Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Regarding "the sandbox"

Over the past week or so I've kept myself busy building "The Shield Lands" module. Here's a kind of stream of consciousness progress report. It isn't required reading, trust me.
Hardware/software woes: I've hit several snags which aren't quite worked out yet. Apparently, the last update Bioware released (1.65 -> 1.66) conflicts with my out-of-the-box video card, crashing the game every 5 to 15 minutes. It took me a few days to realize that this was the problem, so I wasted some time trying to "optimize" the hakpak, taking it from 50 meg compressed to 18 meg compressed. Play-testing on my parents computer, though, I realized that not all machines accept DDS formatted textures, which are 10% the size of TGA formatted textures, so I went back and plucked all of the original textures out of the components I had monkeyed with. I've accepted the fact that I'll be putzing around with the hakpak for a while, and will continue to do the actual building of the module, when I see something wrong with the hakpak I'll go in and turn a couple of screws. I plan on e-mailing Bioware to see when the graphics card bug will be resolved, if ever.
Treasure types: I made a new treasure type system! It works great, and provides a large and varied gamut of stuff that is appropriate to each individual monster. Each monster has a treasure code attached to it, so no longer will all members of a population be carrying the same distribution of stuff. (Which leads to the perception that goblin society is rather egalitarian, with an even distribution of wealth... Where do I sign up?)
Monster looting: Unfortunately for our heroes, what goes around comes around; I was brainstorming and I decided that if I were DMing, and a PC was left comatose with a group of goblins, he'd probably awaken to find that they took everything, even his socks, and that his mouth was stuffed with any number of unpleasant things. Monster looting works as follows: Certain types of monsters will loot, others won't. Unintelligent undead, animals and giant insects will never loot. Goblinoids and brigands will always loot. If looters are left, unthreatened, with a dead PC, they will take turns taking items and gold from the body (1d4 items and half-the-gold, per looter). This takes roughly 30 seconds per looter, creating a buffer in which the looting session could be broken up by passing adventurers. Items looted go into the monster population's treasure type, to show up again later, usually on the tougher members of the population. Looted items will carry over session to session. Also, because of the new A.I. I installed, the items will likely be used against the PCs. There's a "safe box" system back in town, monster looting should encourage PCs to use it.
The new A.I.: I installed this code package yesterday, mostly with an eye towards making hirelings more useful, rather than the money draining liability they were before. The change made monsters attack PCs that were "bleeding to death", though, so I had to tweak the module's "On Dying" routine. Now the module puts a DC 100 Sanctuary spell on bleeding characters. Tacky? Yes, but it has the same in-game effect as making the monsters neutral to the PC; Which is the less intrusive method, but it no longer works. Otherwise, with the new A.I., monsters will meander about, and sneak if they have the skill.
A new quest system: An automated quest system has been Jason's major request since the beginning of the project. The problem was that I couldn't tie quests to places, because the structure of my module was far too chaotic. An example: Let's say a low-level PC is quested to retrieve an item from a cave infested with giant ants. Fair enough, but before the PC arrives at the cave, someone traipses through and thins out the ant population enough that a high-level undead army nearby is able to take over the cave. Now the low-level PC has this quest that leads him to his death. Not cool. With my new treasure type system, I can attach quest items to monster populations and not places, which is also far more fertile in terms of story. I've yet to work out the details for it, but it should only take a day or two.
Okay, I'm going to get back to work on this... I'll check-in later.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Polish your magic mirror, or something

This is an article about advances in neuroscience pertaining to memory. The idea is that the brain builds a construction of the world-at-large that it then revisits. This correlates, I think, to ideas about terms of representation in the visual arts, as well as virtual reality.
Link, via Science Daily
P.S. I hate Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Computational origami

A fascinating intersection of art and science, computational origami grew out of optimization routines much like those found in file compression.
The father of modern origami practice was Akira Yoshizawa, who, in 1950s Japan, brought a new technical perfection and creativity to what was considered a colloquial diversion. Robert Lang is the main contemporary proponent of computational origami, using his expertise to solve engineering problems when he is not working on his paper sculptures. He's written a program that will take a desired 3-d model and translate it into a foldable pattern printed on a paper, called a crease pattern. When viewed side-by-side these crease patterns resonate with their solutions.Link to Robert Lang's homepage
Link to audio of a speech by him
The NY Times had an article some months ago on computational origami, though it is now lost in the bowels of their subscription service.

Leeroy Jenkins is the man

Bob showed me this hilarious clip, so funny i had to post it. (i'm guessing some of you have already seen it?)

-ALSO, funny that a character can make it famous and become a jeopardy question. I bet his "Leeroy Jenkins" character is worth a lot just because of the name. Who know's? maybe other people will start calling their character's leeroy jenkins2, 3, 4 or Join The Leeroy Jenkins Corps or start a cult following, "the sons and daughters of Leeroy Jenkins."

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Finally the Democrats get something done.

WASHINGTON - In a stinging defeat for President Bush,
Senate Democrats blocked passage Friday of a new Patriot Act to combat terrorism at home, depicting the measure as a threat to the constitutional liberties of innocent Americans.

a step in the right direction, but the Democrats need to stop dragging their asses and get Bush impeached. (my opinion)

Friday, December 16, 2005


King Dogshit

Oh man this movie SUCKED.

The Economist on virtual worlds

"Mr Castronova's thesis is that these synthetic worlds are increasingly inter-twined with the real world. In particular, real-world trade of in-game items—swords, gold, potions, or even whole characters—is flourishing in online marketplaces such as eBay. This means in-game items and currency have real value. In 2002, Mr Castronova famously calculated the GNP per capita of the fictional game-world of “EverQuest” as [$2 thousand, ed.] comparable to that of Bulgaria, and far higher than that of India or China. Furthermore, by 'working' in the game to generate virtual wealth and then selling the results for real money, it is possible to generate about $3.50 per hour. Companies in China pay thousands of people, known as “farmers”, to play MMORPGs all day, and then profit from selling the in-game goods they generate to other players for real money."
This is an interesting article to be sure, though I've heard stuff like this before, just from not as credible a source. I'm not comfortable with the phrase "economics of fun". It sounds sinister.
Link, via ArtsJournal.
Link to "Virtual Worlds: A First-hand Account of Market and Society on the Cyberian Frontier", by Edward Castronova

Thursday, December 15, 2005

To Bloggers Everywhere, MERRY AXE-MAS

I figured I’d give everyone an image to help them get in the holiday spirit. HAPPY MOTHERF*#%ING CHRISTMAS! Oh, and happy New Year too.

Is anyone else as completely irritated with Christmas as I am? I know we’re told it’s the season to give, but I find myself hating it more and more every year. Every year, I get asked “what do you want for x-mas?” and the only thing I can think of is “I have no idea”. It would be so much easier if people held on to their money and bought themselves something and I could do the same. It would make me much happier.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The thunder of far-off battle...

I put the finishing touches on the hak-pak for my Neverwinter Nights module today. (For the uninitiated, a hak-pak is a resource file of custom models, code, and other stuff for the game.) Everything in it is other people's work, culled from the Vault. It took quite a bit of time to splice various tilesets together. The hakpak weighs in at about 120 meg, 50 meg compressed.
The module is entitled "The Shield Lands" and is set in the World of Greyhawk. Rather than follow a linear series of quests, the module tries to automate several of the processes that make up an old school dungeon crawl, with enough variance to stay stimulating and interesting. Monster populations can be thinned by the party, and will also fight amongst themselves and migrate (and attack settlements). I wrote several other game mechanics: a large scale time and travel system, hunting, universal spell components, clerical tithing and sacrifice, NPC craftsmen, a fair and realistic death and respawning system, and day-to-day weather.
Jason, Matt Dorous and I spent the February through April of this year play-testing these systems on a weekly or bi-weekly basis... Towards the end of that time I started to think about incorporating more simulation elements into my code, like town -specific supply and demand, troop allocation routines, and NPC scouts. I was also planning on going public with the module and post it on a site called Neverwinter Connections. In early May, putting together my thesis show, I was wishing I had made more art in the previous months, what had I been doing... building "The Shield Lands". I took that opportunity to quit working on the module.
This incarnation of "The Shield Lands" will be different. I'm jettisoning my simulation ideas. They'd be cool, but they'd also require hundreds of hours of development and testing. Rather I'm reworking the module to be simply a hang-out for us Astromen, a monster farm. As for gaming cutting into my other pursuits, "I can quit any time I want..."


Friday, December 09, 2005

Serious Business

Some old classmates of mine had the gumption to post an announcement for a thesis show where I could see it. I drove to Philly this afternoon, prepared to crack heads if I didn't see any good art. (I supplemented my trip with a visit to the Temple U. library, a museum visit, and some used record and book shopping.) When I got to the Tyler campus, I decided I did not have to incite violence.
They were all spared.

Maggie VanScoyk

Lauren Marsella

Austin Lee

Bob Gonzales

StumbleUpon - Firefox Extension

If you use Firefox you need to get StumbleUpon.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Google Earth

This is a fun thing. me like it.

Pac-Man Hat!

I ran across this hat and had to share. Not only is it the most rediculous hat, but the guy's expression is priceless. I was walking to work today imagining all of the businessmen downtown wearing pac man hats. If only i had a wish ring...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

New Banner by MC Chad Rock

I'm going to try and use it in the site template. Please stand by...

Update: Fuck! I have five pixels of padding on the left hand side I can't account for. Ohhh the pain! The pain!

Update II: It looks like the extra five pixels is not something I am going to be able to remove. If you'd like to update the banner to compensate for it, let me know Chad.

World of Warcrack

This is BQ. He is my Level 52 Gnome Mage in World of Warcraft. Looks like i am about to cast a FireBall on some ones ass. I don't like BQ, but i ain't stopping him till i get to lev 60 (the cap). If any of you start playing let me know i got Lots of gold and can help u level fast.

Tobin Steel

So this is where i work. Can u feel the art oozing from this place.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Happy Holidays (Part 1)

Once again we close in on guilt ridden gluttony that are the end of the year holidays! Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy! I will be celebrating this with articles and photos related to my misadventures as I embark on a tour that brings me halfway across the world. Let us set the stage with some lovely editorial commentary. Eat My Holiday Cheer

Do not forget this must have item for the holidays either!

Upcoming Exhibition

I will be participating in a group show beginning December 22 dedicated to the theme "The Miniscule" at the artist run gallery ESPACIO MENOS 1.

The web page of the artist association that runs the space can be found at

Friday, December 02, 2005

Google Video ROCKS!

Via Google Video of the Day.

The Pull The Pin blog...

I've started a blog for Pull The Pin because it's much easier than trying to update the news section of my own site by hand. I'll try to be posting new drawings regular like, so stop by and check it out if you get the chance.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


Get ready for the latest in designer street wear, welcome to the world of Gronk. We chose to create what may arguably be the rawest and most emotive brand to hit the streets.

We wanted to give people are real sense of freedom and a product that they could feel. The way we did this is to make the clothes in a real place with real emotions that people would understand.

Gronk involves using established inmate labour within NSW gaols. The inmates make each item of clothing from the ground up under the supervision of the Gronk team. Each piece of clothing has a different saying written inside which is their way of signing off the garment.

Enjoy your freedom.

Wear it, don't make it!


At first i just enjoyed the fact that there was a clothing line called "Gronk", but when i saw the tagline it made me laugh. It also says each article of clothing has a different saying inside it. I'm guessing it's things like "Marydale!"

I hear his leading competator is Torgewear.


HI guys. This is a test.
how is my test going?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Wanna work for BioWare?

So BioWare is having a writing contest. If you're one of the top three entries, you'll have a shot at a job interview with them. The contest deadline is 1/30/06. Have at thee!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

An online word processor...

Writely is an online word processor you can use from a web browser. It has a few cool features, is currently free, and I've been using it quit a bit to record game design/concept ideas. It's a nice alternative for folks who can't afford or don't need the bloat of MS Word. You can even use it to write up & layout longer blog posts and then submit them directly from Writely. Check it out...

Who needs food when you have GameTap?

Time Warner brings us GameTap, the time wasting tool of tomorrow...TODAY! It's basically an online service which lets you download and play 300+ older games for around 15 bucks a month. Some of the games don't look that bad (Space Quest V!), and it looks like they have a two week free trial. I made my saving throw and didn't sign up, but will YOU be able to resist the shiny red button, Astromen?! Eh! Will you!?

Brick Quest

Lego Pirates was great! But this game was at Gen Con the year prior... oh, what could have been...
Link to Brick Quest, via boingboing

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving from The Man(TM)!

So, just in case you're wondering why I've embarked upon a blog-tastic orgy of posts: I lost my job last week and I'm trying to put off doing all of the productive things I really should otherwise be doing. I'd like to thank my former employer (who shall remain nameless) for laying me off, and thus providing me with my first true taste of unemployment insurance! Oh, the blessed nectar!


Get this: Start playing this timelaps video of the Panama Canal (via Boing Boing) whilst listening to the latest edition of The Apparat Programme by Warren Ellis. Fascinating...

Eurobad(TM) concept art

Creature concept art from the floundering French online RPG The Saga of Ryzom. Never heard of it? Maybe that's because the two of the four available PC races are so Eurobad(TM) as to make one vomit. This is a shame, as the game world and the alien critters in it are very well designed.

Panoramic WoW Images

Check out these panoramic images from World of Warcraft. They're worth taking a look at even if you're not into Achievement Simulation(TM). Via Wonderland.

Awesome self portrait by MC Chad Roc!!1!

Hope you don't mind me uploading it, man. I just thought it was super great and needed The Sharing(TM).

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

SOE to Star Wars Galaxies Players: Eat shit; Die.

"So i log in and i instantly have to convert my 66 Pikeman to one of the new 9 choices. Since Jedi is the only thing close to my old class i pick that. So now im in the middle of the Tat desert with no clothes and no weapon. No idea how to get one, there are no more waypoints and once i pulll out a vehicle i cant put it back. Can i get in the noob f'ing tutorial somehow BECAUSE I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE HELL I'M SUPPOSED TO DO!!!! I don't even have pants right now!!!"

- A poster from the SWG message boards.

So, in case you haven't been following the carnage, here's a quick rundown of a few of the fun changes which have been made to Star Wars Galaxies lately:

  • The 41 profession skill-tree system has been *ahem* streamlined down to 9 base classes, forcing existing players to either respec their characters or start new ones.
  • Loot drops have been added to the game which are much better than any player using trade skills can craft, destroying any monetary incentive to play Lando Calrissian (and no, that's not a joke. That's a real screenshot).
  • Most new loot added to the game is "No-drop/No-trade" for some reason.
  • The game's combat log has been removed so you can no longer tell how much damage your special attacks are doing.
  • The game's turn based combat system has been replace with a "Click as fast as you can LOL it's like Diablo and shit!1!" false-FPS system. Reportedly game enemies have no collision boxes and tend to all stand inside of one other, making combat "Exciting and challenging".
  • The game's interface has been striped of customization tools and is now a (crappy) knock-off of WoW's default interface skin.
  • "Force Sensitive" (er, I mean, Luke Skywalker ) is a selectable starting class (guess what class 80% of the player-base is now using).
Update: Sir Timothy Burke has more...

Kurtz Update

In relation to my recent art projects I have been extremely interested in this criminal case since it began. Here is an update as the case goes to trial.
Is anyone surprised to see after the dismantling of the NEA and the Patriot Act, among other general policy decisions, that federal prosecutors are continuing to crack down no matter how threadbare their charges become?

via the web log of Bruce Sterling

Sunday, November 20, 2005

NYC: Nov. 18th & 19th

I had a good time in Manhattan the last couple of days. I got into the city early Friday afternoon, several hours before Tracy got off work. In this time I was able to go through nearly every gallery in Chelsea. A queasy feeling lingered after going through so many galleries; it's like stuffing yourself with several bags of candy, you feel jittery and unsettled afterwards.
The best work I saw in Chelsea was at the New Museum. This artist, Brian Jungen, had cut-up and arrayed ubiquitous consumer products: plastic lawn chairs and Air Jordan's, into complex and beautiful art objects: ceiling hung whale skeletons and American Indian ritual masks. The work was well conceived and technically perfect. There was an undercurrent of social commentary, but the craftsmanship and beauty withheld any easy reading of a message.

Link to New Museum page on Brian Jungen
Other highlights included:
A series of large paintings by Lari Pittman which were different from his earlier work in that they depicted interiors and clusters of strange baroque furniture webbed in yarn, rather than the cacophony of collage elements he filled his earlier paintings with.
Very similar to Mr. Pittman's work in style, but not nearly as adventurous, are the screen prints of Ryan McGuiness who had a room at Danziger Projects.
Patricia Piccinini's show at Robert Miller Gallery addressees the impending rendezvous of designer genetics and consumerism. Her bloated mutant hamsters are certainly inventive, but I'm more a fan of the strange, leather, tent-like habitats she provided for them. The thing that really dragged the show down for me is that all of the pieces where somewhat flawed technically: the skin on the creatures was not quite as well done as on the sculptures of Ron Mueck, you could tell where the Photoshopping on the large format prints stopped and started, and the drawing in some of the graphite renderings was somewhat bunky. The show presented a compelling set of ideas, though.

1919, Pierre Bonnard, "The Green Shirt"
The next day, Tracy used her powers of Bronx Zoo employment to get us into the Met and the MoMA for free. I got to see the Van Gogh drawing show, an exhibit on 19th century occult photography, an Odilon Redon retrospective, and my favorite Bonnard painting. All of those shows were great. We ran out of time, so we didn't get to see the Elizabeth Murray show or the Richard Tuttle show. We ate dinner at an Indian restaurant in the Village that was either the inside of a Christmas tree, or a left-over James' Bond set from the '60s.
The following are some bronze sculptures we ran across at a MTA stop.
2001, Tom Otterness, "Life Underground"
Update 11/24: Link to NY Times videos of Mr. Otterness talking about his work.