November 30, 2008




Don't take it too seriously.

November 29, 2008

Night Work

So the Excit Project is pretty much wrapped up. I'll post the link as soon as it is online. I'll also might write a post-mortem on the old Excit soon.
In case you've been wondering what I was doing for the last few days, I can tell you right now pretty precisely, thanks to the excellent Simple Timer 2 Tool I introduced some time ago. There you go:

Excit AS3 Recode - Timetable

The blue and green boxes at the beginning is the work required just to make the run. After that, I had a 1:1 copy of the old Excit running in Action Script 3.0. All it was lacking was ANY sort of user interface. So it was not possible to select levels, upload highscores, even reload the level or see how much moves you made. That's what the big purple boxes in the middle are all about. Finally, the red-purple and teal boxes at the end are about bugfixing and little details like preloaders, little gimmicks for beating the game etc. Not tracked is the playtesting session at Thursday. Also not included is the level design because it was done by my colleague Daniel Renkel. Do you also track your Time, Daniel? I'm curious how much Time went into the project in total. Right now, I'm on 88 hours and 50 minutes excluding the playtesting.
I'm a bit baffled about how little time it required to make the game run and how much time went into the mundane interface stuff. It may be because the interface stuff is really boring and I'm less motivated so I work slower. Also I sure have a preference of working in the night. I do enjoy the darkness and the quietness of it. Still, it might be not healthy. o_O
So anyhow, with that one wrapped up, I'll use the weekend to catch up with my E-Mails and the next week it's finally back to Illucinated again. I'm excited!

November 24, 2008


zeit ein virtuelles fass auf.
der gund: begrüßt den 33.333ten besucher.
und zur feier des tages setz ich noch einen drauf.
es gibts eine neue, auf der collage basierende arbeit.
natürlich wie immer im netz:

November 21, 2008

The Power of Animation

I'm currently doing a quick re-write of my old game Excit. Just wrapping it up now so I can get back on track with my other projects like Illucinated. I have already written how surprised I was about it's success. After one year, we have over 2,5 Million players. And that's not even unusual for a flash game. I know that much cruder games can be even more successful. I guess that's because of the big pond we are fishing in.

Interestingly, when re-writing the code for AS3.0, I took a different approach from back when I was writing it the first time. When I did it the first time, I had cool animations even before most of the gameplay elements worked. This time, I made sure the game mechanics work and cared about the little special effects and animations later on. So now I was able to see the game in its "raw" state. The result was an eye opener. The game is severely less fun without the squishy cursor effects. It seems like they make up a very big part of the fun.

I'm currently playing the GBA Castlevania Series and noticed a similar effect. The game itself is rather repetetive and boring. The graphics aren't even what you would consider "beautiful". However, the animations are really smooth and extremely detailed. The result is pure, addictive fun. I can spend the whole day watching Skeletons explode into particle fountains of tiny bones, zombies melt away into smooth hand-pixeled puddles and demons turn into miniature galaxies of fireballs. Even the character animations have lots of details with a high frame count and an obsessive amount of secondary motion.

See here for more Castlevania Animated GIFs

So the lesson is that well done animations can MAKE the whole game. I guess it is a good idea to take care of the animations very early in the game design process. You might think that a game that is fun without cool animations, it will be even more fun if you add them at the end. However, you might force yourself into over-designing the game while all it needed was just a little bit of juiciness.

November 18, 2008

First Alpha-Testversion of Smoove Online


In the last week I spend hours and hours watching the details and re-facoring everything possible in the sourcecode at Smoove. This had to go on forever, and something inside me said: No, stop it. Make a deployment, let some people play with and you will feel better. Deployment was no fun, because there were several issues (all fixed now =) ), that once again took me two days of happy (no really) debugging. Now everything works so far, but is far from beeing perfect.

But, just as I though, I really see clearer now…. and am just right now thinking about pure evil optimisation under the hood, as well as versatile new features that will make using Smoove a much more fun experience!

First Alpha-Testversion from Smoove online

In the last week I spend hours and hours watching the details and re-facoring everything possible in the sourcecode at Smoove. This had to go on forever, and something inside me said: No, stop it. Make a deployment, let some people play with and you will feel better. Deployment was no fun, because there were several issues (all fixed now =) ), that once again took me two days of happy (no really) debugging. Now everything works so far, but is far from beeing perfect.

But, just as I though, I really see clearer now…. and am just right now thinking about pure evil optimisation under the hood, as well as versatile new features that will make using Smoove a much more fun experience!

November 17, 2008

World Cyber Games 2008

I didn't post for a while since I was involved in a quite demanding project. Here an update. I visited World Cyber Games 2008 a while ago. I took some photos. You can see them here.

WCG 2008 Entrance

It was different from what I expected. First, it was much smaller then I thought. It was just one hall and there was not a lot of people. Especially if you compare it to Games Convention. Esports still seems to be interesting only for quite the niche audience. Also, the overall presentation of the matches was lacking. For somebody not familiar with the rules, the matches are almost incomprehensible. I can understand that online but I thought they would would do something different when going in front of a live audience. Too bad since I wrote about that in my intermediate exam at KISD and it still has not changed since then.
The general experience is that you walk into a hall, there are a lot of fenced-off islands of computers. The islands are empty except of maybe one guy playing. And then you have a small crowd behind that single guy. You have no idea who he is and what he is doing. Practice? Then, there are two big stages and if you are lucky, you will accidentally stumble into a somewhat important match. I haven't seen any schedule anywhere but then again I wasn't looking. We saw a bit of the Counter-Strike Quarter-Finals and a bit of one of the Warcraft III Semi-Finals. Warcraft III had a huge audience (for a change). Counter-Strike was more interesting but still didn't work anywhere as well as real sports. Sudden, random cuts between different perspectives made it impossible to understand what was going on.
But then again, there was this cool but useless Colani Truck

Samsung's Colani Truck Panorama

and I found that hilarious (I even sent it to Photoshop Disasters but they didn't feature it yet).

WCG CI Disaster

On other news, I just finished Dr. Bloodmoney by Philip K. Dick (In Germany, there is a very cool Philip K. Dick collection I'm ... collecting). I found it interesting. Quite Akira-esque at the end which is impressive since it was written in the 60ies.
The thing I read before that was Lem's Fiasco. Now that was a disappointment (ha-ha). I heard so much about it and was expecting some serious revelation. What I got was some descent, standard Sci-Fi but as far as world-changing literature goes, Solars is THE book to end all Sci-Fi. Don't get me wrong, Fiasco wasn't worse then, say, Dr. Bloodmoney. I just had my expectations pretty high up.
So right now, I'm reading Snow Crash. Filling my voids one by one.

November 11, 2008

Games killed the TV star

I'm currently taking part in an interesting program. It is a mentoring program for Audio Visual Talents in North Rhine-Westphalia. Basically, the state government of NRW realized that people seem to prefer to get their audio visual education in NRW (Cologne, Düsseldorf, Bonn) but move to Hamburg or Berlin afterwards to have their careers there. The program brings some young, smart people and some well known, experienced folks together in order to help the newcomers to get into the media industry without moving.
I generally like the way how different media and different professions were brought together. There were a some TV-guys, some film-guys and some radio-guys. There were even ... like 1.5 games-guys.

I noticed that a lot of the radio-guys talked about how the times are tough and they are doing Podcasts now. This made me think. When I was a Kid I remember that my grandma listened to radio. I mean she really LISTENED to radio. She knew when a certain program was going to be aired, she sat in a chair in front of the radio and just sat there and listened for an hour or so. And it wasn't music, it was people talking. I found that odd. My parents pretty much ignored radio.

So for me, radio is QUITE a dead medium. The only context where I do sometimes listen to radio is in the car but that's only because it is a convenient way of getting music. If there was no such thing as radio, I would just throw in a CD or something. In fact, I sometimes do because I can't stand radio commercials.

So I'm a bit concerned if the experience of the radio-mentors will be of any help for me. I'm still glad I can participate in the program and I'm open to anything. And at least I can relate to their work because I do enjoy Podcasts frequently. But I wouldn't call them radio. It is on-demand, thematically more focused but formally more relaxed. I consider them as a cross-over between radio, telephone conversations and audiobooks.

Here is a thought that I had for some time: when I will have kids, they think about Television the same way I think about Radio. After all, even I don't really watch TV all that much so why would they? Sure, they will watch movies and maybe some series but actually FOLLOWING the TV program and tuning in live? I doubt it.

out on 12″: Bo Marley vs. disrupt “Bauhelm / Fleisch”

the two Bo Marley über-hits plus two heavy disrupt dubs!

November 2, 2008

Abendfüllendes Flashgame: A Crow in Hell

A Crow in Hell

Eine Krähe wird erschossen und landet in der Hölle. Vorbei ist es aber trotzdem nicht, ganz im Gegenteil, das Dilemma nimmt jetzt erst seinen Lauf, denn auch In der Krähen-Hölle kann man sterben, immer und immer wieder, weil so gut wie alles tödlich ist: Wände, Böden, mit Stacheln versehene Drehkreuze, Ventilatoren, Spinnennetze, winzige Insekten… so gut wie nichts darf von der Krähe berührt werden, von Schaltern und Schlüsseln mal abgesehen.

Doch unsere Krähe ist hartnäckig. Sie kann nicht aufgeben. Sie will Rache! Rache an dem Menschen, der sie in die Hölle geschickt hat. Dafür nimmt sie einiges alles in Kauf.

Es gibt nur selten Flashgames, die mit “atmosphärisch” gut beschrieben sind. A Crow in Hell von PopBrain ist so ein Spiel: Düsteres Leveldesign, bedrückende Musik, die ständige Sterberei.

Das Spiel besteht aus mehreren Dutzend Räumen (ich hab nicht mitgezählt), die es irgendwie zu überstehen gilt. Der Schwierigkeitsgrad steigt dabei angenehm langsam an, wird in den letzten Passagen aber deutlich angezogen.

Mit den unterwegs eingesammelten Schlüsseln lassen sich dann bis zu drei Minigames (Challenges) freischalten.

A Crow in Hell

November 1, 2008

Constellations don’t work

I have received a lot of positive feedback for my recent map of the interstellar neighborhood. A lot of people gave me some great suggestions for how to improve the map and I'm certainly motivated to work some more on it.

One thing a few people suggested was to implement constellations. Well, I knew it doesn't work as good as people think because I have seen this feature already in a similar tool called HippLiner. To make my point I have recoded my map to show only the stars of the Leo constellation. Note that those stars are much further out and the scale has been increased so each grid is now 20 light years. Check it out here.

Interactive Map of the Constellation of Leo

So what do we learn from it? (More after the Jump):

Well, as you can see, the constellation really works only when you look from the perspective Solar System. As soon as you move just a few light years from the Solar System, the constellation falls apart into a jagged mess. The stars that make up the constellation are hundreds of light years apart. In fact, even I fell for it. I thought it would be sufficient just put in the Leo stars in my old map. It turned out that because my old map was using orthographic projection, the constellation was messed up even if you centered on the solar system and pointed in the direction of Leo. So I had to go an extra mile and implement true perspective projection to make it show up properly. It's THAT hard to reproduce the effect.

That's why I really don't like constellations. They are a very poor way to organize stars. They come from a time when we did not understand stars as objects in 3D space. They have survived so far because most of astronomy is still done as it was done thousands of years ago: through telescopic observation. In fact, you will find lots of strange artifacts of this method in astronomy today.

  • Star positions are encoded by where they appear on the sky, not by where they actually are in 3D space.

  • Because of that, the coordinate system is aligned to the ecliptic, which is the plane the planets of the Solar System orbit in. Well, that wouldn't be as bad but it was actually used because it is also the apparent path that the Sun traces out in the sky during the year.

  • The movement of stars (proper motion) refers to the movement of stars relative to the sky. It is measured in mas/yr, so it is highly dependent on the distance of the star to the Solar System. I have yet to find a source which also gives the actual velocity of stars.

Of course, this is also because measuring the position of a star on the sky is easier than measuring the distance of that star from earth (or even its velocity).

So there you have it. Implementing the true perspective view was also a pain in the ass, by the way. It adds another variable (FOV) so controlling the view is more difficult. The math is more complex and it requires you to implement a clipping plane. Also, distances are more difficult to compare. On the other hand, it is much easier to understand the perspective.