but not when we express hate? Why is it that it is us who enjoy a piece that wait in dread for its inevitable detractors rather than the opposite? Why is it so easy and enjoyable to attack, dismantle, dismiss, and so painful to defend? Shouldn’t hating something, as a position of belief, be just as vulnerable as loving it?

Seeing something we love denigrated hurts. It hurts so much more viscerally than seeing something we loathe praised. And yet we keep doing it to each other, pretending to arbitrate tastes, dictate what is good and what isn’t, often dismantling the very things we used to love ourselves.

It makes us close off. We’re so afraid of being seen to be ‘wrong’ that we would prefer to not be seen at all. It makes us hide our hearts so that no one might come by and squeeze just to see how we squirm. We would rather stay in the closet, keep our love to ourselves, than allow someone the chance to hurt that part of us, using a tongue of hate which hurts from a distance and never lets anything close.

What does it mean that hate is so much more palatable than love?

It can’t be anything good.

EveHeaderNot a particularly productive week, but progress progressed nevertheless.

The main thing I achieved was creating and implementing the Harvest animation. This is actually something I came up with the idea for relatively recently, but the idea is that, rather than the ‘sparks’, or ‘souls’, or whatever, which you collect in the game just flocking to you whenever you defeat an enemy, you’d actually have to take time out of combat to collect them. This is the animation for that, for taking a moment and focusing so that all of the nearby souls will flock to you:

EveHarvest01

There may end up being a bit more to the animation than this as I develop it further. It’s possible I’ll want to add more frames of animation to the harvesting state, something to give the impression that Something Important is happening, but this is good enough to be getting on with for now. I can test out better versions as I go.

The other major piece of progress this week is finally having something of a breakthrough on how I want to handle the animation problems I’d discovered a few weeks ago. Here’s my write-up on the solution from the daily devblog:

Okay, so there are two premises behind this idea: First, though I am planning on having the character animations shift between chapter, most of the changes are either subtle or modular. By this, I mean that they’re mostly either changes in one or two specific animations, such as the run cycle, changing timing and tilt to make her seem more in control and balanced, or they’re adding/changing out a particular part of the design, such as giving her full movement of her left arm. Second, though I have, as mentioned, 300+ frames, most of the movements between frames are fairly subtle, and don’t really demand the drawing of a whole new frame.

Here’s what emerges from the first premise: Only those animations which are substantially changed should be re-drawn, and only those limbs/accessories which are changed should be drawn as components. Thus, the run cycle will be drawn once for each chapter, since this is the animation that will change the most. As for all of the other animations, all of these will be drawn without the left arm, and the left arm will be changed as necessary so I can swap it between chapters. The same goes for any other design changes: They will be omitted and then composited in.

Here’s what emerges from the second premise, though I’d imagine that this is fairly obvious to most animators: Keyframing. This is a concept I’ve used a lot, naturally, coming up with the prototype animations, but there’s no reason not to use it again in a different way. Basically, instead of hand-drawing all of these (ugh), I will draw a selection of the most distinctive frames. Once they’re complete, I’ll bring them in Photoshop for the coloring and polishing phase, and using Photoshop I’ll edit the keyframes into the appropriate tween frames until the motion is smooth. There are a number of huge advantages to this: Not only do I have to draw maybe a third of the frames I would have to otherwise, but I should find it easier to create a smooth motion in spite of any weaknesses in my drawing skill, and I can easily add new tween frames to smooth any motions that still need work.

So, with all that being said, it’s still going to be a while before I end up tackling all of these animations, since I want to test all of the prototype frames extensively to make sure they work before I start creating the considerably-more-difficult-to-fix hand-drawn frames. Still, it’s a tremendous relief knowing I have a game-plan for how to approach solving that problem when I get to it.

For this coming week, I think I should work on really nailing down all of the prototype animations. This means A) Creating the air attack animation, B) Re-tooling the jump animation so where the character is going to land is more obvious, and C) Reviewing all animations to see if any need improvements before being drawn out. Also, possibly, D) picking out those frames suitable for being keyframes when it comes time to draw all this stuff out.

Sorry that this week’s update is kind of late, and sorry if it’s kind of disjointed. I’m a bit out of sorts at the moment, due to reasons. Thanks!